Saturday, September 5, 2015

Appendix N in 2015

I went through my Barnes & Noble today, and this is everything that I could find related to Gary Gygax's Appendix N:

Burroughs, Edgar Rice: "Pellucidar" series; Mars series; Venus series
Barnes & Noble has two $10 volumes that between them print the first 5 Mars novels, which have gone into public domain. A pretty good deal overall, although there is no art.

Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
A single volume from the Conan series sits on the shelves. The other Del Rey volumes have all disappeared.

Lovecraft, H. P.
Huge collections, including from Penguin and Barnes & Noble. There are also multiple anthologies of short stories similar to Lovecraft's.

Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" series (esp. the first three books)
Not Elric or Hawkmoon, but Corum is actually being reprinted.

Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
There are two shelves full of Tolkien. This has been pretty much a given for the last twenty years or more, as long as I've been reading fantasy. George R.R. Martin is the only comparable author in terms of shelf space.

Assiduous hunting in the anthologies revealed that one of Vance's stories is in a The Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction volume. The Dying Earth proper is gone from shelves.

Wellman, Manley Wade
Wellman's name is on the cover of Acolytes of Cthulhu, a volume of Lovecraft-inspired fiction. It's interesting to note that the flood of Lovecraftian stories has not meant any kind of resurrection of August Derleth; he lies dreaming with dead Cthulhu.

Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" series; et al
A single, stately volume of The Complete Amber has closed out the Science Fiction & Fantasy section in Barnes & Noble for as long as I can remember. It's a massive tome and it's always present. The omnibus has been reprinted at least once, because it has a different cover than my copy, but its presence is kind of a fitting bookend to the SFF section.

The book I actually wound up buying (I already own everything of interest from the above) is from one of the "collateral" Appendix N authors: DAW just reissued The Birthgrave, the debut novel of Tanith Lee. Lee's short story "In the Balance" is in Swords Against Darkness III, the one anthology that made Gygax's list. (The contents are listed on its Wikipedia page.)

It's sad to note of Appendix N, now a 36 year old list, that of its twenty-eight named authors only Michael Moorcock is still alive. Several of the Swords Against Darkness III authors, including Lee (edited to note: Tanith Lee passed away in 2015), are also with us. Even some of the greats have been moved on from: Andre Norton's books used to fill a respectable slot, but now it skips her entirely.

Given the ongoing fandom for Lovecraft, it is somewhat odd that nobody's been putting out any of Dunsany's longer work in good print volumes; The Gods of Pegana, The Sword of Welleran and the other early work is all in the public domain, but I guess it's still not as profitable as the Martian tales. Merritt's work, likewise: we could easily have print versions of The Moon Pool and The Metal Monster, but even his name seems to be lost to the years. Both were major influences on Lovecraft; perhaps someone should lobby S.T. Joshi.

Barring a movie or HBO miniseries (or maybe True Detective taking up Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" stories), I don't see any grounds for a serious revival of the rest of the Appendix N authors. Burroughs, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Moorcock, and Howard are the anchors keeping Appendix N literature accessible to new generations, and it's probably going to stay that way for a while to come.

In a way, that's a damn shame. The best of this stuff is rip-roaring adventure. Norton and Brackett are two of the bigger losses, I think, both being women with a great knack for a science fiction or maybe science fantasy yarn.


  1. Sadly Lee passed away a few months ago:

    1. Wow, I completely missed that. The correction is appreciated.

  2. There's a surprising amount of Appendix N stuff available as e-texts, though, and that reprint material will never go out of print as it costs nothing to maintain.

  3. As Rob Barrett hints at, I would actually like to see an "Appendix N in Project Gutenberg". I know that some Howard is there, as is some Burroughs. I wonder how much Appendix N I could legally load up on my Kindle for free?

    1. I actually did that post a couple of years ago:


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