Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

No, this Project Really Wasn’t for the Benefit of Gamers

I really need to point out just how surprising this turn of events really is. And I know I keep saying this, but as the narrative shifts… people are going to gradually lose the capacity to imagine what things were really like before.

As I worked through my Appendix N survey, there was never any doubt that I was a game blogger. Even if I started a post in the overall thrust of something focused on literary criticism, I would often pivot back to gaming somehow. Consequently, I would get feedback along the lines of, “hey, this is a great thing you’re doing for gamers.” And, “this is going to be a fantastic resource for role-players.” Also, “this stuff has no place in the Hugo shortlist; there are plenty of other awards for gaming-related writing. Won’t you please step aside so a legitimate sff fan can take your place…?”

Not all of that was intentionally condescending. But it was. The subtext was, “hey… you’re pretty big stuff for a game blogger, but you’re not anything special out here in the book scene, you turkey.” Well, if all of this was for the gamers, then where are they…? Far from showing up in droves, you can actually look back and see where popular game bloggers quietly dropped out of the discussion. One game blogger this year actually deleted his Appendix N posts when he found out that this was a fairly controversial topic. Some gamers that broach the subject write as if there are hordes of zealots roving the internet refusing to read anything that’s not on the Appendix N list. Oddly enough, they fail to mention any names. It’s bizarre!

So where is the action right now…? It’s with people that want to piece together what the science fiction and fantasy canon really is in contrast to what we’ve been told that it is. It’s with people that want talk about old books without the usual politically correct framing. But most of all, it’s with people that want to read and create new short fiction in the style of the old masters. Yes, people do drop back into a bit of game blogging when the topic warrants it. It’s almost as if gaming and gaming history are now a first class element of literary criticism. But that’s a only very small part of what’s happening here.

My Appendix N posts simply weren’t written for gamers. You’re not going to see them write about it or link to it for the most part. Just why that is really isn’t that interesting, really. What is interesting is that no one saw this coming. Gamers were pretty well done exploring the implications of Appendix N several years ago. The real audience for my Appendix N posts were a group of people that nobody could imagine even existing.

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8 responses to “No, this Project Really Wasn’t for the Benefit of Gamers

  1. CCF October 30, 2016 at 6:29 am

    It’s funny, but nobody seems to get that the internet has spawned a gigantic shining chasm in the dull grey fabric of controlled mediocrity in the classic hegemonic book publishing industry. The gatekeepers have been outflanked and there is treasure out there. The amount of uploaded, free, out of copyright books available on line is growing every day and from multiple sources. However, bloggers need to help their readers a little by pointing out those hoards of goodies and by making suggestions. Appendix N is one of those ancient hoards and so are the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series and the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy series. There are more out there. Let’s let people make up their own minds what they like and want to read by opening up some of these troves.

    Since this is a gamming blog, let’s put this in gaming terms: in D&D treasure hoards exist solely in a game to be found, so the players can appropriate items which are useful to the individual player and to the group as a whole. Those useful items will enable the players to be better armed, better defended, and better informed, allowing them to press on to their goal a little better off than they were previously. We know that the end game is not the hoards themselves, but how the tools found there are used and how they promote the story. Let’s remember that in the old days, gamers were also readers.

    It seems every week I find new books online through simple discovery or through blogs, that I never heard of or knew about, but never read or couldn’t find old books or that I never expected to own, due to rarity and price as a physical book – yet they were put on line as an e-book for little or nothing. In fact, presently it’s a real candy shop experience for readers out there, compared to a few decades ago in the BI (Before Internet), where you were limited by your cash flow or the ability to get to really well stocked used book shops. I find it hard to believe that fans of science fiction just can’t get the idea that they can use scientific advancements to find books. Come on, the internet as we know it has been around for about 20 years. Interconnected mainframes have been around longer, but it was search engines and privately owned microcomputers are what really made the modern internet.

