Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
- Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in: Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1676

The giant in this case was Descartes.  Later the same quote would be used to describe Newton himself by Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Each generation builds on the work of the last.

Giants are not revered for their size, but because of their ability to see further.

I take a lot of praise for my work and because I am human I enjoy it. Because of who I am I also take it with a bit of surprise.  Afterall I like to write stuff that I like, it amazes me that others might enjoy it too.  But I understand that nothing I, or anyone else does, exists in a vacuum.

Ghosts of Albion would not exist at all had it not been obviously for the creative talents of Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.  It is their world, they define it, shape it and tell us how the characters live in it.  The rules for the game exist because of C.J. Carella.  Not only did he write the Cinematic Unisystem game that Ghosts uses, it was his Classic Unisystem game WitchCraft that inspired me to want write for Eden in the first place. Will Ghosts sell better than WitchCraft? I have no idea. Will people like it more? I know some do, others feel WitchCraft is still the superior game and I will not fault them for that.
Even taking all that into consideration I had help of editors, playtesters and general advice.

My various Witch books are the same way. As are my academic and professional lives.

Standing on the shoulder of giants is not about reverence of people, but rather acknowledgement of their work, of their contributions and why that work has helped make our lives a bit better.

We stand on the shoulders of giants so that one day others may stand on ours.


Anonymous said...

All true.

Besides, it's standing ON the shoulders, not KNEELING in front of them.

If they were like "gods", why would they tolerate us on their shoulders in the first place?


Daddy Grognard said...

The use of the quote is all the more ironic in the current situation considering the way in which Newton attempted to bury Hooke's achievements when he got the opportunity.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Newton and Hooke had other issues as well.

At least the current situation does not have anyone accusing each other of theft, and for that I am grateful and a tad surprised to be honest.

I guess in the end we hope people get their due credit.

Daddy Grognard said...

I'm certainly no opponent of people getting their due credit. When I was a gamer back in the late seventies and early eighties, the only people in the industry that I'd heard of were Gygax and to a lesser extent Arneson. Holmes was an unknown to me, Kuntz and Kask were just names on a list. Since getting back into the hobby, I've learned a lot more about who was who and the credit due to them.

A thought that came to me last night was this: Tim Kask is now 61, the same age as Dave Arneson when he died and only 8 years off the age when Gygax passed away. Thoughts of mortality may well be passing through his head now - and that's a powerful motivator for trying to find significance in one's life.

Until the resurgence of interest in the old ways, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just going by Wikipedia here) that Tim had not been actively involved in the gaming scene for quite a while. Now he has come back into it and who can blame him therefore for trying to ensure that his role and the part he played are recognised and respected, for trying to establish his significance. No-one staring down the barrel of an actuarial gun would rationally do otherwise.

I may have issues with the way he's gone about it but I can understand his motivation. Perhaps in another twenty or thirty years when we are greybeards ourselves (I'll be happy if I look as Santa-like as Tim) we may well have the same motivation ourselves.