Chat With an Author Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author (& Giveaway): David Colby on Inspirations & Influences

Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The best part about I&I posts? Writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.

Today we are pleased to be highlighting Candlemark and Gleam’s author David Colby and his debut LGBT Science Fiction novel Debris Dreams, the first in a planned trilogy following Drusilla Xao, a Spacer teen turned Space Marine.

Please give it up for David and his inspirations & influences!

It was the early 2000s, I was the tender age of 13, and I had found a sanctum: a place of safety, a place away from the strife and turmoil of the middle school campus…a mythical, magical place known as “behind the band room.” There, my friends and I were free to play RPGs—roleplaying games. Though the most popular and famous RPG is Dungeons and Dragons, my friends and I were odd and experimental and played Fallout: PNP. Based off the (then obscure) Fallout series, Fallout: PNP let my friends experience the lives, adventures, and (far too often) the deaths of brave and stalwart heroes in a nuclear-blasted wasteland…while I, as the game-master, got to kill them off in various creative and engaging ways.

Advice for the future post-apocalyptic survivor: don’t drink perfectly clean water. That means it’s radioactive.

That was my first real experience “writing.” It was a good one, as learning to create engaging stories for a bunch of bickering pre-teens who wanted to blow things up rather than follow my carefully crafted plots taught me how to handle just about any hiccup thrown at me by a novel. But, sadly, we had to grow up: Cupertino Middle School fed into two different high schools, Fremont and Homestead. The group split, half heading into the prisonlike cube that is Homestead, the other half heading into the Spanish Mission-styled Fremont.

And yet, despite that, the group continued and the game continued, albeit on Sundays rather than at lunch. We tried out new RPGs, and these RPGs became the bedrock for my writing. Fallout: PNP, with its apocalyptic vision and black humor. Dungeons and Dragons, with its trappings of high fantasy and Tolkien-esque adventures. The incredibly short-lived Matrix RPG (it wasn’t as cool as the movies). But the RPGs that impacted me the most, from a writing perspective, were the works of White Wolf.

The first White Wolf RPG to be introduced to me was Aberrant. Most people get their start with the vamp-tastic World of Darkness, but I was given Aberrant first by a good internet-based friend of mine named Lucy. Aberrant takes place in the (then distant) future year of 2008, in a world where there are people with superpowers…but no one is actually a superhero. It was a Watchmen-esque deconstruction of the superhero genre, where fame and ratings and merchandise were just as important as saving people—if not more so. There were almost no supervillains (though there were superpowered terrorists) and it was the only superhero RPG I’d ever played wherein playing a super-porn star was not only totally in keeping with the universe, but actually a really effective way to play.

I mean, mega-strength can give you the ability to punch through tanks, but mega-appearance and mega-charisma gives you the tools to remake nations with your words.

But if I learned deconstruction and how to apply “realism” to decidedly unrealistic things from Aberrant, then I learned how to embrace insanity and just go all in with Exalted, which was the second White Wolf game given to me. Exalted’s backstory is too long and way too complex to go into, but…well, to make a long story short, it involves reincarnated demigods battling ghosts, werewolves, demons, and mad deities in a world that reads like someone took Chinese, Hindu, and Greek mythology, threw in a bunch of manga and anime and then hit “puree”.

Name any other setting with genetically engineered, rhino-sized lizards that urinate heroin, or a faction of fate-weaving kung-fu accountants who disguise themselves by re-weaving astrological fates about their own occluded destinies. Or, my personal favorite, the steampunk communist magic golems who use lightsabers to fight the cancer cells of their inside-out, world-sized god.

Now you understand my madness.

But my misspent youth was not simply consumed by RPGs and paganism.

I also read actual books.

First, there was what my parents taught me. When I was young, my mother read to me from the works of Larry Niven, starting with his seminal work of fiction, Ringworld. Later to be ripped off by Halo (only slightly), Ringworld was full of ideas that I would find fascinating my whole life: catlike aliens, space war, constructs on a massive scale, psychic powers. Of course, later I learned that the book also had lots of sex that my mother skillfully edited out of her readings.

I also learned that Niven had the Earth rotating the wrong way in the first chapter, which was fixed in later editions.

Once I was able to read by myself, I started off hard and fast with Brian Jacques and his Mossflower series. I know Redwall was written first, but I read Mossflower first and Redwall second, so I’m going to call it the Mossflower series to my dying day. I loved— and still love—those books.

The next series I devoured was Tamora Pierce, starting with Alanna and then moving on to her Wild Magic series, then her Protector of the Small (my favorite). These books were full of war, adventure, magic, girls being badass: everything that I loved.

They provided the foundation of my literary likes and dislikes. By now, though, I had hit high school and my brain had become a voracious reading machine. I read so much that I got in trouble for reading during lit class. Oh, the irony. Still, before I hit college, I read the first twenty Xanth books by Piers Anthony, the Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb, most of Heinlein’s works, the first three books of S.M Sterling’s Emberverse (still depresses me) and about half of Harry Turtledove’s library.

