Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 22: Tolkien vs Leiber

Despite some late tightening, Edgar Rice Burroughs defeated Lord Dunsany and will continue to take on H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos in Round 3.

Day 22 of Appendix N Madness is one of the match-ups I have anticipated ever since I set up the bracket: J.R.R. Tolkien versus Fritz Leiber.


J.R.R. Tolkien

The "party line" about the development of Dungeons & Dragons is that J.R.R. Tolkien is less important than other influences on the game. Which sounds very nice, but it wasn't just an accident that OD&D had dwarves, elves, hobbits, orcs, goblins, ents, Nazgûl, and Balrogs. Gary Gygax was said prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings, which is totally fair and valid, but Tolkien was a huge influence on the players, especially once D&D got out of the narrow circles around Dave and Gary. I also think the cease & desist letters of the late 1970s caused some of this to be political.

Tolkien's reputation is solidly on his world-building. Middle-Earth has a deep history built up over a lifetime, and it really shows through in The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately the 1977 Silmarillion is possibly the worst way to package to the backstory; it is literally an annalistic history overlaid on top of a written summary, and comes off resembling the writing of the Bible in a negative way. The earliest drafts in The Book of Lost Tales are in rough form but make much more entertaining reads. The recent fix-up books, The Children of Húrin, and with any luck the forthcoming Beren & Lúthien, are far more accessible forms of the great stories Tolkien invented.

It is remarkable that you can actually learn enough Quenya or Sindarin to write some poetry in the languages. This was Tolkien's great passion, and the languages of Middle-Earth are quite beautiful creations in their own. "Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen, yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!" (Namarië, written in Quenya) or "A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna míriel, o menel aglar elenath!" (A Elbereth Gilthoniel, written in Sindarin)


Fritz Leiber

Like his father, Fritz Leiber was a Shakespearean actor. This shows through in his lucid and evocative prose, and his rapier-quick wit. Among Appendix N authors, only Jack Vance had a similar knack for sentences that you could read for pleasure on their own.

Leiber created two exceptional things. One was the pair of friends that he envisioned, tall barbarian Fafhrd and small swarthy Mouser. Their partnership and work together is legendary. Over the years Leiber created a full lifetime of their adventures, and clearly reflected a partnership that changed and grew. Even when they were rivals like in "Lean Times in Lankhmar" they still looked out for one another in a way. It's quite touching that their friendship was based on Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer's real-world friendship.

But even more impressive is the city that was a constant hub for their adventures. Lankhmar, the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes, with its Thieves Guild and the Silver Eel and Plaza of Dark Delights and the Street of the Gods and the Gods of Lankhmar. The city is a character in itself, one of the greatest cities in fantasy literature. Both of D&D's biggest cities, Greyhawk and Waterdeep, are clearly reflections (or if you prefer, cheap knockoffs) of Lankhmar through their individual creators. Some places in Nehwon are interesting, such as the underground city of Quarmall (a great mega-dungeon inspiration), but Lankhmar looms over all of them.

You can vote in the poll here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 21: Burroughs vs Dunsany

Jack Vance dominated in a victory over Roger Zelazny and will go on to Round 3.

Day 21 brings us to a battle of two of the earliest authors in Appendix N: Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany.



Edgar Rice Burroughs

The foreword to the original D&D set described the game's purview as fantasy, and its first example was "Burroughs’ Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits." OD&D had a distinct Barsoom flavor in the encounters section, which listed various Martian foes that Carter fought in his adventures, although later editions would downplay these connections.

Edgar Rice Burroughs's prime work, particularly the Barsoom novels, is rip-roaring adventure. If you read too much of it at one time, it becomes fairly obvious that he was working off of a straightforward outline and the plots can be formulaic. But it was all in service of his worldbuilding, which was endlessly inventive. John Carter (or one of a half-dozen others) finds himself lost in some new land, where a new threat presents itself. Then there's some helpful exposition and some desperate plan that gets him out of one problem and into a deeper one, and this continues until the book resolves neatly.

Of Burroughs's worlds, Barsoom was by far the best imagined. His Venus lacks the same feel, and Pellucidar is somewhat derivative. Tarzan keeps getting recycled but the racial implications seem to have put a damper on the once massive appeal the character had. Certainly Barsoom, where the races should be treated as pure fantasy, remains the most fertile ground for gaming inspiration, and the first six novels are the best reads.


Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany

A lord in what became modern Ireland during his lifetime, Lord Dunsany was a fantasist of rare imagination. He created a unique mythological cycle in his short story collections, The Gods of Pegana, Time and the Gods, The Sword of Welleran, and The Book of Wonder. The first two are in a very "high" register, almost Bible-like in both scope and in their language. Particularly The Book of Wonder contains tales that relate more directly to D&D-ish fantasy, such as "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller" and "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles."

Dunsany returned to these themes in the 1920s with his masterwork The King of Elfland's Daughter, which carries both his rich language and his high fantastic concepts for a full length novel. Here he relates the fantastical Elfland to the more mundane "fields we know," although when the book starts out with a witch gathering thunderbolts to craft a magic sword, exactly how mundane those fields are is up for question.

Altogether Dunsany was a prodigious writer of what can only be called very pure fantasy. It would be impossible to have the "big three" of Weird Tales without him, particularly Lovecraft who started out trying to write pastiches of Dunsany (what is now known as the "Dream Cycle"). His work is inventive in ways that very little fantasy has ever tried to reach.

