Like many writers, I am influenced by everything I read and especially what I enjoy. There is always the little 'how did the author do that?' moment when I finish a book and try to analyze how everything came together and why it affected me the way it did. For actual story generation, I'm more likely to be inspired and influenced by nonfiction history and science books these days. However, for the types of stories I write there is one author who has had the most lasting influence on my writing.
I started reading her books after I'd already read a number of Heinlein's works, which I enjoyed . . . but Norton's adventures and characters appealed to me more than Heinlein's did. I believe the difference is her stories weren't always so human-centric as Heinlein's and Norton's characters were often outsiders a trait I frequently find myself using. (So does my favorite author, C. J. Cherryh . . . and yes, she has influenced me as well, but Andre Norton was the first.). I am fascinated by characters who don't fit into the surroundings and have to learn the rules of the game, so to speak.
Some of her earliest works are rife with Red Scare backgrounds and odd bits of strange science like genetic memory regression. We are all influenced, in one way or another, by our times. The books are still interesting to read. I often see Norton's work as less about science and more about characters. Aliens and alien worlds, space travel . . . those were the stories that drew me. I came later to her fantasy novels, but I can trace my most lasting influence to books like the Solar Queen series, especially Postmarked the Stars.
Other influences from her work? Hmm. . . . Forgotten alien civilizations like the Forerunners? You bet, and with all the secrets humans perhaps shouldn't know. For that matter, I have also gathered the idea that all the stories can take place in the same future universe and have certain ties to one another.
Oh, and let's not forget the impact of learning Andre Norton was a woman. And she wrote science fiction. At the time, the shelves were filled with male authors, and many of them quite good writers whom I still enjoy. However, I remember the little thrill I felt when I learned Andre Norton was not one of them. The moment of 'Oh, it's not just a boy's club after all!' Sure she had to have a male name to start with, but that game was already over by the time I was reading the books.
Ah, and prolific! You could always count on a great new Andre Norton novel before too long! The shelves of stores had a long line of them to choose from, both sf and fantasy. I loved the moments of looking at all those wonderful books.
I will never write like Andre Norton. The times have changed and the world has new worries and fears of the future. Too much of science fiction has moved into an age to dystopian futures and darker days. A little of that sort of reading goes a long ways for me. I also feel we've unfortunately lost a great deal of our 'sense of wonder' which was such an essential part of the golden age of science fiction. If the future is so dark, who would want to go there?
I'm still holding on to my sense of wonder and looking for adventures. Yes, many of the places will be dangerous . . . but not every stranger or strange thing will be an enemy and not every advancement will mean destruction. I treat fantasy in the same way. There are places I want to see and adventures I want to have so I continue to write them. I'm willing to take any of you along who want to join me.
If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer