Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spitfires in Space!

I said there would be a post on this thing, and lo! It hath arrived. I'm not entirely certain what to do with this thing, so methinks I shall just rack off authors I absolutely love, and why I absolutely love them. Oh, and it's probably going to be a little crime novel heavy, because I love the authors of just about every book in my veritable library of a book collection and I cannot do all of them, and also because I figure the rulesies said YA but I am not a YA person so I do it for mah ownz genre, with others peppered in.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
This is a man who deserves more props than could ever be given. I was never the biggest reader in elementary school, but I read a lot less before I read him. Admittedly, this is partially because I was only eight when I first read The Hobbit, and you don't really read a lot when you're learning to read, but still. Reading the Hobbit got me hooked on books. And, far more importantly, it was reading the Hobbit that first exposed me to the idea of writing. For years I had been saying all sorts of things about what I wanted to do with my life -- the crowning achievement there being that, when I was two, I would say I wanted to be a cow -- but the Hobbit closed the deal. I realized it were possible for me to write, and it were all I wanted to do. Only once did I waver in that conviction, at a time when I had been suffering from a nasty case of writer's block that lasted for a little over two years. If it weren't for Tolkien, maybe I would have wanted to become a writer, but maybe my interest in voice acting would have won out. And if I did decide to become a writer, it probably wouldn't have been until much later, and I would still only be working on the core basics of the craft right now instead of honing them as I write a novel.

But more than being the one who made me want to write, I adore all of his works. And I mean all of his works. Tolkien makes up the largest single author in my veritable library of a book collection. I have the compendiums of all his notes. I have the books full of incomplete histories with notes. I have the books with the complete histories. I, obviously, have the main body of his work. I have the scattered incomplete versions of Children of Hurin and the final, polished version his son touched up. For crying out loud, I have the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anything this man put pen to, I've got a copy of. It's true just about all of his works focus on Middle Earth, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's a brilliant place with a lot to explore. And his few non-Middle Earth works are equally as brilliant. Writing wise, the man was just plain grand.

Arthur Conan Doyle
Come now, surely you knew some crime writer was going to turn up on this list. Although perhaps you thought it would've been the Queen of Crime. Personally, much as I enjoy her works, I've always found the Marple stories dull, and her writing style isn't very well suited to the non-Hastings narrated Poirot stories. Besides, Dame Agatha may be the "Queen" but Sir Arthur is, without a doubt, Rex Imperator. Edgar Allan Poe is responsible for creating the detective story, but it was ACD who was responsible for refining it and popularizing it. And indeed, Christie may have a better record of sales, but a common bloke on the streets is likely to be more familiar with the name Sherlock Holmes than Hercule Poirot.

Sure, ACD's writing isn't perfect, but like all of us, he gets better (compare A Study in Scarlet to later works like his Challenger stories) and what he lacks in technicality, he makes up for in believability. Whether reading Holmes, Challenger, or his incidental historical novels, one thing which continually stands out is Conan Doyle's ability to make you feel like you're reading about real men rather than some characters on the page. If a good writer makes his audience feel for the characters, then count ACD among the greats.

Christopher Paolini
Okay, so I don't love Paolini. In fact, Eragon was the only book of his I could stand to read and that was years ago. It's entirely possible I'd go back to it now and abhor it. But this is author appreciation and I do most certainly appreciate Christopher Paolini. The man was 19 when the vanity published version his parents put out was picked up by a major publishing house, and he has since had a fairly solid and successful career. Whether or not that career carries on beyond Inheritence is up to debate, but it's there now, and it's making him money. Sure, Paolini wasn't the first and there have been other, even more recent, young authors, but Paolini is the one who managed to make it closest to the public's eye (becoming mega-popular for a brief time, what with a film adaptation and all), and that really is what is important to me. I was always going to write and strive for publication, but I thought it was impossible for anyone who wasn't in their late 20s or early 30s, at youngest, to actually find publication. That Paolini achieved the success he did at the age he did showed me hey, it's possible (though doubtful) such could happen to me.