You can vote in the poll here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 20: Vance vs Zelazny

Leigh Brackett managed to come out ahead on Day 19 of Appendix N Madness.

The match-up for Day 20 is two heavy hitters of SAGA / Amra: Jack Vance versus Roger Zelazny.


Jack Vance

While Appendix N lists only The Dying Earth and The Eyes of the Overworld by name, if you read the Dungeon Masters Guide it is quite clear that Gary Gygax was also a fan of Vance's Planet of Adventure series, as he describes "Dirdirmen" in the Castle Greyhawk dungeons. In a recent interview his son Ernie described Vance as a particular favorite.

Cugel the Clever of The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel's Saga is a particular archetype of scoundrel and ne'er-do-well; I've seen many murderhobo PCs who fit his template exactly. Many of the magicians of The Dying Earth are likewise scoundrels, but of a wizardly type.

It also has to be noted that Vance was one of the better prose artists of this whole tournament. The Dying Earth RPG had to incorporate a whole system of repartee to match the wit the stories' protagonists display. And simply in his ability to craft sentences, Vance can be intoxicating.


Roger Zelazny

The scene in Nine Princes in Amber where Random and Corwin drive through the ever-shifting Shadow toward Amber is one of the great chase sequences in any of the Appendix N books, and it alone would mean a film or TV adaptation of the Amber Chronicles would be, understandably, ambitious. Zelazny's masterwork is this series of epic intrigue and nearly godlike power, which is such a fit for today's television market that it should be no surprise there is serious talk about an adaptation.

It's not an accident that there was an Amber roleplaying game, nor that this game bears a close resemblance to the game Diplomacy. Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz were absolute fanatics for the latter and their play of NPCs was equally cut-throat. If your group isn't up for that, then Amber might not be the right RPG influence for you.

Zelazny was a masterful storyteller. I found the first five Amber books to be compulsive page-turners, each new twist burying Corwin in further trouble that he has to work his way out of. Zelazny's ability to write smooth, readable, modernist prose was a major factor in that. Though I do have to fault him for nicknaming the protagonist of Lord of Light "Sam" when, given a character identified with the Buddha, the opportunity to call him "Sid" is right there. But every Zelazny book I've met goes down smooth and keeps you hanging for what the next twist will be.

You can vote in the poll here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 19: Norton vs Brackett

Robert E. Howard won somewhat predictably in his match against John Bellairs and will advance to face the winner of Tolkien / Leiber in Round 3.

Day 19 brings us to a battle of two of the great women writers of science fiction: Andre Norton and Leigh Brackett.


Andre Norton

One of those Grand Masters who wrote for simply decades, Andre Norton was a true master of the adventure form. She had a particular penchant for taking a character (or sometimes a few characters), stranding them in a strange world, and having them discover strange wonders, encounter relentless foes, and find occasional allies in the wilderness. That's right, Andre Norton wrote hex crawls.

That's a little dismissive of her work, which is absolutely terrific reading, but I can't think of a better inspirational author to read if you want your characters to hop from place to place and have adventures. And between Daybreak 2150 A.D.Witch World and Forerunner and Solar Queen, she can inspire Gamma World, D&D, and Traveller campaigns. You'll generally want to pick up a Norton novel when you have a bit of time free; she's an easy read and her books are most enjoyable when read straight from start to finish with few interruptions.


Leigh Brackett

Planetary romance fell out of favor for various reasons as the Space Race showed what the Solar System actually looked like, and there turned out to be a disappointing lack of green men, whether 3 or 15 feet tall, on Mars. Leigh Brackett started off as a writer of the old style of romance, setting the adventures of Eric John Stark on the Red Planet. When she returned to the character she had to set him up on a remote world named Skaith.

Stark is basically a planetary Tarzan, and has rip-roaring adventures whether you pick the early Mars works (Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman) or the later Skaith books (The Ginger Star, Hounds of Skaith, Reavers of Skaith). It's no surprise that from this author we also saw The Empire Strikes Back, which has several memorable worlds (Hoth and Bespin) that were in Brackett's first draft, or putting the heroes into an action sequence in an asteroid field. Sadly, Brackett didn't survive to see that vision realized, but she left a worthy legacy for generations of science fiction fans.

You can vote in the poll here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 18: Howard vs Bellairs

H.P. Lovecraft is the winner of the first Round Two event, and will go on to face either Lord Dunsany or Edgar Rice Burroughs in Round Three.

Day 18 of Appendix N Madness is the second round two matchup: Robert E. Howard versus John Bellairs.


Robert E. Howard

One of the peculiarities of Appendix N is that only Conan is listed from among Robert E. Howard's dozens of creations. Fans of other Howard characters, particularly Solomon Kane, have called this into question. The Puritan Kane, whose adventures fit more squarely into the mainstream of <i>Weird Tales</i>, is an excellent archetype for the cleric class. Other characters such as the adventurer El Borak or the Valusian king Kull are also obvious inspiration for D&D material.

But Conan was unique among them, and it is not an accident that he stands head and shoulders above. Gary Gygax was particularly a fanatic for the Conan work; the point he sold Jim Ward on was that D&D is a game where you get to be Conan. And this is why Gary expected most players to want to play a human fighter, because after all who wouldn't want to be Conan?

More than any other character, Conan exemplifies D&D's arc, moving from an anonymous adventurer, becoming a reaver and cutpurse and slayer, and then moving on to be a ruler of men. That was in the game from the get-go, after all.

The Conan stories, more than any of Howard's other works, are unique in their literary quality. It was here that the Texan's sense of visceral conflict played out most completely, in an idiom that was often imitated, but the imitators rarely reached the same heights of descriptive writing. Poul Anderson eventually had to decry these knockoffs in "On Thud & Blunder," and the most infamous example is the purple I-have-a-thesaurus prose of "The Eye of Argon." But Howard's original words still leap out and Conan comes to immediate, vivid life. No other fantasy character is as imitated or as iconic.

And so, yeah, Appendix N only listed Conan. What else is there to say?

John Bellairs

The Face in the Frost was a well received debut novel. It's a romp following its duo of wizards through a very strange adventure in the semi-anonymous South Kingdom that switches fluidly between suspense and humor. He never finished the sequel, The Dolphin Cross, although the draft is apparently available for purchase today.

The wizards from Face in the Frost are quintessentially English. The viewpoint character is Prospero, who shares a name with the protagonist of The Tempest, William Shakespeare's last play and the one that deals most with magic and fantasy. Of course, this Prospero has not broken his staff and doesn't have a Caliban. Instead he is accompanied by Roger Bacon, who appears well patterned on the famous Franciscan friar and reputed wizard. Their magic is odd but has a good flavor for real-world occultism and would be a good place to look for inspiration when one wants to detail the fights between powerful sorcerers.

After The Face in the Frost, most of Bellairs' output was in the "young readers" demographic, and outside of the general "Appendix N" purview. Yet - that one book certainly was something.

You can vote in the poll here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 17: Lovecraft vs Wellman


Day 17 brings us around to Round 2. I'd like to thank everybody who has been taking part in the discussion and voting, it has really been a fun project to go through all of these authors. In Round Two I'll touch more on their impact and legacy. You can see from the bracket above that Appendix N is ... well, it's top heavy. We have some real thrillers of match-ups in the second round and going forward, though, so buckle up.

Round 2 begins with: H.P. Lovecraft versus Manly Wade Wellman.


H.P. Lovecraft

It's hard to remember that Gary Gygax was mentioning a moderately obscure pulp author when he listed H.P. Lovecraft in Appendix N. Cthulhu was not yet a worldwide phenomenon (certainly plush versions were not available) who was a sort of cult figure known and admired among many fantasy and horror authors.

Of course, decades of relentless popularization and imitation have changed that. Now "Lovecraft" or "Cthulhu" is shorthand for "tentacles and madness." His vocabulary mistakes have metastasized; "cyclopean" seems to mean mammoth or simply haunting rather than a specific type of architecture, and "non-Euclidian" doesn't just mean doing geometry on a globe or other surface.

"Cthulhu" is a genre of writing, with two or three anthologies being published each year, some addressing specific Lovecraft stories, others trying to capture the strange vibrations of his cosmic horror. But CoC Sandy Petersen on a recent interview with The Good Friends of Jackson Elias described his allure, which I think few of his imitators grasp. Lovecraft's protagonists resist the reality of the cosmic horrors that they face so obstinately that the reader comes over to Lovecraft's side and roots for them to believe, rather than requiring their own disbelief to be overcome. It's quite a trick.


Manly Wade Wellman

If you think American folklore is rich gaming material waiting to be tapped, the Silver John stories by Manly Wade Wellman are among the best sources you can find. And if your tastes run toward Dungeon Crawl Classics, Michael Curtis created a setting in the module The Chained Coffin that is a long love letter to John the Balladeer and his adventures. (The module also contains a small gazetteer and several mini adventures set in the Shudder Mountains.) Wellman's work would also be a sound basis for a Call of Cthulhu campaign that wants to deal more with Satanism and the "traditional" occult than with Lovecraftian horrors from beyond space and time.

It's a bizarre cosmic coincidence, by the by, that today's episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff mentioned Wellman in the context of understanding American folk magic. Ken Hite, in discussing the German-American magical grimoire The Long-Lost Friend for a "Ken's Bookshelf" segment, compares it to the Silver John tales as a source of understanding this type of magic and its Biblical and occult origins.

As always, vote in the poll here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 16: Moorcock vs Derleth

Fredric Brown made an impressive showing and defeated Stanley G. Weinbaum on day 15; he will go on to face Poul Anderson in Round 2.

Day 16 is the last day of Round One of Appendix N Madness. It pits Michael Moorcock against August Derleth.

Michael Moorcock
Lived: 1939-present (currently living)
Notable Works: Elric series, Hawkwind series, Jerry Cornelius series, Corum series

Michael John Moorcock is the sole surviving author listed in Appendix N, and one of the great living fantasy writers. His debut was with a sickly albino sorcerer wielding a vampiric runesword, the last emperor of the inhuman and decadent empire of Melniboné, Elric VIII. Elric and Stormbringer are both in their own right iconic fantasy characters. Dorian Hawkwind, Jerry Cornelius and Corum and generally all the incarnations of the Eternal Champion are all fascinating but in this regard they fall short of Elric. This is an ironic parallel to Conan, since Elric was devised as an anti-type to Howard's powerful, pragmatist barbarian. He represents everything Conan is not, and as such is one of the few heroes of similar standing.

