|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:31 pm: |
For everyone reading this: what are the five books that most influenced or made an impression on your? This is an arbitrary list: there will doubtless be books left off it that deserve to be on it, just pick five that come to you at that moment. Limit it to fiction, please... my list would be 25 books long if I didn't, and would STILL be horribly arbitrary. My five as I sit here are:
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Mother London, Michael Moorcock
Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe
At The Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane
I'll probably come back later and suggest an alternate five or ten, and explain my reasoning. Anyone else?
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:26 pm: |
At the moment, and sticking in the genre?
Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle by Matt Stover (read 'em back to back)
The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan -- I almost feel ashamed listing this, but these are the books that got me off Star Trek fiction and started me on the path to what I read today. "Asha'man, kill!" That series gave me the good sort of Holy Shit! This Kicks Ass! reading experience that I'm finding harder and harder to find these days.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Haven't read it in years, but it's the first book I read cover to cover; the first book to ever stain my thumbs black.
Necroscope series by Brian Lumley -- Read these around the time I read Robert Jordan's books. Would I even like them today? I don't know. But the big battles, gruesome monstrous vampires, deliberately over-the-top writing and dialogue were delicious when I was 13 or whenever, and have made an indelible impact.
More recently, within the last couple years, a lot of the folks that post on these boards (and quite a few who don't) have been my biggest influences, along with some long dead russians, americans, and a few south americans (some of whom still live).
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:54 pm: |
My most influential books of all time:
A Princess of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs - got me into SF
The World According to Garp John Irving - got me into publishing
Moby Dick Herman Melville - taught me symbolism
The Illuminatus! Trilogy Robert Anton Wilson - got me out of Christianity
Jitterbug Perfume Tom Robbin - got me out of realism
and if I may cheat and add a sixth:
Siddhartha Herman Hesse - got me out of myopic world views
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:54 pm: |
The following 5:
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore
Arc d' X by Steve Erickson
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:10 pm: |
I understand what you mean by 'just 5' Matthew. I could pick a thousand without trying. Here are my big 5, and I may come back again.
BLACK COMPANY by Glen Cook (really a masterful fantasy piece, very different from the bug squasher books everyone publishes now)
8 MILLION WAYS TO DO by Lawrence Block (if you know these books, you know how powerful this one is)
NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King (possible my favorite book ever)
BEOWULF (my nickname in high school and college was Grendel; I have great affinity with this story)
NINE PRICES IN AMBER by Roger Zelazny (the first book I stole from my brother; ruined me for good)
I decided to leave off Narnia, Lloyd Alexander, and Tolkien, all of which I read young and drew me towards genre fiction. And I'll stop there as I start to think of all the other books I want to add.
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:11 pm: |
Crud, the Block book is 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE, not DO.
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:30 pm: |
Five you say?
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
The Lurking Fear and Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft (All those Lovecraft paperbacks published by Del Rey, really.)
Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti
White Jazz by James Ellroy
Obasan by Joy Kagawa (<http://tinyurl.com/6snfg>
The others are pretty self-explanatory. I read this as part of a Can. Lit. course at university. Joy Kagawa is primarily a poet, I believe this was her first novel. It's a fictionalized account of her experiences as one of the Canadians citizens of Japanese descent forced to "relocate" by the British Columbian government during WWII. She was a child at the time and she details the effect the relocation had on her family and the Japanese Canadian community as a whole. It's an ugly story told in beautiful language. It shattered any illusions I had about Canadians being less prone to bigotry than the British or Americans.)
Mastage - Don't apologize for your early reading, especially if it set you on a path of "deeper" reading. People like what they like. I was all over Dragonlance and other D&D spin off books when I was 13.
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:17 pm: |
Like I thought, everyone here has listed at least one book I would want to put on *my* list. Bester, Burroughs, Wilson, Nabokov, Hesse... man, five is even more arbitrary than I thought.
Damn. Anyway, keep 'em coming... I'd not heard of Glen Cook before now, I'll check that out. (I feel embarrased to admit it, but you can't read everything.)
