Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gardner F. Fox - My Favorite D&D Author

Over at Grognardia yesterday James discusses the Fox short story that appeared in the first issue of Dragon magazine. Shadow of a Demon was a fun, simple, straightforward Sword & Sorcery adventure and I think for many it set the tone of what heroic fantasy D&D gaming should be.

While Appendix N points out many D&D influences, for me, Gardner F. Fox's Kyrik and Kothar novels stand at the top of the list. Although Fox is clearly writing as a pastiche to Robert E. Howard, and as much as I love Howard's writing, it is too...serious? For D&D gaming in my book.  On the other hand, Fox's stories always have a touch of the wink and a nod needed in order to translate better to the tabletop. They are lighter fare, to be sure, but I feel that they have a certain "fun" quality to them that represents better the light banter, in-jokes, and other tomfoolery that takes place at the average D&D gaming table.

This is one of the major reasons why, when I wrote NANOK and the Tower of Sorrows, I was channeling Fox much more than Howard or any other pulp fantasy author. I wanted NANOK to be fun, to illicit a laugh or three, and I picture readers who "get" the humor of the story reading it with a smile on their face the entire time. As much as I enjoy reading Howard's works, I don't know if I would really consider them "fun" in a humorous sense; the man channeled a little too much of himself into the stories for that to be possible.

If you haven't ever read Fox's Kothar or Kyrik novels, give them a chance. You can find 'em on Amazon for a few bucks, and as they certainly aren't publishing them anymore, it's only going to get harder as time goes on.  Sadly, these would be perfect fodder for someone's e-reader, but I doubt anyone even knows where the publishing rights for these stories are anymore, never mind who'd be willing to put them through the eBook conversion process.

Because they were a while ago, here are links to all of my Kothar reviews:

Revisiting Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman

Review of Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman

Kothar and the Demon Queen

Kothar and the Magic Sword


Runjikol said...

Hi Jack,
Haven't read any of this genre, but I imagine there's a market for it in the e-publishing world. Especially short stories (sub 200pgs.) since that niche is practically empty and I often hear people complaining about a books epic thickness/page-count. I'm curious about your sales with Nanok. If you'd care to share send me an e-mail.

Jack Badelaire said...

I think the sweet spot for e-fiction in these sorts of genres is the 20-50K range. A bit more than a "short story", a little less than a "novel", right in the light to mid-weight novella range. This is the sort of length you can finish in a lazy weekend afternoon or over the course of a few workday lunch breaks or daily mass transit commutes.

The best example of these I can point to right now is Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin's THE DEAD MAN series of short thrillers. These started about a year ago, and quickly became so successful that Amazon actually agreed to a publishing deal. A guest author is brought in to pen each story, and while they have an over-arching storyline, each is episodic enough that it can be enjoyed for its own merits.