Books and authors you must read!
You Really Must!
My history of influences is many and varied and goes back to when I was a child, I remember what I read from an early age. Then there was a period I didn’t read but I remember the point I started again. If I have to be pigeon-holed, I nest easily in the Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror category. There are many important books in the category, some I’ve read, some I’m reading and some I haven’t but hope to get around to reading soon. This however, will be my take on what You Must Read…
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Notes: Born: November 1930. Died: April 2009. New Wave movement of Science Fiction.
James Graham Ballard was born in 1930, spent a period of his childhood in a prisoner of war camp in Shanghai and lived to tell the tale in Empire of the Sun. He has written some of the greatest dystopian works of world-class fiction ever to come out of Britain. It’s science fiction, Jim but not as we know it! The first novel of his I read was Kingdom Come. I bought it in hardback when it came out (which I rarely ever do, I ran out of shelf space years ago!). It was just the right time, it appealed to me after reading a review and from the minute I started it, I couldn’t put it down. The idea of it is masterful. I went on to read High-Rise, amazing and then The Drowned World, haunting and then Concrete Island which blew me away. I think I read Running Wild last which was great, you sort of know what’s coming but it’s so well done. Inbetween all these I read Crash, well not all of it. I know Ballard when once interviewed said he couldn’t understand why anyone would want ot read it and I agree, it’s disquieting. I have not watched either of the films; Crash or Empire of the Sun. I don’t think they could do justice to his work. I aim to read Empire of the Sun one day and then maybe watch the film.
So what makes him so good?
- Subject matter
- A flooded world – we could be experiencing what he wrote about quite soon?
- A block of flats – I had a school friend that lived in a block of flats, he lived on the 2nd floor. I remember going to play Subbuteo there. The 2nd floor was too high for me, I couldn’t climb to a 99th!
- Motorway wasteland – a pure genious setting for a story
- shopping Centre (or Shopping Mall, as our American cousins call it) – I can see this happening!
- A link with music
- I don’t know what else, his work is just so compelling
- There’s something about the way he writes about what he writes about that is just so right!
- Brilliance – just read him!
YOU MUST READ
- Kingdom Come
- Concrete Island
J.G. Ballard is the quinessential British Science Fiction writer.
Notes: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Born 1890. Died 1937. American author of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction. His work is classed in the sub-genre of Wierd Fiction and was published in the magazine Wierd Tales, in the 1920′s onwards. His works dealt with sanity in respect of cosmic horror; a character discovers/is pulled into the world of pre-existing beings, that populated earth, so terrible and horrific, that to glimpse of them risks insanity. The author himself lived in relative obscurity during his life but has risen to near reverence in popular culture today. He is not without controversy. Due to living in a time of racial segregation and antisemitism, along with other negative aspects of life, the reflection of these aspects are expressed in his writing. These negative expressions in some of his work cannot and should not be forgiven, they have to be taken in context of the place and time he was living in.
I first encountered HP Lovecraft by his influence and without knowing it was him. I bought Infocom‘s The Lurking Horror computer game for the Atari ST. It was a text adventure written by Dave Lebling (he co-authored the Zork text adventure) and released in 1987. I remember the vividly described locations, the Freshman Guide to the university and the G.U.E Tech student identification card. This was all in the theme of Lovecraft’s work but at the time I didn’t know it.
My next encounter was via Imagine magazine issue 13, April 1984 published by TSR UK Ltd (I bought it a lot later). It was a special thirteenth edition and celebrated the works of HP Lovecraft. There was a biography of HP Lovecraft by Paul Cockburn, it had a review of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game and associated scenarios. It had a poem entitled The Mirror of Nitocris and story called Queen Nitocris’ Mirror, both by Brian Lumley, with full page artwork. This set me on the path to discovering Lovecraft’s works. [Wikipedia - Imagine magazine]
I managed to purchase a few copies of The Unspeakable Oath whilst they were still available in UK shops. It is still going strong on issue #16/17. It is a good example of a tabletop roleplaying resource based upon Cthulhu and thus Lovecraft’s work.
I went on to read each of his stories, in various formats and it was Lovecraft’s work that inspired me to write The Rising Tentacle. Collectable Card Games provide a visual interpretation of his work and the The Art of H.P. Lovecraft’s the Cthulhu Mythos book from Fantasy Flight Games (Cover by Michael Komarck) is a great coffee table head-turner! There will always be some of his work in the horror section of local and virtual bookshops.
Today, there are many published versions of Lovecraft’s work including; free online ones (e.g. Manybooks.net). There are authors who are ‘inspired by’ him, there are many games based upon his works, there are thousands of images based upon his work (just google hplovecraft), bands and their songs are influenced by him, he literally pervades popular culture. August Derleth first published Lovecraft’s work and the Lovecraftian legacy is protected/looked after by Arkham House, a publishing company set up by Derleth and Donald Wandrei.
So what makes him so good?
- Unique approach – he was the first, others have followed. The idea of ancient beings, once treading the earth, now banished but just waiting to gain a foothold and no lack of cultists wanting to help them – genius!
- Doom – his work is doom-laden and we all like a bit of doom don’t we?
- Titles – every title is brilliant; At The Mountains of Madness, Dreams in the Witch House, The Rats in the Walls…
- The Dreamlands Cycle – another series of stories exploring a different story setting of dream
- His cross-media resonance – there isn’t an area of popular culture that hasn’t been influenced by Lovecraft’s work
- His descriptions are what keep bringing me back to his work
YOU MUST READ
- The Festival – Christmas horror story, my personal favourite
- The Call of Cthulhu – the big one!
- The Cats of Ulthar – Cats! I love the cats!
Chaosium: Mythos CCG |
Fantasy Flight Games: Call of Cthulhu LCG |
Bethesda Softworks LLC: Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the Earth |
AKLO: Listen to Lovecraft |
Just go to the horror section in any bookshop or punch in buy HP Lovecraft in any search engine you care to mention and read HP Lovecraft. Just don’t do it in the dark, alone.