The alphabetical format of this challenge can sometimes be a little limiting. I really wanted to include science fiction author Samuel R. Delany in my list of inspiring creators, but I already had rock-solid people for "S" and "D," as well as for "C" (since Delany's friends call him "Chip"). Thus, I choose to bend the rules a bit and use the names of the protagonists of the only two Delany novels that I've read. I intend to read more, but believe me, I don't need to read any more to know the dude is amazing.
"Colors sluiced the air with fugal patterns as a shape subsumed the breeze and fell, to form further on, a brighter emerald, a duller amethyst. Odors flushed the wind with vinegar, snow, ocean, ginger, poppies, rum. Autumn, ocean, ginger, ocean, autumn; ocean, ocean, the surge of ocean again, while light foamed in the dimming blue that underlit the Mouse's face. Electric arpeggios of a neo-raga rilled."That's from Delany's novel Nova, and it is a description of one of the most nuanced and fascinating side-characters in all of sci-fi (Pontichos Provechi, "the Mouse") captivating a crowd by playing his "sensory syrynx."
So far I know only Nova (1968) and Delany's previous novel The Einstein Intersection (1967). He was already well respected as a science fiction author by the late 60s, and he surfed with the cresting New Wave movement and started to explore many other themes, including alternate forms of sexuality, in the 70s and 80s.
At first glance, the two L-named protagonists couldn't be more different from one another. Lorq Von Ray, from Nova, was a wealthy, battle-scarred starship captain who was caught up in a grand feud with a rival noble family. Lo Lobey, from The Einstein Intersection, was a semi-humanoid blob of a creature who came from a tiny village on a strange planet, long abandoned by its original inhabitants, named "Earth." However, they both were the heroes of their respective mythical journeys, in which they had to strike out on their own (though helped and betrayed by a colorful cast of characters) to achieve their quests. Delany doesn't just give plain old allusions to classical myth -- he seems to recognize the point at which the reader recognizes them, then gives us a wink and a nod, then twists them into something new and surprising.
Both books present the reader with significant gaps. Sometimes we're not sure what's happening when it's happening. Sometimes, two thirds of the way in, some small fact is tossed out that makes you reevaluate everything. But it's done in such a way that you're definitely not annoyed -- puzzling it out (for me, at least) was a lot of fun.
The ending of Nova made me laugh out loud, and it lifted my spirits for days afterward.
You've been seeing a lot of occult material in my posts this month, and you may be surprised to see some here, too. In Nova, the educated people of the 32nd century regularly employed Tarot cards and other forms of divination to help them meditate on their past, present, and future. Not to magically predict stuff, but to provide them with a symbolic language they can use to meditate on their lives. See this dialogue between the skeptical Mouse and the more worldly Katin...
The Mouse dared half the distance of the rug. "You're really going to try and tell the future with cards? That's silly. That's superstitious!"You know, there are Zombie Tarot decks, Star Trek Tarot decks, Wizard of Oz Tarot decks... even Sailor Moon Tarot decks. I think a Delany Tarot would be quite fascinating!
"No, it's not, Mouse," Katin countered... "Mouse, the cards don't actually predict anything. they simply propagate an educated commentary on present situations--"
"Cards aren't educated! They're metal and plastic. They don't know--"
"Mouse, the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot present symbols and mythological images that have recurred and reverberated through forty-five centuries of human history. Someone who understands these symbols can construct a dialogue about a given situation. There's nothing superstitious about it. The Book of Changes, even Chaldean Astrology only become superstitious when they are abused, employed to direct rather than guide and suggest."
The Mouse made that sound again.
"Really, Mouse! It's perfectly logical; you talk like somebody living a thousand years ago."