August Derleth
Lived: 1909-1972
Notable Works: various Cthulhu Mythos stories

August Derleth was a prolific writer. He wrote a Proustian epic called the Sac Prairie Saga that is a sort of attempt to create an American version of a Proustian roman fleuve. Derleth was a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft and wrote a number of stories imitating his more celebrated friend (including an anthology, The Watcher Out of Time, that carries a spurious attribution to Lovecraft). His work is widely considered too optimistic and good versus evil, fundamentally misunderstanding HPL. He founded Arkham House to publish Lovecraft's work, and is generally credited with transforming Lovecraft's creations into the "Cthulhu Mythos." He also had a Sherlock Holmes imitation named Solar Pons. Derleth's main credit is that he is, single-handedly, the reason so many people have read Lovecraft.

You can vote in the poll here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 15: Weinbaum vs Brown

J.R.R. Tolkien was the victor of Day 14 and goes on to face Fritz Leiber in Round 2.

Day 15 of Appendix N Madness closes out the first round for Sci-Fi with Stanley G. Weinbaum versus Frederic Brown.

Stanley G. Weinbaum
Lived: 1902-1935
Notable Works: "A Martian Odyssey", "Valley of Dreams", The Black Flame

In 1933, a new voice burst on the science fiction scene to tremendous acclaim. By 1935 he would be dead, but having made a great contribution in his short time. His first published story, "A Martian Odyssey," is an exceptional study in the creation of a genuine alien intelligence. Few subsequent science-fiction extraterrestrials are as intelligent without thinking humanly as Weinbaum's curious Tweel. One of his posthumous novels, The Black Flame, was a post-apocalyptic story firmly in the science fantasy genre. Weinbaum's death at a very young age meant that he never had time to polish the novel, or develop many of his earlier ideas, but his mark was profound and he remains one of the best golden age SF voices.


Fredric Brown
Lived: 1906-1972
Notable Works: What Mad Universe, Martians Go Home, "Arena", "Knock"

Fredric Brown was a golden age science fiction author who wrote many short stories with a distinctly wry and humorous note; this is probably why he was listed in Appendix N, since Gary Gygax had a strong love for this sort of humor. His What Mad Universe had a pulp science fiction editor who hated space opera thrust into, well, a space opera; his Martians Go Home satirically features the iconic "little green man" type of Martian. His short story "Knock" is legendary for the opening line: "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door..." Another of his short pieces, "Arena," was adapted for the Star Trek episode of the same name.

You can vote in the poll here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 14: Tolkien vs Tierney

Lord Dunsany took the last day of the Weird region with a powerful victory over Ramsey Campbell.

Day 14 brings us the last match-up of the Fantasy region: J.R.R. Tolkien vs Richard L. Tierney.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Lived: 1892-1973
Notable Works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a World War I veteran and a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary. He taught philology at Oxford and wrote a prose translation of Beowulf. During his convalescence after being wounded in war, Tolkien wrote a fantastic mythology initially called The Book of Lost Tales parallel to the development of several invented Elvish languages that would later form the Silmarillion. He never completed or published this work in his life, although his son has published numerous versions based on the in-progress work. In the 1930s Tolkien wrote a children's fantasy book, The Hobbit, loosely influenced by this mythology. In the 1940s and into the 1950s he wrote a much longer novel, The Lord of the Rings, that was broken into three volumes for publication.*

Tolkien's work was not accessible to most readers until Ace released an unauthorized paperback version (following the three-volume division) in the 1960s. These books drove an absolute mania for Tolkien and fantasy more generally, with Ballantine putting out the official authorized paperback versions. Tolkien was therefore an unexpected phenom at the end of his long life, and sadly had little time to take advantage of this. His son Christopher has published almost all of Tolkien's writing, including extensive information on his invented languages, of which Quenya is the most complete and Sindarin the most popular. Tolkien's works have been adapted into massively popular films and every genre of media imaginable, although few of these have the approval of Christopher or the estate. From the late 1970s into the 1990s, the fantasy genre became almost slavishly imitative of Tolkien, and his impact on Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy in general is profound.

*Even though copies of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King say that they were a "trilogy," Tolkien objected to this term and considered LotR a single novel, broken into six books, and not three separate works.

Richard L. Tierney
Lived: 1936-present (currently living)
Notable Works: Red Sonja series (with David C. Smith), Simon of Gitta series

Richard L. Tierney is a minor Lovecraftian writer. He is best known for co-writing the Red Sonja novels with David C. Smith, but has written his own Lovecraftian work featuring Simon of Gitta, who is introduced in "The Sword of Spartacus" in Swords Against Darkness III.The character's further adventures were collected in a 1990s volume from Chaosium, The Scroll of Thoth. Tierney was included in an anthology placing him in The New Lovecraft Circle placing him alongside writers like Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Karl Edward Wagner, Thomas LIgotti, and Robert M. Price. He has also written extensive science fiction poetry, much of it dealing with similar Lovecraftian themes.

You can vote in the poll here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 13: Dunsany vs Campbell

Jack Vance won Day 12 of Appendix N Madness and goes on to face Roger Zelazny in Round 2.

Day 13 is the last match-up from the Weird region: Lord Dunsany vs Ramsey Campbell.

Edward Plunkett (Lord Dunsany)
Lived: 1878-1957
Notable Works: The Gods of Pegāna, The Sword of Welleran, The King of Elfland's Daughter

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the 18th Baron of Dunsany, was an Anglo-Irish lord, writer, and dramatist. He was a noteworthy writer, and published several cycles of invented mythology beginning with The Gods of Pegāna. Dunsany's writing had a deliberate fairy-tale quality and a strange richness to it, and he was a hugely influential fantasy writer. The major Weird Tales authors were directly influenced by him, and his King of Elfland's Daughter was the first official volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. The latter is a particular masterwork and is breathed through with the sense of wonder that Dunsany was able to create without peer.

