The more I write, the more respect I have for those authors I’ve always loved. I could never tell you why, but I’m going to try.
I think my respect stems from the amount of brainwork it takes to invent not just an entire universe, but one that is full, realistic, and captivating. A place where people live, where events fit together in a historical narrative that explains why the story being told is being told.
I need to give credit to my mom. Although things like the Transformers and Star Wars fascinated me from a young age, she started me on this road with a few really interesting books, many of which I can’t actually remember.
The earliest book I remember from this is ‘Robot Commando’, one of a series of choose your own adventure-type books that were kind of RPG-oriented. It was a story about the only person unaffected by a drug dispersed in the air on a planet being attacked by an enemy looking to conquer it, and him having to free his people. I still have this book.
This led me to various comics (Transformers, X-Men mostly), and from there to various fantasy books, including the Dragonlance books.
Now I’ve never really been a D&D guy. We tried a bit in middle school, but the vice principal banned it because he thought it taught kids to live in sewers and be rapists or something. Anyway, the books were my first view of a story that wasn’t self-contained – one that took place on another world with its own history, peopled, customs, languages, everything. This was bigger than Star Wars in a way, because the world extended PAST what you saw in front of you.
I gobbled up as many of these as I could and then went looking for more, which lead me to David Eddings books. These weren’t huge stories in and of themselves, but contained backstories that were much bigger than the books themselves, with histories stretching back thousands and thousands of years. This series contained so much backstory, in fact, that the author wrote a whole book just detailing the world’s entire history through the eyes of one of the series’ major characters!
Since then, I found the three Lord of the Rings books and the Silmarillion, which were pretty good (I can hear bricks flying through my windows), although I found the backstory rather dense and overly mystic and war-filled.
My friend Stefan introduced me to the Wheel of Time series back in 1995 or so when we were volunteering at Toronto Brigantines, and I was captivated right away. I still have to read the last two books, but what a ridiculous series! The backstory is actually a little bit thin from what I remember, with periods of great detail connected by periods of crazy vagueness.
“Then why do you like this series?” you might ask – if the defined parts are rich enough, it just makes the holes that much more more mysterious! I firmly believe that you can’t be a fan of fiction, science- or otherwise, and not like a good mystery. Finding out the ‘why’ of something can be so satisfying!
About that time, I was also introduced to Warhammer 40,000. All I can say is woah. I know the mythos has been built upon for decades now, and it’s not really a book series per se, but the sheer amount of lore available is STAGGERING. This, coupled with much of the iconic imagery is what keeps drawing me back to this universe. There are detailed histories of entire galactic sectors, down to descriptions of the operation and construction of a hand flame thrower.
One of the differences between this story universe and most of the others I’ve been interested in is, I guess owing to it being game-based. With the exception of the main narrative of the Horus Heresy, a galaxy-wide civil war, most of the 40k story seems to be made up of shorts and other self-contained stories of various sizes. These alone wouldn’t be enough to keep my attention, but with this vast universe already developed and supporting them, everything is given a depth which they wouldn’t have on their own, and which they in fact end up adding to.
Lastly, but not leastly, I’ve been reading a comic book series lately (and looking for more volumes!) called Five Star Stories. The basic deal is something like a five-thousand year long story? Or something. On the surface, this series kind of flies in the face of what normally interests me. It’s all kind of bite-sized stories. On the other hand, the setting jumps around in time and place enough so that I’m always trying to reconcile the timeline in my mind, and constantly want to see what’s coming next.
There seems to be a connected narrative in the form of one of the major characters, who often seems to be in the center of the action, and there’s alot of mythology built around heroes, heroines, and machines that in just the previous volume were there in front of you, performing their legendary deeds.
So with all that in mind, what was the point of this post? Well, I keep getting asked what my book is about. I’m hesitant to ever say much – not because I don’t like you! but because nothing is solid yet, and who knows if it’ll ever see the light of day – but maybe a look at this will give you some insight into why it’s taken me 3 years to not write a single chapter yet.