Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Search of the Unknown

Last night, before bed, I was reading an essay by S.T. Joshi and was shocked to see reference to a title that's all too familiar to me: In Search of the Unknown. Of course, Joshi wasn't referring to the first D&D module I ever owned, Mike Carr's 1978 classic. Rather, he was talking about a 1904 book by Robert W. Chambers (of The King in Yellow fame) that's long since been in the public domain.

Seeing as I'd never heard of it before, I've never read Chambers's In Search of the Unknown, though I plan to rectify that when I have the time to do so. As I understand it, the book is actually a collection of episodic stories about a man seeking out species of animals believed extinct. This being a Chambers book, he naturally finds more than he expected.

I have no idea if Mike Carr was making a reference to this book when he named module B1. My guess is that the similarity of title is merely a coincidence, but it's intriguing nonetheless.

10 comments:

  1. Oddly enough, I just discovered this book today as well, while searching eBay for a copy of B1.

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  2. The story "The Repairer of Reputations" is astonishing.

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  3. This is interesting! I feel like the Appendix N is the "Ur" text for a lot of D&D references. I am thinking of how in Appendix N Gygax recommends Lovecraft. In a lot of Lovecraft's correspondence he talked about Chambers as an important supernatural horror writer, and he also mentions him--and "In Search of the Unknown" specifically--in his famous essay, "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (New York: Dover, 1973). Thus, we can connect this book to D&D in just a couple of steps.

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  4. Great find, James; I hadn't heard of that book before. Interesting also in relation to the title of B2 being similar to The House on the Borderland (1908). I just checked and THotB is also mentioned in the same Lovecraft essay.

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  6. I second the statement that "The Repairer of Reputations" is astonishing to say the least.

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  7. A lot of Chambers output was romances. But he did write some stunning horror stories. Don't get me started on S.T. Joshi, though ;)

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  8. ...the title of B2 being similar to The House on the Borderland (1908).

    I still cherish this idea of using Hodgson's House as a replacement for the Keep, with the caves underneath as the dungeon. I've got to run that one day with Engines & Empires.

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  9. I once asked Gygax if The House on the Borderland had any influence on his title for B2. He essentially shrugged and said "it might have."

    Along these lines, I should also point out the 1972 radio drama "The Fourth Tower of Inverness", which does show at least one clear influence on the AD&D module which partly shares its title.

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