Ramsey Campbell
Lived: 1946 - present (Currently Living)
Notable Works: "Cold Print", Demons by Daylight, The Face That Must Die

Ramsey Campbell is one of the premier authors of horror fiction of the late 20th century. He is in this tournament because he was the backbone of the Swords Against Darkness series, which featured the adventures of a mercenary swordsman Ryre in a grim and hostile world. It was Campbell's main foray into sword & sorcery, and his performance was admirable. Campbell began as a devout Lovecraftian, publishing his own anthology of Lovecraft pastiche, before making a 180 degree turn toward his own style of horror with Demons by Daylight, crisp and modern in tone. Campbell is a highly decorated author, including a Grand Master award from the World Horror Convention.

You can vote in the poll here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 12: Vance vs Carter

Day 11 of Appendix N Madness was a rout for Leigh Brackett, who will advance to take on another of Appendix N's great women, Andre Norton, in round 2.

Day 12 brings us to SAGA / Amra and a match-up between Jack Vance and Lin Carter.

Jack Vance
Lived: 1916-2013
Notable Works: Dying Earth series, Planet of Adventure series, Lyonesse series

Jack Vance was a Bay Area writer best known for his Dying Earth series which collects picaresque tales of wizards and rogues (particularly Cugel the Clever) in a far-future world where technology was so advanced as to be magical. His Planet of Adventure series had elements that Gary Gygax admitted to stealing for his own Castle Greyhawk. D&D's magic system calls itself Vancian, although this is open for debate. The author himself was a master stylist, his work heavy with decadent atmosphere and rapier-quick wit. Vance was an SFWA Grand Master in his long lifetime. He wrote further works such as the SF Demon Princes and the fantastic Lyonesse series, but the Dying Earth is probably his most lasting legacy.


Lin Carter
Lived: 1930-1988
Notable Works: World's End series, Thongor series, Jandar series

L. Sprague de Camp's protégé was a collaborator in "completing" Robert E. Howard's unfinished works, and an author of voluminous pastiche as well as original works. Lin Carter's greatest achievement was the Adult Fantasy paperback series that he edited for Ballantine, which wanted more fantasy novels after the success of The Lord of the Rings. Carter brought dozens of obscure novels to light, promoting the likes of William Morris, E.R. Eddison, James Branch Cabell, Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, and H.P. Lovecraft. He also helped to bring up then-new fantasists such as Katherine Kurtz and Evangeline Walton. Unfortunately, none of his dying-earth work (World's End) or planetary romance (Jandar of Callisto) or lost-continent fantasy (Thongor) holds a candle to the originals he was imitating, and the reader is better off sticking to Adult Fantasy.

You can vote in the poll here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 11: Brackett vs Williamson

David C. Smith received a single vote against 72 for Robert E. Howard, who advances to take on John Bellairs in round two.

Day 11 is for the Sci-Fi region and pits Leigh Bracket against Jack Williamson.

Leigh Brackett
Lived: 1915-1978
Notable Works: Mars series, Skaith series

Leigh Brackett died the year before the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide was published, and two years before her last major screenplay, The Empire Strikes Back, was released to massive success. After Edgar Rice Burroughs, Brackett was one of the most notable authors of planetary romance, writing various Mars stories (the fix-up The Secret of Sinharat comes from this series) and later wrote more with Sinharat's protagonist, Eric John Stark, in her Skaith books. But she is probably better known for the screenplays she wrote; aside from Empire, she wrote The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and Rio Bravo - putting a major mark on the cultural landscape for decades.

Jack Williamson
Lived: 1908-2006
Notable Works: The Legion of Space series, Humanoids series

Jack Williamson was a consummate Golden Age science fiction writer, and was the second writer named as an SFWA Grand Master (after Robert Heinlein). His Legion of Space was loosely inspired by Dumas's Three Musketeers and Shakespeare's Falstaff, and is a classic space opera on par with E.E. "Doc" Smith. His Humanoids series is a classic exploration of the robot-out-of-control trope. He also wrote the Seetee series about antimatter and his short story "Collison Orbit" was the first use of the term "terraform." Williamson was unapologetic about writing popular science fiction and disliked the idea of authors needing to change or obscure their work to be "serious" or "literary."

You can vote in the poll here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 10: Howard vs Smith

In the closest vote yet, and the first proper upset, Manly Wade Wellman edged out A. Merritt by 25 votes to 23 votes. He will advance to take on H.P. Lovecraft in the second round.

Day 10 of Appendix N Madness takes us to the Fantasy region and brings Robert E. Howard versus David C. Smith.

Robert E. Howard
Lived: 1906-1936
Notable Works: Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane

In 1936, Weird Tales faced a major tragedy when Robert E. Howard, a rising star at only 30 years old, took his own life. Only four years earlier Howard had published the first tale featuring Conan, a Cimmerian, in the hypothetical Hyborian Age. Howard was a Texan writer who created adventure fiction at a blazing clip, writing hundreds of stories in his short career. Kull of Atlantis, the Puritan Solomon Kane, the adventurer El Borak, the boxer Steve Costigan, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, the detective Steve Harrison - Howard created reams of characters, but Conan with his sword and low cunning towered above all of them. The Howard revival of the 1960s, driven by L. Sprague de Camp publishing the Conan stories in paperback form, created a positive mania for "barbarian" characters that lingered to the 1980s and a film Conan the Barbarian.

