We reach at last Jack Williamson, the penultimate entry in this slapdash consideration of Appendix N. Considering how prolific Jack Williamson was during his lengthy, exemplary career, I’m surprised I’ve read so little of his work. The man nearly reached a century and was producing fiction for most of it, having his first story published at the age of twenty.
What are the fundamental books a newcomer to science fiction should read in order to achieve a basic conversance with the genre? To keep this practicable for this notional novice, what ten books would suffice?
I am unqualified to answer this question. My list would necessarily displease everyone. Only an unjustifiably self-confident jackanapes, a grinning idiot embodying the Dunning-Kruger Effect would even attempt such a thing.
Right, I’m your man then.
I had a party at my house last night, a triple celebration: my fiftieth birthday, the tenth anniversary of my marriage to MBW, and MBW’s U.S. citizenship. The house echoed at times with the play of what seemed a hundred children, but couldn’t have been more than a half dozen. At the end of the night we discovered that a glutinous jar of pink slime, some sort of kid’s plaything, had been ground into the HA’s carpet. While a few remaining adults got down to cleaning that up (it turns out ice cubes are useful in that regard — helpful tip for you) I went back downstairs to pack up leftovers and load the dishwasher. The aftermath of the party.
Naturally, that got me thinking about war. Specifically the aftermath, the cleanup. And more specifically, how fantasy novels tend to deal with (or not deal with) the aftermath of the epic battles that fill their pages.
My series on Appendix N of the Dungeon Masters Guide nears its conclusion. Two more entries remain after this. This one presents a bit of a challenge for me. I come to praise Manly Wade Wellman, but I’m finding it difficult. Not Margaret St. Clair difficult. Far from it. But challenging.
With any luck on eBay I’ll be opening up a stretch of space on one my bookshelves. Fingers crossed.
January rolled around again and with it came another opportunity to celebrate the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien at the Kennedy School. The event added a new wrinkle this year with a room dedicated to Lord of the Rings tabletop games. I hadn’t realized there were so many of them. I’d be tempted to give the game room a shot next year if unaccompanied. However I’m rather certain the HA wouldn’t have the patience for it.
I may have mentioned that I have a substantial commute to work. Others might not consider forty minutes each way substantial, but I do. The point is that I spend a great deal of time each week in the car. Some might spend this time listening to the radio: music or new or talk. I listen to books.
MBW, the HA, and I drove out to the Columbia River Gorge yesterday and embarked on a paddlewheel sightseeing excursion upriver. The sky offered better visibility than it had most of the previous month: about this time every year everything west of the Rockies bursts into flame. Smoke obscures the views. Yesterday wasn’t bad. The river breeze was nice.
I come at last to Jack Vance. Arguably he should be first, to the devil with alphabetical order. Look, there isn’t a lot I need to say about Jack Vance. There are encomiums a plenty to the man, and rightly so. His urbane, genteel command of the language, smoothly integrating an archaic lexicon with slang and invented words is nonpareil. Of course, in context of Appendix N and Dungeons and Dragons every commentary on Vance must refer to The Dying Earth, Vancian Magic, and such iconic spells as Phantasmal Spray.