Curious Influences upon the Restless World
What sparks a creative thought into a choice to act upon it? For me the spark has been the creative fires of others. The following is a short list of the works that either influenced me to begin writing a science fantasy novel or kept me going.
I was reading these authors in the mid 80’s when I started actually putting the other world in my head down on paper. See, it is true: Reading takes you on a voyage.
And what a voyage: From reading to writing. Why? Because at the core I write what I want to read.
1. C.S. Lewis
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Space Trilogy
- Mere Christianity
- The Screwtape Letters
Lewis writes about serious issues in a readable style. His Narnia initiated my thoughts of writing across the entire history of a world, while Perelandra (the second book of the Space Trilogy) set me to pondering the fall of man whatever the planet. Mere Christianity was compiled from his radio talks and reads easy like a conversation. The Screwtape Letters is not only enjoyable but thought-provoking. Screwtape is a demon writing to his nephew Wormwood about how to trip up a man. This makes it a primer in reverse on how to guard yourself from bad choices.
2. Francis A. Schaeffer
- How Should We Then Live?
- He Is There and He Is Not Silent
- The Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer
I had to read Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent slowly, sentence by sentence with time to think between, in order to plumb the depth of meaning in his amazing logic. This was work but not waste. I put down How Should We Then Live? after only a few pages so I could read a European history book. This gave me a better background for Schaeffer’s thoughts regarding the direction of western culture as seen in its art. The detour was worth it once I started reading Schaeffer again. His Letters, sadly out of print, is the other side of Schaeffer’s intellect: approachable, practical, and compassionate.
3. Franky Schaeffer
- Addicted to Mediocrity
Franky is Francis Schaeffer’s son. This one book really spurred me to finally putting sentences on paper. Franky writes in a more bitter style than Lewis or Schaeffer, but he speaks to a church (and to me) many times dull of hearing. His book is a scathing rebuke of Christian mediocrity in the arts and reminds us of the great heritage Christianity has offered to the world. He asserts that Christians need to reengage the world’s psyche in communication forms that the culture itself is using. I don’t know if my book is up to snuff, but I’ve entered the conversation that civilized man has been having since hieroglyphics. Enter it with me.
1. David Lean
- Doctor Zhivago
I was awed by this epic when I was a teenager. Once I had gone on to college, the university screened Doctor Zhivago on campus. At intermission – yeah, movies had intermissions back in the 60’s and the campus kept the intermission when they showed the movie in the 80’s – anyway, at intermission my friends pelted me with questions as to what was going on in the film. Doctor Zhivago tells a compelling story of individual lives disrupted by a great historic event. That has been my attempt in the stories of Curious Origins of a Restless World.
2. James Ivory & Ismail Merchant
- A Room with a View
A Room with a View is a quiet film about characters facing small problems. It’s a period piece, but any point in history comes down to people dealing with what comes at them. Ivory and Merchant handle this better than Lean did when he filmed another E.M. Forester novel, A Passage to India. Forester’s books don’t lend themselves to the sweeping epics that Lean does so well. The characters seemed to get lost among Lean’s glorious landscapes. In making A Room with a View Ivory stayed focused on the details of the characters and subtly traced their changing relationships. Faithful to the book it’s based on, this movie reminds me to write from inside characters, not watching from above.
As Lucy Honeychurch says, “If Mr. Emerson doesn’t like it, he can go chase tennis balls. Go chase tennis balls, Mr. Emerson.”
3. David Lynch
My eldest son feels Dune as a movie runs its characters too shallow. But then he’s spoiled to today’s movies that take a complicated book and break it into two or three films (and thereby rake in the bucks). However, when I first saw Dune I was mesmerized by the depth of culture that Lynch gave Dune’s universe. Much of this was straight from Frank Herbert’s books, but Lynch filled in the details in a rich visual way.
“How can this be? Because he is the Kwisatz Haderach.”
Books should come with soundtracks, or at least recommended listening while reading. The following is the music I mostly had playing while I was writing, especially this last five years as the book came to completion.
1. Jan Sibelius
- Tone Poems
My kids know Sibelius by heart they’ve heard him so often. This Finnish composer was an expert in building up themes from fragments. But that’s the technical stuff. For me his music is at an emotional level. If I started recommending a few of the tone poems or symphonies, I’d end up recommending them all. Get the box sets.
2. Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Piano Concertos
- Isle of the Dead
Rachmaninoff is at the top of my list of composers. There was a time when people seemed to think it was stylish to brush Rachmaninoff aside as too sentimental, too non-intellectual. I never bought it. I even read one guy extol the virtues of Scriabin over the failings of Rachmaninoff. But who listens to Scriabin? Rachmaninoff is not a Tchaikovsky spin off as he is often accused. Rachmaninoff’s music is more subtle than Tchaikovsky’s while at the same time deeper emotionally without touching sappiness.
3. Johannes Brahms
I’ve heard it said that if you ask a Brahms fan what is their favorite Brahms symphony, they’ll answer the last one they heard. I agree – though I have a special affinity for the Fourth. Wait… I think that was the last one I listened to. Brahms took up where Beethoven left off, no matter what Wagner thought. But Brahms isn’t a Beethoven clone. He has his own voice. In his symphonies you can lose yourself and then be surprised they end so soon.
I could go on about others I listened to while writing: Grieg, Ravel, Beethoven, Dvorak, Vaughn Williams. But I’ll stop with the above three.
Don’t like classical music? That’s okay. Put on some Rush or Glenn Miller, Chris Botti or Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood or Amy Grant. Whatever you like, because once you start reading, it’s you and the book.
If you have any comments or want to discuss any of these books, movies, or music, contact me. I’m curious as to what you are thinking.