Lately I’ve been reading the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. I may have read it as a teenager, but I could not recall, so I’m reading it again. One thing I have noticed is how similar the series is to George Lucas’s Star Wars saga. Some of the things that jump out at me are arguably used across the genre by nearly everyone, including myself. Things like galactic empires, hyper-space starships and blasters. Others are not, like Trantor.
It got me thinking about what authors and directors influence my writing. As a teenager I read several hundred SF books and loved them all. Some of the most influential authors I read were Asimov, Alan Dean Foster and Ben Bova. I also enjoyed Heinlein and Clarke and several other, lesser-known writers. What is most interesting to me now, are the huge gaps in my SF knowledge that came by skipping some very prominent writers. In the past few years I have been filling in my gaps and reading classic works that I either have forgotten or just never managed to pick up.
Star Wars was the movie that pulled me into SF in a big way back when I was a teenager. But before that movie came out, I was a fan of Star Trek and used to role play as Captain Kirk in my childhood fort in the back yard. But I never really started reading the genre until after Star Wars came out. Perhaps not coincidently I read many space opera novels and possibly due to the influence of Carl Sagan, I read a lot of what we call Hard Science Fiction today.
Foster’s Commonwealth and Flinx books were beyond a doubt my absolute favorites for world building and non-human characters. I also really loved Asimov’s Lucky Starr novels. Larry Niven’s Ringworld was also a favorite of mine.
So when it came time for me to architect a universe for my own SF stories, I pulled about equally from our own history, Asimov, Lucas and Foster with a dash of Heinlein for good measure.
Most of my stories are either about empire building, war fighting or androids. I’ve read many SF military books and consider them all fodder for my influence. That and actual military histories and my ten year stint in the Air Force.
I have many short stories about Stellar Rangers which are obviously influenced by Asimov’s Space Rangers. Although I have not read that series since my youth and they are now long out of print. The other influence on my Stellar Ranger stories are of course American Western films and writers. It also helps that I live in Idaho, near a high plains desert.
My android series of short stories are heavily influenced by Asimov’s robot stories, but I’m hoping to bring my own spin to them. The androids in my universe are given self awareness by somewhat undefined means and are forced to reckon with feelings and emotions. They also begin to separate themselves from other sentient beings and attempt to gain their independence.
So that’s a rough romp through my influences in an attempt to understand my own writer ways.