What books inspired you?

The books we read have massive impacts on how, and why we write. And there are always books amoung them who have an even greater impact, convincing us to write or change how we write.


To ,unnecessarily restate the question, what books have had massive impacts on you, or more succinctly, what books inspired you?


(Personally it's Catch-22 and 1984. Catch-22 is the most effective anti-war book everwritten, maing you think about what is happening, and it's portrayals of the arbitrariness of humanity really struck a cord. I wanted to write something like that so comedic and yet profound, then I read 1984, about the depression of totalitarianism and how we can grow to believe contradictory things, with the slowly closing noose which hangs around the main character's throat, the reveal thereof later in the book stunning me totally. After reading it I still wanted to write like Catch-22 , but with shades of 1984 growing depression as the world slowly grinds down the protagonist.)


"Soon, I Will be Invincible!" And no, not just announcing that. It was the first real superhero literature I read outside of comic books. Kind of a new way of thinking of it for me. Plus, it's possible I took something away from one of the main characters being a crazy supervillain.


I also greatly enjoyed "World War Z" which seemed surprisingly real for a work of fiction. It didn't matter that the events themselves weren't real, because the characters felt real.


It's hard to pick out any one book from the Discworld series that had a bigger effect on me than the others, but I suppose either "Reaper Man" or "The Hogfather" were particularly good out of them. Death is a very idealistic character for what he does, and I've particularly enjoyed his stubbornness in the face of things he shouldn't be able to stop. He's got some of my favorite quotes, too:


From Reaper Man,

Death: "Ruined? My harvest? Bugger that."

Death: "What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?"


From The Hogfather,

*When he's saving a matchstick girl's life* Albert(Death's Manservant): "You're not allowed to do that..."

Death(playing Santa Claus): "The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future."


And, even if it isn't the complete interaction, this spoilery video does a pretty good job of making another one of his best points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnaQXJmpwM4


In a more darkly comedic sort of way, I could also throw in there "The Master and Margarita" for having some pretty good comedy and its own sort of idealism, what with it being a bit of social satire against a real dictatorship. I'd say people would recognize the spirit of Behemoth the cat in some of my work.


And that's almost certainly the short list.


Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), the Odyssey (Homer), the Metamorphosis (Ovid), the Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri) ,the One-Thousand and One Nights, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Friedrich Nietzsche), His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman), the Republic (Plato), Battle Royale (Koushun Takami), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S Thompson), Dune (Frank Herbert), the general works of Philip K Dick, Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman, George Orwell, Cordwainer Smith and Carl Jung. If we can include it as a "book", add A Midsummer Night's Dream to that list. Also, all those old occult/Kabbalistic/Aleister Crowley books I read as a kid. And the collective bodies of work regarding various world mythologies that I've amassed over the years (with a special shoutout to A Dictionary of Fairies by Katherine Briggs, as it's by far the rarest and most expensive book I own).


I'm probably forgetting something obvious. My bookcase is a mess.


I'd second PG on Pratchett: he was a huge inspiration for me to start writing, as well as just being all around amazing. Aside from that, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy were probably my two biggest influences in terms of style, while Sanderson had a heavy hand in my approach to worldbuilding. When it comes to specifically superhero stuff, Marion Harmon's Wearing The Cape books were a great look at a 'realistic' take on superpowers, as were Samit Basu's books Turbulence and Resistance. Growing up, Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant books were a big influence on my sense of humor, and of course Douglas Adams had a significant impact as well. If comics count, then I've consciously tried to emulate James Roberts' work on Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, because he is an absolutely ridiculous writer.


Add onto that a whole pile of TV shows, cartoons, games, movies and other comics, and you get me.


Worm and Game of Thrones, in that order. What a mix!


Speaking of Wearing the Cape, the book is currently included in Genre Reader's big discounted superhero promo. If anyone wants to check it out for cheap: https://genrereader.com/2016/05/18/superhero-fiction-sale/


((disclaimer: my book is also on that list. Feel free to ignore it, though.)) ;)


Mostly the epic tragedies. Arthurian Legend. Tristan and Isolde. I think my current book's taking a bit of a Beowulf turn.


