Updraft by Fran Wilde Blog Tour + Giveaway!
Today I’m pumped to welcome Fran Wilde, author of Updraft, to the blog to discuss the wingtest that people in the world of Updraft must pass in order to fly solo freely! Updraft is available now :D. Be sure to check the bottom of the post for a giveaway of a copy of Updraft AND a one-of-a-kind wingtest marker to let you fly around without supervision ;-).
There are many great tests in genre fiction:
- Tests of intelligence (sometimes via a game)
- Tests of moral character (Take the ring, Frodo…)
- Tests for humanity (the Gom Jabbar in Dune, any Turing test)
- Tests of endurance (Maze Runner)
- Tests of skill (the Gamemaker training score in Hunger Games).
- Sorting tests and sorting choices (The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, the factions decision in Divergent) that serve to divide focus characters into groups.
And then there are tests to see if a character can abide by or achieve certain community standards — a driving test is a common one.
I’ve been asked a few times whether the wingtest in Updraft is a driving test, and today, I’m going to take my turn at Starships and Dragonwings (thanks so much for having me!) to reveal what the wingtest really is (more or less).
A driving test, while it serves as a kind of dividing line between relying on others to move around and personal independence, mostly tests an individual’s ability to keep a vehicle safely operating on a flat and defined surface, carefully marked by various colored lines and helpful signs, within very particular parameters. It is a limited social agreement, with quick consequences. You go outside those parameters, you’ve not only failed, you’ve possibly wrecked the car, possibly worse.
A wingtest has no colored lines, no helpful signs. It has open sky, gravity, and the test-taker’s understanding of flight, of wind and wing, and of the city. While citizens can fly their quadrants, near their home towers, without passing their wingtest, they must be escorted through the rest of the city until they pass one and are deemed safe by the community. For some, it takes several tries. Others – the unlucky ones – never make it.
There’s a big reason for this, and it’s got something to do with the lack of signage and colored lines in the sky. Updraft is a flying culture. Here, no lanes mark the wind among the towers. Moreover, there’s no single plane upon which citizens fly. They fly high and low, in formations, and out in the open. They have to know how to read the wind, and how to fly safely through it, in all kinds of conditions or else they risk endangering themselves, but especially others.
And that’s the main crux of the test. Not how well one individual can operate a set of wings, but how well each flier can maneuver the constantly changing conditions of the city while keeping others’ safety in mind. The wingtest is a wide-ranging social agreement that encompasses citizenship, ability, and cooperation.
In that, a wingtest is most like a Coast Guard test for the operation of watercraft, with the added elements that every flier is wind-powered (and so can lose power if another flier blocks the wind inadvertently), and that there are multiple planes of operation. In that, it’s a bit like a pilot test too.
There are four parts to a wingtest: City, Laws, Solo, and Group.
- City makes sure each citizen knows the towers by name and location, as well as what they’re known for. This knowledge ensures fliers know where they are in the city, both by sight and by use, even when they’re out of their home quadrant.
- Laws assesses understanding of right of way, trading, and specific societal controls.
- Solo is a skill test, and shows maneuvers and ability to fly safely.
- And Group does what it says on the tin, displaying the flier’s ability to work with a group, in formation, both as a leader and, importantly, as a follower of orders, even with strangers.
The four sub-tests each get their own marker, and all contribute to the safe passage of a wingtest.
Once the test is passed, fliers return to their own towers, or take on tasks and training elsewhere, to their liking. But they do so with a sign of the city’s approval for their flying skills — a wingmarker — which marks them as safe within the community for flying.
What other kinds of tests can you think of in your favorite stories? What purposes do they serve?
About the Author
Fran Wilde is an author and technology consultant. Her first novel, Updraft, was released by Tor on September 1—read an excerpt here! Her short stories have appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature, and Tor.com. Her interview series Cooking the Books—about the intersection between food and fiction—has appeared at Strange Horizons and on her blog. You can find her on Twitter @fran_wilde and Facebook @franwildewrites.
Courtesy of Tor I have one copy of Updraft to giveaway along with one of Fran’s one-of-a-kind wingtest markers! The wingtest marker is clay, stained with tea and a choker-style silk cord with a metal clasp. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian readers as per Tor’s policy and Fran’s request. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email and I’ll be checking entries so make sure the correct information is in the giveaway form!
© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.