As promised, here is my second entry on books and authors who’ve been a formative influence in my writing. For sake of brevity, I’ve left out a lot of other authors out; consider this to be a representative sample. I may post another list on another day with all the rest.
She’s only written one novel: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; which I’ve read at least three times since its initial release. Despite what people consider to be its flaws (sprawling story, glacial pacing, and a vague magic system) I love this book for those flaws. Because, as a whole, it works. Clarke does a wonderful job as narrator to build a comprehensive alternate history of English magic and stitch it into the known events of history. Strange and Norrell is not a secret history, by the strictest definition, but it certainly does fit some of those tropes.
And the characters! Every time I read this book, it was like going on a long vacation with friends I know really well. Whenever I recommend this book to someone, its almost like introducing them to the characters they’ll be spending time with. To you readers, who’re going to read Strange and Norrell for the first time, I envy you.
I’ve only read one book by Lem, The Cyberiad, but it was awesome enough that I think Lem warrants a mention in this post. He captures the big ideas, sense of wonder, and broad philosophical scope of science fiction without being limited by the realities and constraints of science.
Neuromancer was my first Gibson book, recommended to me by a friend in high school. I mostly read fantasy in high school, with science fiction being intermittently read throughout, but Gibson’s novel first turned on the proverbial light that there was science fiction beyond space opera.
I’d rank “The House Beyond Your Sky” as one of my most re-read short stories of all time. The way Rosenbaum fills such a short story with a fully realized world complete with cosmological back story and half a dozen Big Ideas while maintaining a subtle poetry in his narration is literally awe inspiring.
Tobias wrote the first (AFAIK) Carribbean steampunk novel: Crystal Rain. Along with Vandana Singh’s stories, Buckell’s novels really opened my mind to potential diversity of viewpoints in SF. And being a writer of colour myself, Tobias’ books encouraged me to try out my own stories featuring my own Indian cultural background.
Where to start with Neil Gaiman? I first encountered his Sandman series in high school. My initial reaction back then would have been: “wow, this is weird, but I want to read more.” From there, I read Books of Magic, American Gods and Anansi Boys and a lot of his short stories. Gaiman’s influence is writ large on my early fiction attempts when I tried to mimic his prose style.
I read Spin as part of a promotional ebook giveaway by Tor books a couple of years ago. This novel is brilliant in that Wilson never ever oversells the ideas in the book. It taught me an important writing lesson: writing a good science fiction novel doesn’t have to be all about the idea, when we care about the characters. And it has one of the most memorable opening lines I’ve read in a while.
I was twelve, and the twins were thirteen, the night the stars disappeared from the sky.