Ian Rankin
Squee! Admittedly he's pretty much just on here because I love his books, goddammit, but he is good. Really good. The Rebus novels are great, if not perfect. And his non-Rebus books are very solid, too. His recent book, The Complaints, is like, crazy good, too. I really hope he writes more like it. Okay, okay, so there is a valid reason for his being on here other than his being fantastic. One thing Rankin does that I love is super-realism. Obviously they're all fiction and some plots are a bit more outlandish, but they just about all feel like they could actually happen in Edinburgh.

Another realism point I love is his decision to make it flow in real time, so with the four year gap between Knots & Crosses and Hide & Seek, there's four years of Rebus doing his Rebus-ing we shall never see. Four years in which he got promoted, no less. Not many authors, particularly of a crime series, would allow their detective to flow in real time. He would either be ageless or several novels would be crammed into a short fictional timespan to maximize on the detective's youth. So I really love that he decided to go with the whole real time thing.

Val McDermid
First off, what is it about Scotsmen and crime fiction? I mean seriously. My three favorite crime authors are Scots, and they are all gods of it. Sometimes I wonder if my Scottish ancestry is responsibible for my love of the genre, which really has always been present (after I finished LOTR, I spent a lot of my elementary school days reading ACD and the like, and even when I was writing things like scifi and fantasy, it was always my favorite genre to read).

McDermid, like Rankin, tends to go for realism. Some of her plots, however, are a bit more outlandish, like The Grave Tattoo. Grave Tattoo in a nutshell is thus: Dude turns up dead in the Lake District covered in tattoos, local woman decides to investigate her theory of a connection of dead man to the mutiny on the Bounty, insanity and subplots ensue. But one thing that really aides all of her novels is her willingness to do research. Obviously research is required for writing any novel, and a good author does plenty. McDermid's levels of research are insane. And I mean insane. Holy frakin hannah did she pull out all the stops when she was researching A Place of Execution. She consulted newspapers, police, true crime writers, bloody everyone possible, and judging by the way she wrote the acknowledgements, it sounds like she spent at least a year doing all the research before she let her idea turn into a book. And it is like this with every single book of hers I have read. That, my friends, is dedication. That is precisely why she is so damned good.

I could go on all day fanboying over my entire bedroom library, but there's five samplings for you. Also, contemplating adding some sort of "presently reading" widgety thing to the sidebar. Contemplated adding one of those virtual bookshelves, but as I have said before, I have a library. I think any site's database would explode if I were to do such a thing. But might still do it. We'll see what becomes of both of these ideas.

I'm sorry, what's that? Oh, the title you ask? I know, I know, spitfires in space has absolutely nothing to do with author appreciation. At least, nothing to do with the authors listed here. And you would be correct. Spitfires in space relates to something INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT than any author on the face of the earth, ever. Spitfires in space relates to the most important thing in my life right now.

No, not an actual spitfire. That's just plain silly. THIS:


  1. All of the above = the bomb. Very well played sir :~D

    Ian Rankin's books do feel like they could happen, seriously. I'm not a wimp (although perhaps I do have an over active imagination, but that's kind of pre-requisite for this whole writing malarky right?) but whenever I visit the city I can see the scenes he describes taking place. It feels like at any moment I'll bump into the grumpy inspector himself. I LOVE IT.

    Glad you decided to contribute, it doesn't matter that it's not YA. I plan to just go with whatever authors I like best. ..

    Great post :~)

  2. Of all of those, I've only read Tolkien and Paolini. I'm a fantasy girl. Koontz is my favorite, no question about it.

  3. Never read Koontz. Dunno why but I've never had any interest in even glancing at his books. Although Wikipedia tells me he's from my home state, which makes him +3 cool, but he's from the non-awesome part of the state, so that's -2 awesome. But he's still one up, so that's something.