And so we come to two of the most influential and prolific fantasy writers of the 20th Century, Andre Norton and Michael Moorcock, as we follow intrepid literary explorers Mordicai and Tim Callahan on their voyage of discovery through Appendix N at Tor.com.
Tim and Mordicai have been none too gentle to some of the writers in Appendix N, including L. Sprague de Camp, Gardner Fox, and even Roger Zelazny. But in Norton and Moorcock, they find authors they can appreciate.
Here’s Tim on Michael Moorcock:
I read The Swords Trilogy and The Chronicles of Corum early, and they made an impact. They exploded inside my mind in a way I have never forgotten, even if I can’t remember many of the story details from any particular chapter… but I didn’t really feel like I tuned into Elric until halfway through the first reprint volume, when we get the four novellas of Stormbringer…
It’s classic Moorcock, in that imaginative and terrifyingly evocative way that I loved all those years ago when I first picked up The Swords Trilogy off a spinner rack in my hometown general store. Stormbringer begins with agents of chaos abducting Elric’s wife, and it takes off into the realm of mass warfare and conflicts with not-quite-dead-gods soon enough.
Moorcock aims for the mythic.
Read the complete article here.
Good to see a little love for classic sword & sorcery, but personally I don’t see a lot of direct influence from Elric on D&D — unless you count the section on powerful artifacts in the Dungeon Masters Guide, which clearly was conceived with weapons like Stormbringer in mind.
[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]
And I’m glad you mentioned White Plume Mountain, because it’s a classic D&D adventure and though it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the Elric mythos, specifically, the sword Blackrazor is clearly plucked from Moorcock’s works. Module writer Lawrence Schick even admitted that it was written as a kind of calling card to TSR to get hired as a game designer, and it worked, but he never would have included such an obvious Elric homage if he thought the module were going to see print as written. It’s pretty blatant.
Then again, the gang at TSR statted up Elric and his friends for the first printing of Deities and Demigods, so they didn’t hide their Moorcock affection from the public.
Elric is hardly Moorcock’s only creation however, so I don’t think it’s hard to draw a direct link from the author to Dungeons and Dragons.
Elric had a more direct influence in other aspects of fantasy gaming of course, as we recently examined in our Vintage Treasures article on Avalon Hill’s Elric Young Kingdoms Adventure Game.
We even published an original 30,000-word Eternal Champion story by Michael Moorcock in the first issue of Black Gate.
Tim and Mordicai find a much more concrete connection to Dungeons and Dragons in their next subject, however.
Just looking at the cover art to Andre Norton’s Forerunner will start you thinking about Dungeons and Dragons, as the pitch black skin and pale white hair of the elfin figure immediately makes your thoughts go to the dark elves, the drow… The first thing I did, then, upon seeing the cover for this, was flip to the copyright page — 1981 — and then look up the drow on Wikipedia. The drow’s first official mention is in the AD&D Monster Manual, 1977, with their first appearance in Hall of the Fire Giant King (G3) in 1978, which really nailed down their signature “look.”
Just an odd coincidence? Perhaps not, since Norton definitely was affiliated with Gary Gygax and Dungeons and Dragons. She wrote Quag Keep in 1979, the first official D&D tie-in novel, about a group of people from the “real world.” How did she know so much about the hobby? Well, because she played in Gary Gygax’s Greyhawk game in 1976, of course.
I didn’t know Andre Norton played in Greyhawk.
I didn’t know Quag Keep was an “official” tie-in novel, either — I always thought the “Dragons and Dungeons” featured in the book was clearly inspired by D&D, but Norton made no attempt to tread on TSR’s intellectual property in the novel — which was published by DAW without any kind of license from TSR, official or otherwise.
Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on “Dungeons & Dragons (Novels)” seems to back up Mordicai’s claim that it’s an “official” tie in:
The first novel based on the Dungeons & Dragons game was Quag Keep (1978) by Andre Norton. Based upon Norton’s first experience at playing the Dungeons & Dragons game, it told the story of seven gamers who were drawn into a fantasy setting. The sequel, Return to Quag Keep (2006), was published after Norton had died in 2005.
The author wishes to express appreciation for the invaluable aid of E. Gary Gygax of TSR, expert player and creator of the war game, Dungeons and Dragons, on which the background of Quag Keep is based. I wish also to acknowledge the kind assistance of Donald Wollheim, an authority and collector of military miniatures, whose special interest was so valuable for my research.
Never knew that bit about Don Wollheim and miniatures, or I would have mentioned it in my recent article. That’s cool stuff.
But back to Quag Keep. The first chapter is titled “Greyhawk,” and features D&D beasts such as lizardmen, but I still don’t consider it an “official D&D tie-in novel.”
Maybe this is splitting hairs (okay, it’s almost certainly splitting hairs), but the book imagines a D&D-like game that compels a party to come together in the City of Greyhawk, with bracelets and dangling dice that guide their destiny. It’s almost a metaphor for role playing, more than a typical Greyhawk novel.
Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I admit I was pleased to see just how much Mordicai enjoyed Andre Norton. She was a grand old lady of early SF who introduced countless young readers to science fiction and fantasy all through the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and even the 90s and the early part of the 21st Century, when she collaborated with writers like Mercedes Lackey, Jean Rabe, and A. C. Crispin — right up until her death in 2005, at the age of 93.
At the end of the day, Mordicai has plenty of kind words for Norton:
Of the books we’re read, this is the one that most resembles the campaign I actually run… All in all I’m really impressed; this is my favorite new book I’ve encountered so far in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series, I think, because it exposed me to Andre Norton. She sure can write, and she does an excellent job…
The complete article is here.
We last covered Mordicai and Tim’s journey into Appendix N on August 20th, when they discussed L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, and Gardner Fox. 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.