chapter: Maiden Voyage (page 05)
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Failing Sky is a comics novel comprised of 30 discrete stories, and is still a work in progress. The first chapter was posted in late 2013, with new chapters published serially. It is free to read, funded by philanthropists (like you) originally via Kickstarter and now via Patreon.


Each chapter is a small story unto itself, within a larger web of stories about a group of six friends and the teenage girl (Qiao) who tries to bring them back together in their old age. There is no order to the stories, because there is no order to memories; reading Failing Sky can be confusing, but only because life is complex and coy, and does not give up its meaning easily. This novel is meant for people searching for meaning within stories, not for passive readers who want narrative spoon-fed to them.

A reader could potentially read only one chapter and then leave, hopefully taking something away with them. The more chapters they read, the more they learn about the lives of the characters, and so the reader can eventually, at their discretion, piece together whatever narratives and meaning they feel is appropriate. The novel, even while in-progress, is intended to be read only in part, where the reader takes in as many chapters as they need to feel a sense of completeness, and then stops reading. When meeting a stranger and asking about their life, you don't expect to hear every story, but just enough to feel like the conversation is complete before you part ways. Even when Failing Sky's planned 30 chapters are complete, the implication will be that the whole story is larger than 30 chapters, and you can never know everything there is to know about these six characters' lives.

The novel is organized, optionally, in two ways:

  • The chapters can be catagorized into four "volumes," being:
    • Qiao's real life, taking place in the marina and rendered in pencil on color paper
    • Jack's memories, as told by him to Qiao as a child, or possibly told by the antique objects on his boat
    • Qiao's imaginary travels across the USA, using Jack's mementos as a roadmap
    • a comic book by Tuan where Jack's memories are rampaging robots and his friends are beleaguered heroes.
  • The chapters can be categorized by one of Jack's mementos, an object that lived in that memory and, in a way, is recounting that story to Qiao: some boots, an iron, a mug, a nail, shears, a typewriter, and a watch — each object represents a theme, and so reading just the chapters associated with that object will all have the same thematic drive.


Of note, the characters are all transgender or genderqueer, not because this is a trans story, but because the author is herself trans and genderqueer, in the same way that all of the characters happen to struggle with being professional artists, because the author is an artist — we write within the world we know. At the same time, as of 2012, the only fiction stories about trans people were unnecessarily tragic, which contributed to trans people's lack of a sense of longevity. Without narratives to look to, fictional or not, trans people habitually sell their own lives short in very practical ways. Failing Sky is meant to be a submission into the world of transgender narratives, so that trans people can have stories to subconciously pattern their own lives after where the trans characters aren't assumed to die at the end, or to have their transness be used solely as a device to drive a larger story, or where readers are expected to identify only with the non-trans characters, etc. Failing Sky is not about transness, it is just a story for trans people, by a trans person, about the parts of life that aren't just about being trans. Maybe stories like this will help trans people dream about lives beyond mere survival.


Failing Sky uses a visual format that Scott McCloud proposed in 2000 as "infinite canvas," meaning that, in a web browser, a page can continue to expand in any direction. Continuing on the theory that some panels should be vertical, or small, or vary in tone, or increase in rhythm, this novel attemps to use page direction as a storytelling tool: panels flow right-to-left or bottom-to-top to suggest dramatic shifts or imply character moods. Pages vary in size to complement the story rhythm, chapters flow non-linearly because no physical binding exists, and the reader must sometimes answer questions before continuing. All of this is not intended to be significant in itself, but is merely the obvious consequence of publishing for web browsers instead of print, where these are natural and obvious storytelling options. As such, there is no practical way to put Failing Sky into print, which is the traditional way to monetize stories — so please consider subscribing to Scout's Patreon.

by Scout Tran [updated author info coming soon...]