Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I am, by most standards, not that old. Reasonably an adult, I grew up well into the twilight years of my preferred gaming systems' lifespan. I missed several of the seminal icons that framed most members of the OSR's opinions on what D&D should be.  But, I also had several of my own. So, in an attempt to balm my ego after a recent birthday, here's some notable examples of what molded my views on what fantasy should be:

Rankin/Bass' "The Hobbit" (1977): We had a VHS of this when I was growing up, and I've watched it dozens of times. Well before I read the book, I had committed the basic story to heart, and it influenced my childhood doodles and writings.
Lesson Learned: Each adventure should feel grand. Dragons should be terrifying. Elves should be alien.

Rankin/Bass' "Flight of Dragons" (1982): Yet another VHS staple (notice a trend here?). The mundane and the magical, an explanation of fantasy, even if the science is a bit silly.
Lesson Learned: Talking animals are cool. Wizards should be mysterious, powerful, and colorful. (This dovetailed with The Hobbit, as I settled on Gandalf the Gray meaning he was a wandering wizard, unlike the four brothers from Flight of Dragons. Silly me).

Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" books: I was a voracious reader as a child, and my parents were yardsaling pros, so I always tagged along to rummage through stacks of books. Burroughs' showed me a vast, exotic vista, painting pictures I can still see clearly. I have a soft spot for tales of heroes and daring-do thanks to this.
Lesson Learned: An appreciation for exotic vistas and strange peoples.

Karl Edgar Wagner's "Night Winds": Wagner's Kane... A grim counterpart to Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.  I started with yet another yardsale find, the short story collection "Night Winds". No single lesson learned from this, but it influenced how I view giants, dark magic, and impressed on me just how miserable it is to be immortal.  (On a side note, my father would later give me a box of his own books, Conan the Barbarian for the most part. Hard to explain

Fred Saberhagen's "Book of Swords": Sci-fantasy at its best, in my opinion. Set in the future, where man has regressed to a feudal society and magic runs rampant, the gods vie for power in a game of chance using 12 magical swords.
Lesson Learned: Make your magic items unique.

Pirates of Dark Water: A cartoon, about the alien world of Mer and the young pirate-prince questing to save it. The series was never finished, but it reeked of the sort of sci-fantasy trappings I'd come to love.

Stephen R. Donaldson's "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Ur-Lord and Unbeliever": Wow, where to start... A cynical spin on the fantasy genre, with a protagonist that was more antagonizing than the villains.  I read the first trilogy in the early nineties, and recently read the second. Tragedy, doubt, melancholy, Donaldson showed me a world and was the first author to really give a sense of looming melancholy in a story I'd read.  I wouldn't feel that same sort of melancholy until years later, when I watched Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards".
Lesson Learned: Further influencing my view on Giants. The general feel of the world.

The Legend of Zelda / Crystalis: Two Nintendo Entertainment System titles that I played through a dozen times. Adventure games, drawing you on through a fantastic world (in Crystalis' sense), that sprawled out, just waiting for you to explore its nooks and crannies (Zelda). Again, no lessons learned here, just impressions and feelings.

Krull/Beastmaster/Gandahar/The Dark Crystal/Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics: No single lesson gleaned from any of these. They just melded together into a sense of tone and scenery.

EDIT: A good friend reminded me of another bit of trivia I'd forgotten.  Choose Your Own Adventure books. The paperback ones with the white binding.

There's several more bits of media that influence a young me (HG Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, more video games than I can shake a stick at.), but those are the ones that stand out the clearest in my mind. It wasn't until recent years that I fell into the influences other people so often claim (Bakshi's Wizards, Heavy Metal Magazine, Moebius, etc.). So, all one of you that reads this blog, what was YOUR formative media?

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