Episode 15 – Lin Carter’s “Giant of World’s End”

Lin Carter has a multi-faceted reputation in the world of fantastic fiction. As an editor and critic, he is virtually indispensable, most notably for his role in editing the landmark Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (BAFS), as well as the subsequent Flashing Swords!, The Year’s Best Fantasy, and Weird Tales anthologies. Carter’s legacy as a writer is considerably more muddied by his “posthumous collaborations” with Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, which often consisted of creating entirely new stories from unfinished drafts and story fragments. These stories were presented as newly rediscovered works, with Carter carrying the torch for Howard and Smith. Lin Carter was hardly alone in his “posthumous collaborations” however, as he was following a precedent set in the 1950s by August Derleth and L. Sprague de Camp. It can be argued that this practice is distasteful or outright literary defacement, but it could equally well be seen as a precursor to today’s “remix” culture.

What about Lin Carter’s solo fiction then? His breakthrough Thongor series, starting with The Wizard of Lemuria (Ace Books, 1965) has been characterized as heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Carter was incredibly prolific over the next four years, knocking out roughly 25 more books along with his editorial work and scripting episodes of the Spider-Man animated series. Carter’s work on the BAF series starting in 1969 may have re-awakened his interest in the denser, more allusive prose styles of the likes of Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Morris. This interest would come to the fore in Carter’s Giant of World’s End (Belmont Books, 1969), set 700 million years in the future in The Eon of the Falling Moon. In the far future Earth of Giant of World’s End, the continents have drifted back together into the supercontinent of Gondwane and the Moon has fallen in its orbit to the point where it will soon collide with and destroy the world. The warrior construct Ganelon Silvermane and his companions Zelobion the Magician and Arzeela the War Maid must traverse this vast continent in an attempt to find a “counter-lunary agent” that will prevent the Moon’s fall and the end of the world.

In Carter’s introduction to Giant of World’s End he considers his book in the same End of Time tradition as Clark Ashton Smith’s “Zothique” cycle and A.E. van Vogt’s The Book of Ptath (1947), but curiously he omits any mention of Jack Vance’s “Dying Earth” books. Smith and van Vogt’s works were far enough in the past to be safely acknowledged, but it’s likely that Vance’s The Dying Earth (Lancer Books reissue, 1962) and The Eyes of the Overworld (Ace Books, 1965) were too recent to cite comfortably as open influences. In any case, Giant of World’s End is undeniably Vancian, from the odd customs of the various cultures that the protagonists encounter, to the strangely petty ancient powers of the world such as The Seven Brains of Karchoy. The attempts at quirky humor and deliberately formal dialogue also owe a lot to Vance, but can seem a bit forced.

Another perhaps less obvious influence on Giant at World’s End is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with Ganelon Silvermane’s amnesia and inability to love echoing the Scarecrow’s missing brain and Tin Woodman’s missing heart respectively. Also the band of adventurers’ disappointment at the reveal of the senile Last Technarch of Vandalex calls back to Dorothy’s peek behind the screen at the “humbug” Wizard of Oz. Carter’s nods to the Oz books are less surprising when you consider that he wrote five Oz novels that were published posthumously as The Tired Tailor of Oz (2001) and the collection The Merry Mountaineer of Oz (2004).

Nothing in the text of Giant of World’s End indicates that it was originally intended to be part of a series, especially considering its downbeat ending. Nevertheless, Lin Carter must have felt that the supercontinent of Gondwane remained rife with story possibilities as a prequel, Warrior of World’s End was published in 1974 by DAW Books. Four more books in the “Gondwane Epic” would appear through 1978. Supposedly there were to have been nine books in the Gondwane Epic, bringing the story around full circle to Giant of World’s End but the series was cancelled because of low sales. It’s interesting to note that the five prequels were reissued by Wildside Press in the early 2000s, but that Giant of World’s End has never been reprinted aside from a U.K. paperback edition in 1972–perhaps the reissues did poorly too or there’s an obscure publishing rights issue involved.

Giant of World’s End features a Jeffrey Catherine Jones cover that doesn’t depict any scene in the text, but may be conveying Arzeela’s despair over her unrequited love for Ganelon Silvermane. It’s a literal “brown study”:

GNTFWRLDSB1969

Out of Lin Carter’s quite large body of work, only the “World’s End” books are cited by Gary Gygax as influences on the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. Many of the works in Appendix N are superior on their literary merits, but Giant of World’s End doesn’t lack for memorable creations such as the Talking Ship Mannanan MacLear, the Myriapod at the arena of the Piomazians, Zelobion’s magical system of Phonemic Thaumaturgy, and the ruined city of Grand Phesion. The somewhat cobbled together nature of Carter’s book makes it easier pull out the eminently gameable bits that would be harder to extract from more original, dramatically unified works. And gamers, from Gary Gygax down to present day DIYers are nothing if not tinkerers….

 

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

 

Episode 14 – Sterling E. Lanier’s “Hiero’s Journey”

There’s surprisingly little reliable biographical information about Sterling E. Lanier, but like many Appendix N authors he does seem to have been a man of many parts. Most accounts of Lanier’s life have him studying archaeology and anthropology at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania before working as a researcher and historian for most of the 1950s. His other interests included sculpture, natural history, and cryptozoology, all of which would bear on his creative endeavors.

In 1961 Lanier began his literary career with the publication of his first short story in Analog magazine and by landing an editor’s position at Chilton Books, best known then and now as a publisher of automotive repair manuals. Lanier cemented his place in science fiction history in 1965 by convincing Chilton to publish Frank Herbert’s Dune in hardcover after it had already been rejected by over 20 publishers. Lanier’s strong interest in ecology must have made the Dune stories jump out at him as they were being serialized in Analog magazine. Unfortunately a prophet is never honored in his own land and Lanier was let go from Chilton the following year when Dune initially failed to live up to sales expectations.

Lanier’s creative output was jumpstarted by his dismissal from Chilton and he began working in earnest as a sculptor, jeweler, and writer in the late 1960s. Among his notable works from this period were miniature portrait sculptures of characters from The Lord of the Rings that were supposedly admired by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and that may have served as character models for Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.

During this time Lanier also began writing his Brigadier Ffellowes short stories, which were inspired in equal part by Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens “club tales” and his enthusiasm for cryptozoology. Lanier’s interest in ecology and weird creatures would come into full bloom in his first novel for adults, Hiero’s Journey, which his old employer Chilton published in hardcover in 1973. A Bantam Books paperback edition followed in 1974–the cover artist is uncredited, but Black Gate editor/publisher John O’Neill says it’s a piece by Vincent Di Fate:

HRSJRNGXBR1974

Hiero’s Journey was popular enough to merit a second paperback printing in 1983 to coincide with the publication of the sequel The Unforsaken Hiero. The second printing features a more placid but textually accurate cover by Darrell K. Sweet featuring Hiero, Klootz the Morse, and Gorm the telepathic bear:

HRSJRNGNXP1983

Hiero’s Journey is clearly the main literary inspiration for James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet’s Gamma World (TSR, 1978), the archetypal post-apocalyptic role-playing game. Gamma World and its spiritual descendants such as Mutant Future (Goblinoid Games, 2008) and Mutant Crawl Classics (Goodman Games, 2018) form the weird, kitchen-sink, far-future branch of post-apocalyptic role-playing games as opposed to the more gloomy and “realistic” near-future post-apocalypse RPGs typified by The Morrow Project (TimeLine Ltd., 1980) or Aftermath! (Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1981).

Gary Gygax cited Hiero’s Journey as an influence on Dungeons & Dragons and it’s easy to see why. For example, from the original 1974 rules we have the various jelly, mold, ooze, pudding, and slime monsters that echo the outgrowths of the House; they were later fully fleshed (sprouted?) out in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (1978). Psionic powers were first introduced in Dungeons & Dragons Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and have appeared in many subsequent editions of Dungeons & Dragons, although they’ve never co-existed easily with the magic system. As for the protagonists, Hiero provides one model for how the cleric class could be roleplayed as warrior-priests as opposed to the typical healer/protective spellcaster; of course, Hiero Desteen* could also be modeled as a ranger with the same effect in play. In a similar vein, Brother Aldo provides a slightly different take on the druid as cheerful and kind-hearted, yet resolutely dedicated to preserving the balance of nature.

A third book in the Hiero saga was planned but never materialized, but it’s said that Hiero’s Journey is very popular in Russia and that as many as 20 unauthorized works set in Hiero’s world were published in Russian around 2002-2004–apparently, a Hiero never dies….

