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Appendix N Book Club

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Jeff Goad, Ngo Vinh-Hoi, and a rotating roster of special guests discuss the classic adventure, fantasy, horror, science fiction, and weird fiction that inspired the creation of the world's first roleplaying game.

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Jeff Goad, Ngo Vinh-Hoi, and a rotating roster of special guests discuss the classic adventure, fantasy, horror, science fiction, and weird fiction that inspired the creation of the world's first roleplaying game.

iTunes Ratings

60 Ratings
Average Ratings
58
2
0
0
0

Descend into Gygax's fictional inspirations

By Jolly Jon C - Jan 29 2020
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This is a great podcast due to excellent guests, consistent interesting takes on pulp literature, a sincere love of the source material, and good chemistry between the hosts. I don't consistently read along, but I find hearing about these books and the ways they have 1)inspired gaming and 2)aged is really fascinating.

One of the smartest podcasts running

By Sailor on the Starless Sea - Sep 03 2017
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Intelligent, thoughtful discussion on Appendix N. Love it.

iTunes Ratings

60 Ratings
Average Ratings
58
2
0
0
0

Descend into Gygax's fictional inspirations

By Jolly Jon C - Jan 29 2020
Read more
This is a great podcast due to excellent guests, consistent interesting takes on pulp literature, a sincere love of the source material, and good chemistry between the hosts. I don't consistently read along, but I find hearing about these books and the ways they have 1)inspired gaming and 2)aged is really fascinating.

One of the smartest podcasts running

By Sailor on the Starless Sea - Sep 03 2017
Read more
Intelligent, thoughtful discussion on Appendix N. Love it.
Cover image of Appendix N Book Club

Appendix N Book Club

Latest release on Feb 09, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 4 days ago

Rank #1: An Interview with Michael Moorcock

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Hoi and Jeff have the supreme pleasure of interviewing Michael Moorcock, author of the Elric and Hawkmoon stories among many others, and the youngest and only living author from the Appendix N list, who is also celebrating his 80th birthday in Dec 2019!

Dec 02 2019

1hr 12mins

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Rank #2: Episode 2 – Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, & Lin Carter's "Conan"

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Conan (Lancer Books, 1967) by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter was part of first comprehensive paperback edition of the Conan saga. Conan was the fifth volume published, although it is first in the internal chronology--later printings of the series numbered the books in chronological order. When Lancer when out of business in 1973, Ace Books picked up and completed the series, keeping it in print until the mid 1990s.

In a now controversial move, series editors de Camp and Carter filled in gaps in Conan’s timeline by expanding Howard’s unpublished notes and fragments, re-writing non-Conan stories, and writing entirely new stories, thus jump-starting the Conan pastiche era.

For the purist, the Howard-only stories in this collection are “The Hyborian Age, Part 1” (1936), “The Tower of the Elephant” (1933), “The God in the Bowl” (1952, Howard’s original version first published 1975), and “Rogues in the House” (1934).

Regardless of the editorial controversies, the Lancer/Ace series was the only widely available source of Howard-penned Conan stories for nearly three decades, sustaining the sword and sorcery boom from the late ‘60s to the mid ‘90s. Robert E. Howard’s furious prose and the now-iconic Frank Frazetta cover illustrations on many of the volumes have cemented Conan the Cimmerian in popular culture. Frazetta had clearly read and internalized the dynamism of the Conan stories, as shown by his cover painting of Conan’s epic struggle with Thak the apeman from “Rogues in the House”.

As Dungeons & Dragons was created in the era of peak Conan, it is natural that Conan’s presence would be felt, starting with a write-up in Robert Kuntz and James M. Ward’s OD&D supplement Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976). Gary Gygax himself would write up Conan as he appeared in various stages of his career in Dragon magazine issue 36 (1980)--a treatment that presaged the eventual AD&D Barbarian class in Dragon issue 62 (1982) and Unearthed Arcana (1985).

Conan the Cimmerian has since remained a perennial roleplaying game property, both with TSR and other publishers, but that’s a story for another day….

Jul 14 2017

55mins

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Rank #3: Episode 58 - Michael Moorcock's "The Singing Citadel" with special guest Dirk the Dice

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Hoi and Jeff chat with Dirk the Dice about the multiverse, Stormbringer RPG, Law vs Chaos, and Michael Moorcock's "The Singing Citadel"!

Nov 18 2019

59mins

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Rank #4: Episode 36 - Manly Wade Wellman's "Who Fears the Devil?" with special guest Michael Curtis

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Manly Wade Wellman's "Who Fears the Devil?" with special guest Michael Curtis.

Dec 31 2018

59mins

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Rank #5: Episode 12 - Michael Moorcock's "The Stealer of Souls"

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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 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….

