Nicole Kornher-Stace is joining us today to talk about her novel, Flight & Anchor. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Young SecOps operatives 06 and 22 were about to be sent out for their first military engagement. Just a few years earlier, they were child refugees of a corporate civil war; Stellaxis modified them into supersoldiers. But 06 and 22 have escaped their prison barracks and entered a city they can barely remember. In the dead of winter, they sleep in an abandoned shipping container and scavenge for resources.
The Director of the Stellaxis supersoldier program knows that 06 and 22 are gone, where they are, and that she has no easy way of retrieving them. The Director also knows that if she sends anyone after them, there will be a bloodbath—or at least a great deal of bad press. But all operatives’ days are numbered. 06 and 22 must make a terrible choice: their freedom or each other.
What’s Nicole’s favorite bit?
When I was a little kid, for no real reason, I had a fixation on the idea of running away from home. I have no idea if my parents knew about it; if they did, they never seemed concerned, probably because they guessed, correctly, that I wasn’t actually going to do it. And I never really tried. Still, the idea of it hung over me as far back as I can remember.
Not that I had anything to really run away from. My life was fine. It was more that there was something about wherever I was that didn’t feel right. I read a lot of books, hoping I’d come across a world that I could really fall into, but that never worked either. All of these worlds on offer felt like stopgaps, like biding time. I can’t really explain it better than that.
So I found myself doing a lot of daydreaming about running away from what only ever felt like a temporary home, trying to find my way back to the place I was meant to be. Wherever that was. (The only physical place I can actually remember pinning these daydreams onto was—I wish I could remember this better, but—when I was somewhere between three and five, I want to say? there was a playground (maybe? I remember a swing, but that’s it) overlooking/abutting a creek of some kind. A grassy descent, a huge flat boulder, then the water. I wanted to pitch a tent on that rock and live there. It reminded me of something I never could quite bring to mind.)
And because I was more of a Practical Child than an Imaginative Child, the way these daydreams tended to manifest was: I made up inventories for my journey to come. As in: I would sit for hours and flip through my mom’s cookbooks, choosing foods to bring with me, in some manner of backpack I did not possess, for survival in my tent on my rock by my creek. Just to keep me alive until I figured out how to live off the land, of course.
But what I really spent time obsessing over was mail-order catalogs, of which for whatever reason my family received approximately one billion. I still have vivid memories of the day we got a catalog from some camping supply company. (Why this was in our mailbox is anyone’s guess. I grew up in the exact polar opposite of a camping family.) I developed a whole…game? thought experiment? training exercise? around that catalog. It went like this. From each page I could choose one item to bring with me to the rock by the creek, but only one. This resulted in many hours of agonizing poring-over which my mom probably deeply enjoyed because it kept me out of her hair for a frankly ridiculous amount of time.
Anyway. Flight & Anchor is, among other things, an homage to The Boxcar Children, which I read around this age, and you can probably guess from the above how much I adored it. Flight & Anchor is also a weird little novella I wrote for my own amusement, never expecting it would be traditionally published, so I wanted to include in it a nod to my weirdo preschool-to-kindergarten-age self, which also ties back into a lot of what that same weirdo self loved about The Boxcar Children. I wanted to inventory.
One major way in which Flight & Anchor differs from The Boxcar Children is the setting. F&A takes place about a hundred years in the future from now, in a city torn apart by corporate civil war, and I realized that I could convey more than I expected about the setting just in listing the kinds of things my two twelve-year-old superhuman runaways manage to glean from the near-future urban landscape. More than that, though, it scratched an itch I’ve been carrying around in my brain for decades. Five-year-old Nicole sitting in the living room hunched over a camping catalog for hours at a stretch, this bit of this book’s for you.
Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and many anthologies. Her latest books are the adult SFF thriller Firebreak (Saga Press, 2021) and middle-grade space adventure Jillian Vs Parasite Planet (Tachyon Publications, 2021). She lives in New Paltz, New York, with her family. She can be found online on Twitter at @wirewalking.