Where the stories come from

“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a question I’ve been hearing a lot recently.

That’s mostly with regard to 30 Second Sci Fi, a project of mine where I’m writing one short sci fi story every day. I’ve been writing for eight months now, so we’re 2/3 of the way done. Only another 129 stories to go before the year is out.

Today 30secSF got a write-up with Vocativ, an online arts-and-culture site.  Emily Levy, the writer, asked me what my influences were.

I told her I had a few favorite authors. But there’s a twist to that tale. Let me start at the beginning.

The first sci-fi I read was William Gibson, Neuromancer. That was important for me. He pretty much invented cyberpunk, and I read Neuromancer as a kid before the internet was really a thing. So when the internet became a thing ten years later, I was kind of seeing it against that backdrop.

Later I really enjoyed and was affected by Iain M Banks and his Culture series. Epic space opera, at the other end of the scale. Excession and The Player of Games are two that most affected me I think.

Recently I’ve fallen in love with James S A Corey and The Expanse series. Those books have been a real inspiration. He has a realistic edge that is frankly really refreshing, and really resonated with me.

But influential as they are, those guys are surface detail for me. The authors that really affected me most deeply haven’t been published yet. Their names are Vince Carpini, Blake and Ehren Jessop, and Jon Bracewell. They’re all from Montreal, like me. I went to high school with them. They were the game masters when we played tabletop roleplaying games. We played Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars, and later graduated to designing and making our own systems. Our group was eight people altogether, but these four and I used to rotate the GM seat most often. We used to play every week, and they still occasionally get together to roll the dice.

Their stories shaped me as a person, let alone influencing me as a writer. For years – our most formative years – we spun entire worlds of stories built on their boundless creativity, endless invention and instinctive eye for story, character and action.

You asked me once where the ideas come from. Well, everything I write draws from the well in the centre of the impregnable fortress of creativity we built together. The water is always new, but it flows thanks to them.

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