Like Sex with Gods
An Unorthodox History of Flying
Aviation
6.125 x 9.25, 232 pp.
22 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 05/08/2003
Centennial of Flight Series
  cloth
Price:        $29.95

978-1-58544-256-0
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Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Like Sex with Gods

An Unorthodox History of Flying

By Bayla Singer

"Human flight is not a simple matter of science and technology. It is a continuing epic of dreams and obsession, of yearning and striving to harness the intellect in the service of the emotions."

In Like Sex with Gods: An Unorthodox History of Flight, Bayla Singer offers a unique approach to humanity's fascination with flying. Rather than merely tracing the factual prehistory of flight up to the success of the Wright Brothers, Bayla Singer considers the interaction and influence of our dreams, fantasies, culture, and technology on the age-old quest to fly.

This enlightening study begins with the deities and other denizens of the heavens that humanity has created in its religion, literature, and art. At first a monopoly of the gods, flight came to interest humanity as a way to free itself from the physical and intellectual bonds of the earth.

The myth of flight eventually gives way to the pursuit of actual flight. Singer shows in compelling detail the many flying machines that have been created, including balloons, gliders, and kites. The accomplishment of the Wright Brothers and our successful trips into space are merely stops on a continuing journey, as our ancient dream of flight continues to push us to new and loftier places.

Filled with compelling stories and detailed illustrations, this book provides absorbing reading for aviation experts, those fascinated with the intimate relationship between technology and culture, and all of us who have even a passing interest in flying.

Bayla Singer holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently an independent scholar, she has served as a consultant for the Smithsonian and has written a number of magazine and journal articles. Singer resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . a most intriguing work and one which shows promise . . . I think she has compiled a wonderful and rich collection of anecdotes and evidence.”--Deborah Douglas

“. . . a most intriguing work and one which shows promise . . . I think she has compiled a wonderful and rich collection of anecdotes and evidence.” --Deborah Douglas

“Dr. Singer persuasively shifts our attention from the techniques and machinery of flying to the motivations behind it, to the dreams and obsessions about flight characteristic of virtually every culture in every age. Like Sex with Gods demonstrates that events ignored in orthodox histories of aviation are vital to understanding why the human species has slipped the bonds of earth and sought out the heavens. Fascinating and fun.” --Joe Corn Stanford University

“Historian Bayla Singer engagingly tells of humans soaring skyward in their imagination and of their flights of fancy since time immemorial in the realms of myth, religion, magic, poetry, and psychology. The Wright brothers’ imagination in achieving technological flight pales by comparison.” --Thomas P. Hughes, author, American Genesis

“. . . as it fills a rare niche in the history of aviation, and would contribute to making the Centennial of Flight series a well-rounded, complete one. It was a pleasure to see such material used, and I think it is an excellent idea to bring out from obscurity these elements on flight genesis.” --Guillaume de Syon, Albright College

“An intriguing, refreshing, interdisciplinary approach to a subject less familiar than it may seem.” --Patricia Monagham, Booklist

“Former Smithsonian consultant Singer debuts with a panoptic exploration of the motivation and ingenuity that have marked our urge to fly. Getting humans aloft wasn’t simply a matter of a bunch of inventive guys getting their heads together, borrowing here and there from the scientists in the past, and taming the physics of it all, Singer writes. No simple progression led inexorably to the Wright Brothers, but a wonderful tangle, a wildly braided stream of literature, religion, and art; literation and redemption; sexuality and power. The author lines these strands in ample detail for so small a work, also examining how we harnessed the intellect to the service of the emotions. Singer works carefully back and forth through the ages suggesting influences and context, taking account of the yearly role of dreams and mythology, flight as natural metaphor for communing with the spiritual and supernatural, the need for escape and freedom from authority. The Scientific Revolution shifts the emphasis to materialism and quantification, tentatively contesting the ungovernable fields of religion and aesthetics while frequently tipping its hat to the Inquisitor. singer then tackles inventiveness: ‘aptitude, curiosity, inventiveness, luck–plus perception of a need or desire, societal support,’ a support she notes, that cannot be found in the glory of being the first to fly. Monetary rewards certainly might accrue, and there were many struggles along these fronts: much stealing of ideas, ugly skirmishes over patent rights. But even more compelling was the age-old desire to break the early bonds, sample the sexual angle, taste the narrative of the myth. Of course, those who seek possible financial windfalls generously allude to these elements in their advertising: just look at the young woman riding that bomb on the book’s cover. Able presentation of the piquant stew of emotional, literary, artistic, religious, and technological considerations that spurred–and spurred and spurred–the will to human flight.” --Kirkus Reviews

“. . . a lively and informative text.” --Copley News Service

“If some literary association had a competition for best book title, here’s this year’s winner: ‘Like Sex with Gods’. . .a well-researched history of aviation, available for readers in the centennial year of powered flight.” --Austin American-Statesman

“. . . a fascinating odyssey based on a truly impressive range of scholarly and popular sources.” --CHOICE

“Approaching the subject in this very broad way, Singer has written a provocative work. . .Singer’s work compliments and expands upon that done by Joseph corn and Robert Wohl on the social and culture history of the airplane. Like Sex with Gods: An Unorthodox History of Flying offers fewer conclusions than Corn or Wohl, but its somewhat unorthodox nature should help provoke others to think about the history of aviation as a broader and more complex topic, one that should not focus so narrowly on the development of the airplane.” --History

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