Sunday, July 14, 2019

The New Arrival: APPENDIX N (The Book)

So, here's one of those cases where I first hear about a book on Monday and have a copy arrive in the mail on Wednesday. Thanks Amazon.

The book in question is APPENDIX N by Jeffro Johnson, the compilation of pieces from an online column. Each essay in the series is devoted to one of the authors included in Gary Gygax's famous Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading in the back of the 1979 1st edition AD&D DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE, which completed the three-volume set of the AD&D core rules, still the best roleplaying game ever crafted.

I was wary in that while I haven't come across Johnson's work before, the introduction to his book is written by John C. Wright,* who was one of the Puppies (Sad or Angry, I forget which) who tried to hijack the Hugos a few years.

So far read the essays on Tolkien (of course), Dunsany, Bellairs, and Vance --authors I know well. Next I need to read some about books on the list I've never read. My initial impression is that he's equally enthusiastic about everyone in what is a decidedly mixed bag, ranging from the best of the best (Tolkien) to the bottom of the barrel (e.g. Lin Carter). Looking forward to seeing what he has to say, and if he can make a case for the least promising among them.

--John R.

*to his credit, Wright seems to be a Hodgson fan, judging by his list of published works over on Wikipedia


Paul W said...

One of the few books I abandoned. I picked up the audiobook for my commute. I actually wrote the following review of the work on Audible and gave the book 1 star, and I seldom feel the need to do anything of that sort. But this book isn't just bad, it's harmful.

"I suppose I should have googled this author before buying this book. I was shocked at how relatively ignorant the man was about the works he was reviewing, as well as his poor knowledge of RPG history.

Put simply, he's part of the 'old school' movement of folks regarding RPGs, he projects onto old school game products, and the Appendix N fantasy fiction, his own beliefs, needs, and egoisms, without regard to authorial intent or how people at the time actually played the games.

As other reviewers have mentioned, his reviews revolve around creating strawmen who somehow 'hate' classic sci-fi/fantasy (because it is too politically incorrect or features male protagonists) and then he encourages the reader to 'fight the power' and read the classics anyway. It's nonsense, none of these authors are 'condemned' by his mythical 'them' who are out to destroy fantasy and keep him from reading books about 'heroic' characters like himself.

And don't even get me started on his gaming philosophies, which are less objectionable morally but no less nonsensical.

I've long loved Appendix N in the 1e Dungeon's Master's Guide. In fact, when I wrote Knights of the Dinner Table's book review column I used Appendix N to choose most of the authors i reviewed for the column. I was hoping to learn something from this work, but there is no knowledge to be gained in this book, just frustrated ravings of someone who is desperately afraid the world has passed him by."

David Bratman said...

Johnson was the Puppy nominee for the Best Fan Writer Hugo about whom I wrote, "If we were going to honor someone who writes about classic fantasy in an RPG context, we should have given a Hugo years ago to John D. Rateliff," a remark about which I recall you felt (justifiably) flattered.