Friday, January 29, 2010


As an Aspiring Writer, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to list as many influences as I could, and how exactly the works listed influenced me. And I was right! So here it is.

I limited things to sci-fi and fantasy for convenience's sake. I'm sure I've missed a few, but c'est la vie.
  • Narnia - The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe and the Magician's Nephew - the first fantasy books I ever read. TLTW&TW haunted my dreams - literally - after I read it and it mysteriously vanished (I think my dad threw it out).
  • The television show "Gargoyles" - a huge influence; to the point where I try to include gargoyles in stuff I write in the same way fans of Tolkien include elves. Shit happened in Gargoyles; characters changed and evolved, and there were consequences to actions that didn't go away by the end of the episode.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind & Oblivion, expansive video game worlds which I spent hours and hours in. A great deal of what I write was dreamt up by running around in these worlds. Since I played them before seeing LotR, they created my taste in fantasy settings: Weird (especially Morrowind) and deep and convoluted, and damned contradictory. (In so few fantasy worlds do I see historians contradicting each other as much as they do in the real world.)
  • Lord of the Rings - but the movies, not the books; it was the acting not the writing that convinced me the characters were real, and the imagery that sucked me in. I read the books after I'd seen the last movie. I thought they were well done (no shit) but they didn't have any of the impact on my psyche that the movies did.
  • The Star Wars universe - even more so than the actual movies, since I bought the visual dictionaries before I'd ever seen one of the movies. Oh and I saw The Phantom Menace before the original trilogy. Oops?
  • Neil Gaiman's work - American Gods, Stardust, Sandman, Neverwhere - Gaiman is probably still my favorite author. He writes people that I believe are real, and thus I believe his stories are real.
  • Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett's Good Omens & Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy convinced me of how important humor is.
  • The Animorphs series - introduced me, along with Gargoyles, to the idea that even in a bizarre world, horrible things can and should happen to your characters. Is also the reason I go in for psychological realism so much. Animorphs was about the costs and morality of war - not bad for a young adult series about shape-shifting kids fighting alien mind-controlling slugs.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - what singlehandedly convinced me to write epic fantasy myself. Amazingly written characters and plot. Also reinforced my conviction that consequences matter - in other words, yes, you should let your characters die.
  • Certain Choose Your Own Adventure books (an alien world in the center of the Earth, searching for Nessie, memorable deaths on the third planet from Altair)
  • Various Mythology works - Perseus slaying the Gorgon, the Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts...
  • The 1982 movie The Flight of Dragons - I think I only saw a couple scenes from this movie, and all I remember thinking was that the animation was lame, and how cool it was that the writers came up with 'scientific' explanations for the way the dragons worked.
  • Octavia Butler's work - Wild Seed, Xenogenesis (aka Lilith's Brood nowadays), Kindred - Wild Seed in particular struck me very hard and is one reason (besides Animorphs) that I love shapeshifters. And why great writing quality is important to me.
  • Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game - this book had a dramatic effect on me as a kid, and reading Card's how-to-write-sci-fi-and-fantasy book is part of the reason I wanted to write sf/f.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion - yup, an anime. Sci-fi. Weird shit and the best sixty seconds of a single frame with no dialogue I've ever seen.
  • Dragon Ball Z. There, I said it. One of the influences I'm a little less proud of, thanks to the crap writing. But great fight scenes. Though I never knew that sometimes thirty minutes could last literally several hours.
  • Various 90's superhero cartoon series (Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spiderman) and books about superheroes - not the comics; I almost never read actual comics as a kid.
  • Harry Potter - for all the reasons everyone else loved Harry Potter.
  • Larry Niven's Ringworld - I'd never before read 'adult' sci-fi in which I was SO engaged by the characters.
  • Jules Verne - ironically only a biography of Verne, since I couldn't get ahold of his actual books as a kid. But the ideas were very inspiring!
  • The Matrix - for the sheer joy of the visuals. I want to evoke that kind of imagery in what I write. I also liked the apparent plot depth of the first one. (I said "apparent".)
  • Battlestar Galactica - last on the list only because it's the only recent thing I 'consumed' that I've felt seriously influenced by. I loved the darkness, the complex characters, the gritty realism.
You'll notice the absence of all but two famous epic fantasy series (three if you count Narnia - plus of course the Odyssey), and not that many Great Works. Some would call this list of influences remarkably paltry - I mean, there's children's television shows and a young adult book series high up on there, not to mention video games! - but more on that in a future post.

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