Which authors do people best?

I wanted to spend more time on authors, because something struck me the other day and I wanted to explore it a little. There are clearly some writers that I love, others that create immersive worlds. But one thing that strikes me is that a lot of us create idealistic worlds, with flawed villains and great (often flawed) heroes … but some writers are especially gifted at creating very realistic people and I wanted to call out a few specifically.

  1. Arthur C Clarke: I’m always struck by how well Clarke gets people – or more importantly, societies, even in fantastical settings. I remember reading the Rama series for the first time and being downcast by how everything goes to hell and back again, the importance of understanding and compassion. Somehow, despite the fact that it’s set on a giant space station with crazy aliens, Clarke manages to portray an amazingly human science fiction story.
  2. Julian May: May has huge skill in constructing an array of very human characters. Statesmen, gutsy students, precocious geniuses – no-one is flat or two dimensional in May’s world. It obviously helps that she has a lot of time and many, many words to do it in (Intervention is huge) but I absolutely love the depth of her people.
  3. Becky Chambers: I’m not quite sure that Chambers exactly fits the bill here, but Chambers certainly has the view of humanity that I want to exist. Her characters are always kind, do the right thing and I’ve been left with a big warm and fuzzy feeling after reading her first two books.
  4. Adrian Tchaikovsky: I’ve ‘only’ read the Shadows of the Apt series, but I was blown away by how Tchaikovsky constructs very nuanced, very human characters. They do have a lot of time to develop – which makes it more impressive that he manages it so effectively – and they don’t always develop in positive ways, but over the course of the series, you slowly realise that there’s a master at work.

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