Ted Fauster‘s Magnificent Seven
I’ve been asked to list seven of my top books and/or films that have influenced me as a writer. I am happy to do so. But I’m going to skip the books this time. Oftentimes, we hear about all the incredible books that have influenced writers, yet there are so many films that have done just the same, sometimes even more so. I could go on and on about the books that have influenced me, so I’ve decided to list seven films that have changed me as a person and influenced me as a writer.
In no particular order…
This lesser-known George Lucas film was his brilliant student effort, Lucas’ first exploration of a dystopian future society where consumerism and conformity have led to a communal kind of blandness and malaise. Thousands upon thousands of people dwell in a labyrinthine underground city/world—all dressed the same, all with their heads shaved. Conformity drugs are the norm. Citizens tell their innermost secrets and confess transgressions to an electric Jesus, and the vast majority of them seem to slave in dangerous radiation-laden factories building chrome-colored robo-policeman.
I was very young when I saw this film. The lonely undertones struck me hard. Was this my future? Was this the world my parents and all the adults around me were struggling to bring forth? At the end of the film the protagonist escapes up out of a hatch into what we can only assume is the “real world” above, and inside my tiny child heart cheered.=
This film is Dungeons and Dragons come to life, even before there were Dungeons and Dragons movies. It’s what really gave me the young idea for writing what I now call Science Fantasy Adventure. You’ve got weird aliens invading what is basically a magical fantasy realm. Swords and sorcery, and laser guns and machinery. All set to the tune of a giant and menacing fortress that mysteriously appears then disappears. Liam Neeson is awesome as a marauder turned good guy, and who can forget the cyclops guy!
This film stars Sean Connery as a space marshal patrolling a deep space mining facility. Drugs the miners use to complete their long shifts cause hallucinations. Murders and a cover-up soon follow. I think it was the bleak darkness of this film that got to me. You could actually feel how cold and dangerous space was. There was no majesty here like Star Wars, only desolate and lonely space.
I’ve heard so many writers say the same thing: the future isn’t pretty; the future is Blade Runner. I have to say I agree. Anymore it seems we are now living in the future that this phenomenal film predicted. Runaway weather, packed and overflowing cities, crime, and a blatant disregard for blending violent technologies with biology. Blade Runner is probably responsible for the genesis of Claire Daniels, a drug-addicted future play thing from the year 2331. Claire first appears in my novel DEOMANS OF FAEREL, and becomes a strong fixture in the next two World of Faerel novels. She is the epitome of a pampered yet forlorn societal dropout who loses herself in the depths of depravity, only to be rebirthed into a brand new world where she finds the strength to reshape her destiny and find purpose.
Clash of the Titans
Before I get started let me say—there is only one.
In the summer of 1981, my friends and I found ourselves in a movie theater, part of a summer movie program in which our parents purchased a block of tickets and then promptly shipped us off every Tuesday to go see low-budget B films. Most of them were horrible. Completely forgettable. But one film didn’t seem to fit in with the bunch.
To my young eyes and ears, Clash of the Titans was a masterpiece. Someone had actually taken the time to fictionalize an entire film based largely on the pantheon of Greek gods. There were skeletons, a Medusa, and a Kraken. The gods kept figurines of both men and monster in little cubby holes all along the walls of their grand celestial abodes. These they would place down onto maps for their amusement. My friends and were stunned to see this, since we had just started using miniatures in our D&D games. And then there was Bubo, the mechanical owl. When I saw Bubo I thought why not? Once again, a great blend of fantasy, mythology, and what would become something of a steampunk influence. Best summer ever.
Life in the year 1999 was kind of lame. Technology was growing and growing, and everyone was convinced that computers would one day rule us all. But no one had ever predicted what the Wachowski Brothers (now sisters) were bringing to the plate. It was revealed to us that not only is the future here and now, but the entire world as we now it is artificial, nothing more than a brilliant simulation meant to keep our silly little human minds occupied while the technology we developed kept us harnessed and pumped us dry of our internal power source. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that. And it didn’t. The next two films in the series sucked.
I wasn’t supposed to see this film. I was far too young. But I hung out with slightly older kids, and in my town we had these things called Midnight Movies. This is how I saw Dawn of the Dead, The Keep, and many other films that effectively warped my fragile little mind. But Heavy Metal was different. This film introduced me to sex.
Back in 1981 there was no Internet. Home video players were just coming out and they were crazy expensive. No one had one. There was cable, but most of the good stuff came on about two in the morning. Heavy Metal was a cartoon. At least that’s how the movie theater saw it. Yes, it was rated R, but the movie house owners really didn’t give two shits. They knew there was nudity. Lots of nudity. But it was a cartoon, man! They took our money and we were swept away to visit alien world after alien world, with tons and tons of boobs!
And you wonder why science fantasy writers are so weird.