I know that you’re desperate to know who my influences are. Desperate, I say! And because I am a gentle and benevolent creator, I hereby expose my inner workings, with merely a humble request that you place my ribcage back into its proper place when you have finished examining my foundation. (I mean that last word in a purely literary sense, rather than its scatological form)

I’ll breaking these down into various media, but since my head’s in fiction tonight and not in games, I’m going with the literary sparks first.

The first and most important influence is Roger Zelazny. In 7th grade, a friend named Tim Callan began calling me Corwin – and he was kind enough shortly thereafter to lend me a copy of “Nine Princes in Amber”. It would be safe to say that my first reaction was, “Holy shit. Holy… shit.” I was hooked. Tim moved away not long after that (I’d hate to think the two events were correlated, but you never know). Since then, I made it a mission to find every bit of Zelazny prose I could get my hands on, and I think I’ve got a fairly good collection by now. I still haven’t purchased the massive 6-volume set since I own most of the stories, and this would be for completion purposes, but man oh man do I want it. Come to think of it, my birthday’s coming up…

In 1995, Roger Zelazny was due to be a guest at Gen Con. Since I was working at TSR then, I intended to find some time to thank him for what he’d done for me. Through his work, he taught me how to use words and viewpoints, how to put dreams to paper in a way that made sense, and how to write different rhythms for different kinds of action. His short essays and introductions in collections like “Frost & Fire” and “Unicorn Variations” showed me different ways of approaching old stories. But underneath all of this, the chronicles of Amber created a foundation of multiverse-spanning brilliance that imprinted itself into my soul. I desperately wanted to buy the man a beer; I later discovered that Dragon Magazine editor Dave Gross had much the same idea.

Sadly, we missed that chance. Mr. Zelazny died in June of 1995 of kidney failure stemming from colorectal cancer.

But his work lives on, and I hope that I can do justice to claiming him as an influence. The man was an incredible stylist, deep with imagination, and we will be lucky if we see his like again.

Oh, and Tim Callan: if you’ve put a Google alert on your name or somehow otherwise stumble across this, I totally owe you.


Next up: Ursula K. Le Guin