"Changing the Guard" by Matthew Claxton
Matthew Claxton's short story, "Changing the Guard," is a jam-packed aerial adventure with flying machines–both zeppelins and the ornithopterological variety–death rays, and brutal despots. Add on a revolution, political assassination, and a telling demonstration of George Santayana's famous quotation, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," for pith and social relevance, and you have a well-paced story with aspirations toward depth.
Does it achieve depth? Profundity? Insightfulness? Who cares! The zeppelins and heat rays were cool.
There are occasional patches of rough prose peppered throughout "Changing," nothing egregious, but a definite sign of a journeyman storyteller still learning his trade. Likewise, the point of view/timeframe switches are clever and competently done, but not so skillfully employed that they were able to stave off predictability. Hence, the mid-story neato revelation failed to elicit an "oooh!" but rather received an "uh huh," from this reader. Nevertheless, this story, with its pulp trappings, was a delight.
Following so closely after SCI FICTION's "Of Imaginary Airships and Minuscule Matter" published last month, the recent Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow movie, and the release of Wheatland Press's new All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories anthology, perhaps I risk reiterating the obvious, but there appears to be a resurgence of retro, pulp-style tales. To which I say: "Where do I book my zeppelin ticket?"