Last night I ran a game session that climaxed with a submarine battle, today Tom Clancy died. I was a huge fan of Tom Clancy as a child and young adult. In his early novels, Clancy painted a picture of the United States where men in uniform, civil servants, and industry worked together to achieve the goals of the nation. He also went into painstaking technical detail on submarine and anti-submarine weapons systems. Both of these had an enormous impact on me.
In my mind The Hunt for Red October and The Cardinal of the Kremlin are two of the greatest spy/military thrillers ever written. There was no sign of the ridiculous camp or silly paranoia of the 1970s spy thrillers to be found, just regular people working together to protect their nation. Over time his main character, Jack Ryan, became more and more of a Mary Sue, the plots became more and more ridiculous, and the books became a soapbox for his personal politics. By the time I stopped reading in the '90s Jack Ryan was president, and Tom Clancy had fallen into the same tired "everyone in the system is an idiot but the main character" tropes that infect most American fiction. Jack Ryan and the system versus another system was inspiring; Jack Ryan versus the system was just lazy.
I don't think that Tom Clancy's influence on me can be overstated. His technical descriptions fired up my young, geeky imagination, and helped propel me towards engineering. His positive portrayal of the U.S. Government, and specifically the Navy, shaped my worldview at an early age in a way that directly lead to what I do today. I don't think there are too many things from a political worldview standpoint that Tom Clancy and I would agree on, but the optimism that Americans can accomplish anything through teamwork and elbow grease has stuck with me for my entire life. Thanks Tom.