More (un?)holy nerd texts

In one of my exchanges with Jeffro, he referred to Appendix N as a modern Necronomicon of sorts.

My God…this bibliography was inscribed with the very Blood of Gygax himself!

This was, of course, in the context of recent noise from mouth-frothers like RPG Pundit, who delights in deprecatingly referring to Appendix N as the Talmud of the OSR Taliban, or some such. (For those unfamiliar, OSR is a movement of gamers who look to the old days of gaming and SFF for inspiration).

As some have commented, Appendix N is a useful snapshot of 70’s SFF fandom and a readers’ aid. There indeed is a generational gap when it comes to a lot of the classic nerd literature. Appendix N is by no means all-inclusive, but it is still a great resource for either a gamer/DM looking for inspiration, or a more generalist, younger nerd looking for some excellent SFF that has likely thus far flown under his radar.

A recent comment by GUTBOY BARRELHOUSE’S LITTLE COUSIN (Interesting name, by the way) offers another rich resource:

I’m going to take a heretical position and opine that the inspirational reading list of ‘Moldvay Basic’ is even better than ‘Appendix N’:
It’s more comprehensive and includes a lot of ‘literary’ fantasy as well as pulp fantasy. There’s a lot of overlap, of course,
My personal recommendations for ‘Appendix N’ are Leiber’s ‘Swords Against Death’, the second Fafhrd & Gray Mouser book, Jack Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’, Poul Anderson’s ‘The Broken Sword’, and A. Merritt’s ‘Dwellers in the Mirage’. All are glorious pulpy goodness, all are quick reads. You’ll never look at a multibook ‘fantasy doorstop’ series in the same way again.
Again, I repeat that Pundit’s ravings aren’t so much against ‘Appendix N’, but against JMal, who was a more popular blogger, and a more successful author/designer than he. He’s been unhinged by his envy, and he’s lashing out at a guy who doesn’t seem to be aware of his existence.
At any rate, to Tartarus with Tarnowski, check out the Moldvay list, it includes a greater variety of fantasy works from a greater timespan. Also, if ‘Star Wars’ was your entry into SFF, check out Leigh Brackett’s works, she was one of the screenwriters from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

I’m not familiar with “Moldvay Basic,” but it appears that Tom Moldvay was another early D&D developer. I’ve noted that the author(s) of Appendix N is cool, but of secondary importance in my mind. Similarly, I don’t care so much about “Moldvay list” being a product of Tom Moldvay.

If Appendix N is the Necronomicon, then this is a no less sinister grimoire. It strikes me as a solid list. It contains more names that I am familiar with, but also many more unknown writers and works for future investigation.

In particular, it pleases me to note the inclusion of Baum (who I think is often excluded from the genre), Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and Le Guin. Piers Anthony’s Xanth series is also worthy.

Finding the time to adequately explore the contents of such a list (atop Appendix N and my own personal queue) will pose no mean challenge. But it’s fortuitous indeed that these works have not been lost from the Collective Consciousness. I’m glad to learn of them, although the timing and certainty of their consumption may be in question.




17 thoughts on “More (un?)holy nerd texts

  1. The inclusion of Evangeline Walton on the Moldvay list is spot on, in my opinion. The other list you want to look out for is Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series– she and a few others from the Moldvay list were published/republished as a part of that line.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the one! There’s some overlap, but in a lot of ways it’s the “Appendix N of Appendix N”. There was so little fantasy available in 1970 that they put all of the classic classics in paperback format. That’s significant because nobody read Tolkien until he was available in paperback. So just as there was a pulp revival in the 60’s and 70’s that grew concurrently with the Burroughs/Tolkien explosion, so too was there a minor sensation over the “real” classics. Ursula Le Guin raves over Lin Carter’s Adult Fantasy series in her essays, for example, and she was not the only one!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Would like to second your recommendation of Evangeline Walton. Her books on the Mabinogi are superb, and a great resource for a Pendragon campaign. What depresses me is that she had at least 2 (Wiki says 7) books that she left unpublished. Not unfinished, unpublished, because another author had published material on the same topic. Dang it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My take on Lin Carter is that he was one hell of an editor, but as an author… er, uh, um… he was a pasticheur, writing some execrable Lovecraft, Smith, and Howard pastiches. His true talents lay in his editing and ‘curating’ talents- he had really great taste in fantasy literature, as evinced by his Ballantine Adult Fantasy (my how that term has changed) line.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like I really need to reread Wizard and check out some of his other stuff.

        It’s been years, but most of what I remember was how it was kind of a brightly colored grimdark commentary on monetary policy and the lies governments use to kep their citizenry in check.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Also, come to think of it, Wizards in The Dying Earth are actually a LOT like the Wizard of Oz; a lot of flash and show and ostentatiousness, but most of their power was stolen from someone or something else and without their geegaws, most of them are pretty useless.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s an interesting observation. I guess these days we don’t see as many “pretender wizards.” I’ve been meaning to check out Mistborn, because I hear the magic system in that is a little different, but I feel like the proliferation and cheapening of magic in contemporary fantasy has turned me off somewhat. A lot of it feels stale and derivative.


  2. (Interesting name, by the way)

    Gutboy Barrelhouse was the ill-fated dwarven fighter in the ‘Example of Combat’ section of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, the name was yanked from R.A. Lafferty’s “Nine Hundred Grandmothers”:

    Ceran Swicegood was a promising young Special Aspects Man. But,
    like all Special Aspects, he had one irritating habit. He was forever
    asking the questions: How Did It All Begin?

    They all had tough names except Ceran. Manbreaker Crag, Heave
    Huckle, Blast Berg, George Blood, Move Manion (when Move says
    “Move,” you move), Trouble Trent. They were supposed to be tough,
    and they had taken tough names at the naming. Only Ceran kept his
    own-to the disgust of his commander, Manbreaker.

    “Nobody can be a hero with a name like Ceran Swicegood!”
    Manbreaker would thunder. “Why don’t you take Storm Shannon?
    That’s good. Or Gutboy Barrelhouse or Slash Slagle or Nevel Knife?
    You barely glanced at the suggested list.”

    “I’ll keep my own,” Ceran always said, and this is where he made his
    mistake. A new name will sometimes bring out a new personality. It
    had done so for George Blood. Though the hair on George’s chest was a
    graft job, yet that and his new name had turned him from a boy into a
    man. Had Ceran assumed the heroic name of Gutboy Barrelhouse he
    might have been capable of rousing endeavors and man-sized angers
    rather than his tittering indecisions and flouncy furies.

    Now you have another author’s oeuvre to track down. Lafferty was a devout Roman Catholic, unusual for SF authors, I can name Gene Wolfe as another. Funny how tracking down these works really takes one down the rabbit hole… you have a lot of reading ahead of you, which is a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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