Archives: Authors

Appendix N, Margaret St. Clair

I’ve been reluctant to write this one. You know the ubiquitous maternal aphorism “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. “ And I dislike offering particularly critical opinions of other writers. After all, who am I to judge.

The first book by Margaret St. Clair I read was The Shadow People. I’m not going to offer up a single word concerning it. Understand?

But I’d read positive comments regarding Sign of the the Labrys. With my prior experience in mind, I had the library find a copy for me through inter-library loan instead of shelling out cash from my own pocket to procure a copy. I began it with somewhat higher hopes. Now, unfortunately, I have to offer an opinion. That makes me a bit uneasy.

What I’m going to do is provide my opinion in two sections. First, Sign of the Labrys as literature. Second, Sign of the Labrys as an Appendix N contributor to the development of Dungeons and Dragons.

Ahem! Announcements.

I played coy a bit ago, teasing some news. That’s because I don’t like to offer news only to later have to issue a retraction. Now it can be revealed. (Passive voice, ugh. But in context it does read better than “Now I can reveal it.”) Both parties signed the contract rendering this news legit. So, without further blather:

Don Pendleton’s Science Fiction?

You may have known it, but it came as a surprise to me: Don Pendleton wrote science fiction. Mind blown, right?

Wait, maybe I should back up a step. I’m proceeding under the assumption that you are all familiar with Don Pendleton. That could be a mistake, what with the assuming and all. Don Pendleton is known for writing the long-running men’s adventure series The Executioner. You may remember seeing these paperbacks in the checkout aisles at grocery stores back in the eighties, the covers featuring a dark haired man with a gun (that would Mack Bolan himself, the eponymous executioner), a hot chick in the mid-ground, and maybe some armed baddies in the background. The books were probably shelved next to others with such titles as Stony Man, or Phoenix Force.

I think I’ve read a couple of the Mack Bolan books. I vaguely remember reading one in a library in Hawaii. And I think I read at least one of the related titles. I seem to recall reading one back in high school, about the same time my friend up the street was running me through solo Top Secret adventures (though that may be trick of the memory creating false cross-references.)

So anyway. That Don Pendleton. He also wrote science fiction. I just finished The Guns of Terra 10, a 1970 paperback that almost reached 190 pages in length. How was it? Really, not as bad as you might think. Pendleton was actually playing with some interesting themes. Or perhaps he’d just finished reading A Brave New World while sitting through re-runs of Star Trek. But to give him credit, he did seem involved in the idea of human genetic engineering and its potential long term consequences. He also worked out his own baloney FTL concept instead of relying entirely upon handwavium engines. I particularly enjoyed his idea of twin guns, one firing matter, the other anti-matter, with the two meeting at the aiming point. Pretty cool.

I won’t go so far as to recommend it. But if you have the hankering for the sort of fiction in which fist-fights lead to friendship and understanding, or are in the mood for loving, extended descriptions of breasts, or want to enjoy a crew of uneducated, agricultural yokels essentially dropping into the bridge of the USS Enterprise and working the controls with no appreciable concern for the learning curve — then, hey, this might be the book you’re looking for.

NanoCon Mark IV Report

I’ve returned from NanoCon Mark IV and my stint as GOH. How about that?

It was a fun little con, held at the Longview Community College, just across the river from Rainier. I’d guess attendance came in at about two hundred. I’d consider it a success. I sold out of Under Strange Suns. I cut my inventory of Reunion in half. I met a number of intelligent and interesting people.

Among these I’d count James Wells, the great grandson of H.G. Wells (or the great man himself with a time machine and a convincing American accent.) We exchanged novels, so I have The Great Symmetry on my to-read pile now.

I had an engaging chat with James Omelina who runs several escape rooms in the southwest Washington area. I’m intrigued to check one out. I hear good things about the entertainment value of well-designed escape room, and James appears to have the design aspect dialed in.

I even managed lunch at the Ashtown brewery, a few blocks away from the convention. Well worth it.

The organizers were kind enough to invite me to return next year. I do hope my schedule allows it.

Tolkien Birthday Celebration

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Kennedy School for the J.R.R. Tolkien Birthday Bash on Saturday. The recent inclement weather is the likely culprit for this year’s rather sparse attendance. (Seriously, I saw a couple guys on cross-country skis crossing the street when I left.) So I suppose there isn’t much to report. I brought the family with me, thinking the Heir Apparent would be old enough to enjoy some of the activities, maybe enjoy the costumes. But I only saw one person in costume. Due to naptime considerations (no, not mine, wiseass) and the condition of the roads we left before any of the planned events began (except for the commencement of the trilogy showing in the theater, but I’d just as soon sit at home for a re-watch.)

Fletcher Pratt, Fleet Admiral of Appendix N

Fletcher Pratt, or more precisely, Murray Fletcher Pratt, lived an intriguing life. Seriously, look him up. The man moved in the right circles. Over there, Isaac Asimov, over here, Rex Stout. A true man of letters, making his living as much with non-fiction as with fiction. History, reviews, short stories, novels. Pratt was a man of accomplishment. And I’m sure Gary Gygax was familiar with Pratt’s development of rules for wargaming naval combat, using the tiles of his kitchen floor for grid squares.