Shelves. Books on shelves, to be precise. I’m in a creative lull, not working on a project and aimlessly wandering in my readings. And in such spaces, I often rearrange the books in my study. Like shuffling mental index cards of ideas, moving clutches of books from one shelve to another, and mixing books that formally stood side-by-side into new configurations, stimulates my imagination.
My Ars Magica books have slid down a shelf. My Ars Magica gaming group has gone to ground, either disappeared entirely or hunkering down under a wave of life’s responsibilities. At 15 we had all the time in the world to bounce polyhedrals off table tops and scream, “Make a saving throw!” At fifty, work, parenting, and romance take priority, I understand. Still, surely we can squeeze a weekend in here and there to toss some d10s and cry, “Creo Ignem!” Ah well.
I’m planning a physical move soon and boxing up my soft-cover gaming books, tucking them securely in magazine-sized cardboard boxes, interspersed with old issues of Heavy Metal, Mythic Perspectives, and Eerie magazines. This leaves the hard cover books for the shelves. I tend to keep collections together, grouping all the Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 2nd Edition books together, for example, as well as the Unknown Armies and Star Wars rpgs. I also tend to put newer books, those that I’m interested in reading and playing, on the easiest to reach shelf. Stand-alone books, those rpgs without supplements (that I bought, anyway) also tend to end up on the same shelf.
I don’t keep fiction, or rarely keep it, simply because I don’t have room. Some fictions I keep, those that I dearly love and know I’m going to read again: Eco’s Bauldolino, Vance’s Dying Earth, Moers’ Captain Bluebear and Rumo. I keep reference books, those I’ve used for published Ars material: Medieval Folklore (Oxford UP, 2002), The Lore of Ireland (Boyden Press, 2006), and Kieckhefer’s Forbidden Rites. I tend to keep every book I buy about Ireland, probably my favorite reading topic. And I keep all the graphic novels I’ve bought over the years, most of them English translations of European titles. I’ve never been interested in North American graphic novels, most of which are either about superheroes or terribly drawn. Of course there are exceptions, and I’d never disparage the work of Corben, Wrightson, Russell, Kaluta, Adams, or Kubrick. My most recent reads have been Elias the Cursed (Mastantuono and Corgiat), The Hounds of Hell (Thirault, Hojgaard, Kovacevic, and Surzhenko), and Sharaz-De, Tales from the Arabian Nights (Toppi).
That’s all well and good, I intended to write down the role-playing game books I’d move to the go-to shelf, not ramble about books I like, which include Berleth’s The Twilight Lords (Desmond Rebellions in sixteenth century Ireland), Preston-Matto’s Aislinge Meic Conglinne: The Vision of Mac Conglinne (glutton-poem in Old Irish), and Akenson’s An Irish History of Civilization: Volume One (a fiction/history of the Irish Diaspora). And let’s not forget C. V. Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War, George McDonald Fraaser’s The Pyrates, and Gore Vidal’s Creation (although I don’t know if I prefer Julian, which I’ve read three times, to Creation, which I’ve only read twice.) No, the role-playing books currently sitting on my handiest shelf are: Nobilis, the great unplayed rpg, Grimm, child characters in a world populated by fairy tales, Reign, Greg Stolze’s one-roll-engine rules, Paranoia, Mongoose’s updated version of the 1980’s classic, Dreamlands, a Call of Cthulhu supplement, and Numenera, Monte Cook’s recent role-playing game. These are the games I’d like to play in 2014, in some combination at least, and I’ve half a mind to mash them together, taking the bits I like from one, the bobs from another, and the bang from a third.
I’ll take a closer look at each in the posts to come.