* Incidentally, Lanier insisted that Hiero is pronounced “Hee-eh-ro” and not “Hero” or “Hyro”, but he was also tweaking his final publisher Donald M. Grant at the time.

Reading Resources:

Hiero’s Journey (Kindle ebook) – Beware, there are reported quality issues with this ebook, so you may want to seek out a used print copy instead.

Additional Reading:

The Unforsaken Hiero (Del Rey/Ballantine, 1983) – Gary Gygax specifically mentioned on EN World that he would have added the second Hiero book to any updated Appendix N.

Gaming Resources:

Mutant Crawl Classics (Goodman Games pre-order link for the standard hardcover edition)

Mutant Future: Revised Edition (RPGNow affiliate link) – this is probably the first Gamma World emulation of the OSR (Old School Renaissance) era, although it’s not an exact retroclone. Mutant Future is also available in a free, no-art version.

 
If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

Episode 13 – Gardner F. Fox’s “Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman”

J.R.R. Tolkien and perhaps Robert E. Howard aside, no Appendix N author has had as a large a pop culture footprint as Gardner F. Fox, but not for any of the works cited by Gary Gygax. Although hardly a household name today, Gardner Fox was among other things one of the most prolific comic book writers of the 20th Century. Fox was originally a practicing attorney in New York City, but still must have found it hard to make ends meet during the heart of the Great Depression–in 1937 he began writing for DC comics as well as contributing stories to many of the pulp magazines of the era. Over the course of his 30 year career with DC Comics Fox was responsible for such seminal creations as the Golden Age Flash, the Sandman, Doctor Fate, Hawkman, and the Justice Society of America. During the Silver Age of the 1960s, he would help re-vamp the Atom and Hawkman, create the Justice League of America, introduce Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and write his most famous story, “The Flash of Two Worlds!” (The Flash #123, 1961), which introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics.

Fox left or was cut loose from DC Comics in 1968 when the company shamefully declined to give health insurance and other employee benefits to its older writers and artists. He then turned to writing novels and short stories full-time, churning out tales of all genres both under his own name and under at least 15 pen names. Fox’s works included science fiction, fantasy, Westerns, historical fiction, and the sexploitation spy series Lady from L.U.S.T. (as Rod Gray) and Cherry Delight (as Glenn Chase).

Among the over 100 novels that Fox would pen over the next decade and half was the first of the Kothar series, Kothar Barbarian Swordsman (Belmont Books, 1969). Kothar Barbarian Swordsman was clearly meant to cash in on Conan/swords and sorcery boom of the era, but an old pro like Fox couldn’t resist having a little fun along the way, such as with the absurdly pompous introduction by “Donald MacIvers, Ph.D” which leaned heavily on the theories of the obscure German philosopher “Albert Kremnitz”. One can’t help but think that Fox was tweaking the likes of L. Sprague de Camp and other well-educated writers who were insecure about toiling in the vineyards of fantastic fiction. Fox by contrast wears his learning lightly, throwing in a myriad of historical but obscure terms such as “hacqueton”, “athanor”, and “cotehardie” more to amuse himself and because he may have liked their sound in a sentence than as a means to place himself above the material.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones’s painted covers are reliably moody, and her cover to Kothar Barbarian Swordsman is no exception:

BARBSWRD1969

Leisure Books picked up Kothar – Barbarian Swordsman for a second paperback printing in 1973. The even moodier second printing cover is uncredited, but also appears to be by Jeffrey Catherine Jones:

KTHRBRBRNS1973

Oddly though, it was a re-purposed piece for another Belmont Books fantasy novel, David Van Arnam’s Wizard of Storms (1970):

WZRDFSTRMS1970

Leisure Books did not end up re-issuing the rest of the Kothar series–perhaps sales were underwhelming. On the other hand, Leisure must not have been too displeased since they did publish Gardner Fox’s second stab at sword and sorcery, the Kyrik series, which ran to four books in 1975-1976.

The Kothar stories are presented with economy, craft, and imagination, so it’s not surprising that they stood out to Gary Gygax amidst all of the other derivative swords and sorcery in print at the time. The most well-known borrowing from Kothar in Dungeons & Dragons would be the lich, a powerful sorcerer who has prolonged his life into undeath–Gygax confirmed this borrowing here. Liches made their D&D debut in the Original edition’s Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz. The lich would then appear in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (1977) and as the demi-lich in the notorious deathtrap module S1: Tomb of Horrors (1978).

