Questions about Writing #5: Personal Perspective

posted in: writing | 0

I got an email the other day from a college student, who said he was doing a paper on my work, and would I answer a few questions? Now, if that isn’t flattering, I don’t know what is. I wrote the answers to his questions, then thought—wait, this is blogstuff. (Is that a word? It should be, if it’s not.)

He asked why I became a science fiction writer. My answer:

Because SF was what I always loved to read as a kid, in college, and after college. I got some early encouragement from my family and a couple of teachers, who thought I had some talent for writing. So when I set out to write some stories, it was just natural that I wrote SF. It’s still my favorite form of literature, though I don’t have as much time for reading now as I once did. I love SF because it challenges the mind, stretches the imagination, and takes us to fascinating times and places that we probably won’t get to visit in the flesh. It lets me think about science and art and the human spirit, and a lot of other things, all wrapped up in one. (I also love, as a writer, sticking my characters into strange realities and seeing how they react.)

What’s my favorite book?

Oddly, it’s not SF–it’s fantasy. The Lord of the Rings. I’ve read it at least 15 times. I love Tolkien’s visions, and I love Middle Earth for its magical likeness, and yet distinctiveness from, our own world. I love the mountains of Middle Earth, the forests, the Ents, the elves. And somehow this book hooked me as no other book has in its portrayal of the eternal struggle between good and evil, and the price paid for victory.

Why do I live in New England?

I came East as a college student, and never left. I love the land here, the ocean, the history, the intellectual ferment of all the universities and the culture. And the New England fall–you just can’t beat it.

Thanks, Jeff from Plymouth State University, for giving me a blog topic!

0 Responses

  1. Tim
    | Reply

    I actually read Lord of the Rings for the first time about a year ago. And to be honest found it to be kind of boring and I couldn’t understand why everyone thinks it’s such a great book.

    In my opinion, the Lord of the Rings movies are an extremely rare instance of a movie being better than the book. The movies did make some changes but for the most part I felt that the changes were very positive.

  2. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Lord of the Rings is a fantastic story and Middle Earth was a grand vision and setting for the story. My Hats off to Mr. Tolkein for sharing it with us! That being said I can uderstand why some people do have trouble with the books, they are a little “disjointed” at times so therefore don’t always “flow” easily when you’re reading them. The reason for this I think is that Mr. Tolkein was really a professional scholar and did fantasy writing on the side. So sometimes his vision didn’t translate smoothly. He seemed to more confortable and/or adept at writing for other academics than the “common person” so to speak. I did think reading the “Rings” might’ve been a little more challenging to read than many books, but definitely worth it! Not too disimiliar to reading Shakespear in it’s original “old English” in some ways. I was definitely nervous when I heard they were going to make the movies but I must say I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Not only did they do a good job not messing up Tolkein’s original story too much but they brought his vision to life in stunning fashion. Oh and of course they gave it a much more even flow which doesn’t hurt either. Peter Jackson may’ve made some of the best movies of all time in my opinion. Thanks to both Tolkein and Jackson the creative minds of many have been stimulated for many years to come!

  3. Tim
    | Reply

    i think my distaste for the book (i only read the fellowship) started right from the prologue where it was like 17 pages about hobbits….”and such and such hobbit wrote this book and all copies are lost”, and blah blah it just went on and on.

    obviously it’s just a matter of personal taste because the books are hugely popular.

    i prefer books from people like vernor vinge or orson scott card or mr carver of course, among several others.

  4. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Tim, I can understand your being put off by the beginning of LOTR. First time I read it, I almost stopped, too. I had to get about a third of the way through Fellowship before it really caught me–and then I couldn’t put it down. It became a tradition to read it every final exam period in college, when I should have been studying for exams.

    I liked the movies, a lot–but there were many, many places where I wanted to shake Peter Jackson and shout at him, “You didn’t trust the book! You should have trusted the book! Why did you make such a stupid change?!!” Expecially when it involved changing characters, such as Faramir, Saruman, and Denethor. I forgave him because there was so much that he did right.

    Mind you, I’m a fan of the authors you named above, too.

  5. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Of course one thing to remember when reading the LOTR books that at the time there really was no tried and true “formula” so to speak for that kind of book. Tolkein not only had to come up with the vision and story but on how to write something like that to begin with. So like I mentioned before there were times for me that I had to get past his writing style to enjoy the world he had created. As for other authors I myself like quite a range across the sci-fi and fantasy board. Some of the “classics” like Herbert, Clark and Niven of course. But also I like some of the modern popular authors like Timothy Zahn, Kevin J Anderson (most the time anyway), even Kim Stanley Robinson even though he’s heavy on the politics. Some on the fantasy side include Deborah Chester and the little more obscure but delightful story-teller IMO Michael Scott Rohan. My sister is trying to get me into the popular current fanstasy writer Robert Jordan but I’m having a bit of trouble getting into him, not sure why, but I seem to find myself annoyed and frustrated when reading his stuff! *L* Oh well. Oh and of course I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t a fan of Mr. Carver’s as well. I was lucky enough to have a boss a few years back that shared my interest in sci-fi and we’d trade books back and forth. Luckily for me one of the ones he gave me was the first book of the Chaos series. After reading the first three I found this site and bookmarked it so I could check back every so often to see when book four would be out. Well as we all know i’ve been checking for while now! *L* But that’s ok, i’ll read it whenever it’s done. I can understand that Mr. Carver has a very busy life and is doing his best. Oh and I wanted to say thanks for starting this blog and giving us some more insight and also giving some us a chance to sound off as well!

  6. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Ya Know, the change that Peter Jackson made with Faramir also was something that bothered me also, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one!

  7. Tim
    | Reply

    tsmacro – it’s good to see someone else that shares an interest in kevin j anderson. like you said most of the time he writes good stuff. The first book i read from him was Fallout and really enjoyed that. Actually thats not true, the books i read from him were a young adult series of star wars books.

    i think one of anderson’s best books was Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm, even if it was a little predictable.

  8. Harry
    | Reply

    tsmacro, while you’re waiting for the 4th Chaos book why don’t you visit some of Jeff’s earlier work? The Star Rigger universe (Panglor, Star Rigger’s Way, Infinity’s End, et al) and the others (Infinity Link, Rapture Effect, From a Changeling Star, et al) are all great! I’m not sure if they’re all in print these days but you should be able to get at least a few in paperback.

    Harry

  9. tsmacro
    | Reply

    To Harry: Yeah i’ve read the Star Rigger books also and do keep other books of Mr. Carver’s on my “list” of books to read. As far as his out of print stuff I do have a used bookstore not far from me and I always check to see if any of his stuff shows up there whenever I go.

    To Tim: Actually I discovered Kevin J Anderson in the Star Wars universe as well. I’ve noticed he does “play well” in other’s universes, I liked his SW stuff and X-Files as well. As far as Dune goes, well I wasn’t crazy about the first trilogy that he and Brian Herbert did, but the more recent one based on the Butlerian Jihad was really good IMO. And it seems to me he’s really come into his own in creating his own universe to play in with his Seven Suns series.

  10. Tim
    | Reply

    Antibodies was probably anderson’s best X-Files book. havent read much of his more recent works.

Post your comment before you lose your train of thought. (Mine already left the station.)