Behind-the-Scenes: “The Devil’s Fokker”

So I have a story published at Crimson Streets – the pulp-flavoured webzine. It’s called The Devil’s Fokker — which, y’know, you have to be careful how you pronounce (snicker) (a Fokker is a World War I German airplane…but you probably knew that).

Funnily enough, another story I was fortunate enough to have placed with Crimson Streets was also a war-time story with a devil reference: Last Stand for Lucifer’s Legion (and which had its own Behind-the-Scenes blog post here). I don’t actually write that many stories with war settings, and when I do they tend to fall under the category of “Weird War” stories…ones that involve the supernatural and monsters and the like.

The Devil’s Fokker is about a WW I RAF air ace who finds himself in the struggle of his life when he encounters an enemy fighter who is clearly more than human (or less than, depending on your theological perspective). I mean, there’s hopefully more to the story than that: a few plot twists and turns, some unexpected alliances, etc. – some of the story taking place on the ground. But as always I don’t want to give too much away in the hopes you’ll click over to Crimson Streets and read it. But hopefully it’s exciting, eerie, maybe a little thoughtful, unapologetically over-the-top, and, of course, pulpy.

This was actually a story I first wrote a while ago, after being invited (yes – me!) to contribute to an up-coming magazine. Unfortunately the magazine never got off the ground and I was left with a pulp-adventure mash-up of dog fights and the supernatural with very few venues seeming open to that kind of material. Fortunately, Crimson Streets was. (Something worth noting: I’ve sold a few stories in the last few years that I had written earlier because I finally found a market that was open to whatever idiosyncratic niche my story was attempting to fill). I did edit the story down to fit the word limit, which was a bit tricky because in a way there’s a lot going on (I think of it less as a “short” story and more like a movie squeezed into a few thousand words). Hopefully I didn’t mangle too many sentences in the process.

I did a bit of research for the story. That is, once I had the idea of the story in my head I did a bit of cursory research on planes and terminology. Not a lot, of course. It is a pulp adventure story with supernatural elements so, y’know, it’s mostly meant to be entertainment rather than an essay. It’s nice if a period story has at least a veneer of verisimilitude – but I’m not a fan (as a reader or as a writer) of throwing in gobs of technical exposition just so the writer can show how much they know about a topic. A casual line, a passing reference, is usually the best kind of technical detail – just enough to, hopefully, insert the reader into the setting, but nothing more.

Probably the biggest influence on the story was the old Enemy Ace comic book stories by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. Not the supernatural element (of which there was little in Enemy Ace) but the sense of almost surrealist isolation, the underlining vibe of melancholy, and most especially Kubert’s dynamic visualization of aerial dog fights. My hope was to evoke with the written word the sense of planes rolling and diving and generally putting the reader on the edge of their seats in the airborne scenes.

Did I succeed? Fail? Decide for yourself by reading…The Devil’s Fokker. The story even has a striking illustration by L.A. Spooner. (And even if you’re not interested in my tale, Crimson Streets offers stories that run the pulpy gamut from noirish crime to horror to adventure and more, so it’s still worth a visit).

And since I mentioned my occasional forays into Weird War stories, you can also check out Last Stand for Lucifer’s Legion (about a commando unit made up of WW II superheroes who encounter a monster) and the Twilight Zone-esque Pvt. Parker, Missing in Action (at Strange Horizons). Also my e-books The Masques Chronicles, vol. 1 and The Fellowship of the Midnight Sun Omnibus, which feature superhero stories set on the Canadian homefront during WW II.

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