Recently I had reason to answer the question “When did you start reading science fiction?”  (11, Out of their Minds, Clifford Simak, which yes was not strictly SF but was something close.)

And I realized, thinking back how much of an imprint writers leave on you.  Not even their ideas and stories (Clifford Simak’s idea of politics and economics was very much New Deal and by the time I was fourteen made me squirmy) but their mood, the way they use words, the sense of the place.

I was amused when one of you said that when she read Agatha Christie, she heard the same voice as my blogs.  It is true I read a mountain of Christie growing up (it was one of those opportunity things.  A friend collected the nice hard cover volumes.  I borrowed the nice hardcover volumes, with no need to scrounge through Alfarrabios to find the next Christie I wanted to read) but I read her in Portuguese translation.

Sure, I’ve re-read her (and even listened to her.  For some reason, through a concatenation of happenstance, I apparently MUST listen to her Mr. Quin stories while cleaning house for the holidays.) now in English, but the early imprint of the voice should not have taken in translation.

Except there are things that carry.  There is a mood to both Simak and Heinlein that carries through translations.

Simak gave me my first appreciation of the slow draw in sf/f, where you’re in the real world, you’re in the real world and suddenly — blink — you’re not.  You’re somewhere else with completely different rules, and you got there in such a slow and plausible way, you barely noticed.

Heinlein is more of the “drop you in deep water” type, but what drew me about his stories was the way they flew.  Without losing you, he took you through a completely different world.  His characters were never the kind that were “fated” to do this or that, either.  Sure, they’re called hypercompetent, but that’s not actually the way it worked.  It’s more that they become hypercompetent.  There is a certain “sure, I can do that” when faced with a challenge, even when they struggle and beat their heads against the wall on it.  They just don’t give up. Even if the task crushes them.

This is actually a flavor I note in a lot of veterans of WWII.  There is hell to cross, and hell we can do it! seems to be the attitude of most of it.

It’s a wonderful antidote for the negative feelings of depression.

Heinlein probably left the deepest imprint upon my personality, but I doubt he did on my writing.  Sure, there’s some of it, sometimes, when I’m flying high and feeling good.  But I tend to be dragged down by an over-cerebral, literary training, which loads passages with freighted words instead of movement.

And some of my writing is more, I know, reflective of Simak.  Not because I learned it from him, but because I suspect our personalities work similarly.

I knew clear nothing about the US (I didn’t know if Wisconsin was a state or a city or a region) but his descriptions of rural Wisconsin resounded with me, because I grew up in a rural area, and though they can be very different, they tend to have a similar “feel” worldwide.

Which brings us to the other early imprint: Giovanni Guarescchi’s Don Camillo.  Did it leave anything in my writing style?  Eh.  A way to be gentle with characters I think.  And to appreciate the humanity of even characters you don’t like very much.

Sure, yes, I know what I said over at MGC about not investing so much in your villain that you make the story grey.  But the thing is that there are “minor villains” say, obstacles, more than villains, who you almost need to humanize to make them stand in contrast with your real villain.  Take the Daring Finds mysteries (I wonder if I should change the name of the series to just Dyce Dare, because that seems to be how people actually LOOK for it.)  There is the murderer and I’m sorry, murderers are unredeemable.  But then there are suspects who lie to her for their own reasons, and people who are just pains.  Those, the book benefits from humanizing.  Be kind to your secondary characters.  Make them unexpectedly (sometimes) good people whatever their problems.  It adds a dimmension to the book.

Other imprints, probably buried deep come from reading all of my dad’s books, including Rex Stout and Earle Stanley Gardner and the Saint books and a whole lot of fictionalized WWII stories, which were mostly written by Brazilians or other Europeans.

How much of it comes out?  How much am I still drawn to?  Are there books I loved I now hate?

Well, Simak’s ideas of economics and social organization and also how most people/the world works in general grate more now, because they run so counter mine.  (It was a different time.)  But I can still get drawn in into the gentle touch of his writing, on the micro scale.

Sure he was a man of his time on economics and politics, but individuals?  those he knew, and he made live on the page: obsessive stamp collectors.  The Civil War Veteran who runs Way Station.  The wild girl of the hills who might be mentally disabled, or just off. They all come to life and make you care, and their lives are entirely plausible.

And I find myself writing short stories in his vein now and then.  (The alien hunting story in I THINK Things from Space.)

