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9/29/2021 7:47 pm  #1


Ranking Appendix N Authors

Despite my long love of D&D and fantasy literature in general, I realized a couple years ago that there were quite a few Appendix N authors I had never read.  Growing up in the 1970s-80s, I had read mostly fantasy fiction from that era (Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Stephen R. Donaldson, etc., with a couple notable exceptions like Tolkien.

So I decided to dive into the Appendix N authors and frankly, found most of them rather disappointing.  Partly the writing styles, partly the ridiculous or non-existent plots and the general repetitiveness of some of them.  Reading lots of these books were like watching one of those Fast and Furious movies.  Fun for awhile, but get old rather fast.  Anyhow I decided to rank the authors I've read, with 5 as the highest and 1 as the lowest.  Note that I haven't read every book by every author, but in most cases I've at least read one of the classic works.  This may be a bit controversial, but it's just my opinion after all & I'd love to hear how others view these classic authors.

Poul Anderson--2
Edgar Rice Burroughs--3
Lin Carter--3
L. Sprague de Camp--3
August Derleth--3
Lord Dunsany--2
Robert E. Howard--4
Fritz Leiber--1
H.P. Lovecraft--4
Michael Moorcock--2
Andre Norton--2
Andrew Offutt--3
Fred Saberhagen--2
Clark Ashton Smith--3 [Technically not Appendix N, but should be]
J.R.R. Tolkien--5
Jack Vance--2
Manly Wade Wellman--2
Roger Zelazny--2

Thoughts?
 


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

9/30/2021 6:32 pm  #2


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

i have read mostly HP Lovecraft, RE Howard and i'm currently reading CA Smith and i agree with those 3.

i haven't managed to read Tolkien. It's too slow pacing for me, but he is a great influence to many writers.


-Gladiator, What is best in life?
-The inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents,  terrifying vistas of reality,  the peace and safety of a new Dark Age.
-Yee... wait... what ... WHAT?
 

10/01/2021 5:32 am  #3


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Spider of Leng wrote:

Thoughts?
 

De gustibus non disputandum est? https://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png

Seriously, without an author-by-author "here's why I ranked them thus" it's just a matter of taste, and that's fine. I rank Vance a 5 for his sheer command of language (logodexterity, my Vancist neologism for his craft), but others find his writing unbearable. To which I can only reply "He combined insouciance and flair with dignity; his repartee coruscated with brilliant allusions and turns of phrase; when aroused his wit was utterly mordant." The Last Castle
I'd also offer that some authors were brilliant for a time, or in one or two works, then just kept writing. I find Anderson's The Broken Sword a superb tale (5), but most of his other writings just average (3). I'm a huge fan of Zelazny (5) at his height (Lord of Light, first 5 books of The Chronicles of Amber, and many of his short stories from the 60's & 70's), but much less so in the 80's and later.
If you haven't tried Karl Edward Wagner you should: he's at least a 4, probably a 5. IMO of course!
 


"An idea of great merit! While we are alive we should sit among colored lights and taste good wines, and discuss our adventures in far places; when we are dead, the opportunity is past."
Jack Vance, Maske: Thaery
 

10/01/2021 7:13 am  #4


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Yeah, I found Vance's writing to get old pretty fast.  Especially in Dying Earth.  I read the Planet of Adventure series first and found that one a little better, but the Cugel stories in particular just drag on.  And since he doesn't bother describing lots of things that get weird names it's sort of like "why bother mentioning them."  It's like reading Dr. Seuss without the illustrations.

As I think I mentioned here, Poul Anderson (Broken Sword) is just a meandering Avengers movie.  The John Carter novels are a Vin Dielesque series of loosely connected chase scenes.  Fritz Leiber is just dull beyond belief, with the Lankmar stories essentially being boring "buddy cop/heist" stories in a Medieval setting.  For Saberhagen I read the Changeling Earth and it felt much like many of these others.  A vague setting, lots of rather pointless chases with anti-climatic endings and ridiculous coincidences.  Most significantly a rather underwhelming big bad in the Orcus non-character.  I get that's partly the point, but meh. 

I read Zelazny's Amber series (or at least the first few books) a long time ago so I don't recall much beyond finding it slow.  Moorcock was too whiny, emo goth for my tastes.  Lord Dunsany, like William Morris, is just a bit too archaic, though there are some brilliantly evocative images in their books.

For the most part, with the exception of Leiber I do like some elements in most of these authors' works, but I just don't idolize them to the extent so many do, with the exception of Tolkien and, to a lesser degree, Lovecraft.  And of course many people can't stand them.

Last edited by Spider of Leng (10/01/2021 7:15 am)


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
     Thread Starter
 

10/02/2021 7:05 am  #5


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Spider of Leng wrote:

For the most part, with the exception of Leiber I do like some elements in most of these authors' works, but I just don't idolize them to the extent so many do, with the exception of Tolkien and, to a lesser degree, Lovecraft.  And of course many people can't stand them.

