Influences or “You are what you eat”

I remember a friend telling me long, long ago that we’re just an amalgam of our parents and all the people we’ve ever met.  The point was made when we were talking about how popular phrases and mannerisms get picked up and used again and again.

The same must be true of authors and the things they write.  I’m not going to try and argue that there are no original ideas because there clearly are.  I’m also going to have to be careful to avoid overreaching or giving the impression that I believe my work is in the same league as my own favourite writers.  I’m re-reading ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ by Ray Bradbury right now and catch myself laughing aloud at some trick he’s pulled with the English language or shaking my head in disbelief at a sentence he’s built from words that no one else would think could work together.  I cannot replicate this, nor have I tried.  I will say that many books have influenced me – some more than others – so it occurred to me to put a list down here and explain their influence on me.

‘The Malacia Tapestry’ by Brian Aldiss – There are few books I have read that have transported me away to another time and place so completely.  The sights, sounds and smells of a never-never land are brought to life.  Perhaps the only book to rival this one is ‘Gormenghast’ by Mervyn Peake.  If I can make even a few of my readers believe they’re experiencing Tenochtitlan in the heyday of the Mexica empire, then that alone will give me joy.

‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie – Here, I’m definitely overreaching.  Joe’s skill is bringing characters to life in all their smelly, wrinkled unpleasantness and making you love or loathe them with a handful of choice words.  The story encompassed by this book and its sequels in the soon-to-be double trilogy is huge, but the real triumph are the protagonists; Glokta, Logan Ninefingers, The Dogman and the rest.  I salute you Joe and hope to reach your level one day!

‘The Iliad’ by Homer – Whoa there!  Don’t switch off.  I’ll readily admit that this book isn’t the easiest to read, but one of the marvels of this timeless classic is the way in which it deals with the battle scenes.  Far from glorifying death, ‘The Iliad’ clearly mourns each loss, making the ancestry and family of victim known so magnifying the loss.  Death in war is an especially terrible thing and Homer reminds us of its utter finality. “Dark death came up to meet him.”  Another extraordinary thing about this book is the treatment of Achilles and his impact on the war.  He is a demigod and on the battlefield, he’s the closest thing the Greeks have to a tactical nuclear warhead.  It’s a ripping good yarn with awesome characters!