“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The best part about I&I posts? Writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.
Today we are pleased to be highlighting Candlemark and Gleam’s author David Colby and his debut LGBT Science Fiction novel Debris Dreams, the first in a planned trilogy following Drusilla Xao, a Spacer teen turned Space Marine.
Please give it up for David and his inspirations & influences!
It was the early 2000s, I was the tender age of 13, and I had found a sanctum: a place of safety, a place away from the strife and turmoil of the middle school campus…a mythical, magical place known as “behind the band room.” There, my friends and I were free to play RPGs—roleplaying games. Though the most popular and famous RPG is Dungeons and Dragons, my friends and I were odd and experimental and played Fallout: PNP. Based off the (then obscure) Fallout series, Fallout: PNP let my friends experience the lives, adventures, and (far too often) the deaths of brave and stalwart heroes in a nuclear-blasted wasteland…while I, as the game-master, got to kill them off in various creative and engaging ways.
Advice for the future post-apocalyptic survivor: don’t drink perfectly clean water. That means it’s radioactive.
That was my first real experience “writing.” It was a good one, as learning to create engaging stories for a bunch of bickering pre-teens who wanted to blow things up rather than follow my carefully crafted plots taught me how to handle just about any hiccup thrown at me by a novel. But, sadly, we had to grow up: Cupertino Middle School fed into two different high schools, Fremont and Homestead. The group split, half heading into the prisonlike cube that is Homestead, the other half heading into the Spanish Mission-styled Fremont.
And yet, despite that, the group continued and the game continued, albeit on Sundays rather than at lunch. We tried out new RPGs, and these RPGs became the bedrock for my writing. Fallout: PNP, with its apocalyptic vision and black humor. Dungeons and Dragons, with its trappings of high fantasy and Tolkien-esque adventures. The incredibly short-lived Matrix RPG (it wasn’t as cool as the movies). But the RPGs that impacted me the most, from a writing perspective, were the works of White Wolf.
The first White Wolf RPG to be introduced to me was Aberrant. Most people get their start with the vamp-tastic World of Darkness, but I was given Aberrant first by a good internet-based friend of mine named Lucy. Aberrant takes place in the (then distant) future year of 2008, in a world where there are people with superpowers…but no one is actually a superhero. It was a Watchmen-esque deconstruction of the superhero genre, where fame and ratings and merchandise were just as important as saving people—if not more so. There were almost no supervillains (though there were superpowered terrorists) and it was the only superhero RPG I’d ever played wherein playing a super-porn star was not only totally in keeping with the universe, but actually a really effective way to play.
I mean, mega-strength can give you the ability to punch through tanks, but mega-appearance and mega-charisma gives you the tools to remake nations with your words.
But if I learned deconstruction and how to apply “realism” to decidedly unrealistic things from Aberrant, then I learned how to embrace insanity and just go all in with Exalted, which was the second White Wolf game given to me. Exalted’s backstory is too long and way too complex to go into, but…well, to make a long story short, it involves reincarnated demigods battling ghosts, werewolves, demons, and mad deities in a world that reads like someone took Chinese, Hindu, and Greek mythology, threw in a bunch of manga and anime and then hit “puree”.
Name any other setting with genetically engineered, rhino-sized lizards that urinate heroin, or a faction of fate-weaving kung-fu accountants who disguise themselves by re-weaving astrological fates about their own occluded destinies. Or, my personal favorite, the steampunk communist magic golems who use lightsabers to fight the cancer cells of their inside-out, world-sized god.
Now you understand my madness.
But my misspent youth was not simply consumed by RPGs and paganism.
I also read actual books.
First, there was what my parents taught me. When I was young, my mother read to me from the works of Larry Niven, starting with his seminal work of fiction, Ringworld. Later to be ripped off by Halo (only slightly), Ringworld was full of ideas that I would find fascinating my whole life: catlike aliens, space war, constructs on a massive scale, psychic powers. Of course, later I learned that the book also had lots of sex that my mother skillfully edited out of her readings.
