I was visiting a certain unnamed SF writer once when he (or she) was working on an invisible man story. This writer had the person becoming invisible by being transparent to light. When I pointed out that the invisible man would also be blind - that the eye needs darkness for the retina to work, just as a camera does - the SF writer became quite irritated. Too bad - this is basic science.Simmons turned to Greek mythology for a two book Greek epic, Ilium and Olympos, which was also the first indication that Simmons might be overloading his brain with potential source material. Reading the back catalog is can be as tricky as it is inspiring for the working writer of fiction. Some novelists simply can't read anything else when they write - Simmons clearly doesn't fall in this category, occasionally to his detriment (Despite the author's picky tendency when it comes to who adapts his material, the folks behind the adaptation of Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come have been associated with this Homer/Nabokov/Proust inspired tale). Simmons' 2007 return to the long form was The Terror, a mix of detailed history and total insanity that runs about 766 pages. Although Simmons' books are always thoroughly researched, The Terror represents the work of several theses. The book garnered some attention, but it's not a book you'll read in a weekend, let alone a month. His February 2009 Drood follow-up sticks with historical speculative fiction, and concerns itself with the last years of Charles Dickens as he attempts to complete his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Odds are Simmons will have better luck as he profiles an author whose writing he doesn't care for:
Dickens was not "a major influence" on me. As was true with E.M. Forster, I've always tended to be put off by Dickens's sensibilities, sentimentalities, and even his characters' names. But his life . . . ah, that's very interesting. Especially the last years after his involvement in a train wreck at Staplehurst where he experienced..."This approach may not win fans among Dickens scholars, but he's no stranger to controversy, as his 2006 essay on the Iraq War, "Message from a Time Traveler" proved. As you can see from his leather jacket and 24-style author photo, Simmons doesn't care what you think. It ain't bragging if you can back it up with a farcaster and a footnote. Simmons' latest SF release takes on the Bard last year for a spirited take on the space opera genre. Previously featured in The New Space Opera collection, novella Muse of Fire concerns a Shakespeare troupe on an interstellar tour, and more than anything else he's done, could be a Pixar film immediately. The novella is one of Simmons' best forms - in that venue, he's forced to simplify his big ideas, so this may be the idea way to lose your Simmons' cherry. Alternatively, if you'd rather try something a little more topical - and a lot cheaper - Simmons is serializing a story on his website, "Watching the Presidential Debates in Elm Haven", between this month and the next. Check it out, and become obsessed.