Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's 2011

So, I have no idea what that background is all about. Just go with it.

It's 2011 and occasionally one of my many readers (Ok, all 3 of you) have commented that I don't post on my blog anymore. That's true. It's been 7 months according to Kayla. Running a blog is tough for me because I can't imagine that many people care about what I think or do on a daily basis.

Blog entries like "I drove to work, had lunch, drove home and did laundry." Are the kinds of things that bore the heck out of me and I mean both reading and writing them, so I don't do things daily. I'm much happier discussing Batman and GI Joe at length, or posting movie trailers or online games that I find. The problem is I don't find them often enough or in a high enough density to bother posting them, so after a while I just forget the blog is here until I have a week where I see two good trailers and three good games or something.

So what I need is a theme. And since it's 2011 I figured the theme should be 11. It's a nice number, and I like it. So the theme for this year is going to be "Lists of my top 11".

Today's list is "My top 11 favorite Authors". If you have ideas for other lists I can post I'll do those too. I think the most likely outcome of this experiment is that by December I might have remembered to post 11 times. So Good Luck with that.

My Top 11 Favorite Authors

11. Jane Austen
My English teachers would be proud. Well, most of them. When I was in college I had a professor who hated Jane Austen. HATED her. She was a big fan of the Bronte sisters (Charlotte and Emily, if I recall) and I thought it was the worst drek that I'd ever had to muddle through. So, one day I was thinking, "If this lady loves these Bronte chicks, and hates Jane Austen, maybe I should check out some Jane Austen". Turns out Jane Austen was funny, lighthearted, and poked a lot of fun at the landed gentry of England. Plus, she wrote Emma, which was later the story that the screenplay for Clueless was based on, and that's one of my guilty pleasure movies. And it doesn't hurt that her last name is a homophone for the greatest city in Texas. So there's that, too.

10. Neil Gaiman
Probably one of the best fantasy authors in the world, Neil writes some great stuff. Stardust, Neverwhere, and American Gods are fantastic fantasy/sci-fi and if you haven't read them you should. Also, his work on Sandman comics (not the Spider-man villain) was tremendous. Lots of short stories, one in particular about cats dreams that I will never forget. He's awesome and you should read more of his stuff. Also, he wrote one of my top 5 books ever with author #2 on this list.

9. Robert Aspirin
I remember discovering Robert Aspirin because a friend of my parents was moving and left us a bunch of boxes of books. Most of them were Sunday comic type things like Hagar, Beetle Bailey, B.C., and Garfield. But there were a few fantasy novels thrown in as well, and one of them was Myth-Adventures, by Robert Aspirin. I was, at the time, mired in terrible fantasy novels that all felt exactly the same to me, cliche after cliche, Knights and Dragons, wicked witches and pretty princesses. It was all starting to blend together. And then Myth-Adventures was about a kid who wanted to be a thief, got caught by a wizard who forced him to learn magic against his will, summoned a demon, had his wizard mentor die, and then actually learned real magic from the demon who was a fast talking con-artist with a heart of gold. I loved it.

8. Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris has to have had one of the most impressive runs in novel history. Since the 1970's he's written 5 books which have been made into 6 movies. That's a good percentage of wins. It's like a quarterback throwing 5 passes for 6 touchdowns. I'm still not sure how he managed it. Particularly since two of those books are almost the same story. First, only writing 5 books in 40 years but being one of the best paid, most celebrated authors in the world is impressive enough. But the 5 books he wrote were: Black Sunday (about terrorists trying to blow up the superbowl), Red Dragon (about a former FBI agent visiting a serial killer in prison to track down another serial killer), Silence of the Lambs (which is pretty much Red Dragon but with an FBI trainee instead of a former agent), Hannibal (the continuing adventures of the world's most famous serial killer), and Young Hannibal (the prequel to all the madness above). But at any rate I find his books fascinating, and I've never found a serial killer novel writer that I enjoyed more.

