THE UNWRITTEN: RESONATING READING

THE UNWRITTEN: RESONATING READING

By DCE Editorial Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
In the Vertigo Voices piece in THE UNWRITTEN #9 (see below in ital), on sale today, co-creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross ask: Is there a story you read as a child that still has huge power and resonance for you now - and if so, what? Answer it and who knows, maybe your fact will influence Mike and Peter's fiction? UNW Cv9 CS3.indd At some points in this arc, the spotlight has swung away from Tom Taylor as we explored the power that books have, at certain times, to hit the shunt mechanism that sends our entire life off onto a different track, for better or worse. The idea was so interesting it got the two of us into an intense, if inconclusive, discussion about the books that had done that to us... M: Can you even remember the first book you really loved? It comes pretty early on, doesn't it? P: I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I think comics were the first books I ever loved. I was a voracious reader and I would have thought there were a lot that I loved but it wasn't until I got exposed to comics that I ever would have ridden my bike for miles from little store to little store on the off chance that new comics might be in. And God forbid that I found out a friend from school had a pile of old comics that I hadn't read before. I'm trying to think when an actual book commanded that sort of dedication from me. I guess I'd have to say The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There was something about moving from the relative childishness of The Hobbit to the more adult LOTR that was awe-inspiring. Reading them paralleled my own passage through puberty! M: Yeah, I know what you mean. From the ages of four to eight, I was completely in love with any comics that Leo Baxendale did. I didn't know his name, because there were no creator credits on UK comics back then, and I can't say I was aware of his style - it was just that his stories - in The Beano, then Wham, then Pow - were the ones I gravitated to. But increasingly, there were also fantasy books. I had a real Michael Moorcock addiction in my early teens, and wrote a couple of appallingly derivative "novels": really novella length, but they were novels to me. For a long time, I thought mystic-artifact-quests were the only natural form for fantasy. If I read a book without a rune sword or a mirror helm, I was baffled. Do you think anything you've read has had a profound influence on your own work? P: I went through the same addiction to fantasy and I think it all profoundly influenced my work. But I think I was most drawn to series. I loved if the books continued on. I think that goes back to reading the Oz books. One of the series that had the biggest effect on me was Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books. It was a series that wasn't written in order, didn't follow the same characters and were set hundred's of years apart. I didn't know how to read them! I eventually decided to read them in the order the author had written them so I could at least experience them in the way she did. I think lately I've come back more and more to The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. There's something about the way he used those books as such an obvious metaphor for his views on theology that I find really moving. That he was working out the deep spiritual issues in life through the genres of stories that he loved as a child is very compelling to me. I think I always liked stories that escaped the confines of this world but still felt like the author was trying to say something about our everyday lives. But I think it's interesting when I hear you say how you tried writing novels back then because I never tried that--but I always tried to illustrate the stories I read. M: Whereas I pastiched them! There's this theory that you probably know - "the anxiety of influence". The idea is that you start out being in thrall to a previous creator, and then you rebel against them in an Oedipal way to establish your own voice. But your own voice will actually turn out to be a corruption or inversion of their voice. I always thought it was bollocks, to be honest, but it's true that you learn certain tropes from the creators who came before you, and then at a certain point you struggle to break free of them. There are some writers I envy. And then there are some who are so good they're beyond envy. I'm just happy to live in the same world with them. P: Then there's the other theory that I've heard from writers, artist and even Bruce Springsteen; that everything we explore in art is set by the time we're twelve years old. I think there's some truth to that but I'd extend the age until we're at least past puberty! But I think what's really clear is that the stories we read as children have immense power and influence on the rest of our lives. Like Cosi and Leon in this issue, maybe we all have a trigger that can send us running off into a burning prison to rescue our childhood heroes. M: We'd be interested to hear if that's true for anyone reading THE UNWRITTEN. Is there a story you read as a child that still has huge power and resonance for you now - and if so, what? Let us know at the VERTIGO blog GRAPHIC CONTENT at http://vertigo.blog.dccomics.com/, under THE UNWRITTEN: RESONATING READING entry. Who knows, maybe your fact will influence our fiction.