By way of foxfinial
There's a fun meme on Facebook at the moment: list the 10 books that have most influenced you, the 10 that first come to mind not the list of 10 you might carefully craft to show the world. I've variously seen it as the books that specifically influenced you as a writer, or more generally influenced you as a person. My list is a mixture of both approaches.
In no particular order:
1. Piers Anthony - Bio of an Ogre
with a side of not his novels but the novels' Author's Notes (I read a ton of his novels when I was younger)
Anthony wrote long, ranty author's notes, and since it's been a decade-plus since I read Bio of an Ogre
, I suspect parts of it would infuriate me now. But what Anthony talked really frankly about was the business and mechanics of being a writer--things like arguing with editors and royalties and whatever. I found this very helpful.
2. Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game
I read this at a time when I was basically a fantasy writer wannabe (in high school) and decided that I aspired to military sf that dealt with both ethics and tactics. I don't think I'll ever write something I consider its equivalent, but that's okay. I'm not really rational about this one and I'm aware it has problems, but without it I wouldn't have written, well, most of what I write.
3. Philip J. Davis & Reuben Hersh - The Mathematical Experience
One of the books that subterraneanly influenced me to major in mathematics (although the real push came when my calculus instructor emailed me and asked if I had considered it--I hadn't, I was going to major in history and nobody had previously ever suggested I might do such a thing--because I had done so well not just in the class but in answering a question on the final that apparently everyone else flubbed). But besides that, mathematics has been a source of inspiration in my writing, both its imagery and its modes of thinking. I wish I had been able to stay with it longer.
4. Harlan Ellison - Deathbird Stories
Primarily for "The Deathbird," which put me into shock for two days (I was a Christian at the time I read it), and whose narrative structure rearranged the way I thought about, well, narrative structure.
5. Anne McCaffrey - Dragonflight
My friend G got me into Pern. She started with Dragonsong
, and sure, the fire lizards are cute, but it was Dragonflight
with its time travel plot bit that really fascinated me; the science fictional aspect. (You would think that Dragonsinger
would be more fundamental, because of the music school aspect, but while it is one of my favorite McCaffreys, I can't say it changed my life. And Crystal Singer
is amusing because it's the only perfect-pitch-centered sf/f I know of, but man, I can't stand Killashandra.)
6. Steve Jackson - The Seven Serpents
#3 in the Sorcery! sequence, the gamebook that got me into gamebooks and into the entire pile of Fighting Fantasy, which I've only touched the surface of (aren't there more coming out, even?). And from gamebooks into interactive fiction into games as narrative into Winterstrike, etc.
7. Patricia A. McKillip - The Book of Atrix Wolfe
This isn't remotely my favorite McKillip; I'm not sure I'd even ordinarily reread it, not because it's bad but beecause there are other of her novels I like so much more. I was late to McKillip, having read this one in HS. I bounced off the Riddle-Master books hard in elementary school and still don't love them the way others seemed to. For a long time I aspired to clear, plain, unremarkable, get-the-job-done prose. But in HS I was ready for something different. I read this particular book by McKillip because the library had gotten it in, and suddenly I understood that language could be beautiful for its own sake, and I wanted to learn to do that. Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber
was also influential here, but The Book of Atrix Wolfe
was where I remember that realization going click
8. Simon R. Green - Blue Moon Rising
I picked this up in middle school and for years it was the fantasy novel I aspired to write. It's still probably one of Green's best novels: well-paced, back-and-forth plot with betrayals and revelations aplenty, interesting just-off-of-standard worldbuilding (basically Western-Flavored Medieval-Style Fantasy, but still), lots of action, larger-than-life but interesting characters with sympathetic protagonists. I still enjoy Green's works but this one remains one of my favorites, and I've read it many times.
9. Michael A. Stackpole - Lost Destiny
This is #3 in the Blood of Kerensky trilogy, which itself is a subseries of Battletech tie-in novels. I read this a couple years ago when I was on a Battletech tie-in novel kick. These are among Stackpole's earlier works, so they're a little uneven, but they're a lot of fun, they're very plotty, and moreover, they clarified something for me while I was working on Ninefox Gambit
. There's a particular character who does some particular things (I'm trying not to spoil old news, ha!) that Stackpole has
to nail for the story to work out. And you know what--he nails that character. It was really inspirational.
10. Geraldine Harris - Children of the Wind
This is #2 in the Seven Citadels quartet, a YA bildungsroman
fantasy series centered around the spoiled Prince Kerish-lo-Taan, his traveling companions, and his quest to save the extremely troubled Empire of Galkis. The description makes this sound utterly cod-generic. It's not. The fantasy cultures are described with loving and unusual detail, and the series has some wonderful, memorable side characters (sheesh, I almost wrote "NPCs," I am such a gamer), including the proud Queen of Seld (women are dominant in Seld) and her sister Kelinda, the ugly but clever and musically-gifted Gidjabolgo, the philosopher-king-sorcerer Elmandis and his brother whose name I can't spell anymore...I could go on. I love this series unreservedly and the ending always makes me cry; I wish I wrote fantasy this beautiful and moving.
- Geoffrey Parker, ed. - The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare
(surely you can guess?)
- Marion Zimmer Bradley, ed. - some Sword & Sorceress
anthology (I don't recall which was the first I read); those were the first grown-up markets (as opposed to, e.g., things like Merlyn's Pen
) that I submitted to IIRC