Thursday, October 10, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 170: William H. Rankin, Free Fall (#147)

William H. Rankin, "Free Fall" from The Man Who Rode the Thunder (1960) reprinted in Into the Blue: American Writers on Aviation and Spaceflight:

After my girlfriend and I saw Gravity (comments coming), she noted that Sandra Bullock's character just couldn't catch a break. Which is kind of the way I feel reading William H. Rankin's record of his emergency ejection--without a pressure suit--far beyond what should've been the limits of human survival.

First his canopy doesn't open, so he gets ejected out through it; then he's got all the decompression pain and effects--memorably captured in his belly being swollen as if in pregnancy; then, on his way down, he gets caught in a storm that threatens him with lightning and terrifies him with thunder and pelts him with hail.

It's an incredible, crazy, wild ride... that would only be improved, in fiction, by giving us some sort of engagement with the character.

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