An influence map is the current trend making the round amongst authors. I was "tagged" by James A. Moore to share one. The request only demands two influences, but when I looked into it—and having seen some of the maps my friends put together—I decided to go full Monty. In doing so, the map took a different road. My early, formative years weren't spent around other people with similar interests. As a result, I didn't have a network of people offering up new or different books and authors to check out. Whatever I came across became my influence and that included everything from books to comics, to movies and toys.
Here's the key:
- Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451 was the first Bradbury book I'd read, for a school assignment, but it was The Illustrated Man that really opened my eyes. As a collection, it opened my eyes to the power of speculative fiction, to how many places a story can go. I still have a copy of the book, borrowed from a library that no long exists.
- David Gerrold - There used to be a bookstore of questionable origins beneath the elevated tracks of the Orange Line train in Boston, the Dover stop. It was near my father's job, so I got familiar with it along the way and when I was able to ride the MBTA on my own, I'd stop in whenever I could. It was there that I picked up a coverless copy of A Day For Damnation, the third in the War Against The Chtorr series. At the time, I had no idea why so many books and comics in the store were bereft of covers. After that moment, however, I went on a Gerrold bender, reading everything I could get my hands on (purchased legally) and I eventually picked up a copy of his book on writing, Worlds of Wonder before finishing my first novel.
- Isaac Asimov - the definitive author of all things robot and more. I read the Foundation Series and loved it, but it was The Caves of Steel that really blew my mind. I was of the same mind as Asimov's colleague, John Campbell, who believed that there could be no mysteries set in science fiction. These books and more proved that thought way, way wrong. And introduced a couple of wonderful protagonists. I'd love to see these books—and I, Robot—adapted accurately to the big (or little) screen.
- John Buscema - This guy's work was some of the definitive style I absorbed from Marvel. His early run on Spider-Man, subsequent Avengers and Conan runs—they were, and remain, amazing, dynamic, and inspirational. I believe I got How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way as a Christmas gift, one year. I wore that book completely out through high school and had to pick up a newer addition sometime before art school.
- Aboriginal Science Fiction - For about a decade, I was subscribed to this spec-fic mag and the parade of sci-fi magnificence they published raged on until the publication folded in '91. I learned a lot from that lot.
- Randall Robinson - Lawyer, activist, and author. Robinson founded TransAfrica, an organization dedicated to influencing U.S. policy with regard to all countries from the African diaspora and had been an influential and outspoken adversary of apartheid. His books, The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, and Defending the Spirit, were all key in my personal education about America and the world.
- Bill Watterson - I love comics. Comic strips too. As long as I can remember, I would voraciously read the funny pages and even comb the newspaper for editorial comics—even though I didn't understand them. If I'd had some kind of guidance at the time, I might've spent my life trying to become a comic-strip cartoonist instead of trying it on for a little while. When Watterson came along with Calvin & Hobbes, he embodied not only the best writing and artistic talents of the past and present, he had an artistic integrity that was unassailable. My very favorite quote from Watterson, adapted by Zen Pencils, is something I've tried to adjust my life to match.
- Jack Kirby - My mom used to read comics to me when I was a child, a major contribution to my flaws today. Fantastic Four and Thor. Both big Kirby vehicles. After that, I followed his work wherever I could, Kamandi, Devil Dinosaur, OMAC, Black Panther, Captain America, The Avengers, The Hulk, never having a clue the kind of influence he was having on the comics industry as a whole or the stories I was reading.
- Micronauts - Before it was a comic book and a failed movie property, the Micronauts were an open narrative toy set. A bunch of characters that could be anything a kid wanted. They had vehicles, they had weapons, and they didn't just have cities. They had cities you could build any way you wanted. There was nothing that made me happier as long as I had them. Toys without narratives attached. I miss them...
- Prince - When I started listening to music, 1999 was the first album I ever bought. I know that album frontwards and backwards, every line of the LP sleeve memorized. (I was rather surprised to find that penis in the title.) This turned into a long and varied decent into Prince's musical catalog. What I found was a unique approached to music and a guy who could turn the usual love song into something entertaining.
- Robert A. Heinlein - I've read several of Heinlein's books, but Stranger In A Strange Land and Starship Troopers are the ones that really warped my brain. Not only had Heinlein introduced new or popularized words into the English language, he coined the phrase "speculative fiction." His sociopolitical approach to sci-fi were most influential to me.
- Malcolm X - The arc of Malcolm's life, his involvement in the civil rights movement, everything about his evolution to his death prompts thought. Which leads to influence.
- Star Wars - 1977, this movie blew my mind. Eleven times. It's such a basic story, in hindsight, it just cobbles together aspects from all kinds of established movies, fairy tales, and what have you. None of which I was aware of when I was nine-years old. The SFX, the sound, the menagerie of aliens. Even the technique of starting a story somewhere in the middle. All of that was defined for me by Star Wars.