Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Having read "The Broken Sword" previous to this novel, I found it an odd juxtaposition to the former. First, the tone here is much lighter. Anderson does not attempt to take his story seriously, but at the same time, he is a serious enough writer that the reader is able to take the novel seriously. Secondly, while "The Broken Sword" fits nicely into the nitch of Sword & Sorcery, or possibly just Fantasy, "The High Crusade" fits imperfectly in both Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Originally serialized in Astounding Magazine in the year 1960, The High Crusade opens with a starship landing in England during the 14th Century. The English overtake the aliens, hi-jack it and end up light years away from home in a star-spanning empire ruled by the Wersgorix, a blue-faced alien race that rules several other races through having the most advanced technology.
The story that follows is that of Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville and his exploits in which, well, not wanting to give too much away, I'll say "God Favors the English". As mentioned earlier, the tone of Crusade is much lighter then that of The Broken Sword. There are many humorous moments in this short novel, along with short spats of high adventure. The narrator is one Brother Parvus a Franciscan Monk who explains his Christian name thusly:
"...I am of low size, and ill-favored, though fortunate to have the trust of children"
Brother Parvus gives a sometimes first hand account, and when necessary, recounts details he was not present to witness. As a narrator, he works wonderfully as I never found the story jarring. Along with humor and adventure is twisted in a tale of love lost, love betrayed, love regained, the classic "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back".
The edition I have was published by Baen publishing in 2010, as a 50th Anniversary edition. It includes an Introduction by Astrid Anderson Bear, the daughter of Poul Anderson and the wife of Greg Bear. There are also five Appreciations of the novel, one each from: Diana L. Paxson, Eric Flint, Greg Bear, David Drake and Robert Silverberg. Included after the novel proper is a short story written by Anderson and in the same universe as The High Crusade titled "Quest".
"Quest"first appeared in Ares in 1983. It is set, appropriately enough, 30 years after the events of The High Crusade and tells the short tale of Sir Eric in his quest for the Holy Grail. The high moment of this story for me was a "singing sword" (a technological construct of the famous relic) that has the wrong tape inserted into it before battle. As Sir Eric rushes to confront a dragon the sword sings:
Oh, give me a haunch of ruddy beef,
And nut-brown ale in my pot,
Then a lusty wench with a sturdy arse
To bounce upon my cot--
It is a short tale, but everybit as enjoyable as its predecessor.
I pondered upon why Gary Gygax included this novel in his Appendix N. There are two possibilites, the first is in Mr. Gygax's own words:
for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartly recommend the works of these fine authors to you.
That may be reason enough, for The High Crusade is without a doubt a story that can and most likely will be enjoyed by gamers of all different lots; however, what is the direct impact of this novel upon Dungeons & Dragons?
I thought long upon this, and remembered a section in the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide in which Gygax spoke of keeping campaigns fresh and alive. He spoke briefly of having realms similiar to the lost island of King Kong, and The Isle of Dread does that well, or perhaps realms similiar to Jack Vance's Dying Earth. He then presented alternative rules for converting AD&D characters to Boot Hill and Gamma World.
In my younger gaming days, this is something that me and my friends took literally. We had six-shooters, shot guns and mutants making frequent appearances in our games. With the acquistion of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, robots and ray-guns gained heavy circulation.
Perhaps Poul Anderson's The High Crusade served as Gary Gygax's inspiration for this simple idea. Eric Flint, in his Appreciation sites Anderson's tale as heavily influencing his own genre twisting tales. Even if it were only a subliminal influence on Gygax's idea, it serves as an excellent example of what Swords & Ray-Guns could be.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Published in 1954, the same year as Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring saw publication, it is tempting to compare Anderson's novel to the Ring Trilogy. Both works are influenced by Norse mythology, shades of the Poetic Edda are obvious in The Broken Sword; however, while Tolkien took Norse Mythology and molded it to fit his vision of Middleearth, Poul Anderson took a more literal approach with The Broken Sword. Perhaps a weakness of Sword is that it reads as if written by a writer trying too hard to emulate a story form he obviously holds in high regard.
There were moments while reading passages of the novel that I found myself doing an inward eye roll. That aside, it is a delightful read and is without a doubt a true classic of Sword and Sorcery literature. I am careful to not say Fantasy in the generic sense. While it is a novel that would fall under the large banner of Fantasy in the genre sense, I would consider it more in the vein of Sword and Sorcery. Not quite in the vein of the works of Robert E. Howard or Fritz Lieber, but more similar to that of Lord Dunsany or even William Morris.
I only make this distinction as Poul Anderson does not attempt to create his own world here; while Tolkien took his Norse influences and created his own world clearly outside of the boundaries of reality, Anderson's tale takes place in a fictionalized England during the period of Viking incursions. Populace superstitions of the realm of Faerie are real and can be sensed from time to time upon the margins of society. Anderson's Faerie realm is perhaps a dimension which shares our own. As are the realm of Jottenheim and the Norse Gods.
Anderson's elves are not Tolkien's elves. They are, in Dungeons & Dragons terminology, Chaotic. The affairs of mankind not only do not interest them, they are perhaps beneath them. Here is perhaps the first influence which can be seen upon the development of Dungeons & Dragons. Comparing this novel to Anderson's novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, in which a definite alignment system is developed by Anderson, the rudimentary beginnings of on alignment system may be viewed in The Broken Sword, although it is not clearly as drawn out. Perhaps also an early influence upon what would become the standard Troll in D&D is here as well:
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
I've been plugging away at my reading list; lately, I've been concentrating on the few volumes I own from Paizio's Planet Stories line.
