Sunday, June 29, 2008


There was a post recently about Brian Michael Bendis talking about the inspirations for the major storylines he's got going in the Marvel universe (Secret Invasion and Illuminati). I was really surprised when he mentioned the titles of the books he'd read. He said: "Honestly it came about because I was reading 'Alien Agenda' by Jim Marrs. His book 'Ruled by Secrecy' was what inspired the Illuminati." The book also inspired what's been going on with Walker in the Powers series. "And I've always been a fan of the Skrulls and the legacy of them and every story that featured them -- which had become few and far between as time went on."

I'm always interested to hear writers talk about inspirations. Hence my liking for these books (I own volume one, but not two, yet):

Writers on Comic Book Scriptwriting

The Second Volume

This goes back to a conversation Miranda and I were having. Sven wanted the dreaded Author photo (I don't photograph well at all as you can see). So we came up with the idea of the photograph near my bookshelf--wouldn't it be interesting, we thought, to see what authors read? What inspired them? Of course, it's a fairly pretentious idea for a first time author to do that (and luckily, we took one photo that worked out better). Still, the idea is cool--what if you could have a chance to ask your favorite author what they read?

So I think I'm going to start doing a series of posts that talk about what books have inspired me to change my life or write like I do (I totally stole the idea from Devon).

Here's the first entry:

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

This book is sheer genius from design to writing to story. It's a masterwork, and that level of praise maybe invalidates my point of view in some people's mind, but I'm not kidding. This novel revolutionized the way I think about books.

The college I went to for my Masters was a good school, but it was a little hesitant about "new" concepts. There were no classes on experimental novels, for instance (at least not one that I ever saw on the books). I bumbled into this one.

See, the story is about a guy who is unsure that anything he says will be un-edited. Will be real. So the story involves him hijacking an airplane (the reason the film was dropped--it was in production just after "Fight Club" hit big, but is now on track again and will be out soon). He does this in order to use the flight recorder, the only indestructable, unalterable recording device he knows of, to record his life story. So the novel represents the literal transcription word for word of an unalterable document of his oral history...the ultimate blending of narrative techniques.

As if that wasn't cool enough (and trust me, that would have been plenty), the novel also represents moving from the past to the present moment for the reader...hence the novel is numbered backwards. We start at page 200 and something and work our way down to 1. That might seem gimmicky, but it very much fits the concept of the novel and heightens the reader's awareness that we are moving toward a present-moment. And we know it's going to be something terrible.

Not to mention that the novel is just a great story. Sort of his take on Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I don't want to give any more away in case you haven't read it; I'm recommending that you do. So the fractured-ness of the novel didn't inspire my own novel(s), but it did make me feel validated in the fractured-ness of my own work. That a good story doesn't have to be told linearly, point A to point B.

This novel is a major inspiration in my life.

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