Sharon’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine and Realms of Fantasy. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an assortment of reptiles. Online, she can be found at kirizal.livejournal.com.
Could you tell us a little about “Armature of Flight”? How did you choose the title? Do you have a favorite aspect of the story? If so, is that what originally drew you to write it?
This story came as something of a surprise, to be honest. I’d been working on a novel—Leo is one of the main characters—and I wanted to set down his past on paper, just for my own benefit. But around the point that William returns with the sockets on his back and they fight, I realized that this wasn’t just backstory, it was a story in its own right.
When I started, I already had the last bit: the figure in the window with the skeleton of wings, Leo looking up from the window. I suppose that’s what was driving me when I was writing the first draft, what made me want to make this story stand alone. It’s certainly where the title comes from.
“Armature of Flight” is told from Leo’s point of view. He has resigned himself to an arranged marriage and to his commitment to be faithful within that marriage; the tone of the story reflects his resignation. If the story was from William’s point of view, how do you think the tone would change? Was it difficult to decide which perspective to use?
It was always Leo’s story in my head. But I think William’s story would be quite different, and in some ways more interesting. After all, he’s the one who makes the grandest gestures. On the other hand, I’m not sure William ever entirely realizes his mistakes, except in the most superficial fashion.
To build on the last question, where would the story end for William? Leo never discovers what happens to him. Do you have an idea of what happens to him? Would you tell us?
If I were writing from William’s point of view, I’d end the story when he gets his swan wings. What happens after that—that’s a much larger story. I know that sounds coy, but I’d hate to either prove or disprove the story Leo tells himself just yet.
In “Armature of Flight,” Leo wants to ignore his family’s wealth and his obligations to them. William desperately wants to prove that he can belong in Leo’s world. They work at cross-purposes. Leo does not recognize the cost of William’s lifestyle until it is too late, and William does not realize that his lifestyle reinforces Leo’s resignation. Do you think their relationship fails because of character flaws, social pressures, or both? Do you think a heterosexual relationship would have had better success in this world?
In my head, it’s always been about the character flaws—about how they both refuse to see how much the other means to them because, after all, they both know it can’t last. Obviously the social conditions complicate things, the homophobia both institutionalized and internalized. But other characters, in other stories, they could overcome those difficulties. Leo and William can’t, not because they’re gay but because their choices make it impossible.
I think you could tell the same basic story with the part of William being played by an “unmarriageable” woman. It would change a great deal—it would be in many ways a different story—but I think the basic arc would still work. I hope so, at least. That’s one of the things I was trying for all along.
Flight in this story is not easily undertaken. Leo dreams of fleeing his family obligations to live with William but despairs of that dream. Eventually he only fulfills the role expected of him. William cannot elevate himself to Leo’s status, and he finally submits to a modification, to wings, that give the appearance of flight but will bind him forever to his lower status. Do you find that despair, hope, or fantasies set people on paths that eventually become permanent? Do you think those courses can be altered?
I think it’s difficult. The world shows us that a lot of people don’t alter their course. They follow it wherever it leads, even when all the roadsigns read BAD END AHEAD. Sometimes that’s easier, less frightening than making a change. Sometimes it’s physically, emotionally, practically impossible to change course. And I do find that arc interesting—after all, it’s the classic tragedy, it’s proven to work!
But that’s not the only story out there. Lots of people change their lives. Lots of people overcome their impulses, improve their nature. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. I think by the end Leo recognizes the price of his choice, that the world in his hands is cold and small and not really what he wants. And that recognition leaves open the possibility that he’ll be smarter next time.
Could you tell us what is next for you?
I have a story coming out in Abyss and Apex, but other than that, I’ve been concentrating on revising the novel. Right now my desk is covered with a rainbow of index cards. Once that’s done, we’ll see what comes next.