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:20 pm: |
Hmmm...in my present mood, I would have to say:
Pillars of the Earth..... by Ken Follet
Sarum....... by Edward Rutherfurd
Watership Down..... by Richard Adams
The Hollow Hills...... by Mary Stewart
Grendel..... by John Gardener (John Klima~ I of course love Beowulf, but it is Gardener's Grendel that has quite recently blown me away!)
(I was tempted to go chronologically, but then I would have to begin with "I am a Frog" and I have no idea who wrote it. I was five, and I loved that green book. )
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:24 pm: |
My list is not nearly so well reasoned as Lou's. When faced with these sorts of questions I tend to put down the first five things that come into my mind. In no particular order, then:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Miracleman - Alan Moore and Various
Book of the New Sun - Gene Wolfe
Okay, now a caveat. I could be really cool and *not* give you the fifth book that popped into my head, but you ask which books made the biggest impression, and I'd be lying if I left this next one off. So I'll tell you. But it requires a bit of background.
In 1983, at the tender age of 13, I chanced to pick up a copy of a book which seemed at first reading the greatest work of literature in the English language. I read it again shortly after, and then a third time a year or so later. I studied that book with the passion of a rabbi studying the Torah, and it convinced me that being a writer was the only job for me.
The book? You have to remember I was only 13, and not that smart to begin with. It was Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard. See, about two-thirds of the way through the book, Hubbard stops for a few pages to describe the clothes the main character is putting on before an important meeting with shark-like aliens. He describes in lavish detail the colors and cut of the clothes, the manner of the style and the carving of the buttons on the shirt. All sorts of little bits of trivia and minutia from earlier in the story come into play, making this outfit in someway emblematic of everything the character has gone through. On my first read through, I got through those pages, and stopped when I realized that I could see exactly what he had described in my head. I mean, I had this crystal clear vision of the character in my mind, and if I closed my eyes I could see it as clear as a photograph. I mentioned this to my dad, all excited, and he calmly replied that good writers could do that. That writers, if talented enough, could make you see, feel, experience just what they were describing. Damn, I thought, then this guy must be a good writer. And that's when I knew what I wanted to do.
Years later, in college, I bought a copy of Battlefield Earth to see if I could find that section. I started reading at the beginning, and didn't make it fifty pages into the book. It was, in a word, horrible. I came to learn later that Hubbard, something of an eccentric to say the least, wrote his books by dictating them into a recorder, the tapes then transcribed by secretaries. Reading the book, this is quite clear, as Hubbard has the unfortunate talent of forgetting minor details faster than his readers, leaving an alert reader wondering just what the heck is going on anyway. That, and the fact that he was at the time living on a rusted oil tanker in the middle of the Mediterranean, after being forcibly evicted from any country he tried to enter. But that's a different story.
So there. The book that made me want to become a writer, the book that arguably made a bigger impression on me that any other, was a pile of dogshit called Battlefield Earth.
Damn you, Rossi. Now my secret shame is out, for the world to see.
|Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:44 pm: |
You're not the first really smart person I know to say that, Chris. And Battlefield Earth is shit, but be honest: isn't there a kind of siren song of shit? Some of the worst train wrecks in art are also some of the most sublime experiences... just knowing the kind of insanity that Hubbard was up to makes the fact that he wrong garbage like Battlefield Earth and the Mission Earth books worthwhile in their own horrid way.
And hey, World Fantasy Award nominee, man. Hubbard may not have written a good book, but his crap book led to some good writing down the road.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 05:32 am: |
Never Talk to Strangers by Irma Joyce....this was the book I learned to read on. I made my poor Mom read it over and over again until the words she was saying clicked with the funny black marks on the page and I was off.
The October Country by Ray Bradbury....really, it's a toss-up between this and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but I loved to read story collections as a kid, so October wins out right now. "The Dwarf" made me cry (still does, actually), "Small Assassin" scared the bejabbers out of me, and in between was "Homecoming" and "The Veldt" and so many others. When Bradbury wrote it, I felt it, and a goodly portion of his work still hits me the same way.
