Tuesday, 6 September 2011

My Top Ten Writers

Given that last week was really rather serious, and next will be even more so (just look at the date). I thought I’d take some time out to present the successor to my list of top ten novels I wrote last May. While most of these writers write novels, I’ve not limited myself to novelist; there are writers here better known for non-fiction, or screen writing, and some that I know better from their short stories. So without further ado, my top ten writers in no particular order:

  • Robert Jordan – Author of the epic-in-every-sense Wheel of Time Series. While the series does begin to drag towards the end and pacing becomes more and more inconsistent, the world building and characters remain absolutely incredible. Jordan put so much thought and work into creating a world that is even more detailed and varied than even Tolkien managed. He draws from so many different cultures and traditions around the world and blends them into his own unique world that is fascinating to explore. Into that world he inserts some fantastic, strong and still dangerously flawed characters. I’ve not yet read any of the additions to the series by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007, but I look forward to seeing how he ends the series

  • Tom Holland – While Tom Holland does actually write some fiction, I have only read his non-fiction. He is a superb narrative historian who makes the subjects he writes about both accessible to everyone and really thought-provoking. I don’t always agree with what he has to say, but it always gets me thinking, which is what good history should do. In addition, disagreeing with him helped me in my Oxford Interview, so I have to thank him for that!

  • Tim Pratt – Tim Pratt also writes novels, but I don’t know him from those either. I know and love Pratt’s short stories, many of which have been podcasted on Escape Artists (in fact he is one of the few authors to achieve the Escape Artists Trifecta of having stories published at Escape Pod, Pod Castle and Pseudopod). He writes some of the strangest and most thought-provoking stories at Escape Artists, which is saying a lot. Some highlights include Terrible Ones and Unexpected Outcomes.

  • JRR Tolkien – What can one say about the father of modern epic fantasy? I’m not going to pretend that Lord of the Rings is perfect, it’s not, but the precedent he set, the debt that modern fantasy owes him, in incalculable. Lord of the Rings might be somewhat limited in scope, it might be very much a product of it’s time, it might not be brilliantly paced, or terribly accessible, but it is very good story set in a wonderfully detailed and well thought-out world. Fantasy fiction would not be where it is today without his work.

  • Christopher Nolan – I’ve spoken before a number of times about how incredible films like Inception, The Dark Knight and The Prestige are, and you can add Memento and Batman Begins to that list as well. Nolan is the best writer and director is Hollywood at the moment (despite not winning an Oscar). I cannot wait for his next Batman movie, or whatever else he chooses to make next. His stories are dark, complex and thought provoking. He knows exactly what makes a good character and what makes a good story and executes it brilliantly.

  • Terry Pratchett – The Discworld is possibly one of the most incredibly, ridiculous and brilliant fantasy worlds ever created. Pratchett knows how stories work and explores that brilliantly. His exploration of human nature, language, fiction and the world in general is always wonderfully witty, impossibly clever and thought-provoking at the same time.

  • David Gemmell – Gemmell is one of the best historical, heroic fantasy writers I’ve ever read. He stands himself apart from most historical fiction writers who tend to just retell events of history with a few of their own characters worked into the gaps, by actually rewriting history in his fiction. He takes an interesting period and uses that as a jumping-off point to tell his own story. His work with the Troy myth is fantastic, because it does not tell a story anything like the one that Homer tells, but instead tries to recreate a historical possibility that explains the mythology, without simple copying it.

  • Stephen Moffat – Moffat is best known for his work on Dr Who, which is brilliant, but he also co-wrote Sherlock, a modern re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, and wrote Jykyll, a modern re-imagining of Robert Louis Stephenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jykll and Mr Hyde, both of which were brilliant. As well as producing the previous and current series of Dr Who, Moffat wrote some of the best episodes from back when Russell T. Davis was producing, like The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. Moffat is superb at creating truly creepy and original monsters, like the Angels and the Empty Child, as well as some really fantastic characters. He tells wonderful stories that are both dark and clever.

  • Terry Goodkind – More epic fantasy. Author of the Sword of Truth Series, which remains one of my favourite series of all time. It is heavily influenced by Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, which really influences the series. Unfortunately, Rand’s tendency to present two extremes with no middle ground also comes through, making things a little unambiguous. However Goodkind is also a fantastic plotter and creates some fantastic characters that really draw you in. The world-building is not on a level with Tolkien or Jordan, but that’s not the idea, the focus is on the characters and the plot, both of which are fantastic. Goodkind is also fantastic at pacing, so neither the books, nor the series as a whole drag. In fact, the books race brilliantly to a conclusion, making them very difficult to put down as each story draws to an end.

  • Robert Harris – Robert Harris is a fantastic historical Fiction/thriller writer. His stories are always really well researched and well thought out. They tend to fall into many of the traps that thrillers typically do, but that’s ok, because they’re always very engaging and well written. His historical works, like Pompeii and Imperium are probably his best work, mostly because of how painstakingly well researched, and hence realistic they are. He really draws you into the historical setting, which is very important for a Historical Fiction writer.

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