John Irving gives me the courage to be weird.
For an adult who writes novels, I spent my high school years largely baffled by literature. Don’t get me wrong – I got good grades in my English classes, but it wasn’t until I was well into my senior year of high school that I really got excited about literature and fiction writing. I also started what would become my first novel during that time. When it came to the analysis and appreciation of books, something finally clicked.
I credit John Irving for a lot of that.
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I’ve read seven novels by Barry Unsworth, and with each book, I feel like I’ve met a different novelist.
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I’m an unusual guy who was an unusual kid. And I like it that way.
Those of you who have read any of my novels or novellas are well aware of my fascination with mutants, monsters, wizards and cyborgs, as well as other phantasmagoric and post-apocalyptic imagery.
My love of animation – specifically, dark, strange and kooky animation – has provided endless sources of inspiration for this arena of expression over the years. Here are some of my favorite weird cartoons from my childhood. (And yes – I expect that some of you may argue that I was too young to see any or all of these movies when I did. Maybe so, but if I hadn’t seen these at such an impressionable age, I wouldn’t have grown into the person I am today.)
Continue reading “Influences: Ralph Bakshi”
It might seem unusual to list Richard Adams as an influence, seeing as how I’ve only read one of his books – but what a book.
For the uninitiated, Watership Down is The Aeneid in the animal kingdom. When the incursion of an industrial development forces a tribe of rabbits from their home, they must set out to find a new one. Along the way, they have a series of breathtaking adventures across the English countryside, all of it against the backdrop of Adams’ brilliant world-building.
Yes, world-building. Even though it takes place on modern-day earth, Watership Down stands as one of the best pieces of speculative fiction I’ve ever read. Adams invents an entire culture, vocabulary, social-structure and – most wonderfully – a mythology for his rabbits.
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I’ve always been a Disney geek, but the Canadian animation company Nelvana made five of my all-time favorite cartoons. Four of them came on a mysterious four-pack that my sister and I used to religiously rent from our local video store. The four half-hour features include A Cosmic Christmas, The Devil and Daniel Mouse, Romie-0 and Julie-8 and Please Don’t Eat the Planet. All four cartoons are charming as hell, and they’ve aged surprisingly well over the years.
Continue reading “Influences: Rock and Rule”
Now this is a deep cut. I credit the eccentric programmers at HBO back in the 80s for introducing me to this exciting feature, which borrows liberally from the Star Wars mythos to tell the tale of an escaped slave who finds a magic sword and frees his people. STARCHASER also features a lot of undeniably Christian imagery, as well as some offensively stereotypical middle-eastern villains.
Continue reading “Influences: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin”
I’m… I’m… I’m just a grifter, Tom. I’m… I’m… I’m… I’m… I’m an nobody! But I’ll tell you what, I never crossed a friend, Tom. I never killed anybody, I never crossed a friend, nor you, I’ll bet. We’re not like those animals! This is not us! Th… th… this is some hop dream! It’s a dream, Tommy! I’m praying to you! I can’t die! I can’t die… out here in the woods, like a dumb animal! In the woods, LIKE A DUMB ANIMAL! Like a dumb animal! I can’t… I can’t… I CAN’T DIE OUT HERE IN THE WOODS!… like a dumb animal. I can’t… die!”
Continue reading “Influences: Miller’s Crossing”
After reading the first few hundred pages of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, my friend Jordan Byrne asked me what I thought of it. Despite the novel’s incredible scope and dazzling prose, I only said these four words in response:
“It’s filled with joy.”
There are specific elements of Stephenson’s writing that I aspire to emulate in my own, but more than anything else, I try to write with the same joy that he does. Let me explain:
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Through the novels of Andrew Vachss, I’ve learned a new meanings for brother, sister, mother, father, andmost important — family.
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