The Master of Incorporating Sources Into Writing

For those of you who love tales that embark on a path that leads to growth of the soul, I have a favourite in mind that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find you’ve never heard of.

This work of art was published first in 1949, and if you’re lucky you can find a copy of the Ace paperback edition that brought it back from limbo in the mid-80s. Mine is pretty tattered, the victim of being my company on several air trips, and I am darn sure it’s a replacement for one or more previous incarnations loaned out and never seen again.

The Ace edition has three forwards (three!), individually penned by Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, and Larry Niven—master writers all. The man who put this literary clockwork together knew more about myths, heroes, religions, blackguards and wretches from history than I ever will…and that’s why I’ve been reading and rereading the book every so often since I was 16 or so. I’m resisting the urge to start reading it again now, because I’m in the middle of The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which — while being hilarious and brilliant itself, I have already interrupted for another turn at The Guns of August — became assigned bedtime reading as a Christmas gift.

  • Robin Hood
  • Beowulf
  • Paul Bunyan and the blue ox, Babe
  • Hamlet
  • The Green Knight
  • Zeus’ philandering
  • Fautstopheles and the Divine Comedy.

These and countless others are to be encountered, sometimes in easily recognizable form, sometimes not; poetry, wenching, duels, song-singing and battle twist their way ‘round one another as a boring, burnt-out sot (with a BA in Business Administration!) gradually finds meaning in life.

That one man could himself be so aware of all these stories, and wind them together in such an entertaining, well-written and engaging manner is…well, it’s about as rare as finding the Hope Diamond in your back yard.

Perhaps some of you don’t like ideas. Maybe, even in this Internet age, the idea of Reference Hunting has never occurred to you (I’m a guy who looks newly-encountered things up immediately) or puts you off. If so, then Silverlock by John Meyers Meyers isn’t for you. “Incomparable…Glorious,” Anderson called it. Niven exclaimed, “You’ll get drunk on Silverlock.” Pournelle labeled it “A Masterpiece.”

For a delicious instruction on how to work sources into your proposal, you can learn at the knee of the master with Meyers’ Silverlock. If you find you need help with your writing, let me know.

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