Some D&D Bloggers have that little "currently reading" box in the corner. It usually has a fantasy or sci-fi novel in it, or occasionally some non-fiction. This surprises me a little, because genre novels form a very small part of my own diet. I like Jack Vance and M. John Harrison and J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick. I like some of Elric, some of Fritz Leiber, and some of Lovecraft--and that's about it.
I like crazy prose, fancy prose, and experimental prose, and those guys all qualify. But if I had one of those boxes in the corner of this blog it would almost never have a fantasy or sci-fi novel in it.
I notice that a lot of my best D&D ideas come from utterly literary-establishment-respectable books, though.
I got a monster idea from Yeats:
"The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay."
(Lovecraft got one from Tennyson.)
The table of contents for Baudelaire's Fleurs Du Mal might as well be called "Random Monster Idea/Adventure Seed Chart" and Shelley wrote about all the political information I need to know about my campaign world:
Here's an eminently RPG-able bit from Donald Barthelme's short story "Report":
"We could, of course, release thousands upon thousands of self-powered crawling-along-the-ground lengths of titanium wire eighteen inches long with a diameter of .0005 centimeters (that is to say, invisible) which, scenting an enemy, climb up his trouser leg and wrap themselves around his neck. We have developed those. They are within our capabilities. We could, of course, release in the arena of the upper air our new improved pufferfish toxin which precipitates an identity crisis. No special technical problems there. That is almost laughably easy. We could, of course, place up to two million maggots in their rice within twenty-four hours. The maggots are ready, massed in secret staging areas in Alabama. We have hypdermic darts capable of piebalding the enemy's pigmentation. We have rots, blights, and rusts capable of attacking his alphabet. Those are dandies. We have a hut-shrinking chemical which penetrates the fibers of the bamboo, causing it, the hut, to strangle its occupants. This operates only after 10 P.M., when people are sleeping. Their mathematics are at the mercy of a suppurating surd we have invented. We have a family of fishes trained to attack their fishes. We have the deadly testicle-destroying telegram. The cable companies are cooperating. We have a green substance that, well, I'd rather not talk about. We have a secret word that, if pronounced, produces multiple fractures in all living things in an area the size of four football fields."
And this Borges passage feels to me exactly the way I felt when I was a kid and first read about how the the name 'Vecna' was once spoken only in whispers:
On Exactitude in Science
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999.
However, feel free to remind me about all the excellent pulp novels I should be reading--James Mal does it all the time.
Top illustration is from Faust from the Cameo Classics Edition illustrated by Harry Clarke that Mandy just got me for Christmas.