September 9, 2015
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Well, a lot of things happened really. Myself, I blame the loss of cigarette advertising. Other people blame Waldenbooks and the decision of publishers to drop their backlists. This caused authors ranging from Andre Norton to Fritz Leiber to lapse into obscurity when just a decade before that, A. Merritt would have been on the shelf side by side to Roger Zelazny. Through these changes, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis became the starting point for most peoples’ journey into fantasy fiction… and as good as those guys were, they were not necessarily the default heavyweights for fans in previous generations. Today, you can expect to find maybe about four books at Barnes & Nobel that could solidly be considered to come from the Appendix N.
With that in mind, check out this brief exchange from Google+ yesterday:
Ron Edwards: For a while I kept a collection of the times I’d read “like Tolkien / Tolkienesque,” or “like Howard / Howardian” accompanied by descriptions which had no relation whatsoever to the author mentioned, until I realized I was depressing myself.
Jeffro: Yes! That is exactly what I have been shocked to find– just how deep that goes. Reading Dunsany and Anderson, you see very quickly just what it was that gets left out of our eighties era “Tolkienesque” stories. The scope of and the variety of Howard’s Conan stories is so much greater than later “sword and sorcery” tales that are laid to his feet. And most of the time when people say “Lovecraftian” they really mean “Derlethian”. Rpg’s haven’t, in practice, preserved the spirit of these authors’ works– instead they’ve formalized the derivative stuff in their name.
Ron Edwards: thousand plusses
Neal Durando: Second this. Very excellent insight, Jeffro.
Jeffro: I’m sure I picked up the idea from Ron at some point. What I didn’t realize at the beginning is that the survey would provide evidence of the pattern occurring across more subgenres than what most people would have anticipated.
Probably my favorite thing about the Appendix N authors is the extent to which they defy genre conventions. When they were writing, there was no such thing as “standard” or “normal” fantasy. As such, there is a freshness and a degree of individuality that I just don’t see in more recent works. These people were writing fantasy when there really wasn’t such a thing as fantasy, yet!