Written by Storme Smith
The Sketch-Book by Washington Irving
One of two books I remember being given me by my Grandfather with instructions to read. A collection of Irving’s short stories including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that showcased a narrative brilliance similar to modern writers Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. A master storyteller, Irving was capable of exploiting our vulnerabilities even in the most mundane of settings and situations such as taking a nap under a tree or on a lonely walk home creating a collection of short stories filled with timeless humor, surprising twists, and page-turning tension.
V the Crivit Experiment by Allen L. Wold
A television show with flesh-eating aliens and the Beastmaster, Marc Singer, seemed tailor-made for me, and as if it couldn’t get any cooler it had Crivits. They were basically land sharks and in the book were about to be unleashed by the Visitors upon a small town in North Carolina along with an even more destructive creature known as Verlagons. The television network quickly canceled V, but the show (and the Crivits) made a lasting impression.
Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
I could have picked a list entirely of books by Michael Crichton. However, it was easy to single out the one that influenced me the most, an earlier novel, Eaters of the Dead also known as the 13th Warrior. Crichton’s factually based take on the Beowulf mythology remains my favorite work of historically based fiction.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
No one wrote the descent into madness quite like Vonnegut. He seemed to be able to bring you right to the door of the asylum, knock twice, and leave you on the doorstep hoping no one answers.
Miracleman by Alan Moore / Neil Gaiman and Various Artists
Alan Moore’s ability to find the core of a character and then put his personal twist on it has never been better exemplified than on Miracleman. A brilliant run on a forgotten character that would appear to have been impossible to follow, yet somehow Neil Gaiman pulled it off. Gaiman’s short tenure would include my personal favorite issue, Down Amongst the Dead, where an Andy Warhol clone attempts to lead Miracleman’s greatest enemy, Doctor Gargunza, on a path to redemption. As a series, it discussed the philosophy of the genre with unparalleled depth. I’m not sure if the comic resonates with readers to the extent it did in the 1980’s, but I believe that is mainly due to the fact today’s comic creators have borrowed extensively from this classic.
Heroes in Hell by Various Writers, Edited by Janet Morris
The first in a series of shared world anthologies about heroes, villains, and ordinary people dealing with the curse of eternal damnation. Stories usually included historical figures dealing with the same problems they did in life now in death. It opened my eyes up to the unlimited opportunities available to a fiction writer, if they can put Julius Caesar in a tank on Hell’s borders well, then I could certainly write whatever the hell I want.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
A book of contradictions similar to the ones we deal with in the 21st Century. A man of progress, who is horrified by the injustices of the feudal age, upon his death bed in the 19th Century yearns only to return to the past to what he perceives as a simpler time. A still timely tale full of creative problem solving and social commentary. It successfully uses time-travel as a metaphor for how humanity views the passage of time, always yearning for the safety of the past fearful of an uncertain future.