So, since my own story has finally been announced and releasing on October 30th, I plan to read and review each FUTURES story leading up to the 30th. This means that ALWAYS BLUE by John Dermot Woods is up first!
We follow Schulz an instructor at the City Academy, who is the foremost expert on ‘wind tuning’ and is the engineer to the famed Windwall. It is this masterful creation that protects the island city from an incredibly volatile climate that encompasses the rest of the world. Enter his most bothersome, but possibly most gifted student, Stacey Graham, who seems hellbent on disrupting his life and confirming his suspicions that maybe his Windwall isn’t full proof…
Schulz is both a wearying and darkly enjoyable character. He detests his duties as an instructor, but does not want to go back into non-academia. At best, he is after his own comfort and his choices purely reflect this, alongside the pure narcissism that is reinforced by the fact that his Windwall protects the society he created through it. And Schulz is not the only one who is so incredibly likable/unlikable(read:human) at the same time, Stacey is portrayed in quite the same way as are just about every other character in this story.
Woods care for characterization is not the only thing that shines in this brief story from Radix Media. The care in detail down to the ramifications of his world building is what really elevates this work from a casual short story to a robust piece of literature. Schulz’s Windwall exists on the basis of his belief of “non-interference” this engineering concept that he concluded only exists for the Windwall carries into his surrounding culture. It is referenced numerous times and defines all the relationships in the story. Schulz even feels frustrated by the development itself, despite his strict apathy towards others and his wish to be left alone 99% of the time.
ALWAYS BLUE is a lovely piece of cultural critique, climate fiction, and literary wit. It encompasses our faults as a civilization when it comes to seeing the big picture and our misdirection due to petty slights.
Woods seems to be asking us to take a step back and look up.
You can purchase ALWAYS BLUE here.