7. Stephen King
During that dreadful time in junior high and high school when it was harder to find a good fantasy novel than it is to find a Thomas Harris book that hasn't been made into a movie, someone suggested I check out Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. I knew King only as a pulp horror writer, and I'd never even bothered trying to read one of his books. But Eyes of the Dragon was really good, not cliche filled, and I realized he had a very relatable writing style that kept me entertained. I immediately drove through all the books he had written, pausing to read The Shining twice. I got sucked into the Dark Tower series, complained with the rest of the world when it took too long to get sequels, and was totally devastated when he was in a car wreck and it looked like he might never finish the series. But even now I still read and enjoy his books. Duma Key was the last one I read (highly recommend it for some fun reading) and I'm starting Cell, which looks like it could be fun too.

6. Aimee Bender
I really wish I could remember how I found Aimee Bender. I think it might have been while searching for another author on this list (#5, below) and finding people on Amazon recommended her if you liked #5's books. I found some short stories she did online and was amazed at how good they were. Totally bizarre, incredibly fun, and a breeze to read. Then I found out she wrote a novel called An Invisible Sign of My Own, found it at a bookstore and loved every page of it. It's now being made into a movie with Jessica Alba. Great stories.

5. Chuck Palahniuk
Yes, the guy that wrote Fight Club. Not even my favorite of his books, but it's a great one. My favorite is still Choke, which also got the movie treatment, but isn't on Netflix. Sadness. But really, all of Chuck's books are great. Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Diary, and Lullaby were all brilliant. His plots are strange, his characters are stranger, and his writing style is sheer bliss.

4. Richard Adams
Richard Adams wrote a lot of books about animals (Shardik is about a giant bear; Plague Dogs is about two dogs who escape from an animal testing laboratory; The Ship's Cat is about...well, a cat on a ship. You get the idea.) But his masterpiece is Watership Down, still to this day my favorite book. I try to read it once a year. If you've never read it, or if you're thinking "Isn't that a kid's book about rabbits?" well, you're half right. It's about rabbits. It's not a kid's book though. It's violent, dark, funny, and probably one of the best adventure novels ever written. It literally makes me laugh and cry and keeps me hanging on the edge of my seat even though a.) It's about rabbits, b.) It's just a story, and c.) I've read it like 20 times now. It's that good.

3. Douglas Adams
I debated for a long time about how high Douglas was going to go on the list. Of all the books that I'm capable of reading and re-reading, Hitchhiker's Guide is waaaay at the top of the list. Possibly the funniest books I've ever read, and if I could figure out how to emulate his style of comedy I'd do it in a heartbeat. When I first read the Dirk Gently novels I was disappointed, but I've read them again since that long ago time and I can't imagine what was wrong with me, they're just as good as the Hitchhiker books. I'm sad that they let someone else do a Hitchhiker book after he died. Should have left it alone.

2. Terry Pratchett
This was where my debate was about where to put Douglas Adams, because he and Terry Pratchett hold a similar fascination for me. Terry is more about puns, which can be groan inducing, but the sheer volume of his work is what got me to put him at 2. He's written something like 40 discworld novels (I made that number up and I'm not doing ANY fact checking, so don't quote that). Another great author who made fantasy bearable for me. I love the witches novels, they're the best. My favorite is still Lords and Ladies, about elves coming back to the Discworld and everyone but the witches thinking that it was a good thing, but the witches having to remind everyone that, no, elves are evil little gits, was one of my favorite "turn the genre on it's ear" novels. Plus, Terry and Neil Gaman wrote a book called Good Omens which is the best end of the world novel ever. Ever.

1. Elmore Leonard
Anyone who knows me, even vaguely, could have told you who would be at the top of this list. Elmore is the author who inspires me to write. His sparse descriptions and ridiculously good dialog are what drives me to try to improve my writing at every turn. His 10 Rules for Writing is what I live by whenever I start writing a book or a story. He has books so re-readable that I've re-read all of them. Some of them several times. For me, Unknown Man #89 is my favorite, but really, you could lock me in a room with any one of his novels and I'd be happy for at least 10 read throughs.

So, there you have it. My first list.

What other lists should I make before I completely abandon this blog again?