29 April 2013

Z is for Zagyg

Zagyg the Mad Archmage, Demigod of Humor, Magic, Eccentricity, and Unpredictability
Has it really been FIVE years already? Gary has been gone so long it seems. When he passed, I wrote the next morning on Dragonsfoot, "A tremor is felt as Zaygy ascends to the higher planes once more. RIP, Gary. We'll miss you for now and meet you at the Inn later." Hard to believe that I'm tearing up again thinking about it.
I never met Gary in life. We corresponded by email, oh, probably since 1996 or so until his death, and I sent the occasional birthday or Christmas card to his home. He always mentioned them in his emails and he always gave me the salutation of "Howdy!" I never knew if that was a standard greeting for him or he just used it because I'm a Texan or because my first emails to him were asking about Boot Hill. It's something I would have asked him had we ever met. And I did have the opportunity. There were several conventions I could have attended where I could have met him, but I always put it off with the thought, "There's always next year." And then, there were no more tomorrows for Gary. I missed the chance to meet a friend.

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

--J.R.R. Tolkien
The good Professor's poem sums up my maudlin and sentimental feelings as I write this post. Incidentally, I want this poem to be read before my rosary when I pass on some day; it is bittersweet and captures the feeling of life and death superbly.
There has long been a bit of friction between adherents of Gygax and Arneson over who is the "Father" of D&D; Bledsaw's contributions seem to be ignored in the scuffle, and there were plenty of others involved as well. But I bring up Zagyg for my final post of the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge because I focused on AD&D specifically for this run. And, say what you want about early D&D, but AD&D was Gary's. It has the indelible stamp of Zagyg himself all through. The charts, the fiddly bits, the "High Gygaxian" prose--will anyone ever forget Gary's ability to turn a memorable phrase as in "perforce, as the killing of humans and other intelligent life forms for the purpose of profit is basically held to be the antithesis of weal"--the amalgamation of disparate fantasy and mythical traditions etc. AD&D was truly his magnum opus, more so than anything that preceded it or followed it. It is Zagyg's. It is his.
I'm actually writing this on Monday afternoon since I have some free time. I want to proof it again (and again and again and...) so it is nigh perfect (it never is). There is little more I can say. Tonight, after my youngest daughter's softball game, I'm going to go home, fill a pipe with fine tobacco and pour myself a mug of a tasty adult beverage, probably a stout German one. Then I'll sit on my porch, watch the stars come out, and reminisce about my friend Gary and the worlds his words have inspired. And finally, I will contemplate his words, "I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else."
Good night, Gary. See you at the Inn later.

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