Posted by jmcdevitt on Mar 3, 2023
Appendix N Archaeology: Arthur Machen
Our Appendix N Archeology and Adventures in Fiction series are meant to take a look at the writers and creators behind the genre(s) that helped to forge not only our favorite hobby but our lives. We invite you to explore the entirety of the series on our Adventures In Fiction home page. Appendix N. Archaeology: Arthur Machen by Bradley K. McDevitt This article is part of a series where the spotlight shines on some authors that inspired the writers we acknowledge today as influencing the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. For those unfamiliar with his fiction, the late Victorian era Welsh author Arthur Machen was admired by contemporaries like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Butler Yeats. Further relevant for this article, his work is an acknowledged influence by Appendix N authors such as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft even cheerfully admitted appropriating details like the god Nodens and reality-destroying language Aklo from Machen to be parts of the Cthulhu Mythos. Machen (1863-1947), whose real last name was Jones, produced prolifically in the genres of fantasy and horror. His story The Bowmen entered the realm of urban folklore as World War One legend of the “Angel of Mons.” And that story was only a very tiny fraction of Machen’s output, which included works as The Novel of the White Powder, The Three Imposters, and what is generally acknowledged as his 1894 masterpiece, The Great God Pan. This terrifying tale of occult miscegenation was lauded thirty years later by Lovecraft in his essay The Supernatural In Literature. More recently, Stephen King has declared it, in his opinion, “one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language.” Readers will come to understand those authors’ reverence for Machen, and especially that story. The narrative itself starts on a disturbing scene, like Clarke, the protagonist of the early part of the story, accepts an invitation to oversee some home brain surgery his friend Dr. Raymond plans to perform on an orphan girl he took in years before. The setting is not even a surgical theater, just a home laboratory he has set up. It doesn’t go well. The girl is rendered hopelessly insane. The so-called surgeon can’t even be bothered to be upset, dismissing her with the comment, “After all, she has seen the great god Pan.”...