Sure, no one would trace Dyce Dare to Miss Marple without thinking, but the imprint is there.  Yeah, people do trace Athena to Heinlein, and there is a touch of that, though he might be horrified by it, for all I know, because Athena has a good dose of Heyer too. Now I think about it, my shifter series has a good thumb print of Simak.  And Guarescchi runs through all of it reminding me to keep them people.  Just people.  Yeah, with dark notes, but also a note of grace.

Which brings us to…  Is there anything authentically Sarah there?

I don’t know.  These aren’t people I add CONSCIOUSLY you see, they’re just the early fingerprints upon my mind, the things that made me fall in love with reading.

Perhaps the rather odd amalgam of writers, which is not exactly a matter of choice — it depended greatly on what was available at the time.  For instance I did not read Heyer till my thirties, because as far as I know it wasn’t available in Portugal/Portuguese when I was a kid, and I might not have tried her anyway, having acquired an early prejudice against romance (most of the available WAS wretched.) — but is a matter of choice, also.  I sampled dad’s Westerns, but never liked them enough to remember the author name.  These writers excited my imagination enough that I spent my scant money on them, looked for them, and actively wanted to read more people like them.

Perhaps the imprints they made, swirled and amalgamated and made to coexist (sometimes uneasily)in myself are what makes me me.

Humans are apes.  Social apes.  Creatures of the band.  We learn, we imitate, and we pass on our thoughts and our ways, our habits and our manners.

Perhaps all I am is a lucky ape, living in a time when I could pick who would influence me not just from a small area, not just from the time I chanced to be alive in, but from the wide world and the riches of civilization and time.

That in itself is a fantasy story, I think, at least for most of our ancestors.

And for that I’m grateful.


88 thoughts on “Imprints

    1. looking back, Heinlein might well have been the first SciFi I read. I did go through a few of his books in the library when I hit highschool, or it might have been someone else first and Troopers was then next thing but then somewhere along the line I ran into Joe Haldeman, then didn’t read a whole lot until I started working at the airport. Then I read this and that, nothing memorable, except after Borders moved in, I picked up the A.C. Clark based Venus Prime series, and liked that, and not long after, an LJ friend mentioned selling some old books (Asimov and Clark paperbacks) so she and I sometimes compared what we read, she got me into Ring World, etc. Then she found the Baen Free Library and posted having to dig out her copy of something on the list, and I soon went e-books almost exclusevly. I did buy some books and snagged Wind Rider’s Oath to get the CD, and that got me a lot of reading, although it was a touch less, as I used a laptop for reading and left it in the office when I was waiting for a flight, or out topping off a truck, but before long I kept old paperbacks to re-read while doing that stuff.
      Can’t say how it affects my writing, as I don’t.
      I do mourn the loss of my library. I sold most of it off to buy food. I kept a few favorites, all the Webber and Flint, the Haldeman, and found a few in Half Price later to replace or add back (Hard cover in great shape of Footfall, other Weber I lacked), but for the most part it has been e-books instead. The e-book library needs a going over as copies got corrupted and I still have them on older drives.

  1. One of the golden age SF authors – Asimov maybe? – talked about what is basically a critical mass theory of writing: Read as much as you can, and that will all be internalized and at some point reach a sufficiency such that it goes critical, and at that point you will not be able to avoid writing.

    It is obvious to me that this mandates that what and who we read will be incorporated and reworked and used as imprints and patterns and such in any writing that results.

    For me, while I learn from that which is thrown against the wall (“Oh, geez; OK, never do that“), the things I enjoy are the roadmap for the things I write, and the characters that speak to me (either in the literary sense, or the literal sense, in the shower, as J.M.Straczynski has reported his Centauri and Narn spoke to him during Babylon 5) will inform how I attempt to have my characters work like real people.

    1. I could agree with that. At some point, all that you have ever read bursts the banks and overflows, and hey, presto – you simply HAVE to write.

      1. That would explain why I (and I’m really not a writer) has still written. I read. A LOT. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 236 books thus far this year, and while that includes a lot of what I’d classify as popcorn (mysteries, YA books, graphic novels), that also includes quite a number of doorstops. I’m not a writer, but even the biggest lake overflows its capacity…

      2. I started writing because we were going on vacation, and my mother made me return ALL my books to the library and get NONE out, and there was a WEEK before we actually went.

        I needed the written word!

        So I wrote it.

    2. Well, yes. I read more nonfiction than fiction, because fiction is made of nonfiction, and my deeper mind needs raw material in quantity before I open the gateway and start calling on it.

      1. This. I need a foundation for my imagination to build on. And the best historians write gripping stories that just happen to be true.

  2. I’ve been told I write scenes well: the Scenes I best remember from childhood reading (and early-childhood bedtime stories) are still the woods and waters of Narnia, the burning pyre of Torquelstone Castle, the road passing before the door of the Admiral Benbow, the sheer handramits of Malacandra…

    I have to say I got into SF at about eight, when I first read my father’s battered “Space Trilogy” for myself. Then Verne and Wells were devoured from the library shelves as well.

  3. But I tend to be dragged down by an over-cerebral, literary training, which loads passages with freighted words instead of movement.

    I sympathize, as I have another version of that malady: My education was in physics, and I want everything to have a sound scientific basis. That makes anything involving spaceflight, time travel, or special human powers or augmentations a terrible challenge. I recall that we discussed this briefly on Facebook.

    I was partially cured — imbued with a degree of discipline, really — by a tough editor, but the urge has never passed. It probably never will.

    1. Heinlein, Hogan, Niven, among others dealt with that dilemma effectively. Create some physics assumption that doesn’t match the current knowledge but is self-consistent; then build with that.
      My late father, also a physicist, often commented how he disliked SF featuring “muscular he-men who yank on the controls at the last minute to dodge around a star”. But he enjoyed a fair amount of SF. And Simak in particular; I gave him his own copy of Mastodonia after he read and re-read mine to shreds. “…suddenly – blink – you’re not” — yes, I recognize that, it fits a bunch of his works very nicely.

    2. I enjoy romance novels and thought, hey, I want to write one. I found out that I couldn’t get past “people don’t really act like that”. Just couldn’t.

      Then one day a read a romance author explaining that romance is fantasy. It’s not real.

      It was like a light went on. So I sat down and tried to write a fantasy where people did act like that. It didn’t WORK, mind you. But I think that it really is why I have that block.

      And I think about that when I encounter people like yourself who are scientists who can’t get past “that doesn’t really work that way”. I have a cousin who can’t even *read* science fiction for that reason.

      But maybe if you think of it as fantasy, it might help.

      1. (chuckle) I tried. Really I did. My proclivities are too ingrained to suppress the impulse completely. But while there’s no cure for it — not even a telethon — there is hope. (“So send your tax-deductible contributions to…”) It comes in the form of near-future fiction: stories written within hailing distance of the present that center on a development that hasn’t occurred, but hasn’t been proved impossible, and just might be attained in a couple of decades. I recently turned out a novel of that sort.

        Yes, it’s limiting, but then so is my physicist’s compulsion to “make the science right.” So I do what I can within that limit…and I write fantasy, romance, and erotica the rest of the time!

      2. I submitted a short story to a contest once, and had a critique on one character of his being stereotypical and not real. Happened to be the single character based entirely on one person. 😀

    3. I think by the time I got really into “But how does it really work?” I already knew that I would be wanting to write stuff with no sound basis in science. Of course, I’m not a physicist and have no interest in most areas of modern physics research.

      1. Well, there’s “We know thisover here, and waaay over there we know that, what if those are actually related…” stuff, but at the most basic level, it’s SF becuase we don’t know how that works yet.

        It’t Got to make sense and have what seem like real people doing the whatsis and switching on the framistat and sending a tachyon burst through ethmain deflector array, but “don’t know how” is pretty much the definition for me of hard SF. A story that asks “So if there were Stargates, wouldn’t you run train tracks through them instead of making everyone walk” kind of thing does not require that you know how to actually build a Stargate.

        1. Hey look, Otto Correct appears to have gone on strike for better working conditions and didn’t change anything in that post from this device (typing on a pad, and all those errors are mine).

          Hmph. That never happens.

  4. I have a couple of friends who are convinced that I am a closet Anne McCaffrey fan-boy, because what they’ve read of my writing they say feels just like her writing (they are both huge McCaffrey fans). Which is funny to me, because I think I’ve read maybe one Anne McCaffrey ever, first book in Crystal series, and never got around to reading the rest. On top of that, I think I might have read that one book in a single sitting. I was volunteering in the school library back then, and was flat-out devouring books. Given how/when I read it, it seems odd to me that I would remember that book so well.

  5. I think the childhood things imprinted on me more than anything – L. Frank Baum, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, or rather, Oz, Prydain and Narnia, my favorite places to visit.

    My first SFs were tv – Star Trek and Lost in Space, but my first real book SF was Andre Norton (well, maybe the first was Journey to the Mushroom Planet, if I’m remembering that right).

    1. I wish I remember what my “very first” SF was. Although, I know one of my very early entries to the SF/F relm was one of the GOR books I found somewhere. I was young enough not to understand what it was about, and was amazed when I came across them in my adult life and realized just what they were (I had no idea LOL!).

      1. I’m not sure either, but I can look it up. …

        My first fantasy was the Hobbit, but my first SF was Christopher’s the White Mountains. Huh. I could’ve sworn it is was a Norton.

        1. The White Mountains! I only read part of it — an excerpt in a magazine that was missing half its pages — but it had an *enormous* effect on me. I was 9 or 10 years old (I think) and had never come across that kind of apocalyptic science fiction before. And for the longest time, I didn’t even know the name of the story because of the missing pages.

    2. Come to think of it. If we go outside of books, my first SF experience was the first Star Wars movie. I was in like first or second grade. It was also my first movie experience.

      1. Ah, youth. IIRC, my first exposure to SF movies was a second (or third) run of Forbidden Planet. Mom tells me I was afraid of Robbie the Robot (was probably 5 or 6, first run would have had me at 4 years at best). No recollection of the Monsters of the Id, though.

        There was a fair amount of SF-ish TV in the 50s. Afternoon had Commander Cody serials, and the Twilight Zone was playing. There was also an adventure/hard SF show called The Man and the Challenge in ’59-60. The opening montage featured a rocket sled with water-scoop braking.

        In books, in elementary school, Scholastic Press did inexpensive paperbacks for sale. Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C was an early SF, if not my first, probably at age 9. Starman Jones was a wee bit difficult at age 10, due to unfamiliar words. I suspect I ran afoul of “Astrogator”.

        The Junior HS Library had a good selection of RAH Juveniles, with Farmer in the Sky one of my first. When Eldest Brother got engaged, his future BIL gave me with his collection of Heinlein paperbacks. It was complete, or close to it, through Stranger. A really nice gift for a 15 year old budding SF geek.

  6. The first “real” book I read was Norton’s “Galactic Derelict”. I then read a bunch of her other stuff, and Laumer, and Simak, and eventually Vance and Heinlein.

    Perhaps I imprinted so firmly on those that I’m blind to what I’ve missed, but I figure I could have done a *lot* worse…

    1. Norton, but first was Rebel Spurs, then the one before it. I was into Revolution/Civil War Historical Fiction. Of coarse Norton had “other stuff” which led me to Heilein, Clark, Herbert (I read Dune in middle school, didn’t understand most of it, but I read it), etc.

  7. “There is hell to cross, and hell we can do it! seems to be the attitude of most of it.”

    It’s the attitude you’ve got to take sometimes. Hell won’t get any shorter or easier to cross by sitting here whining about it. Take the first step, then take the next, and the one after that.

    I wish it were my attitude, but it usually isn’t. Usually I just sit there overwhelmed by the whole thing. But I like to write about people who do have that attitude.

    1. I worry about how wide the passage and hot the flames will be long before I get there. Then I’m either prepared to go trotting across (guess who brought asbestos paw-covers?) or kick myself because hell had frozen over.

  8. Azimov, McCaffrey, Clark, Herbert (Frank), The Coloured Fairy Books, Robin McKinley, MZB for a while (mostly Darkover), Drake and Laumer, Sterling and Pournelle. And Barbara Tuchman, Kipling, H. Rider Haggard, Stanley Vestal, John Keegan.

    If I could write fiction OR non-fiction as well as Tuchman and Vestal write history, I’d die happy.

  9. My first SF… may well have been Madeleine l’Engle. Before 3rd grade I mostly read classics, and after to a degree, but that was the year I read _A Wrinkle in Time_ (the first time), _White Fang_, _The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe_, and my first Nancy Drew. Not coincidentally the same year classroom libraries had actual *books* in them instead of those early reader collections that were forced on us (as in, I remember being forbidden the school library by my teacher until I’d finished every last one of them.)

  10. First sf? The summer we stayed with family friends whose son had gone off to college, leaving behind an entire summerhouse stacked with his collection of pulp science fiction from the 40’s and 50’s.

    It made for a very happy summer… in which the adults seldom saw me.

    1. When I was thirteen I was helping a friend’s family clean their apartment to move, and we found a box ditto. It had been the father’s father, and he’d brought it home after dad died, with the idea he’d read it sometime. It had been ten years. So he gave it to me.
      When they drove me home, I was gloating like a dragon over an hoard.
      It contained among other things impossible to find in Portugal at the time Way Station and City by Simak. I think it also had Karol Kapek the Newt War.
      It was the size of a printing paper box (now) and it was PACKED. Must have been fifty books in it. I was so happy.

  11. My parents read to me almost every night until I was 13 years old and finishing the books the next day, which they found frustrating. My father had a voice trained for teaching and my mother had trained for the stage. And made the books with strong voices especially powerful, and also taught me to expect books to speak, so that if I cannot hear the author’s voice in my head I feel something is wrong.

    And they exposed me to the weirdest stuff. Not just SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS and THE SATURDAYS and so on, but James Thurber and S. J. Perleman (if you haven’t treated yourself to WESTWARD HA!, go out and find a copy with the Hirshfeld illustrations right now), and THE SPACE CHILD’S MOTHER GOOSE and PROFESSOR FODORSKI and “WHERE DID YOU GO?” “OUT” “WHAT DID YOU DO?” “NOTHING”.

    And Kipling. STALKY AND CO. and THE JUST SO STORIES and PUCK OF POOK’S HILL and THE JUNGLE BOOKS, and to this day I can raise goosebumps on my arms by reciting the phrase “Let in the jungle, Hathi!”

    Some books didn’t survive the shift into adolescence. I once loved Dr. Doolittle. I can’t read it now, and kinda wonder how my folks managed to read it to me. Some books I never got exposed to because somebody had poisoned them for my father (a man of strong opinions). He LOATHED Oz. I’ve never been quite sure why. I do know that I wasn’t exposed to them as a child, and thus find them impenetrable now. Absent the nostalgia most people feel for their childhood while reading Oz, they are too twee for me.


    How many people here have style impressions that grew out of books read to you?

  12. Heinlein had an influence, but the writer whose works were my foundation was Doc Smith. I wanted to be a Lensman. To be a paladin of Civilization, pure of heart, keen of mind…and sudden death with anything from bare hands to a battlefleet.

    By the way, that sudden death part can be rather time-consuming to pursue. And it will take considerably longer than five years. 🙂

    1. Hal Jordan is my favorite Green Lantern. Steve recommended Lensmen as the source material. I’ve tried but it’s difficult for me to get into. I’ve never really gotten into pulp. I first read SF with an issue of F&SF in 1977.

  13. H. Beam Piper, Eric Flint, Jerry Pournelle, David Drake, S.M. Stirling, David Weber, and Bill Baldwin for Science Fiction; C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for fantasy; Clive Cussler, Stephen Bly, and the Hardy Boys.
    I’m sure this warped my development somehow.

    1. Larry Niven will be GoH (Be our GoH, Be our GoH. Excuse me I get filk attacks sometimes.) at FenCon XV this year. September 21-23 2018. at the Westin DFW airport. It’s a major DFW con.

  14. If I had to try remember, it’d be McCaffery, Star Trek’s various novel authors, Diane Duane, Jules Verne. Pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I’m not sure how much made an impact on my writing, because I think the one that did that the most was Eddings.

  15. Hmm. I’d have to say that Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and possibly David Eddings made the biggest impressions on me, but there’s a lot of McCaffrey in there as well. Though recent attempt to reread the Pern books have met with failure, because I want to slap ALL the characters.

    I still reread Cooper and Alexander every year or two. Eddings a bit less often, and I can’t stand his later stuff. (Basically everything that came after the Tamuli, though arguably I’m not a huge fan of that one, either. So everything that came after the Elenium.) Because the man apparently only had ONE plot, sigh. (And was oddly proud of this fact…)

    Susan Cooper is the major reason I became enamored of the most obscure Western European (and especially British/Celtic) mythology, with Alexander weighting the scales on the Celtic mythology side. (Though I also love his Westmark series and the Vesper Holly series, though I haven’t read all the Vesper Hollys yet.)

    1. _The Dark is Rising_ is a yearly read for me. “On the day of the dead when the year too dies/ And the youngest opens the oldest hills…”

      1. …I have to get to that one.

        I ought to make myself a reading list, but I’m a little afraid.

        1. The first book is a little slow at first (Over Sea, Under Stone) but then things pick up with _The Dark is Rising_ and just fly. _The Grey King_ is one of the first books I read where place was a character and a dang scary one at that.

          1. Funny, but the boxed set my mother gave me when I was ten or so did not actually include Over Sea, Under Stone. I didn’t read it until many years later, and have never liked it much. It’s not a bad book, per se, but it is SO different in tone to the other four. And Greenwitch always read just fine for me without having read Over Sea, Under Stone first.

            The imagery of the ‘main four’ is just amazing.

            Which reminds me, I really need to go read that book I picked up on the Hunting of the Wren…

      2. With a little effort, I have pretty much ALL of those from the series memorized.

        “When the Dark comes Rising/Six shall turn it back/Three from the circle/three from the track…”


        The movie was a freaking abomination, and it broke my heart.

  16. One thing that I find interesting is how some writers have a style that feels like another author’s, even when the contents are quite different. So Mark Anthony (yes, that’s really his name, though he only used it for his one fantasy series) feels an awful lot like David Eddings, even though he’s portal fantasy/weird Western when Eddings was epic fantasy. Mercedes Lackey and Tanya Huff feel the same to me.

    1. And for my money the flip side of that is the authors whose style people try to copy, and mostly fail. The number of bad imitations of Raymond Chandler is staggering (also Dashiell Hammett, to some degree). Chandler’s ‘voice’ seems to strike people as simple, which it isn’t. Parker managed to take that voice and work it into something that was his own. Spillane reduced the style to its lowest common denominator, and Mike Hammer is fascinatingly dreadful (I think, anyway). I run into it from time to time in Fantasy or SF. For my money the only one to pull it off at all is Victor Koman in THE JEHOVA CONTRACT.

  17. For me, Andre Norton and Jules Vern in jr. high; SF Book Club and Astounding, Amazing, Galaxy, F&SF collections, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper, Simak (worked at the same paper James Lileks works for), Keith Laumer, a number of the Dr. Doolittle books, Heinlein, Eric Frank Russell, a fair amount of Azimov…

    1. I just remembered that a friend in jr. high lent me copies of STARTLING STORIES. Pulpy goodness! ERB’s John Carter stories I got to 10-15 years ago.

  18. Edgar Rice Burroughs for me. I mean, I found his dinosaur books and then found out he had books set on Mars, how cool is that?

    1. I definitely have a big soft spot for ERB, Tarzan specifically. (I haven’t actually read the Mars books yet. They’re on the to-read list.)

      He wrote the purplest of purple prose (well, no, actually there are romance writers out there who are far worse) but he told a danged ripping good story.

  19. I did not know about science fiction until I saw my first sci fi film Rocket-ship X-M, Then I saw Destination Moon and I was hooked, at 8 years old. They inspired me read sf and to pursue aerospace engineering. I don’t remember the first scifi book I read, but the Clyde, Ohio library didn’t have much in the way of books. But I bought scores of paperbacks. I read Asimov and Heinlein. (Ah Star Ship Troopers!) and every sci fi thing I could find.

  20. I distinctly remember my first forays into fantasy were my dad’s old copies of The Hobbit and The Wizard of Oz, and once he saw my interest in those he bought me the Narnia books, which ended up as much a gateway drug to theology as to Fantasy for me. I was no more than 7 or 8 and a fiercely precocious reader. My parents still find it hilarious that what I wanted for Christmas in Kindergarten was “a book with real chapters”. (It ended up being a pair of Trixie Beldens that also turned me into a lifelong ferocious reader of mysteries).

    The formative moment for SF though, I can’t quite pinpoint. I read a lot of story collections and probably that was some of it, and I remember discovering L’Engle in 5th grade, but I just read so damn much by time that I couldn’t say (the amused school librarian gave me full run of the place, including the big kids books, all the way back at the beginning of 1st grade). I guarantee Andre Norton was in there somewhere, and Bradbury, but my non-Mystery interest didn’t shift from primarily in Fantasy to primarily in SF until I was in high school.