Gardner Fox and Gary Gygax became friends somewhere in this time period, paving the way for Fox to create the third of his swords and sorcery heroes, Niall of the Far Travels for Dragon magazine. Niall of the Far Travels premiered in issue two of The Dragon (1976) and would eventually appear in 10 stories over the next five years.

Gardner F. Fox was a man of many interests and it ultimately fitting that his presence is felt in a broad swath of pop culture from comic books to fantastic fiction to roleplaying games and all the media that have derived from them.

Reading Resources:

Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman book #1 (Sword & Sorcery) (Kindle ebook)

The first three books are also collected here (trade paperback/Kindle ebook):

The First Kothar the Barbarian MEGAPACK®: 3 Sword and Sorcery Novels

The Gardner F. Fox Library is a website and publishing venture dedicated to bringing Gardner Fox’s paperback works back into print as ebooks and trade paperbacks.

Further Reading:

Niall of the Far Travels Collected (Kindle ebook)

Niall of the Far Travels Collected (trade paperback)

Collects the ten Niall of the Far Travels stories originally commissioned for Dragon magazine and the one-off Dragontales fiction anthology magazine between 1976 and 1981.

Gaming Resources:

OD&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (0e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

Monster Manual (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

S1 Tomb of Horrors (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

Appendix E(rotica)!:

Cherry Delight cover gallery (somewhat NSFW)

The Lady from L.U.S.T. cover gallery (somewhat NSFW)

Cherry Delight: The Italian Connection (Sexecutioner Series Book 1) (Kindle ebook)

Lust, Be a Lady Tonight: The Lady from L.U.S.T. (Sexpionage Book 1) (Kindle ebook)

The Gardner F. Fox Library isn’t kidding about getting *all* of Fox’s output back into print….

 

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

Episode 12 – Michael Moorcock’s “The Stealer of Souls”

Michael Moorcock’s first five Elric of Melniboné stories appeared in the British magazine Science Fantasy in 1962 and were collected in hardcover the next year as The Stealer of Souls, followed by a U.S. paperback edition from Lancer Books in 1967. Savage and sardonic, the Elric stories must have seemed like a fantasy off-shoot of Great Britain’s “Angry Young Man” movement of that era.

At first glance, Elric of Melniboné appears to be the very antithesis of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian: a physically weak sorcerer, addicted to drugs, symbiotically linked to the malignant black sword Stormbringer, and the rightful emperor of a cruel and decadent pre-human civilization. Moorcock and Elric are often characterized as a negation or rejection of Howardian swords & sorcery, but that’s a drastic oversimplification of Moorcock’s relationship to pulp fantasy.

Moorcock was precocious fantasy talent, creating fanzines as a schoolboy and becoming editor of the professional magazine Tarzan Adventures by the age 17 in 1957. Moorcock was a notable contributor to AMRA, a fanzine that was a hotbed of discussion about fantasy fiction and counted among its many notable correspondents Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber, and Roger Zelazny. As mentioned here, the term “swords and sorcery” was coined by Fritz Leiber in dialogue with Moorcock, although Moorcock has always preferred the term “epic fantasy”. Moorcock has at times minimized but never totally denied his appreciation for Howard, most likely hoping to let the Elric saga stand on its own two feet. He’s also held up his deep regard for the works of Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, and Fletcher Pratt among others and was later a founding member of the Swordsmen and Sorceror’s Guild of America, none of which indicates someone contemptuous or indifferent to fantasy fiction.

Moorcock has cited Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword as influences on the Elric saga, especially in the former’s depiction of the struggle between Law and Chaos and the latter’s savagery, sense of doom, and titular accursed sword. Another lesser-known antecedent to Elric is Sexton Blake’s nemesis, the opium-addicted master criminal and anti-hero Monsieur Zenith the Albino:

albino1

Moorcock not only borrowed Monsieur Zenith’s appearance and sardonic demeanor for Elric, he would later concretely link the two as incarnations of each other in The Metatemporal Detective (Pyr, 2007), although it can be hard to tell at times whether Moorcock is merely amusing himself or playing it straight.

