Raygun Revival Interview — All My Dimmest Secrets Revealed

I am interviewed by Raygun Revival by author-editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt(SFFWRTCHT):  Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

John C. Wright: I was always a bookish child, reading such well known classics as Daniel Boone: Young Hunter and Tracker by Augusta Stevenson and Three Boys In A Helicopter by Nan Hayden Agle and Janet Wilson and The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall as well as obscure books like Alice In Wonderland by some guy whose name I don’t remember.

My father was in the Navy, and servicemen on cruise often collected paperbacks to read during bunk time. One of these men, a friend of my fathers, had accumulated a huge boxful of books he was reluctant to throw away, so he gave it to me. On the top of the box was a paperback showing a kid in a spacesuit the globe of the earth in the background, and faces hanging in space above that, a fat crook and a thin one, a child, an evil alien and a good one.

Mystified, I opened the first page: You see, I had this space suit. How it happened was this way: “Dad, I want to go to the Moon.” “Certainly,” he answered, and went back to his book…

And I was hooked for life.

If you don’t recognize those opening lines, you need to read more SF. This was Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein.

The first book I ever bought with my own money as a child was The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, because I was mesmerized by the cover by Gervasio Gallardo. This was the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series created by Lin Carter. It is still on my bookshelf, lovingly unmussed and uncracked: the image shows a tree down which stairs descend on which regal cats recline. In the distance, a fabulous golden sunset city gleams; on the obverse, a zebra; and beneath the tree roots, skulls. To this day, I defy any book cover art to so strikingly embody the lure and danger and oddness of the fantastic so adroitly.

From there, I bought The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, once again merely because of the cover art. I am old enough, you young whippersnappers, to remember the day when that was the only book with a unicorn on its cover. Unicorns were secretive and shy things back then, back when the world was young.

SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors/books growing up?

JCW: A.E. Van Vogt, because of the wild exuberance of his imagination, particularly WORLD OF NULL-A and Slan; Olaf Stapledon, because of the Wagnerian majesty of his imagination, particularly Last And First Man; Robert Heinlein, because of the crisp laconic wit of his prose, particularly Citizen Of The Galaxy; Jack Vance, because of the orotund eloquent poignancy of his prose, particularly Emphyrio and his Planet of Adventure series; E.E. Doc Smith, because of his rip-roaring space-adventures and plots that leave planetary if not galactic debris in their wake, particularly Galactic Patrol and SKYLARK Duquesne; Keith Laumer, for his lean and masculine wordsmithing, particularly Dinosaur Beach; H.P. Lovecraft, albeit I am an aficionado of his fantasy rather than his horror.

But my greatest admiration and adoration is to J.R.R. Tolkien, for The Lord Of The Rings, whom I honor as the only author to ever write an honestly modern novel. Modern novels all seek to set utterly realistic characters in an utterly realistic and fully realized background: Tolkien did this where James Joyce did not. And if you argue that Tolkien did not write a realistic novel on the grounds that there are magical and miraculous things in Middle Earth, but none in real life, all I can say in reply is that your notion of real life is missing an essential dimension, and that Earth is a mighty matter for song and myth, more that you know.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you get your start as a writer?

JCW: I have been writing stories since roughly age twelve.

Read the rest here.