Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Radiance

A Novel

Catherynne M. Valente

Tor Books

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew

(Oxblood Films, dir. Severin Unck, 1946)



SC1 EXT. RED SQUARE, MOSCOW—DAY 1 LATE AFTERNOON [12 JUNE, 1944]

[Open on the pristine streets of sunny Moscow, lined with popsicle-carts, jugglers, dazzled tourists. The streetlamps are garlanded with lime-blossoms, sunflowers, carnations. The joyful throng crowds in fierce and thick; the camera follows as they burst into Red Square. The splendid ice-cream towers of the Kremlin beam down benignly. The elderly TSAR NICHOLAS II, his still-lovely wife, and their five children, hale in their glittering sashes, wave down at the cannoneers standing at attention on the firing pad at the 1944 Worlds’ Fair. The launch site is festooned with crepe and swinging summer lanterns, framed by banners wishing luck and safe travel in English, Russian, Chinese, German, Spanish, and Arabic.]

SEVERIN UNCK and her CREW wave jerkily as confetti sticks to their sleek skullcaps and glistening breathing apparatuses. Her smile is immaculate, practiced, the smile of the honest young woman of the hopeful future. Her copper-finned helmet gleams at her feet. SEVERIN wears feminine clothing with visible discomfort and only for this shot, which she intends, in the final edit, to be ironic and wry: She is performing herself, not performing herself in order to tell a story about something else entirely. The curl of her lip betrays, to anyone who knows her, her utter disdain of the bizarre, flare-skirted swimming-cum-trapeze-artist costume that so titillates the crowd. The wind flutters the black silk around her hips. She tucks a mahogany case—which surely must contain George, her favourite camera—smartly under one arm. All of her crewmen strap canisters of film, a few steamer trunks of food, oxygen tanks, and other minor accoutrements to their broad backs. The real meat of the expedition, supplies and matériel meticulously planned, acquired, logged, and collected, was loaded into the cargo bays overnight. What Severin and her crew carry, they carry for the camera, for the film being shot of this film being shot.

The cannon practically throbs with light: a late-model Wernyhora design, filigreed, etched with forest motifs that curl and leaf like spring ice breaking. The brilliant, massive nose of the Venusian capsule Clamshell rests snugly in the cannon’s silvery mouth. The metal beast towers over Saint Basil’s, casting a monstrous shadow. Most of its size is devoted to propulsion. The living space within is surprisingly small. That etched silver forest will be jettisoned halfway to Venus, destined to drift alone into the endless black. But for now, the Clamshell dwarfs any earthly palace built for the glory of man or god.

They are a small circus: the strongmen, the clowns, the lion tamer, the magician, and the trapeze artist poised on her platform, arm crooked in an evocative half-moon, toes pointed into the void.

CUT TO: INT. Clamshell cantina, NIGHT 21:00 ERASMO ST. JOHN and MAXIMO VARELA pour vodka for the CREW and laugh uproariously:::FILM DAMAGED, FOOTAGE UNAVAILABLE SKIP DAMAGED AREA SKIPPING SKIPPING ERROR SEE ARCHIVIST FOR ASSISTANCE]



Copyright © 2015 by Catherynne M. Valente