F. Paul Wilson: 5 BOOKS/ ALBUMS/MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

CRY HORROR by H.P Lovecraft (Avon paperback edition of The Lurking Fear and Other Stories)

Everybody (well, almost everybody) remembers when he or she lost their virginity, and most writers of the fantastic remember their first brush with HPL. Mine was “The Thing on the Doorstep” in The Macabre Reader. It so impressed me that I went in search of more by this weird guy who used words that kept sending me to the dictionary. I came up with Cry Horror, and that concentrated dose of cosmic horror blew my teenage mind. I’d been raised Catholic with all that comfortable good-evil dualism with a bearded, paternal God watching over you and protecting you from evil. Lovecraft had his own cosmology, his own deities, which had nothing to do with anything in my experience. He didn’t even bother dismissing the Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythology – it simply wasn’t a factor worth mentioning. HPL’s universe was indifferent at best, but more often malign. No protector out there, no one on your side. The 13-year-old me found this existential dread (I didn’t know the term but I sure as hell felt it) far more deeply disturbing and terrifying than any ghost or vampire or werewolf. I could never shake it, and so you’ll find it resonating through the millions of words in my Secret History of the World.

“Keep a-Knockin” by Little Richard.

Okay, it’s not an album, it’s a single, but it opens with a drum solo that floored the 11-year-old me. I went out and bought the 45 and played that opening until the grooves wore flat, accompanying it with wooden spoons on a cardboard box until I got it right. The song made me want to be a drummer, which I became in my own garage band. I’m still playing drums, these days with the writer-infested Slushpile.

“THE OCTOBER GAME” by Ray Bradbury

Not a book, a short story… but I consider reading it one of the pivotal moments in my career. I ran across it in Hitchcock’s 13 More Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV. Just barely into my teens at that time, I found the last line (“Then… some idiot turned on the lights.”) confusing. I sat there, book in hand, puzzled, wondering at that crazy closing sentence. Why on earth—? BLAM! It hit me. I got it. And it blew me away, utterly and completely. Left me gasping. Lowered the temperature of the room by 20 degrees. The lesson it pounded home to the kid who’d started writing stories in second grade was how less can be so much more. The oblique descriptions in the dark throughout the “game” are never visually realized by the author. You must reconstruct them after the lights come on, making you a participant in the horror. I decided then that someday, some way, I would write a story that would do unto others what this one had done unto me. I’m still trying.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS

My first monster movie. After catching the trailer on TV, I had to see it. But my folks wouldn’t let me go because of something called polio – the virus that paralyzed a small percentage of the kids who caught it, landing them in the dreaded iron lung. It peaked in the summer months and this was a summer movie so no way was I sitting in a theater with other kids who might be spreading polio. But I made an end run: How about a drive-in? I’ll be with just my family. They relented and I spent the movie with my face pressed against the windshield, mesmerized by the rhedosaurus stomping across that huge screen. I became a giant monster fan forever. Anytime a film stars a big beastie – like Cloverfield, or any new Gojira film – you’ll find me there.

THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert A. Heinlein

I was born with a skeptic gene. I always ask the next question. Consequently, I questioned my way out of the Catholic church and out of America’s right-left political divide. I was a libertarian before I’d ever heard the word. It’s my Weltanschauung (heh, look it up). I’d read Heinlein growing up and enjoyed his Future History stories, but The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was a revelation. Its characters had a worldview that matched mine but they didn’t preach about it – they didn’t have to because he showed them living it. The novel is a maestro demonstration of the power of showing rather than telling. (Heinlein did too much telling/preaching in his later years, but he was at the top of his game here.) I carried this over into my LaNague Federation sf stories and novels, and even into Repairman Jack, who never talks about his anarchic (i.e., no rulers) lifestyle, he simply lives it.

F. Paul Wilson
Paul was born and raised in New Jersey where he misspent his youth playing with matches, poring over Uncle Scrooge and E.C. comics, reading Lovecraft, Matheson, Bradbury, and Heinlein, listening to Chuck Berry and Alan Freed on the radio, and watching Soupy Sales and Shock Theatre with Zacherley.

He is the author of more than forty books: science fiction (HEALER, WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS, ), horror thrillers (THE KEEP, THE TOMB), contemporary thrillers (THE SELECT,), novels that defy categorization (THE FIFTH HARMONIC, VIRGIN) and a number of collaborations. In 1998 he resurrected his popular antihero, Repairman Jack, and has chronicled his adventures in 16 additional novels, including 3 young adult titles.

Most of his short stories are collected in SOFT & OTHERS (1989), THE BARRENS & OTHERS (1998), and Aftershock & Others. Plus, a collection of Repairman Jack short stories in QUICK FIXES. He has edited two anthologies: FREAK SHOW (1992) and DIAGNOSIS: TERMINAL (1996). He has written for stage, screen, and interactive media as well.

THE KEEP, THE TOMB, HARBINGERS, and BY THE SWORD all appeared on the New York Times Bestsellers List. WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS won the first Prometheus Award in 1979; SIMS won another, THE TOMB received the Porgie Award from The West Coast Review of Books. His novelette “Aftershock” won the 1999 Bram Stoker Award for short fiction. DYDEETOWN WORLD was on the young adult recommended reading lists of the American Library Association and the New York Public Library, among others. He was awarded the prestigious Inkpot Award from the San Diego ComiCon and the Pioneer Award from the RT Booklovers Convention. He is listed in the 50th anniversary edition of Who’s Who in America.