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10 Books with Lasting Impact

MEANWHILE … instead of writing what I was supposed to be writing, I was hanging out on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, I know “hang out” is a Google+ thing, but we are still allowed to hang out other places, aren’t we? The Google lawyers can’t be everywhere, right? Right?!?

Anyway, if you are doing something vaguely akin to, but not exactly, hanging out long enough, someone is going to challenge you or nominate you or tag you. And that is just what happened.

I was asked what 10 books have stayed with me in some way. Not “what are the best books I have ever read?” Not “what are my favorite books?” But what books have had a lasting impact. The idea is not to give it too much thought. Because really, if you have to think about it, how much impact did it really have?

Here, in no particular order, are my ten:

  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

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  • The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein

rolling stones hb

  • Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison

strange wine

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

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  • The Ghost Light by Fritz Leiber

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  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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  • The Compleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt

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  • On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

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  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

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  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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The only rule I self-imposed was only one title per author. I have already written about about The Rolling Stones here at MEANWHILE … I think, as time allows, I will elaborate a bit more on each of these books over the next few weeks.

MEANWHILE … what are your ten?

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Like a Rolling Stone …

MEANWHILE … in homes all across America, impressionable young minds were heavily influenced by THE ROLLING STONES. Of course, I am not referring to the bad boys (or should that be grandpas) of rock-n-roll. I mean THE ROLLING STONES by Robert Heinlein.

rolling stones hb

THE ROLLING STONES is one of a baker’s dozen novels that make up Heinlein’s “juvenile” output that started in in 1947 with ROCKET SHOP GALILEO and ended in 1963 with PODKAYNE OF MARS. I am not going to argue that it is Heinlein’s best book or even his best juvenile, but I will claim it as my favorite.

Originally published in 1952 by Scribner’s and serialized that same year in Boy’s Life as TRAMP SPACE SHIP, I discovered it circa 1976 in an Ace Books paperback edition. Now 1976 was probably as different from 1952 as it from 2014, but I maintain that the book is as readable and meaningful now as it was then.

rolling stones pb

It is a hopeful novel, not of a dystopian future as we tend to see dominating today’s YA literature, but of one where there is opportunity for everyone who possesses a touch of intelligence and an industrious streak. It is a tale of adventure with no violence. It features strong female characters. And, while some may scoff or belittle the importance of this, it is a wholesome novel.

THE ROLLING STONES is the story of the Stone Family, several of which show up in later Heinlein works.

Hazel, the grandmother, is the pistol-toting matriarch who supports the family as the writer of an entertaining science fiction serial “The Scourge of the Spaceways” – a role she actually takes from her son.

Roger, Hazel’s son, is an engineer and former mayor, who tries to reign in his family as “captain of the ship” in the sometimes ineffectual but ultimately loved and respected manner of the typical 50’s sitcom father.

Edith, Roger’s wife, is a doctor who is also a master manipulator. She cherishes her family but understands, even if her husband does not, that being a physician is a sacred calling to which she is fully committed.

Meade, the eldest daughter, is being trained in astrogation by her grandmother even though there seems to be the assumption, despite the accomplishments of her mother and grandmother, that her career options are minimal and her best course of action is securing a husband. Not to belabor the point as this really is an enjoyable and entertaining book, but based on the other female characters, I think that Meade is meant to represent the plight of most girls in the 1950s as opposed to the future for which Heinlein hopes.

Buster, the precocious 4-year old of the family, is a chess prodigy and sometimes plot device.

Last, but certainly not least are the twins, Castor and Pollux. They are would-be entrepreneurs of the get-rich quick variety. They are not scammers, but they are certainly schemers. It is those schemes that drive much of the action in the book.

Oh, and let’s not forget the flat cats. If you never heard of flat cats, let’s just say that without them, there would be no tribbles. Of course, without guinea pigs, there would be no flat cats, but those are both different stories entirely.

The story opens in Luna City, a colony on the moon, with the twins looking to buy a used spaceship to become traders. Dad puts the kibosh on that idea, but quicker than you can say, “have spaceship, will travel,” the family buys a second-hand ship and sets out for Mars. Then, as they say, hijinks and bureaucracy ensue.

The tale combines the schemes of the “unheavenly twins” with a hybrid of the westward expansion of America & the post WWII family road trip and plops it into the solar system that the 1950s expected to be explored and colonized by this day and age. Add in a fairly detailed look at how space travel might work (compete with challenges), the commercialization of exploration, and the need some will always have for more elbow room and you have a delightful tale that is a refreshing look at the future that never was.

MEANWHILE … is this on the record?