In short, I'm yet to be disappointed; however, I only own a few titles: Black God's Kiss, Northwest of Earth: the Complete Northwest Smith, both by C.L. Moore; Elak of Atlantis, The Dark World and Robots have No Tails by Henry Kuttner; Who Fears the Devil by Manly Wade Wellman and Before They Were Giants, edited by James L. Sutter.
Elak of Atlantis was the first book I dived into and the one that made me decide to get a subscription with Paizo. I expected a Clone-an story, they were much more than that.
I dove into Who Fears the Devil next. Wow, is the simplest way to explain how much I enjoyed these stories.
Northwest Smith was the third title I read, and while the stories were not what I expected (most reviewers lead you to believe that Northwest Smith is a proto-Han Solo and that these stories are Space Opera in their ray gun blazing best -- both statements are untrue and misleading), they were entertaining. I do recommend not reading them all in one sitting. I enjoyed Black God's Kiss by Miss Moore much more (no pun intended).
I have not yet read The Dark World, Robots have no Tails or Before they Were Giants as of yet, but will soon.
Many of these (Moore, Kutner and Wellman) fall into my pre-Tolkien reading list. Surprisingly, only Manly Wade Wellman is included in Gygax's Appendix N. It must be remembered though that Gygax stated in Appendix N that the authors listed were just some of many that inspired him. It is possible that he either never read Moore or Kuttner, or that he simply forgot to list them. Northwest Smith, Black God's Kiss and Elak of Atlantis are all three full of stories that would and should spark the imaginations of any fantasy gamer. I will give further thoughts on all of these books later, as each deserves more in-depth discussion.
I'm currently making my way through Appendix N from A to Z. I'm starting with Poul Anderson's Three Heart's and Three Lions.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I've mentioned my affection for Lin Carter as an editor before. His non-fiction book Imaginary Worlds: the Art of Fantasy, impressed me so that I have been snagging any book edited by him that I can. This has led me to really appreciate the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series.
While I am still actively reading pre-Tolkien fantasy, I have found myself relying heavily upon the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series (BAFS)as a treasure trove resource for this reading list and I have been actively trying to find and read as many titles in the BAFS as possible and has become another reading list for me.
At the same time, I have discoverd The Planet Stories volumes published by Paizo as well. This too has become another obsessive reading list of mine. I have thus far by so impressed with the volumes I have read, I've purchased a subscribtion with Paizo.
So the reading journey continues and while I need to go into further detail in the future, I must say that I wish I had read Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter prior to starting my Darkling Ways campaign, as I find the elven culture in the novel very inspiring.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
John Bellairs: "The Face in the Frost" (1969)
Leigh Brackett (as early as 1943 to as late as 1971, but I believe most of her works were written prior to LOTR, but I will have to check my facts on that).
Fredric Brown (~ 1941 to 1963)
Edgar Rice Burroughs: "Pellucidar" Series (1922 -1941), Mars Series (1917 -1941), Venus Series (1934 - 1946)
Lin Carter: "World's End" Series (1969 - 1978)
L. Sprague de Camp: "Lest Darkness Fall" (1941), "Fallible Fiiend" (1973), et al. (many pre- 1966 works).
de Camp & Pratt: "Harold Shea" Series (1941 - 1953), "Carnelian Cube" (1948)
August Derleth (~1934 to 1961)
Lord Dunsany (~1915 - 1957)
P.J. Farmer: "The World of the Tiers" Series (begun in 1965, so I'll let it stand), et al. (many pre-1966 works)
Gardner Fox: "Kothar" Series (begun 1969), "Kyrik" Series (begun 1975), et al. (five works written prior to 1966)
R.E. Howard: "Conan" Series (Howard killed himself in 1936).
Sterling Lanier: "Hiero's Journey" (begun 1973).
Fritz Leiber: "Fafhrd & Grey Mouser" Series, et al. (F.L. published his first Fafhrd and Grey Mouser story in 1939 and continued publishing those and many other stories until his death in 1992; I've read enough of his literature to say without a doubt he didn't become a Tolkien imitator after the publication of any of Tolkien's works).
H.P. Lovecraft (died in 1937).
A. Merritt: "Creep, Shadow, Creep", "Moon Pool", "Dwellers in the Mirage", et al. (He died in 1943).
Michael Moorcock: "Stormbringer", "Stealer of Souls", "Hawkmoon" Series (esp. the first three books). M.M. will take further thought and investigation. He published his first Elric tale in 1961. I've read enough of his literature to say that despite the fact he no doubt has read Tolkien, I don't believe it influenced him, but I will leave his name un-bolded for now.
Andre Norton (A.N. published as early as 1934 and was with us until 2005. While I have read some A.N., I have not read enough to make an informed opinion. For now, she is off the list).
Fletcher Pratt: "Blue Star", et al. (Died 1956).
Fred Saberhagen: "Changeling Earth" (1973), et al. (some pre - 1966 work, but not much).
J.R.R. Tolkien: "The Hobbit", "Ring Trilogy"
Jack Vance: "The Eyes of the Overworld" (1966, however part of a series started in 1950), "The Dying Earth" (begun 1950), et al. Luckily, Mr. Vance is still with us as of the writing of this list. He began publishing in 1950.
Stanley Weinbaum (died 1935).
Manly Wade Wellman (began publishing in 1927).
Jack Williamson (began publishing in 1928).
Roger Zelazny: "Jack of Shadows", "Amber" Series, et al. (most of his work was published from 1970 onwards, but I have to say there is a definite lack of Tolkien influence in his works).
The appendix notes that de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, A. Merritt had particularly significant input to the game.