Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode have been reading Gary Gygax’s famous Appendix N, the list of fantasy and SF titles in the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This time Tim Callahan tackles Sterling E. Lanier, author of Hiero’s Journey.
It’s a terrific article, but I note that the editors chose Darrell K. Sweet’s cover for the 1983 Del Rey edition to accompany it, featuring our hero next to his mutant giant moose, chatting amiably with a bear. Dudes. (Or Dames, I dunno.) That’s waaay too sedate a cover for Lanier’s classic. The Vincent di Fate cover for the 1974 Bantam paperback (at right) is the one you want. (Click for a much bigger version, showing that toothy dino in all his glory).
It’s… an incredibly enjoyable book. Lanier may not be even close to as famous as Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, or Roger Zelazny or some of the others from Gygax’s list, but Hiero’s Journey constantly surprised me with its inventiveness and slow built toward a satirical climax. It also moves with a pace appropriate to a story about a guy riding a giant moose and unleashing the occasional psychic fury on mutated howler monkeys and other nefarious creatures….
It’s also a book that seems to have informed one of the weirder seemingly-slapped on aspects of Dungeons & Dragons — I’m speaking about psionics, which seemed out of place in the original AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide — and almost the entirety of the later Gamma World game setting. Gygax isn’t credited with designing Gamma World, but James Ward’s original rulebook for Gamma World cites Hiero’s Journey as an influence, and with that game’s post-nuclear-holocaust setting and mutated animals and cities with names like primitive spellings of our own, it’s like playing scenes straight out of Lanier’s novel…
What Hiero and his companions find, as they explore and escape capture from the new breed of machine-friendly beings who don’t seem to recall what trouble technology hath wrought, is a deep and treacherous dungeon. This part is almost pure D&D adventuring, with roving monsters (mutated beasts) and foul threats from below.
Lanier wrote one sequel, The Unforsaken Hiero, in 1983. Both are long out of print, but available in digital editions. As Callahan notes, he’s probably best known for being an editor and taking a chance on an odd book from an obscure writer, and getting fired when it wasn’t a success in hardcover (the book was Dune, by Frank Herbert.)
I noticed this is third in the Appendix N series at Tor.com. We linked to the first, their discussion of Robert E. Howard, but somehow missed the second. Tor.com doesn’t trouble to link to the earlier articles, leaving it as an exercise to the reader. Team Black Gate is investigating.
The list of authors they’ve covered includes:
Leigh Brackett and J.R.R. Tolkien
Margaret St. Clair and Andrew Offutt
Lord Dunsany and Philip José Farmer
H.P. Lovecraft and A. Merritt
Manly Wade Wellman and Fletcher Pratt
Fredric Brown and Stanley G. Weinbaum
John Bellairs and Fred Saberhagen
Jack Williamson and Lin Carter
Andre Norton and Michael Moorcock
L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, and Gardner Fox
Roger Zelazny and August Derleth
Fritz Leiber and Edgar Rice Burroughs
Sterling E. Lanier
Robert E. Howard
See the complete list here.
You can see all of our recent Vintage Treasures articles here.