My cousin Ariel was visiting. She was a whole year older than I was and lived in Manhattan. She was a sophisticated young lady compared to my country mouse self. A couple of years earlier, she had told my parents about some books she thought I would like, books by authors named Tolkien and Lewis. Those books changed my life.
Now, she was telling me about something even more astonishing. Some guys she knew from MIT were playing a new kind of game—a game like the kind we always played. Only they added rules, so anyone could play—not just people who really got along and could come to an agreement about their mutual story.
This game was called Dungeons & Dragons.
Three magical words.
It was a few years before I actually got my hands on a copy of the game. Everything about it was enchanting. It came with dice that were like none anyone had ever seen, and the book! It was solid and filled with art and charts. So many fascinating charts!
Not just in the main text either. The charts ran over into appendixes. There were even charts that let you run an entire campaign just by die throws.
There was one appendix I never paid much attention to. It was a list of books. Books I had read, or had on my to-read list, or knew all about because friends had read them. But the list did make me smile. It’s always nice to discover that someone shares one’s tastes.
Many years later, I began to read references to some guy named Jeffro who was reading and reviewing the Appendix N books. That’s nice, I thought, he’s reviewing those books we’ve all read.
Only, I began to notice something strange…
Jeffro’s reviews were being referred to everywhere and with growing excitement. People were reading them, talking about them, vowing to read Appendix N books themselves. But where was this excitement coming from? What were they so exited about?
It took me an embarrassingly long time to catch on.
Those books “we” had all read?
Apparently, “we” didn’t exist any more.
It was as if I had walked for most of my life through a vast and beautiful valley, full of grand stories that towered over the landscape. As time moved forward, and we crested the hill at whose foot the valley was nestled, these landmarks were clear for all those of like mind to see.
I thought they were permanent, inviolate, eternal.
Then, I looked back and realized that we had crested the hill and could no longer see the valley behind us…and all those beautiful, grand things that I had thought eternal were being forgotten.
Only Jeffro had found them and saved them.
And, suddenly, other younger readers were discovering them, too. They wanted to read stories like these—stories that dazzled the senses, struck the heart, and expanded the mind. They wanted to read them. They wanted to talk about them and, most importantly, they wanted to write them!
Sheerly by accident, in his quest to learn a little more about D&D, Jeffro Johnson had planted the seeds for an entire literary movement
It is as if Jeffro took out his trusty flashlight and set out to explore that forgotten valley behind us, and upon entering one of the neglected, dark mansions there, found in an old steamer trunk not the moldering mound he expected but a treasure far greater than any ever discovered in the lair of a red dragon or a beholder.
Long live Appendix N!