The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 1)

Monday, March 9, 2009

As part of the ongoing series about Paizo's own Appendix N, I had the opportunity to interview the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder Adventure Path, James Jacobs, about the books and movies that most inspire his own writing. He proved very generous with his time and gave me quite a detailed look into his plan of a "shared mythology" for Pathfinder and the sources that inspired its creation. Once again, the interview proved long enough that I have had to break it into two parts. In this first part, James discusses his literary influences.

David: Although I know you're a huge fan of movies, and horror films in particular, let's discuss books first. Which authors or works have stuck the longest in your mind?

James: H. P. Lovecraft was definitely the biggest inspiration. He's my favorite author, and not just mine: Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Gary Gygax, and others expanded on the themes that he created. Lovecraft didn't want to write about vampires or other classic creatures of horror, as these had become cliché at the time when he was writing, so he created his own pantheon of cosmically horrific, god-like beings. He was particularly successful because he encouraged other authors to use the names he had used. Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and Henry Kuttner were all contemporaries of Lovecraft who communicated with him and were influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos that he created. He also pieced together another pantheon of creatures throughout the works of authors for whom he was a ghostwriter, which expanded the Mythos. So his influence is pretty far-reaching.

This is very much like what's going on with the OGL—here are the base concepts of D&D, and other writers or companies can build and share a single mythology. This is what happened with Lovecraft—his themes of cosmic horror influenced the likes of Stephen King; this was the horror of the ordinary, in which libraries and shacks in the woods could become places of terror. Horror is the main source of my inspiration, and why grisly things are going on in Pathfinder. I like to find authors who can carry on this vision—Nic Logue and Richard Pett being two great examples.

Clive Barker is another big inspiration. My grandma and grandpa introduced me to old horror novels and comics when I was young. I remember reading my grandpa's Vault of the Unknown, Tales of the Unexpected, House of Mysteries, and Beware! My grandma would shove Clive Barker or Stephen King into my hands and tell me, "Read this! You'll enjoy it!" Zon-Kuthon is the most obvious example of Barker's influence on Pathfinder, as he is basically a Cenobite from Hellraiser. As Barker's stories mellowed out and became less gory, they took on a more magical, fantastical tone. In fact, his novel Weaveworld served as a primary inspiration for the demiplane of Kakishon in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #22, "The Edge of Eternity."

It appears that this post has already exceeded the length I was aiming for; the rest of the interview, it seems, must wait for later. In the second installment, James rounds out his discussion of his favorite authors, discusses the fine line between homage and pastiche, and talks about the movies that most influenced his style of game design.

"In space no one can hear you scream."

David Eitelbach
Editorial Intern

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