Gaiseric over at The Dark Heritage blog has a great post that sheds some light on the relationship between Appendix N and the fantasy canon as it stood during the mid-seventies:
One point that Jeffro has made repeatedly, but which still seems to bypass the thought processes of many, is that the Appendix N is not meant to be a generic survey of the fantasy genre as it existed in the early 70s—it’s meant to be a specific catalog of works that influenced the design of D&D. This can be seen in the perennial debates about why such and such work was “missing” from the Appendix, such as the aforementioned Clark Ashton Smith, or more infamously, Ursula Le Guin.
To sort this sort of thing out, it sure would be nice if we had similar lists from about the same time period in order to compare them. I’m partial to the fantasy works that were imported to Italy back then. But Gaiseric points out, oddly enough, a coloring book…!
For another take on what the “corpus” of fantasy fiction could have been, to fans of the genre, my own interpretation was heavily influenced by Troubador Press’ Tales of Fantasy. This was published in 1975 completely independently of anything going on in D&D, was meant to be exactly that—a brief take on what the canon was of the fantasy genre. Not that it was meant to be comprehensive, of course, but it was meant to be an initial survey; a list of the ground-breaking works that established the genre, by and large.
Now that’s a nice list there. Pretty cool seeing Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lord Dunsany side by side with the classics!
The thing that strikes me is that Atlantis is a major entry there. A lot of the pulp writers would tie their stuff to that mythical place one way or another. Although H. P. Lovecraft, Manly Wade Wellman, Philip José Farmer, and Edgar Rice Burroughs all treated it as a first class world building element, referencing it seems to have dropped off quite a bit in the past few decades. I think the reason for that is that fantasy used to be much more grounded in history and myth… but today it tends to take place in a distinct Never Never Land with not even a passing connection to the real world.