For a while, influence maps were a popular trend among artists on deviantART. It spread outward and I saw them on other art sites, from time to time, but I never made one. Sure, I draw – I’m not terrible at it, either, though I’m far from being great. But my real art is my writing, so when I finally made my influence map, I decided to base it off that. So, here’s my map. See how many things you recognize at a glance, then I’ll talk about each of my influences for just a second.
You can click it for a much larger version.
Left, Row 1 – The Black Gryphon
When I was in my early teens, reading anything by Mercedes Lackey was a delight. After revisiting her works as an adult, I’ve changed my mind, but I won’t deny that this one trilogy in particular had a definite influence on me during my formative years. It was the first series I encountered that gave a glimpse of the kind of world I wanted to build. The Black Gryphon was the first of Lackey’s books that I read. Seeing something close to the concepts of fantasy I already had in my head was thrilling. I was probably 13 or 14 when I first read the trilogy, but some things – Magic and monsters in particular – have never left the back of my head.
Left, Row 2 – The Wheel of Time
This series is the most recent addition to my list of influences. As my taste in literature grew up along with me, I found that, as an adult, it’s very difficult for me to find books that measure up to my literary standards. I’d had friends urging me to read the Wheel of Time books since I was 15, but I never bothered – Even though I had a copy of the first book! It was largely frustration at lack of quality reading material that drove me to finally pick it up, but once I did, I was hooked. I’ve not finished the series yet, it can be very slow to advance, which means I like to take breaks at random to read other things. But through the 6 books I have read, Jordan manages to keep from contradicting himself or losing track of any of the many, many characters, and that’s a pretty impressive thing for an author to achieve.
Left, Row 3 – The Death Gate Cycle
I chose Elven Star to represent the series because it’s my favorite thus far – I’ve read all but the last book, which has always proven hard to find. I really need to just order it off Amazon.
There’s not a lot to say about why I love these books, I think they speak for themselves. They’re well-written and easy to follow, bear plots that are far from transparent, and have an excellent cast of characters to go with fantastic world building.
Top Center – The Lord of the Rings
My biggest influence, and how could it not be? The Hobbit introduced me to fantasy and Tolkien’s work at the age of 8, but when I read The Lord of the Rings after, I got lost in those pages, and I think a part of me will never come back out of them. All the greatest fantasy I’ve read since shows the influence of Tolkien’s writing. He was a true pioneer into what we know as modern fantasy genre, and few series can now touch on things as mainstream as orcs and elves without giving a nod to his formative works.
Right, Row 1 and 2 – Record of Lodoss War
Record of Lodoss War was my first anime series. Sure, I’d watched a few episodes of things here and there, but Lodoss War was the first I completed. Once I completed it, I bought it on VHS, in a time when movies were something I simply didn’t do. The VCR is buried somewhere in the attic, but Lodoss War still has a place of honor in the living room. In an era where visual effects meant fantasy movies were often campy and ridiculous to watch, cartoons simply did it better. Epic battles, compelling story, and Tolkien-esque goblins and elves – All were portrayed well in a medium that gave it the credibility such a great fantasy series deserved.
Right, Row 3 – Dragonriders of Pern
I was introduced to the series by my childhood librarian, a wonderful lady named Wanda. She knew exactly the sort of thing to recommend when I told her I wanted something based in fantasy, and she handed me the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy, which I still think are some of the greatest Pern books. It’s not really a secret that I don’t like science fiction, but Pern distanced itself enough from its sci-fi basis to give the first 6 books I read a definite fantasy lean. And come on, dragons. It’s not like it needed much more than that to ensnare me. I’d always loved them, but after the Pern series, dragons have always been a mainstay of my idea of fantasy.
Whew… this post has grown far beyond what I originally planned, so I’m actually going to stop here – You can view part two here, and see me speak about the rest of my influences and why they’ve remained a part of my life.