Skybound, or Leap of Faith
Hi, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and I’m joining you today to talk about my historical short story Skybound, freshly out from Riptide Publishing. Thank you very much for hosting me!
For just 13k words, and for a little short story, Skybound packs quite a punch (it did to me. I’ve written novels that were less exhausting than this short). One reason is because it’s a historical story, and I’m absolutely neurotic about research. Part of me always expects my uni professor to show up in the room and say, “Hey, I thought I’d taught you better methodology than that!”
The other reason is that there’s quite a bit of research material (once I knew where to look) and this little short story could easily have turned into a multi-novel series about German Luftwaffe pilots and the men who love them. Errr. That wouldn’t do, either. Not while I’m writing two historical novels in the same period already. The last I needed was for this to go out of control like almost all other short stories who have behaved like mogwais dropped into a swimming pool (or fed after midnight?).
Anyway. One of the things that continue to touch me about Skybound is the juxtaposition of light and dark. The general mood is certainly oppressive—we are in Nazi Germany, in a German (but not Nazi) head, witnessing the final phase of the Second World War. Bombings, casualties, despair and a dogged determination to keep going—not for ideological reasons, but because it’s all Felix, the main character, knows. It’s all he’s ever done, because people depend on him, and because he’s lost the ability to rest or withdraw, or even sleep. He does his duty without fervour, but with a lot of devotion to the fighter pilots, especially Baldur Vogt, whom he admires and loves.
Baldur is resigned to the fact that, fighting a losing battle against a vastly superior enemy, he’s most likely going to die. Felix is pretty sure that is what’s going to happen. Both men pretty much expect the end of the war as the end of the world—as they’ve known it, and they don’t hold out much hope that it’ll get better. They don’t even expect to make it to the other side.
Against this oppressive sense of imminent death, these guys fall in love.
Yeah, I’m a bastard like that.
I think the ability of humans to fall in love is nothing short of miraculous. Love is like that tree root that breaks solid stone or a dandelion that pushed through asphalt. It will literally always find a way, even in a hopeless situation, even when falling in love is taboo, and even when all we can expect is death and destruction.
In that, love is the ultimate leap of faith. Even on a much smaller scale, when we fall in love, it can feel like hurling ourselves off a cliff. Who knows if anything or anybody will catch us? Off we go. Declaring our feelings, that first kiss, opening ourselves up to hurt and embarrassment—all that takes courage and faith and hope, even more in a society that frowns upon your kind of love, but even if all stars are aligned, it’s risky and nerve-wrecking and wonderful and scary at the same time.
For my money, Skybound is very much about the heroism to accept love in the face of terrible odds. There’s one passage that sums this aspect up:
I glance at his fingers, but I’ve never seen him wear a ring. Maybe he’s not married for similar reasons as my friend Otto, the other mechanic. Who marries during war, with the rationing and shortages and most men serving in one way or another? Better to leave a grieving girl than a grieving widow.
Despite this attitude, by the end of the story, Felix and Baldur have made the leap of faith. The war ends. Life goes on. Love soars.
Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.
When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.
But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.
Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he makes his living editing dodgy business English so it makes sense (and doesn’t melt anybody’s brain). He published five novels and many short stories in his native language, then switched to English and hasn’t looked back. His genres range from horror, science fiction, cyberpunk, and fantasy to contemporary, thriller, and historical erotic gay novels.
In his spare time, he goes weightlifting, explores historical sites, and meets other writers. He singlehandedly sustains three London bookstores with his ever-changing research projects and interests. His current interests include World War II, espionage, medieval tournaments, and prisoners of war. He loves traveling, action movies, and spy novels.
Thank you for reading and stopping by! If you have any questions, I’ll be here to respond. To celebrate the launch of Skybound, I’ll be giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate to one commenter on the tour, with two more receiving book swag (so please leave your email address so I can be in touch). The contest runs through August 26th.