My pals Josh Burnett and Jeffrey Johnson recently posted their influence map on their blogs. The meme was started by fox-orian at deviant art for visual artists, but why let the guys who draw pretty pictures have all the fun?
1. Robert Anton Wilson: I didn't actually discover St. Bob until I was in my early or mid 20s, but once I started reading his stuff, I didn't stop until I'd read everything I could get my hands on. His ideas about "maybe logic" and reality tunnels make more sense than just about any other theory I've heard, and his ability to see the absurdity of existence is unparalleled. Since RAW's got such a big space on the influence map, I decided to let him stand proxy for three guys who I didn't have room for: Greg Hill & Kerry Thornley (authors of The Principia Discordia) and Charles Fort (whose philosophy and humor are similar to Wilson's if a little dustier).
2. Hunter S. Thompson: This is another author that I discovered late but who's really influenced me. There are a lot of things to admire about Thompson the person, but the thing I love about Hunter the writer is ability to report on something without providing any actual facts about the reality of what he's reporting on.
3. George Carlin: I've been listening to Carlin since middle school, and count myself lucky that I got a chance to see him live when I was in college. Carlin's understanding of human nature and his incredible ability to dissect language is amazing.
4. Dave Barry: Obviously I'm a Dave Barry fan because he's an incredibly funny guy. The two things I love the most about his writing is his straightforward delivery and his subtlety. In amid all the obvious jokes, there are always a lot more that you've got to pay attention to catch. Barry's also a master of the callback.
5. Mark Twain: I think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the first "real book" I ever read--I think in about 3rd grade--and I still haven't gotten tired of his books. I love his ability to combine subtle social commentary with a child-like sense of wonder and adventure.
6. Alan Moore: Alan Moore is just a genius at story construction. Some of his stuff is so amazing and multi-layered that I'm amazed anyone would think of attempting them, much less successfully pull them off.
7. Douglas Adams: Because sometimes it's ok just to have fun and let the story go wherever it wants.
8. Tim Powers: I've heard that before Tim Powers writes a book, he researches a handful of unrelated things that seem interesting to him. Then when he starts writing, he ties as many of them together as possible. It usually works out really well, and I've used him as inspiration for a lot of the secret history stuff we've worked into Hex products.
9. Kurt Vonnegut:I've always thought of Vonnegut as sort of Twain's natural successor, despite the fact that their writing is very different. Something in their attitudes just kind of makes me feel like Vonnegut took over the role that Twain played in American literature and culture, whatever that role was. So far I haven't found Vonnegut's successor.
10. Neil Gaiman:I think by friend and frequent co-writer Leighton Connor best summed up what I like about Gaiman: He's got an amazing ability to tie ridiculously fantastical elements into a very realistic world. I also love the fact that he does his research, even when most people wouldn't notice if he just made things up instead.
11. Fritz Leiber:I never really got into Tolkein, but can read Leiber's Lankhmar stories over and over again. I love the characters; both their moral ambiguity and the fact that ultimately it's the dynamic between them that makes the stories work. The treasure, magic, monsters, and adventure are just backdrop.
12. Warren Ellis: Ellis is just my kind of bastard.
13. E. Gary Gygax: A lot of my writing is in the role-playing field, so I've got to include Gygax even if my views on what makes the hobby fun seem to be radically different from his.