    I can pinpoint the *exact* moment I discovered Heinlein though (at least to know who he was, later on when I read Expanded Universe and Off the Main Sequence, there turned out to be some stuff I’d come across as a kid in older anthologies). I was probably 14 and at a neighbor’s yard sale and bought a big box of paperback SF and fantasy for a buck. Right on top was Glory Road. In retrospect it might not be the most auspicious place to start, but his voice spoke to me from the beginning and I devoured everything of his I could get at my local and school libraries. I also remember being absolutely crushed when he passed away my Junior year. No-one has had more influence on my ideas about politics, the inherent dignity and right to freedom of the individual, and the responsibility we all bear to build our own futures. Simak’s City was in that box too, but everything else has faded from memory.

      1. Wait, Twitter finally bans somebody for saying bad things about white people, and it’s a parody account?
        You cannot make this stuff up.

  21. Gordon Dickson is no longer my favorite writer. He was the writer who got me into reading mil SF. He has his own distinctive style of writing. I think that his short fiction is his best fiction. Often he expanded shorter works into novels. His novels aren’t gritty but they do resound with you. His writing career started in 1950 or 1951. Hailing from MN as did Simak, he is quite different. Simak seems so gloomy. Dickson is quite light or at least not gloomy. He isn’t realistic, but that isn’t his way. His novels are more like what bards would sing in fantasy novels. His style is quite transparent. He wants you to concentrate on the story and the characters not on his facility with writing.

  22. think of it this way: we’re living in something the ancient Greeks or republican Rome would consider close to Utopia.

    1. That’s why it amazes me that there’s a considerable number of people who want to give up on our technological western civilization and become prehistoric agrarian foragers. They never seem to understand that their life expectancy is half that of ours, and life becomes a lot harder, and more brutish.

      1. Most people think farming is too much hard work, and they are probably right. And people actually *want* to go back to a pre-agraian culture (not just the no sugar, etc. diet)? Are they nuts?

        And farming is nowhere near as hard as it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Those $100,000+ tractors (and $250,000 combines) have air conditioned cabs and computers!

        1. They don’t want to go back to the agrarian utopia, they want to force us in to small independent non-aggressive non-hunting forging groups. Because that is the best way to “live”. What they don’t realize is those are the the groups that died.

          Hmmm, okay … maybe that is what they want. I’ve been seeing this out of this group a lot, mostly about money, but it applies here too … “You first honey … then I might, maybe, kind of, think about it, some, a little.” Uhhhh, NOT.

          1. You know, that would work okay if people were able to metabolize everything on the planet, were invulnerable, and instantly regenerated from all wounds and diseases. You know anyone like that? In real life that is?

          1. “Pretty sure they see themselves as the ones who will be sitting in the fancy homes (or castles) and getting their food as taxes from the peasants.”

            And other things …

            Plus presuming other fiefdoms leaders are doing the same regardless of actual situation & proof to the contrary (“Dies the Fire” S.M. Stirling).

  23. I never read a lot of Simak, but I grew up in the same hills he sometimes wrote about. I was on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi river rather than Wisconsin. It is the same limestone bluffs of the driftless area karst topography.

    When I started reading SF, I went through all the Heinlein juveniles at the local library, as well as whatever Asimov, Clarke, Norton and whatever else I could find that was marked as science fiction. It wasn’t till much later that I found out you could also buy books from stores.

  24. Yes, I’m late to this party…

    The funny thing is, I never read much science fiction when I was a youngster. My older brother and my dad consumed it at an amazing rate, so I suppose I read, here and there, bits of what they’d gone through.

    But as for which writers might have left an indelible mark on my writing, such as it is? A friend in high school told me that a story I was working on reminded her of Thurber, so I guess there’s that. I’d also have to mention Roger Eddy, whose unpatronizing (and unabashed) WASP-y point of view in The Bulls and the Bees stuck with me for decades.

  25. First SF books? The Space Cat series by Ruthven Todd back in the early seventies in 3rd grade, then the Matthew Looney Series and then off to the deep end with Verne, Wells, Asimov and Clarke. I think one summer in junior high I went through about 300 SF and fantasy books of all types and styles. Seems everyones family went on vacation at the same time that summer, twice.

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