    I think the reason why people are getting excited about books again – old books, new books, all kinds of books is due to a rediscovery of the internet and bloggers. But it’s up to bloggers to help steer people to these book hoards. So you need to be a good DM/blogger and help your players find those troves of books. Don’t get discouraged by the ogre gatekeepers, as their chains are as short as their minds are dim. In the past few years, we are seeing new, younger readers getting fired up on books new and old, and maybe some older readers once again getting exited about the state S/SF. For that, I blame the internet and a few small bloggers like you. Keep it up Jeffro and be of good heart!

  2. Alexandru Constantin October 30, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I haven’t heard about appendix N until I came across your blog and now I’m all about reading older fantasy that is more adventure oriented.

  3. Jamie November 9, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Your Appendix N posts were a revelation, not just for seeing where ideas came from in “Baldur’s Gate” or “Dark Queen of Krynn” and other games I loved.

    No, I also liked confirmation that my conception of fantasy was not wrong. I’d read JN Williamson’s “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction” as a kid and thought that of course those type of stories existed in literary form (I saw them in Saturday cartoons like Thundarr the Barbarian) … but I couldn’t find many of the novels the contributors recommended (your posts have solved that mystery for me).

    Then came the John Carter movie, but I thought it was a one-off example of the type, and I was wistful that there weren’t more planetary romances. “Dune” is my favorite, but I wanted to read more swords & rayguns, and were aliens too much to ask for?

    Then along came Kris Rusch’s much-needed project — Women Have Always Been In Fantasy & Science Fiction, Dammit — and I discovered Leigh Brackett. Then someone recommended Jack Vance. Googling him brought me to your Appendix N series. What a rejuvenating revelation they’ve been!

    In the early part of this millennium I sent Weird Tales a story that I now would characterize as a Dying Earth / Brackett type setting. It had a detective battling inter-dimensional monsters, and she lived in a world with flying cars, vengeful nymphs, and guns. I cheekily called the monsters “eldritch” in a nod to Lovecraft.

    Weird Tales said they liked the story but couldn’t publish it because it had “too many wonders.” And, to be fair, it was 20,000 words. I was in college, so I figured I still had much to learn as a writer.

    I was puzzled by that “too many wonders” bit, so I studied the short story market to see how to do fantasy better. But the only thing I found were magazines in the grip of the Mundane Science Fiction & Fantasy movement and I was so confused. What made those stories science fiction? Or fantasy? There was no imagination in them at all. Messages, yes, but I noticed editor Ellen Datlow had to explain that stories have to have a plot.

    The Mundane movement meant I constantly had to double check what magazine or website I was reading, just to make sure I hadn’t picked up Cosmo or a literary mag. I ended up writing off the short story market. I kept working on my craft; I just wasn’t interested in short stories anymore. Terry Pratchett and Baen kept me afloat as a fan of sci-fi & fantasy, and gave me hope as a writer.

    Now thanks to the indie revolution, I’m no longer uncertain or worried about who will publish my novels. I will publish them. Thanks to your Appendix N series I will no longer worry that my stories are extreme deviations from “the norm.”

    I don’t follow games mags because I do videogames, and I was already annoyed by Gamergate before the Gamergate Journolists did their “Gamers Are Over” lockstep beclowning. The sheer amount of articles about their Issues They Can’t Shut Up About just got on my nerves as a gamer. Half the time I thought they were lying, the other half the time I thought they were mental.

    So, I’m thanking you as a writer and a reader for your Appendix N series. I vaguely recall that you’re writing a book about it. I look forward to buying it when it’s available.

  4. John E. Boyle November 9, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Jamie: Have you ever taken a look at Cirsova magazine?
    https://cirsova.wordpress.com/
    Go to Cirsova Magazine in the top menu and click on Submission Guidelines.

    I’m not pushing Cirsova just because I’m a supporter of the magazine, but also because I want to see more of the kind of fiction you seem to write. Too many wonders in your fiction?

    You might be writing right up Cirsova’s alley.

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