Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fifteen Influences

So I promoted the "15 Games" meme, and following it around, found one guy who talked about the fifteen things that influenced him. And that was a different question than the 15 games, so I started to put together a list of influences (though it took more than 15 minutes to put together - memory being what it is).

I concentrated on things that influenced be before I started writing professionally. Everything influences to some degree, but I looked at the foundation material, so it is all pre-1980. Here's my list.

Lord of the Rings/Hobbit - Makes sense, in that the massive infodumps of the intros and appendixes, not to mention "The Shadow of the Past" all were foundations in the art of worldbuilding. That influence does not extend to the Simarillion - I had moved on to other things by the time that came out, and while I read it, it felt dry compared to the previous books. But all of the above (and Tolkien's short fiction) got me in gear with Tolkein's idea of "Subcreation" - as we are created things, so too do we create.

The Bible - The Bible comes in at all sorts of odd angles - Bible as Moral Operating System (Gospels), Bible as Historical Record (Pentateuch), and Bible as Science Fiction (Revelation of John, Ezekiel seeing the Wheels). The DL Gods came from my gods who took their name from Rev Barker's book Everyone in the Bible.

Silent Planet Trilogy - OK, you read the four Tolkien books out, what is next? Written by fellow Inkling CS Lewis, the trilogy that starts with Out of the Silent Planet is science fantasy (oddly, never embraced Narnia). My original campaign Toril (whose the name later went to the Forgotten Realms' planet) was originally called Torilandra.

Face In the Frost - As book about wizards, again in the era where anything with magic in it was billed as "In the Tradition of Lord of the Rings". It think it gave me a lot of thought about people who were inside the "profession" as it were, where the profession was magic.

Emerson Lake and Palmer - Listened to this a lot in college - call it Anthem Rock or Arena Rock or Progressive Rock, ELP and Yes and Genesis (Pre-Phil Collins) and Led Zep were all influences. Oh, and the Roger Dean covers as well for Yes!

Harlan Ellison - Found the original Dangerous Visions in the school library in the early seventies, and it pretty much blew my mind for alternate views and showing the SF could be more than Asimov and Analog. In early college, most of Ellison's oeuvre was still in print, so I got to load up. He was a master of the first line and the last line of a story (and a rival for Arthur C. Clarke for that last line stinger). I always credited Ellison with the idea that the gods need worshipers more than vice versa.

2001: A Space Odyssey -Speaking of Clarke. Not the movie (saw it years later in college), but the Clarke "adaptation" which grounded in to me the idea of unexplainable aliens and mankind's possible place in the universe.

The Raven - Not the Poe, but Roger Corman's brilliant adaptation that ignored everything from the original poem but the name. Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, and a young Jack Nicholson. The wizard duel at the end pretty much set a LOT of D&D spellls (No, go look). I watched it on "Chiller Theater" - late night Pittsburgh TV with Chilly Billy Cardille(y).

Sword in The Stone - The Disney movie - another piece that kept with me was the whole Merlin/Morgan polymorph duel. Not much else, but that just was brilliant.

Fafhrd and Grey Mouser - Another discovery in early college, set up the whole idea of the urban fantasy (That is to say, a city in a fantasy world). Loved the early works, though the later stuff, sadly, ventured into softcore porn.

Connections - James Burke's series was influential in the idea that everything needs to fit together, though not in the fashion you might think. His pinball delivery and hands-on example was pure science history porn. I thought it was earlier in my life, but actually showed up in 1979 in the states.

Earthsea - Another book that was "In the Tradition of Tolkien" - no it wasn't, but it was short and pognient and concentrated on moral decisions as opposed to explaning everything. Again, the first three were my base.

Omniverse - A fanzine (!) by Mark Gruenwald that pulled together the various earths of DC and Marvel and started for me the idea of continuity through multiple products and issues. In the ages before the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, this was the coolness. Add to that the old Marvel Team-Ups and Marvel Two-in-Ones and you have the basis for the nascent comic book campaign that became the Marvel Super Heroes game.

Roy Thomas's Conan stories - While on the subject of comics - Never read the Howard originals - they did nothing for me, even with the Franzetta covers of the age. Instead I found myself attracted to the B&W versions of the stories. John Buscema's Conan (and Frank Thorne's Red Sonjas) defined those characters in a way that broke canon, and most people don't even care (and yeah, the Wikipedia notes that these guys were not the first to protray these looks, but they were the definitive appearances when I was young).

The Early Steampunk Movies - The Great Race, Those Magnifient Men in the Flying Machines, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days. Heck, even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Steampunk before Steampunk was cool.Amazing how many of these were done decades before the entire "goggles as fashion statement" era of today. Of the group, The Great Race is probably the best - Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, and Peter Falk as Max, as in "Max! Press the Button!" (a major tagline of my earler campaign.

There are more - the Princes in Amber, Elfquest, Cerebus, Monty Python as well as stuff that didn't impact me - Lovecraft showed up late for the party, and though I loved Bradbury, I felt closer to Malacandra than Mars (and John Carter didn't show up at all).

More later,

More later,