SH Flashback: “L’Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars),” by Dean Francis Alfar

A new entry in my somewhat-weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars),” by Dean Francis Alfar
A young woman sets out on a quest to find all of the impossible materials needed to build a kite that can carry her. A story about unrequited love, making very complicated plans, taking on impossible challenges, “the truth about quests,” and the magical world of Hinirang. (Published in 2003.) (3,500 words.)

Maria Isabella said, “What I need is a kite large enough to strap me onto. Then I must fly high enough to be among the stars themselves, so that anyone looking at the stars will see me among them.”

“What you need,” Melchor Antevadez replied with a smile, “is a balloon. Or someone else to love.”

(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)

(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories. Working on catching up.)




I've always been tempted to call this story magical realism, but I don't think it really fits that label. The setting, although we didn't know this when we published the story and knowing it isn't necessary for enjoyment, is a shared world; Dean described it thusly in an interview:

Hinirang is a reaimagined Philippines set during the time when the country was a colony of Spain. “Hinirang” comes from the Tagalog phrase “lupang hinirang” (“land longed for”) from the Philippine national anthem. It was created as a shared setting among friends, envisioned to be populated by a diverse cast whose stories were told by short stories and comics.

For more about Hinirang, see also a 2003 interview and a 2011 article.

And Hinirang is one of the things I loved about this story. I didn't know enough about the history of the Philippines to get everything that Dean was doing here, but I didn't feel like I needed to; I loved the flavor of the world, the evocative tiny descriptions of places and people in passing, and most especially the language—both the fact of the smooth mix of languages, and the poetic phrases in English.

(This story was an early example of our not italicizing “foreign” words in stories; I don't remember whether I gave any conscious thought to that, but I'm glad we went with Dean's non-italics. See also Jackie and Mary Anne's 2014 discussion of italics.)

I also liked Maria Isabella's kind of Rube Goldbergian approach to problem-solving. How to save an astronomer's life? Step on a dog's tail. How to get his attention? Go on a sixty-year quest. I think the opening sequence nicely establishes both her character and the tone of the story in that regard.

Btw, this is another story that's licensed under a Creative Commons license, so you can copy it (but not the art) for noncommercial purposes as long as you give attribution.

One more thing I want to mention here: in addition to writing fiction, Dean and his wife Nikki Alfar edited the Philippine Speculative Fiction series of anthologies, which appear to now all be available for Kindle; here, for example, is volume 1.

Oh, and among Dean's books is a short-story collection titled The Kite of Stars and Other Stories, which is also available for Kindle.

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