Alternative history writer Brent A Harris joins fellow writers Rob Edwards, Leo McBride and Ricardo Victoria in naming some books that have been influential to him over the years. In his alternative world, however, the lists had seven entries each, so he's matched that number.
These are the books that have left a huge impact on me, that have not only secured their spot on my shelf, but have also lead me on a journey of self-discovery:
Dinosaur Heresies by Robert Bakker. As the title implies, paleontologist Robert Bakker didn’t make many friends when he suggested that disease killed off the dinosaurs instead of a giant space rock. It’s also the book Timmy, from the film, Jurassic Park references during the ill-fated tour. And in Lost World, a Bakker look alike is eaten by a T-Rex. Clearly, someone on the production set obviously didn’t like him much. But, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog and to me, Bakker was my inspiration. Of course, now scientists are reassessing his theories.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Allow me to be a millennial here for a moment. I dug dinosaurs before they were cool (pun intended). I had saved and bought Dinosaur Heresies with my own money. I couldn’t have been older than eight. My parents thought I was crazy. When Jurassic Park came out, you bet I bought the book. And I devoured it. There was something so incredibly satisfying about bringing dinosaurs back to our time via cloning. Most dino books that came before, (Doye’s Lost Word, Verne’s Center of the Earth, or Dinotopia) were about going to the dinosaurs. Crichton was the first to bring those magnificent beasts to us… only to slap us with the realization that just because we could, doesn’t mean we should. Brilliant book.
Choose Your Own Adventure Books (Various titles and authors). This spot belongs to a series of books, because Choose Your Own Adventure allowed me to be in control of the story. Like many of you, I’d bookmark the spot, make a choice, read that result—and then go back and read the other one (I always tried to get the ‘Dead Ends’ out of the way first). I loved taking charge of my reading… or as I learned later… having alternate paths to choose… (*Epic foreshadowing)
Q-Squared by Peter David. I love Peter David. I love Star Trek (particularly Q). At the time, I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed alternate ‘history’ or in this case, alternate timelines. (See epic foreshadow from number 3). This book had it all: David’s thought-provoking sense of humor, the deft use of the pantheon of Star Trek characters, (featuring everyone’s favorite Squire of Gothos from the Original Trek, Trelane) and alternated timelines--with a name like Trelane, why not have three ‘lanes’ intersect? Ah, Q. You are simply incorrigible.
Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy. Somewhere along the way, I lost my way and for these missteps, I totally blame Tom Clancy. I absolutely devoured his books. I don’t know why, I’m not a technical person, nor was I particularly in love with the military. But, starting with Hunt for Red October, and continuing with all his books (even his non-fiction) I started down a completely different path than paleontology. I joined the cadet corps, I was involved in the NROTC in college, and I was convinced I was going to be a bubblehead and drive a submarine. In some alternate universe, I’m sure I’m there—deep under the sea. But here, I’m where I belong, feet firmly on terra firma. (Also, am I the only one who thought the film, Hunt for Red October was an alternate history where James Bond had grown up in Soviet Russia?)
Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove. I’m back where I belong. I’d read Turtledove books before. Notable entries include How Few Remain and the World War series, but Household Gods—about a hardworking single mom who inadvertently wishes for a simpler time (and discovers modern conveniences are… well, convenient)—is a story that really got the idea in my head about writing Alternate History. Before then, I’d written and outlined a few chapters of my own, Clancy-like techno-thriller (about a woman submarine commander and her life/duties aboard the U.S.S. Seawolf). This really put the idea in my head, though I am not sure why. Perhaps it was the real emotion in this character-driven story about the hardships she endured in a world I’d only read in history books. Whatever the case, I’ve always sought to emulate this same type of storytelling.
The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. I’m going to stop my list here, because while there are numerous other books I’ve fell in love with, none of them seem to tell a story that these 7 books have told. These books have lead me on a journey of discovery of myself, which I suppose is what any good book/film/music is meant to do. But, The First Five Pages is where I took a chance to change my life, where I decided I didn’t want to just write, I wanted to work to be better so that someday, I could be a part of someone else’s journey.
You can follow Brent A Harris by journeying to an alternative dimension and throwing tributes at his feet as he rests on the throne of his empire. He particularly favours Twinkies. To keep up with him in this dimension, follow him on Twitter, @brentaharris1.
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