I don't disagree on Tolkien, Lovecraft, Leiber (though it's been decades since I read his Lankhmar stories), Burroughs, Saberhagen or Moorcock. Maybe it's comparative? I find most contemporary novels to be door-stop tomes, and a chore to read, rather than pleasure. Even if the App. N aren't glorious in their own right, they're scintillant next to today's wares.


"An idea of great merit! While we are alive we should sit among colored lights and taste good wines, and discuss our adventures in far places; when we are dead, the opportunity is past."
Jack Vance, Maske: Thaery
 

10/02/2021 8:26 am  #6


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Good points.  The main problem I see with much of today's fantasy is the fact that either due to pressure from the publishers or the authors own desires, you have way too many series that are way too long.  The reader gets buried in names and plot hooks that won't show up again for several books.  The Wheel of Time, for example, is just plain awful.  14 long books that should have been 3.  In one case an entire book is just the previous book from the perspectives of different characters!  I didn't finish it, thankfully, but it may be the worst.  George Martin can't finish his series because even he can't keep track of all the characters and plot lines.  Other series, like Shannara & the Drizz't books, just won't end, presumably because the lcd fantasy folks keep buying them. So I'm with you on that front.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
     Thread Starter
 

10/08/2021 5:59 pm  #7


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

My quick assessments:

Poul Anderson--3-4
Bellairs, John—3
Leigh Brackett—n/a haven’t read yet
Frederic Brown—n/a haven’t read yet
Edgar Rice Burroughs--2 (first few Mars books were 4s though)
Lin Carter--1
L. Sprague de Camp--1
de Camp, L. Sprague and Fletcher Pratt—3-4
August Derleth--2
Lord Dunsany-- n/a it’s been too long since I’ve read him
Philip Jose Farmer—3-5
Robert E. Howard--4-5 for Conan, 3-4 for most others I’ve read
Lanier, Sterling —n/a haven’t read yet
Fritz Leiber--5
H.P. Lovecraft--3-5 (I’ve grown less fond of HPL’s writing over the years; had I been admitted to Brown, I would have done my dissertation on him ;) )
Merritt, A.—2-3
Michael Moorcock--3-5
Andre Norton--2-3
Andrew Offutt--3-4
Pratt, Fletcher—4
St. Clair, Margaret—4
Fred Saberhagen--n/a but I don’t recall liking the Swords books much
Clark Ashton Smith--5 [Technically not Appendix N, but should be]
J.R.R. Tolkien--3-5 (LOTR 3, Silmarillion 4, Hobbit 5)
Jack Vance--3-4
Weinbaum, Stanley. —n/a haven’t read yet
Wellman, Manly Wade. —n/a haven’t read yet
Williamson, Jack. -- n/a it’s been too long since I’ve read him
Roger Zelazny--3-5 (although I wasn’t overly fond of Lord of Light)

Allan.

 

10/08/2021 7:43 pm  #8


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

I think you're the first person I've ever encountered who ranks The Hobbit above LOTR & The Silmarillion.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
     Thread Starter
 

10/10/2021 11:29 am  #9


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Spider of Leng wrote:

I think you're the first person I've ever encountered who ranks The Hobbit above LOTR & The Silmarillion.

It's not as uncommon an opinion as you might think.  While I still enjoy Tolkien's works, after reading LOTR aloud twice to my wife and sons, I may never read it again ;)

Allan.

 

10/11/2021 5:43 pm  #10


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Not for me, man.  I read LOTR for probably the 12th time this past summer, albeit the first time in 20 years, and still enjoyed it far more than anything by the like of Robert Jordan, George Martin, etc.  I also really like the Silmarillion & re-read that last year, though it's a tougher read of course.  And far superior to the other Appendix N authors in my opinion, but I'm a historian by trade and I think it's that deep history that appeals to me.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
     Thread Starter
 

10/12/2021 6:53 am  #11


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

I've not read The Silmarillion or LotR in years, but greatly enjoyed The Fall of GondolinThe Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien, primarily for the grand sweep of fantastical history, triumph and tragedy.

We should start a new topic on historical inspirations for gaming: I read Roger Crowley's Empires of the Sea last year, and if a 70-year-old buccaneer who's rumored to be a sorcerer isn't fodder for gaming I don't know what is. His career certainly seems like something out of a typical RPG...


"An idea of great merit! While we are alive we should sit among colored lights and taste good wines, and discuss our adventures in far places; when we are dead, the opportunity is past."
Jack Vance, Maske: Thaery
 

10/12/2021 8:11 am  #12


Re: Ranking Appendix N Authors

Yeah, it's somewhat of a shame that they aren't turning one of the posthumous Tolkien books into a movie rather than the weird dumpster fire that Amazon is producing, but I understand it's because the Tolkien estate only sold the rights for Hobbit & LOTR.  These later ones would all make good movies with their narrower scopes.  And yeah, there are some pretty good historical inspirations out there for gaming. 


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
     Thread Starter
 

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