Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A moment of silence this evening

To honor the passing today of Gary Gygax, the father of role-playing gaming, co-creator of the original Dungeons & Dragons, and co-founder of TSR. An entire generation of game designers learned their craft by rolling up characters and mapping out D&D campaigns; as much and as often as I rag on Dragonlance and related books, an entire generation of fantasy writers paid the bills and learned their trade by writing D&D and AD&D spinoff novels. Before D&D heroic fantasy was a tiny and obscure sub-genre populated mostly by pretenders to Conan the Barbarian's throne. After D&D we saw a mind-boggling proliferation of Imitation Tolkiens, which was not an unmixed blessing, but definitely an improvement over that which went before.

I can't recall ever meeting Mr. Gygax in person, although it must have happened; he was a friend of a friend, and our paths crossed many times. I do know that without Mr. Gygax my literary career would have been very different, to say the least. It was the commercial success of D&D that enabled TSR to buy the moribund Amazing Stories magazine in 1982, hire George Scithers away from Asimov's, and put an insane amount of money into the title in an effort to resurrect it and make it the premiere magazine in the field. I don't know that Mr. Gygax was directly involved in that decision; I do know that he was a huge fan of SF and fantasy story-telling, and that it was my selling stories to the TSR incarnation of Amazing in the early 1980's that convinced me I actually was a writer.

And to think that all of this happened just because, forty years ago, a young guy in the little Wisconsin resort town of Lake Geneva got bored with playing Avalon Hill war games, and decided he could write something better...