Friday, 21 May 2021

Vance-Gygax-Hargrave

 


The Anxiety of Influence*

(*Yes, I've read Harold Bloom)

We are often told that Jack Vance was a huge influence of Gygax's vision for D&D. And indeed, reading the three little brown books it's clear that Vance is there in the mix. But it seems to me that Dave Hargrave's creation, Arduin, is much more Dying Earth than D&D straight ever was. It's not just the borrowing of some Vancian creatures (Deodand/Deodanth for example) nor the way in Arduin, every spell is named after the wizard who created it (à la Vance), but more so in the spirit of the world which comes through the writing. Arduin is famously odd and full of humorous eccentricity and absolutely as deadly a place to live as The Dying Earth. Magic in both worlds can propel any character to fantastic heights and then dash him to smithereens in an instant. Both places generate a picaresque feeling of multiple incidents flowing ever onward, all within a slightly off centred world. A place where unless you have your wits about you, a viciously random death is always waiting around the corner.

Deodanths of Arduin

In Arduin as in Vance's world, the astonishing mixes with the mundane in almost equal measure. A casual conversation in the Dancing Termite Inn can easily lead to a sudden adventure in the be-trapped home of a tremendously powerful Rune Weaver magician for example. And everywhere in Arduin there is colour and variety- how many races can players choose from, thirty at least! In the Dying Earth, one might be transported by magic or the whim of a powerful sage to other dimensions (the Overworld and Underworlds) and in Arduin, portals and various meeting places of the dimensions exist to whisk a character off to almost anywhere in the Multiverse.

The Famous Dancing Termite Inn

I don't know if an Appendix N of reading matter and influences exists for Dave Hargrave. But I'll bet Vance would be high up on the list if it did.

Post Script:

One of the great things about blogging is that quite often, you find the answers to the questions you have posed. Thus, I now have been reminded about the bibliography in The Arduin Adventure... and there's no Vance! Mind you, there aren't any other works of fiction either. Hargrave's reading seems mainly of the non-fiction sort. There is a short note 'thanking' several fiction writers however, chief amongst whom is Clark Ashton Smith. I have been told by someone who played at Hargrave's table (thanks CK!) that Dave was indeed a big Dying Earth fan and that he was in contact with Vance and even got an enthusiastic blessing to use the Deodand in Arduin. So there you go.

Now, it's seems about time I read some Ashton-Smith...

2 comments:

  1. Great article, Jon! I thought that I dropped this very incomplete “Appendix N” (below) in the Arduin group but didn’t turn it up. CK is on the money about DAH and Vance, too.
    An Appendix N for David Allen Hargrave
    Compiled by Gabriel Roark on August 16, 2018

    I compiled this list from Hargrave’s The New Arduin Chronicles zine in Alarums & Excursions #51, edited by Lee Gold, November 1979. This issue of The New Arduin Chronicles was unnumbered. Hargrave included a list of favorite fantasy books/stories that another A&E contributor (Richard Lowe Jr.) had implicitly requested of Hargrave in a previous issue of A&E. The list appears on PDF page 113 of A&E #51.


    Anthony, Piers. 1977. A Spell for Chameleon. Ballantine Books/Del Rey Books.


    Daley, Brian. 1977. The Doomfarers of Coramonde.


    ———. 1979. The Starfollowers of Coramonde.


    Dickson, Gordon R. 1976. The Dragon and the George. Doubleday.


    Donaldson, Stephen R. 1977. Lord Foul’s Bane.


    ———. 1978. The Illearth War.


    ———. 1979. The Power that Preserves.


    Howard, Robert E. The Conan series.


    ———. The King Kull series.


    ———. The Cormac Mac Art series.


    Norman, John. 1966. Tarnsman of Gor. Ballantine Books.


    ———. 1967. Outlaw of Gor. Ballantine Books.


    ———. 1968. Priest-Kings of Gor. Ballantine Books.


    Kurtz, Katherine. 1970. Deryni Rising.


    ———. 1972. Deryni Checkmate.


    ———. 1973. High Deryni.


    ———. 1976. Camber of Culdi.


    ———. 1978. Saint Camber.


    Le Guin, Ursula K. 1968. A Wizard of Earthsea. Parnassus Press.


    ———. 1971. The Tombs of Atuan. Atheneum Books.


    ———. 1972. The Farthest Shore. Atheneum Books.


    Moorcock, Michael. The Elric series. Here, I just cite the series because Moorcock started publishing Elric stories as novelettes in Science Fantasy magazine in 1961. The first Elric novel was published in 1972 (Elric of Melnibon√©). It’s hard to know whether Hargrave read the Elric stories in novel form only or in the magazines as well.


    ———. The Dorian Hawkmoon series. This comprises several novels published between 1967 and 1975, inclusive. Like the Elric Saga and R. E. Howard’s various serials, the Hawkmoon novels were published solo, as novellas, and compiled in omnibus volumes. Hence, I make no attempt to isolate the individual works that Hargrave might have read within the series.


    Zelazny, Roger. 1970. Nine Princes in Amber.


    ———. 1972. The Guns of Avalon.


    ———. 1975. Sign of the Unicorn.


    ———. 1976. The Hand of Oberon.


    ———. 1978. The Courts of Chaos.

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    1. Great stuff! Thanks Gabriel.I think I will need to take advantage of your expertise for another post here.

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