Anne McCaffrey, Dragonquest (Michael Wheelan)
1.7.14 An Author’s Journey: 5.5, Sci-Fi Influences (Pt 5: Of Blade Runner, Sand Worms, Tesseracts, Dragons, & Steampunk)
Good Morning, Everybody:
Here are the last of my recommendations for some great Sci-Fi reading, along with major take-aways that you’ll find here and there in my Artifacts of Destiny series!
Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
Phillip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Read this book in 1982 after seeing Blade Runner, and both the novel and movie were very influential in conceptualizing darker visions of the future that will have importance in AoD’s later books…
Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
Frank Herbert, Dune Series
Dune / Dune Messiah / Children of Dune / God Emperor of Dune / Heretics of Dune / Chapterhouse: Dune
Frank Herbert’s Dune Series
I’ve not yet read what Frank Herbert’s son, Brian Herbert (along with Kevin J. Anderson), does with the Dune universe, but when I first read Dune my junior year in high school, the rest of the mid-1980s were spent in catching up on the series, and then waiting for the (then-final) book, Chapterhouse: Dune. Actually, I enjoyed both the 1984 David Lynch film version (starring Kyle MacLachlan, Sting, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, and Kenneth McMillan), and the 2000 John Harrison Sci-Fi Channel mini-series, Frank Herbert’s Dune (with William Hurt & Alec Newman).
Herbert’s Arrakis, the Desert Planet
A.J.’s takeaway: Where to begin with all the concepts that Herbert introduced? As with Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse and Eternal Champion, Frank Herbert created a new universe to which one can return with each re-reading and — given the success of Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson’s continuations – that universe is offering plenty of opportunities to expand and entertain with further stories! For me, though, the exotic sounds of the Arabic & Islamic-influenced names, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the depiction of Arrakis the Desert Planet, the great families of Atreides and Harkonnen, and the Fremen all captivated me in a very inspirational way. It’s no accident that my series begins in a desert-like setting!
Madeline L’Engle (1918-2007)
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
An Acceptable Time
A truly gratifying feeling for a parent is when your child reaches an a place (of interest and intelligence) when they can read the same books you did at their age; in my son Seth’s case, he just completed a book report last term on Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the first of a quintet of books that L’Engle wrote from 1962-1989. It was great fun to read the first novel again, and I’m hopeful that Seth will want to read the other books in the series involving the O’Keefe and Murry families.
Madeline L’Engle, Kairos Books
A.J.’s takeaway: Fans of Doctor Who might associate the term “tesseract” with the T.A.R.D.I.S., but the term actually came into sci-fi parlance thanks to L’Engle, who used physics to explain how Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which could take the Murry and O’Keefe children between planets via a tesseract, or “wrinkle in time.” (Very influential in my ideas about rune-gates (runeporten) in the AoD series.)
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
The Dispossessed (1974)
My daughter, Adriana, is currently reading A Wizard of Earthsea, the first in Le Guin’s Earthsea series of high fantasy books, and I’ll discuss those in a later blog, but the three books listed here are superb, top-notch examples of science fiction.
Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
For me, The Left Hand of Darkness was a true mind- (and gender-) bender, working on so many levels of storytelling and interpretation that it bears many readings, and, like all great literature, each visit with Genly Ai to the planet Winter imparts something new to the attentive reader. Le Guin remains one of my favorite authors, both because of her command of the English language, the Earthsea books, and these three sci-fi masterpieces.
A.J.’s takeaway: World-building and challenging societal preconceptions are the main attributes of these works in that the characters we meet on Gethen (Winter), Annares, and Urras represent their respective androgynous, anarchist, and utopian societies, but also repeatedly give much insight into the human spirit common to us all. Le Guin’s work here in these books is superb!
Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)
Anne McCaffrey, The Dragonriders of Pern
The White Dragon
This series is one (like the Dune books) to which I need to devote a summer of catch-up reading! Anne McCaffrey began the series in 1967, and I read the original and Harper Hall trilogies while in high school, but she continued the writing new adventures (some on her own, and some along with her son, Todd McCaffrey) until her death a couple of years ago. Still remember the fascination I had upon discovering the planet Pern, the telepath links between Lyssa and her dragon, and the terrible, uncaring threat of the Threads!
A Nomad of the Time Streams: The Warlord of the Air (1971) / The Land Leviathan (1974) / The Steel Tsar (1981)
The Dancers at the End of Time: An Alien Heat (1972) / The Hollow Lands (1974) / The End of All Songs (1976)
The History of the Runestaff: The Jewel in the Skull (1967) / The Mad God’s Amulet (1969) / The Sword of the Dawn (1969) / The Runestaff (1969) / Count Brass (1973) / The Champion of Garathorm (1973) / The Quest for Tanelorn (1975)
Moorcock, A Nomad of the Time Streams
I’ve written previously about the influences of Michael Moorcock (both on a literary criticism level, and also as one of the major fantasists of our time), and the two series listed above could really be thrown into either the Sci-Fi or Fantasy genres because of the elasticity of Moorcock’s Multiverse. Along with Mervyn Peake, Moorcock was one of the earliest contributors/creators of what we’ve come to call “steampunk” – a genre that conflates modern technology with usually Victorian or Edwardian settings — and in describing the adventures of British Army Captain Oswald Bastable in his “Nomad of the Time Streams” books, Moorcock achieved an homage to past sci-fi greats (Verne, Wells, et al) that still reads as vibrantly to this day. In The Dancers at the End of Time books, the reader gets reintroduced to one aspect of the Eternal Champion (Jherek Carnelian = Jerry Cornelius), and also high concepts such as power rings, time travel, and the End of Time.
Moorcock, The Sword of the Dawn (Art by Vance Kovacs, TOR)
Lastly, the Runestaff books record the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon, one of my favorite aspects of the Eternal Champion amidst the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Europe in a future that’s ruled by Dark Empire of Granbretan (Great Britain). Too much here to encapsulate in even a top-line review, but all sci-fi& fantasy books by Michael Moorcock are highly recommended (and many new editions by TOR are featuring the incredible artwork of Vance Kovacs)!
A.J.’s take-away: Greatly admire Moorcock’s entire oeuvre, and envy those who are introduced to the works for the first time; his care with the language and imaginative settings, unique characters, and high-concept fantasy & sci-fi worlds make for a guaranteed escape each time you pick up one of his books! For my works, I learned from Moorcock to trust the reader…he or she will follow you anywhere, if the story’s compelling enough and the tale is well written!