I had begun my Appendix N Review Series as a way to see how the fantasy genre in the 1950s through the 1970s was different from today’s genre. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect — I expected to see umpteen copies of stories in the mold of J. R. R. Tolkien, and I cringed at the idea of reading about elves and dwarves and the like. I went in with low expectations all around.
Then I actually read the books. I fell in love.
Reading Appendix N broadened my mind about what the fantasy genre could be. It didn’t have to be a poor impression of the Middle Ages. It didn’t have to be a story with overdone, intricate worldbuilding (though I do often like such stories.) It didn’t have to ignore science-fictional elements.
It only had to leave the reader with a sense of wonder. And for me, it did just that.
Reading them, I not only could see the early days of fantasy literature, but also the early days of science fiction, of video games, even of anime. The plotting reminded me of the very television shows I grew up on, shows that happily played with the exciting implications of the setting and made you care about the characters.
It is said that the fantasy genre must “grow up,” but what does that mean? Throw away the heroism and the humor? Submit to some dreary program of political discipline? Deconstruction, deconstruction, and more deconstruction until the cows come home?
No such things are necessary. After seeing what the fantasy genre had been in the bad old days, I’ve come to like the genre very much. I’m reading treasures that I once overlooked due to their age.
Thanks, Gary Gygax. Even from beyond the grave, you’re a big help.