In Wings of Joy, author, scientist, musician and artist Anne Harlan Prather introduces readers to the Starmasters—her contribution to the long tradition of stories about pilots with mysterious abilities. Like Cordwainer Smith's go-captains, Frank Herbert's Guild steersmen and Ann Aguiere's Jumpers, the Starmasters move starships at hyperlight speeds through the mysterious Beyond by means of a rare gift. But their gift is constrained by stark limitations. Not for these pilots are the consolation of retirement, the relief by copilots, or the stability of a home planet. Even the long life afforded others by rejuvenation treatments is denied them—unless they bow to their gift and fly.
Meet Caryssa, the daughter of Renaissance faire show people. She longs for a place as an entertainer—or for life in the Enclaves. Then a mysterious patron comes to hear Caryssa, and the teen-ager's life is turned upside-down by a double dose of opportunity.
Zephaniah's career has been haunted for nearly fifteen years by the consequences of thoughtless words and practical jokes carried out when he was barely out of his teens. Yet he carries on, bound by his flight gift to wander the Galaxy while the legacy left him by his family awaits his discovery.
Youngest daughter of the Radiant Empire's royal house, Ariella has embraced the role of the Commoner Princess, helping her family to keep in touch with the issues faced by the common folk. A master of disguise and subterfuge, she embraces her various roles, even when the roles might require that she risk her life to do what's right.
The eighteen stories in this innovative anthology are infused by Prather's scientific background, her 35+ years of teaching, and her love of history. This is character-driven science-fiction that explores all the dimensions of the kind of piloting gift that has captured readers since Mark Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi.