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The Making of a Writer – Edited by C.C. Bye
Who is the most influential person, alive or dead, in why you write and how you write? Explain this influence or these influences in such a way that a reader can look at what you’ve written and go “Aha, I’ve got it.”
Her name was Miss Giles. She was short—no more than four foot eight—moderately heavy-set, unattractive, and unfriendly—especially to her students. She didn’t like us, and we detested her, this spinster teacher of seventh grade English. Perhaps she was liked by other teachers, but we never saw evidence. Her lunchtimes and free periods were spent at her desk—grading papers and reading. That woman love to read; more than I, and my father—also a teacher—said he’d never seen anyone who liked to read as much as I did. But Miss Giles, she read more.
The funny thing was she read some books over and over. Not all of them, but some. The ones she read and read again were poetry. Tennyson, Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats, Milton, Shakespeare, Browning, Whitman, Carman, McCrae, Kilmer, Longfellow, Service: the list went on. And Poe. Miss Giles loved Poe; she read his poems to us. When she did, her eyes would light; she would become almost attractive. The other students laughed. Poetry—who cared? I did. Miss Giles cared about the sound of language—not just the conveyance of meaning. I learned to care, too. It isn’t enough to tell the story; I strive to make the words sing.
- Kenneth Weene -
The biggest influence on my writing is Aldous Huxley.
His “Brave New World”, answers the major question of faith, which one of Mark Twain’s characters defined as “believing what you know ain’t so”. It shows people of good will saying and doing bizarre things based on a belief system in which Henry Ford has replaced Jesus as the figurehead.
And why? Habit, emulation, peer pressure and fear of social ostracism. Allied with a renunciation of skepticism and even reason, in the face of material comfort.
You can see this influence on “Goodbye, Padania” when my main character, Daria, who has set up a cult with herself as leader, explains her “miracles” to her followers to show that no magic is involved. “Wow,” they say, “you did all that without using magic!” Later, she abandons them, but they blithely carry on without her.
My concern with faith goes beyond religion to encompass blind belief in political systems or, in “Heresy”, in food fads. This last, and a forthcoming e-book, are heavily influenced by Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception”, in which he reflects on how belief systems act like a drug, at the individual level.
- Bryan Murrphy -
The Best of Damon Knight was marketed as a book of short science fiction stories. But the reality of the book and the author was that commentary, fantasy, humour, horror, satire and science fiction were included in his book. But back then, from the 50s right through to the 70s, one only had science fiction and fantasy as genres for speculative works. Horror was growing, but it took Stephen King and a few others to legitimize it.
Anyway, it was this thought, that all these kinds of writing had to be put under the rigid titles called science fiction or fantasy or even horror, that drove me to never write books in the same genre. We have genres so that both authors and readers know what to expect when writing and when reading. But wherever did the idea come from that you must pick one of them to sum up your life. “Oh, so you’re a horror writer,” someone says. Yes I am, but I’ve also written a business book, crime stories, a book about emotion, a fantasy novel, how-to-books in different genres, a book of poetry, a science fiction novel, suspense stories, some satire, a book of personal essays…and on and on.
Damon Knight ignored labels, and because of him, so do I.
- C.C. Bye -