More Author Influences: Second Wave Epic Fantasy Authors from North America

When I started the author influences project, I didn’t think of going much further. I didn’t really consider my groupings well. I am continuing with groupings though, as I started so I will finished, and the whole point of this project is to see how influences went by generations.

So here are authors I’d consider as second wave epic fantasy authors, those who came into a semi-established genre. Did some of them publish at roughly the same time as the authors I put in the first post? Yes. Jordan and Martin were 90s authors after all, while some of the authors here first published in the 80s. One day I will reorganise this. But for now, enjoy this look at the influences of Lois McMaster Bujold, Jacqueline Carey, Steven Erikson, Ian Esslemont, Robin Hobb, Melanie Rawn, Elizabeth Moon, and L.E. Modesitt.

Lois McMaster Bujold came to Epic Fantasy with the World of the Five Gods after making her bones with the Vorkosigan Saga. Some of her listed influences include Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, C. S. Forester, E.F. Forester, L. Sprague DeCamp, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Cordwainer Smith, Randall Garrett, Lloyd Biggle, Jr., Fletcher Pratt, Zenna Henderson, Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, Anne McCaffrey, James H. Schmitz, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, and Alexander Dumas. 

Jacqueline Carey is best known for the Terre D’Ange series. She doesn’t really talk in terms of influences all that often, but does name Mary Renault, and some favourite authors as Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Richard Adams, Juanita Casey. Other authors she names that might be seen as influences include China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Ursula Le Guin, and John Crowley.

You all know Steven Erikson for Malazan. Erikson has made the point that his main influences were mythology and anthropology: Homer, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Snorri Sturlosen, the Elder and Younger Eddas, anthropology textbooks, Frasier’s Golden Bough, monographs on the Dani and Chagnon’s Fierce People, Gibbon’s Decline & Fall, Bury’s published lectures on The Barbarian Invasions, Vasiliev’s three volume history of the Byzantine Empire. In terms of fiction, he points to Howard, Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen Donaldson, Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, Ursula Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Harry Harrison, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Vernor Vinge, Roger Zelazny, Philip K. Dick, Tim O’Brien, Gustav Hasford, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, John Gardner, Don DeLillo, Karl Edward Wagner, John Gardner, Mark Helprin, and Robin Hobb.

Speaking of Robin Hobb, I’d already covered her in Urban Fantasy, but am covering her again for obvious reasons. she lists Tolkien, Blanche Fisher Wright, Kate Seredy, Robert Heinlein, Ernie Pyle, GRR Martin, Michael Moorcock, Rudyard Kipling, Ronald Holt, Robert Bloch, The Lansdales, John D. MacDonald, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Louisa May Alcott, Walter Farley, T.H. White, and Fritz Leiber.

Ian C Esslemont is the other part of Malazan, and lists some of his influences as Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Karl Edward Wagner, Glen Cook, Stephen Donaldson, and Tim Powers.

Melanie Rawn’s a name that has perhaps been a little forgotten but I still see people talking about, and who I think Brandon Sanderson’s advocacy of will bring back into the light. She has had mental health issues over the years that has led to series going unfinished and also perhaps contributes to a lack of publicity that means the only listed influences I can find are her history degree, Jane Austen, Dorothy Sawyers, and various lyricists. If anyone can help me shine more of a light, I’d be grateful.

Elizabeth Moon is probably best known for her sci-fi, but her Paksenarrion series definitely earns her a place here. Unfortunately beyond the influence of her being a Marine and D&D Paladins, I can’t really find anything here. Again, left up in the hope of pointers.

LE Modesitt is an author I don’t know well, being a great deal better known in the US than in the UK. He was initially a poet and studied under William Jay Smith and Clay Hunt. While he switched to SF due to how much he read, there’s not much information out there on it, and the authors he says he goes back and rereads are William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Wallace Stevens. Or poets rather. Once again, if someone can give me a better steer, I would be grateful, and apologise to everyone for three uninspiring entries.

So what’s the cumulative effect of this tranche? This is possibly the first one that doesn’t talk greatly of Tolkien at all (although Modesitt has read him at least). There is a huge pulp influence here with Bujold, Hobb, Erikson and Esslemont, particularly in the form of Fritz Leiber, who is listed by all four. Esslemont is the only one of those four that don’t list Sci-Fi influences either, which are surely part of Moon’s and Modesitt’s stories given their bibliographies if they can be found.

Other fantasy authors with multiple mentions include R.E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Glen Cook, Ursula Le Guin, and Stephen Donaldson. Moon has worked with Anne McCaffrey, so perhaps you could consider her as having multiple mentions too.

I shouldn’t read too much into this, but right now this suggests a second wave of Epic Fantasy of sorts coming from a pulp/Sci-Fi/omnivorous tradition without much of a look at the British writers that looked to Tolkien. Given how muddled together my choices are, I also know there is a good deal of that sort of influence elsewhere, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

There are also the usual nods to historical novels and the classics, although perhaps less of those than usual. No Dickens, no Shakespeare.

I think to get the most of these I’d have to incorporate all of the 80s/90s North American author posts, and since I think I’ve got most of the authors who I believe should be covered covered by now, maybe that’s my next port of call.

Interview: Jacqueline Carey


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