Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whose Fault Are You?

Whose fault are you?

Tiffany Trent talked about this the other day on her blog in response to an open letter by Neil Gaiman to Michael Moorcock about author influences.

I am primarily the fault of Tamora Pierce, specifically her Alanna quartet. I discovered those books right around the time that I decided I wanted to become a writer. Not sure which came first, making that decision or reading those books, but I do remember thinking: if Alanna can become a knight, then I can become a writer. Both were impossible dreams, and mine involved a whole lot fewer sit-ups.

Always a fan of fewer sit-ups.

I'm also the fault of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. Read that book so many times that I think I could close my eyes and visualize it scene by scene. And I think Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane is imprinted on my soul. (Oh, Ed! You are the most awesomest shark ever!)

Anyway, these books (and others like them) illustrate the primary reason why I think fantasy is important: it's a literature of empowerment.

The other weekend at Boskone, I was on a panel about "Why Adults Love YA," and this was one of the things that we all agreed on: YA fantasy/SF tends to embrace idealism and optimism. It's okay to feel joy. It's okay to hope. Love will conquer all. The little guy can conquer the massive evil. Etc.

Growing up, I whole-heartedly embraced this message, and I think it shows both in the stories I love to read and the ones I choose to tell. I'm a glass-half-full kind of girl, optimistic to the point of idiocy. If I were a gazelle loose in the wild, I'd totally be the one saying, "Oh, look at that cute little lion! Such a fluffy mane! Bet he needs a snuggle! Here, kitty, kitty... AHHHHH!!!" *chomp*

How about you? Which books and authors are to blame for you?

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At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had a couple of inspirations... from when I was seven, it was the Hardy Boys, or any fantasy/mystery/sci-fi novel I could get my hands on. Recently, it was Rick Riordan, the MOST AWESOME AUTHOR... you're pretty awesome too. :)

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: I love the Percy Jackson series! I haven't seen the movie yet. (I'm behind in my movie-viewing. Just saw Avatar today. Felt like I was the last person in the known universe to see it.)

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great question! And so many wonderful answers to choose from... favorite authors from long ago and the more newly discovered ones. I am a fan of all the authors who seem to have the heart's mission to take and retell the folklore and fairy tales that speak to us through generations. Mercedes Lackey, Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, Sarah Beth Durst....

Sarah -- I just read Ice in one sitting. I LOVED it, and my only complaint is that there weren't a couple more chapters at the end!

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Anne Leigh said...

Hrmmm, well besides Alex Fliin I think...I'm you're fualt Sarah, xD. You were the first author I met face-to-face and I saw how pumped you were about your books I knew I wanted to really write my stories or at least work in the book industry :D

At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To understand the dragon you need a grasp both of symbol and of actuality. The complex, stubborn, chaotic real world is, in the end, the subject of any kind of book.

Jill Paton Walsh said this in a lovely essay defending fantasy, which is especially nice as she's not a writer of fantasy herself. It's probably not the most appropriate quote, but I don't have the rest of the essay anymore.

In fantasy, kids are empowered in a way they are not in real life. You do get some realism books with empowered kids - 'Emil and the Detectives', 'A Hundred Million Francs', 'The Year of Secret Assignments', some of the 'Swallows and Amazons' books - but on the whole the kids are operating in the confines and restrictions of a world where adults are in control and there's no triumphant overthrow of authority. In fantasy, kids do stuff, change things, make a difference. No wonder it's so heady. As JPW says, fantasy is not only relevant to children, it’s good for them.

If I wrote I know I'd be the fault of Susan Cooper, Isobelle Carmody, Robin McKinley and Meredith Ann Pierce. Oh, and Terri Windling, for the wonderful novels she persuaded people to write based on fairy tales.

It's a long shot, but I'd like to ask you about a fairy tale I'm trying to place. It starts out with three brothers going one by one to seek their fortunes. Naturally the first two don't come back, but the third is helped by a talking horse who tells him what to do and gets him out of trouble. At the end the horse persuades him to chop its head off, and it turns out to be the two brothers. I like the story because the brothers are not evil/unworthy like they normally are in fairy tales. DO you know it? I'd quite like to find it again.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Meagan said...

I'll have to "me too" Tamora Pierce, especially since I took up fencing a few years after reading the Alanna books. As a kid, also Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia C. Wrede, Anne McCaffrey, Monica Hughes and Eloise McGraw. I only just noticed they were all female... Didn't get into Neil Gaiman until I was in my late teens. I never really decided to be a writer though, I just can't remember a time I didn't intend to have a book by me on bookshelves. It didn't occur to me until college that the later required the former. Not quite there yet... but just sent my manuscript to an agent, so wish me luck?