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart....I had read about King Arthur before, but never like this. Her book made me want to believe that this was the way it REALLY happened.
The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories edited by Alan Ryan....a great overview of vampire fiction. This was where I first heard the story about Percy & Mary Shelley, Byron & Dr. John Polidori and the birth of both Frankenstein and the vampire tale. It was also where I read an excerpt of Suzy McKee Charnas's The Vampire Tapestry that was so fine I knew I had to go out and find it.
Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore....I know Jeff already picked it, and Sinai Tapestry was almost as good, but Jerusalem Poker is my favorite of Whittemore's books. There's no way to describe these books to get across how phenomenal they are: funny, sad, grotesque, heart-wrenching, romantic, dramatic, silly...it's all true and it still doesn't come close to the experience of reading them.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:18 pm: |
LANARK by Alasdair Gray
MANHATTAN TRANSFER by John Dos Passos
PERDIDO STREET STATION by China Mieville
COSMICOMICS by Italo Calvino
THE STREET OF CROCODILES by Bruno Schulz
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:36 pm: |
Crap, Peggy--I forgot about The Crystal Cave. That whole series just blew me away when I read it. That would have to supplant one of my five. That book was hugely influential.
Heck, Lanark was, too. So damn difficult.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:04 pm: |
Jeff - exactly! I keep having that same reaction. Dos Passos was huge when I read him, for instance.
I still think there's some value in the exercise, but it's enormously frustrating.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:06 pm: |
Crap--Dos Passos makes me think of Stand on Zanzibar! Crap!
You're right. It's impossible.
But I am getting nice little seratonin (sic) rushes every time I think of these books.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:08 pm: |
Oooh. Dos Passos. I discovered his USA Trilogy in college, and I wasn't the same again. I'm still using skills I'd forgotten I learned from him.
And while I never read Crystal Cave, it reminds me that I forgot to include TH White's Once and Future King in my list, which I devoured as a kid.
Damn, Rossi, five books is unfair. Can we make it fifty instead?
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:30 pm: |
I had never heard of Glen Cook until I worked for Tor and was tracking his books towards publication. The Black Company books (there are nine!) have some flaws, but they are so refreshing in the face of everyone's Tolkien remix.
I read GRENDEL this year, and I enjoyed it, but when I read BEOWULF in a YA version in grade school (I checked it out so many times I went through three cards...I wish I could find that version again) it blew me away. I was discovering D&D, and my brother had joined the SFBC and was getting Zelazny, Vance, Varley, Donaldson, etc. delivered to our house. I took books from him to read (he's six years older than me so while he was 14 reading those books, I was 8) none of them held a candle to Beowulf. It seemed to my young mind that they all came from Beowulf. Then my brother (can you tell he had a big influence on my reading [nearly as much as my Aunt who let me destory her Narnia books around the same time]?) had to read Burton Rafael's (I'm at work and I can remember that without looking it up...it's on my bookshelf at home) translation and I devoured that, too. I love that book. I have at least three translations of it at home. I even studied bits of it in Old English in college.
Wish I had thought of WATERSHIP DOWN. And Chris, I almost put BATTLEFIELD EARTH down myself, and decided better of it. I have to stick by my choices, with Cook and Block being writers I've read since I moved out east seven years ago. The Lloyd Alexander stuff was tough to leave off, as well as C. S. Lewis. I even wrote Narnia fanfic as a kid...what a dork!
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:40 pm: |
It was Glen Cook's Dread Empire trilogy for me, because it seemed so different from the norm.
Oh, heck--Watership Down.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:51 pm: |
At this point, throw wide the floodgates, I think. If a book comes to mind as influential and you want to discuss it, go nuts. God knows I probably will in short order.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:56 pm: |
I'm not even looking at the posts subsequent to Matt's initial one, so as not to let myself be influenced.
Dhalgren by Delaney
Angry Candy by Ellison (possibly Deathbird Stories instead.)
