Just because most of us read science fiction and fantasy fiction for purposes of escapist entertainment doesn't mean we can't also marvel at the way our favorite stories are told. The beauty of fiction may lie in the words, but the application of the craft of writing also piques our interest as readers.  Eventually that curiosity about storytelling bleeds over into wanting to know about the people who do the telling. What makes them tick? How do they free their minds to create such wonderful imaginary worlds? What experiences have influenced their writing?

The answers to those questions can be found in books that revolve around writers. Here's a handful of recent books about some of the writers of science fiction and fantasy.

 

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

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Perhaps the best way to find out about a person is simply to ask them. That's exactly what Alvaro Zinos-Amaro has done with his new interview collection Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg. Robert Silverberg is one of speculative fiction's living legends with a prestigious and influential career spanning more than five decades. He's won numerous awards and has been active on the science fiction convention circuit as well. In this revealing interview collection, Zinos-Amaro chats with Grand Master Robert Silverberg about his extensive travels across the globe, his love of opera film and classical music as well as writing. This is a candid look into the mind of one of the field's most respected writers.

 

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary by Bill Schelly

You may not know the name Otto Binder, but you know his influence, especially if you read comics. His writing career began in the 1930s pulp magazines and eventually into the world of comics. Among his notable influences: introducing the first sentient robot in literature (which inspired Isaac Asimov's popular robot stories); he co-created Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel's twin sister; he collaborated on the Superboy story that launched the Legion of Superheroes; and he expanded the Superman family by introducing Smallville, Supergirl, Superboy's dog Krypto, and the villain Braniac.  In Otto Binder, comic book historian Bill Schelly looks at the life and career of this influential storyteller.

 

The Real Peter Pan by Piers DudgeonSF_Dungeon

Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, the classic J.M. Barrie story about a boy who never grew up and who lives with the Lost Boys. But few people know the story behind the story. The Real Peter Pan: J. M. Barrie and the Boy Who Inspired Him by Piers Dudgeon offers fans of Peter Pan a look at the complex relationship between Barrie and the family of boys who inspired his work. The book is based on Barrie's love and affection for the sons of his friend Art Llewelyn Davies. Barrie became the trustee and guardian to the boys, but it was young Michael who Barrie was inspired by the most. Michael was the influence for the character of Peter Pan. Dudgeon's look at this real-world relationship is both heartwarming and tragic.

 

The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick by Kyle Arnold

Another influential writer of the science fiction field is Philip K. Dick. Through his strange-but-interesting stories, he often used philosophy to challenge our conceptions of reality. Dick's personal life took a turn toward the truly bizarre in 1974 when he had a series of strange visions that he said awakened memories of a past life and granted him contact with time-traveling extraterrestrials. Who better to examine Dick's fantastic claims than clinical psychologist Kyle Arnold, who, in The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, explores the events in Dick's life that may have influenced the writer. He also disputes the myth that Dick had schizophrenia and contends that Dick's well-known paranoia was caused by an addiction to speed – all of which informed his now-classic science fiction.

 

SF_Gaiman The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

Get into a discussion about literature's best storytellers and the name Neil Gaiman is sure to come up. His work spans novels and comics (several of which have been optioned for TV and film) and he also writes non-fiction. His latest is The View from the Cheap Seats, a collection of more than sixty essays exploring a broad range of topics, such as storytelling, comics, music, art, libraries, bookshops, fairy tales, ghosts, and more. Gaiman's non-fiction writing is just as engaging as his fiction and his thoughtful observations reveal the inner workings of one of our generation's best storytellers.

 

Understanding William Gibson by Gerald Alva Miller, Jr.

William Gibson is most famously associated with the literary movement known as cyberpunk thanks to his seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, a novel about a washed-up hacker hired to steal a computer chip containing the saved consciousness of his mentor. Gibson, the recipient of many notable awards, is the subject of a new book called Understanding William Gibson. In it, author and English professor Gerald Alva Miller, Jr. looks at Gibson’s personal life and extensive career, focusing not just on major novels, but also the lesser-known stories, too. It positions Gibson as a major figure in both science fiction history and the wider scope of contemporary American fiction. Miller examines the cultures that influenced Gibson (the Beat Generation, the hippies, and the punk rock movement) as well as how real life technological advances – a longstanding launch point for his stories – changed his writing.

John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal