It's always year zero for the social justice (and believing) set - so the events of but a few short years back, namely the nomination of Jeffro Johnson's Appendix N to the Hugo slate, and being dismissed among other works and editors for being liked by the wrong people are already ancient history lost in the antiquity of time.
And one surely cannot expect a writer for a prestigious outlet like Boingboing to do better than indian tech support, and go off script enough to check if there are any books out there on the subject of the stories that inspired D&D, and that, shocking, have a title along the lines of "Appendix N: the subtitle of how it impacted D&D".
You see, this new book, titled, I kid you not, Appendix N: the Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons, is not, like you would suppose from the title, an exploration of the works in appendix N and how they were woven into the rules, the settings, the assumptions, and the monsters and mythos presented in the game. Instead, it's an anthology of N stories. In about the same way that all too many hollywood movies are "inspired by true events", but far less faithful to said events than shining examples like the Chernobyl miniseries. Far, far less faithful.
How so, you ask?
I'll let Jeffro, the author who actually wrote a book on appendix N, speak for himself. Jeffro is, understandably, perturbed.
So there is a new Appendix N book out. Which makes sense, I suppose. After all, who can get enough of the authors that Gary Gygax so famously listed in what was once an obscure corner of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide?
Mind-bendingly stellar authors like A. Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Roger Zelazny, L. Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt– authors who not only had a direct impact on the development of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but who defined fantasy for ALL of the game designers creating the first big wave of role-playing games. And I have to say, it is nice to have a big bunch of Appendix N packed within the pages of spiffy paperback. Or it least it would be, anway. As none of the INCREDIBLY INFLUENTIAL YET CRIMINALLY OVERLOOKED authors I just mentioned appear within these pages.
In their place are three authors that are “sorta kinda almost” Appendix N authors due to their appearance in the anthology Gygax gave a nod to, Swords Against Darkness III.Omissions are one thing and borderline inclusions are another. And I suppose it would be fine if that were the end of it. But for some reason, stuff that doesn’t even have a tenuous connection to Gygax’s list shows up in here.
In short, it is not that it excludes authors - the book has to fit on a bookshelf. It is that the book excludes a number of core authors central to both the game and SF&F of the time, while adding in barely tangetial authors, and authors that had nothing to do with it. It also pulls stories by N authors that are not even the stories mentioned in Appendix N - the Poul Anderson story chosen is not one of the ones mentioned on page 224 of the DMG - instead of the ones actually mentioned.
So in a fit of false advertising, it doesn't really explore Appendix N and how it influenced D&D, and it also doesn't really represent the stories specifically called out in appendix N. Sure, you can make an argument that Pohl, Saberhagen, Moorcock in general were also likely influential, but that doesn't explain why those specific stories were brought up in the DMG, and not others - and the real appendix N book, the one by Jeffro, does draw those connections. Including authors that weren't even referenced, even by being in a mentioned anthology, is utterly taking a piss on the readers and telling them its raining.
Mostly though, the book title. I find it hard to believe that no-one, not the author, the editor, or the publisher, was both that utterly unaware of the controversy at the Hugos less than a decade back, and is utterly incapable of doing a basic brand/concept lookup on Google. I do not buy the utter arrogance to believe that no-one had written on the subject before, as part of background research. Especially not someone this soy.
Jeffro deserves better - and if you haven't read the real book on Appendix N, go buy a copy at Arkhaven today.