Sunday, December 28, 2014

Early Influences

Every so often, there's a Facebook meme that asks about the books/films/etc. that "stayed with you" or "changed your life." The memes are slightly different from each other, but they usually cover similar territory, and they've gotten me to think about what the essential "texts" (which I'll use to cover books, movies, TV shows, comics, etc. - things that tell stories) are of my life. The memes haven't often asked about these essentials in terms of being a writer, but, since that's what this blog is about ... here are a few texts which influenced my development early on (maybe I'll discuss later ones another time):

Star Wars (1977)

Yeah, I'm sure I share this one with a lot of geek writers, but it's the truth: this movie opened a whole new way of looking at the world for me. I'm not sure I cared so much about The Force or any of that, or R2D2, etc. I think it was the planet-hopping, gallivanting-through-space thing that did it for me. Also, of course, the idea that a "little guy" (one with seemingly no power) can have a great effect on the whole galaxy was something that appealed to me, a child who felt pretty powerless. Also, like Star Wars, my sci-fi isn't focused on science, but on human (or character) interaction in sci-fi settings.

The Fantastic Four (1961-present)

I encountered these comics in reprints (though I did sometimes buy the then-current issues, too). As with many readers, the chemistry between the characters really appealed to me. They were imperfect and often at each other's throats, but they clearly loved each other and would come to each other's defense. Also, thanks to Jack Kirby, the primary creator of the FF (I believe), there was just a seemingly endless cascade of ideas rolling out issue after issue. It made me want to see what I could dream up for my characters to face. Again, too, my favorite character, The Thing, was ugly and didn't feel he fit into the world (though this aspect was softened as the series went on), which was how I felt back in those days.

Star Blazers (1979, I think)

This was a Japanese cartoon, translated into English and broadcast in America. I think I got the idea of long, continuing, episodic stories from this series. It had two (that I know of) long adventures, so each episode advanced the series a little bit more. Unlike in many shows of the '70s (my childhood), the characters went through changes over the span of the series. That didn't happen to the Six-Million-Dollar Man or Wonder Woman, really. I was also quite fascinated by the spaceships in this series, far more than I ever was by The Enterprise or Millennium Falcon. The main one was a reconditioned battleship, and they had these huge, central guns that could fire enormous bursts of energy, but which left the ships powerless afterwards.

I think these three sources really pushed my ideas forward early on ... I loved my superhero comics, too, and Origins of Marvel Comics and other reprint volumes also seeded my brain. But I'd say most of my early self-drawn comics contained some variations of the above three influences (and comics were what I did before taking up prose).

I wonder how many writers of my generation shared any of these influences?

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