Combo One

I seem to keep coming back – again and again – to this laundry list of authors: Robert A. Heinlein, Alan Moore, Ian Fleming, Neil Gaiman, Alan Lightman. These are the writers that have inspired my attempts at writing stories and influenced how I put one word after another as well as how I organize one idea against another.

Back in the ancient days of the early to mid-90s, I first tried to write comics exactly like Gaiman and Moore and boy did I fail miserably. Once I got over trying to create the next Miracle Man or Sandman and settled in to telling stories that were occurring to me I did a lot better. I toyed with the idea of writing fiction, too, and that’s when I tried aping Heinlein.

When I was a songwriter for the bands I played in, I would tap Heinlein again for song titles and themes. A couple songs were pretty successful though anyone listening to them and looking for a hidden meaning or if I was trying to adapt a book into a song would be disappointed. (And don’t bother trying to find any of my songs anywhere. I have copies and so do the guys I played with but this was way before the internet and music software were so ubiquitous.)

As I started trying to write fiction on a dedicated word processor (anyone remember those?), I used thinly-disguised characters and settings from Heinlein and Gaiman, especially. I was trying to write fantasy and science fiction so it was natural to turn to masters of those genres. Later, after I discovered Einstein’s Dreams, Lightman taught me how to write emotions and so it was natural to pull from him, too. That led to me really dissecting Moore and Gaiman’s comic stories for emotional content. Goldmine. I was attending Fiction University.

It was an appreciation for Fleming on NPR when the Quantum of Solace film came out that affected me again. Though I was a fan of the James Bond films (Daniel Craig is a better Bond than Sean Connery IMO, and I loved Connery for decades) I hadn’t read any Fleming until five years ago or so. I’d read a couple of John Gardner’s 007 stories after high school and I was familiar with the formula of the stories but Fleming invented it. The line that stuck with me was that Fleming wrote ‘short, declarative sentences’. I was bowled over, went to the library, the used bookstore and devoured a ton of Ian Fleming’s writing. Not just the 007 stuff, either. I moved from him to LeCarre, to Graham Greene and that’s when I started to feel like a writer. I felt like I was learning from another master of another genre

How obvious is it to someone who’s reading my stuff? I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t been compared to anyone stylistically. As far as the kinds of things I write about I can tell you that I try not to write the same stories that I’ve read by my heroes. I try not to put those characters (or some version of them) into my own stories. I’ve done that. I’d think that every writer has.

I’ve worked hard to evolve my writing style over the last ten years or so. What I’m hoping is that all the heroes of mine whose work I’ve read, reread and admired and imitated has been mixed up so well that there’s a new hybrid of their styles in me.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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