I’ve been very lucky to grow up in a family who value writing and books as much as I’ve grown to. (Post hoc ergo propter hoc, probably.) I was always encouraged to read, and had access to a wide variety of books in addition to any I might pick up myself. I’ve always been grateful for that–but it’s given me a set of references apart from a lot of the other people/writers my age don’t have.
It’s an interesting conundrum.
My father was (and still is) a big fan of science fiction, and as such, there was always a healthy dose of Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Bradbury, etc. floating around. But in addition to them, there were two authors who jumped off the shelves and caught me in their worlds.
Spider Robinson and Roger Zelazny.
I spent so much time, even back as early as middle school, having these worlds in the back of my head, knowing that none of my peers knew them. To be fair, back then Zelazny’s world and Mike Callahan’s bar wouldn’t have done much for me since I was too young, but I loved the feeling of belonging. I loved seeing the stories Jake and the others at Callahan’s shared. (And a major character shared my name, so hey.) I still say that in the event that I can ever make my own house from the ground up, the top floor is going to be a recreation of what I’ve always seen Callahan’s as.
But Zelazny…something about the Chronicles of Amber reached out and grabbed something deep inside me and has never let go.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read all of the books. The story shifts partway through the series from Corwin–the narrator of the first books–to his son Merlin, creating two complete separate-yet-connected arcs. I’ve read all of Corwin’s books, but I can’t remember if I ever read all of Merlin’s. But it was enough. Memories of the trump cards, a method of communication I still wish I could own in person–the Pattern, a magical path to prove yourself that I can’t recall of the details of anymore–the shadow-worlds connecting Amber (the ultimate in perfection) and the Courts of Chaos (the ultimate evil)… it shaped the way I saw the world.
Since then, I’ve found a few more people who have heard of Callahan’s and Amber, but aside for the wonderful worlds they gave me, reading these works taught me something useful: you’re never going to find anything new by sticking to the paths everyone already knows. I’ve found some of my favorite authors by going out onto limbs. It’s easy to be safe and only read that which we know, that which we can verify with the required 6 friends telling us that it’s okay. Sometimes you need to take some risks. Have I found some really awful dreck that way? Yes. With the advent of the e-reader and self-publishing, it’s much easier for anyone and their brother to upload their unedited first-draft-quality manuscript and call it a novel. But it also means that some really excellent work can come through–and we just need to find it, and share it, and put it out there.
Which is why I told people about Amber and Callahan’s. It’s why I talk about M.C.A. Hogarth as much as I do. And it’s why I reach out to you, to find new books.
And why I keep searching through the book shops, trying to find the next book reaching out for a new reader, listening for the quiet voice the books speak to us through…and wait, for the right one to speak.
Check out the first Amber book here: http://amzn.com/B011MYPIY0
Check out the first Callahan’s book here: http://amzn.com/B004IK94VY