Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Winged people!

Between the Sea and Sky has been getting a fair bit of attention from mermaid lovers in the YA community, which is AWESOME, I love mermaids and always have. My sister's 6th (I believe?) birthday party was mermaid themed and my mom made us a mermaid costume which I wore at the party and refused to take off even though you couldn't walk in it.

However, I feel a little bad for Alan and the winged folk in the book, because they just don't get the attention. There are very few books about winged people in general. I'm not talking about angels, just regular down-to-earth, if you will, people who have wings. Surely I'm not the only person who dreams of flying?

At first I thought it was because, scientifically, winged people just aren't very possible. But then...um, mermaids? Yeah, they're no better and there are lots of mermaid books, especially this year. But there are a fair amount of mermaid myths. Maybe it's the combination of implausibility combined with relatively few myths that keep winged people off my shelf. =(

I'll admit, my interest in winged people was sparked in childhood when I was heartily obsessed with the Elfquest comics. There is a tribe of levitating mountain-dwelling elves in the story, who can fly for a short time but also ride giant birds for longer distances. One elf, Tyldak, really wanted to fly with his own wings so he got Winnowill, the villainous shape-shifter, to painfully shape his arms into wings. He wasn't the hottest looking elf around after that (for one thing, he couldn't really wear clothes around his bat-esque body so was reduced to wearing a little V-shaped fur thing--IN THE SNOW--why was he not freezing??) but he was still one of my favorite characters, especially since he was sort of an anti-hero which is always fun.

I was always eager to rip-off Elfquest around age 12, so I made a bat-winged race who also lived in a mountain. They could wear normal clothes for some reason. I didn't really explain. But the door was open for winged people of all kinds. Feathery wings, bat wings, winged sea fairies with green "fin wings", wings instead of arms, wings plus arms--lots of wings. Although for some reason, I kept sticking my winged people in cold mountains and fairly primitive societies, and the only winged character I really loved actually had crippled wings which he had amputated so he could live a human life. So despite my love of wings, it never quite clicked.

Another story I loved as a kid was Gwinna, by Barbara Helen Berger, which was sort of in the "meaty picture book" format. Gwinna started to grow wings from her back so her foster mother tried to bind her chest to stop them, but of course that doesn't work, and of course she learns to fly and...I don't know, stuff happens and the pictures are pretty. I guess I should reread it. But my young angst-loving self was mesmerized by the attempt to suppress her growing wings and the lovely pictures of a flying girl.

Of course, if there is one thing possibly more mesmerizing than a flying hot guy (er...I mean, person) it is a flying cat! I also loved the Catwings books by Ursula K. LeGuin as a kid. I mean, they are SO cute! I could DIE of how cute they are! I wish someone would make merchandise of this! I want a BAG and a THERMOS!

I actually didn't originally intend for Between the Sea and Sky to be about winged people at all. I always felt like poor mermen always got shafted in stories so I firmly intended to make the love interest a merman. But...oh, well. Shafted again. I had a minor character who was a semi ill-tempered winged man who was Esmerine's boss, and one day I was drawing him and I realized This is the man for her. Unlike the cold weather tribal winged folk of my childhood stories, I based the winged people in Between the Sea and Sky more on the astrological element of air--they're intellectuals and scholars, and they mostly stick to warmer climates. Physically, I tried to make them semi-scientific so they have "bat" wings rather than arms. They still need some magic to fly, but, well, less. And I tried to make them attractive! Bat-winged boys might be a little too weird for some readers, but on the other hand, if you've always WANTED a bat-winged boyfriend, well, right now I pretty much have the monopoly on that market... ;)

I do need to scan some better pictures of Alan!


  1. Ahh, so this is why you were asking about winged ppl in YA books the other day! You're right--there really aren't very many other there. When you asked, the first person who came to mind was Van from Escaflowne, but of course, winged ppl are a lot more common in anime/manga, huh? I think the aesthetic value outweighs the logistical inconvenience of having a winged character (at least, one whose wings don't conveniently fold up indoors like the gargoyles in Disney's Gargoyles) hanging around other characters without poking them in the eyes with their pinions or something.

    But Alan's people (and grouchy Alan himself XD) sound very interesting. I'm definitely looking forward to checking BtSaS out! Speaking of which--I just got the ARC in the mail yesterday--thank you!! XD I'm really sorry to say I may not be able to read it for a little while (heheheh... Ahh, understatement. Just updated my blog with the long-winded reasons why ^^;;; ) but Khine says she'll be jumping on it soon~~

    As for me, I guess I generally like characters with feathery wings more. But at that point, since they look so angelic already, people probably figure they should just go ahead and make them into angels? I dunno, maybe that's part of why there are plenty of angels in YA fic but not as many non-angelic winged ppl?

    And yes, I second the motion to scan more pictures of Alan!

  2. I actually have a whole series of Alan and Esmerine comics I'll be posting closer to release date...there will be a blitz of bonus material!

    Glad the ARC got there! Hope Khine enjoys it, and, you get to it whenever you can. I know how hard it can be to find any reading time when things get crazy. But it's all good things!

    And yeah, plenty of winged people in anime. But still not that many stories where people just have permanent, (relatively) ordinary wings or live in societies of winged people. I am probably wishing for something far too specific! But of course, that's why I wrote a book like that...

    (Also feathery wings are definitely more aesthetic...and easier to draw!!) But "mammalian" wings have grown on me over the years too... albeit, they are still almost as awkward to draw now as they were when I was twelve...

  3. I actually find bat-like wings easier to draw (just cuz there aren't all those pesky feathers to detail. ...Though I guess if you just went with the outline, the feathery wings aren't so bad either). But yeah, a society of winged people... for some reason, that DOES bring up images of a primitive society. I wonder why. =__= Because winged ppl are naturally better equipped/have more advantageous equipment than humans, they didn't feel a need to pursue science and invention as much? Hmm...