Someone asked me, recently, what books inspired me? It’s a common question, but interesting because, for me, it’s actually part of a larger question: why do you write?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved science fiction. As a kid, I read every Doctor Who novelisation I could get my hands on and devoured each in a day or two. When I was a little older, I noticed my Dad had a sizeable collection of Sci-Fi books too, and I didn’t take long to work my way through them … books by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, and E.E. Doc Smith to name but a few. The more surreal stories of A.E. Van Vogt were a particular favourite. And as an adult, I’ve continued to read … Niven & Pournelle, Lois McMaster Bujold, and so many others worthy of mention. (One day, I’m going to get around to putting them all up on Goodreads. But not today.)
But that doesn’t really answer the question. These books didn’t inspire me so much as they fed an addiction, a hunger for stories that were separated from the mundanity of the real world yet still felt could one day happen (which, I guess, is why the fantasy and superhero genres didn’t grab me in quite the same way).
And it wasn’t just books; it was stories. Stories in books, audio plays, TV shows and movies, it doesn’t matter. Sure, the medium by which the story is told will affect it, but they are all stories.
Since before the start of recorded history, storytelling (perhaps around a campfire) was how we learned about ourselves, how we imparted knowledge, and how we explored the bigger issues. Even the word “history”, comes from the Old French “
Stories can be escapism, a way of dealing with modern day stress. Stories can be about the fantastic things in the universe by showing the consequences for ordinary people. Stories can give us something aspirational, showing acts of heroism and self-sacrifice for a worthy cause. And stories can give us a way to handle the scary in life.
So, what books inspired me? Though I have read many excellent books, I write, not because of any one specific book, but because stories are how I make sense of the world, how I cope. Stories matter and I want to do more than just consume them; I want to add to them too.
However, if you simple must have a book title or two:
- A Civil Campaign (Lois McMaster Bujold)
- Emergence (David Palmer)
- Oath of Fealty (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle)
- Practice Effect (David Brin)
- The Crucible of Time (John Brunner)