The Best of Barry Malzberg, even though I've yet to finish it
Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme
I'm a bit at a loss for number five. I could say Raymond Feist's first Midkemia series, which I devoured as a young'un and would heartily recommend to those interested in fantasy. I could say Bleak House, my favourite Dickens novel. I could say books by Tiptree, Lethem, or Dick. I could say Narnia, or the Hobbit, which my mother read to me when I was too young to read myself, but to which I have not returned since. I could say the Wizard of Oz or Peter Pan, neither of which have I read but both of which, in their film versions, have informed some of my more (IMNSHO) successful writings.
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 05:37 pm: |
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (The first sf book I remember reading. I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for it, so go ahead and pin the blame on Wells.)
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (Actually three novels, but who's counting? What's there to say, majestic scale, sparkly language, bizarre, compelling characters . . . It completely redefined my outlook on fantastic fiction and remains one of my favourite books of all time.)
L'Écume des jours by Boris Vian (A book that's wonderful and horrible and funny and tragic and weird and just plain GREAT. I've a feeling it's not the first time I describe it in these terms, but to me, it was like a gentle gunshot through the heart.)
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (I feel slightly awkward mentioning this knowing the guy who wrote it is around, but here's a book that got practically etched onto my mind. I read the main stories a couple of years ago, and I still remember scenes from them in vivid detail. Plus, it's one of the few books so far that's given me nightmares**.)
As I reach number five, I'm faced with dozens of great and important books that I ought to mention: MJH's Viriconium, Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter, China's Perdido Street Station, Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, Bester's The Stars My Destination, Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, a lot of Calvino, Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan, Around the World in 80 Days (probably my favourite Verne novel when I was a kid), Poe's stories, notably "The Tell-Tale Heart" . . . The list goes on and on . . .
** To wit, mushroom men trying to burn down my modest library. They were blue, not gray, though. Do they still count?
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 07:29 pm: |
These five helped me to see the world as a bigger, deeper place.
Book of Embraces--Eduardo Galeano
The Mount--Carol Emshwiller
Parable of The Sower--Octavia Butler
The Power of Myth--Joseph Campbell
|Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 08:54 pm: |
OK, here's another list of five. Here are five books I read during my college years that--as Sean puts it in his post--opened my eyes:
SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons
SPLATTERPUNK edited by Paul Sammon
COLD IN JULY by Joe R. Lansdale
SLIPPIN' INTO DARKNESS by Norman Partridge
ONE FROM NONE by Henry Rollins
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 01:11 am: |
Was back at the beginning of all this I was going to explain my selections. Instead, I'm gonna list a bunch more.
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Somewhere between this book, Dhalgren and Adventures in Unhistory is where the stuff that goes into the essays comes from, I think.
Wild Talents by Charles Fort. Okay, so it's not fiction. But then again, it's all fiction to some ways of looking at it, and Fort's dry wit just works.
The Galactic Milleu Trilogy by Julian May. If Roberson could cop to Battlefield Earth, I can cop to these. A luciferian bad guy, psi powers, a kind of forced galaxy-wide mass mind, Tielhdard de Chardin and the Noosphere... a lot of good weird shit in these books. It's a shame the actual writing is so bland.
For The Man Who Has Everything by Alan Moore. My favorite comic book ever. I'm very jealous that I didn't get to see the recent episodes of JLU that were based on it.
The Complete John Silence Stories by Algernon Blackwood. To be honest, I don't know why this book has a hold on me, but it does. I flip through it from time to time and just find myself stuck to its world and Silence himself.
Why not you and I? by Karl Edward Wagner. Damn, could Wagner write. Some excellent stories in here, especially the one about Trevor Nordquist. But they're all good.
The Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. I liked it better than Illuminatus for some reason. Maybe the detached penis.
America - A Prophecy by William Blake. A friend of mine once said that he thought it would be a great idea to do a comic book with Blake's Zoas in full-on Kirby style. I don't disagree with him. Pretty much anything by Blake, especially The Marriage of Heaven and Hell could go up here, I just chose this one because I'm partial to the title.
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 06:39 am: |
Actually, I read The Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy first, then read Illuminatus!. They kind of blend in my mind, though I preferred Illuminatus! because it was so much bigger in scope. Truth be told, though, Wilson's Historical Illuminatus! books - which are todate unfinished - are actually the best works he's written.
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 07:52 am: |
Lou, I have the same problem. I find it very difficult to separate out the various Robert Anton Wilson series I read, now that I think back on it. I remember liking the Illuminatus trilogy more if only because I loved the way that the end of the series offered a genius rationale for the shifting viewpoints in the narrative, though now I find it difficult to recall exactly what that rationale was. Hell, for that matter I find that I mix up Wilson's nonfiction work in my recollections, too.
I wonder if that suggests something about Wilson as an author or me as a reader? I find that I have the same difficulty in remembering specific details from individual works of Moorcock's, and that instead the dividing lines between his books blur in memory and I seem to conceptualize it all as one unbroken whole. If anything that why I didn't include a title of Moorcock's on my lists of influential books (to drag my response back on topic) because while *he* occurred to me immediately as an influence, I couldn't narrow my selection down to a single book.
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 08:11 am: |
Hmm. I'm nowhere near as accomplished or learned as folks here, but I'm going to answer this anyhow.
Ellison's The Glass Teat, when I was 14. Influential because of the attitude and approach. Led to my brief-but-memorable career on the college newspaper, which led to death threats and mugging attempts from the neanderthal frat boys on campus, which led to my ongoing paranoia and misanthropy.
Robertson Davies' Fifth Business, because it taught me that you could be fifth business ("Those roles which, being neither those of Hero nor Heroine, Confidante or Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the Recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama and opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business. You must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero's birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody's death if that is part of the plot. The prima donna and the tenor, the contralto and the basso, get all the best music and do all the spectacular things, but you cannot manage the plot without Fifth Business") and still be important.
Lord of the Rings. I know, I know. I'm not blind to its flaws, I agree with Pratchett that Tolkien's landscape has more character than his characters, I agree with Mieville that its politics are, at the core, bad, but when I first read the trilogy it opened my eyes, and I still get a charge out of it, even today.
Clute's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction--no, seriously. I take that book as an inspiration and challenge. I'll never write something to match it, but it stands as a challenge to me to make my reference works as good as they can be.
Norman Davies' Europe, which stands as the shining example of what a history should not be. Europe has every error it's possible to make, from typos (likely taken out in reprintings, of course) to factual errors to deliberate lies on Davies' part to special pleading to a biased, skewed version of history to blatant anti-Semitism. I've got some ideas for popular histories in mind, and I will always treasure Europe as the negative example ne plus ultra.
I could go on--Make Way For Ducklings, At the Mountains of Madness, Bridge of Birds, Irvine Welsh's Filth--but that's my first five.
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 08:27 am: |
Here are five more of mine. They are all from my early years. I tried to think of five more contemporary ones, but this is what kept coming to mind:
The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony.
~I read this shortly after discovering Narnia, and this world was much freakier, and I loved it. Haven't read anything of his since, though.
My mother's high school 2-volume set of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I was one of those bookworm kids who had parents who weren't big readers at all. I read what I could find in the house. I remember being nine or ten maybe, and reading through the plays and sonnets for hours...knowing that I didn't have the adult mind yet to grasp a lot of it, but was fully entranced by the language. Words suddenly had a dimension and a power that Nancy Drew's mysteries (though beloved) just didn't convey.
At the other end of the spectrum, I had my father's airport purchases--he had a collection of these early 70's mercenary/womanizer paperbacks. I wish I could remember the author. (Somebody MacDonald?) Every cover had a bikini-clad woman and a macho guy holding a machine gun or something. I read them because they were there. I liked the adventures, and skipped the sex. (Wouldn't Dad be horrified to know what his little girl was reading? What a hoot.) I probably would've really appreciated Conan, instead.
The lady of Hay by Barbara Ersking
~I loved the premise. The mixing of history and fantasy. I don't know how well it would hold up were I to read it now, but it was my favourite for a long time as a teenager.
The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Casteneda.
~Perhaps this doesn't really qualify as fiction, but it lifted the bar for me. It made me hunger for mystical, truth-questioning, challenging ideas in what I read, be it fiction or non-fiction.
