I was always a reader. At least, as early as I could understand words, that is. I was one of those kids who needed constant stimulation. As my mother describes it: “You never played with a toy the same way twice, and you’d get frustrated when they couldn’t do everything you imagined the toys could do in your head.” Perhaps being born the year man first landed on the moon didn’t hurt, but space travel has always fascinated me. My grandmother kept scrapbooks of clippings from every NASA mission throughout her life, and those treasured books are a great chance to go back and revisit Gemini, Apollo, and even early space shuttle trips. Rereading those clips and looking at the pictures reminds me of my fascinations with imaginative stories. From Bugs Bunny cartoons to fairy tales, the stories I most loved were those that transported me into someplace different from the here and now where things happened that were magical or unusual or unexpected compared to the world as we know it. I think that’s why I’ve always loved and felt at home with science fiction and fantasy.
Early on I read H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. I was given an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe’s writings and I devoured it eagerly. I remember reading stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Richard Bachman, and C.S. Lewis. As I got older, I dug into Alan Dean Foster, Daniel Keyes, George Orwell, J.R. Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson, Robert Silverberg, Frank Peretti, A.C. Crispin and more. I loved the distance places, the gadgets and starships, the larger-than-life heroes, and the action and adventure. I loved the way it took me out of my normal and into worlds of possibility, encouraging me to dream big and believe in possibilities beyond the limits of the box in which I existed.
I took a brief detour after college and as I started my working life into nonfiction and other genres as I tried to ground myself in things which seemed applicable and relevant to living my life and improving myself. I never lost my sense of wonder and imagination but I focused it around my here and now and trying to accomplish what was possible rather than imagining what one day might be.
When I returned to science fiction and fantasy with Orson Scott Card’s Ender novels and Asimov’s Foundation cycle, I fell in love all over again and experienced a reawakening. New imaginings and creative bursts followed and in 2009, after 25 years, I finally wrote the space opera novel I’d been dreaming of since my teens. The Worker Prince got Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011, after releasing that October. The second book came out this summer. And suddenly, science fiction and fantasy have become rife with possibilities not just in faraway places but the here and now as my lifelong creative dreams are becoming fulfilled.
Here’s the Top 25 Science Fiction and Fantasy novels which have inspired me, classics and contemporary (in no particular order):
1) The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy)
2) The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (fantasy)
3) The Majipoor series by Robert Silverberg (science fiction/fantasy)
4) The First Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (fantasy)
5) The Robot Novels by Isaac Asimov (science fiction)
6) The Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes (fantasy/science fiction)
7) The Greywalker books by Kat Richardson (urban fantasy)
8) The Quadrail Series by Timothy Zahn (science fiction-space opera)
9) The Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (science fiction-noir)
10) The War of The Worlds by HG Wells (steampunk/science fiction)
11) 20000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (steampunk/science fiction/fantasy)
12) The Chronicle Of A Distant World series by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
13) The Sarah Beauhall Series by John A. Pitts (urban fantasy)
14) The Ender books by Orson Scott Card (science fiction/military scifi)
15) The Elenium by David Eddings (fantasy)
16) Clockwork Earth by Jay Lake (steampunk)
17) Society of Steam by Andrew P. Mayer (steampunk/science fiction)
18) The Secret Of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett (space fantasy/science fiction)
19) The Stand by Stephen King (horror/thriller/science fiction)
20) Watership Down by Richard Adams (fantasy)
21) This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti (horror/thriller/fantasy)
22) Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado (fantasy/horror)
23) The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (fantasy/horror)
24) A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (science fiction)
25) Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (science fiction/fantasy)
In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancée, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website