Short Fiction at High Altitudes

January 23, 2018 § Leave a comment

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“Is Wi-Fi the existential threat that will finally kill the inflight magazine?” That’s the question Mark Tjhung asked this past July in Forbes. His answer is No, in part because his answer has to be No: He’s editor of Silkroad, the inflight magazine for the Hong Kong airline Cathay Dragon. But he also explains that he believes in the future of inflight magazines, if they “keep up and raise their standards.” And he writes, “Ironically, rather than being the death knell of the inflight magazine brand, the online revolution in the media landscape may present its greatest opportunity.”

Part of Silkroad‘s raising of its standards, as Tjhung points out in the article, is the inclusion of a “Short Story Anthology.” Last summer, they invited authors to send them short pieces of fiction, with the result being a collection of four stories, each set in a different Asian country, written specifically for Silkroad readers. The anthology includes works from David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas; Lijia Zhang, a Chinese author who writes in English for international publications; Nuri Vittachi, author of The Feng Shui Detective; and Manu Joseph, author of Serious Men. Each story is accompanied by an author interview.

A Forgettable Story,” by Mitchell, is something of a Japan-based combination of Groundhog Day and an inside-out 50 First Dates, told by an airline passenger to his seatmate. In describing himself, he says,

Where am I from? Tricky question. ‘From my mother’? I had a peripatetic childhood, so I’ve got more passports than Jason Bourne. All legal, I hasten to add. Even the matter of where I live now gets a bit . . . complicated. You know those wandering poet-monks in feudal China and Japan who used to say the road was their home, and the grass was their pillow? You could say I’m a contemporary reboot of them. ‘My spiritual home is the transit lounge.’ I should get that printed on a T-shirt. Don’t think I’m romanticising this way of life: I’m not. I envy what I guess you have. Friends, a partner maybe, a job, or at least a role, a family to be a part of – even if they drive you crazy now and then. Belongingness is underrated, especially by the young.

Zhang’s “Permission” tells the story of Lin, a young man who has moved from rural China to study in one of the country’s most-prestigious universities. There he is faced with the conflict between Chinese and Western values, as well as his own conflicting emotions concerning a nurse who shows him attention.

In “Geek Girl and the Digital Planet,” Vittachi writes about an expat in Hong Kong who infiltrates the world around her by hacking into the scores of wi-fi and bluetooth signals available in her apartment. On fiction’s ability to inspire travel, Vittachi says, “The best way to visit somewhere is to read a novel about it – and then buy an airline ticket.”

And “The Fight,” by Joseph, is about a family vacation in India. But rather than focusing on the beauty of Goa, the husband and wife are preoccupied with arguments and frustration. “‘Everybody fights,” the father tells his seven-year-old daughter. “They go to beautiful places to fight.” About the inspiration for his story, Joseph writes,

I like the joy of vacations, especially time spent with the children, but the most interesting thing is the pressure on the adults to pretend they are having a good time. I am sure most people do have fun but many other things go on during family vacations—tension between adults that’s often continuation of old feuds.

Kudos to Silkroad for broadening its repertoire to include fiction. What a great way to introduce readers to the subtle nuances and intricacies of travel and destinations. As Vittachi says in his interview, “I think inflight magazines are a great place for fiction. Fiction transports you in a delightful manner—exactly like a good plane journey!”

If you’d like to read more from international inflight magazines—without getting on a plane—go to my recently updated list of over 100 offered online.

(Mark Tjhung, “No, the Inflight Magazine Isn’t Dead,” Forbes, July 20, 2017; “The Silkroad Short Story Anthology,” Discovery, July 3, 2017)

[photo: “DSC01783,” by Anthony Pujol, used under a Creative Commons license]

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Air China Back-Back-Backtracks from Inflight Article on London

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

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The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:

London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.

Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.

After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:

We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .

But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.

So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.

(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)

[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]

The American Way, Way Up There

October 17, 2015 § 2 Comments

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On a recent flight over the Pacific, I perused the October issue of American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Gracing the cover, singer/songwriter Jessie J “continues to redefine herself.” I wasn’t familiar with her first definition.
  2. At CashInYourDiamonds.com, I can sell my “unwanted diamonds for cash.” Finally, a place to unload all those gemstones that have been dragging me down.
  3. People Tools, by Alan C. Fox, is not a book about people who are tools.
  4. Reading the tagline “Athlete and TV host Michael Strahan knows how to dress” didn’t quite pull me into that article.
  5. Voodoo comes from vous, the French word for you, and the English do. Who knew?
  6. Judging by all the advertisements, hair loss must be a big deal for travelers.
  7. Oh yeah, Bondi is a beach in Sydney, not just an iMac color.
  8. The mag writers’ favorite shirt is made by Ledbury, with its “fused canvas interlining” in the collar to keep it from collapsing. . . because “crushed collars are a business traveler’s nightmare.” Can you say, “First-world problems”?
  9. It took me a while to realize that Amber Kelleher-Andrews, of kelleher-international.com, has been awarded “top global matchmaker,” not “watchmaker.” By the way, who exactly gave her that award?
  10. The editors let me know that “78% of readers will act on an ad they’ve seen in this magazine.” If that includes people who blog about the advertisements, count me in.

If you’d like to read your favorite inflight magazine from the comfort of your web browser, take a look at Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.

[photo: “There’s no way like the American way (colorized),” by Whitewall Buick, used under a Creative Commons license]

A Biscoff Cookie, an Inflight Magazine, and Some White Noise. . . Welcome Aboard

August 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

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It’s been more than a year since I put together my list of online, English-language, international (read, with other than just US destinations) in-flight magazines.

Not long ago, I found 27 more and have added their links to the post. That brings the total to 91.

So . . .

[photo: “Pink Jet Wing,” by Cyndy Sims Parr, used under a Creative Commons license]

Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over

June 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Nothing beats a good inflight magazine. It’s kind of hard for me to read a book on a flight, maybe because I’m too easily distracted, and I fall asleep too easily. But magazines . . . that’s different. I love the photos of exotic foods, the stories about eccentric locales, the ads for ridiculously expensive watches. Some time ago, I went on the internet to see if any international airlines offered free subscriptions for their magazines. I didn’t find any, but I did discover that several offer them online. Then, when I  searched some more, those several turned into a whole lot. So I put together this list (English-language only) and tracked down the links. I’d love to have them all spread out on my coffee table, but since that’s not going to happen, this is the next-best thing. (And in case you think your seat-back pocket is still missing something, I know what it is. What inflight library would be complete without a copy of SkyMall?)

(Updated, July 2019)

Any additions? Please let me know.

[photo: “In-Flight Magazine and Sky Time,” by Hideyuki KAMON, used under a Creative Commons license]

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