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 08:29 am: |
You know, I use Davies' book all the time. What is it about racist cranks that makes their history book so damn useful for weird theories?
|Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 08:54 am: |
Something about madness leading to the divine fire of inspiration, I suppose. I think Jonathan Edwards was a bit of a loon, but his "sinners in the hands of an angry god" rant gets my blood going, and if I'd heard it in person I'd have been on my feet cheering. There was a hilarious excerpt in Harper's...oh, a decade or so back, about a guy squiring a Soviet ideologue around NYC and running into an insane street preacher who laid a laugh-out-loud, inspired rant on the pair of them.
What is particularly galling about Davies (besides the anti-Semitism, and his disingenuous approach to it) (although that's infuriating rather than merely galling, actually) is that he heaps abuse on Thomas Carlyle, saying that "It's important to check and verify" Carlyle's historical work. In the words of Alan Moore, "Oh pot, cries the kettle, thou'rt black as night!"
|Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 07:58 am: |
re: Illuminatus! the rationale for the narration is entirely down to who the narrator is and what the book is in relation to the narrator. Without any real spoiler here, the explanation is pretty F***'d up.
|Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 09:59 am: |
That should probably be on the the back cover of the collected trilogy.
|Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 04:11 pm: |
it interests me how this book sits both inside of and outside of the SF camp. It's filed with SF by most bookstores, but you don't really see Wilson referenced as an SF writer much these days. Perhaps due to his prolific writings in the quasi-new age camp? Regarding his other SF, he's got work in that old Semiotext anthology, but not much elsewhere.
|Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:33 pm: |
No, for some reason no one seems to think RAW is writing fiction much these days... I don't know if it's because they want to believe it all (which I doubt he does... his attitude has always been somewhat prankish, not that he doesn't take the writing seriously, but books like Cosmic Trigger seem to me to be much in a spirit of play with ideas) or if it's just the old 'if it doesn't have spaceships or aliens it's not SF attitude' (or whatever purity line people draw - I feel the same way about Hard SF, where it all has to fit into what is believed to be physically possible at the time it's written or what have you): I love some of his work and don't love some of it, and I don't really worry about what they call it.
Which reminds me of another important book: The Principia Discordia.
|Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 07:04 am: |
Ah, the Principia... and good old Saint Gulek the roach...
Re: Wilson - I've heard his health isn't good, which may be why he never finished the Historicals.
|Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 10:27 pm: |
My list of influential books may come from a different angle than some others. Since I don't write, they haven't influenced that. Instead, they have influenced my music or my thought processes, and they're mostly recent reads (or at least the past 10 years). In roughly chronological order:
* Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. No, not because I agree with her philosophies. When discussing this book with people, I find a wide variety of interpretations for Objectivism, some completely different from others. This really hammered in the point that what you get out of a book depends greatly on what you bring into reading it.
* Robert Jordan's books. Any of them. I read a lot of bad fantasy as I was growing up. I loved the multi-volume fantasy epics. These completely killed my interest in them, and got me interested in short stories (people who can actually finish a story instead of dragging it out through 20 or so books).
* Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. This got me obsessed with cities, which got me thinking about the music of cities.
* City of Saints & Madmen, by Jeff VanderMeer. This gave a solid direction to the city music I had been thinking of. Besides that, it opened my eyes to the indie presses, which brought a host of other good authors to my attention.
* Maldoror, by Comte de Lautremont. I'm not positive how this actually affected me, but I do consider it a mind altering book. I know I wasn't quite the same person after reading it, but I'm not sure exactly how it changed me.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:19 am: |
'narcissus and goldmund' hermann hesse
the first hesse book i read, this led to an obsession with his novels and ideas - which eventually led to a lot of psychedelic drug experimentation. hermann hesse is a gateway drug.
'psychotic reactions and carburetor dung' lester bangs
convinced me of the validity of more bad music than all of the record store clerks i've met (so far) put together. to be fair, it also got me into some really great records like 'funhouse' and ... hmmm?
'cosmic trigger' robert anton wilson
prolonged my drug use.