David C. Smith
Lived: 1952-present (currently alive)
Notable Works: Oron series, Red Sonja series (with Richard L. Tierney)

David C. Smith was a young author who wrote in the late years of that barbarian craze, publishing Oron and multiple stories in the Swords Against Darkness series (which is why he's in this competition). In the early 1980s, he co-wrote a series of Red Sonja novels with Richard L. Tierney based on the character as developed by Roy Thomas. There was a loose Howardian origin but Red Sonja was defined primarily in Marvel Comics. The Red Sonja film was not based on the Smith/Tierney novels. Smith has kept writing since the 1980s but at a slow pace, and remains a minor working writer, with a trilogy (Fall of the First World) and several other novels.

As an editorial comment, this is the most unfair matchup in the entire Appendix N Madness tournament. Not only did Howard write far more in about eight active years than Smith has in forty, but Smith's entire career has been in Howard's shadow.

You can vote in the poll here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 9: Merritt vs Wellman

Day 8 saw L. Sprague de Camp advance over Tanith Lee, 60% to 40%.

Day 9 is the return of the Weird bracket for A. Merritt vs Manly Wade Wellman.

A. Merritt
Lived: 1884-1943
Notable Works: The Moon Pool, The Metal Monster, Dwellers in the Mirage.

Abraham Merritt was a working journalist and editor who wrote adventure literature with science-fiction twists as a sideline to his main work. His Moon Pool, Creep, Shadow, and Dwellers in the Mirage are listed in Appendix N, and Moon Pool is now public domain. Merritt's writing is basically a combination of adventure fiction in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines with twists drawn from Theosophy and other current beliefs about lost civilizations and esoteric secrets. Merritt was quite popular in his heyday but has generally faded from popular memory. He remains, with Edgar Rice Burroughs, a pioneer in combining adventure and fantastic writing.

Manly Wade Wellman
Lived: 1903-1986
Notable Works: Silver John series, John Thunstone series, Hok series

My best guess is that it was John the Balladeer who got Manly Wade Wellman into Appendix N. This was a series of short stories following Silver John through Appalachia, where he plays a silver-stringed guitar and fights off various and sundry demons. His barbarian character Hok was out of print by Gygax's time, and his John Thunstone stories were not in print between the 1940s and 1980s. Wellman, with his influence from the real-world occult, was fairly representative of the average contents of Weird Tales, which published some of his original work. A film, The Legend of Hillbilly John, was adapted from several of his Silver John stories.

You can vote in the poll here.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 8: de Camp vs Lee

Day 8 brings us back to SAGA and Amra, and to L. Sprague de Camp versus Tanith Lee.

L. Sprague de Camp
Lived: 1907-2000
Notable Works: Lest Darkness Fall, The Fallible Fiend, The Compleat Enchanter (with Fletcher Pratt)

Lyon Sprague de Camp was a prolific author and important promoter of fantasy literature. He was an SFWA Grand Master in his own right, and wrote fantasy series such as The Compleat Enchanter (with Fletcher Pratt) and The Unbeheaded King. He edited four seminal anthologies that helped define sword & sorcery fiction, and was the first Lovecraft biographer. But his legacy is inextricable from the 1960s paperback Conan series, in which he presented Howard's original stories alongside pastiches by de Camp, Lin Carter, and others. There were additionally "posthumous collaborations" - where de Camp or Carter would take an unfinished draft by Howard (often not a Conan story) and complete it. The results are poor and de Camp is often judged poorly in their light.

Tanith Lee
Lived: 1947-2015
Notable Works: Tales from the Flat Earth, Birthgrave series, Secret Books of Paradys

Tanith Lee was a British author who was quite new in the 1970s, and comes on this tournament strictly because she wrote a short story in Swords Against Darkness III (she had a story in every volume after the first). She was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers Guild of America (the SAGA half of SAGA / Amra) and was known for her stylistically lush dark fantasy novels. Tales of the Flat Earth was one of her first and best known series, and won her multiple awards. Lee's work purposefully invokes decadence, horror, and sexuality, although not in the same ways that many of the "proper" Appendix N works would. Still, she was one of the most distinctive voices to come out of the sword & sorcery revival of the '70s.

You can vote in the poll here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 7: Anderson vs Saberhagen

Day 6 ended with the most epic result thus far as only 4 souls out of 92 voted for Andrew J. Offutt; Fritz Leiber will advance to round 2.

Day 7 of Appendix N Madness brings us back to Sci-Fi where Poul Anderson faces off against Fred Saberhagen.

Poul Anderson
Lived: 1926-2001
Notable Works: The Broken Sword, The High Crusade, Three Hearts and Three Lions, Polesotechnic League series.

A pulp science fiction author who thrived in the transition to full-length novels, Poul Anderson was a mover in the Swordsmen and Sorcerers Guild of America and an SFWA Grand Master. He was mostly known for his sci-fi such as the Polesotechnic League series featuring Nicholas Van Rijn, but wrote several novels that go into fantasy and are listed in Appendix N. Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of the few novels other than Lord of the Rings that can be run in AD&D without needing any outside resources. The Broken Sword is a masterwork that draws on Norse myth, and The High Crusade is a science-fantasy romp with medieval Englishmen who take over a spaceship and go on an interplanetary crusade.


