Ten More Appendix N Retrospectives
May 25, 2015
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Okay, this whole thing is a topic that gets kicked around quite a bit in the game blogging scene. Maybe it’s old news for some. Maybe it’s just plain worn out even. Maybe these old books are getting filtered through a lens of nostalgia by a semi-literate redneck here. Only… this can’t be nostalgia because I never grew up reading these books. In fact, I never would have heard of them were it not for a handful of bloggers that took to the internet over the past few years to devote large swaths of their free time to writing about their favorite games.
I’ll tell you what I see here, though. I see H. P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre being tackled by a top notch (but largely forgotten) writer that produced a sizzling take on an Edgar Rice Burroughs style action story. I see the book that inspired Harry Turtledove’s career. I see someone laying down some axioms for witchcraft and then carefully following their ramifications into all levels of a society made up of several competing cultures. I see a literary source for the sort of demonic themes that inspired a wave of hysteria. I see a successful (but largely forgotten) writer’s take on just about every science fiction space battle trope ever made but who was working before those concepts had been blown up into major television and movie franchises. I see a book that sheds light on the aspects of Tolkien’s work that more recent creators have largely passed over. I see that the two books that inspired the Gamma World Setting were seen by their authors as an opportunity to delve into issues of racial harmony and overpopulation. I see that the sword and sorcery genre once commanded the attention of one of the most talented writers in the field of science fiction and fantasy– but who for some inexplicable reason was quietly retired from peoples’ reading lists. And I see that at the foundations of that field, the dividing line between science fiction, fantasy, and horror were surprisingly blurred– that really, a distinct fantasy genre is a relatively recent phenomenon.
I think this is news. I think this is a big deal. But I don’t see people talking about this stuff. Not like this. No, I am not the first person to make these sorts of observations. But I am the only person attempting this sort of scope while paying attention to the gaming angle. And I believe it’s fair to say that you get something qualitatively different from the usual piecemeal commentary as the more systematic survey uncovers a clearer picture of the past. This is something that’s worth doing– and the only thing that surprises me more than the fact that I’m the one doing this is that nobody did it before me.
Seriously, If your mind isn’t blown by this stuff it’s only because you never bothered to read these classic works of science fiction and fantasy. Sure, I’ve seen people quibble over Gygax’s selections. I’ve seen them brainstorm about which ones they would choose to remove from the list. I’ve seen them scoff. And sneer. I wouldn’t trade any of them, though. I might want to induct a few people that got overlooked, but I wouldn’t want to lose any of these authors. They’re freakin’ awesome. They’re the architects of our imaginations. And reading them, you can’t help but think that exploring fantastic worlds at the tabletop would be an inevitable development from their work. And it’s crazy that they’re as obscure as they are now.
Anyway, here are ten more posts for 2015. If you’re new to this, I really envy you. Because you’re going to end up reading several times as many books as I have from the authors that appeal to you most. But that’s okay– I’ll catch up with you once the survey is completed! See you on the flip side…!
- Dwellers in the Mirage by A. Merritt
- Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp
- The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt
- Kyrik: Warlock Warrior by Gardener F. Fox
- Berserker by Fred Saberhagen
- The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany
- Hiero’s Journey by Sterling Lanier
- Star Man’s Son by Andre Norton
- Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber
- The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales by H. P. Lovecraft