'my life with the spirits' lon milo duquette
made crowley make sense to me - led me to the oto.
'it's here now, are you?' bhagavan das
the best spiritual adventure book ever written, bar none.
|Posted on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 12:08 am: |
For what it's worth, my Five Fictional Books That Most Influenced Me, in no particular order:
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs: still the best presentation I know of a deeply paranoid, delusional, misanthropic, sometimes out-and-out psychopathic weltanschauüng that manages to be frequently laugh-out-loud funny, which only enhances the unsettling qualities of the narrative. Judging from the dozen or so other "Wild Bill" books I've read, he never quite managed to equal the sustained levels of interesting lunacy of Naked Lunch; if nothing else, this should be a sobering lesson on the perils of ingesting vast quantities of drugs as a shortcut to connecting with one's muse: if you succeed while under the influence, it takes that much longer to reconnect once you become clean and sober.
Dune by Frank Herbert: I read this in the 7th grade; the Dune Trilogy was still a trilogy by the time I read Children of Dune, in the 9th grade, and I was sufficiently disenchanted with the original three books that I've yet to read any of the others. Nonetheless, Dune, for all its flaws (and for all that I didn't understand at the tender age at which I read it), was my first exposure to "serious science fiction" and a "serious epic," and, if nothing else, it utterly convinced me of the folly of wishing for a precognition more generalized than the ability to see the next winning super lottery number or the next winning horse at the Irish Sweepstakes.
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler: when I was at university, it was a fad amongst many of the creative writing professors to fondly ejaculate over Raymond Chandler, even if none of them ever wrote like him (but who does?). Still, setting aside the sometimes show-stopping analogies, Chandler's Phillip Marlowe is a world-weary, modern day knight errant who, like King Arthur, may not be wholly believable, but goddamned if I don't want to believe in him. Hard-nosed, tough as nails, wise-assed, cynical and questioning of authority, a bit sexist and more than a bit homophobic (though not as much as Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade), but still at bottom a romantic optimist who's not willing to let his heart become totally walled off by a gritty, postmodern, ironic shell, and thus perpetually leaves himself open to the plight of his fellow man, and vulnerable to his fellow man's snares and skullduggeries. Marlowe may not be a Galahad like Superman or Captain America, but there are far worse role models.
Chung Kuo by David Wingrove: both the name of a series and the first book in said series, this is an absolutely phenomenal integration of a "mmmaybe" future set only two centuries hence (at first) that is panoramic, dazzling, brutal, horrifying, exalted and debased -- sometimes all at once. Its premise -- that the Chinese have conquered the world, committed wholesale genocide on peoples that the Han have historically found repulsive (blacks, subcontinental Indians), had a particular grudge against (Japanese), or utterly intractable (Arabs and Israelis), built miles-high, continent-straddling Cities out of a super-strong, feather-light type of plastic called "ice," destroyed most of the world's media and introduced their own heavily edited version of history (in which the Roman Empire fell to a Chinese invasion around 220 B.C., which was the start of the globe-straddling reign of Chung Kuo, the Middle Kingdom, which spread unbroken for over two millennia), and left certain debased peoples to eke out a troglodytic existence underneath the bottom-most level of the Cities, crawling among the detritus of the civilizations that the Han smashed and paved over -- is a real grabber, as are the various plots and characters that Wingrove skillfully puts into play. Wingrove is very adept at standing the reader's (okay, this reader's) expectations on their heads: the various rebels against the power of the T'ang are frequently far more morally bankrupt than the T'ang or their ministers; there are many genuinely admirable characters amongst the ruling elite, despite the manner in which their near ancestors rose to power; a dyed-in-the-wool creep slowly and believably matures into a decent human being; key characters are unexpectedly killed; massive terrorist violence erupts unexpectedly, usually with consequences as or more unexpected; an underground conspiracy theory, promulgated in a large pamphlet/small book called "The Aristotle File" (shades of "The Gemstone File"), proves to contain the real history of the world; and an incestual relationship is so well described that it transcends the erotic (no mean feat in itself) to become right, at least for the characters in it. My nomination for Chung Kuo here really extends to the first five books (Chung Kuo: The Middle Kingdom, The Broken Wheel, The White Mountain, The Stone Within, Beneath the Tree of Heaven), although arguably the level of quality started to slip by the fifth book; some day, on some Earth-2 or Counter-Earth, I would love to see Chung Kuo rewritten as intended from the sixth book on: Wingrove's scheme for a ten-book series (decology?) was apparently kiboshed by his publisher, who insisted that he finish it off in eight books or self-publish the last two. By the seventh book (Days of Bitter Strength), it was painfully obvious that the series had been hijacked by worldly concerns, but even the bastardized ending (The Marriage of the Living Dark) had moments that more established writers would be proud to sign their names to. I've thought about Chung Kuo and its multiple and inter-locking Gordian knots an awful lot since 9/11, with more than a little trepidation: while they make for absorbing reading, one does not truly wish to live in "interesting times"....
