A dear friend asked if the character who ‘disliked cutting up frogs at school’ was a reference to a reference to the biology lesson scene in ET. That led to a long think about influences.
At one level, the answer is no. I did not consciously use that phrase thinking of ET. Molly is a nurse, not at all squeamish about the bloodier side of nursing. Although, she likes her meat and fish not to remind her they came from living beings. For her, inflicting suffering is different. Molly subconsciously links the danger to her alien son Cory to cutting up frogs, in part because he reminds her a bit of one. (Long limbed, hairless, loves the water…)
But there is a link. With a deft touch, ET presents dissecting the frogs as cruel, and Cory is sometimes very confrontational about human cruelty in all its forms. Cory is often seen as other, and as fair game, a means to an end. I think the link was Cory’s appearance, not ET, but the subconscious is not straightforward. It’s my view that ET confronts human frailty cruelty and power less than Our Child of the Stars does, but my friend’s question shows a counter-example.
Some references in Our Child of the Stars are deliberate, even knowing (‘Easter Eggs’).. Some I made and only later recognized the origins. The Meteor for example I knew was a lift from Superman/ Smallville, although there are also major differences. And much of it swam into my head ready formed.
One of the most amusing things is the long list of influences, which are books and films I haven’t seen, or saw after the book was written. After all, a helpless child turns out to have strange powers goes back to Hercules, if not before.
There is an increasing tendency to reduce a book to the author’s biography. People do borrow from their lives and interests – there is a tapestry of these in my book – but often emotional truth rather than hard facts. And an author subjects it to the comic book transforming radiation of the imagination.