I’m Jason Anspach, co-creator of Galaxy’s Edge and the newest member of Sci-fi Reads. Being part of this group is exciting not only because I get to join my friends in doing something really cool, but also because Sci-fi Reads is unique in the way it seeks to bring together readers (and listeners) and creators because of shared interests.
Just scroll few some of the posts and you’ll see that a lot of what we at Sci-fi Reads talk about are the things we all love, which include some of our own creations.
Because there’s so much to talk about, I decided to take the advice of Scot Bartlett for my first post and highlight what some of my primary inspirations are. So here are five pieces of inspiration that have shaped my life and writing…
1. Star Wars
No surprise there. If you’re a fellow Star Wars fanatic, you were clued in from the moment you read the title of this post. And, hopefully, responded with “General Kenobi!” now that Prequel Memes and the destruction Episode 7 wrought has achieved what once seemed impossible: making me feel nostalgic and fond of the prequel trilogy.
My brother and I absolutely lived off Star Wars growing up. We watched our VHS copies just about daily, collected the Kenner action figures, played the West End Games RPG, and made sure to be our Mom to buy us every grocery store tie-in on the shelves. And I devoured the expanded universe, reading Timothy Zahn’s fantastic novels and getting immersed in the Dark Horse comics… until all of that was magically erased forever like Poochie (note: who died on his way back to his home planet). Speaking of which…
2. G.I. JOE
Growing up in America in the 1980’s exposed me to a lot of amazing cartoons. While I could write a thesis paper on Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man, Captain N, and all my other favorites, the cream of the crop was G.I. JOE. Regan was President, the Soviet Union was evil, and G.I. JOE was everything right with the world. I mean, watch this opening sequence from G.I. JOE the movie and see if hair doesn’t bloom on your chest as an American flag appears in one hand with a laser rifle in the other.
Anyhow, I grew up in a military family (Go Army!) and G.I. JOE is pretty much how we thought of the guys who always had time to talk to us or let us sit in a cockpit or climb up a cargo ramp while near JBLM in Washington state.
Legionnaire is basically a loving blend of G.I. JOE, Star Wars, and the modern warrior ethos. Its contents came as no surprise to people who knew me before I became a writer.
Hmm. Now I’ve got the urge to go looking on eBay for a carded straight-arm Snake Eyes for my office…
3. Walt Disney
This is more a professional inspiration than anything else. I read or re-read a book about Walt Disney at least once per quarter. The man fascinates me like almost no other. Here’s a guy who came from nothing, followed his passions and never cashed in or settled for good enough or the lowest viable product for the marketplace. He bet it all on each new passion multiple times before he reached a point where his imagination made him more money than he could ever hope to spend… and then he just went bigger, trying to develop futuristic cities and community grids for the improvement of mankind.
An absolute legend and the person I most seek to emulate in how I approach creativity, work ethic, quality, and vision. This is a guy who said, you know what I should do? Disneyland! And then did it.
Yeah, that’s pretty broad. But humor plays an important role in all my work. If you’re read some of my short stories like Queen’s Iris…, Joh Tosh, or Tier 1000, you know they’re usually straight comedies performed in a sci-fi setting. Comedy is hard, and comedic timing is something you must work to earn, especially in the written world. It’s a fine line between reading something that makes you laugh and something that makes you cringe.
I watched waaaay more HBO than I should have as a kid (single parent problems) and so I consumed a ton of stand-up specials (underrated classic: Sinbad’s Son of a Preacher Man). Throw in generous (as in obsessive) helpings of The Simpsons before it jumped the shark, Monty Python, Seinfeld, The Tick (animated and comics, of course), Mel Brooks and… yup.
I’ll close this section with some wisdom from the Tick: “Everybody was a baby once, Arthur. Oh, sure, maybe not today, or even yesterday. But once. Babies, chum: tiny, dimpled, fleshy mirrors of our us-ness, that we parents hurl into the future, like leathery footballs of hope. And you've got to get a good spiral on that baby, or evil will make an interception.”
5. The Military
Maybe that sounds odd, but for a military science fiction writer, is it really? If you think about it, the U.S. Military is a part of global culture. One that stretches well beyond those who served or those who grew up on base and in military families.
Today, you can entertain yourself with an endless stream of movies, biographies, memoirs, fiction, comics, and television shows all focusing on aspects of the military or warrior ethos and life. Not only that, you can do it while wearing your Ranger Up t-shirts, Ares Climb Team hats, and drinking your Black Rifle Coffee. And it’s been that way for a long time. Just look at cinema and you’ll find movies chronicling this culture and ethos from all periods of time.
And that’s because there is something innate and human about war, warriors, love and sacrifice. Something that the best military sci-fi writers capture.
We could make a laundry list of just movies that shape our perceptions and impact us as individuals from We Were Soldiers to Blackhawk Down (both based on real events). So while the layup for this final spot for the day is another worthy sci-fi franchise like Star Trek (DS9 or TNG, please), the reality is that this is perhaps the single biggest inspiration for what I write.
I’m blessed to have amazing friends, listeners, and readers who lived the sorts of things readers find Sergeant Chhun, Exo, and Wraith doing in the Galaxy’s Edge books. Which in turn are discovered by more and more new readers who are discovering what inspires them.
Who knows, maybe someday someone will make a list of their own like this and name Galaxy’s Edge as a key inspiration.
And if they do, you’ll know what came before.