I grew up on fantasy and science fiction, starting when I hit the age of 13. In junior high I joined in with a group of guys who ate, breathed and read that stuff. I got indoctrinated into RPG’s and all kinds of books that proverbially “opened new worlds for me.” I’ve had lots of authors who have wowed me, entertained me and just plain ole left me with my mouth hanging open. The list is by no means all of them, but these are the ones that stand out and shaped me.
- Roger Zelazny. He was my first indoctrination into the fantasy and science fiction genre, and he turned my ideas about stories upside down. The Amber Chronicles are still my favorites by him, though I was fascinated with Changeling and Madwand (and I wish he’d lived long enough to finish that story–it was awesome!). Shadow Jack was another crazy book that was almost alien, and so damn good. I loved his short stories and other novels too, but those three story arcs were my favorites.
- Joel Rosenberg. The Guardians of the Flame series–very cool for my teenage soul and it resonated.
- Patricia Wrede. She wrote a lot of good stories that really stuck with me: The Seven Towers and The Harp of Imach Thyssel are old friends.
- Fritz Leiber. The Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books were just good fun all of the way around. The epitome of the fantasy adventure novel–I’m guessing these were inspiration for the Dungeons & Dragons game . . . or at least they sum up that game with all of the imagination coming out of Fritz Leiber. Awesome stories. I still read them.
- Christopher Hinz. This came later in my reading library, but I count this as one of my all time favorite books because of the imagination, the free reign of a creative mind, and some of the best “evil” antagonists I’ve ever encountered. Christopher Hinz and Liege Killer. This book blew me away when I read it, and I still pull it out when I’m in the mood for good psychological horror and sci-fi action.
- Charles L. Grant. The Black Oak Series. More horror and gritty detective, but he knew how to tell a good story. Yes, alas, the series ended after five because he died, and no one mourns that loss more than me. Man I love that series!
- Jim Butcher. For newer books, I like Jim Butcher. He’s just a good writer all the way around–like settling in and just knowing you’re in good hands the minute you open one of his books.
- Simon Greene. He’s another author pushing the imaginational envelope. His Night Side series was just a cool combo of hard boiled detective and everything fantastic that you could shove into a story.
I’ve had plenty of other books that have shaken my foundations or at least entertained the crap out of me, and I’ll probably add to this list as time goes on. New great writers pop up every day and I can’t wait to stumble across the next Zelazny and Grant. If you know of anyone else in a similar vein, feel free to let me know. With the advent of the internet, more and more authors are heading online for publication since the houses are choosier and choosier, and there are plenty of GOOD authors not getting snatched up. I find myself turning more and more to online authors just because they’ve got more free reign to write what isn’t mainstream.
I will take a moment to talk about graphic novels, because they’re every bit a novel–maybe the bridge between the comic and the novel, but there are stories that have shaken me to my core, reading them. Incidentally, my son had a librarian who was giving him crap about checking out graphic novels instead of “real” books. Anyone who takes the time to read a graphic novel knows full well that the graphic novel is every bit as valid as a medium for story telling as any paperback. For my money, when you stifle a kid’s love of reading because they’re not reading the “right” kind of books, you’re killing someone’s desire to read. Encourage them to read because once they get hooked, they’ll pick up the classics and the paperbacks. Sheesh.
Anyway, below is my list of favorites for graphic novels. As always, if you know of others in this vein or as awesome, send me a note.
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. Just damn good story telling.
- The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Growing up, the Batman I knew was the Adam West show on television: altruistic, ever the gentleman and good through and through. IT wasn’t until I read Frank Miller that I saw Bats in a whole damn new light. If ever I was “reborn” into my comic faith, it was after reading Frank Miller.
- Preacher Series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. That was another mind blower of epic proportions and I was hooked from page one. It doesn’t get any better.
- The Grendel Sagas. I don’t think I have a particular favorite, but any of the Grendel sagas are fine by me too. I love them.
I do have a handful of short stories and go-to’s for creepy:
- The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce
- The Thing in the Cellar by David H Keller
Below are links to three of my favorite YouTube Channels for horror and mysterious happenings. Check ’em out . . .