Monday, October 6, 2014

Sideline: Appendix N and Me

  Jeffro has been writing a great deal about Appendix N over at Castalia House. One of the things he says over and over again is,
  "Why didn't anyone recommend these books to me before now?"
  I think this is a good time to share something personal; a bit about my father.

  My father was born in the early 1920's,the oldest of 5 children. He grew up in Chicago and was a leader from a young age. He has clear memories of standing in line to see The Jazz Singer and reading the papers on Black Tuesday and the day after.  He enlisted in the army on December 8th, 1941 with all of his friends and was released from the army in 1946. He married his sweetheart in 1947 while in college and went on to become a doctor on the G.I. Bill. He held his dream job, being a rural country doctor, for his entire medical career. He eventually was father to 9 children. I was raised in small-town America as part of a large, extended family.
  Now, my father was an flawed and imperfect as any man, but he had great gifts that he passed on to his children; care for others, a dedication to honor and duty, love of children. Also smooth talking, a fondness for cigars, and solid poker skills (for his sons).
  But also a love of reading. I literally have no memories of my father without a book of some sort on his person or within reach. A paperback in his medical bag, a novel on his end table, always something.
  He loved the classics and the great books - I was reading translations of Cicero and the Aeneid as a teen alongside Paradise Lost, the Prince, and more.
  But he also loved the pulps of his own youth, and comics, too. He bought me a copy of A Princess of Mars for my 8th birthday and I finished the entire series (the first read-through) by the time I was 9. Then I read all 24 of the 'main' Tarzan books and the Eternal Lover and the Mad King all before I was 10!
  Note: If you love Burroughs or Ruritanian romances and haven't read The Mad King, you are missing out!
  The great thing was I read The Outlaw of Torn just 2-3 weeks before my first encounter with D&D; a wonderful warmup!
  My father had also introduced me to books like Sea-Kings of Mars, all of Lovecraft, Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Dunsany, and Andre Norton. He still has a first printing of Starman's Son, signed by Norton in the 60's before I was born.
  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was in my late teens before I read anything by Tolkien or anything Arthurian. My earliest reads associated with D&D were the tales of Charlemagne's Paladins, and Three Hearts and Three Lions, and the High Crusade, and the Outlaw of Torn, and similar works.
  And I loved the Dying Earth stuff - I read the Night Land when I was 10 and followed it up with the Time Machine, Vance, and re-reading the Zothique stories, all of which had a huge impact on my creation of Seaward, my AD&D 1e campaign, just a year later. Looking back, Norton's Witchworld books, especially the first few in the High Hallack series, were a pretty strong influence, too.

  Jeffro's posts are a lot of fun for me. I am gaining fresh insights to old favorites as he writes and realizing how these books impact my own work to this day in ways invisible to me before.
  And I also get how it must feel to discover this trove of writing that was both right in front of you (in the DMG) but not really talked about enough.

  Writing this I called my father, who is in his 90's, now. He's re-reading Off on a Comet.

  So all of us book nuts have a duty - tell others about these books we love!