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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

GUEST BLOG POST: Authors Who Inspired by Lawrence M. Schoen

Fantasy Book Critic is pleased to welcome Lawrence M. Schoen to our blog. Lawrence M. Schoen is the author of the incredibly moving science fiction novel Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard.

Overview of Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard:
The Sixth Sense meets Planet of the Apes in a moving science fiction novel set so far in the future, humanity is gone and forgotten in Lawrence M. Schoen's Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant's control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.

Today, Lawrence M. Schoen stops by to talk about the authors who have inspired him throughout the years.

Thank you to Lawrence M. Schoen for stopping by today. 

 Authors Who Inspired by Lawrence M. Schoen 

Reading through the collected works of any author can be likened to that drawing of the evolution of humanity, from the squiggly fish-like thing first leaping from the primordial sea and arriving eventually as some guy in a three-piece suit, briefcase, and bad haircut. The evolution of an authorial voice is shaped by the attempts we make in our writing, by what lessons we take from our mistakes, by what we refuse to learn. But most of all, authors self-define, consciously or otherwise, by what we read.

With the luxury of someone who is looking back at a book already written, I can tell you what I’d hoped to achieve with my novel, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, not so much in terms of specific story, but by invoking aspects of other authors whose writing I admire and have been shaped by.

In no particular order… in those sections where the narration flows effortlessly, allowing the reader to turn pages life puffs of cloud and the book seems to go by so fast, I’m channeling Roger Zelazny. There was an elegance to his writing that is burned into my mind and bone, the seemingly casual but oh so deliberate choice of every word that made his writing its own brand of perfection. For complexity, vividness, and reality of characters and their convoluted relationships, I strive to draw close to those crafted by Daniel Abraham, and in particular the character studies he created over the course of four books and many decades of subjective experience in The Long Price. For sheer inventiveness and creativity of worldbuilding I invoke China MiĆ©ville in general and that dazzling novel Perdido Street Station in particular. For making those sparks of creative thought combine to work and produce “sense o’ wonder” I am inspired by the incomparable vision of Karl Schroeder, an author who sees the same trends as others but through very different lenses. For plot and pacing I draw on the example and lessons of Walter Jon Williams who not only puts a bomb under a seat somewhere on the train but also promises there’s a ravenous bear in the club car as well and it’s coming your way but probably won’t reach you before the train reaches the partially constructed bridge or the bomb goes off. Probably. And for the humanity and the sense of consequence to the words I’ve put on the page, I’m endlessly indebted to Ursula K. Le Guin and images of a man holding a kitten, as poignant and powerful a metaphor as I’ve ever encountered.

Whether these authors would see any of themselves in my work — or if anyone else would see them there — is a lovely but somewhat irrelevant question. Their writing colored me, stunned and amazed me, altered the way I in turn strung words together when it was my turn to do so. I wouldn’t write the way I do if I hadn’t read their words first, and I’m very happy and very grateful that I did.

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 and @KlingonGuy.


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