There have been countless visual interpretations of Elric over the years, but the Jeffrey Catherine Jones cover for the Lancer Books second printing of The Stealer of Souls (1973) is the first distinctly modern depiction of the albino swordsman and sorceror:

TSTLRSLS1973

Moorcock continued to write Elric stories in the late 1960s and the 1970s that were set prior to the events of Stormbringer. DAW Books republished the Elric Saga in 1977, arranging the stories by internal chronology, splitting the stories from The Stealer of Souls between The Weird of the White Wolf and The Bane of the Black Sword, the third and fifth books of Elric’s saga respectively. With Moorcock’s approval, Del Rey/Ballantine began publishing the “definitive” version of Elric’s saga in 2008, once again collecting the stories in publication order.

Elric’s saga clearly had an impact on Gary Gygax as he specifically mentions Elric as a playable figure in the “Fantasy Supplement” to Chainmail (1971). The Law vs. Chaos alignment system in Chainmail and original Dungeons & Dragons (1974) may have originated with Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, but there’s a distinct Moorcockian flavor in practice, although that would obviously vary from gaming group to gaming group.

Rob Kuntz and James Ward wrote up Elric and the Melnibonéan mythos in the fourth Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes (1976). Four years later, Kuntz and Ward would detail the Melnibonéan mythos for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in Deities & Demigods (1980). Although TSR had permission from Moorcock to use Elric for D&D, their West Coast rivals Chaosium secured the official Elric license in 1981, leading TSR to remove the Melnibonéan section (and Cthulhu Mythos section) from the third printing onwards of Deities & Demigods. As a result, the first two printings of Deities & Demigods are now highly sought after collector’s items. In the meantime, Elric’s gaming presence has remained tightly bound up in the RuneQuest/Basic Role-Playing system for over 25 years, with the exception of Chaosium’s D20 System adaptation Dragon Lords of Melniboné (2001). There is currently no gaming license for any of Michael Moorcock’s works, so it remains to be seen if Elric will ever make an official reappearance at the gaming table….

Reading Resources:

Elric: The Stealer of Souls (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné, Vol. 1) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook) – includes Moorcock’s preferred texts of The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer and supplemental materials, all presented in publication order.

Moorcock’s Miscellany – The official website of Michael Moorcock & friends.

Further Reading:

Monsieur Zenith the Albino (Savoy Books, 2001) – a reprinting of the only novel of Monsieur Zenith, which had been out of print since 1936. Features a foreword from Michael Moorcock himself.

Gaming Resources:

Stormbringer! – a website dedicated to all Moorcockian roleplaying games.

 

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

Episode 11 – John Bellairs’s “The Face in the Frost”

At first glance John Bellairs’s The Face in the Frost is a bit of an anomaly, both in his own body of work and in Appendix N. It is the only Bellairs work cited by Gary Gygax in Appendix N, and ended up being Bellairs’s first and only fantasy novel directed at adults. Bellairs began work on The Face in the Frost in the late 1960s after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He created his protagonist Prospero as a reaction to the might and nobility of Gandalf, rendering Prospero and his fellow wizard Roger Bacon as more down to earth, crotchety, and occasionally downright fearful of their circumstances.

The Face in the Frost was published in hardcover by Macmillan in 1969, with quirky pen-and-ink illustrations by his friend Marilyn Fitschen that reinforced the alternating whimsy and dread of the story. The book did well enough for Bellairs to turn to full-time writing, with his next work The House with a Clock in its Walls was also a dark fantasy, although set in the late 1940s. Supposedly Bellairs had difficulty selling The House with a Clock in its Walls until a publisher suggested rewriting it as a young adult (YA) book. The House with a Clock in its Walls proved to be a huge critical and sales success, so much so that Bellairs would remain best known as a YA author for the rest of his career, completing a total of 15 books for young readers.

It’s interesting that The Face in the Frost did not differ dramatically in mood and tone from Bellairs’s gothic mysteries for young readers, yet it was never re-marketed as a YA work. Ace Books published The Face in the Frost in paperback in 1978, but its odd man out status as Bellairs’s only substantial adult work may have contributed to it going out out of print after Bellairs’s death in 1991. It was then only available only in specialty press editions until it was finally republished in 2014 by Open Road Media, although unfortunately without Marilyn Fitschen’s illustrations.

