Dreams of a Thousand Influences

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Vera Nazarian is a protegee of Marion Zimmer Bradley, but her influences are much older. Glancing over the plethora of positive reviews on the inside cover, several names crop up again and again: Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and Tanith Lee. However, one of these names is not like the others. The Tanith Lee comparisons come from the similarities between Dreams of the Compass Rose and Lee’s Flat Earth series, of which I have, admittedly, only read one book – the excellent Night’s Master. And Night’s Master, as well as being woefully out of print, is Lee’s exercise in emulating her influences – namely, Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Jack Vance’s first book, The Dying Earth, is a similar blend of Dunsany and Smith (a little heavier on the Smith, perhaps), but provided a springboard from which Vance was able to develop his own, distinctive voice. I haven’t read much Lee aside from Night’s Master, but even in that volume I could see that she was establishing her own prose style, as rich as Dunsany and as imaginative as Smith but very much her own.

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