M.C. Planck answers the question: Which writers have influenced You the Most?
My biggest influence is Jack Vance. The depth of his cynicism is amazing; he has written entire books in black tongue-and-cheek comedy, but even his adventure stories (with conventional heroes) are set in worlds of sharp irony where selfish venality is never in short supply. It is a fundamentally realistic view of human nature, a recognition that self-interest is a basic constituent of the universe that can be mitigated or managed but never eliminated.
And yet, under all the cynicism, Vance is still an optimist. His heroes are invariably competent; not super-men, but careful, conscientious, and clever. Usually they win, in the end, by having a larger sense of self-interest than their foes; by looking outside themselves to the greater picture.
The other influence Vance has is language; his voice is famously distinct and his vocabulary astounding. It is the same thing I like about William Gibson and Ursula Le Guin; somehow, their words seem flawlessly chosen and above all, economical. This is an odd thing to say about Vance, who occasionally spends an entire paragraph describing a breakfast, but it is nonetheless true. Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea is a particular example of this economy of words; despite being half the length of Lord of the Rings, its plot occupies the same amount of space in my memory. To paraphrase Stalin, brevity is a kind of beauty of its own.
Dave Duncan was my next influence; he takes old tropes and makes them fresh. In particular I was enthralled by Hero, which is a basic young-space-captain-saves-the-world-from-aliens plot, where every single word in that sentence is subverted: none of them mean what they seem to mean, even while they are still literal descriptions.
That gave me hope that I could still find something to write about; that there might still be stories untold. The Kassa Gambit has been described as wandering through many different genres, and I suspect that is because I am seeking to say something new. Or at least, the same old story in a new way.
My final influence was an author who shall remain nameless, but whose published works were so dreadful I thought, “Hey! I can do that!” And I did. Well, hopefully not exactly that.
About the book:
THE KASSA GAMBIT (A Tor Hardcover; $24.99; On-sale January 8, 2013), the gripping debut from author M.C. Planck, takes us centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, after humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.
Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.
While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack. But there is more to the story. Together, the crew discovers the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and in their search for the alien race responsible, rediscover their own humanity through friendship, trust, love, and unbreakable spirit.
Check out an excerpt from The Kassa Gambit here.