Aztec by Gary Jennings: yes, the first fifty or so pages are a bit pokey; yes, the writing is a bit obvious, and never rises above the workmanlike; arguably it's unfairly slanted against the Catholic clergy who occupied Mexico, for some of the clergy truly cared for the welfare of the natives, and attempted to preserve their cultural artifacts rather than summarily burn them as "satanic;" but I've rarely read such an absorbing book packed with new-to-me information and a ripping narrative. Jennings definitely doesn't gloss over the seamier (or bloodier) aspects of Míxtec (the proper name of the "Indians" called "Aztecs") civilization, but it still comes off as better, in some respects, than the flower of European civilization of the time. There is a surfeit of sex and violence in Aztec, of grandeur and Grand Guignol, of ambitious plans and petty plots, explorations and exploits, remarkable ingenuity and deplorable treachery, as well as lust, fear, bigotry, arrogance, love, savagery, cupidity, dark revenge blackly (sometimes horrifyingly) executed, and a thunderous, arguably willful, ignorance of the obvious; and the ending, though inevitable to anyone with the vaguest of acquaintances with the history of the Spanish "discovery" of Mexico, is still infuriatingly tragic, an almost physical assault on sense and sensibility that can still whip me into a murderous rage even after half a dozen readings. (I can easily envisage me re-reading it as an old fart and dropping dead of a brain embolism as I get to the decidedly bitter end.) Sadly, Jennings never quite equalled Aztec, though anyone who liked it should check out Journeyer, his novelization of some of Marco Polo's wanderings; it's no Aztec, but it's the closest he came to it.
HONORABLE MENTION FROM PREPUBESCENCE: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
|Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 01:24 pm: |
Forgot about Dune.
Also, Mike Bishop's The Secret Ascension blew the top of my head off when I read it.
|Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 09:46 pm: |
I loved _Dune_, but the rest of the series was just one huge let down for me.
Forgot to mention Philip K. Dick. Lots of memorable stuff, but _Ubik_, _The Man in the High Castle_ and _Now Wait for Last Year_ stood out for me.
And Barrington Bayley, of course, the only other writer I've come across in the sf field whose inventiveness is comparable to Dick's.
|Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 04:59 am: |
If we're talking PKD, then Valis and A Scanner Darkly are on my list. I was going to mention Bester (especially The Stars My Destination) but that's been done here already, so instead I'm going to mention Ted Sturgeon, especially More Than Human and Medusa X.
|Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 06:10 am: |
I actually liked the second two books in the Dune series. Especially the third for some reason.
But after Dune I'd have to say The Dosadi Experiment is my favorite Herbert.
|Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 10:47 pm: |
The third book is mostly good, and it makes sense that you read at least up to that one for the Paul Atreides story arc. On the other hand, I found the second to be among the most uninteresting of the original series (but still *much* better than the prequels Herbert's son is churning out right now).
|Posted on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 12:30 pm: |
I thought book four was OK - the one where Leto becomes an insane immortal dictator worm.
Just thought I'd mention it.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - 11:16 am: |
Just thought I'd mention: Adventures in Unhistory is being reprinted by Tor. Amazon lists a November 28 publication date.