Wandering around my school library one lunchtime many years ago, I found Waylander tucked away on a dusty shelf all the way in the back. I was hooked immediately. A whole new world of heroic fantasy opened to me, a world with epic stories, fierce combat, and flawed characters. I ploughed through all the Gemmell books I could get my hands on, and grew familiar with the author’s consistent theme of broken, violent men seeking redemption as they stood against the darkness.
Of all his characters, Waylander is my favourite – this crossbow-wielding assassin is not a tediously archetypal hero in shining armour, but a real, damaged person who makes selfish choices and has to live with the consequences of his actions. I strove to add the same shades of grey to my own characters, giving them a human depth that hopefully shows through in their words and actions.
As far as fight scenes go, Gemmell was a master. Before my book, I had never even attempted them before and went through many rewrites. I used Gemmell’s work as the primary influence for my action sequences, and if they show even a tenth of his competence then I’ll be more than happy.
Dune. The original science fiction masterpiece. The webs of political intrigue Frank Herbert wove through his story blew my mind when I first picked this up this book. The Emperor, Navigator’s Guild, and Great Houses with their tripod of power were a huge influence when I created the factions in my own world.
It wasn’t until after I’d finished my book that I noticed similarities between the corpulent Baron Harkonnen and one of my own characters. I considered rewriting, but ultimately, my character’s unsightly appearance is the product of his own decisions and environment, and to change him now would be doing my story a disservice.
The Fallout Series
Of course I couldn’t make this list without mentioning the Fallout Series, some of the most iconic games from my childhood. Drawing inspiration from the original Mad Max films (back when Mel Gibson could kill you with his crazy eyes), these games created a comically brutal post-apocalyptic America, filled with equal parts dark humour and goofy 50’s science fiction.
These games have been influencing my idea of what a post-apocalyptic wasteland should be like for almost twenty years now. While the newer installments are taking the series in a questionable direction, away from its role-playing game roots, Fallout is still the inappropriate, sarcastic granddad who laughs at others’ misfortune.
So there you have it. There were more works that influenced me of course, but these six are the ones I regard as the main inspirations behind my book. If post-apocalyptic fiction interests you, then please check out Forged in the Dawn which will be releasing on the Amazon Kindle store on 22nd July.
(Side note: I didn’t use official posters in these posts because I wasn’t sure my ramblings counted as review/criticism under the terms of fair use. However, being an old book, I was unable to find anything for Waylander and so had to use an old scanned cover I found being displayed under fair use on isfdb.org. I guess what I’m saying is, please don’t sue me whoever owns the artwork, I’m just using a low-res version to show what I’m talking about. Thanks).
Forged In The Dawn photo Copyright © 2016 Gavin Zanker
Waylander photo by isfdb.org used under Fair Use as a means of visual identification only.
Dune photo by jazzy junggle licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Fallout photo by Staffan Vilcans licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic