Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I am thinking about the references to books I put in my stories at times. And why I do that. I think I want to show off some of my knowledge of literature. And the reason for that is that I am not at all that versed in classic literature. I have read some and love some but I am not a very well read person. Not compared to many others. So the little I know I like to impress with.

So what books and authors do I like and inspire me? When I grew up I read a lot of Science Fiction. I love Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick is one of the strangest and most fascinating books I have read.

I was completely hooked on Tolkien for a while and honestly thought that it was unfair that they lived in a world where you knew what was good and what was evil. That kind of thinking applied to the real world leads to all sorts of horrible things. I tried to read other fantasy authors and realised I couldn't stand High Fantasy, those books about some young person who is taken on an adventure to save the world from evil and where there is magic and always, always, a map in the beginning.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin made me realise that there is good Fantasy that is not Tolkien. And now we have Philip Pullman and his Dark Materials series. Brilliant author, that. I can recommend The Golden Compass, the film.

And when it comes to other kinds of Fantasy I like some of the old authors, like Edgar Rice Burroughs, and especially his Martian Tales, not to mention Robert E. Howard, most known for his Conan books. What I like about Howard's creations, that makes them surpass Tolkien's when it comes to the imagination (not necessarily writing skill), is that he presents a world that is not divided into a good part and an evil part. Other human desires runs through his stories and makes them believable.

I do love stories about the fantastic. The master of horror stories is without doubt (in my humble opinion) Howard Phillips Lovecraft, an American writer of weird fiction. A particular favourite is Arthur Machen, although I have not read very much of him, yet. And Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. He has written a really great vampire story called Carmilla. Some hints of lesbian love there which doesn't make it any worse.

Ok, are there any classics in the collection of books? I do love Jane Austen. She is one of the wittiest and cleverest writers I have read. I think that the ultimate Romantic story is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. And Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is really a brilliant read.

I discovered Francis Scott Fitzgerald not that long ago and I am very impressed by his writing style. I am at the moment reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and that is unusual since she is a contemporary writer.

I don't know if this list of authors is impressive or not but it is what I have read and what has inspired me. I know there is so much left to read and I will not have time for all the brilliant books there is.

By the way, the reference in my latest blog post was from Jane Eyre. The last chapter, I think, begins with the words 'Reader, I married him.'


Paul said...

Janice, quite an impressive list, all of the authors I have read.
Like yourself I started very young reading science fiction and fantasy with such authors as H G Wells, Jules Verne, Lord Dunsany and graduated to the more modern authors as they became available.
Love Tolkien, I know his world is unreal which is why I love him, the real world is often too much with us.
Ursula K Leguin is possibly the best female writer of the century in her genre, have you read her Always Coming Home or the Left Hand of Darkness.
I also read Lovecraft, Machen and Le Fanu though I'm not so keen on modern horror writers.
In one thing I differ from you, I find Victorian Romanticism very hard to swallow.
A fascinating post, I think that you are not in the least pretentious, I'd love to meet in a bookshop/cafè, I think that we could talk books for hours over our beverage of choice. *Smile*
Warm hugs,

Dove said...

I have read some of these authors but not all. What a wonderful idea to show us your influences and inspirations. Ursula K Leguin sounds intriguing, one to track down when I am through my current list.

I too enjoy reading both Brontë and Austen and there is a way of writing there unlike anything written today.


Janice said...

Dear Paul, I am not sure the list is that impressive but the books have been important to me. I haven't read the LeGuin books you mention but as I said, I haven't read that much...smiles. Nice to talk to someone who had read Machen. What would be your beverage of choice, if I may ask?

Dear Dove, I agree about the romantic writers. Their language is so brilliant. And thanks for your kind words about my blog post...smiles.



Wystan E. said...

Fun to read your literary preferences... an eclectic list, and a sort of journey, too.

But, dear Janice, ONLY a Brit would use F. Scott Fitzgerald's first name!!!

Radha said...

Thanks for the list, Janice. I read a lot, but find it difficult to discover good science fiction and fantasy writer. I am going to follow up with some of your recommendations!

Janice said...

Dear Wystan, a journey it is and has been, indeed. But tell me, where is the great horror in mentioning Fitzgerald's first name?

Dear Radha, thank you for reading my blog post and I hope you will enjoy what you read...smiles.