Gary Gygax: Remembered

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The galley proofs for Gary Gygax's novel, The Samarkand Solution, are sitting on my desk right now, ready for the final check-off before we send the book to the printer. Sitting above my desk, packed into little cardboard sleeves, are dozens of copies of Dragon, the original RPG magazine for which Gygax served as publisher in its earliest days. Until recently, I served as publisher of that magazine, and it always made me proud to know I was following in Gary Gygax's august footsteps.

Gary died this morning in his sleep, bringing to an end a decades-spanning career that created an industry and brought joy to millions of people. The game he created with Dave Arneson&Dungeons & Dragons&has had a more profound influence upon my life than any other factor save my family, and his passing has affected me deeply.

When I was a kid growing up with D&D, Gygax's name was on the cover of just about every official product. He wrote the best adventure modules, he set the template for all future campaign settings with the World of Greyhawk, and perhaps most importantly he introduced a generation of kids to a game that was more than a game. I've met many of my closest friends in the span of my entire life because of Gary Gygax.

Last year, I launched Planet Stories, a line of fantasy and science-fiction trade paperbacks aimed at reprinting some of the classic works of sword & sorcery that inspired Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy gaming in general. In the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, a fascinating work that surely serves as Gygax's masterpiece, Gary thoughtfully included Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading, a list that included such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Jack Vance, and more.

So in addition to my friends and my career, I also owe Gary Gygax an unpayable debt of gratitude for introducing me to the greatest fantasists who ever lived and a lifetime of excellent reading. Planet Stories is, in some small sense, my attempt to repay that debt by bringing many of these fine authors back into print to be enjoyed again. Like Paizo Publishing itself, Planet Stories exists because of Gary Gygax. I chose to honor Gary by including several of his own exciting fantasy novels in the Planet Stories line, including the imprint's very first release, The Anubis Murders.

It was the release of The Anubis Murders at last year's Gen Con Indy that brought me and Gary together for the last time. As the show's Guest of Honor, Gygax had more than a full schedule, but he was able to carve out a couple of hours a day to sit at the Paizo booth and sign autographs of his book while sharing thoughts and memories with his fans. And the stories those fans told were just incredible. For a full hour I listened as gamer after gamer approached Gary and told a variation of the exact same story: "Thank you for a game that has brought me so much joy. Thank you for a game that has brought me so many friends. Thank you for making such a positive impact on my life."

Sitting next to Gary at last year's Gen Con made me realize what a huge cultural impact Gary Gygax had made on all of us. Never before have I seen such honest appreciation. Never before had I been so moved and so proud to be working with a man who had made such an impact on my life. On all of our lives.

When a friend passes away, it is easy to be sad, to think about what might have been had he lived another year, another ten years. But my friends, I am here to tell you that Gary Gygax knew what a difference he had made in all of our lives, and he was proud to have made it.

Not bad for a life's work.

I'll miss you, Gary Gygax. We all will. Goodbye, my friend.

And thank you.

Erik Mona
Paizo Publisher

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Tags: Appendix N Gary Gygax Planet Stories Portraits
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