Under the Influence: Danny Dunn

       When I was young, I read books of SF and of fantasy as well as science fact voraciously. One thing I noticed was that there were commonly books that had children as protagonists – such as Edward Eager's Half Magic, or Edith Nesbit's Five Children and It, or the much more famous Narnia chronicles by C. S. Lewis – but often if anything fantastic or wondrous happened     to the children, it was something treated as a secret – something that couldn't be told to the adults.        This didn't exactly fit with my mindset. My [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 8

  And now a look at the OTHER side, since any epic needs some bad guys....   ---   Chapter 8.        The room was large and open, of polished marble and obsidian worked with patterns of gold and sapphire and silver, but few decorations outside of these. A bed was set back against one wall, with a locked chest at its foot, a small dresser nearby, all looking rather small against the expanse of the room with its twenty-foot ceiling. A short distance away sat a table, draped in cloth so black that it seemed to drink in the [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 7

    Let's look in on our prince and what he's up to...       Chapter 7.        Tobimar squinted across the water. There was nothing to see, just more water, as the Lucramalalla continued through the five-foot seas. Of course, that was part of what bothered him; until now, the huge Sauran-built ship had sailed always just in sight of land, able to see ports and cities as they passed, ready in case they were hailed or if there was some need to stop. But sometime during the night, it seemed, they had swung far out [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 6

  And now, let's see how a little Toad deals with a big problem...   ---     Chapter 6.        Duckweed lowered himself slowly down the cord. Ritual's still going on… Maybe, just maybe…        It wasn't easy. Two bags were now tied onto him with some of the same string he'd gotten from the fourth alcove, bulky bags that were fairly light but almost as big as his own body. His sword was in a hastily-wrapped semi-scabbard on his back. Rigging everything in the alcoves had taken him ten minutes, but it had been [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 5

  Well, we'd left our little Toad hero in a tight spot...   ---   Chapter 5.        Once his heart slowed to normal, Duckweed looked up at the doors. Have to get through the one… or the other, maybe. Wonder what's through there? He'd seen that the door at the end of the corridor was, as he'd suspected, one of the two into the big cavern. He moved off his sword and hooked it in the little loop of leather tied around his body; if he was going to make a habit of this, he needed to figure out a better way of doing [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 4

  And now we meet our third protagonist...     ---   Chapter 4.        This was absolutely not in my plans today, he thought as he gazed down into the cavern, yellow-gray stone tinted orange and red by unnatural fire burning in the center of the cave. Figures moved around the fire in an orderly, menacing progression, muttering in a language he didn't understand.   But he didn't need to understand much; he'd only dabbled a little in magic so far, but what he saw now… a huge five-pointed star, carven into the [ Continue reading... ]

Phoenix Rising: Chapter 3

Young Tobimar had a journey ahead of him...   ----   Chapter 3.        Tobimar stood at the rail of the Lucramalalla and stared at Skysand, the great capital city sharing the name of the entirety of the gem-scattered mountains and golden sands of the country itself. The rising sun struck the seven Lesser Towers and made them seem forged of gold, while the central Great Tower, which was in fact gilded, blazed as though poured from a furnace of auric fire. Sparks of other color shimmered in that light, the light of his departure, [ Continue reading... ]

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... ]