Oct 30 2017

55mins

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Rank #6: Episode 28 - Robert E. Howard's "Conan the Freebooter" with special guest Diogo Nogueira

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Conan the Freebooter (Lancer Books, 1968) by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, was part of the first comprehensive paperback edition of the Conan saga. Conan the Freebooter  was the eighth volume published, although it is third in the internal chronology--later printings of the series numbered the books in chronological order. When Lancer went out of business in 1973, Ace Books picked up and completed the series, keeping it in print until the mid 1990s.

As with the other Lancer/Ace Conan books, series editor de Camp filled in gaps in Conan’s timeline by expanding Howard’s unpublished notes and fragments, re-writing non-Conan stories, and writing entirely new stories. For the purist, the Howard-only stories in Conan the Freebooter are “Black Colossus” (1933), “Shadows in the Moonlight” (AKA “Iron Shadows in the Moon”, 1934), and “A Witch Shall be Born” (1934).

In 1955, L. Sprague de Camp rewrote the then unpublished Howard story “Hawks over Egypt” as “Hawks over Shem”, changing the setting from Cairo in AD 1021 and adding the fantastic elements to turn it into a Conan tale. “The Road of the Kings” received the same treatment, being transferred to the Hyborian Age from the Ottoman Empire in AD 1595. Both of the original Howard stories were suppressed after de Camp’s rewrites and would not see print until they were collected in the small-press hardcover The Road of Azrael (Donald M. Grant, 1979).

John Duilo contributed possibly the worst Conan cover ever, an anatomically nonsensical depiction of Conan’s battle with the great gray man-ape from “Shadows in the Moonlight”:

The sad thing is that Duilo was normally an exceptional illustrator, as evidenced by the moody romanticism of his Western art and the sleazy verve of his men’s magazine covers.

The later Boris Vallejo cover interpreting the climax of “A Witch Shall be Born” is much better, but static in comparison to the furious energy of Frank Frazetta:

In both “Black Colossus” and “A Witch Shall be Born” we see Conan as a cunning strategist who leads thousand of men into battle. It’s easy to imagine Gary Gygax and company playing out these Hyborian Age conflicts in the pre-Dungeons & Dragons miniatures wargame Chainmail (1971) or in the later Swords & Spells (1976) ruleset. Other story elements from Conan the Freebooter that stand out as being proto-D&D include Shevatas the “thief among thieves” from the prologue to “Black Colossus” and gray man-ape of “Shadows in the Moonlight” is certainly the “APE, Carnivorous” of the AD&D Monster Manual (1977). As always, Robert E. Howard’s stories remain the motherlode of swords & sorcery inspiration….

Reading Resources:

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Conan of Cimmeria Book 1)

The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria Book 2) TPB (trade paperback)

The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria Book 2) (Kindle ebook)

These books are part of the Del Rey/Ballantine 3-book trade paperback series collecting the Conan stories in the order they were written by Robert E. Howard, often going back to his original typescripts. Also included are many of Howard’s Conan story drafts, note, and fragments, but none of the posthumous revisions and new stories by de Camp, Carter, et al. “Black Colossus” and “Iron Shadows in the Moon” both appear in the first volume and “A Witch Shall be Born” appears in the second volume.

http://freeread.com.au/@RGLibrary/RobertEHoward/REH-Conan/@Conan.html is an online public domain repository of all of the Conan stories that were published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime and several posthumously published works that are out of copyright.

Additional Reading:

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures collects Robert E. Howard’s original versions of “Hawks over Egypt” and “The Road of the Eagles”, untouched by L. Sprague de Camp.

Gaming Resources:

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells (PWYW RPGNow affiliate link)

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Addendum (PWYW RPGNow affiliate link)

Jun 11 2018

57mins

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Rank #7: Episode 23 - H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" with special guest Bob Brinkman

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Hoi and Jeff discuss H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness & Other Tales of Terror with special guest Bob “The Voice” Brinkman!

Given H.P. Lovecraft’s omnipresence today, it’s easy to forget that he had largely faded out of reading public’s mind within a few years of his death in 1937. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei did their best to keep Lovecraft in print by founding the small press Arkham House in 1939, but the publishing house’s output for its first 20 years was mostly limited to high quality hardcovers in short print runs.

Arkham House was often on tenuous financial footing from its very founding, but the snowballing revival of interest in Lovecraft’s Weird Tales compatriot Robert E. Howard in the 1960s seems to have also raised Lovecraft’s visibility. Arkham House seized the opportunity by releasing three newly re-edited omnibus volumes of Lovecraft’s fiction, The Dunwich Horror & Others (1963, revised 1985), At the Mountains of Madness & Other Novels (1964, revised 1986), and Dagon & Other Macabre Tales (1965, revised 1986) and then licensing the stories for paperback publication.

At the Mountains of Madness & Other Tales of Terror (Beagle/Ballantine Books, 1971) was a slimmed-down version of the Arkham House hardcover and featured the novel At the Mountains of Madness and the short stories “The Shunned House”, “Dreams in the Witch-House”, and “The Statement of Randolph Carter”.

