Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Obliterated Canon

I get two kinds of negative feedback for my Appendix N stuff.

One is the “everybody knows that” line of attack, best exemplified by Andrew Hickey’s sneer about me thinking that I’m somehow rescuing Lovecraft, Dunsany, C. L. Moore, Moorcock, L. Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber, and Robert E Howard from obscurity. (See here for the full details of his, uh… argument.)

The other group has not read very many of these authors and cannot imagine fantasy being anything other than a mashup of D&D and Tolkien pastiche. When I assert that these authors were part of a wide ranging fantasy and science fiction canon during the seventies, they have a very difficult time believing me.

These two types of responses are of course explained by why I call the Appendix N generation gap. People on both sides of it are generally unaware of existence. Discussion has been brisk ever since I nailed my 95 theses to the fandom equivalent of the Wittenburg Door. And though I had a relatively limited amount of evidence when I initially made those claims, I have continued to gather more in the months since then.

So, with that said… here is a new Appendix N post: Gary Gygax, Ken St. Andre, and the Rest of Fandom

This is in response to an honest question regarding my sixth point: It used to be normal for science fiction and fantasy fans to read books that were published between 1910 and 1977. There was a sense of canon in the seventies that has since been obliterated.

This is by no means an obvious matter. Explaining it to people that don’t believe it isn’t easy. Hopefully this latest installment in the Appendix N series can make this plain– to people on both sides of the gap.

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8 responses to “The Obliterated Canon

  1. Robert May 16, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Further evidence for you:
    Originally published 1973 as Science Fiction: An Introduction, republished 1974 as Science Fiction Reader’s Guide. By L. David Allen for Centennial Press, copyright held by C.K. HILLEGASS – i.e. CliffsNotes – You can’t get more mainstream than that…

    This text has a selected biography by the author and others to list authors and texts that they suggest as a starting point. It has 17 of the 29 Appendix N authors on it. This is despite the overwhelming focus being on science fiction. Interestingly, the only author with as many titles as Heinlein listed is Andre Norton.
    Earlier pulp era authors not in Appendix N and highlighted include:
    Edwin Balmer,
    Phillip Wylie,
    Anthony Boucher,
    Henry Kuttner,
    Murray Leinster,
    Philip Francis Nowlan,
    Eric Frank Russell,
    E. E. Smith,
    Thea Von Harbow,
    And these are just some of the ones active during the 30s or before.

    • jeffro May 16, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Wow, I’ve gotta track this one down; thanks.

      • Robert May 18, 2016 at 9:16 pm

        In case you read comments in older posts, I provide further example.
        The Science Fiction Book: An Illustrated History, Franz Rottensteiner, New American Library, 1974.
        It discusses:
        “Even today, the one-hero series are not dead, and a few of the old dime novel and pulp heroes have survived in paperback … ‘Doc Savage’ … ‘Captain Future’ … ‘Perry Rhodan'” (Noted for its popularity in world wide translations).
        A double page spread on E.R. Burroughs (Somewhat dismissive, but acknowledges lasting legacy – especially if you first read him when young)
        A double page spread on A Merritt (The Master of Fantasy according to his fans) which reveals that his Burn, Witch, Burn was turned into a mediocre film called the Devil Dolls starring Lionel Barrymore (Cross-dressing as an evil old witch).
        A double page spread on E. E. Smith.
        Three pages on Lovecraft, including the influence of Poe, Bierce, Machen, Dunsany and Chambers. It also discusses Arkham House and Clarke Ashton Smith, Bloch, Lond, Howard and Leiber.
        A couple of pages on Stapledon and Lewis.
        Further praise for Dunsany is followed by praise for Eddisson’s The Worm Ouroboros and a discussion of their literary heirs, Howard, Smith and Leiber.
        John Taine or Eric Temple Bell is described as a leading American SF author of the 20s and 30s.
        Lest you think that SF in the 70s was parochial in its concentration on English, the book offers details of great authors from France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Rumania and Soviet Russia.
        Again I have focused only on what is written about authors active some 60 to 40 years earlier than when the book was written. The amount of material once you hit the 40s is as always much greater. However it is clear that by the 70s the greatest and best of the early 20th Century was well defined and settled.

      • Robert May 18, 2016 at 9:45 pm

        I am a lover of artillery, I also believe in bringing to bear unavoidable bombardments of facts. In the interests of furthering your cause I will continue to offer insights from my archives.

        The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 1977, Ed. Brian Ash.

        21 of 29 Appendix N is discussed, once again, this is even though it focuses on Science Fiction. Of particular interest:

        Manley Wade Wellman gets a small showing,
        Weinbaum gets a huge showing, they love Weinbaum, especially A Martian Odyssey (1934) “… published in Wonder Stories, [it] has been enshrined in the cornerstone anthology compiled by the Science Fiction Writers of America, [called] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (1969).

        The old stuff was loved, reprinted and enshrined as a cornerstone of the genre.

        E.C. Tubb is loved by the editors and contributors, a fact that I know will warm your heart as much as it does my own.

      • Robert May 18, 2016 at 10:14 pm

        The Encylcopedia of Science Fiction (An illustrated hardback), 1978, Ed. Robert Holdstock.
        15/29 Appendix N.

        Again of interest is a large amount of material on Merritt and Weinbaum in particular.

    • jeffro May 19, 2016 at 12:58 am

      Thank you. This is neat stuff.

  2. twilaprice May 17, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    I suppose I’m proof of your generation gap…. I have been reading sf since 1958. I expect people to have read Heinlein, Andre Norton, Asimov, Clarke, etc. Even though some of the older books can read oddly to the readers of today, it is still useful to know what has come before. And heck, some of it can stand head and shoulders above the “extruded fantasy product” you see too much of in the bookstore. But…. She says, thoughtfully, what you and the other puppies seem to see as a weakening of the sf/fantasy field, I tend to view as new and exciting things to read. I have read every Heinlein book, multiple times. I reread Merritt and Norton on a regular basis. I don’t need a retread of what I can get from the pure source. And I don’t want urban fantasy of the Buffy/romance novel to take over my shelves, although the original urban fantasies of Charles DeLint, Emma Bull, Tanya Huff and others made the early 80s sing. I have read Tolkien. I don’t need knock-offs like Sword of Shannara cluttering up my shelves. Or G. R. R. Martin’s Wars of the Roses in fantasy land, either. He wrote some awesome sf and fantasy standalone novels that I adore, but I want something that’ll knock my jaded little socks off. Something that has great world building, interesting characters (preferably traditionally heroic and upstanding human beings or elves or aliens), and can evoke that old sensawunder.

  3. Pingback: Science Fiction’s Invasion | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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