Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

SFF Noir: The A. Merritt and Leigh Brackett Connection

I got my last Appendix N book in the mail the other day. I look at that stack of books and I have no idea what’s in store for me here. It’s both exciting and daunting at the same time. I really can’t wait to tear into these!

Probably the hardest thing about keeping the survey going is the temptation to just stop, pick an author or two, and just read every single thing that they wrote. Roger Zelazny’s Amber series was the first one to really do that to me, but I tell you… it’s hard going day by day not having read every John Carter of Mars story that’s ever been written…!

Surprisingly enough, it’s not the big guns that make me want to do that. I mean, I see letters in early issues of The Dragon from people that know more about Lovecraft than I do about Car Wars. My eyes just glaze over when I read them, too. It’s hard for me to care that much. As far as he goes, I happy just to know the overall gist of his work and where exactly gamers tend to get him wrong when they invoke what they think of as “Lovecraftian” elements. That puts me in kind of a weird place compared to all the other Lovecraft fans out there.

You see, I’m far more interested in the people that played into making a Lovecraft even possible and who don’t get near the same level of attention that he does nowadays. Lord Dunsany’s influence is of course well known to the fanatics, but the idea that Lovecraft’s signature story was, to a real extent, A. Merritt fan fiction is something that I think deserves a lot more investigation. And a lot of people will naturally compare Leigh Bracket to the giants of the field, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. But I see her more as being the apotheosis of what A. Merritt working towards.

So those are the two Appendix N authors that I most want to just stop everything to read and read and read and read: A. Merritt and Leigh Brackett. There is this whole world of science fiction and fantasy that reads like “The Big Sleep” is or is about the become the standard for how to tell a story. It doesn’t strike me as being old fashioned at all when I read it. After all, this is exactly the sort of work that inspired many of the blockbuster movies that I grew up with. At this point, though, I kind of would rather get it straight from the masters that made the foundational works that are still worth invoking even after all these years.

And thanks to Amazon and Project Gutenberg, I can finally get copies of all this stuff without too much hassle. There’s never been a better time to be a fan of science fiction and fantasy fiction…!

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10 responses to “SFF Noir: The A. Merritt and Leigh Brackett Connection

  1. Cheal Out June 19, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Michael Moorcock is a trailblazer.

    • jeffro June 19, 2015 at 5:40 am

      I’ve heard so much buzz about him on the gaming blogs but I never took the plunge. Until now!

      • Cirsova June 19, 2015 at 8:40 am

        When I was a wee tot, my Dad read me Warlord of the Air. It was a favorite of mine.

        Elric was a slog, but that had to do more with the version I tried to read. When placed in chronological order, the iconic stories bookend a lot of fairly repetitive episodic adventures. Plus I felt like not having read enough of Moorcock’s other series, the eternal champion arc was lost on me.

        But hey, this is awesome, right?

  2. MishaBurnett June 19, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Pulp horror and pulp mystery grew up together–published in the same magazines, often written by the same authors (sometimes under pseudonyms, sometimes not). Back in the days before major publishers realized that genre fiction could be profitably farmed fiction was pretty much divided into “serious books” and “things you don’t want your mother to catch you reading”.

    So it’s not surprising that early science fiction and fantasy was heavily influenced by crime fiction–they all hung out together in the same ghetto.

    • jeffro June 19, 2015 at 5:41 am

      It kind of irritates me when I read people (usually starting in the seventies) bemoan the fact that science fiction and fantasy are in a ghetto and not taken seriously. I never really understood that.

      • MishaBurnett June 19, 2015 at 6:02 am

        Not being taken seriously by whom? That’s the question. Genre fiction has always been taken serious by its fans. There have been science fiction and fantasy conventions since at least the early 1960’s, and mystery conventions (I think) even earlier. A lot of work goes into putting one of those together and it was much more difficult prior to the internet.

        Fan run conventions for literary fiction? Not so much. I just can’t see fangirls waiting in line to have their picture taken with Phillip Roth or John Irving.

        Being taken seriously by the literary community is the kiss of death for fiction. Part of what I think is killing science fiction today is that it’s become respectable in certain quarters. Writers and editors are trying to please academics in order to gain some kind of credibility as “real literature”. And that means cutting out anything that might offend someone.

        Being offensive is what speculative fiction does. I do not write to make you feel good about yourself. I write to make you very uncomfortable. I don’t write books that get invited to Fifth Avenue gallery openings–I write books that get drunk and loud in cheap dives with loud music and end up doing something unspeakable in the alley behind the trash cans.

        I embrace the ghetto. It’s my roots, and it’s my future. That’s where the action is.

    • Cirsova June 19, 2015 at 8:44 am

      One of my professors was a huge Faulkner fan; he went to Faulkner cons. I wanted to ask if anyone showed up cosplaying as the Compsons, but I never did cuz i thought it might hurt his feelings.

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