I’m updating this post from some time ago because new commenter Daniel recently added a whoooollle bunch more examples of stories where ordinary people can fly. As a post recedes in time, regular visitors are much less likely to see new comments on that post. I’m bringing it back into the present so you can all benefit from Daniel’s additions.
So here’s the original post:
There are two kinds of people who can fly: the kind that are born with wings and the kind that gets a pair of wings and then learns to fly.
Although I like stories about both, isn’t it sort of cool to read a story where basically anyone might in theory learn to fly? You, for example, if you happened to walk through the correct portal.
And I don’t mean like in an airplane, even in a world like the one in the Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn.
No fair if you need to become a test pilot in order to fly.
Wings, not airplanes.
Here are the SFF stories I can think of where people — basically ordinary people — learn to fly.
Windhaven by Lisa Tuttle and George RR Martin. I first read this ages ago, way before GRR Martin was famous, or at least way before I knew his name. I sort of liked it? Or to be more accurate, I liked the part about flying a lot and the part about gritty politics not so much.
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I didn’t really care for the first book, Red Mars. I disliked most of the characters and reading about a failed rebellion, well, not really a lot of fun there. I liked Green Mars the best because I liked the main pov characters much better, the terraforming was all very fascinating, and a successful rebellion yields a far more appealing plot arc. But it’s Blue Mars where the technology for flight develops and is used. It’s not a major element of the book, don’t get me wrong, but it is one of my favorite bits. KSR is really good at description and I can close my eyes and visualize flight.
The Green Sky trilogy by Zipha Keatley Snyder. These were so lovely. Not flawless, but I really enjoyed them when I was a kid. Also, the cover on Goodreads is pretty bad, but the original cover no doubt led me to pick this book up in the first place, because it is also lovely.
Such beautiful images . . . giant trees, a gentle pastoral life, gliding . . . of course that isn’t quite flying, but close enough, close enough.
The computer game for the Commodor 64 that was based on this trilogy was also deeply charming. First computer game I ever spent a significant amount of time playing. Still the one I think of wistfully. Too bad there doesn’t seem to be a modern version.
Okay, here’s one I haven’t read that I hear is reminiscent of Snyder’s trilogy:
Updraft by Fran Wilde. From the cover, I guess this is a hang glider rather than wings?
Someday I will read this and enjoy the flight involved, even if people don’t actually have wings.
Okay, and of course one more:
I never really thought about what other stories involving flight might have helped inspire this book. But, yeah, I’m pretty sure Winghaven and The Green Sky trilogy were in there somewhere.
Now, here are the additional stories added by Daniel:
“Human Levitation: A True History and How-To Manual” by Preston Dennett has accounts of people who have really flown !
“Joseph of Copertino” by Paolo Agelli and Christopher Costanzo is a biography about another of the most famous flying humans in history
“Incidents in my Life” by D. D. Home is an autobiography about one of the most famous flying humans in history
“John and Jeanie Fly: Living the Law of Attraction” by John Waddell is a delightful story of a married couple who one morning they discover that they can fly
“The Flying Yorkshireman” by Eric Knight is a short story of a man who believes he can fly – and then he can
“Levitation” by Randy White is a story about a man who mysteriously discovers the ability to fly
“Lift Off” by Terence Tolman is a Short Story About a Girl Who Can Fly
“The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, African-American folktale about flying to escape slavery
“The Man Who Knew How To Fly” By Karel Čapek, about a man who can fly until others try to tell him how to do it their way, which causes him to lose his ability (also a video on youtube and vimeo)
“Nikki Powergloves” by David Estes, in which a girl can fly if she wears magical blue gloves
“Going Through the Change” by Samantha Bryant, where a woman becomes lighter than air but learns to control her flight
“The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden: The Night Flyer’s Handbook” by Philippa Dowding, in which a teenage girl has recurring dreams of flying then discovers that she can really fly, spending most of the book enjoying her wonderful gift
“Savana’s Secret” by Sandra C. Addis tells of another teenage girl who discovers that she can fly due to being very light
“Fly Girl” series by by Russ Anderson Jr. about a teenage girl whose Native American grandmother gave her a magic feather giving her the power to fly
“He That Hath Wings” by Edmond Hamilton is an animated story of a boy born with wings who learns to fly
“Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly” by Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones, a story of a group of teens who have the power to fly, except one, who finds out she has a different ability
“Lisa: Three Girls with Extrordinary ESP Powers” by Ian Berry, about three super-powered teenage girls
“The Man Who Could Fly But Probably Shouldn’t’ve” by H Pattison, about a man who discovers that he can fly, but is often misunderstood
“The Flying Man” by Peter Glassborow, a man who can fly and secretly tries to do good from the air without being seen
“The Flying Boy” by Harrison Parish about a boy who can levitate and do other things, and has mysterious origins
“The Flying Burgowski” by Gretchen Wing in which a teenage girl has recurring dreams of flying then discovers that she can really fly, spending most of the book enjoying her wonderful gift
“The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden: The Night Flyer’s Handbook” by Philippa Dowding, is the story of a teenage girl who wakes up one morning floating on the ceiling, but eventually learns to control her inherited talent of flying
“Flying Girl: Egg and the Hameggattic Sisterhood” by Robert Iannone, where a girl gets a special suit from her grandmother that enables her to fly
“Flying: A Novel” by Carrie Jones, about a cheerleader who discovers that she can fly
“Bizarre New World” by Paul Krutcher, an animated book about a world where everyone has the ability to fly
Also this list at Goodreads: All the winged and flying people your heart desires.