In Memoriam

March 20, 2008 at 1:59 pm (Books, Comics, History, Horror, Languages, Movies, Travel)

It saddens me greatly to think that we have lost two of the greatest minds in the history of science fiction and fantasy in the last two weeks. On March 4, Gary Gygax passed away, and then, just two days ago, Arthur C. Clarke died in Sri Lanka. Arthur C. Clarke, I must confess, never made that significant of an impact on me, although I recognize his influence on the field of science fiction and, frankly, science. I’ve only actually read one of his books, Rama Revealed (which was an excellent novel, although it will also make you loathe the base nature of the human race), and I’ve only seen 2001: A Space Odyssey once. However, he fell into the brilliant class of authors who wrote what is called “hard science fiction,” that is, sci-fi that is firmly tied into what we know/believe to be possible, and was quite a visionary: For example, he was the first person to suggest the system of communication satellites which currently orbit the Earth.

Gary Gygax’ influence on me, however, cannot be understated. Dungeons & Dragons, which I discovered at the ripe old age of 10 via the D&D computer game Pool of Radiance, was a constant throughout my childhood, and even into adulthood. It was the world’s greatest game of make-believe: I could be a hero, a warrior, popular, living in a world that was full of adventure, rewards and happiness, rather than homework, parents and bullies. As I got older, I graduated to White Wolf’s darker games, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and its ilk, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for elven rangers and d20s. When I got to college, I discovered for the first time that I was, in fact, not the only geek in the world, and (God forbid!) that some of them were even encouraged by their parents! Gradually, I quit playing role-playing games, and I don’t want to think how many hundreds of dollars of sourcebooks and manuals are still in my parents’ attic, but if you take a quick glance through my blog posts, you should be able to see that I’m still obsessed with the creepy, the mysterious, and the fantastic. And it’s all Gary Gygax’s fault.

I’ve never subscribed to the belief that the game was in any way evil, destructive or otherwise bad. It was a game. Granted, the time I spent playing D&D could theoretically have been spent outside, playing sports and the like. But, (a) I don’t know that I would have played sports anyway, because I loved reading fantasy and adventure books even before learning about D&D, and (b) look at the role models that athletes are today. I know I’d rather have my kids looking up to King Arthur, or Drizzt Do’Urden, than a steroid-shooting college dropout. Of course, in my adult years, I’ve learned to channel my desires for adventure more productively: I spend a lot of time camping, traveling, and learning spoken languages, not to mention the years of archaeology and dead languages. And, if I’m lucky enough that my own children share my love for the fantastic, I’ll probably try really hard to get them to explore it both in- and out-doors, lest they make what I consider to be some of my own mistakes. But I am absolutely looking forward to the day where I can at least introduce them to the work of both these men, and the other creators in these genres. And, if my kids love it as much as I did, then I intend to support them fully in their own creative explorations.

So, in tribute to both Gygax and Clarke: I hope that what comes next for them is just as incredible as the worlds of the imagination that they helped us create here. And who knows? Maybe I’ll roll a natural 20 on my baby’s stats and find another use for those D&D manuals yet!

1 Comment

  1. marystan said,

    thank you

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