Rather than try to describe who I am through a series of historical events or by listing my accomplishments while concealing my failures, I thought I would name several writers/books that I can honestly say have changed my life in a material way. I have also included a few remarkable films. These influences may not always be done justice to in my own writing, but they are definitely owed a substantial debt. In no particular order:
-Stan Lee, author of hundreds of Marvel Comics. Some have called him heavy-handed or naive, but to me, from an age even before I learned to read, really, Stan’s plots, characters, and dialogue epitomize soul. Considering the increasingly cynical environment in which his work appeared, it’s truly inspiring to see the spirit of the Romancer carried on with unwavering trust that young people still get it.
-Carl Sagan, author of Cosmos. This book showed me the interconnectedness of all things, and buckled my world-view at a period of my life when I defined myself against others. This caused me infinite trouble, but I would not trade away the experience for any amount of inner or outer peace.
-Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and various political lecture-essays. Could anyone actually read these works and not walk away dissatisfied with the status quo, even as regards one’s own heart?
-Stephen Crane, the too-briefly-with-us author of more great fiction than many who lived three times longer. Those who have oversimplified naturalism, the most stark version of literary realism, have had to willfully ignore his works to do it.
-Oliver Stone, director of JFK. This film was for me what The Matrix was for the next generation: a dramatic reinterpretation of Plato. Valid or not, his presentation raises the spirit of inquiry to such a height that one must question every “reality” from then on.
-Stephen Speilberg, director of the quintessential monster movie Jaws, showed us that there is no outworn plot, archetype, or device, creative writing teachers be damned. By every professional standard, this film should be an obscure failure, and yet it’s one of the best and most well-known ever made in any genre.
-James Cameron. The Terminator proves, in its retelling of the Oedipus myth, that a solid premise can overcome any budget deficit: time, money, materials, personnel.