Monday, May 14, 2007

What We Owe The Past

I could not have written Swords of Talera without Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Kenneth Bulmer (aka, Alan Burt Akers). I couldn't have written Cold in the Light without Ray Bradbury and Dean Koontz. There are other influences, of course: Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Louis L'Amour, John D. MacDonald, Peter Straub, a hundred others.

Someone labelled "Swords" as "in the grand tradition." But that's true of all writers. Whether we are writing in the tradition of Moby Dick and Don Quixote, or Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler, or Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, we are all following traditions established for us by those great writers who have gone before. Even if our work is mixed in genre and approach, it is mixed out of the traditions established by others.

It seems to me the height of egotism for any writer to assume that his or her work stands free of influence, newly born into the world. None of us wants to do exactly what has been done before. All of us want to bring our own personality into the writings that we produce. But all of us have our debts to pay, and all of us should realize that there have been many good storytellers in the past and we of today can learn from them.

Today I celebrate my debts. They'll never be paid off. And that's the way it should be.

7 comments:

Avery DeBow said...

It's impossible to write a novel without the influence of others. I'm always finding different writers and taking bits and pieces from their styles. Anyone who says they write without outside influence is either lying or was raised in a bubble.

Michelle's Spell said...

You're so right about influence. The things we love as readers become a crucial part of our writing, I think. I'm just hoping to write a book half as good as Last Picture Show -- and McMurtry wrote that when he was twenty-five. Amazing to think about that fact!

Erik Donald France said...

Right on, as in all the arts. Blues, jazz, visuals, movies, novels, stories, all of it -- even breaking from a past tradition is still drawing from that well.

Danny Tagalog said...

There's no escaping it whatever art you pursue, but it is even more incradible when the debts are clouded, but it's a lot of fun tracing the influences of artists.

Donnetta Lee said...

Yes, Charles, you are exactly right! Debts are owed by all. Nice when you pay them back by acknowledging them. Good thoughts.
Donnetta

the walking man said...

I don't know who influenced me. Must have been someone though. But I don't write larger works in a specific style or genre. But kudos to who ever it was and congratulations to me for they (critics) will never be able to say; I imitated or was influenced by so and so because all of my writing stays on the shelf.

I write it and that's all, publishing it...boring bit of begging I can do without, but that is not a slam on you Charles or anyone else who wants that goal.

I perform the shorter pieces live and let a few others read the longer pieces and then on the shelf with them. I know I will never run out of words. But I dislike the publishing worlds idea that if it can't be a serialized set of works like James Patterson (Alex cross), Stephen King (mostly the same story with different backgrounds[there are exceptions])and on and on and on, then I have no real interest in it. I write for an audience that will mostly never see it.

My poetic influences though are all over the map, coming from 18th to 20th century poets and one 21st century poet.

Bernita said...

Indeed.
We are like Tennyson's Ulysses - "I am a part of all that I have met."