Let’s talk about influences.
I’ve always had a hard time pointing to mine. Tamora Pierce, definitely. I discovered her books when I was seven and have been obsessed ever since. To find some of my favorite themes, just refer to the Song of the Lioness quartet.
Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton are the only other names that stand out in my memory as particularly formative. With these three amazing writers, I began to find my own storytelling voice.
And my influences aren’t confined to the written word.
Netflix is both awesome and horrible; it has the entirety of Xena: Warrior Princess. Last week, I made the admittedly ill-advised decision to re-watch at least some of the show. I hadn’t in over a decade, and used to love it.
I expected it to be worse than I remembered (it is — the dialogue! The plot holes! The historical inaccuracies! The whitewashing!!), but I was not expecting to recognize how much that show has influenced me.
Watching, I see images I hadn’t remembered came from anything but my own head. It’s a little surreal, to say the least. Once, I’m sure, my dialogue was just as bad as that on the show. Certainly just as heavy on the melodrama. I’ve thankfully improved since then.
The show continues to be a strong influence to me, even when I’ve forgotten it. Case in point: a short story I wrote a few years ago with no thought of Xena, I just re-watched the initial conception.
Elements of the show have obviously stuck with me, and although I would have to list Xena as a “guilty pleasure” for all it’s teeth-grinding problems, it did have some fantastic elements. An awareness of problems means an ability to counteract them, or so I can hope.
(See that? I’m apologizing for it. I hate apologizing for liking something, but I won’t edit it out; ignoring an issue only perpetuates it.)
When I was younger, I wanted to be Xena when I grew up. I liked Gabrielle because I could identify with her more readily, and because I never thought I could be anything like Xena. I’d forgotten that, like I’d forgotten Xena’s manic grin when she fights — her total lack of apology for her talent for and love of fighting. And you know what? I used to play capoeira with a grin something like that.
I love proving that old-me wrong.