I’m bad at updating this blog, for any number of reasons. I don’t always like to talk about myself, I’m terrible at self-promoting, etc…
Lately, with the atrocities committed by the government in this country that I’m supposed to hold dear, I’ve been noisy on social media. I feel like any long form commentary will devolve into angry ramblings at this point, lacking anything productive that other people haven’t said already.
Instead, I’ve been thinking about the authors I love, those whose words inspire me. One of my current favorites, both for his fiction and opinions, would be Chuck Wendig. Follow him on Twitter. Read his blog, especially this piece here. He speaks volumes.
The authors we grow up reading are the ones that influence us, whether we are cognizant of it at the time. Our list of favorite books may grow over time, but the memories of the past linger. One of my all-time favorite authors, Steven Brust, wrote a thing for Tor.com about another one of my all-time favorite authors, Roger Zelazny. His thoughts about the quality of the writing and how inspiring it was, well, it inspired me to write about it. Coincidentally, Brust and I share an opinion on Zelazny’s writing. It’s complex layers, even when the story didn’t work fully. The depth, the juxtaposition. The ability to speak to a reader. Brust’s work, inspired in part by Zelazny, has had a similar effect on me.
The list of authors whose back catalogue I seek out, who’s bibliography always has a place on my shelf, is not a long one. They are more often than not fantasy writers, but ones that have attained a mythological aspect of their own. They are writing fantastical stories, in our world or in another, that are most decidedly human.
A household name for the nerd set, needing no introduction from myself. His work with the Sandman series was not only the first comic book that bound my brain, but the first time I read something that fit into a spiritual mindset I had started to form. My first encounter with the concept of consensual reality, that is, the idea that if enough people believe in it, it exists.
I was introduced to Zelazny almost concurrently by my father and stepfather, in the form of The Chronicles of Amber. A sweeping epic of philosophy, many worlds and the godlike beings from Amber that could walk between them. There were politics, feuds, epic battles, fights against demons and otherworldly beings. There was philosophy and poetry, and they were laden with intense layers that I wouldn’t even begin to comprehend until much later. They showed me the importance of authorial voice, how well one could use an unreliable narrator and how to take a flawed protagonist to a deeper level. Lord of Light, Jack of Shadows, and Damnation Alley are just a few others that hold root in my mind.
Charles De Lint
De Lint, both a prolific author and a very talented musician, was the first urban fantasy writer I discovered, or rather, was introduced to. He wrote stories of myths, faerie tales and more, brought into our modern world. The fictional city of Newford was vibrant and alive, with characters that formed a central core. And yet, all of the short stories (of which there are a plethora) and the novels stood on their own. There were familiar faces, that grew and evolved if you read them in the order they were written, but rarely were they the sole protagonists. Someplace To Be Flying is still my go-to read when I need something comforting and familiar, and the book still reveals new details each time. The body of work that Charles De Lint wrought serves as a constant reminder of the importance of Mystery and Grace in our world.
My stepdad introduced me to Steven Brust’s Jhereg some time after I’d devoured the Amber series. As a teenager, I was enamored of this sarcastic, witty assassin and his wisecracking familiar. A crime story in a fantasy world unlike anything I’d seen before. Each novel just the right pace. The books did not come out in chronological order, but in a fashion that made sense to Vlad as he narrated. Or to Steven as he wrote it. Every time a new iteration in the series comes out, I reread them all. I am never disappointed, even by a few of the weird ones in the middle. Having read them chronologically, I find that I prefer the order they were published in. With the newest one, Vallista, coming out shortly, I feel the series reread approaching.
And I love his other work, like The Gypsy (cowritten with Megan Lindholm), but then he had to go blow it all out of the water. He wrote The Incrementalists with Skylar White, and it is a book that I am still processing, especially in light of current events. The sequel, The Skill Of Our Hands, was just released and is proving as elegant and thought-provoking as one would expect.
The list of authors that I love is a long one, and most things I read impact the way I view stories, for good or for ill. Sometimes I read something that leaves me stunned, wishing I had half the gumption to conjure such sorcery with fingers and keys.
One of my favorite series is Bordertown, from the brilliant minds of Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner and a whole slew of others. A techno-magical dystopian city that exists on the border of Faerie and The World, where neither magic nor technology act as they should. Where punk kids, outsiders and the Elven Lords intermingle, with motorcycles powered by spells and magical books inside magical books. It steadied the rage within me, gave me a place to dream of and a thing I wanted to be a part of, not just as a reader but as a writer.
Coincidentally, Charles De Lint, Neil Gaiman and Steven Brust have also contributed to the Bordertown legacy, along with other favorites like Emma Bull, Will Shetterley, Midori Snyder, Delia Sherman, Holly Black, Cory Doctorow and Jane Yolen. I keep working at a short story, an offering to the Border. Maybe some day, my name will grace the table of contents of an anthology.
Writing, for me at least, is a part of a never-ending urge to create, to tell stories, to mutate perspective. A way to filter truth, and to create something lasting that will find purpose for others beyond my original intentions. I hope that in time my legacy will be as powerful as any of the authors listed above, that perhaps some 30 or 40 years from now (if reading hasn’t been outlawed), someone will include me in this list, even as a footnote.