Ok I should probably also mention Anne Martin. I was addicted to Baby Sitter Club for years. I was determined to finish the series and was well into the hundreds before I figured out the end was never coming.

At 4:12 PM, Blogger PaulaAlicia said...

Tammy is like, my favorite person ever! Her Alanna books got me into reading and I still read them once or twice a year. I usually end up rereading all her books once a year. And I am so excited for Mastiff. I've met her and talked to her on LJ a little bit and she is an awesome woman. Her recommendations actually let me to read your books!

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

RichLayers: So happy you liked Ice! Thank you! I adore all the authors you mentioned. I can't wait to get my hands on Juliet Marillier's new book.

SavyLeartist: *blush* That totally makes my day. How awesome!

Boojumlol: Ooh, I like that quote. I absolutely agree that fantasy is good for people. It both gives them strength and restores a sense of wonder -- both excellent tools for coping with life.

That fairy tale does sound familiar, but it could be because it borrows elements from other tales (the talking horse, the three brothers, even the slaying of the magic animal). I can't put my finger on this particular variant, though... I'll give it some thought...

Meagan: I've read Howl's Moving Castle a million times, and Homeward Bounders was so awesomely gut-wrenching. Also read Dragonsong and Dragonsinger over and over. Loved those books. Best of luck to you with your agent submission!!!

PaulaAlicia: I reread her books regularly too. They're my comfort food. So cool that her books led you to me! Yay!

At 12:36 AM, Blogger Shirley Shimer said...

This is somewhat off topic but after reading all the comments as well, I just have to reiterate what others are saying--ICE was fantastic!

I am slightly obsessed with East of the Sun, West of the Moon re-tellings and you took it to a whole new level. I've read both East by Edith Pattou and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George and I picked yours up (I'm ecstatic every time I find a new retelling) and I keep reminding myself that a retelling of the same story will eventually disappoint me because, really, how many different ways are there to re-tell it?

I should NOT have worried! I was completely enthralled and fascinated by your version! Let's just say, it's one that is definitely sticking out in my mind above all the others. It renewed my love of that tale all over again! And of course, once I finished yours I had to go out and do some wikipedia research about arctic scientists, polar bears, trolls, and of course the story "At the Back of the North Wind"! I LOVE it when a book inspires me so much that I just have to go out and find more information about what is mentioned and yours did that, beautifully.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Lauren said...

I agree with RichLayers. I love retold fairytales at the moment. Part of it was Edith Pattou's fault.

She should be hanged by her toenails, she wrote East so well. It inspired me to take up crocheting again (not weaving, but close enough), although I am currently not keeping up well with it.

The imagery is so vivid, and I love the portrayal of Scandinavia and the north. And I love East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

It makes a girl wish she could only write as well! But yes, Edith Pattou and Jessica Day George wrote excellent retellings of EotS, Wotm, and I recommend them to be read in that order.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

slightlynorsk: *blush* Thank you! Your comment totally made my day. Glad it inspired you to read more about the Arctic. I had a fantastic time doing research for this book. Read a ton of explorer memoirs, nature guides, survival guides... Very fun.

Lauren: Jessica and I actually interviewed each other on our respective blogs. I adored her book. Very beautiful. I haven't read East yet, but I've heard good things about it too.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Lauren said...

I definitely recommend East to you then, Sarah. Pattou's imagery is beautiful, even if you're not a writer.

I had just realized what your post was really about (writers being inspired), and as a writer, I'm not sure who I was inspired by, persay.

I definitely love authors, though, who can paint beautiful fantasy like C.S. Lewis, or retell fairy tales in such a vivid way.

Authors who inspired me...I'll have to think about that one...maybe look for more to be inspired by.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger briansplicing_chick said...

For me it's the percy jackson series and the mortal instruments. I love both those books. However, I'm going to bashfully say that I like your books better.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Bibliovore said...

I am so the fault of the Blue Sword. Girl Powah! Exotic lands! Hawt kings! Seriously, though, I live in Tucson because I love the desert and I love the mountains, and they feed my soul in some way. I've always assumed that I just did, just cuz, even though I was raised in the flat, temperate Midwest. Recently, though, I realized that Harry had the same reaction to Damar as I did to Arizona, and I wondered how they were related.


And where is my hawt king??

More seriously, I am also the fault of Harry Potter, or more properly, that bedrock foundational theme that Rowling kept going back to, over and over, about the importance of friends and family. Wave all the magic wands you want, it's the people you love that will come through for you (and you for them) every time.


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