The Ace Books paperback cover by Carl Lundgren (also the cover artist of Dragon magazine issues 50 & 68) renders Prospero as an archetypal high fantasy wizard and captures some of the eeriness but none of the whimsy of The Face in the Frost:

THFCNTHFRS1981

It’s unclear when Gary Gygax first encountered The Face in the Frost, but it may have been fresh on his mind as he was writing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. In The Players Handbook Gygax explicitly states that magic-users must consult their spellbooks in order to memorize their spells, which echoes Prospero’s habit of studying his spellbook at night before the next day’s journey and adventures. In contrast the Original Dungeons & Dragons box set merely states that a given spell (slot) may only be used once a day–no mention is made of memorization or spell preparation.

It appears that Gary Gygax wanted to provide a narrative and theoretical underpinning to what may have originally been a game balance decision. He found much of his answer in Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, but The Face in the Frost may have helped to reinforce his design choice. To the dominant Vancian strain and the acknowledged influence of de Camp and Pratt’s Enchanter books may we now add The Face in the Frost as a direct influence on the AD&D magic system?

Reading Resources:

The Face in the Frost (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

Bellairsia – Celebrating John Bellairs – The website of all things Bellairs.

Further Reading:

Magic Mirrors (NESFA’s Choice) (hardcover) – features the illustrated version of The Face in the Frost as well as Bellairs’s rather obscure works for adults, St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966) and The Pedant and the Shuffly (1968). The real treasure here though is the manuscript fragment for The Dolphin Cross (circa 1980), which was to have been a sequel to The Face in the Frost. Bellairs’s young adult writing must have been too demanding and lucrative however, as The Dolphin Cross remained uncompleted at the time of his death.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt) (paperback/Kindle ebook) – this is Bellairs’s breakthrough YA book from 1973 and is actually quite similar in style and mood to The Face in the Frost, albeit the protagonist is a young boy in Michigan in the late 1940s. The House with a Clock in its Walls was the first Bellairs book to be illustrated by the great Edward Gorey, who would go on to provide artwork for 12 out of 15 of Bellairs’s YA novels.

Gaming Resources:

Players Handbook (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

Episode 10 – Roger Zelazny’s “Jack of Shadows”

Roger Zelazny stated that he wrote Jack of Shadows as a “first draft, no rewrite”, which might account for the occasionally elliptical nature of the narrative. Any lack of cohesion in the plotting is compensated for by the dark majesty of Jack AKA Shadowjack’s world. Zelazny is clearly echoing Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories here, at least in the weirdness of the creatures and landscapes of the darkside if not in the playful ornateness of Vance’s prose. Jack of Shadows also emphasizes the interplay and conflict between magic and science, and the borderline immortality/superhumanity of its protagonist, themes that would play out in many of Zelazny’s other works such as The Lord of Light and The Chronicles of Amber.

Jack of Shadows was originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1971 and was immediately reprinted in hardcover by Walker & Company, followed by a paperback edition from Signet in 1972. That first Signet paperback edition features Bob Pepper’s semi-abstract and moody gouache cover, which succeeds in capturing many of the story elements of Jack of Shadows such as the Great Machine and the bound dark angel/devil Morningstar that a more literal treatment might have glossed over:

JCKFSHDWSK1972

Jack of Shadows was well-received from first release, garnering Hugo and Locus Award nominations in 1972–it did not achieve the lasting popularity of The Chronicles of Amber or many of Zelazny’s other books however, and was out of print for over 25 years until it was recently reprinted by the Chicago Review Press in 2016.

Gary Gygax wrote in issue #2 of The Excellent Prismatic Spray (2001) that Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever and Zelazny’s Shadowjack were the greatest influences on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons thief class as described in the The Players Handbook (1978). The thief’s abilities as written though are rather mundane and have a low probability of success for beginning characters. If the thief’s skills are re-imagined as being a quasi-mystical version of Jack’s powers, then even a 10% chance of utterly disappearing into shadows becomes a very powerful ability indeed! Of course, Jack as he appears in Jack of Shadows is not a mere skulking footpad but a magician of unsurpassed power, so it makes sense that he was written up as such in Wizards (1983), part of Mayfair Games’ Role Aids line of unofficial Advanced Dungeons & Dragons supplements.

It’s worth noting that although a thief-type class is considered core to Dungeons & Dragons today, the class was not included in the original 1974 box set and only made its first appearance in the first D&D supplement Greyhawk (1975). In some gaming circles this has kicked off a 40+ year debate over whether the thief deserves to be its own character class or if being a thief is properly a role that all adventurers play….

