Archives: Authors

Bits and Pieces, Odds and Ends, This and That

Perihelion Science-Fiction magazine published a bit of flash fiction I was commissioned to write for an article on The End of the World. (Read that last phrase in a pretentious film trailer voice, with a dramatic pause between the second and third word.) It’s a brief read, a literary hors d’oeuvres. Here it is, if you want a snack.

I know I’ve already mentioned that I have a short story in Mama Tried. It is a straight up crime piece, no rocket ships or wizards. I’m rather proud of it, though I suppose I’d prefer the title had been spelled correctly. It’s Copperhead Road, not Cooperhead Road. Well, no use crying over spilled beer. A single, anguished tear ought to do. The reason I bring it up is that I received my author copy. So I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories. And seeing if their titles are spelled properly.

I’m over two-thirds of the way through Bernard Cornwell’s latest, The Flame Bearer. I’ll probably finish it today. Even strapped for time to read, I still power through Cornwell’s stuff like a chainsaw through pudding. He writes utterly compelling drama. It is familiar territory. I have the Cornwell beats down by heart, and I know how it is going to end. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still swept along by this relentless tide of action.

So, enough of this web log post. I’ve got a book to finish.

Andrew Offutt, Gary Gygax’s Guiding Genius?

I think, as far as reading sensibilities went, Gary Gygax shared the most with Andrew J. Offutt out of all the Appendix N authors. They were contemporaries and from the available evidence enjoyed similar tastes in fiction. Andrew Offutt was a prolific writer and editor. (And an interesting fellow, as one can discover from reading his son Christopher’s memoir. But such biographical details are beyond the scope of this web log.)

Appendix N and the Witchy World of Andre Norton

Well, as a cover it certainly is a...cover.

Well, as a cover it certainly is a…cover.

I come at last to Andre Norton, long a gap in my Appendix N reading. While she has always floated within my awareness as a reader, I remained unfamiliar with her works. I did pick up Quag Keep a few years back. My distaste for gaming fiction remains, but I think I can give Quag Keep a pass as it is evident that Andre Norton had only the most cursory knowledge of D&D and made little effort to stick within any established rules. The book is moderately entertaining if you’re not expecting much. That’s about all I can say for it. And I have read her story The Toads of Grimmerdale a couple of times and consider it an atmospheric delight. Recommended.

Appendix N, Past Mid-Way

I’m about two-thirds of the way through my haphazardly completed reviews of Appendix N authors. Andre Norton is in the batter’s box. I’ve not read much of her output, so I’m taking in a few of her Witch World novels before writing up my assessment. But this seems a good time to look back on what I’ve covered so far.

I’m comfortable in saying that I can understand why each of the authors made the list. I can either point to a specific instance in a novel (an item, monster, concept, etc.) that filtered into the rules of D&D or I can see how the tenor or flavor of the writing influenced the style of play Gary Gygax was attempting to encourage and the archetypes he was attempting to emulate through the character classes.

Most of the tales are adventure stories, sitting in varying positions along the pulp-to-literary stylistic spectrum. Importantly, most were entertaining. I can see the influence of a few of these writers in my own output (for better or worse, depending on how you perceive my work.) These are deep-seated influences. I’ve been reading this stuff for a long time. I’ve only rarely had to hunt up a book or two in order to familiarize myself with an Appendix N notable. Most of the authors have had works sitting on my shelves for years.

Now, if someone were to ask for three authors one must read from the first two-thirds of the list in order to get a handle on what D&D is all about, I’d suggest (in alphabetical order) Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock. This is not intended to slight any of the others (in fact, most of the others are, in my opinion, better writers than Moorcock) but to single these writers out as having the greatest influence on the game. Of course the final third will include some heavyweights. Might Jack Vance knock one of these off the podium?* You’ll have to wait.
* What about Tolkien, you ask? J.R.R. Tolkien’s influence on D&D is a matter of some controversy. I’m not sure I want to weigh in on that one. Not yet anyway.

Top Five Novels I’d Like to See Filmed

For every film made based on a novel there are a hundred books optioned but not green-lit. For every book optioned but not filmed there a hundred thousand not optioned. Many of the latter two categories read as pretty cinematic to me. So here is a list of novels I’d like to see turned into films. Or a series of films. Or a television mini-series. Or a television ongoing series. Whatever. This doesn’t include books I know to be optioned or have heard rumors to that effect.

It’s Criminal

I suppose the appropriate thing for me today would be to write about last week’s Westercon. I’m used to doing the inappropriate, might be best you get accustomed to it as well. Today’s web log post will instead consist of a bit of upcoming news.

Country music holds a tradition of crime ballads, stories of men on the run, stories of alcohol and mistakes. Certain singers even attracted the label “Outlaw Country,” though the term might also come from the musicians bucking the established Nashville sound, pursuing instead a sound outside the norms. Either way, we got some excellent, evocative music from the movement. I grew up with it, and I still dig it.

You know who else likes it, even loves it? James R. Tuck. He loves it so much, in fact, that he put together an anthology of crime stories based on Outlaw Country songs. I bet he loves beer as well, because his consumption of a six-pack or so would go a long way to explain why he let me join in on the fun.

In a bit over a month from today’s web log post, Down and Out Books will release Mama Tried: Crime Fiction Inspired by Outlaw Country Music. My story, Copperhead Road, appears somewhere in the book. Here’s a suggestion for mid-August: Get yourself a copy, dust off your LPs, throw some Waylon and Willie on the turntable, crack a bottle of bourbon, and read.

Michael Moorcock, Appendix N’s Prince of Angst

It is only fair that I begin my web log post on Michael Moorcock with the positives of my assessment. He deserves recognition for his contribution to the field and I’m the last man to withhold his just due. Moorcock’s Law/Chaos dichotomy, along with Poul Anderson’s, was a seminal contribution to the alignment system of Dungeons and Dragons. Elric sits among the pantheon of notable fantasy characters. And while Moorcock did not invent the cursed sword, Stormbringer has become the epitome of the trope. In fact Dungeons and Dragons pays homage to it with the inclusion of the sword Black Razor in the funhouse adventure White Plume Mountain.

So Michael Moorcock’s deserved position in Appendix N remains undimmed, whatever I might think. And I do have an opinion. For whatever that’s worth.