And... that's about it, really. I've also borrowed a couple ideas from the ether of pop osmosis: the concept of gaining power at the cost of a deep, personal sacrifice is hardly new. And the concept of gaining new power in time of great need has been a staple of a number of genres over a very long time.


Not sure the Pairbond concept has been directly seen anywhere else, but the general idea isn't a new one, either. Starcraft did something kinda-similar.


Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series


Michael Moorcock's Elric series


Jack Vance's Dying Earth series


LotR


The first two Discworld books.


The first two stories I ever wrote was inspired by Eragon and Maximum Ride (there's a REASON I never talk about those!) The one after that was heavily inspired by Erin Hunter's Warriors series, possibly to the point of plagiarism to be honest. The Slayer and the Sphinx and its sequel were inspired equal parts by Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. I actually don't know where my inspiration for Amber Silverblood came from, except maybe that I've always liked werewolves. Maybe the fact that I've never read a werewolf book I actually liked was inspiration in and of itself. Lastly, Juryokine and the as-of-now untitled story I'm writing right now were both heavily inspired by Brandon Sanderson. Toke's powers in Juryokine are kind of similar to Szeth's in The Stormlight Archives, and I'm trying to structure the magic system in my new story similarly to how Sanderson would do it.


@Rincewind: I know someone whose father served with Joseph Heller during World War 2. When he read Catch-22, he recognized conversations that his squadron had had during the war.


As for writing... A lot of writers and books inspire me. They include Andre Norton (the Witch World series, also The Zero Stone), Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, C.S. Lewis (Narnia, the space trilogy), J.R.R. Tolkein (Lord of the Rings), Frank Herbert's Dune novels, Harlan Ellison's short story collections ("I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"), Michael Bishop (particularly "Ancient of Days"), Kim Stanley Robinson, Connie Willis, Roger Zelazny (particularly his Amber series), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), David Brin (the Uplift series), Nancy Kress, and Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser).


I could go on longer.


Technically off-topic, but the question got me thinking.


You know, weirdly, I was more inspired to write/draw/create by a lack of books than anything else. Banned off comics, games, TV, "for fun" books, toys, for a large amount of my childhood, I made up my own stuff to compensate, based on what little I saw from television and magazines. Drew comics, "designed" video games (on paper, never had a comp to program with), made my own board games, eventually started writing, etc. That, I think, much more than anything, got me to actually create.


Hence, it's hard to really pin down specific books and short stories that really inspired me, so much as a lot of my earlier ideas were just hodge-podges of all manner of things, with my own imagination just filling in the blanks after the fact. Often times, I'd be easily influenced by something I just read or watched or played and want to do my own version, only to be bored with the idea a week or two later and move onto something else, and eventually mix and match elements from all these ideas into later projects.


Man, I never really thought of it that way, but I don't know that I can point to anything specific. There are no books or even shows I can look to and say, "That was the foundation of my creativity." It all just got thrown into a blender, really, a Frankensteinian jumble of whatever media I was able to consume between bannings.


These days, I guess what feels inspiring is to see independent, original creators doing their own thing, be it YouTube channels, Indy game devs, webcomics, or web fiction. I wouldn't say Worm was an influence story-wise (funnily, it has tons of parallels to stuff I've already come up with), but seeing that something like Worm could be written, and gain a big following, despite just being a random story by some random dude on the internet (no offense), reminds me that there is an audience out there, waiting to read yours stuff, if you just make it and put it out there.


@mooderino: Michael Moorcock is awesome. Though I liked the first couple Elric books, my real fave of his is BEHOLD THE MAN. Wicked stuff.


@Jim: Get out of here. That's too cool about Heller.


My influences have varied a lot from web serial to web serial.


