The Influence of a Writing Mentor

Mentor

One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. While writing groups can serve as a mentor, the right personal mentor will help improve your writing by giving you guidance each step of the way. Let me share an example of the influence a mentor.

In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.

Sherwood Anderson

The critical praise for Anderson and his book Winesburg, Ohio impressed a young, beginning writer. This hopeful writer had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

Ernest Hemingway

The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book The Sun Also Rises. The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.

William Faulkner

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orléans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He became roommates with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book Soldier’s Pay published. This young author was William Faulkner.

John Steinbeck

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson.

Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury basically wrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Mark Twain

Arguably, only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he?

Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prizes

William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I urge you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The people in my writer’s and critique group keeps me encouraged and motivated.

Encourage your writer friends, keep reading and writing.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler


Photo Source: Public Domain

 

My Top Six Science-Fiction Authors Plus Three to Watch

Frank Herbert, Jr. - Author of Dune
Frank Herbert, Jr. – Author of Dune

I compiled the list. The criteria are authors of science fiction or any sub-genre of science-fiction with longevity. At the end of the article, I have three current writers to watch who, in time, could move on my list but now do not have a sufficient body of work or longevity writing science fiction.

I find that the best science-fiction writers are among some of the most creative writers ever. These authors made my list. I have read the people I have listed. Most will disagree, but these are my favorites.

Ray Bradbury

1. Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction author.

Bradbury is best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951). Ray Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers.

He also wrote and consulted on many screenplays and television scripts. These include Moby Dick, and It Came from Outer Space. Many of his works were made into comic books, television shows, and films.

Isaac Asimov

2. Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; circa January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Asimov was prolific and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke; he was regarded as one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime.

Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire Series and the Robot Series. The Galactic Empire novels are explicitly set in the earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series.

Later, beginning with Foundation’s Edge, he linked this distant future to the Robot and Spacer stories, creating a unified “future history” for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and before produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson.

He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction “Nightfall,” which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books historically explain scientific concepts, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its most unadorned stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, as well as works on astronomy, mathematics, history, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

3. Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

He is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered to be one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him many Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a broad readership, making him into one of the towering figures of the field. For many years, he, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction.

Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. In 1945, Clarke proposed a satellite communication system — an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute’s Stuart Ballantine Medal and other honors. Later he was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–47 and again in 1951–53.

Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid popularizer of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability and wrote over a dozen books and many essays (which appeared in various popular magazines) on these subjects. In 1961, he was awarded a Kalinga Prize, an award given by UNESCO for popularizing science. These along with his science fiction writings eventually earned him the moniker “Prophet of the Space Age.”

Robert Heinlein

4. Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the “dean of science fiction writers,” he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality.

He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered to be the “Big Three” of science fiction authors.

A notable writer of science fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any significant degree.

Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed specific social themes: the importance of personal liberty and self-reliance, the obligation people owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the importance of space travel on human cultural practices.

Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; also, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded “Retro Hugos”—awards given retrospectively for books and stories that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence.

In his fiction, Heinlein coined terms that have become part of the English language, including “grok” and “waldo,” and speculative fiction, as well as popularizing the terms like “TANSTAAFL,” “pay it forward,” and space marine.

He also described a modern version of a waterbed in his novel The Door Into Summer, though he never patented or built one. Several of Heinlein’s works have been adapted for film and television. In Chapter 3 of the novel “Podkayne of Mars,” he anticipated the cell phone, 20 years before the technology was invented by Motorola.

Orson Scott Card

5. Orson Scott Card (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist, and columnist. He writes in several genres but is known best for science fiction. His novel Ender’s Game (1985) and its sequel Speaker for the Dead (1986) both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win both science fiction’s top U.S. prizes in consecutive years. A feature film adaptation of Ender’s Game, which Card co-produced, was released in late October 2013 in Europe and on November 1, 2013, in North America.

Card is a professor of English at Southern Virginia University, has written two books on the subject of creative writing, hosts writing boot camps and workshops, and serves as a judge in the Writers of the Future contest. A great-great-grandson of Brigham Young, Card is a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In addition to producing a large body of fiction works, he has also offered political, religious, and social commentary in his columns and other writing.

Frank Herbert, Jr.

6. Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was an American science fiction writer best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. Though he became famous for science fiction, he was also a newspaper journalist, photographer, short story writer, book reviewer, ecological consultant, and lecturer.

The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with complex themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power. Dune itself is the “best-selling science fiction novel of all time,” and the series is widely considered to be among the classics of the genre.

The photo is Frank Hebert, Jr. I met him at a conference in the late 1970s where he was a speaker.

Three to Watch

Click on their name and the link will take you to their Amazon Author Page to learn more about each. Lindsay Buroker is the most prolific of the three listed below. Each author has a unique style. In time, with focus on the science fiction genre, they could potentially become one of the all-time giants of the genre. Who am I to say this? I am just a fanboy reader of the genre.

  1. Lindsay Buroker
  2. Ernest Cline
  3. Andy Weir

References: Wikipedia articles on the authors and their author pages.

The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury

Toynbee Convector

Spoiler alert! Spoilers are in this review!

I first read this collection of short stories in 1992.  It includes a reprint of the 1983 story, “The Toynbee Convector” that appeared in the January 1984 issue of “Playboy.”  

Here is the story plot/summary.  The story’s protagonist claims to have returned from the future.  He has tapes and films of a miraculous technological wonderland.  Humankind has solved all its major problems – no cancer, no world hunger, etc.  This energizes the world with confidence.  People believe that their dreams will come true.  They proceed to build that future.  

They have no idea that future is all a lie.  The lie pictures a wondrous future.  It describes this future in breath-taking detail.  There is almost an action plan with hints as to how to get there.  The world’s brain trust of scientists, economists, and politicians take the clues and make this future a reality.  

Then comes the day when we are at the time and place where the protagonist is to appear from the past in the created future.  A major deflection occurs.  You have to read the story for the conclusion.  It is worth reading.  

The book has twenty-two other stories.  While the other stories in the collection are good and “worth the read,” none match the opening story.  The majority are reprints from magazine articles.  

I nominate the short story of “The Toynbee Convector” for the best fantasy/science fiction short story ever written.  It is that good.  

 

Signature RB

 

Photo Sources: The cover of the hardbound first edition along with Ray Bradbury’s signature inside the first edition.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Fifteen: The Musicians

the-martian-chroniclesChapter Fifteen – The Musicians (April 2003/2034)- This story first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. Several boys venture into the ruins of the Martian cities. They go into the houses and play with the debris, imagining that they are on earth, playing with the autumn leaves. Added onto their fun is their chance to play on the “white xylophones”—the ribcages of the Martians. They have a sense of urgency because soon the firemen will take all of their fun away. The firemen are the men who go and clean up the remains of Martians in the ruined cities.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Fourteen: Interim

the-martian-chroniclesChapter Fourteen – Interim (February 2003/2034) – This story first appeared in Weird Tales, July 1947. This story describes the building of a Martian town by colonists and how much it was made to resemble an average Midwestern American town. The town was said to have appeared to have been swept up by a tornado on Earth, and brought to Mars.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Thirteen: The Shore

the-martian-chroniclesChapter Thirteen – The Shore – This story describes the rippling outward of colonization, the This story first wave being loner, pioneer types, and the second, also Americans, being from the “cabbage tenements and subways” of New York.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Fahrenheit 451

The genesis of Fahrenheit 451 is in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles where he has the story of book burning. Written in 1950 this book is as relevant today as it was when it first went into print.

The book is about political correctness and burning those books that make certain groups feel bad about themselves. The fireman in Bradbury’s book don’t put out fires; they start fires. They search out and burn books. It is a crime, in this society, to own or read books. I would not want to live in this society.

Knowledge is evil. People receive all of their cultures through television walls built into their houses.

Guy Montag is a fireman who loves his work. He likes nothing better than to spray kerosene on a pile of books and watch the pages curl and turn into flakes of black ash that flutter through the air. Until the day, he meets Clarisse, a young girl who knows about a world of literature, thoughts, and ideas. Their conversations precipitate a crisis of faith in Guy, and he begins to steal books and hide them in his home.

His wife discovers what he is doing. She becomes terrified. She turns him in. He is forced to burn his beloved collection. Guy flees to avoid being arrested. He joins an outlaw band of scholars who are trying to keep the contents of important books in their heads.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.