Gygax on post-70s fiction.

There is something missing in the big conversation about the current and future state of sff. Well, I’m sure there are many things, but I will focus on one.

Some of the people I read and follow claim that what is needed is to go back to the more pulpish roots of the genre, with AD&D’ Appendix N (not exactly pulp, but still, close enough) being a great starting point to know more about those now-forgotten or ignored classics. Some even read the editorials and interviews from old magazines to better understand the cultural zeitgeist of that era. Now, Appendix N may very well be a fundamental document of a bygone age, but it’s not like its author (Gary Gygax) died, struck down by a malignant curse in the prime of his life, just after penning his sacred doctrine.

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Could be better written: “My life is perfect, and everything around me sucks.”

If you want to write, you must read a lot is a useful advice. However, like most proclamations with an almost religious vibe, they have a long string of caveats and exceptions which, although commonsensical, cannot be packed along with the original statements without diminishing their gravitas. To put it bluntly, the advice only works if your read good material, and sometimes not even then.

Not only what you read has to be “good,” an adjective that implies value and, therefore, the ability to discriminate (something that terrifies a lot of people,) but relevant to your goal as an artist and your craft. Obviously, you are not going to learn how to write science fiction by reading Victorian romance novels or Nature Poetry (your descriptions of alien landscapes may be awesome, though.)

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