KINDA SUPER GAY didn't really have any literary inspiration at all; most of it was pop cultural. I got the teen dynamic of the serial from TEEN TITANS and RUNAWAYS, got a lot of the humor from THE TICK's animated series, and got the world building techniques from ASTRO CITY. I also got the sense of humor from years of doing improvisational comedy. I'd honestly wanted to write a superhero web serial back when I was in middle school (though I had no idea what such a thing would even be called back then), but a lot of the courage to do it came from THE LAST SKULL, STAR HARBOR NIGHTS, and LEGION OF NOTHING.


GODPUNK came from a very different place. I wanted to do a truly American epic fantasy -- none of that faux-medieval european stuff -- so I was self-consciously drawing on the American tradition. Jack Kerouac was a favorite of mine back in high school -- certainly an example of "your fave is problematic" -- and his BIG SUR influenced so much of GODPUNK. That book had the washed-up writer, the mental breakdowns. Kerouac in general also did road trips well, and so I transformed the idea of the fantasy epic journey into a road trip. A lot of film noir stuff also really helped me develop the tone and dialogue style I was looking for (DOUBLE INDEMNITY and OUT OF THE PAST deserve particular recognition for their dialogue).


A bit of Sixties counterculture seeped into the later arcs, where people were tripping balls and truly getting wild. The idea of using interludes obviously came from WORM (only non-American influence I'll admit to here, lol), and the crazy plot twists honestly came about because I just love the crazy American TV shows the 21st century has thrown at us (LOST, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, ETC.)


A BAD IDEA is a very Floridian thing in my eyes. It's a bit of a continuation of the stuff I started due to inspiration from THE TICK, STAR HARBOR NIGHTS, and ASTRO CITY -- which is to say that it's focused on the chaotic nature of a world filled with superheroes. But the chaos of superheroes is combined with the chaos of Florida in general. You've got so many different populations here: Cuban, retired old people, Hatian, beach bums, Southerners, New Yorkers. And of course we're known for the weird crime. But we're also known for our own brand of crime fiction: John D. Macdonald, Carl Hiaasen, and plenty others. Elmore Leonard actually set some of his books here. But the big influence was probably Dave Barry's BIG TROUBLE, which was a book that used third-person narration to tell a dizzily funny story that whips back and forth between a ton of different characters.


So yeah, it's Florida and Florida crime mixed with chatoic superhero-ness. And of course SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE is a huge influence, as it must be on basically everyone who writes about a super villain in prose. (Before starting web serials here, I actually wrote SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE fanfiction. But you'll never find it moohahaha.)


Way, way too many to list. Pretty much every book I've read has inspired me in some way or another, either by being awesome, being terrible and showing me what not to do or by spawning ideas for stories.


There are a few that stand out though.


The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Starship Troopers (Robert A. Heinlein)

The Chronicles of Conan (Robert E. Howard)

Discworld (Terry Pratchett)

The Richard Sharpe Series (Bernard Cornwell)


I think I can almost do this in order from earliest childhood:


Superman -- books, comics, movies, my wallpaper as a child, I ran around with a j-cloth cape at the age of 2 until my aunt Karen bought me a red one. He personifies the best of human potential - truth, justice, kindness, problem-solving, optimism, helpfulness, intelligence, idealism.


Put Me in the Zoo -- a big cat with spots wants to join the zoo, and is kicked out. He shows children the tricks he can do with his spots, and they tell him "the circus is the place for you." It's the book I used to teach myself to read. Moral -- we all have gifts but where they're supposed to be useful won't be discovered until we see past our expectations and assumptions.


Beauty and the Beast -- the first time I realized an author could communicate ideas to a reader (rather than just tell a story for the story alone.) Moral -- character is more important than superficial appearance.


The Hobbit -- my dad had a big edition with illustrations from the animated film, so I thought it was a children's book and read it when I was five. Moral -- heroes come in all sizes, despite expectations. Lord of the Rings came later but the Hobbit is superior in my mind probably only because of when and how I encountered it.


The Chronicles of Narnia -- fantasy world, magic, wonder -- but also theological principles, and ordinary children doing extraordinary things because of their humanity, which doesn't require fantasy or magic.


