Monday, February 09, 2009

25 Writers

There's a cool meme going around Facebook that I got tagged on. You're supposed to list the names of 25 writers who have influenced you. I did that, but didn't comment on my selections. I thought it might be interesting to re-post the list here along with explanations about why I picked each one.

In no particular order:

1. Ian Fleming -- My two biggest influences from Fleming are the way he ended his chapters and his characterization of James Bond. Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to immediately dive into the next and he brilliantly makes Bond more heroic by making him less. Bond hates his job. He doesn't want to be a hero, but he does it anyway because a) he believes in his cause and b) no one else can do it. That kind of self-sacrifice is the defintion of heroism and Fleming was the first author I read to give that kind of complexity to a character.

2. Edgar Rice Burroughs -- Single-handedly made me fall in love with adventure stories; particularly jungle ones. Also invented space-pulp as far as I'm concerned. His characterization wasn't particularly deep, but his imagination was limitless.

3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- Another author with an excellently flawed, but admirable character. Made me fall in love with Victorian England.

4. Charles Dickens -- A hero of mine for his ability to read his audience and deliver exactly what they wanted without sacrificing his style. I also love and admire his recurring theme of the need to help the helpless. Dickens was a master at making an important point in a powerful, but entertaining way.

5. Agatha Christie -- Could she ever craft an intricate plot. Her ability to communicate setting was also wonderful.

6. Edgar Allen Poe -- I love a lot about Poe, but especially the way he sets a mood.

7. Stephen King -- I'm hot and cold about King depending on the particular book, but when he's on I just breeze through pages. He has the ability to get me deeply interested in characters and then punch me right in the heart when something awful happens to them.

8. Steve Niles -- I tried not to put too many friends on this list, but Steve has an ability to get me interested in characters quickly. King can takes pages and pages to do that - not that I mind when he's doing it right - but because Niles does it in comics, he's usually only got a few panels to grab you with. And yet he does. I want to learn how to do that.

9. Neil Gaiman -- The strongest voice I've ever read.

10 and 11. Brian Clevinger and Christopher Mills -- As I told Chris over at Facebook when he questioned my including him, these guys are two of the few people I know of who are relentlessly carving out a niche for modern, pulp-inspired stories and I find that very inspirational.

12. J.M. Barrie -- Like Burroughs, it's Barrie's imagination that inspires me. And how in touch he is with genuine wonder.

13. Arturo Perez-Reverte -- The master of the modern-day swashbuckler. Perez-Reverte demonstrates how you can "write 'em like they used to" while still appealing to modern sensibilities.

14. Robert Louis Stevenson -- Wrote the perfect pirate tale. Everything I ever write will be a miserable, failing attempt to top that.

15. Robert E. Howard -- Don't get me wrong: I love Tolkien too. But Howard's grounded fantasy is the best. Conan could have destroyed that Ring and defeated Sauron in less than fifteen pages.

16. Sir Walter Scott -- Told epic adventure stories. Not that they were particularly long; they just felt big and important.

17 and 18. Rafael Sabatini and Alexandre Dumas -- The original swashbucklers. They created the rules (though in very different ways from each other) that Perez-Reverte learned to break.

19. Mike Mignola -- There's a lot to love about Mignola and his Hellboy comics, but what I love most is how he's taken all of these unrelated interests he has and melded them into a beautiful, perfect mythos.

20. William Shakespeare -- It's cliché to say, but his observation of human nature is what inspires me. And his fondness for injecting the supernatural into real-world situations.

21 and 22. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee -- Just crazy insane imaginations. And yet they're still so readable. There were other Silver Age writers who were also nuts, but their stuff was often childish in execution. Stan's dialogue makes me wince, but he and Jack told terrific stories that are just as mind-blowing and exciting today as they were forty-something years ago.

23. Alan Moore -- I haven't gotten around to studying how Moore crafts a comics script. My biggest inspiration from him is League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where - like Mignola - he takes wildly different inspirations and merges them in fantastic ways.

24. Jeff Smith -- He's my hero for being able to tell grown-up stories in ways that are just as exciting for kids to read.

25. Stephanie Barron -- Her Jane Austen mysteries are exactly the kind of genre-mixing that I love. Though they're rightfully packaged as mysteries, they also include heavy elements of historical romance and swashbuckling to create something unique.


Siskoid said...

Not actually an easy one...

...but right down my alley.

I'll try to come up with my own list this week or next.

That said, I'm not really surprised by yours given your blog's particular obsessions. ;-)

Michael May said...

I'll look forward to reading your list!

Siskoid said...

Took me a long time (25 is either hard to build up or hard to cut down!) but it's done.

My humble list


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