None of what follows negates what I said in the previous post, “The Selfish Meme,” but as with anything more complicated than a carpet tack–say, for instance, a human being–there’s always more to the story. I was recently reminded of a writer friend who had asked a question in her journal about early influences. Lots of people contributed but I wasn’t much help. It occurs to me that’s because the biggest very early influence–so early it was many years before I even thought about writing–wasn’t necessarily a single author–it was a collection of books ( I said I couldn’t hold it to 15). Specifically one of those cheap sets of children’s books they used to sell to young mothers back in the fifties and sixties. My mother was a hard working single mom with not a lot of cash back in the day and she was certainly the target audience, so to amuse me and my sisters she bought one.
This one was called The Children’s Hour edited/compiled by Marjorie Barrows, and I have to say that Mom got her money’s worth. The set had everything–A volume of folktales. A volume of adventure stories. A volume of myths and legends. A volume of poetry. A volume of science fiction, for gossakes. This was my introduction to fairy and folk tales, which took a while to sink in properly but re-emerged as a dominant theme in my work. It was my introduction to poetry, of which (poets) I’ll never be one, but learned to appreciate. Also to The Song of Roland and the Arthurian cycle, and to sf (stories by Asimov & Heinlein, plus “Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars,” and “Lancelot Biggs of the Saturn.”) In hindsight it’s obvious to me that almost everything I do, nearly everything I’m interested in as a writer has a precedent in that one set of books.
It’s also probably why I’m not a proper “Southern Writer,” for better or worse. By the time Faulkner and Welty came along for me it was too late–I was already imprinted with a different strain of the fantastic, and remain so to this day.