Mon
Sep 9 2013 3:00pm

Advanced Readings in D&D: Jack Williamson

The Humanoids Jack WilliamsonIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons and Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Welcome to the fourteenth post in the series, featuring a look at The Humanoids by Jack Williamson.

Tim Callahan: Well here’s a sci-fi novel in a classic mold. And yet another author I hadn’t read before. Jack Williamson apparently started his career by mashing up The Three Musketeers with Falstaff in the distant future and launching the crew as The Legion of Space. If you start your writing career that way, I will pay attention to you. (Or, I will once I find out that’s how you started your writing career, anyway.) But we didn’t choose The Legion of Space for our Williamson selection. We chose The Humanoids. I don’t remember why—it was probably one of the first books that popped up under his name when I started looking around for Jack Williamson reading material. But The Humanoids is pretty good—unsettling, ambitious, and maybe a bit messy in the end—and though it suffers from some of the sterility of prose that many Golden Age of Sci-Fi novels suffer from, I found it compulsively readable. It has a paranoid cinematic quality to it. Like a Twilight Zone episode blown out to feature-length and blasted onto the big screen.

Unfortunately, the version of The Humanoids I read also contains the 1947 Jack Williamson short story “With Folded Hands,” which is a thematic precursor to The Humanoids and—this is where the problem comes in—it reads like a really good, tightly-focused, panicked episode of The Twilight Zone, so it makes Williamson’s follow-up in The Humanoids seem bloated and digressive in comparison.

I still enjoyed The Humanoids, but I wonder how I would have felt about it if I didn’t begin by reading “With Folded Hands.” Did you read that Williamson story, or did you just jump right into The Humanoids novel itself?

Mordicai Knode: Honestly I just started and I decided to skip right to The Humanoids. I am so far...well, I’d honestly forgotten that we’d picked it! I am in the middle of reading it, all “wait, so...what, Gary?” Honestly though, I think this goes to the point of what we were saying about Carnellian Cube, doesn’t it? Another “high concept” idea, which is the sort of thing that does successfully translate into an adventure or campaign. I will tell you what though; my overwhelming thought while I read through this is just that it reads like a really long, belabored, maybe paid-by-the-word episode of the Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. That, I think, is probably us being spoiled by living in the future! There wasn’t a Twilight Zone when The Humanoids was written, you know?

Alright, thanks to the miracle of “the way writing works,” I’ve finished! You know what, I actually really like the ending. That is a sort of voice that I imagine existing in a lot of science fiction; the “dissenting opinion.” You know, these days you really only get two straw men fighting over each other: consider Avatar, where you have the magical Dances With Wolves guy being like “no, we should be respectful of others and nature” versus a “no, racism is awesome and I love destroying the environment!” argument. Blah. As a sidebar, while watching Avatar I kept pretending that the Na’vi were actually Xenomorphs; it really made the Bad Military Haircut Guy’s opinions make a lot more sense. In a way, Humanoids is like that. It has layers; maybe the bad guys are right, no the bad guys are the worst, no maybe the bad guys are right, repeat until you reach the end.

TC: This novel does delve into the stuff of Philosophy 101, like those at-the-coffee-house post-seminar conversations where you debate what happiness is, and some guy is all like, “yeah, but what if you could achieve perfect happiness but the cost was being hooked up to a machine pumping happy juice into your brain and you could never leave that room? But you were totally happy, you know?”

That’s what The Humanoids essentially asks—only with robots and freedom fighters and a plot that isn’t as strong as its central conceit.

It really does suffer compared to “With Folded Hands,” which turns the concept into a slow unfolding of terror as the super-helpful, humanity-serving robots methodically force a kind of happy contentment on everyone. Told that way, it’s not really about a “dissenting opinion,” since there’s no one rooting for happiness at the expense of personal freedom in the short story, but Williamson does allow his characters to wrestle with their own issues about what it means to be human.

In The Humanoids they wrestle with that, and with the notion of liberty, and with the threat of the inhumanity of the machine (even if the machine will do what is in the best interest of humanity, coldly speaking).

It’s a classic sci-fi concept. It’s a classic literary concept. My son is in middle school and he’s just starting to get to the point where his English teacher will expect some kind of literary analysis (even if its relatively simplistic) as they read books, and I clued him in on the secret of literature: it’s almost always about the individual trying to break away from some kind of system. He laughed when I told him that and said, “I’m not a part of your system!” in reference to the Lonely Islands song “Threw it on the Ground.” But it’s true. That’s what that song’s about. That’s what The Humanoids is about. That’s what life’s about.

MK: That video cracks me up, the one for “Threw It On the Ground.” Good times. Anyhow, I’ve heard it said that there are two different dystopias that the world needs to worry about: the 1984 dystopia where you need to worry about things being taken away from you, and the Brave New World dystopia where you need to worry about things being given to you. Which is a fine moral to a story, an interesting observation that says a lot about, you know, consumerism and advertising or whatever—sure—I’m just unclear on how it relates to Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, you could have a whole campaign about golems or Inevitables or Modrons and co-opt the plot from this book, but I think that is a stretch.

Maybe the lesson you could learn from this book is that making hugely flawed characters is more interesting than making banal superhuman heroes who laugh in the face of danger and never give into the temptation to pry the ruby eyes out of the idol of Fraz-Urb’luu?

TC: Yeah, I don’t see the Dungeons and Dragons link at all, and I am pretty darn sure Gary Gygax didn’t have any Modrons in mind when he generated his list of fave books. The Modrons are wonderful and all—who doesn’t like Rubik the Amazing Cube mashed up with Mr. Spock—but they aren’t central to early D&D. Or any D&D. Ever.

But, to be fair, Appendix N doesn’t specifically name The Humanoids as an influence, but mentions Jack Williamson in general. Probably his pulpier early stuff was what Gygax had had in mind. In retrospect, we should have read the Legion of Musketeers in Space with Falstaff and Friends book. But something called The Humanoids sounds like D&D from a distance. If you squint. And don’t read the back of the book.

MK: Oh man, now I am sort of thinking about the parallel universe where we read Legion of Musketeers in Space with Falstaff and Friends because dang, that is a hell of a title. Still, we picked this up because it seemed like the most germane Williamson, and that says something about the state of pulps, fantasy, and science fiction at the time. People like Williamson were jumping between genre helter-skelter; is it any wonder so much of the early Dungeons and Dragons stuff was similarly all over the map, in terms of tone and material? Spaceships, cowboys, Alice in Wonderland, whatever! Everything was coming from a contextual smorgasbord.

TC: And yet Dungeons and Dragons, devouring that smorgasbord, ended up inspiring countless bland, sterile high-fantasy worlds. Somewhere along the way, everything just became codified into a too-familiar system of signs and signifiers. But we can’t blame Jack Williamson for that. He was warning us about the perils of...the machine!


Tim Callahan usually writes about comics and Mordicai Knode usually writes about games. They both play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons.

48 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
Sometimes we...are bad at picking representative samples that directly tie into DnD. That said, I mean, I know there is an "evil alien robot race" in MY RPG campaign at least. The Inorganics! They are like what would happen if you mixed Chaos Marines with Cylons, I guess.
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
2. hoopmanjh
"if you mixed Chaos Marines with Cylons" is the most terrifying thing I'm likely to read today.

Having said that, and admitting that I haven't read a lot of Williamson myself, I wonder if Gygax might have been thinking of things like http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/898069.The_Reign_of_Wizardry?from_search=true or
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/898023.Golden_Blood?from_search=true
or even
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/845651.Darker_Than_You_Think?from_search=true.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
Darker Than You Think is very probably closer to what Gygax was thinking: shapeshifters in Outer Mongolia comes a lot closer to D&D subject matter. But Williamson's career was so vast and so varied with so many collaborators, that's not easy to say what actually inspired him. After all, the man had close to 50 years worth of material at that point (and another 30 ahead of him). Still, I would say you chose... poorly.
Derek Broughton
4. auspex
Songs… what life's all about… "Carburetors, man!"

Oh, who even remembers carburetors….

FWIW, Williamson was a frequent collaborator with the late, but very recently departed, Fred Pohl. Not that I recall any of their collaborations being D&D-stuff.
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
2. hoopmanjh

Oh yeah man, they are the worst; the Inorganics are the pits. You know that episode of BSG, "Valley of Darkness," where a boarding party of six cylons almost waste the whole ship, BECAUSE THEY ARE MADE OF METAL & HAVE GUNS & KNIVES INSTEAD OF HANDS? Yeah, like that, only also, they are into messed up black magic stuff, like bad bad bad Cthulhu stuff.

Anyhow, luckily they are mostly all ruined. Which makes them like the creepy Cyberman head in "The Pandorica Opens," or like Jonas in Book of the New Sun...which is to say, they are broken robots but human parts would make compatible jury-rigged parts for repair...

3. DemetriosX

I was JUST watching Crusade at the gym yesterday! But yes, you see our confusion...there is a LOT to pick from!

4. auspex

"& get your foot off that blasted samoflange!"
Walker White
6. Walker
And yet Dungeons and Dragons, devouring that smorgasbord, ended up inspiring countless bland, sterile high-fantasy worlds. Somewhere along the way, everything just became codified into a too-familiar system of signs and signifiers
This is the fault of the early modules. Remember that when D&D hit 3rd wave (what they call the post-brown book, mass produced rule sets), it was unleashed on a huge audience that had never seen anything like this before. Most of the audience had not even been exposed to the wargaming roots. They certainly had no idea how an adventure was supposed to be run. So those early modules were key to the growth of the hobby. They gave even the most mediocre DM a template to work off of.

While it is true that Gygax did a lot of genre mix-ups, those modules were often released later in the hobby (Land Beyond the Magic Mirror is 1983!) The only successful cross-genre module early on is Barrier Peaks. And that module, with its Gamma World style rules, really did more to drive a wedge between genres than unify them.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
6. Walker

You know, I adore Barrier Peaks but I never actually PLAYED it.
Colin Bell
8. SchuylerH
@Mordicai & Callahan: Yes, you really picked the wrong book there. Darker Than You Think uses some classic, pseudoscientific world-building, to create a convincing secret history where humans are pitted against shapeshifters. Instead, you went with the expansion of Williamson's "health and safety GONE MAD!" story.

Williamson was mostly an author of space opera and Hard SF, though looking through his bibliography a good number of fantasy stories do appear, often pastiches of A. Merritt.
Walker White
9. Walker
7. modicai

I have. Both in the 80s and the 00s (the old modules work quite well with 3rd, but not so well with 4th). The advantage of begin a club advisor is that you continually get new gamers who have never seen the old material.

The problem is that the power weapons are treated separately (with the Gamma World style learning charts) instead of just as magic items (which they essentially are). In addition, they are not balanced with magic items of that level (compare the power weapons with the meager offerings in Inverness or Tomb of Horrors).

So the first thing everyone does is try to raid the Police Station. As a result, everyone comes away from Barrier Peaks thinking tech is overpowered and cannot work in D&D. Which is ridiculous, of course.
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
9. Walker

Aw man that is a bummer...but it makes me totally want to run my weird fantasy game as a long, minicampaign where they go to collect the ancient mecha of once upon a time...(tm)

I just played in The Temple of Elemental Evil, & I got pretty good loot, but I really had to hustle for it. Like getting the earth titan to use shape metal to make a +3 frost sword into a +3 frost bow. & stealing a dead dwarven king's (it was a gift of friendship) cloak of elvenking, & finding the assassin who almost killed me & killing him in return to take his +3 elven chain. Oh man & the medallion of ESP had some crazy chain letter curse on it. I only had like 29 hit points at 10th level. I was fragile. & also I had a family of myconids & sentient slimes that I was going to start a new kingdom with. Because before we killed Zuggtmoy I stole the portfolio element of "Queens of Slimes & Fungi" from her by sitting on the gold throne that grants apotheosis with the godhead.
Walker White
11. Walker
@10 mordicai

Gygax was fairly low magic in the early modules. You would never find a wand with more than 6 or so charges, and you had to be high level for that. The only Gygax dungeon that has too much power is Barrier Peaks. It is a Monty Hall dream.

Item power creep came later in the hobby. Largely (I am convinced) because the XP availability at name level falls off a cliff, and so you have to use item proxies in place of leveling.
JonLundy
12. JonLundy
I can't say that I think Williamson had much influence over D&D, however I will note that one D&D monster certainly comes from 'The Legion of Space'. The Grell is a dead on copy of the brain monsters from that novel:

http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1263180183l/898092.jpg
Mordicai Knode
13. mordicai
11. Walker

Personally I'm a believer in two kinds of magic items. I think there is precedent for the sort of "DnD haul" of items; heck, the Fellowship is all "& then we all got magic cloaks & a unique wonderous item!" after "hey Strider got us some magic daggers!" or "hey my weird rich uncle left me some magic chain mail & a magic sword!"

Personally I think it is escalating pluses that are the problem, since it indebts you to "trade up" & to scatter more magic in the dungeons & if you are a DM.

12. JonLundy

One question: do they have lightning guns? I'm of the opinion that Grell with lightning guns are like 100 times better than just plain Grell. There are plenty of brain monsters & tentacle monsters already, but lightning guns adds a new dimension.
Colin Bell
14. SchuylerH
@13: As I remember, they had this kind of gas projectile which turned people into crazed cannibals but no lightning guns that I can recall.
Mordicai Knode
15. mordicai
14. SchuylerH

Um, gas guns that incite insanity are a totally acceptable alternative & now when I have Grell in a game I will totally give some of them "confusion gas" guns along with the ones I give lightning guns. Basically I just want them to be UFO dudes, Lovecraftian UFO dudes but slightly more UFO than usual for Lovecraftian. More Mi-Go & less Kadath-weird or extra-dimensional.
Colin Bell
16. SchuylerH
@15: If that's the kind of thing you're looking for, it might be worth strip-mining Doc Smith's Lensman saga.

For weird aliens, C. L. Moore's stories of Northwest Smith might also be of interest.
James Nicoll
17. James Davis Nicoll
Jack Williamson apparently started his career by mashing up The Three Musketeers with Falstaff in the distant future and launching the crew as The Legion of Space.

Actually, by the time he did the first Legion of Space story, I think he'd been getting published for six years. Of course, from our perspective after the end of his nearly 80-year-career, that looks like the beginning but it's a bit like claiming JK Rowling got her start with The Casual Vacancy. His first story was "The Metal Man" and I know you will know what I mean when I say it was a very A. Merritt sort of story, not much like his later slam bang stuff.
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
18. hoopmanjh
@15 -- What happens when the Grell start wearing the Chaos Marine Cylon suits?
Colin Bell
19. SchuylerH
@17: Novels published before The Legion of Space include The Green Girl and Golden Blood, which also lean towards fantasy.
James Nicoll
20. James Davis Nicoll

Unfortunately, the version of The Humanoids I read also contains the 1947 Jack Williamson short story “With Folded Hands,” which is a thematic precursor to The Humanoids and—this is where the problem comes in—it reads like a really good, tightly-focused, panicked episode of The Twilight Zone, so it makes Williamson’s follow-up in The Humanoids seem bloated and digressive in comparison.

This is because The Humanoids *is* bloated and digressive compared to "With Folded Hands." Let this be a lesson to all SpecFic authors: sequels or expansions of tightly plotted novellas are almost always a bad idea.

Mordicai Knode
21. mordicai
16. SchuylerH

I DEFINITELY should read Lensmen, I know this to be true.

18. hoopmanjh

You're thinking of the Charioteers, who are a different matter entirely; they are just panhumans that have been mutated by exposure to the Celestial Pollen...

20. James Davis Nicoll

I take it you aren't a Dickens man...
Joe G
22. joeinformatico
@ #6 Walker:

The same year as Barrier Peaks TSR also published Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Q1), which had its climax in Lolth's giant mechanical spider-ship. But I digress.

The way some of the grognards talk, we can probably blame Tracy Hickman and his posse for the death of genre mashup in D&D as well. Actually, there might be a smidgen of truth to that. In the post-Sword of Shannara world, authors like Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and Raymond E. Feist were dominating fantasy literature with long Tolkien-esque epics that defined the genre for decades to come. The first truly successful D&D novels were Hickman & Margaret Weis' Dragonlance books, also relatively faithful to the Tolkien model. And the only technologists of that setting, the tinker gnomes, were universally incompetent and played for comic relief. Most of the Forgotten Realms adaptations that followed, while closer to sword & sorcery than epic fantasy, still followed the Dragonlance example, and these--alongside the SSI computer games inspired by them--were the foundation for my generation of D&D players (ca. late 80s/early 90s).
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
22. joeinformatico

Heck, I'm pretty sure that is my generation.
James Nicoll
24. James Davis Nicoll
What would fit better into D&D, although I strongly doubt it was what Gygax had in mind, is Pohl and Williamson's Farthest Star. The focus of the book is a 4 solar mass, 2 AU diameter space craft, presumably with a star at the center, headed at the Milky Way at, um, 1/6 C, I think. While the surface gravity of the object is low, the escape velocity is high and it can hold on to an atmosphere. There are ecosystems living off energy piped up from below.

There are native humans, transported to the object ages ago, but most of the focus is on visitors. They get there via what amounts to an Xerox machine connected to an FTL radio: the originals don't go anywhere and their duplicates can never go home. Because the fates of the duplicates are utterly unconnected to what happens to the originals, the originals are quite casual about sending copies into near certain death. What, Ben Frank Pertin got eaten by fungus? Run off Ben George Pertin and see how long he lasts....

(Same basic mechanism behind Crushed: The Doomed Kitty, come to think of it)
Mordicai Knode
25. mordicai
24. James Davis Nicoll

That also sounds a lot like Paranoia to me. I'm great at Paranoia; both in a circumlocutory way of speaking that tricks other PCs into seeming like they are admitting to being mutants or whatever, & at a circumlocutory way of speaking that makes me realize I just admitted to being a mutant or in a secret society or whatever. "My apologies. Perhaps my next clone will do better. ZAAAAP!"
Colin Bell
27. SchuylerH
@26: I see your Farthest Star and raise you Rogue Moon...
Tim Eagon
28. Tim_Eagon
Interestingly, the demotion of the genre-mashup adventure in the 1980s was more of a 1e AD&D thing (I think it has to do with creative turn-over at TSR, in particular Gary Gygax); BECMI D&D continued to release adventures with science-fiction elements such as The Temple of the Frog, Where Chaos Reigns, Earthshaker!, and the Immortal Storm well into the mid-1980s. For AD&D, that kind of adventure seemed to get relegated to Dragon and later Dungeon.
Mordicai Knode
29. mordicai
26. James Davis Nicoll

Well sure; I tend to assume everything we read here predates & inspires the games we like...which is what made Andre Norton such an interesting case, since she is contemporary & involved with the start of the hobby & the game. Fun fun fun!

28. Tim_Eagon

Genre mash-up-- or even better, genre mash-ups that you then reskin to seem cosmetically genre-- are my sweet spot, my zone.
James Nicoll
30. James Davis Nicoll
As it happens, despite running a game store for nearly 20 years I do not and never have owned the 1st edition stuff. Is the list of authors available somewhere? I did check to see if you addressed this at the beginning of this series.
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
Pulling from this webpage:

Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN
SWORD
Bellairs, John: THE FACE IN THE FROST
Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: "Pellucidar" series; Mars series; Venus series
Carter, Lin: "World's End" series
de Camp, L. Sprague: LEST DARKNESS FALL; THE FALLIBLE FIEND; et al
de Camp & Pratt: "Harold Shea" series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August
Dunsany, Lord
Farmer, P. J.: "The World of the Tiers" series; et al
Fox, Gardner: "Kothar" series; "Kyrik" series; et al
Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO'S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Merritt, A.: CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" series (esp. the
first three books)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
St. Clair, Margaret: THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manley Wade
Williamson, Jack
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" series; et al
James Nicoll
32. James Davis Nicoll
Thank you. And you have left

Bellairs, John: THE FACE IN THE FROST
Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Carter, Lin: "World's End" series
Dunsany, Lord
Farmer, P. J.: "The World of the Tiers" series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Merritt, A.: CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
St. Clair, Margaret: THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manly Wade?

Ignoring the ones where the book is specified:

Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Dunsany, Lord
Lovecraft, H. P.
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manly Wade?

Hmm. NESFA is going to be your friend with Brown.
For Brackett, look to Paizo Publishing's Planet Stories. Dunsany, not sure (not my thing), Lovecraft exists in a million zillion editions , Weinbaum had at least one book from Tachyon (almost 20 years ago, though) and is at Gutenberg, and Wellman is at Gutenberg and I think had a recent(ish) run from Nightshade Books.

For Weinbaum, though, I'd push for the Ballantine Best of from the 1970s. If you can find a copy.

