The New York Times on How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced a Generation of Writers

The New York Times on How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced a Generation of Writers

AD&D Monster Manual-smallEthan Gilsdorf, a contributor for Gygax Magazine, wrote an intriguing feature for the Sunday New York Times last weekend. Interviewing several popular writers, Gilsdorf shows how profoundly Dungeons and Dragons, which turned 40 this year, has influenced the current generation of fantasy authors.

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As [Junot] Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games)…

Mr. Díaz, who teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was written “in honor of my gaming years.” Oscar, its protagonist, is “a role-playing-game fanatic…” Though Mr. Díaz never became a fantasy writer, he attributes his literary success, in part, to his “early years profoundly embedded and invested in fantastic narratives.” From D&D, he said, he “learned a lot of important essentials about storytelling, about giving the reader enough room to play.”

Read the complete article here.

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Ty Johnston

I read that article last weekend, and it made me wonder at the number of artists in general who must have been influenced by D&D. Writers is kind of obvious, or at least I’d think so, but what about painters and movie makers? What about musicians?

And what of crafts and other hobbies and professionals within those hobbies’ industries? I believe the whole Rennaisance fairs scene got its start back in Berkely in the ’60s, if my memory serves, but I can’t imagine D&D didn’t have an influence in the popularity of such festivals over the last couple of decades.

James McGlothlin

I highly recommend Gilsdorf’s 2009 semi-biography/history of RPGs called Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Especially for any old school gamer it’s a real treat.

Ty Johnston

Yep, research on D&D’s influence on music would definitely be interesting. The only obvious influences I can think of at the moment are the Weezer song “In the Garage” from back in the early ’90s, and the Marcy’s Playrground song, “Cloak of Elvenkind.” But I’d be surprised if D&D or RPGs in general didn’t influence at least a number of metal bands, as Sword and Sorcery in general seems to have done since the inception of harder rock music.

Scott Taylor

Basically everything I do at Art of the Genre, including all novels, are loosely based on D&D or other RPGs.

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