I want to point out a very common criticism I get. There’s something off about it and I’ve answered parts of this before… but I find it curious that it crops up from people in entirely different domains and from people on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Here are the two latest examples if it:
“He seems to treat the Appendix as an authoritative, sacred canon that defines which books of the period are worth taking a look at instead of just a list of titles that Gygax happened to read and enjoy.” — Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens
“We knew, just as with every other ‘recommended reading list’ in every other RPG book ever, that it was just a list one guy made of books he liked, and was mostly a waste of space. I never saw anyone back then treating it as a list of vital importance, much less venerating as a cultlike object of sacred scripture like some idiots in the modern OSR do.” — RpgPundit
Now… I have to say, these are particularly weak arguments. In the first place, we know now that Appendix was not in fact just Gary’s list. It was also compiled very intentionally to achieve a particular purpose. That purpose has a lot to do with why so many people take the time to go back and revisit the works on it today. So if you’re going to claim it’s a “list of titles that Gygax happened to read and enjoy” or “just a list one guy made of books he liked”, you are simply wrong.
Note also that this type of argument doesn’t address any of my claims or generalizations about the seven decades of science fiction and fantasy which it covers. I’ve made scads of them, some stronger than others. But rather than dig into where exactly I might have gone off the rails, it goes the route of insisting that the subject matter is not worth the effort to dig into in the first place. Then comes the corollary: I must have a cult-like obsession causing me to venerate the list and the books on it. Put it another way they’re saying that (a) there’s nothing to see here and (b) there’s something wrong with you if you investigate this.
The thing about this type of argument is that it’s really, really easy to make. It doesn’t require any knowledge of the subject matter. It doesn’t even require the person to hold and defend the correct perspective on the subject matter. What I wonder about is what kind of audacity it takes to make it. It is really this factor that, above all else, tells you everything you need to know about the person that is most attracted to this sort of thing.
The get some perspective on this, consider this short video about the making of Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues”:
Man, I love that stuff.
I like how when you get that kind of analysis, you pay attention to things on the track that you were never really conscious of before. I like how knowing some of the details actually changes my opinion of the song, too. Is it mind blowing? Well, not necessarily. I guess if you had no idea that these guys had sung songs referencing somebody named “Thelonious” and some group called “Parker’s Band”, then you might be thrown for a loop. If you weren’t aware of the connection between Horace Silver’s “Song for my Father” and Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose This Number”, then yeah… this could potentially open up a huge voyage of discovery for you.
And maybe most people don’t know about any of this, don’t want to know about any of this, and are perfectly happy listening to Steely Dan (if they do at all) without giving one iota of thought to this sort of thing. But can you imagine, though, someone inserting themselves into that particular conversation in order to convey the message that the musicians and songs that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were referencing in their work were just from a few albums that they happened to enjoy and there’s nothing particularly significant about them…?
It would take someone that is particularly ignorant, incurious, and boorish to really pull it off.
I don’t think you see that sort of behavior in the music scene so much. Anyway, I’ve never seen someone get accused of starting a jazz cult, Church of St. John Coltrane notwithstanding. But that sort of thing is practically de rigueur in fantasy, science fiction, and gaming for some reason. These people act as if this type of investigation is threatening somehow– that the field is their personal safe space and people reading and discussing the wrong things will ruin it for them somehow.
It’s weird. It really is. Normal, healthy people simply don’t behave that way.