SFF Noir: The A. Merritt and Leigh Brackett Connection
June 19, 2015
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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…!