I also learned that Niven had the Earth rotating the wrong way in the first chapter, which was fixed in later editions.
Once I was able to read by myself, I started off hard and fast with Brian Jacques and his Mossflower series. I know Redwall was written first, but I read Mossflower first and Redwall second, so I’m going to call it the Mossflower series to my dying day. I loved— and still love—those books.
The next series I devoured was Tamora Pierce, starting with Alanna and then moving on to her Wild Magic series, then her Protector of the Small (my favorite). These books were full of war, adventure, magic, girls being badass: everything that I loved.
They provided the foundation of my literary likes and dislikes. By now, though, I had hit high school and my brain had become a voracious reading machine. I read so much that I got in trouble for reading during lit class. Oh, the irony. Still, before I hit college, I read the first twenty Xanth books by Piers Anthony, the Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb, most of Heinlein’s works, the first three books of S.M Sterling’s Emberverse (still depresses me) and about half of Harry Turtledove’s library.
Harry Turtledove deserves a whole paragraph. See, Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and the dude has insane writing chops. If I write even half as many books as Turtledove, I will count myself lucky. I have read almost thirty books by him, and I’m not even close to finishing his works. And more than that, each of his books has a dizzying number of characters (his Into the Darkness series has almost twenty viewpoint characters and hundreds of side characters), interweaving plot threads, globe-shattering setups, and a grasp of the historic and the epic that I hope to one day match.
Plus, his books make for awesome dinner conversation with dates: “Imagine, if you will, that World War II is interrupted by a surprise invasion by alien lizards intent on conquering the planet, forcing the Axis and Allied powers to work together against a common enemy!”
And then she never went out with me again.
Still, a single book deserves special mention here: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
The Forever War was, is, and will remain one of my favorite novels of all time, even if reading some parts of it still makes me want to throw up a bit. The Forever War is about a soldier—Jason Mandalla—who is recruited against his will into a futuristic military service to fight an alien menace. What makes the book unique, though, is how it handles the issue of general and special relativity. There is a method of faster than light travel in The Forever War—you fly a spaceship really fast towards a black hole and then pop out of a connected one lightyears away, instantly.
And this is a big but…
To get to the black holes, and to accelerate fast enough to achieve a jump, your spaceship needs to go really fast. Fast enough that relativity starts to rear its ugly head. Time compresses the closer one gets to the speed of light, so when our hero returns from a four-year stint in the army, twenty years have passed on the Earth. And so, the Forever War stretches not just through the galaxy, but also throughout time.
This book touches on social change, the mutability of human sexuality, the weight of history, the terror and futility of war. It has a profoundly affecting love story. It is easily one of my favorite books ever, a constant companion along the winding road that took me from being a high-schooler who GMed D&D for his friends to a published author.
I still read. More recent book love include the Temeraire series by Naomi Novak, anything by Wen Spencer, the Ciaphas Cain series by Sandy Mitchel, and a list of video games that is too long to list here. But at the end of the day, the most important thing I’ve learned from all my inspirations is that you can never stop finding things that inspire you.
To stop your creativity at books is to deprive yourself from the vast sea of ideas that float in video games, TV shows, movies, internet programs, comic books and graphic novels. And that would be a crime.
Keep on reading.
About the author: Heavily influenced by George Romero movies and bad, poorly dubbed anime, David Colby decided to start writing almost twelve years ago. It went poorly. But despite these early setbacks, David continued to work and write and send out submissions until someone was mad enough to accept him. Currently living in Rohnert Park, California, while working on his Bachelor of Arts in English, David continues to be fascinated by George Romero movies and has finally realized that animes have subtitles.
We have two digital and one paperback of Debris Dreams up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the US (for the paperback) and internationally (for the digital copies), and will run until Sunday, November 18 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!