On Writing: My Major Influences

I thought I’d take a pause from the fire-hose of Pathfinder content to blog about which writers have influenced my voice.  Some of the influences creep into Pathfinder, which reflects speculative fiction.

The first major influence on my writing was the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien.  When I read The Lord of the Rings, I experienced something I had never encountered before.  I was engaged by a vision of a detailed imagined world.  In my fiction, particularly in my role-playing game writing, I have tried to echo the created reality of Middle Earth.

The second major influence on my writing was the fiction of David Eddings, with The Belgariad.  The Pawn of Prophecy is my second-favorite book after The Hobbit.  Eddings created a setting with consistent magic, amazing world-building and a wry view of human relationships.

The third major influence on my writing was the fiction of Sir Terry Pratchett, the creator of Discworld.  It’s from his work that I draw my sarcastic, satirical point of view.  That even pops up in Pathfinder.  In the adventure I wrote with a torture chamber, I had to suppress the urge to describe a Drow skeleton, with two broken scimitars clutched in its bony hands.  That is a reference to Dungeons and Dragons fan fiction favorite Drizzt Do’Urdlen, Drow Ranger and general emo Elf.  My loathing for the character, the fiction he appears in and the fans who think he is cool and worth imitating in their character creation is comparable to the burning nuclear fire of a thousand white dwarf stars.

The final major influence on my writing is the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.  I enjoy playing with language when I write, and there are few who equal Lovecraft’s purple prose.  There is a tinge of horror or strangeness in even my more conventional speculative fiction.

Then there are the counter-influences.  Much as I enjoy reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books, the prose in them ain’t deathless.  The characters are unsympathetic, the situations they get into increasingly unrealistic and entirely too much time is spent on worrying what other character’s think of each other’s actions.  Then there’s the bloody detailed descriptions of every woman’s dress.  On the other hand, I like his commentary on human relationships.  My response to Jordan’s writing was a characteristic one for me.  I wrote a satire titled “The Wheelie of Time”.  The main character, Randy Al’Thud, is grossly incompetent with a sword and can barely move without tripping over his own feet.  Events go downhill from there.  Mercifully, I lost it when AOL nuked it’s user blog feature.

The other major counter-influence is George R.R. Martin’s fiction.  I had the misfortune of reading the first Wild Cards anthology during the mid-Eighties.  I didn’t know what I was in for.  I had read references to it in a superhero role-playing game adventure description.  Melancholy, grue and weird sex.  These are apparently Martin’s major themes, because they crop up in the interminable Song of Ice and Fire.  I recently reread Poul Anderson’s essay “On Thud and Blunder”.  This caused me to zero in on the faults of Martin’s writing, as I see them.  He tried to add Machiavellian politics and the hyper-realistic results of injury to epic fantasy fiction.  The results were a freakin’ disaster.  Unsympathetic and grossly self-centered characters engaging in labyrinthine pointless power plays.  Endless grue, in the form of grossly disgusting descriptions of injuries and physical handicaps.  And yes, the dreaded melancholy, too.  Not one character can manage a moment of happiness, even if they tried.  Weird sex from the first book on.

When I made the heroic attempt to read A Feast of Crows, I slogged through the book mightily.  I skipped whole chapters involved characters I didn’t give a damn about.  I started skipping chapters with one major character when she turned into a debauched sex pervert for no discernable reason.  Then he handicapped an almost-sympathetic character.  I believe he did it because he thought he could.  And that’s the limit of my ability or desire to engaged in psychological analysis of an author.  I think it would have been a less-painful experience for me if I had hit myself in the head with a baby sledge hammer at the end of each chapter.

I have no desire to satirize Martin’s fiction.  Reading it fills me with a deep-seating antipathy for the rest of his works.  I refuse to engage the material enough to care about it.  The lesson I take from reading his fiction is That Is Not How to Write Epic Fantasy.

I’m done.  I need a good stiff cup of apple cinnamon herbal tea to clear away the bile which has written from ending this entry.




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