1: Standard "Old Howard was more virulently xenophobic and racist than you may imagine. No, more than that. No, more than *that*" warning.
Mordicai Knode
33. mordicai
32. James Davis Nicoll

The list looks longer & longer every time I look at it!
James Nicoll
34. James Davis Nicoll
When I listen to old radio archives, I listen to all of them. There are some shows I won't start because the committment is just too damn big: CBS Radio Mystery Theater has 1399 episodes! That's 700 days of listening!
James Nicoll
35. James Davis Nicoll
Ballantine Best of from the 1970s

Ballantine and later Del Rey had some great retrospective series. Their Best Of books were great and so was Lin Carter's Adult Fantasy series. In many way the 1970s were a great time to discover F&SF.
Colin Bell
36. SchuylerH
@32: They also did some Wellman at Paizo, including Who Fears the Devil? while I would presume that Wildside's 2008 A Martian Odyssey, containing his public domain stories, is the most recent available Weinbaum. The 2004 Penguin Classic In the Land of Time, edited by S. T. Joshi, is a Dunsany retrospective.
David Levinson
37. DemetriosX
There isn't much in the way of Wellman at Gutenberg. The Paizo is the complete Silver John, IIRC, and could be what Gygax had in mind. That or some of his other fantasies.

There's plenty of Dunsany at Gutenberg, so he shouldn't be too hard to track down. I would say, however, stay away from The King of Elfland's Daughter, even if it does look like it fits with the D&D theme best. It seems to be a book you either love or hate and based on your reactions to some other things, I suspect you'd both come down on hate. A Dreamer's Tales is nice and short, though I'd suggest The Gods of Pegana, myself.

Some of those other authors might be hard to track down. Good luck.
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
38. hoopmanjh
Many of the Dunsany collections are also available free on Kindle -- I'm assuming they're sourced from Gutenberg.

Myself, I'd probably lean more towards Dreamer's Tales than Pegana, again based on some of the previous reactions. Pegana is a kind of constructed mythology, almost like a fictional version of the Bible or of Greek myths, while the stories in Dreamer's Tales are a little more conventionally structured.

I recently picked up a copy of Margaret St. Clair's Shadow People -- still haven't read it yet, but she was the only Appendix N author I didn't have somewhere in my collection.
Colin Bell
39. SchuylerH
@37: The two Wellman stories at Gutenberg are "The Devil's Asteroid", a minor space opera and "The Golgotha Dancers", a minor fantasy. Who Fears the Devil? is probably the best.

@38: I'm not sure whether the re-read is limited to physical copies or not but I would agree, A Dreamer's Tales is more accessible.
James Nicoll
40. James Davis Nicoll
Dibs on quoting the back cover copy from SIGN OF THE LABRYS if that gets read.
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
42. hoopmanjh
Gods, Men and Ghosts, a collection from Dover

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0486228088/sr=/qid=/ref=olp_tab_used?ie=UTF8&colid=&coliid=&condition=used&me=&qid=&seller=&sr=

was actually my first introduction to Dunsany -- it has a nice sampling of his fiction, and even includes some of the Sime illustrations.
Colin Bell
43. SchuylerH
@42: Looks like a good selection. Also worth considering (and from around the same time) are At the Edge of the World, Beyond the Fields We Know and Over the Hills and Far Away, three volumes of Lin Carter's picks for Ballantine. There's also the more recent Gollancz omnibus Time and the Gods, which includes the complete contents of six early collections.
Mordicai Knode
44. mordicai
Oh man I am so excited to be getting all these tips & insights, this is super helpful guys! Yay spontaneous online communities!
JonLundy
45. Kirth Girthsome
I recently got my hands on Williamson's Reign of Wizardry at a library book sale, it's probably the book Gary had in mind.

The book is a retelling of the Theseus and the Minotaur myth

**HERE BE SPOILERS**

with, alas, no Minotaur, and featuring Talos as the main heavy.
Mordicai Knode
46. mordicai
45. Kirth Girthsome

Spoiler question follows in white, highlight to read:

Is Talos at least a golem or a robot made out of brass?
Colin Bell
47. SchuylerH
@46: Talos is, I think, a brass robot powered by magical fire in Williamson's novel.
Mordicai Knode
48. mordicai
47. SchuylerH

Yeah, that's my jam man, right on. Brass Golems should be part of the standard set, if you ask me. (& there are some sweet "taloses" in Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, just sayin'...)

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