Fred Saberhagen
Lived: 1930-2007
Notable Works: Empire of the East series, Book of Swords series, Dracula Tapes series

It was an entry in Saberhagen's Empire of the East that landed him on Appendix N. This is an early "hidden post-apocalyptic" type of fantasy series with a super-intelligent computer in a world where weapons of mass destruction lead to a change and return of magic. He followed this with the related Book of Swords series set in the same world, where swords of power are used to amuse the gods with mortal affairs. Saberhagen also wrote an extensive space opera series called Berserker about humans confronting machine intelligences that want to destroy all (well, most) life, and a 10-volume series of Dracula novels, with the twist that they are from the point of view of the vampire himself.

You can vote in the poll here.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 6: Leiber versus Offutt

Day 6 of Appendix N Madness brings us to Fantasy, where Fritz Leiber will face off with Andrew J. Offutt.

Fritz Leiber
Lived: 1910-1982
Notable Works: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series, Conjure Wife, Gather, Darkness

Fritz Leiber was the son of a Shakespearian actor and was quite the capable player himself, acting in a number of productions and writing several plays. He was responsible for calling the heroic fantasy subgenre "sword & sorcery", a name quickly lifted by L. Sprague de Camp, and his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are excellent examples of the genre. He also wrote occult and horror influenced works, such as his novels Gather, Darkness and Conjure Wife, and was named a SFWA Grand Master in his lifetime. Leiber also had a closer relationship with the RPG community than most Appendix N authors, writing original stories that appeared in Dragon Magazine and putting his imprimatur on a TSR Lankhmar board game and AD&D supplements.


Andrew J. Offutt
Lived: 1938-2013
Notable Works: Swords Against Darkness (as editor), War of the Gods on Earth series

Andrew J. Offutt edited the Swords Against Darkness series that featured a number of excellent stories combining sword & sorcery and horror ideas into a sort of "dark fantasy" subgenre just at the wrong time, when heroic fantasy was about to be overtaken by epic fantasy. He also wrote several fantasy novels of his own, but it is his editorial work that got him into Appendix N. Offutt was a mover within the small fantasy writer community, but he also lived a double life, writing many erotic novels under the name John Cleve. These included the erotic sci-fi series Spaceways which reached 19 volumes. His son wrote a recent memoir called My Father the Pornographer.

You can vote in the poll here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 5: Burroughs vs Farmer

Day 5 of Appendix N Madness brings us back to the Weird region, with Edgar Rice Burroughs versus Philip Jose Farmer.

Edgar Rice Burroughs
Lived: 1875-1950
Notable Works: Tarzan series, Mars series, Venus series, Pellucidar series.

In his lifetime, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a phenomenal success as a writer. His Tarzan series has had countless film adaptations. But it's clearly the Barsoom novels that land him on Appendix N. Burroughs' tales paint a picture of a world of dying civilizations fought over by cruel and strange races. John Carter, given superhuman strength and an ability to jump by relative gravity, is one of the iconic heroes of pulp fiction. Carson Napier of Venus is less distinguished, and Burroughs's Amtor is less notable. His Pellucidar is a true Lost World in a Hollow Earth staging. In a real way he took pulp adventure writing and created several subgenres out of it.

Philip José Farmer
Lived: 1918-2009
Notable Works: Riverworld series, World of Tiers series

"P..J." Farmer was a SFWA Grand Master who wrote wildly strange adventure novels, most notably his World of Tiers series that made him an Appendix N author. He wrote with intense imagery and was often meta-literary. Farmer included Sir Richard Burton and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in his Riverworld novels and writing a novel under the name Kilgore Trout, causing great confusion as Kurt Vonnegut was generally thought responsible. This is not even the only pseudonym that Farmer appropriated, also using Harlan Ellison's "Cordwainer Bird" which appeared on the screen in the ill-fated TV series Starlost.

Vote in the poll here.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 4: Zelazny vs Fox

The winner for Day 3 of Appendix N Madness was Andre Norton, defeating Sterling Lanier 68% to 32%.

Day 4 brings us to the SAGA / Amra region. Today we see #3 Roger Zelazny vs #6 Gardner Fox.

Roger Zelazny
Lived: 1937-1995
Notable Works: The Chronicles of Amber, Jack of Shadows, Lord of Light

Roger Zelazny (SAGA member) was an author who loved to write books that were in questionable ground as to whether they are fantasy or science-fiction. This is physically true in Jack of Shadows and is more or less the main theme in Amber. His writing was often dense with mythological references and godlike characters, but stylistically often reads like modern detective fiction. His Amber series explores the possibilities of an infinitely varied multiverse, and took long detours through fluid surrealism as characters move through Shadow. George R.R. Martin called Zelazny a "Renaissance man."
Gardner Fox
Lived: 1911-1986
Notable Works: Flash Comics, All-Star Comics, etc

One of the hardest people to fit in this tournament is Gardner Fox. He was a tremendous comic author, and created the Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, Doctor Fate, and a whole variety of other superheroes. He also was the person behind the Justice Society of America and the Justice League. But he appears in Appendix N for two series of "barbarian" novels he did in the late '60s and '70s, Kothar and Kyrik, that are at best mid-range examples of their genres. He wrote two minor science-fantasy novels, Warrior of Llarn and Thief of Llarn, but his literary legacy is not large and has long since fallen out of print. His comic book legacy is tremendous and wide-ranging. Individual voters will have to decide whether to treat Fox as a "literary" author or as a comic author, or both.

