When you really like a writer, and you’ve read everything they’ve written, naturally you want more. You have to wait until they write more, and at worst that’s never going to happen. So you ask for recommendations for “something else like…” and people suggest things. The problem is, the things that other people like aren’t always what you like, even when you like the same thing. William Goldman says in Adventures in the Screen Trade that people learned the wrong lesson from Jaws. The public flocked to see a well-written tautly-paced story with excellent characters, and the movie moguls learned from this that people wanted more films with… sharks. I’ve found that all too often what other people see in something is the sharks.
There was once a library guide in which you could look up a writer you liked and it would tell you what other writers were similar. I found this when I was about fifteen. I eagerly looked up Anne McCaffrey, whose work I’d just raced through, and found that she was supposedly like… Ursula Le Guin and Jerry Pournelle. Oh, really? (The rest of that guide might have been excellent. I can’t say, I never touched it again.)
So I thought it would be interesting to look at some writers people love and ask what it is we love about them and make suggestions for other books that might scratch the same itches.
Now of course, I’ve read a lot of things but I haven’t read everything, so there are lots of books I don’t know. There might also be lots of things that connect to the writers I’m going to write about in ways I haven’t thought of. I hope so, because I’m hoping you’ll comment with more suggestions and how they’re similar, because that way I might get more things to read too.
I’m also perfectly capable of being somebody who only sees the sharks—if I don’t hit on the reason why you like reading a particular writer please comment! This is one of the things that I think is going to make this fun.
I’ll also take suggestions for writers you’d like me to cover—but it has to be writers I know well, or I won’t have the necessary comprehension for what they’re like.
We start with… Heinlein.
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula-winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.