There’s something you should know about me right off the bat, and you may find it a little shocking – I’m white.
I’m not just white, I’m also male, and on the wrong side of forty. And I live on the East Coast.
I tell you all this to illustrate that I am about as far from a sixteen year-old Navajo girl as you can get and still be a member of the same species.
Which is sort of the point, I guess.
Let me back up…
Back in the heady days of 2003, Tom Deja – writer, podcaster, and proprietor of this very blog – was editor for a prose superhero anthology called Truth, Justice, And…
I wrote a story for it called “The Origin of Flight” about a teenage girl who gained the power to fly when she came into possession of a Thunderbird feather. The character didn’t exist, even as an idea, before Tom put out the call for stories. I Frankensteined her together from a bunch of different things I was interested in at the time (mythology and coming-of-age stories, mostly) strictly to meet the requirements of the anthology. I called her “Fly Girl” – a term that was about a decade past its cultural sell-by date even then, but I liked it because it was silly and simultaneously obvious and not obvious at all. For her real name, I decided on “Caryn Clay” because there’s a long, proud history of alliterative civilian names in superhero comics (Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Peter Parker, Reed Richards, etc.). I left things open at the end, like any good origin story, but I didn’t have a venue to continue publishing her, so I moved on to other projects.
Over the next ten years, though, Fly Girl kept nagging at me. Without consciously trying to, I was figuring out her backstory, building a rogues gallery for her and a mythology around the feather that provided her powers, answering questions I didn’t realize I’d left unanswered in that first episode.
I think a lot of writers go through a phase early on when their protagonists are essentially themselves – but aside from the fact that we both went to high school in Phoenix, Caryn Clay was nothing at all like me. I wasn’t born into a culture I didn’t want to be part of, and, as noted above, I was never a teenage girl – not even for Halloween.
I couldn’t fly either, of course… but it turned out that was the least interesting thing about the character – any kid who’s ever picked up a comic book will tell you that “flight” all by itself is just about the most bargain basement power-set a superhero can have, after all. It was how different Caryn’s life experience was from mine that kept my thoughts coming back to her, and that difference started long before she got ahold of that Thunderbird feather.
I wrote two more episodes and took notes on a handful of other Fly Girl stories over the next decade, with no real idea of what I was going to do with any of it. Then, in 2014, I was developing a serial for Pro Se Press’s new Single Shots Signature Series line and realized that, for a variety of reasons, the idea I’d pitched to editor-in-chief Tommy Hancock wasn’t going to work. This realization came along pretty late in the game, and since I didn’t want to back out of my commitment with Pro Se, I looked around for something else I could do that would be a better fit in terms of tone and story length.
And here was all this Fly Girl material I’d been poking away at since 2003.
Fortunately, Tommy was okay with the substitution, and we’ve been publishing Fly Girl as a series of ebooks ever since, each episode wrapped in a sweet Jeffrey Hayes cover. It’s structured like an episodic television series, where each part has a complete story, and a subplot that runs through the entire season. We just published episode six, The Monster Inside of Me, which means we’re a little better than halfway through the first ten-episode season.
You should check it out – mostly because I’m proud of the series… but also because I have small children, and college ain’tgonna come cheap.
And if you like it, you can thank our host, Tom Deja, for inviting me to pitch for that anthology,way back in the dark times before Facebook and Gmail and Grumpy Cat.
Fly Girl: The Origin of Flight is the first episode in the Fly Girl series, and is available for free at all finer e-book retailers. Here’s the link to the Amazon listing.
Fly Girl: The Monster Inside of Me is the sixth and latest episode in the Fly Girl series, and is not free… but it’s a bargain at 99 cents. You can find it at all those finer e-book retailers I mentioned, like Amazon.
Russ Anderson Jr. has written a bunch of other stuff – much of it readable. You can find it all listed on his Amazon author page.