Harry Turtledove deserves a whole paragraph. See, Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and the dude has insane writing chops. If I write even half as many books as Turtledove, I will count myself lucky. I have read almost thirty books by him, and I’m not even close to finishing his works. And more than that, each of his books has a dizzying number of characters (his Into the Darkness series has almost twenty viewpoint characters and hundreds of side characters), interweaving plot threads, globe-shattering setups, and a grasp of the historic and the epic that I hope to one day match.

Plus, his books make for awesome dinner conversation with dates: “Imagine, if you will, that World War II is interrupted by a surprise invasion by alien lizards intent on conquering the planet, forcing the Axis and Allied powers to work together against a common enemy!”

And then she never went out with me again.

Still, a single book deserves special mention here: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

The Forever War was, is, and will remain one of my favorite novels of all time, even if reading some parts of it still makes me want to throw up a bit. The Forever War is about a soldier—Jason Mandalla—who is recruited against his will into a futuristic military service to fight an alien menace. What makes the book unique, though, is how it handles the issue of general and special relativity. There is a method of faster than light travel in The Forever War—you fly a spaceship really fast towards a black hole and then pop out of a connected one lightyears away, instantly.


And this is a big but…

To get to the black holes, and to accelerate fast enough to achieve a jump, your spaceship needs to go really fast. Fast enough that relativity starts to rear its ugly head. Time compresses the closer one gets to the speed of light, so when our hero returns from a four-year stint in the army, twenty years have passed on the Earth. And so, the Forever War stretches not just through the galaxy, but also throughout time.

This book touches on social change, the mutability of human sexuality, the weight of history, the terror and futility of war. It has a profoundly affecting love story. It is easily one of my favorite books ever, a constant companion along the winding road that took me from being a high-schooler who GMed D&D for his friends to a published author.

I still read. More recent book love include the Temeraire series by Naomi Novak, anything by Wen Spencer, the Ciaphas Cain series by Sandy Mitchel, and a list of video games that is too long to list here. But at the end of the day, the most important thing I’ve learned from all my inspirations is that you can never stop finding things that inspire you.

To stop your creativity at books is to deprive yourself from the vast sea of ideas that float in video games, TV shows, movies, internet programs, comic books and graphic novels. And that would be a crime.

Keep on reading.

About the author: Heavily influenced by George Romero movies and bad, poorly dubbed anime, David Colby decided to start writing almost twelve years ago. It went poorly. But despite these early setbacks, David continued to work and write and send out submissions until someone was mad enough to accept him. Currently living in Rohnert Park, California, while working on his Bachelor of Arts in English, David continues to be fascinated by George Romero movies and has finally realized that animes have subtitles.


We have two digital and one paperback of Debris Dreams up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the US (for the paperback) and internationally (for the digital copies), and will run until Sunday, November 18 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  • Vanessa
    November 13, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I must admit that while I didn’t like the original Star Trek series (being forced to watch it regularly by my father) I loved the original movies.

  • Gerd D.
    November 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I seem to have skipped the sex in Ringworld, too, for I can’t remember any of it, I probably just didn’t find it half as amazing as the Ringworld back when. 😀

  • Gerd D.
    November 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Oh, to add, for favorite Space exploration novel I would put down Redezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke, closely followed by David Brin & Gregory Benford’s Heart of the Comet.

  • Margaret S.
    November 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Does the body of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish cycle count as space exploration? Otherwise I guess Heinlein’s juveniles.

  • Margaret S.
    November 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Does Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish cycle count as space exploration? Otherwise I guess Heinlein’s juveniles.

  • Dan Campbell
    November 13, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Oooo! “LGBT Science Fiction”! (Missed that when I saw the original announcement for the book.) Yay!

    Anywhooo… Favorite space exploration media would be… hmmm… I don’t have one of those. I always liked Babylon 5 and Firefly best for SF–though I got my start with Doctor Who and (anyone remember this?) Star Blazers.

  • mary anne
    November 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

    OK, I know I always go back to Lois McMaster Bujold, but she’s well worth going back to. Cordelia Naismith, in “Shards of Honor”, is a Betan space explorer – jumps blindly into wormholes to see where they come out. And she’s a most awesome character, in her books and the books that follow about her son, Miles.

    Does anyone remember the truly hokey TV series “Buck Rogers in the 25th century”? I loved it, as a kid. Looking back, it was probably really bad and I don’t know how I was able to persuade the rest of my (large) family to sit through it every week, but it diverted me from my love of mystery into SciFi then into Fantasy. I’ll always remember it fondly (and make sure not to watch it again and have all the warm fuzzy feelings replaced by, “Ughh, I LIKED this?!”)

  • jenmitch
    November 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

    i find picking favorites very hard. so, here is a list instead. tv: battlestar galactica, star trek TNG, and ds9. love love love. books: the forever war!, the hyperion books by dan simmons, and a fire upon the deep by vernor vinge.

    this post made me feel like going out and reading some good old fashioned sci fi. i’m looking forward to debris dreams!

  • Kate
    November 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Mary Anne – I actually have a bunch of Buck Rogers DVDs. They’re surprisingly entertaining still!

    I like Duck Dodgers better, though. 😉

  • Lexi
    November 13, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Hyperion. It is awesome. It is onb n my list of books the world needs to read: along with the Thief series and a few others.

  • Hannah H
    November 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I love Isacc Asamov’s Robots series, which has some space exploration. I also really love anything by Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    November 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Star Trek the Next Generation.

  • DebraG
    November 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I lvoe Star Trek and Star Wars. They are the best.

  • erinf1
    November 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for a great post and congrats to David on the new release! I loved Star Trek, Battlestar Gallatica, Stargate. Pretty much anything in space, I liked it 🙂

  • Sylvia Sybil
    November 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    There’s an offhand comment in one of Bujold’s books about “wildcats”, the people who jump through newly discovered wormholes having no idea what’s on the other side, and how they’re all half mad. I keep hoping she’ll do more with that idea because it enchanted me and hasn’t let go.

  • Lauren
    November 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Ender’s Game! It was the first sci-fi book I ever read, and I still love it to this day. I wanted to be Petra Arkanian so badly — she kicked so much butt!

  • Superbwg
    November 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Enders Game, any Anne McCaffery set in space (The Tower and the Hive series, The Brain Ship series, Nimisha’s Ship) I love just about any SciFi TV/Movie show

  • R. Wheadon
    November 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Karin Lowachee’s Warchild series is one of the best things I have ever read. It makes me happy just to think about those books.

  • Lisa
    November 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I loved the stories of Helva, the “ship who sang” in Anne McCaffrey’s “Brain and Brawn” spaceship series.

  • Serenity
    November 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I was totally into the same books at those ages! Now I really want to check out Debris Dreams. I was actually never a fan of science fiction or space-related themes, until I watched Firefly/Serenity (one of the best shows EVER) and then read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. And watched the Star Trek Reboot movie. Now I am totally obsessed with Space Opera!

  • scribe k.
    November 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    so not positive this counts, but i LOOOVE the Chaos Walking Trilogy and they had to travel through space to get to the planet they live on, so space exploration is a constant backdrop of the novel. =o)

  • Justine
    November 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Does Star Wars count? I’ve been meaning to watch Firely, especially since the 10th anniversary cast reunion special recently aired.

  • Mary Preston
    November 15, 2012 at 2:55 am

    I’ve always enjoyed STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

  • Pressing Matters: November 16, 2012, Edition | Candlemark & Gleam
    November 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    […] David Colby’s new novel, Debris Dreams, has launched! And David made some great blog stops. First, he talked with SJ at Book Snobbery about his musical inspirations, and then SJ put together a Debris Dreams playlist. And then it was Inspirations and Influences time at the Book Smugglers blog! […]

  • Emily Thompson
    November 17, 2012 at 9:09 am

    It’s embarrassing how much I love the Halo book series. And just the Halo series in general. What am I doing on the Internet? I should be playing Halo 4. How did I get here?

  • darchole
    November 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    No Bujold love?

    I second Tamora Pierce and Wen Spencer. Just saw on Wen Spencer’s blog that a new non-series book is being published next year. And there’s a new free short story on Baen’s website.

  • Kirsten
    November 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Not space exploration so much as astronaut training, but I adore Twin Spica.

  • bn100
    November 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Star Wars

  • Albert
    January 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I didn’t, and go to places I swore I’ll never visit until the end of ahtoner readings that OF COURSE I haven’t done, and well then I love art and since I love art I’ve got to have it, not that I don’t have time at all! WHAT TIME? I don’t actually think I know the meaning ALBA!!!and don’t tell me I’m freaking out because I’m not! simply because I just think I have learned a lesson when I actually haven’t but maybe yes but maybe just a little bit doesn’t mean I’ll actually follow the rules! SUE ME!-_- AND AND when in the world did I promised to YOU, YOUUU Alba of all people that I wouldn’t go stalking book catalogs and reach out to the publishers uh? there’s a first in everything young lady and my time came just that day! so don’t come here and go all grown up on me!!~breathing hard~” no Rachel actually as I was saying before you came up with THAT FACE was that YOU ROCK because YOU’RE A FREAKING REBEL! you broke all the rules, went out there, got on things you might not actually be able to complete on time but there you go all loyal and book love! you are simply the best! GIRL! book-ban and rules were meant to be broken!I love yOU!!!!!!YEY!end of rambling answer! ;)AND hope you’re much much much much better now,I couldn’t help myself and started reading WYA even though I’m just like 5% in I’m loooooooooooving it!okay now I’m really gone! byeeeeeeee

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