Hello readers! We’re here with the answer to the latest question in our Bloganuary series!
Who is your favorite author and why?
Jayden: Mary Higgins Clark. She is the queen of mystery! I was introduced to her when my grandmother passed away and my mom handed me Stillwatch from my grandmother’s closet. It was a book from her TBR (to be read) pile. I fell in love with this powerful female author who was everything I wanted to be. To this day, she’s the only author I collect novels for, and I have a good portion of them. She is phenomenal.
Richard: I’m really bad at these questions. It turns into a philosophical, “but what does favorite mean?” thing. I think we’ve had this come up before and I’ve thrown out Naomi Novik, KA Applegate, and maybe Kim Harrison once? Let’s go with Michael Stackpole today. While I (like every other millennial) has a “remember when you found Animorphs?” story (Borders? or a bookstore that would soon become one, Oxford Valley Mall, 1997, book #7 The Stranger) I think Stackpole is probably the most important author for my overall development as a reader/writer.
It’s a twisty, nerdy road. I don’t really remember a time before I was a Star Wars fan as a kid. My dad brought a demo disk for TIE Fighter home (probably circa 1994, based on the release date) and I was already really into it. That would also be the year that the Battletech cartoon came out. I maintain that it is a far better show than it’s generally given credit for. As a 5 year old, the fact that it had giant robots and something resembling a coherent plot made it the best thing ever. (These will converge eventually, I swear.)
The next year, 1995 (again, guesstimating based on the release date), my dad proudly came back to the car (where I was probably reading something considerably less cool than Animorphs or a Michael Stackpole book) with a copy of Mechwarrior 2. He (correctly) realized that anything with the Battletech logo on it would obviously be awesome. I think he also played the demo and probably saw that it won every freaking video game award that year. Or one of his German gamer friends told him to play it. That was how we got a bunch of game recs back in the day.
Fast forward to probably 1997, when my dad got a copy of The Krytos Trap from the library. I liked it (but, again, I’d have liked just bout anything Star Wars at that point.) Around the same time, we also got a copy of a strategy guide for Mechwarrior 2. As I recall, it was not a terribly useful strategy guide (aiming and driving at the same time is hard for an 8 year old!) But this was back in the good old days when strategy guides would have all kinds of cool behind the scenes stuff. So the first 50 pages or so were less about the game, and more about the history of Battletech, including book recommendations. Stackpole’s Warrior trilogy came highly recommended (with good reason, it’s probably the best thing he wrote in the setting.)
So off we went to the library, to use those old school loud keyboards with the plastic couch protectors on them. While they didn’t have the Warrior books they did have the Rogue Squadron (fuck you Disney!) series. I’m pretty sure those were the first “adult” books I read. That’s mostly true, I think I tried to read War of The Worlds in like 3rd grade. It didn’t go very well.
I found a ton of my other favorite authors via the Star Wars EU and Battletech series. Looking back, it’s kind of weird to see how all the pieces fell together (Star Wars>Battletech Cartoon>Mechwarrior>Strategy Guide>Rogue Squadron>Battletech Books…) None of them are that odd. I was a nerdy boy in the 90s, of course I liked Star Wars. But it was an interesting and meandering road. A few of those authors are still publishing today, and the ones that aren’t are always a gem when they pop up at a used bookstore. I am glad that I fell down the Battletech side of the rabbit hole instead of the 40K one. (Otherwise, this post would probably be about Dan Abnett. Who is fine, I guess.)
Anyway, I’d say Stackpole has a strong claim to the “best military sci-fi media tie-in” author title. How impressive this is is up to you. I remember finding his website back when I was in high school, and a lot of his advice for writers is really good. Don’t edit until you’re done a draft. Start with interesting characters and let them drive the story. I think balance is really his biggest strength as an author. Finding the ratio between political intrigue (giving your new wife a china set of all the planets you’re going to conquer as a wedding gift? YES!) personal drama, humor (again, FUCK YOU DISNEY!) and mech/starfighter battles isn’t easy. He gets his explosions wrong sometimes, but we forgiven him.