Sword & Sorcery: "An earthier sort of fantasy" discussion

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Group Reads > Jul-Aug 2018 b) Appendix N

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message 1: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (last edited Jun 24, 2018 07:54AM) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
This is for the "old" crowd. Read the list that inspired D&D according to Gary Gygax

Some Links
Listopia List on Goodreads

The list of books/authors

Podcast link to come (suggested by Joseph)


message 2: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Meyer (loptsson) | 75 comments Very nice! I can imagine that will be a fun read. Definitely adding it to my buy list.


message 3: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Podcast link:

https://appendixnbookclub.com/

(Myself, I subscribe to the feed on iTunes, but it's also available in the other usual places.)

A couple guys (Jeff Goad and Ngo Vinh-Hoi, plus the occasional guest star) getting together to read & discuss every book and/or author mentioned by Gygax in Appendix N, plus the occasional book that should've been mentioned but wasn't (Zothique, for example).

They're up to 28 episodes now, including multiple Conans (yes, they're reading the Lancer/Ace editions, because that's what would've been available to Gygax) and multiple Lankhmars.

Episodes are usually about half a discussion of the book (from a literary and historical perspective) and half a discussion of what sorts of elements of D&D Gygax might have been lifting from the book.

(And they're both very much into the old-school renaissance/Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics school of RPGing.)

I've really enjoyed all of the episodes I've listened to, and am sad that now I have to wait for new ones to be released. They're incredibly ambitious -- their list of books for discussion has 290 entries, which would keep them going for probably another decade if not more.


message 4: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments And there can be discussion of the authors whose works are not specified.

Lord Dunsany does have some pure S&S -- mostly short stories. But my own favorite, The Charwoman's Shadow not only takes place in Spain, but has no fights occurring at all. The King of Elfland's Daughter is a bit closer, but still odd considered as S&S.

Andre Norton has distinctly more, such as Witch World, of course. But a fair amount of her SF, like Ice Crown, would be equally useful for inspiration.


message 5: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
Yep, a lot of us need to pick one we haven’t tackled yet. Gotta keep up our aficionado status.


message 6: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
I'm pretty sure the only author I haven't read is Margaret St. Clair, even if I haven't necessarily read the specific titles listed in every case.


message 7: by Mary (last edited Aug 05, 2018 01:28PM) (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments S.E. wrote: "Yep, a lot of us need to pick one we haven’t tackled yet. Gotta keep up our aficionado status."

Some issues do arise there, owing to a combination of having read so many, having been put off some authors, and having difficulty getting works.

But I can read The Long Tomorrow


message 8: by Richard (new)

Richard | 755 comments Thanks Jack!


message 9: by Clint (new)

Clint | 301 comments Appendix N purist might disagree, but I am counting ERB’s Lunar trilogy as tethered to Appendix N as it is technically in the John Carter universe. Consequently, I could make the same argument for Tarzan and Pellucidar with “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”

Read my 3-star review of The Moon Maid by Edgar Rice Burroughs
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 10: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Clint wrote: "Appendix N purist might disagree, but I am counting ERB’s Lunar trilogy as tethered to Appendix N as it is technically in the John Carter universe. Consequently, I could make the same argument for ..."

I remember bouncing off Moon Maid back in the day; I should probably give it another try, especially since I have the Bison Press edition.

As for Appendix N proper, I think I might end up reading Sign of the Labrys since it's available for Kindle and I believe Margaret St. Clair is the only Appendix N author I've never actually read (even if I haven't always read the specific recommended works).


message 11: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments thinking deep philosophical thoughts. . .

I liked Operation Chaos and A Midsummer Tempest better than Three Hearts and Three Lions but it's clear that the third is better suited for this list.

if only for the reasons of technology.


message 12: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (last edited Jul 06, 2018 08:05AM) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
I missed The Hearts and Three Lions. Sounds good. I did enjoy The Broken Sword though.

Question for the group:
So if one were new to Poul Anderson, is there a priority among his work for the DandD fanbase? Ie if one were to read only one, which one would be best?


message 13: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
Joseph wrote: "Clint wrote: "Appendix N purist might disagree, but I am counting ERB’s Lunar trilogy as tethered to Appendix N as it is technically in the John Carter universe. Consequently, I could make the same..."

Margaret St. Clair's The Shadow People looks interesting.


message 14: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Be warned that The Broken Sword is very, very, very grim. He regretted that in later years.


message 15: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments I wax philosophical --

Nine Princes in Amber and the rest of the series have a fundamental flaw. More is, so to speak, at stake than in The Lord of the Rings. But it's all from a point-of-view ideally suited to NOT convey that. He openly dismisses the significance of his choices in the Shadows, and of those who live there. Even Amber, which he concedes is real, is nothing to him but a playing field for childish rivalries.

AND -- the rivals give us no reason to prefer one to the other.


message 16: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments I also note that The Lord of the Rings was not really a big influence on D&D. Sure, the eclectic party, that rangers must be good, and a few other things -- but it's not really the sort of thing players would enjoy playing. Less adventure and freedom.


message 17: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
Im just trying out Podcasts.... Joseph recommended the Appendix N Book Club.

I agree, its good! Getting sucked into a Dunsany episode. Anyone else following?


message 18: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Meyer (loptsson) | 75 comments Just started reading this book and so far I am really liking it. Makes me want to really dig in and read all the stuff I haven't read LOL


message 19: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
I've said this before, but I think Gygax's real genius was grafting LotR's party structure onto Howardian sword & sorcery adventures (which were primarily about lone heroes, or maybe about a hero & a companion or, at best, a pair of heroes).


message 20: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Notice that Tolkien broke up his party, which allowed more flourishing of the individual characters.

