Recently I was asked who were my major influences as a writer. I found this question remarkably difficult to answer, and after a few days, I’ve decided it really shouldn’t take as long to answer as it did. I believe, in reality, I was being asked two questions at the same time:
1. Who do you like to read?
2. Whose writing can I best compare you to?
The first question is simple. But it is the second that gives me pause. I have to take a moment when anyone asks me to pigeonhole my writing. I even find difficulty describing my work within a specific genre. In truth, I bounce back and forth between science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and some manner of interstitial mind noodling between these descriptors.
Also, comparing oneself to a successful, even legendary author is an absolute death trap. I’ll never be Isaac Asimov. I wouldn’t want to lead anyone to believe I would ever think that.
However, a prospective reader needs some kind of peg on which to hang his literary hat before electing to invest some of his or her personal time with your fiction. And so, without attempting to compare my writing to theirs, or to hint that I read these authors extensively, here is a very brief list of authors I feel have most directly influenced my style:
Arthur C. Clarke: The very first novel I had ever read in one sitting was 2001: A Space Odyssey. I believe I was in the seventh grade, and had seen the Kubrick film only a few months prior. The movie thoroughly baffled me, but I found the novelization in the library (not the short story Sentinel upon which it was loosely based… long story), and wanted some manner of explanation for the electronic LSD trip that was the film’s third act. I was engrossed and missed dinner, and went to bed late (with my parents’ enthusiastic support) while reading it. I went on to catch myself up with Clarke’s major writings. I feel his ability to probe the extreme possibilities of reality in a terrifyingly familiar way is what really coaxed me at an early age into writing. Of particular note would be the Rama series, from which I still draw inspiration.
Philip K. Dick: The man’s corpus of writings has served as source material for countless Hollywood science fiction endeavors, often with great success, often with horrifying disaster. Dick’s views of reality as something not entirely tangible, certainly mutable, and ambiguously malevolent, provided me with a craving to find those plot hooks that would capture one’s imagination.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Thanks to a science fiction literature course at Louisiana State University, I was introduced to Red Mars. I was a distracted, cocksure undergraduate with only a half semester left before graduation. I was also obsessed with a mission to use the word “cocksure” in a sentence legitimately. Mission accomplished. Robinson’s Mars Trilogy provided me with an enormity of inspiration, particularly with his sweeping epic scope and his dedication to character-centered drama. His writing also showed me how sociological commentary can elevate a well-crafted story into something of greater worth.
I enjoy reading the works of more authors than these, by all means. But if hard-pressed to point to three writers whose works have most directly guided my thinking as a storyteller, these would be the ones I would choose!
In other news, The Curse Merchant is three days away from its deadline. I have at the writing of this blog post only 10,000 words left to fill. It may require long evenings, but it is possible to finish. Possible… perhaps not probable.