Monday, November 24, 2008

Pulp Fantasy Gallery: Changeling Earth


Gary Gygax specifically cites Fred Saberhagen's 1973 novel Changeling Earth as an influence on AD&D. I find that somewhat odd, given that the novel is in fact the third part of a trilogy (called "The Empire of the East"). It's been years since I read any volume of the series, so I can't quite recall if there's something notable about Changeling Earth that sets it apart from its predecessors in the series or that makes it an obvious inspiration for AD&D. In any case, the "Empire of the East" trilogy is a fun read, a post-apocalyptic swords-and-sorcery romp that mixes magic and technology in a delightful way. If you can find copies of the books, they're well worth reading, not least of which because Saberhagen's prose is in many ways the antithesis of the interminably overwrought verbiage that is so common in fantasy these days.

7 comments:

  1. I read this a few years back because of the Gygax recommendation, not realizing it was the 3rd part of a trilogy (I've since picked up, but not read, the first two parts -- The Broken Lands and The Black Mountains). Solid, fast-moving pulp. I can't recall any specific "Aha!" D&D-influence moments.

    Intriguingly, when asked late in life (mid-late 2007) to list the top 10 influential authors on D&D, Fred Saberhagen made the list in the #10 spot, in place of such seemingly-more-obvious choices as ERB, Gardner Fox, PJ Farmer, and Roger Zelazny. I don't have a link to the list (it was at ENWorld) but I remember the 10 authors on it, pretty much in order (I might have a couple places flipped) -- Howard, Vance, Leiber, Moorcock, de Camp & Pratt, Merritt, HPL, Tolkien, Poul Anderson, and Saberhagen.

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  2. Err, in the second paragraph above Gary Gygax is the list-maker being referred to...

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  3. And more that anything else, that list is really just a snapshot of Gygax's bookshelf at the time. IMO, he composed the list off the top of his head, and so it's value really lies in it being like Gygax's 'Desert Island Novels' of the time. I'd be really interested in hearing what he was reading in the 20 years after he wrote the list.

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  4. Loved it, and of course the Swords books which were a semi-sequel to Empire of the East were themselves based very much on role-playing games, making a neat circle of influences. Saberhagen was a terrific writer and EotE would make a pretty good RPG setting, IMO.

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  5. I read it as part of a one-volume _Empire of the East_ (which means I've never seen that awesome cover before - is it Kelly Freas?), but if I can extrapolate from that & from memory, it isn't until the final third that we get the revelation that this is a post-apocalyptic world where the secret of the ancients is 20th-century military hardware. That, or just the fact that _Changeling Earth_ is a much more memorable title, could be why Gygax gave this volume the nod.

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  6. Sigh, more OOP books to add to the "Wanted" list. Very cool looking stuff. I've read the "Swords" books but not anything else of Saberhagen's. Guess I'm going to have to rectify that...

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  7. And more that anything else, that list is really just a snapshot of Gygax's bookshelf at the time. IMO, he composed the list off the top of his head, and so it's value really lies in it being like Gygax's 'Desert Island Novels' of the time. I'd be really interested in hearing what he was reading in the 20 years after he wrote the list.

    I pinged Gary on this in one of his Q&A threads, awhile ago:
    http://www.enworld.org/forum/3337670-post418.html

    Allan.

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