One of the things that I try to do in my fiction is to do without any actual heros or villains.
The bulk of my characters are well-meaning nebbishes, or people that are simply caught up in things that they just cannot handle.
The things is, they usually think they’re coping just fine, thank you…and so a level of irony is introduced straightaway. This also makes them pretty unreliable narrators.
I love unreliable narrators. Wouldn’t know what to do without them. Another of my favorite things to do is to find an alien or creature, and tell the story from their side.
As a reader, I like a challenge. Put me in that Klingon’s head, or whatever. Tell the story from the point of view of the Sardaukar. The late Michael G. Coney used to be wonderful at that. He had a novel called Rax that was simply stupendous in its portrayal of the titular character. Hello, Summer, Goodbye was another effective narrative of this type.
An inspiration for me.I began applying that idea almost immediately. I’d have been 18, 19. Not too much time to write in those days. But I found some. Generated a lot of things that are just bearing fruit today, 35-40 years later.
A parallel track was the Lovecraft Mythos.
I was acquainted with it, having encountered The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath in a forgotten anthology, at the Archer Ave. branch of the Chicago Public Library, next door to the laundromat. Kadath sounded like Shuma-Gorath, or Hoggoth maybe. It intrigued me, and I read it, and some other things. But it wasn’t until I found a copy of the Outsider and others at the high school that I really cottoned on to what old Howard was trying to tell me.
A couple of years later, as I was about to sell my first short story, I chanced into the little news stand by the train tracks in Hinsdale, IL, and there was the oddest thing on the bookshelf portion of the magazine stand.
Cthulhu was on the cover. Other people were doing the same thing, and they were managing to sell the stuff!
The Disciples of Cthulhu was that book. Subsequent to its perusal, I rushed out and spent a big pile of my savings on the entire Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which were then on sale at Waldenbooks, for .95 a pop (most of them).
They smiled when they saw me coming and opened the door. Two weeks before, I had gone on an sf-buying expedition and blown nearly fifty beans on John Brunner, Samuel Delany, and Larry Niven, and had come back to collect all of the Zelazny the following week.
I still lived at home, and my only expense was gas. The rest of my income from dispatching taxicabs went to comic books, books, records, cigarettes, and weed. I read in school, on the train, at work.
That all by way of explanation. I was incurably weird and introverted and probably too smart for my own good, and spent most of my time alone…either reading or crafting fantastic adventures. I still have all of the notes from that time, in my head, and I’m working off of some of the better brainstorms.