The Appendix N Series Returns…
January 27, 2015
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After a too-long hiatus, I am back with the next installment of my Appendix N series:
RETROSPECTIVE: Dwellers in the Mirage by Abraham Merritt
Outside of a post at Grognardia, there really isn’t a lot of information out there on this book. This comment was pretty intriguing to me, though: “I suspect the point James is hinting at is that Gygax (and maybe other early RPGers) was engaging in a metaphorical journey similar to the fictional travels of those ‘lost worlds’ characters. This the focus is on exploring the world; the character is mainly a vehicle for doing so and doesn’t need much of an inner life let alone exploration of internal conflicts.”
Also based on this post over at Zenopus Archives it seems that people back in the seventies would routinely mention Merritt in the same breath as Howard or Lovecraft… as if he were coequal to them. So why is Merritt so obscure now…? Well, my theory is that with something like the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, you can see that publishers were scrambling to get as much fantasy as they could to meet a sudden new demand for it. But in the eighties, they had enough people producing so much stuff that they didn’t need to scrape the bottom of the barrel any more. This partly explains whythe early rpg designers knew all about A. Merritt while the average child of the eighties would have no clue about the guy.
But the thing is… Merritt is not the bottom of the barrell at all. He is, in fact, the crème de la crème. He really does not deserve his obscurity. Now… maybe you’re skeptical and that’s fine. I will say that the comments and reviews on this particular work are almost uniformly positive. People just like Dwellers in the Mirage. So if you’ve put off checking out this particular Appendix N author, this is probably the book to pick up if you want to give the guy a shot. Enjoy…!
One of the reasons I keep doing these posts is that they seem like they deserve to be done, there’s nothing really like them out there, and they’re something that I can actually do. In my post, I compare Merritt to Egar Rice Burroughs and H. P. Lovecraft and explain why I think he can hold his own against those giants. I also contrast Merritt to how things tend to be done nowadays. Instead of glossing over the “problematic” aspects of Merritt’s writing, I deal with them head on. In fact… far from having to hold my nose to review his stuff, I am blown away by this sort of thing. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, of course… but I have to say, this stuff seems so obvious to me when I read these old books, I’m surprised that no one else is saying it.
I dunno, maybe I’m in left field or something… but it really is weird to me that nobody else is really doing anything like this. I don’t get it.