Under The Influence: E. E. “DOC” Smith

    I deliberately waited for a while before posting this one. This essay is very similar to the one posted on my original website for Grand Central Arena, and I wanted to have time for other influences to be posted before returning to Doc Smith.   I first encountered the work of E.E. "Doc" Smith in sixth grade, in Shaker Junior High School. My homeroom and English teacher, Mr. Dickinson, knew I was a reader of science fiction, and was responsible for introducing me to two great SF writers of the old days. The first happened [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: The Chronicles of Amber

       Roger Zelazny was one of the true masters of fantasy writing. At least one of his works is included in most people's lists of "best ever fantasy" -- and sometimes, people argue, science fiction, as he did very much like to bend the definitions and skewer them. Zelazny produced a number of top-notch books and short stories, but two of them consistently outpace the others in mentions: Lord of Light, and the Chronicles of Amber (especially the original five-book Amber sequence).        While Lord of Light is indeed an excellent [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: A.E. Van Vogt

      Alfred Elton Van Vogt is much less well known today than he was in my youth, let alone in his heyday in the 40s-50s. However, he had an immense influence on my writing, or at least my writing design process, because he knew, perhaps better than anyone, how to create a sense of wonder and build it into an adventure – perhaps with only the most tenuous logic holding it together.        Van Vogt was the quintessential writer of, for lack of a better word, spectacle-based adventures. His characters were often fairly narrow in [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: L. Frank Baum

  Under the Influence: L. Frank Baum Lyman Frank Baum was a man of weaknesses and brilliance in equal mixture, like many men. He bankrupted himself frequently, especially through his love of theater and lack of business acumen. He had prejudices which occasionally showed in print – or in a few instance were deliberately displayed, as they were part and parcel of the times.   But he was also the Wizard of Oz.   L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz exactly at the turn of the century, in 1900. Subsequently he [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: D’Aulaires’ Mythology

       Those who read my stories know that I have a fondness for aspects of my ancestral Norse heritage, especially in the mythology of the Aesir, of wise and manipulative Odin, mighty Thor, fair Balder, and devious and ultimately treacherous Loki. I also have a similar fondness for the great stories of Greek Myth – the Labors of Heracles, Perseus and his defeat of Medusa, crippled yet indispensable Hephaestus, wise Athena, wandering-eyed Zeus, and the rest of the Olympians. The love of these two ancient mythologies began with two [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Saint Seiya

     Back in the primitive days before the World Wide Web, before E-mail was standard and cellphones common, there was also the time in which anime and manga (Japanese animation and their equivalent of comics/comic books) were as fringe an interest as science fiction itself was many years before. It was an American fandom consisting of small groups of true fans, fanatics in many ways, with connections as secretive and torturous as those of drug smugglers to get second or third generation VHS tapes of these peculiar and exotic animated shows – [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: Star Wars

  No, I'm not going to call it "A New Hope". That was added AFTER I saw the movie; at the time, Star Wars was just that, with no implication that it was part of anything else.   Of all the singular cultural events in my lifetime (as opposed to political events, like 9/11 or Vietnam), I don’t think any of them has  had or will ever have the impact of this single summer movie, made for thirteen million dollars (not a terribly large sum even in 1977). It didn't even have the advertising buzz one would expect; I found out about it more [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: James Schmitz

  Back in the ancient days of the year 2000, it was mentioned that Baen Books was preparing to re-issue the works of James Schmitz. And on Usenet, a (quite out of context) quote from Eric Flint indicated that there would be some… editing. Modernizing. Fixing. And I proceeded to leap to the attack against this monstrous butcher, Eric Flint.   The upshot of that was my getting published. But that's a different story, told on the About Ryk E. Spoor page. This is about why I was Very Concerned about the (as it turned out, mostly [ Continue reading... ]

Probably no big updates this weekend…

  ... since it's Mother's Day. :) [ Continue reading... ]

UNDER the INFLUENCE: The Six Million Dollar Man

Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive. "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. We can make him better than he was before. Better… stronger… faster."        There is a saying in SF Fandom: "The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12." The idea – and a fairly strong one – is that the SF that you encounter around that age (from say 10 to 14), when you are forming your own tastes clearly for the first time – will become one of the [ Continue reading... ]