Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guest post: Lawrence M. Schoen's Favorite authors

Lawrence M. Schoen, author of Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard,
talks about his favorite authors

Like most authors, I was a fan before I was a published writer. Somewhere along the way, many of the people whose books I adored became acquaintances and friends. It’s an amazing thing to get to know the people behind the books; it changes and enhances your enjoyment of their work.

I challenge myself to read 50 books each year (as I write this, I’m several books behind schedule, but it will be close). I’m always looking for new writers to sample, but there’s a core group that I grab as soon as their work hits the shelves (and sometimes sooner, if I can swing it). In no particular order, here are half a dozen among the living authors who I consider “must reads” and why they’re on my list:

Max Gladstone - The newest addition to my list — and the youngest, so expect many many more books from him — writes from a masterful bit of figurative language and wrings every last drop of nuance and semantic delight from his metaphor. He’s also an incredibly nice guy. I just wish he wrote faster, because even though I can usually get my hands on an advance copy of his next novel, the lag between them still feels too long.

Paul Park - He’s writing the literature of the field. Seriously, the man astounds me with how much thought and emotional shading he can pack into a single sentence. There’s a patient brooding brilliance to his novels that leaves me agog. His Princess of Roumania tetraology dazzles, and don’t get me started with the layers interwoven in the meta-narratives of his most recent book, All Those Vanished Engines.

China MiĆ©ville - I’ve never met nor spoken with the man, but I’m convinced he wrote Embassytown as a love letter to me (and possibly to every other SF author with a PhD in psycholinguistics, but I think that might just be me). When you look at his fiction, you quickly realize that he tosses out as minor asides the kind of ideas that other authors could build entire careers on. His work is inspiring and innovative.

Karl Schroeder - In a field where novelty rules, Karl has left the pack of innovators behind and gone off in directions they won’t discover for years, and by the time they do, he’ll have moved on to something even more compelling. We manage to connect every few years for an hours’ long chat, and it is always glorious and mind altering.

Daniel Abraham - If there’s a better study of the life-long relationship between two characters in fantasy than his Long Price Quartet, I don’t know about it. There’s an authenticity to the voices of his characters that you won’t find anywhere else. And it’s not limited to his fantastic fiction; you’ll find the same clarity in his SF and in his YA novels too.

Walter Jon Williams - Possibly the field’s most indefatigable author, and hands down the “master of plot.” I had the great fortune to participate in his two week Master Class back in 2010, and my writing (and my life!) was forever changed. Everything you ever wanted to know about pacing can be found in his novels.

I could go on and on, but I said I’d keep the list down to a manageable number. If there are any here that you’ve not heard of, well, I’ve just handed you a gift that will utterly transform your year. Go forth, and read!

More about the author:
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia. You can find him online at LawrenceMSchoen.com and @KlingonGuy.

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