How Can Appendix N be Provocative?
January 18, 2017
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Over on Google+, Daniel M. Perez wants to know how Appendix N can be provocative. When Stuart Robinson suggests that it is because many of those books are now considered bad and wrong by progressive academics and progressive media (aka mainstream culture), Perez is baffled. He asks: “Wait, when did Appendix N become a list of libri non grata?”
Here is my answer:
Science fiction and fantasy before 1940 was essentially Christian and Western. The post-christian stuff is synonymous with the field for even the most zealous reformers today. The old stuff is now largely unimaginable to most creators as a comparison of contemporary works to C. L. Moore’s material makes evident. The transparent and aggressive subversions of Le Guin, Zelazny, and Moorcock are equally unimaginable today, however. The thing they were battling simply doesn’t exist! You can see a lively pluralism during the seventies as the culture war played out. The consolidation of key gatekeeping positions circa 1980 sealed the deal, however. Colleges indoctrinate students to more or less recoil in horror at anything from before 1980. Surveying every single review of the classic works that I can find, you can see Appendix N transition from being synonymous with the field in the science fiction and fantasy encyclopedias of the seventies to people pretty much ritually denouncing them. (You know the litany.) There were exceptions, but the old school game blogs had an entirely different ethos from the wider science fiction and fantasy scene. But even relatively open minded game bloggers were silent on the things that make Appendix N most controversial.
Now… it doesn’t take much of a survey to uncover this stuff. It’s all right there in the books. This is self-evident. But no one is talking about this. Heck, if you talk to most people that are into science fiction, they take it for granted that it only started to get good only after it was subverted for political purposes. The decade their nostalgia hearkens back to is generally the seventies for leftists and a couple decades earlier for the non-leftists. (That would be New Wave and Campbellian Revolution respectively.)
Appendix N is provocative because it doesn’t really support either narrative. And it’s been right there in the back of the Dungeon Masters Guide all this time!
Oh… and by the way, an entire book that makes the case for this took the #1 spot in Criticism & Theory on Amazon today.