Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gygax Memorial Planned

The Janesville Gazette reports that Gail Gygax will be seeking the permission of the Lake Geneva Park Board to erect a statue Library Park to honor the memory of her deceased husband, Gary. The article also notes that funds for the project will be obtained in a variety of ways, including the auctioning off of some of Gygax's personal items, including "original manuscripts." I have to admit that I feel a little uncomfortable with this idea. I hope that none of the manuscripts being auctioned have any real historical significance. As Indiana Jones might say, those belong in a museum, or at least a library, where they can be archived for the reference of future scholars.

I know it's fashionable nowadays to mock all the reverence for Gygax in the old school community, but I think anyone who takes the time to think about it must concede that Gary was in fact an extremely influential figure in recent history. His ideas and writings laid the groundwork for so much of our popular culture that it's easy to dismiss such claims as mere hyperbole; it's not, because Gary really did change the world. That's why I'd much rather see his original manuscripts in the hands of institutions of learning rather than in private hands, where they might never be seen by those of us who are trying to piece together a history of the hobby. Besides, I suspect Gygax has enough admirers who'd be willing to help defer the costs of this memorial that such an auction would be unnecessary. At least I hope that's the case.


  1. Well, to be honest, Gary had always said his craft was "not Art", and was dismissive of the pompous nature of those who thought role playing was a "high art", and he called his novels "potboilers". So I believe he would not want his stuff preserved in a museum.

    Besides, what "institutions" would handle the RPG in a tasteful way? There's not a lot out there I think. Maybe the Smithsonian, but who knows.

    Auctions are a legitimate way of getting money. David Sutherland III was able to get some good money for some originals he had. I can see this as a fundraiser for a good cause. I think getting a statue/memorial might cost upwards of 1 million dollars. Gary wrote a lot, and I think asking for all his manuscripts to be preserved would be the same as asking all of Jack Kirby's originals to be placed in a museum.

    I doubt Gail is selling unpublished stuff, but rather something, like, (just speaking hypothetically) the original Tomb of Horrors manuscript. It's not like gamers will be denied since that module is still classic and WoTC has found many ways to make the module see print it its original format in the past.

  2. "...I believe he would not want his stuff preserved in a museum."

    Artists are often the worst judges of their own work--especially self-deferential ones.

    I hope there's no need to auction his work, but if it has to be sold, I hope it finds the right home. Maybe someone who can even preserve it and not just toss it in storage.

  3. If there's any justice in the world, he statue will be Gary sitting cross-legged on a gigantic d6..... 8)

  4. And loaded with dastardly traps!

  5. Gary was an outstanding thinker, he deserves a memorial. Will they create something adequate? I doubt unless there is a talented sculptor out there willing to work pro bono or the generous folks at WoTC will give a good donation...

  6. Steve. "And loaded with dastardly traps!"

    That would be so awesome if there was a hidden pit with a trapdoor infront of the statue, or maybe a crossbow trap!

  7. "That would be so awesome if there was a hidden pit with a trapdoor infront of the statue, or maybe a crossbow trap!"

    I'd be happy with just some jets that shot water out of the pips at onlookers occasionally.

    In your mind's eye, of course, it's acid/lava/green slime.

  8. That statue is going to be pretty darn expensive. Those gigantic rubies set into the eye sockets alone have to be worth a good ten grand each.

  9. Worst case we could form an OSR preservation non-profit to buy them in auction and get them into the appropriate institution as a donation/loan.

    I'd be happy to donate directly to avoid the auction or help fund the non-profit.

  10. Agreed, James. Gygax's legacy is far larger than those who do appreciate it realize, and FAR larger than those who don't appreciate it would imagine or like it to be. All too often I've heard people dismiss his contributions because "Someone else would've done it eventually, anyway."

    You know what? Someone else DIDN'T do it. He did. And the man (along with Dave) deserves credit for being the one(s) TO do it.

  11. If the monument were to incorporate any trap, it should be the demon with the gaping mouth from the Tomb of Horrors. (No saving throw!)

  12. There is a Role Playing Game Museum already, cehck out his website! Google it.

  13. I'm an artist, and can tell you that the cost of a life-sized cast bronze statute of a specific person tends to run at about $100,000 with installation. That doesn't pay for the ground it's on, or the paperwork, or the artists commission, just the cost of carving the piece, casting it, and sticking it in the ground.

    Mind you, that's for a statue of a human being. A gigantic d20 balanced on point, or a memorial plaque on a bench will differ significantly.

    As for Gygax's effects winding up in a museum or whatever... I've pushed out a few feelers towards institutions which might be interested in receiving my www.plagmada.org project when the time comes. Everyone I contacted responded with enthusiasm.

    I, personally, would recommend the Bienecke Library at Yale University. Not only are they one of the better rare book libraries in the world, they are also making an effort to put the collection on line. Accessibility is key.

  14. Quite frankly, I am surprised that the Smithsonian and GenCon never got their act together to celebrate the 30th anniversary...I guess it is something for the 40th.

    As a librarian, I see there is a whole raft of "studies in gaming" beginning to appear. So, it is only a matter of time before someone who is doing a Masters in Museum Studies will take our hobby and enshrine it.

    I got the sense from Gary, when I met him, that he was like Lenin who asked never a statue be erected of him because: "statues only attract pigeons" but if there would be a statue to the gamer in Lake Geneva, I think, he would be quietly amused.

  15. The Chicago Tribune this weekend mentioned the statue, and was somewhat pessimistic that the Lake Geneva council would permit it. They are reputed to be touchy about putting anything by the lakeside.