Reading Resources:

Jack of Shadows (Rediscovered Classics) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

Further Reading:

Last Exit to Babylon – Volume 4: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny (hardcover) includes a prequel short story “Shadowjack” (1978). Also reprinted is Zelazny’s character outline for Shadowjack from the Wizards supplement from Mayfair Games.

The Road to Amber – Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny (hardcover) includes “Shadowland”, an outline of the origins of Jack’s world, ruled half by magic, half by science.

Gaming Resources:

OD&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (0e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

Players Handbook (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

 

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

Episode 9 – Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions

Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions was originally serialized in 1953 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction–eight years later a revised and expanded version of the tale would see print in hardcover from Doubleday, followed by an Avon paperback in 1962. It has remained sporadically in print ever since, largely overshadowed by Anderson’s more famous science fiction works.

Although Anderson was best known during the first half of his writing career as a science fiction author, Three Hearts and Three Lions and his following fantasy work The Broken Sword (1954) had a strong impact on knowledgeable fans and fellow writers, perhaps most clearly with Michael Moorcock’s adoption and reinterpretation of the cosmic struggle between Law and Chaos in the Elric of Melniboné stories, which began appearing in 1961.

It’s interesting to speculate how much of himself Anderson put into Holger Carlsen, the hero of Three Hearts and Three Lions–they are both Danish-Americans, trained in science and engineering, and apparently wholly rational and pragmatic. Holger rises to adventure though, rediscovering and embracing his true identity as Ogier the Dane, paladin of Charlemagne and one the great heroes of medieval European literature. In a similar vein, perhaps Anderson’s romantic side led him to become a founding member of both the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Swordsmen and Sorceror’s Guild of America.

Throughout its publishing history Three Hearts and Three Lions never had an iconic cover, and the Appendix N-era 1978 Berkley Medallion paperback is no exception, featuring a serviceable cover by Wayne Barlowe, who would later become more well-known for his anatomically realistic depictions of fantastic creatures and truly alien life:

THRHRTSNDT1978

That Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of the most significant influences on early Dungeons & Dragons is undeniable. For example, Gary Gygax specifically cites the book in the listing for the “True Troll” in the “Fantasy Supplement” to Chainmail (1971), although a full description of the Andersonian troll (and the nixie) would have to wait for the original Dungeons & Dragons (1974) box set. The original 1974 rules would also feature the most famous borrowing from Three Hearts and Three Lions, the Law vs. Chaos alignment system, although perhaps filtered through Michael Moorcock’s interpretation in the Elric books.

Certain Lawful fighters could elect to achieve Holger Carlsen-esque paladin status with the publication of the first D&D supplement, Greyhawk (1975). Paladins would evolve into their quintessential D&D form as a fighter sub-class in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook (1978)

The troll and the nixie would receive much more detailed write-ups in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (1977), with the Swanmay finally making her first D&D appearance in the Monster Manual II  (1983). A close reading of Three Hearts and Three Lions and the various early Dungeons & Dragons would undoubtedly reveal more direct influences on the game as we know it today.

Update 10/08/2017: Holger Carlsen and Hugi the Dwarf were written up for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in Dragon magazine #49 (1981) by TSR stalwart Roger E. Moore. Hugi was depicted as an AD&D gnome fighter though–evidently the AD&D dwarf was seen as sufficiently Tolkienian by then as to be a poor model for poor Hugi. 

Reading Resources:

Three Hearts and Three Lions (Kindle ebook)

Further Reading:

A Midsummer Tempest (Kindle ebook) – Holger Carlsen makes a cameo in Poul Anderson’s 1974 fantasy set in a 17th century England where all of Shakespeare’s characters are real.

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds (trade paperback/Kindle ebook) is a Poul Anderson tribute anthology featuring original stories set in Anderson’s many fictional worlds, including one each from Harry Turtledove and Tad Williams in the universe of Three Hearts and Three Lions.

Gaming Resources:

Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures (0e)

OD&D Dungeons & Dragons Original Edition (0e)

OD&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (0e)

Players Handbook (1e)

Monster Manual (1e)

Monster Manual II (1e)

(all of the above are RPGNow affiliate links)

 

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