We’re pleased to once more welcome Max Gladstone, author of the excellent CRAFT series. Max is here to talk about the psychic origins of some of his influences and to ask about images and ideas that linger on in your mind. One commenter will win a copy of Max’s new book Two Serpents Rise which was one of the best books I read this year.
For every inspiration we admit, another lies buried. At book events (for my first book, Three Parts Dead, and for the most recent in the series, Two Serpents Rise, which just came out recently), when asked about my inspirations, I’ll go through a list of writers — Zelazny, McKinley, Dunnett, Herbert, Simmons, Pratchett — who had immense and persistent influence on my style and my sense of cool. I talk about these folks because I know them, I’ve read their work and made it a huge part of my life. But some of the landmarks on my imagination’s landscape I rarely mention, because I don’t know them anywhere near as well as the extent of their influence would suggest.
When I was a kid, I slept over at a friend’s house and played this new video game called Final Fantasy VII. The first two hours or so of that game were one of the stand-out ‘what on earth is going on here I want more’ artistic moments of my childhood. I had no PlayStation, so I never played through the rest of the game, and I have no idea what story the team wanted to tell. I do remember a dark looming metropolis, trains and semiautomatic rifles and sorcery and robots and a guy with an immense sword, nuclear reactors siphoning magic out of the earth, terrorist cells and persistent surveillance and criminal syndicates and a ruined church lit by streams of sunlight and a girl who held the stars in her hand. Those images stuck. Maybe they stuck all the more because I didn’t play through the rest of the game — because I left my friend’s house the next morning with those snapshots in my head and a churning unsatisfied desire for a story to connect them.
- The half-broadcast of Vampire Hunter D I happened to see late night on TNT, not knowing what the hell was going on — no prior exposure to anime, but vampires and psychic powers and a talking hand what the hell.
- Anyone else remember the cartoon show C.O.P.S.? Cyborg cops, fighting crime in a future time? Another show of which I saw half an episode at a friend’s house (no TV at home), but stuck with me. My memory’s transmuted this show into super-dark Morgan–Gibson cybernoir; I chased down an episode a few years back and there was a lot more yellow than I remember.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas. I actually did see this movie all the way through, but the splinter worked its way so deep under my brainskin that I thought I’d made the movie up until I rediscovered it a decade later.
What about you? What psychic keyframes hover in the back of your mind, what missed artistic connections? What ideas have stayed with you far out of proportion to your engagement with the source text? What splinters are stuck under your fingernails?