In my first post at Geek Goes Rogue, I quoted Simon Pegg and what defines a geek. We’re passionate about the things we love. Things have been getting a bit heavy around these here parts, so I thought I would break it up a bit.
Here are my top ten favorite writers of all time. Some of them are influences on my own work, some of them I just read for pure pleasure. Many of them have “geeky” connections. Remember, if I were doing this on literary merit AND Geek outness, they’d probably be arranged in a different manner. Chabon would be much higher on this list, for example. I decided this list based on 1) Personal writing influence on me 2) Geek awesomeness 3) People whose books I would buy just because their name is on the front cover.
10) Michael Chabon My first introduction to Chabon’s work was The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I knew nothing about him and his work. The novel hooked me on all things Chabon. I respect him as a writer and his daring. He is not afraid to be a genre writer even as he gives us stunning literary fiction. Last time I checked, Jonathan Franzen, the supposed great American writer, hasn’t written a comic book, kid’s book and won the Pulitzer Prize. Chabon has done all three. He wins.
9) Jane Austen Yes, THAT Jane Austen. I love this saucy English minx. She gives stunning character descriptions, lovely stories and a sharp, sharp wit. I know everyone’s favorite (who loves Jane Austen) loves Pride and Prejudice. For me, I love Northanger Abby which is her satire on all things Gothic.
8) J.K. Rowling Another saucy English tart, but in a different way. Harry Potter has been the defining book series of this generation. No one comes close. We (or our great grandkids anyways) will be reading Harry on the moon. Further, very few people have combined magic, adventure, self-sacrifice, and wonderful world creation in the same way. (And pssst, she is a Christian, take that book burners)
7) J.R.R. Tolkien If I were to list my favorite book of all time, it would have to be Lord of the Rings. Plus, if you were going to say one book that help start modern day Geekdom, it would have to be Lord of the Rings. So, why is Grandfather Geek so low on this list? Simply because he’s had so little influence on my style of writing. That isn’t a slam on him. I’m just not interested in recreating the wheel. When it comes to High Fantasy, no one does it better than Tolkien. No one. I doubt anyone will come close to him in our life time. George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan fail to reach Tolkien in a number of different areas. That’s probably a blog post for another day.
6) Walker Percy He is by far America’s most under-appreciated writer. He knocks you out in so many different ways through either cutting, insightful humor to bringing out the sadness of the modern human being. The man is a titan and I reread him every chance I get. As for his geek cred, three books stand out; Lost in the Cosmos, Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome. Lost in the Cosmos is a great satire on the modern self-help book. The latter two books are speculative fiction set in a not too distant future. These books examine topics from sex to the government drugging our water supply to make us more passive. Catch your fancy? The main character is a self-described bad Catholic.
5) C.S. Lewis So much has been written about Lewis that I doubt I’m adding anything original here. However, his Space Trilogy is by far one of the best works of Science Fiction in the 2oth century. No exaggeration. I wish more people knew about it and would read all three books. My personal favorite is That Hideous Strength. I mean, how can you beat a book that has magic, Science gone insane and the awakening of Merlin? What? Merlin? Yes, Merlin….read it…..
4) Arthur Machen Of all the names on this list, I’m guessing this is the one people won’t recognize. It’s a shame. As much as people bang on about H.P. Lovecraft, the true Grandfather of modern horror is Arthur Machen. Even Lovecraft recognized that Machen was a “titan”. Everyone in the “horror know” understands Machen’s genius. Sadly, he’s had to take a back seat to the “Racist from Rhode Island”. It’s a shame because Machen was a true gentleman, lovely person and a master storyteller. If you need an introduction to his work, The Great God Pan is considered his best work. I personally like The Three Impostors In any case, you must check him out if you’re a horror fan.
3) Stephen King King once referred to his books as “a Big Mac and fries”. I wish he wouldn’t have, because it negates his power as a storyteller. Yes, it’s true, he’s written his fair share of crap. However, no one gets the modern American mindset like King, and no one captures the feel of a “spoiled America” better than him. Yes, he writes horror, but his best work, The Stand, is not strictly horror. On top of all that, he wrote THE best book on writing out there. The title? On Writing, of course. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to start writing. It changed my writing life.
2) Flannery O’Connor What can you say about Flannery? The woman was all kinds of messed up and in a good way. She once wrote, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” That probably sums up her work as good as any. It’s been called Southern Grotesque, because of her characters that are scary, terrible, committed and crazy. Just like us. Plus, as a Catholic, she is able to give us sacred beauty and sacred terror in the world. I recommend her short story collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge. She will make you laugh, cry hard, and shake your head. Her books are “shouting to the deaf”, a creed I’ve adopted for my own writing. Indeed, only one other author has more pull on my writing mind and life……
1) Charles Williams Williams has the unfortunate (or fortunate) problem of being overshadowed by two of his friends; C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. However, he is the under appreciated writer of that little writers group meeting in an Oxford pub. The reason for this is that Williams’ novels are a combination of magic, horror, other dimensions, the Holy Grail, cursed Tarot cards and two dead girls walking the streets of London. Not exactly The Hobbit. Intrigued? You should be. You must read his books if you haven’t. War in Heaven and All Hallow’s eve are my favorites.
I consider him my writing master for the following quote by the poet T.S. Elliot:
For him there was no frontier between the material and the spiritual world. Had I ever to spend a night in a haunted house, I should have felt secure with Williams in my company; he was somehow protected from evil, and was himself a protection… To him the supernatural was natural, and the natural was also supernatural… Williams’ understanding of Evil was profound… He is concerned, not with the Evil of conventional morality and the ordinary manifestations by which we recognize it, but with the essence of Evil; it is therefore Evil which has no power to attract us, for we see it as the repulsive thing it is, and as the despair of the damned from which we recoil.”
Agree or disagree with my list? Add your own below……