To Kill a Mockingbird -- ordinary people in an ordinary place, again displaying the moral weight of all our actions -- how we treat neighbours, what we do about a rabid dog, how we treat birds, how we defend the innocent.


Who Has Seen the Wind -- God in the untamed, the unpredictable, the wild, the free.


Stranger in a Strange Land, Number of the Beast -- Robert Heinlein's fiction in general dominated my teen years, but those two books caused me to think about the nature of reality, and learn about quantum mechanics.


Jurassic Park, Congo -- science's place, the natural order, human's power contrasted with humility, chaos theory.


1984, Animal Farm -- history, politics and systems, versus human identity and freedom, and how we can use narrative and symbols to allegorize and inform.


Atlas Shrugged -- I read this in university, and I'm no Ayn Rand disciple, but while her economic theories are fuzzy, the idea that we are responsible for our actions, all of them: theological, political, economic, moral, social, still matters to me.


Shakespeare. All the Shakespeare. There is no author like him, and he's worth studying. Interweaving plot, characters, foreign and historical sources, symbolism, religion, hubris, psychology, poetry, fantasy, magic, war, violence, love, law, justice, morality and humour... infinite variety.


The Dark Tower series -- particularly Wizard and Glass -- Stephen King has fans and detractors, but Wizard and Glass is a great book, again because of layers -- western, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, symbolism, characters, plot, morality, ka (destiny, fate), adventure, suspense... some of his individual books are amazing (the Stand) and some are long slogs (Insomnia) but Wizard and Glass is one of the best books I've ever read, by anyone, ever.


Worm. I grew up with comics and Wildbow has a creative output that rivals anything Stan Lee and Jack Kirby produced, and they produced the majority of the Marvel Universe. I never thought I'd see one person that could combine all the things I like -- ordinary humanity, science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, horror, plot, characters, symbolism, morality, ongoing subplots... Wildbow has the talent of being inventive rather than derivative, even in well-trod genres, and of immersing the reader in the story world such that you forget you're reading a story, it seems like it's really happening. Pact sometimes lost that immersive quality, but it's only the second story Wildbow ever published. I will not be surprised if out of anyone online, students study things by him in schools a century from now. I could be way off base, but that's how I see his ability, and I've studied everything -- Faulkner, Golding, James, Tolstoy, Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Shaw, Marlowe... he may not have written a "traditional" classic yet, but I feel he's the most capable writer I've ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Sorry to everyone else.


There are people in this community who do individual things better (For instance, Sarah Suleski can make me "feel" a character's emotions better than any writer I've ever read in my entire life) but no one person has all the tools in the toolbox the way Wildbow seems to. For everyone who has a good "hammer" -- impactful action, for instance, -- he has a hammer and a screwdriver that twists things around to surprise you. Plus umpteen other tools. It's a little scary, but it's also inspiring because he's an example of what dedication and practice can cause -- with enough time and focus, any one of us could become great.


I don't have the time for fiction anymore -- I'm raising five kids, and taking care of two churches, and doing school work, and trying to keep up with my wife. But the twins go to school in September and I'm hoping that opens up time for writing, because it's only with time and effort that we get better.


Oh, and the most important book in my life -- The Bible. It is a lot of things -- the collective memory of the Hebrew and Christian cultures, a synthesis of myth, history, fiction, poetry, songs, prophecy, dreams, letters, and lives, layers of allegory, parable, symbolism, self-reference, meta-narrative, breaking the fourth wall, theology, religion, love stories, horror stories, war stories, success stories, tragedies and comedies, it is anything but boring if you take the time to really read it. And, if you open your mind and heart to it, it can change who you are for the better. I feel like all the good books above prepared me in some way for understanding the Good Book, and in many ways it shows the power of experience -- that all our experience can be seen through its lens, and then reshaped by that encounter. All good books immerse you in a world temporarily, and then release you with some new ideas -- but the Bible seems instead to reveal the real permanent world those temporary ones hinted at. There's a place within it for all the science and all the history and all the lives and all the struggles, all the wonder of humanity.