Thursday, March 16, 2023

Elizabeth Wein's "Stateless"

Elizabeth Wein is the holder of a private pilot’s license and the owner of about a thousand maps. She is best known for her historical fiction about young women flying in World War II, including the New York Times bestselling Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Wein is also the author of Cobalt Squadron, a middle grade novel set in the Star Wars universe and connected to the 2017 release The Last Jedi. She lives in Scotland and holds both British and American citizenship.

Here Wein shares some ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Stateless:
Stateless is a thriller and a mystery, set in a young people’s air race around Europe in 1937. Tensions are high anyway, with the Spanish Civil War in full swing and Hitler’s Nazi government in power in Germany. Our narrator is seventeen-year-old Stella North, the only girl out of twelve racing contestants all from different European nations, and on the very first day of the race she witnesses one pilot forcing another to his death over the English Channel. All the race contestants are hiding secrets, and so is Stella – and will there be another attack?

I have a very cinematic brain, and a lot of the scenes in this book are very visual. I can picture it as a film so easily, I have clear images in my head of what each character looks like, and yet I struggle to come up with actors to play them because they’re are all so young – everyone in the race is under 21.

But here’s my wish for Stateless, the movie. I don’t care who the actors are. What I care about is the aeroplanes.

In my 1937 air race, we’ve more than a dozen vintage aircraft flitting about. In my dream film scenario, I don’t want CGI. I want real planes! Hear me out –

One of my top ten favorite movies is The Rocketeer, a live-action film released in 1991 from Disney and Touchstone (with fabulous music by James Horner!), about a young barnstormer pilot in 1938 who gets hold of a jet pack. More than 25 vintage aircraft were used in the film. It was a box office flop but it’s an exquisite period piece, giving a true taste of the Golden Age of Flight, and the flight sequences just make the whole thing feel so much more real and less cartoony than CGI.

And if we can’t come up with enough vintage aircraft – I still don’t want CGI and would like to make an argument for model aircraft. One of my other well-loved aviation media triumphs is a 1979 television series called Flambards, made by the UK’s ITV. One of the characters is an aviation nut in the very, very early days of flight before the First World War. The planes in this show were all model aircraft and were utterly convincing.

So – without being too much of a plane nerd, when Stateless’s Stella is flying her open-cockpit Avro Cadet over the English Channel and sees two distant aircraft collide, how much fun would those model aircraft association folks have if they got to engineer a plane wreck on film? Or how cool would it be to get a couple of stunt pilots to stage a terrifying mock dogfight over the Alps, such as Stella find herself involved in? What about the glorious opening scene of a bi-plane flying loops over Stonehenge in the long golden light of an August afternoon?

Ah, I long to see it on the silver screen!
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

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