Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest Post: Sunset on the Perimeter: Being a Brief Reminisce on Early Influences

And now, another episode from the imagination and background of author/artist Aaron Bradford Starr:

It was evening in the closing days of summer and I was being hosted by my good friend, Joyce Alton. She and I were launching sentry dirigibles over the mangroves that surround her family's secret estate and watching as the inflated shapes rose high enough to catch the last orange light of the day.

"And that," I was saying, "was how my first story came about."

"But," she protested, "surely you wrote something before?"

"No, no," I answered her, clipping stiff fabric above the gas jets and giving them a loud burst of flame. The final dirigible fluffed out, slowly filling with hot air thus created. "The first time I realized I might want to be a writer was in fifth grade, but it wasn't until sixth grade that my main influences were introduced to me."

Sitting on one of the upholstered chairs scattered about the security deck, I stretched out my feet and considered the fading light as crocodiles rumbled in the darkening swamps all around. The dirigible continued to fill on its own.

"My brother, David," I said at last, "is very close in age to me, but somewhat different in temperament. I would put him into a class far more ready to step off into new territory than I. He was always introducing me to the very newest music and literature."

"Disco?" Joyce asked, with a smile.

I laughed at the thought. "No, we were too young for disco," I said with a wistful sigh. "This was the eighties already, and metal was all the rage among the youth of the day. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, surely you remember these musicians?"

"Why, Bruce Dickenson and I used to play soccer in my London days," Joyce replied.

"Really?" I asked, startled.

"Perhaps not."

Puzzled and intrigued, I continued, "Well, it was not long before David had brought home daring new literary efforts by the rising stars of the day. Chalker, Anthony, and Donaldson were the main authors I remembered from that time. He was always reading something. I, as a youth, had eschewed reading, for the most part, save for comic strips and the occasional Dr. Seuss."

"Ah!" Joyce exclaimed. "I used to play whist with the good Doctor!"

"You did?" I exclaimed, startled anew.

"Not exactly," she responded, sighing. Brightening at once, she stood and worked the brass lever that released the last of the dirigibles into the sky. "So he was bringing home fiction for adults, was he?"

I nodded. "It took awhile for me to actually start reading one. I remember that the cover painting for The Source of Magic caught my eye, but I didn't read it for some time. The first book of adult SF or fantasy I remember reading was Quest for the Well of Souls by jack Chalker. It was book three of five, so I didn't understand a lot of the backstory, but the adventurous nature of it hooked me at once."

"And the sex might not have hurt, either," Joyce added, her eyes twinkling.

"Certainly not," I answered, "though I haven't emulated that in my own writing."

"Chaste as fallen snow, if I hear correctly," Joyce said, opening the hummingbird shelters and whirling the bird call over her head, silently summoning the tiny creatures from their daily rounds.

"As plowed snow, perhaps," I allowed. "But beyond the stories, I also found David and I talking about the books we were reading. He'd read one and then give it to me and we'd talk about them. Reading, he showed me, could be a very social thing, not simply lonely page-turning in some dim corner. Soon the entire family was at it."

"Cuts into dinnertime conversation, I imagine," Joyce replied.

"Entirely, some nights. I remember entire meals with all of us reading books one, two, and three of our latest series, and everyone waiting for the others to finish so we could all talk about characters and such."

"And reading habits are writing habits," Joyce said with a nod. Hummingbirds flitted near enough to whirr against her hair as they arrived at their cages. "I can see how this is an important writing influence."

"Yes," I nodded, musing. "Not only was I reading the sort of thing I would like to one day write, but was surrounded by like-minded people within my very own family. This was an important development. Who knows how many more years might have elapsed before I found these authors, if David hadn't brought them home from his many voyages overseas? I might have gone in quite another direction."

Joyce nodded, clipping the last of the bird cages shut. "Just so," she said.

Satisfied the night's perimeter was in good order, she suggested we retire to the billiard room, where fine brandy and cigars were waiting, and I thought that sounded splendid.

For more from Mr. Starr, see his previous post: What Justifies a Larger Word Count in Speculative Fiction. And What Doesn't.

Aaron can also be found at his blog, Imaginary Friend, or roaming the corridors of Agent Query Connect.

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