The Arrival of Missives is a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.
The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?
As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?
The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley
In The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley, the author continues to stun me with her expert wordcraft. Transitioning from the previous short work of New Weird fiction, The Beauty, Ms. Whiteley easily feels at home in the historical/science fiction genre. It was a solid short story, which I thoroughly enjoyed, however, I could not give it higher stars since I did end up feeling a little cheated towards the end. Perhaps it is because Ms. Whiteley is such a great author, I wanted more out of The Arrival of Missives. Literally, more — I wanted the story to continue.
I went into Missives not knowing what to expect. I thought, at first, that it was perhaps going to be a bit Pride and Prejudice-y, which had me confused since that would be remarkably different from Ms. Whiteley’s work in the past. We have our protagonist Shirley, completely smitten with a battle-scarred professor returned from war, a professor who seems to have his own agenda, and a local boy every assumes will marry Shirley. Seems pretty simple. And then, BAM! Professor goes topless and we discover the truth. What truth? Won’t talk about it here because I don’t want to spoil it, but look for a spoiler vlog about it Saturday!
The turn it took at the end, with the professor, really threw me for a loop. I guess, in the end, I felt a lot like Shirley did. Angry, confused, and determined to do something (which obviously I could not as a mere reader). The writing was infallible, pacing was great, character development (for such a short story) was fantastic. My complaint was simply that it ended too soon! I wanted to know more, to follow Shirley on her mission/adventure! But seriously, if you’re looking for a short, kinda weird kinda sci-fi story to pick up, give The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley a look.
Quotes & Excerpts
First I must go to Taunton and earn my teaching certificate, and I will cram all life into those years so that I can settle with ease when I am married and I return to the village. I would hate to have regrets. Bitterness in a teacher can spoil a pupil, I think.
They must all leave their mark somehow upon this place, even if only their letters remain.
Perhaps all old people look upon the young with envious eyes, and give their orders to reach beyond their natural time and steal from ours.
My newfound joy in saying things that upset others surprises me. I suppose it is my only source of power. If I must obey, then I will do it with no good grace.
But, of course, nature is not beautiful. It is not meant to form a pattern woven to perfection. I think of the battles I see every day around me: spider and flies, foxes and rabbits. The land and the sea, the night and the day, the old and the young. I think of how it was under the bridge, with Daniel, when we pitched our bodies against each other in an age-old struggle in which we were born to fight. It was not beautiful, but it was glorious. And there was never meant to be a victor.
That is the truth of our Earth.
About the Author
Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon in 1974, and currently lives in Sussex with her husband, daughter and dog. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit’s European Monsters and Lonely Planet’s Better than Fiction I and II. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People’s Choice Award in 2007.
Her recent novella for Unsung Stories, The Beauty, was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sabotage Award, and appeared on the Honors List for the James Tiptree Jr Award. She blogs at: aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and she tweets most days as @AliyaWhiteley.