Mar 05 2018

56mins

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Rank #8: Episode 19 - Jack Vance's "The Eyes of the Overworld" with special guest David Hoskins

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The Eyes of the Overworld (Ace Books, 1966) marks Jack Vance’s return to the Dying Earth setting after a break of 15 years. The book is a fix-up of the stories “The Overworld”, “The Mountains of Magnatz”, “The Sorceror Pharesm”, “The Pilgrims” and “The Manse of Iucounu” all of which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction between December 1965 and August 1966. To these stories Vance added a second chapter “Cil” to expand the book to novel length. The Eyes of the Overworld is contains many elements of the picaresque novel, from its episodic structure, generally satirical nature, and most importantly its roguish or even outright villainous protagonist Cugel, a man of no particular standing who ultimately never learns anything or changes his essential nature, despite his world-spanning journey and many travails.

After The Eyes of the Overworld Vance once more took a long hiatus from the Dying Earth before returning again to the setting in the mid-1980s with Cugel’s Saga (1983) and Rhialto the Marvellous (1984). The Dying Earth books remain Vance’s most recognizable works, even lending their name to an entire subgenre of science fantasy, although the evolution of the subgenre can be traced back at least through Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique cycle and William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland (1908) and The Night Land (1912).

Dec 25 2017

59mins

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Rank #9: Episode 35 - Michael Moorcock's "Stormbringer" with special guest Terry Olson

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Michael Moorcock's "Stormbringer" with special guest Terry Olson

Dec 17 2018

58mins

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Rank #10: Episode 25 - Andre Norton's "Witch World" with special guest Fletcher Vredenburgh

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Andre Norton's "Witch World" with special guest Fletcher Vredenburgh.

Apr 02 2018

56mins

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Rank #11: Episode 22 – Extra Credit - Clark Ashton Smith's "Zothique" with special guest Andy Markham

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Clark Ashton Smith's "Zothique" with special guest Andy Markham.

Feb 12 2018

55mins

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Rank #12: Episode 18 - Fritz Leiber's "Swords Against Death" with special guest Jen Brinkman

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Swords Against Death (Ace Books, 1970) by Fritz Leiber was originally published in paperback as part of Ace Books’ complete seven volume saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Although Swords Against Death is second in the series chronology, it was actually the fifth book published.

The stories is this volume are “The Circle Curse” (1970), “The Jewels in the Forest” (1939), “Thieves’ House” (1943), “The Bleak Shore” (1940), “The Howling Tower” (1941), “The Sunken Land” (1942), “The Seven Black Priests” (1953), “Claws from the Night” (1951), “The Price of Pain-Ease” (1970), and “Bazaar of the Bizarre” (1963). “The Jewels in the Forest” was the very first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story to appear in print, under its original title “Two Sought Adventure” in Unknown magazine in 1939. The subsequent four stories also appeared in Unknown, which was cancelled in 1943 due to wartime paper shortages.

A further handful of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories including “Claws from the Night” and “The Seven Black Priests” trickled out over the next two decades. In 1957 all of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories to date except “Adept’s Gambit” (1936/1947) were collected in the Gnome Press hardcover Two Sought Adventure. This collection was later expanded to provide the spine of Swords Against Death.

Dec 18 2017

56mins

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Rank #13: Episode 9 - Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions

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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.

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.

Sep 25 2017

55mins

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Rank #14: Episode 42 - Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Wanderer” with special guest Jon from the Cromcast

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, & Lin Carter’s “Conan the Wanderer” with special guest Jon from the Cromcast.

Mar 25 2019

59mins

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Rank #15: Episode 24 - J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" with special guest Daniel J. Bishop

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Hoi and Jeff discuss J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" with special guest Daniel J. Bishop.

Mar 19 2018

56mins

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Rank #16: Episode 54 - Fletcher Pratt's "The Well of the Unicorn" with special guest Strix Beltrán

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Hoi and Jeff discuss liminal spaces, war, peace, and fear of masculine vulnerability in Fletcher Pratt's "The Well of the Unicorn" with special guest Strix Beltrán!

Sep 23 2019

59mins

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Rank #17: Episode 45 - A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool" with special guest Joseph Goodman

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Hoi and Jeff discuss lost worlds, adventuring parties, and Lovecraftian gaming in A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool" with special guest Joseph Goodman

May 06 2019

59mins

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Rank #18: Episode 10 - Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows"

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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. 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….

Oct 02 2017

55mins

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Rank #19: Episode 27 - Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Pellucidar" with special guest Harley Stroh

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Pellucidar" with special guest Harley Stroh.

May 28 2018

58mins

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Rank #20: Episode 34 - Roger Zelazny's "Nine Princes in Amber" with special guest Marc Bruner

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Hoi and Jeff discuss Roger Zelazny's "Nine Princes in Amber" with special guest Marc Bruner.

Nov 05 2018

55mins

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