Continuing Westward


Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"'Continuing Westward' reflects my first hobby, many years ago buried beneath the press of schoolwork-- building models of First World War aircraft. I've done another one, 'Against the Lafayette Escadrille', but it's not in here. Both are rather Kiplingesque, like my earliest published story, 'The Dead Man', which isn't here either; a few months ago Sandra Miesel asked for some Kipling-influenced pieces for two anthologies she was editing, and I sent her 'Continuing Westward' and 'Love, Among the Corridors'."

Wolfe's comments in the article "Kipling's Influence," reprinted in Castle of Days:

"I'm reading and rereading Kipling still, and I'm delighted to say that there are still a few of his tales that I have never read. One of the ten thousand things I learned from him was the timelessness of the East and the paranoia it can evoke in those from the West. Some thirty years after I learned it, it struck me that for a long time a man shot forward in time in the East might fail to understand what had happened to him. The result, 'Continuing Westward,' is given here."


The unnamed first-person narrator, a First World War biplane pilot, and his observer Sanderson are downed in a desert area in the Middle East, their plane able to taxi but not fly, after dynamiting a Turkish power line. They come to a village and after inimidating the locals with their firearms are treated to a meal and a dance by a fifteen-year-old girl. Sanderson has sex with the girl while the narrator listens, and the narrator comes to believe that she kills Sanderson. On his turn, he grabs the girl and makes off with her in the plane. He realizes that in fact Sanderson was not attacked and that he's now abandoned him, but by that stage does not care.


  • It seems the narrator's wits have been damaged by his arduous journey under the hot sun.
  • The electronic components in the woman's hair and dress are the first clue that the biplane has gone forward in time. The flat discs are ceramic capacitors; the glass ornaments are vacuum tubes. These were not in use in radios in the narrator's time (circa 1915). It is at least the 1930's and probably later than that.
  • As he escapes with the woman the narrator says, "meteors miles ahead shot upwards into the sky." These are probably missiles. His adventures may be about to come to an abrupt end.

Unresolved Questions

  • What's the significance of the girl's jewelery being made out of electrical parts? (See the analysis above for a possible answer.)

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