Recommendation: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

When I heard that a biography of Gary Gygax, the father of Dungeons & Dragons had been published, I of course rushed to get it. Just for the off chance that you are unaware who Gary Gygax is, as I said, he is the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, the first tabletop (pen & paper) role playing game.

 

Thus, he created a genre that would spawn everything from Advanced Dungeons & Dargons, to Star Wars the Role Playing Game, to Magic the Gathering and every computer and online role playing game you have ever played. He set it all in motion, it started in a small house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Gygax is the godfather of one of the greatest popculture phenomena of the 20th century.

 

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Now for the content of the biography: Empire of Imagination tells the story of Gary’s life and it tells it in a very fitting way: Like an adventure. Every chapter has an intro from a scene of a role playing adventure that reflects the situation Gary is in at the moment. It is just beautiful and sets the mood. The biographical data is deep and broad, I learned plenty about Gary’s life that I had never heard of before, like him being a Jehova’s Witness. I also found the genesis of the first Dungeons & Dragons set fascinating, but I am not going to spoil it for you if you have no idea about the history of role playing games. Let’s just say, even before role playing games, you could be a game nerd and there were plenty around and Gary was one of them.

I guess Michael Witwer took some liberty imagining some of the scenes in the book since some of the information in the book is probably very hard to come by, especially with 40 years of time passing between Gary coming to prominence and the event. It does not matter, though, after all, Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons is about a guy with a highly active imagination, so there can be imagination in the book as well.

The biography is also really engaging, well done, Michael Witwer, you really feel with Gary. It is like you are looking over his shoulder the whole time. You are not a distant observer or historian, you are part of his life. You dive into this biography as if Empire of Imagination was a novel and Gary the protagonist. Every time something good happened to Gary, I cheered inside. I felt warm inside my chest when he got married or when one of his children was born and every time his tumultuous handed him lemons, I felt sad. When Lorraine Williams reared her ugly head and booted Gary out of TSR, I was seething, but like every epic adventure, there is some light at the end, a recovery and it ends with Gary passing on a living legend.

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons is a book no geek or role player of any sort should miss out on. Get it! It is an excellent read and you owe it to the creator of the genre to read the story of his life. It is also a very motivating tale, because Gary always managed to work himself out of bad situations by his own strength.

So many layers to this book, such an epic life, Gary lived, so many lives he touched…

 

Heavy Metal is everywhere: Interview with Algerian Death Metal Band TRAXXX

Heavy Metal is a global phenomenon, truly global. Alas, the majority of bands most metalheads know about are from Europe and North America, with Sepultura from Brazil and the odd Japanese act thrown in for flavour. It does not end there, not by far. I guess a few of you will be surprized that there are Metal bands in the Muslim world, and excellent ones, really exellent ones. Metal is prevalent enough that Algeria recently hosted a Heavy Metal Festival, and after reading the article in the Guardian, I got in touch with one of the bands which played at the festival, TRAXXX. They are a native Algerian Death Metal band with a lot of talent on their side and they agreed to give me an interview. I hope this interview gives them some exposure, so please share it liberally on the web.

 

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Please introduce yourselves, tell us something about yourselves

Hi we’re TRAXXX a death melodic metal band based in Algeria, the band founded the bass/vocal and the drum players (Omar and Mustafa).

Line-up:

 

Lead guitar (Yanis)

 

Second guitar & Darbouka percussions (Sherif)

 

Bass/Vocal (Omar)

 

Keyboard (Mehdi)

 

Drum (Mustafa)

 

 

Where can we find you on the web?

We have a facebook page : TRAXXX on Facebbook

Myspace: TRAXXX on Myspace

And some tracks on Youtube and Souncloud.

 

When did Traxxx get started?

We started in 2005

 

Have you played in other bands before?

Yes of courses everyone in the current lineup was in band before they joined Traxxx

 

How big is the heavy metal scene in Algeria?

Metal appeared in the 90’s in the black decade of Algeria bands are receiving more exposure now, as a result of their proximity to Europe. Rock and metal peaked in the 90s, it seems. This came at a time when Algerians were searching for a distraction from the burdens that came with their lives during that tumultuous decade.

 

“In the early days, we were only few metal heads and it was really difficult to get music but now with Internet everything is much easier.

 

 

You recently played at Fest 213, how big of an event was that?

We can say it was the real professional Metal Fest they did in Algeria. Not because we participated, because the organizer was very professional, even with few means they had.

 

They had brought two excellent bands (ARKAN, ACYL) from France and they did a great show. We didn’t have a metal fest since the last concert of Myrath in 2012.

 

 

The conservatives in Algeria do not like Heavy Metal very much (just like in Europe) have you personally encountered any hostility?

I don’t think so, TRAXXX has not encountered any hatred or something like that, we just don’t have, but it is still hard, since we do not have many organizers for events or labels who promote our kind of music.

 

It is so hard because we do not have the base for Metal here in Algeria we have to buy our instrument from abroad, mastering and mixing our materials from the outside. That is why the movement is going forward only slowly.

 

 

What inspires your music, what are the lyrics about?

Our lyrics are about a lot of topics: Psychology, politics, emotions, but mainly about the history of our country, Algeria.

 

What musicians inspire you?

Our music is inspired by many bands and everyone of us has their own inspiration, too: Metallica, Dio, Iron maiden, Opeth, and many Algerian and middle eastern traditional music. We are trying to mix metal with our traditional instruments.

 

When did you discover Heavy Metal?

Mostly when we was a teenagers between 12-14 years of age.

 

Have you already released an EP or album?

Yes did, and we’re working for An album which called Legacy of Chaos.

 

Can we purchase your music somewhere?

You can find our music for free on Soundcloud and Youtube

 

Thank you, Mustafa, for taking the time to answer a few questions, it has been an honour and a pleasure.

 

And now, to finish this off, here are two tracks for you to enjoy, Death Metal with Algerian folk influences!

 

 

 

 

Doctor Dinosaur helps you keep things in perspective

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan famously stated „We are made out of star dust!“. This is evidently true, since the elements we are made of were forged in the fiery hearts of supermassive stars and supernovae.

Now in comes Doctor Dinosaur and forces a massive reality check upon you:

 

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Have a nice day!

 

Image (c) http://amazingdinofacts.tumblr.com/ (fair use), go there for more Dinosaur wisdom!