Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Empire of Imagination


Last week I ordered a copy of Empire of the Imagination, I received it today.  I'll admit I am not all that interested in the history of the game.  Some folks do timelines of what came first and what led to what and so on.  Most of us who game are fairly versed in history of all types, but I've never taken the time or had the interest to read about how the game evolved.  But this book tells it from a different perspective.  I get a semi-accurate peek into how it evolved from the view of Gary Gygax.

I haven't read any previews or do I have any background on how accurate it is.  The author states in his introduction...
While to story's narrative is based on extensive research and interview process, I have also used a bit of imagination and informed judgement to fill in the gaps of this dynamic, yet largely unknown story, making it as complete and cohesive as possible.  In many cases, scenes and dialogue have been recreated, combined and in some instances imagined to best support the documentary record. 
I'm cool with that.  I read a small portion in the bookstore and I liked it so I ordered it.  And besides, its a book about the EGG, it wouldn't be right if some imagination wasn't involved.

Anyway, going to tuck in for the night and read some pages.  

8 comments:

  1. You'll have to let us know how it is. I've heard mixed things.

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  2. Nothing better than a new book, the fresh smell of new ink?

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  3. " In many cases, scenes and dialogue have been recreated, combined and in some instances imagined to best support the documentary record. "

    In fiction, that's great. In non-fiction . . . I'll pass. I'm curious how it is, but I don't want to read re-imagined stuff and then have to sort the real stuff from the made-up later stuff.

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    1. A player left me a copy from the local library. It's fairly heavily footnoted, at least in the small portion I've read so far. I suspect it is mostly just tied together either to fill in the gaps or to launch to side topics. I'm only a couple dozen pages in, but it will recount the story of Gary getting his first pulp magazine from his father, which is documented, but present it as a story to bind together a bunch of other information: how his father limped because of an accident that left one leg shorter than the other, what Gary's reading habits were prior and after this point, etc. They are based on several different sources because Gary's memory for dates was notoriously incorrect and varied from interview to interview (something I can identify with), so they are often corrected by factual information and documents of the era.

      It reads (so far; I am only a bit into it) as a bunch of meticulously researched trivia surrounding an interesting event written as a short story. Each event so far tends to be short, a few only a couple pages long, but it is building a window. I look forward to actually sitting down and digging into it.

      To give an idea, it does have a 50 page section at the end of references, notes and details covering the specifics of the research. An example: "This scene and its dialogue is based on a phone interview with Mary Jo Gygax-Walker , April 28, 2013. While Mary Jo couldn't remember all of the exact words used, the fictionalized dialogue captures the essence of the conversion. Dialogue with cooresponding citations are direct quotes from Mary Jo's account." and then a list of cooperating points in the conversation, often cross-indexed to other sources.

      Some scenes are composed from multiple sources, and the contradicting accounts are noted in the reference section, with the account that the author has judged to be most likely to be correct presented.

      That 50 pages does not include the nice index and various acknowledgements, essays and other works at the start and end of the book that frame and present the information. I would consider this a good volume if you are interested in the history of Gary Gygax and his life path.

      In short, while the scenes have been composed in an easy to read manner, they do seem to be carefully constructed with full references to as close to primary sources as possible. Where it gets more speculative, it is fairly heavily supported by multiple sources (the question of Gary writing a resignation letter, for instance, is backed by Gary's own writings that hint that he may have, and if not, it was heavily on his mind.)

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  4. That quote's second word is apparently a typo (it was supposed to be 'the' I guess). Is that a copying error, or an example of poor editing in the book itself? If the latter, it's not very encouraging...

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    1. The word is printed as "the" in my copy. I thus suspect that it is a copying error (I made at least one typo in my own excerpt in the reply to the comment preceding this one).

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    2. Fair enough. I was just curious if the book was poorly edited.

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    3. I thought it was a reasonable enough question to check.

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