Vote in the poll here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 3: Norton vs Lanier


Day 2 of Appendix N Madness was a closer race than Day 1 as John Bellairs beat Fletcher Pratt by 59% to 41%. Bellairs will advance to face the winner of Robert E. Howard vs David C. Smith.

Day 3 brings us to the Sci-Fi bracket and pits #2 Andre Norton against #7 Sterling Lanier.

Andre Norton
Lived: 1912-2005 Notable Works: Witch World series, Forerunner series, Daybreak - 2250 A.D.

It is strange to note Andre Norton's "notable work" because she was an active and prolific SF author from the 1930s to her death in 2005. One of the pioneer women in SF and fantasy, Norton often blurred the lines, as in her Witch World series that is presumably a major reason for her inclusion. Daybreak - 2250 A.D. was pioneering in post-apocalyptic fiction. She also wrote the first AD&D fiction, Quag Keep, which is considerably less distinguished as a work. Some of her SF is really excellent examples of the genre, including the Forerunner and Solar Queen series, which make terrific inspiration for Traveller. There is even a late fantasy series written with Mercedes Lackey that starts with The Elvenbane. It's no surprise that Norton was voted a Grand Master by SFWA.

Sterling Lanier
Lived: 1927-2007
Notable Works: Hiero's Journey, The Unforsaken Hiero

One of the oddities of Appendix N is that some authors on the list made their biggest mark as editors. It's true of Lin Carter and it's true of Sterling Lanier, who convinced Chilton Books to release Frank Herbert's novel Dune in 1965. In the late 1970s, Lanier wrote Hiero's Journey, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Canada and featuring a priest with significant psionic powers who rode a moose-horse hybrid called, logically, a morse, and it got listed in Appendix N. A sequel, The Unforsaken Hiero, continued the story but a planned trilogy was never finished. The Hiero novels lean toward Gamma World fodder. Lanier also had a Dunsany-esque series of stories published as The Peculiar Exploits of Brigadier Ffellowes.

Vote in the poll (and join in the discussion) here. A winner will be named at noon on Saturday 3/4.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Appendix N Madness Day 2: Bellairs vs Pratt


Day 1 of Appendix N Madness started with some competition but ended as a rout with H.P. Lovecraft defeating Margaret St. Clair 78% to 22%.

Today's voting is for the Fantasy region, with #4 John Bellairs versus #5 Fletcher Pratt.

John Bellairs
Lived: 1938-1991
Notable Works: The Face in the Frost, The House with a Clock in its Walls

John Bellairs was an author who wrote one fantasy novel, The Face in the Frost, and a series of young-adult gothic horror novels. The former is his sole entry in Appendix N, and is often credited with the "wizards study magic" aspect of Dungeons & Dragons. Most of Bellairs's YA novels had covers and illustrations by the macabre artist Edward Gorey, who has his own following quite independent of Bellairs.

Fletcher Pratt
Lived: 1897-1956
Notable Works: The Blue Star, The Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube (with L. Sprague de Camp), The Compleat Enchanter (with de Camp)

Fletcher Pratt was a working author, writing for Time and the New York Times Book Review, who also devised rules for a naval wargame. He appears for us in Appendix N because of his own novel The Blue Star, which inaugurated Lin Carter's famous Adult Fantasy series for Ballantine. His collaborations with L. Sprague de Camp also made Gygax's list.

Vote in the poll here. Voting will close at noon EST on 3/3.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Appendix N Madness Begins!

It's March! And in the interest of having fun I am doing something called Appendix N Madness. I'm going to be pitting the Appendix N authors (plus four authors featured in Swords Against Darkness III) against each other via Google + polls in a bracket-style challenge to determine once and for all the greatest author.

Here are the seeds and regions:


Every day in March around noon EST I will put up a poll on my Google+ collection Appendix N and Beyond that will pit two authors against each other. There will also be a winner from the previous day's poll. The first poll will go up today, and will feature:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Lived 1890-1946
Notable works: "The Call of Cthulhu," "The Colour Out of Space," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," "The Dunwich Horror," At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

H.P. Lovecraft was a retiring New England author whose works frequently featured in Weird Tales. Unsuccessful during his lifetime, Lovecraft was extremely popular in the circles of science fiction and fantasy writers who went on to promote his work posthumously. HPL is the most prominent author of the "weird fiction" genre, and today is widely copied with dozens of "Cthulhu" and "Lovecraft" anthologies. His writings are widely read and influential. Lovecraft's detractors mostly focus on his racist views of humanity, but his vision of cosmic horror overcomes the places where this is a defect in his work.
Margaret St. Clair
Lived: 1911-1995
Notable works: The Sign of the Labrys, The Shadow People

Margaret St. Clair is best known for The Sign of the Labrys, an occult-inflected science fiction novel. Dealing with a world ravaged by a deadly disease, Labrys introduced the concept of a truly massive, multi-level underground complex and has been credited with the idea of the dungeon "level." The novel goes off into some occult elements and is strident in places. The Shadow People is about hidden elves beneath the 1960s Earth. These both have a fairly obvious connection to the underworld campaign idea, although neither is very strong on D&D's medieval elements. St. Clair is most noteworthy otherwise for bringing paganism and '60s psychedelia into science fiction.

So get on the G+ at noon and make your vote count!