Honestly, I can’t imagine getting a Hugo nomination, so I can barely process what is happening here. I couldn’t have even told you what a “best fan writer” was exactly until a few weeks ago! And yet… here we are. I’m not sure what to say except “thank you” to all the readers, gamers, and awards voters that have made this possible.
I guess I should introduce myself, so… here is my most recent bio:
Jeffro Johnson is a resident tabletop games expert here at Recommend. He has blogged about games for over a decade at Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog and is a regular columnist at Castalia House. He is best known for his long-running series on the Appendix N book list from Gary Gygax’s Dungeon Masters Guide.
Since writing that I’ve wondered just how accurate it was. It’s that “best known” bit just sort struck me as being a bit of a stretch lately. The Appendix N series is without a doubt the most ambitious writing project I’ve ever tackled, yeah. But I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that I’m known for it. If Google is any indication, I’m probably better known for making the case for d4 thieves!
But seriously, while I have everyone’s attention like this, I really should say that while I certainly went out of my way in this past while to make a mark in game blogging, it was guys like James Maliszewski, Jeff Rients, and Michael Curtis that showed me that there could be something much more to it than what I first considered. It was them and bloggers like them that drew my attention to not just the counter-intuitive brilliance underlying some truly great vintage games, but also their connection to the great works of science fiction and fantasy that span the last century, many of which are now unaccountably obscure.
Though the original impetus for delving into this was necessarily derived from an odd combination of nostalgia and a curiosity about what is (in effect) a lost past, I’ve maintained a connection to the present by continually circling back to a great many topics relevant to the state of the art in tabletop game design. In these matters, Lewis Pulsipher, Volko Ruhnke, Alexander Macris, and Ron Edwards have all been invaluable to me, both as subject matter in their own right, and also (to varying degrees) as mentors, collaborators, and all around inspiration. Research and analysis are not enough by themselves to me– to be worthwhile, this stuff has to impact what goes on at the tabletop in a positive way.
My unexpected transition from dedicated game blogger to amateur literary critic began with last year’s Hugo Awards, which I attempted to cover in depth by reviewing several books. Castalia House played a role by providing me not just with a platform and an audience, but also by articulating a mission statement which I could both embrace and then develop from. When I first read that page last summer, I could immediately “hear” in my mind the sort of tone that I wanted to go for in my writing about classic science fiction and fantasy. While I don’t think this aspect of my work comes to the foreground very often, it is certainly a factor in encouraging me to continue plugging away… and if Castalia House did not exist, I doubt that I would have ever begun.
Everyone that has kibitzed with me on Google+, everyone that has written something awesome that I linked to in my Blog Watch series, and everyone that has commented on my stuff have been a tremendous help. In particular, I should call out gaming fanatics Michael Owen, Chris Mata, Neal Durando , and Cirsova for noticing what I was doing well before everyone else and then sticking with me as I plowed through all the work. (Thanks, y’all!) Finally I should also mention Earlburt and the die hard roleplayers of my many B/X game sessions. I wouldn’t have much in the way of credibility when it comes to tabletop gaming if I didn’t have the vast amount of actual play experience that these guys made possible.
Well, I’ve carried on rather long here, so I better wrap up. But really, just getting nominated like this is a big deal to me. Game blogging is a rather obscure branch of fan writing and I am pleased that it will gain more attention as a result of this exposure. It’s been a long time coming. Also, I am thrilled to see writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, and A. Merritt gain new readers and be the ongoing center of discussion and appreciation by fans old and new in response to my modest efforts. If you’re into classic games, game design, old school science fiction, or fantasy, there’s a lot here to be excited about. Whether you’re more interested in looking back or in forging ahead, I hope you’ll join me in conversations on these topics in the future.
Thank you for this opportunity and the recognition that goes with it.
For the many Hugo voters that are new to my blogging, here is a sample of some of my more popular posts from last year. I hope you enjoy them!
Retrospective: The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Retrospective: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
Retrospective: Derai by E. C. Tubb
Retrospective: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
Retrospective: Conan of Cimmeria by Robert E. Howard
Review: Adventurer Conqueror King System by Alexander Macris
Review: Dwimmermount by James Maliszewki, Alexander Macris, and Tavis Allison
Game Design is Problem Solving
Game Design: The State of the Art in 1981
How Game Designers Actually Think
My Hobby is not About Making Sure Anyone Stays in Business (A translation of this into Portuguese is here.)
Encounters in Third Edition Gamma World
Random Thoughts: Narrow Mindedness, Regrettable Debates, the Path to Fun, and Leveling Rates
The Top Gaming Blogs of 2014
Capsule Review: Star Trek (Original Series) Season 2 Episode 19: A Private Little War
Capsule Review: Star Trek (Original Series) Season 3 Episode 1: Spock’s Brain