RPGs have a handful of characters who are central. Making one the focus will make the characters unhappy, and giving any NPCs anything like the focus that a PC would get doesn't work in a game session. Take Order of the Stick: while it's based in a literal D&D world, it has things like the sequence with O-Chul and the Monster in the Dark, which really would not work in a game.


message 21: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Yeah, from a tabletop RPG perspective (and possibly even from a fiction perspective), a nine-character party is kind of unwieldy -- probably 3-5 is a better & more manageable size.


message 22: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments From a fiction point of view, even a three-person party is unwieldy, if they are treated equally. It can be done, but it's not easy.


message 23: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
All right, I'm about to start Margaret St. Clair's Sign of the Labrys, which, by coincidence, just got its first reprint in some decades.


message 24: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
The St Claire book summaries sound very fun. Im a sucker for catacombs and subterranean adventure


message 25: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
I didn’t know Jack was such a Poul Anderson fan!

Thanks for the long and short answers above!


message 26: by Jordan (new)

Jordan | 24 comments Curious to know what you think of St. Clair. I got The Shadow People a while ago but it’s still sitting on my tbr pile.


message 27: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments I picked up The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett. Interesting post-apocalyptic setting. Not perhaps the best for D&D inspiration except for an unusual campaign.


message 28: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Finished Sign of the Labrys -- it was short. Probably wouldn't have read it were it not for the Appendix N connection, and it was kind of just OK, but certainly not the worst way to spend a couple of hours.


message 29: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Has anyone else read Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons?

My review here for an overview:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I am going with his choice for Leigh Brackett.


message 30: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Meyer (loptsson) | 75 comments I am nearly done with Appendix N. I had to laugh though when I found it had appendix's as well LOL


message 31: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
Aaron, your job to read is never done!


message 32: by Mary (last edited Jul 15, 2018 10:15AM) (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Leigh Brackett's The Sword Of Rhiannon

Action, adventure, being swept away in time to ancient Mars! The love story makes some implausible leaps, and I must warn you that naming a female Ywain and a male Rhiannon is going to cause some winces. . . .

Also that the precise plot would make players unable, very likely. 0:) (view spoiler)


message 33: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "Leigh Brackett's The Sword Of Rhiannon

Action, adventure, being swept away in time to ancient Mars! The love story makes some implausible leaps, and I must warn you t..."


Such a great book. Although I have to admit that the use of Celtic names ("Rhiannon", e.g.) on ancient Mars made me a bit twitchy.


message 34: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments That the rip-offs contained obviously inappropriate connotations bugged me more.


message 35: by Clint (new)

Clint | 301 comments I enjoyed Sword of Rhiannon. Good action tale. Heresy, perhaps, but I prefer Leigh Brackett over ERB.


message 36: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Clint wrote: "I enjoyed Sword of Rhiannon. Good action tale. Heresy, perhaps, but I prefer Leigh Brackett over ERB."

Brackett on her worst day could write rings around ERB on his best day; having said which, Barsoom (with its dead sea bottoms, ancient, crumbling cities, four-armed green warriors and flotillas of airships) will always be my first and dearest love.


message 37: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
Jack wrote: "Just a note that today would have been Gary Gygax' 80th birthday. Cheers to The Father of RPGs and his legacy!"

Sweet! Nice call out


message 38: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments The Ginger Star.

I liked this better than Sword.

For one thing, I actually believed that the hero was in love with the love interest BEFORE he did something idiotic on her behalf. (Not to mention that it was less idiotic.)


message 39: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Also liked The Hounds of Skaith. Though it is a bit odd that (view spoiler).


message 40: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments The Old Gods Waken by Manly Wade Wellman

I'm not overly impressed by it. I was thinking in the opening chapters that Gygax was probably thinking of it as a source for evil religion. The later chapters (view spoiler) are more reminiscent.

Also some of the folklore is incorrect -- and I think known to be at the time -- and shifting from third-person to first-person should be done more neatly and decisively.


message 41: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "The Old Gods Waken by Manly Wade Wellman

I'm not overly impressed by it. I was thinking in the opening chapters that Gygax was probably thinking of it as a source for ..."


FWIW, if you get a chance you might try some of the earlier John the Balladeer short stories -- I think he works better at short story length than at novel length.


message 42: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
If our group had reading-participation awards, Mary and Joseph would get them. Appreciate you guys sharing so much. Wish I could keep pace!


message 43: by Richard (new)

Richard | 755 comments They are both inspirational with their pace.


message 44: by S.E., Gray Mouser (Emeritus) (last edited Aug 05, 2018 04:00PM) (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2341 comments Mod
I am thinking we make an award... calling it the "Sweet Mary Joseph!" Sword-n-Sorcery participation award (the SMJ SnS PA, for initialism lovers).

I've used that joke before, but am half-serious about an honorary award.


message 45: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1267 comments Mod
*blushes*


message 46: by Clint (new)

Clint | 301 comments I agree with Joseph on MWW. His John the Balladeer stories are where he excels. His Hok stories are pretty good too.


message 47: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 782 comments Was thinking philosophically that The Lord of the Rings did have more influence than Jeffro Johnson allowed -- the variegated party of several people for instance, where the other works tended toward single heroes or duos. And the rangers being good, though trivia.

But then, most of the works inspired a lot of trivia. RPGs and novels are such different media that what works in one medium will be the death of the other.


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