John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright
johncwright

Entry books!

A reader asks: "what of your books would be the best entry point into your writing, especially for a reader who enjoys reading your philosophizing here? (You have probably answered this question before, and I, of course, missed it)"

My answer is, first, that no one ever asked me before, and second, of my books, I think you should read the really good ones before the merely good ones. To be specific:

WORLD OF NULL-A by A.E. van Vogt
LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stapledon
HARVEST OF STARS by Poul Anderson
ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
'The Last Castle' by Jack Vance

THE NIGHT LANDS by William Hope Hodgson
DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH by H.P. Lovecraft
LAST DEFENDER OF CAMELOT by Roger Zelazny
THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH b C.S. Lewis
THE SHADOW'S SHADOW by Maxwell Grant

THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER by Gene Wolfe
THE SILKIE by A.E. van Vogt
A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA by Ursula K Le Guin
FLATLAND by A Square
A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by David Lindsany
EMPHYRIO by Jack Vance
NINE PRINCES IN AMBER by Roger Zelazny
ODYSSEY by Homer

WORLD OF NULL-A by A.E. van Vogt
WEAPON-SHOPS OF ISHER by A.E. van Vogt
STARMAKER by Olaf Stapledon



Now, no doubt by now you have noticed that none of these books were written by me, so it makes absolutely no sense why I should answer your question by recommending them.

I recommend them for two reasons: first, I cannot without a blush recommend my books before books I like better than my own, and second, because these actually are the entry point books for my writing.

Here is what I mean:

WORLD OF NULL-A concerns an amnesiac superman hunted by mysterious enemies. LAST AND FIRST MEN is a speculation into the far future set in a socialist background. ATLAS SHRUGGED portrays the rise of a capitalist utopia. HARVEST OF STARS speculates about the rise of inhuman and inhumane machine intelligences.

I stole these ideas and combined them into my trilogy THE GOLDEN AGE, which concerns an amnesiac superman in the far future in a capitalist utopia, run by humane and human machine intelligences. The language and diction I took from Jack Vance.

Again, my story LAST GUARDIAN OF EVERNESS was, like THE NIGHT LANDS, about mere mortals besieged by a malign, immortal and immortally patient enemy; like DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH took place in Dreamland; like LAST DEFENDER OF CAMELOT stars an evil Merlin and modern Round Tables; like THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH portrays a modern Pendragon facing a faceless government tyranny; and I am sure there is some element I stole from Maxwell Grant, but I cannot put my finger on it at the moment.

SHADOW OF THE TORTURER has many surpassing virtues, but the one most striking to me, as well as the most amusing, was seeing the author describe supertechnology as magic, or magic as supertechnology, depending on the limited understanding of the viewpoint character. I took this idea and expanded it in ORPHANS OF CHAOS, where each of five or six different mutually exclusive paradigms explains (each to a particular character) the unknown he encounters. The characters from ORPHANS came from mutually exclusive backgrounds: Victor is a van Vogtian Silkie, or near enough; Quentin is a Rokean Mage (with a touch of Goetia thrown in for realism); Amelia is a being from a higher dimension, like a sphere visiting Flatland, with the sense impressions enjoyed by the men of Tormance circling the double star Arcturus. Like Emphyrio, the orphans are raised in a false system, and seek for the truth; like VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS, the world is a massive deception. The Orphans are amnesiacs, like Carl Corey in the opening pages of NINE PRINCES IN AMBER, and, as in Amber, quarreling and Olympian princes from a sacred mountain battle against the Chaos older than time. Nausicaa is taken from some famous book or other.

My book NULL-A CONTINUUM is the authorized sequel to WORLD OF NULL-A by A.E. van Vogt. I suppose this is the only book where I did not steal any ideas, because the ideas were freely given with the blessings and permission of the estate. But just to keep my pickpocketing skills alive, I took ideas from other Van Vogt books, (No-men and callidetic talent come from ISHER; Nexialism comes from VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE; the 'Violent Man' syndrome comes from THE VIOLENT MAN) and I tried to embrace a sense of the depths of time and the scope of the cosmos such as one gets in the majestic STARMAKER.

I cannot guarantee that if you like these books, you will like my more humble offerings, but I can suspect that if you dislike books like this, you may well dislike mine as well.

To my regret, my philosophy sneaks into every novel I write, with the sole exception of the Van Vogt sequel, where I was careful to sneak in Van Vogt's philosophy.
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