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Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed over at the Infinite House of Books as part of the Summer of Pro Se. I encourage you to visit and check out the myriad author interviews, blog tours, book events and more. Shannon Muir runs a great website, Actually I should say websites as you might find these of interest too: Discover Words, Spontaneous Choices, and The Willowbroos Saga.

Following is the interview in its entirety. I plan to elaborate on same of my answers here at MEANWHILE in the foreseeable future.

author interview

Shannon Muir: What initially got you interested in writing?

Greg Daniel: Reading begets writing. Do enough of the former and eventually you start thinking about the latter. I was a voracious reader.

One day after consuming more than my fair share of the Three Musketeers or the Three Investigators or a Robert Heinlein juvenile or a pile of comic books, new characters and new stories rampaged through my mind with enough strength and vigor that I had to do something about them. Next thing I knew, I was a writer.

SM: How did you decide to make the move into becoming a published author?

GD: Honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would write fiction without intending to publish. From the day I transitioned from ruled notebook paper and pencil to my dad’s old Royal manual typewriter, I wrote to be published.

That does not mean that everything I wrote was publishable – far from it! But if I finished it, I tried to get it published. As a teenager, I accumulated rejections letters from Ben Bova and George Scithers, Paul Levitz and Jack C. Harris, and others. If I bothered to sit down at the keyboard, it was to write something that I wanted to publish.

My problem was there were some very, very, very long stretches when I did not sit down at the keyboard. I read like a writer and I thought like a writer, but I did not write like a writer.

One day I finally realized that I cannot paste the days back onto the calendar or pour the hours back into the clock. If I was a writer, I needed to write and I needed to do so now. A couple of years later, my work is starting to appear in print with more waiting in the wings.

The most recent is “Mike Fink and the River Round-Up” in TALL PULP (Pro Se Productions).

Tall Pulp logo typeset cover

SM: What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?

GD: My goal is to entertain. I am not a prophet, priest, or philosopher (actually I have enough credit hours to be the latter, but that’s another story). I am a storyteller. I tell stories to entertain.

Entertainment can educate, elucidate, encourage, or simply provide escape. But unless it entertains, no one will stick around long enough to realize any other benefits.

SM: What do you find most rewarding about writing?

GD: There are three things that thrill me equally.

One is when I am writing and hear a character’s dialogue in my head and the voice is unmistakably theirs, not mine. At that moment, I know I got them right and if I got them right, there is a good chance, the rest of the story will be right too.

The second is seeing my name on the cover or the table of contents. As I mentioned earlier, I write to be published. Seeing my name is proof that I accomplished that goal.

The third, and the one that I hope never gets old, is hearing someone say they enjoyed my story.

SM: What do you find most challenging about writing?

GD: Writing is like exercise. It takes time and consistency to see results. But if you do it regularly, you will not only realize the benefits, you will enjoy the process. You will look forward to doing it. But miss a day and it can become a week or a month. Then you dread it. You know you need to do it, but you have grown lazy and lethargic.

When you do get back to it, you find you are neither as limber nor as strong as you were and it is frustrating to have to work hard and long to just get back to where you were before you skipped that day.

There are very few full-time writers. Most of my peers, present and past, juggle job(s) and family and other daily demands. If they can find the time and consistency, then I have no excuse. Still, I find it a challenge.

SM: What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?

GD: The standard answers are still the best: READ and WRITE.

But let me elaborate by saying:

Read broadly. If all you ever read is within the genre or subgenre in which you wish to write, you will bring nothing new to the reader. To use an antiquated analogy, your writing will be the equivalent of a photocopy of a photocopy. Eventually it will fade to nothing.

Write regularly. I am not saying that you have to write every day and I am not saying that you cannot take breaks. But I am saying that if you establish some sort of regular schedule and adhere to it, you will be a better and more productive writer.

SM: Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?

GD: In the “Brush with Greatness” category: I’ve had afternoon tea with Neil Gaiman, tossed darts with Garth Ennis, and taken Chris Claremont and Dan Jurgens to a haunted house.

In the “More Closely Related to Writing than You Might Think” category: I used to be an avid backgammon and poker tournament player and actually cashed on the World Poker Tour.

In the “Interesting to Me” category: I am happily married to the love of my life and best friend, Judy. We have two amazing children, Alec and Kylie, who are growing up much too fast.

SM: What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?

GD: I invite everyone to friend/follow me at the usual social media haunts.

Facebook: Greg Daniel

Twitter: @GregDanielWrite

My blog (Meanwhile … ) is updated semi-regularly at: GregDanielWrites.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

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