Monday, December 9, 2013

There will be Without Bloodshed

We would all like to consider ourselves 'original.' And why not. Far as we're concerned, the crap we're creating is the best thing since sliced bread. You've never *really* seen anything like it before. But you've never really seen anything like it before because... We haven't written it yet.

When I wrote Kulture Vultures with my dad, we made out influences so apparent that they're PART OF THE STORY

Matthew Graybosch has a different -- and uniquely Graybosch -- take on the idea:

He's already taller than the Empire State Building. YE GODS WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM HIM.


At risk of alienating my audience from the outset, I suspect that the last guy to tell a truly original

story was the Mesopotamian poet responsible for the Epic of Gilgamesh. Examine a story in

sufficient detail, and you'll find parts of other stories with their serial numbers filed off.

This is especially true in folktales and poetry arising out of cultures with an oral tradition. Young

people in such cultures compile a rhetorical toolkit composed of tropes, stock characters and

scenes, and descriptions. They then use this toolkit to compose their own contributions to their


If my first assertion hasn't driven you off, try this: at least half of a novelist's art lies in filing off

serial numbers with sufficient skill that most readers and critics can do little more than suggest that

an older work influenced the newer one. However, even the notion of being influenced by one's

reading can trouble novelists, who may hope to write in the tradition of a predecessor or

contemporary they admire, or avoid association with one they despise.

The latter desire is one I find best expressed by William Blake, who is reputed to have written, "I

must create my own system, or be a slave to somebody else's."

Since I dance along the line between science fiction and fantasy like Angus Young on stage

busting out a badass guitar solo, I risk comparison to old masters in both genres. In fantasy, I might

expect critics to evaluate me in the context of Tolkien, Moorcock, and Zelazny. In science fiction,

I may contend with the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, and Haldeman.

With the shoulders of such giants as these beneath my feet, I might reasonably be expected to

worry about how I stack up, and whether I'm telling my own story and not just recycling theirs. If

you expect such anxiety from me, your disappointment pleases me.

I am as proud of my influences as a heavy metal band is of theirs. I learned my craft by reading my

chosen genres. I read the best, the worst, and a fair amount in between.

I'm not worried worried about readers associating Imaginos with Saruman because they're both

wizards and cunning linguists who wear white. Of course, we don't know how skilled a tongue

Saruman has, because what happens in Lothlorien stays in Lothlorien.

If readers meet Claire Ashecroft and think she's a Heinlein heroine gone terribly wrong, I'll just

turn around and write a story about the first time Claire posed for the Heinlein Grrls pinup calendar

for charity.

This isn't a demon-­ridden competition. I don't care about writing a better book than Brandon

Sanderson or John Scalzi. I have more than enough to do just writing a better novel than my last

one. I'm not afraid of my influences, and I don't care much about what you think of my work. If

you got your money's worth, I'm happy for you. If it wasn't to your taste, I'm sorry I disappointed


Graybosch has enough guts to tell you exactly what he thinks.
The truth, whatever color it may come in, is hard to find these days.
So you'd be well off sinking your teeth into his work.
At least, if you're smart you will.

Without Bloodshed is out now, on Amazon.

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