Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The “Answer” to Traveller’s Literary Inspirations

I’ve known about Traveller’s literary antecedents ever since reading Michael Andre-Driussi’s excellent article from The Internet Review of Science Fiction, but I was still pleasantly surprised the other day after stumbling across the “Heroes and Villains” section of Traveller’s classic Citizens of the Imperium supplement again. This concise list turns out to contain yet another example of what PC Bushi lovingly refers to as unholy nerd texts.

And as far as the great sff generation gap goes, this one was a killer. I did have a copy of 1,001 Characters back when I was in high school– you were supposed to be able to recognize these iconic characters in the back just from their Traveller stats. I couldn’t identify any of them!

I’d always considered myself to be kind of a science fiction buff, so it kind of aggravated me. Still, it didn’t really register as being significant of anything at the time. Just like people thinking that Gary Gygax was weird for making lawful fighting-men a thing, so too did I just assume that there must have been something wrong with Traveller’s designers. (No Paul Atreides? No Hari Seldon? No Johnny Rico? No H.A.L.? Arrrrrrgh! Y’all be crazy!)

Looking at the books down in “the previous answers” section below, it’s pretty clear that the guys at GDW had a conception of “classic science fiction” that ranged far beyond most peoples’ notions of “the big three”. These book lists would have been put together at about the same time as AD&D’s Appendix N were drawn up– and the fan culture they represented would end up lapsing into obscurity right along with D&D’s literary antecedents….

Looking at it now, though, I gotta say… ranking John Carter as basically the #1 science fiction hero of all time was rather apropos for the granddaddy of all space rpgs. This is a good set of books.

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10 responses to “The “Answer” to Traveller’s Literary Inspirations

  1. pcbushi June 17, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I sometimes wonder If I had grown up a little earlier and/or with friends of a different subset of nerdom, whether I would be much more literate on this golden SFF. I don’t regret playing Magic the Gathering, and I kind of regret buying Warhammer figurines that I never really played an actual game with, but I do wish I had more opportunity for tabletop gaming. Maybe that would have exposed me to more of these influential works and writers.

    D&D 3.5e, Star Wars on the D20 system, and just a taste of Rifts are the only real exposure I have to that world. Not until DMing D&D did it even really occur to me to look to literature for inspiration, and even then it wasn’t a deep-seated objective or anything like that. I guess I should be glad I eventually discovered this stuff, but I hear about these cool-sounding games like Traveller and I wish I had gotten here via a different path.

    Anyway, great post, Jeffro, and thanks for the shout-out. The evil library grows. ;)

    • jeffro June 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      If you can ever get ahold of the original Books 1, 2, and 3 in the “little black book” editions, I heartily recommend it. My son is consumed with rolling up characters with Supplement 4 lately… the game is one of the greatest of the greats in tabletop.

  2. Rainforest Giant June 17, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I missed two of them originally and didn’t remember the name of the Deathworld guy.

    • jeffro June 17, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      My best friend thought Stainless Steel Rat was hilarious. I don’t know why, but I wrote it off as being too old to be cool. Ah well!

      • Library Bob June 17, 2016 at 2:20 pm

        Both the Retief and SSR books, I’m told, were meant to be comic sci-fi. I found them both funny and great fun. They were still heroes, doing the right thing (keeping the spirit of the law while ignoring the letter) and having terrific adventures. I need to get myself new copies of the SS Rat books so my boys can read them too.

  3. Hooc Ott June 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Who is this Gene Lucas person?

    Another oddity is the choice of At the Core for Beowulf Shaeffer rather then Neutron Star which was the first story the character appeared in and, from my view point, a more popular and widely known one.

  4. kittent June 20, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Discovered your blog because I am trying to read the Hugo nominees (congratulations, btw). I played Traveler:TNE back when my sons were young…spouse was a big fan and gm’d. Maybe I’ll read your list starting in August.

  5. Pingback: Taking a (SFF) step back – PC Bushi

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