Matthew L. Martin
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Matthew L. Martin is co-author of the appendix to Dragons of a Vanished Moon, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
Dragonhelm: Tell us about yourself.
Matthew L. Martin: I'm a computer programmer by trade, with dreams of becoming a writer. In many ways, I'm the archetypal gaming geek—fond of science fiction and fantasy, bookish, and a bit absent-minded. I'm probably more conservative and religious than a lot of gamers and fans, though.
Dragonhelm: What science fiction and fantasy settings do you like?
Matthew L. Martin: J. R. R. Tolkien is my all-time favorite author—indeed, the Appendix got started as a Tolkien homage, among other things. RAVENLOFT is probably my favorite D&D setting; while I'm not a big fan of horror for its own sake, I love the characters and the gothic trappings. I'm a big STAR WARS fan, including the original films, the novels, the RPG, and yes, even the prequels. I'm also a die-hard fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe—and I tell you, the continuity problems over there make Krynn look like a picture of harmony.
Dragonhelm: Tell us about the origins of the Martinian Canon, and how it came to be incorporated into the appendix of Dragons of a Vanished Moon.
Matthew L. Martin: The first part of the Martinian Canon—the Age of Starbirth—actually dates back to the summer of 1999, when I released it under the title Myths Retold as an alternate interpretation of Krynnish myth, reworking the creation story with the purposes of, as I put it then:
1) The revision of DRAGONLANCE creation mythology to incorporate more of my own religious views, such as monotheism, the originality of Good, the derivative nature of Evil, and the like. If it's good enough for Tracy Hickman, it's good enough for me. :-)
2) The presentation of some new thoughts of mine on the Chaos Question, trying to bring what we were told in Dragons of Summer Flame into line with the older stuff and the ideas mentioned above.
3) The creation of a mythology for Good. . . . I take this version as Truth for my Krynn, despite the fact that it doesn't fit entirely with 'canon', but I hope that everyone will find some ideas of interest or use herein.
Well, that went farther than I ever expected it to.
In early 2000, I revised the article as the first step in the "Martinian Canon", a presentation of my own vision of Krynn. Steve Miller, a long-time friend of mine, took it and put it on the Dragonlance section of his web page, and from there, it came to the attention of Tracy Hickman.
On May 8th, shortly after the release of Dragons of a Lost Star, Tracy e-mailed me. He said that he wanted to use the Martinian Canon as a part of an appendix he had planned for the third War of Souls book, and wanted to work with me, Steve, and Steven "Stan!" Brown on it. After a couple days of consideration, I agreed. In October, we received the first draft of the Appendix, and spent a couple of weeks discussing it and bringing it into a unified whole. On November 1st, it went off to editing, and you can see the end result in Dragons of a Vanished Moon.
Dragonhelm: You mentioned Steve Miller and Steven "Stan!" Brown were slated to work on the appendix, yet their names were not on the appendix in Dragons of a Vanished Moon. Were they unable to participate for some reason?
Matthew L. Martin: Alas, both of them were too busy to participate. Their Fifth Age work was profoundly influential on me, and I would have greatly enjoyed working with them.
Dragonhelm: What was it like working with Tracy Hickman?
Matthew L. Martin: Working with Tracy was very encouraging. He was very enthusiastic about the project, and very cooperative, always willing to listen to my ideas.
Dragonhelm: How has your religious background and Tracy's religious background influenced the appendix?
Matthew L. Martin: Well, as some readers may know, I'm a rather conservative Roman Catholic Christian, and Tracy's Latter-Day Saints faith is a matter of record. The two of us came at this wanting to produce something that was compatible with both our faiths and established Dragonlance history and themes, while leaving room for individual interpretations. We had to make some compromises, but I think we succeeded fairly well.
Dragonhelm: Some of the critics of the appendix state that neutrality is lost between the focus on good and evil, and that the Balance is not properly represented. How would you respond to those critics, and what are your views on what the Balance is?
Matthew L. Martin: I have to admit, I have more trouble handling Neutrality than I do Good or Evil. That said, I think that while the Appendix doesn't emphasize Neutrality, it doesn't ignore it. It focuses on Neutrality as the middle ground, "drawing from both ends yet beholden to neither", as Fistandantilus once described it, seeing value in both yet unwilling to commit. I'd also note that the Neutral gods aren't exactly flawless supporters of free will—the Greygem was intended to fix the pendulum of the world between Good and Evil, you may recall.
Dragonhelm: One of the interesting pieces in the appendix is the association with the gods of good and evil with the Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins. Tell us about this.
Matthew L. Martin: The virtues and sins are elements that have fascinated me for years. In addition, I'm a big fan of symbolism, patterns, and interwoven relationships in fantasy. I was also inspired by the old DRAGONRAID RPG, which used Dragons as symbolic of great sins. The original inspiration I took from that was to use the Dragon Overlords of the Fifth Age in a similar role, but when I started working on the creation mythos a bit more, I decided to use the gods of Good and Evil not only as caretakers of the world, but as exemplars or corrupters of the soul. Some of the fits were natural, while others required a bit of finessing. The original idea of binding dragons to sins, and later virtues, remained in the links of dragon types to gods, something that was hinted at in the material regarding the Astral Dragon.
Dragonhelm: You have described yourself as a "Dragonlance revisionist" in the past. What does this mean?
Matthew L. Martin: I believe the term is 'Canon-Breaker'. :) As a fan, I see the official material as a beginning point, not an end, and I feel free to bend or break that material if it doesn't quite mesh with my own vision of Krynn. Were I to write stuff specifically for official product, I'd probably be a bit more conservative—and I still sometimes wonder if the Appendix shouldn't have been tweaked a little more. But when not crafting canon, I see no great reason to be bound by it.
Dragonhelm: If you could do anything you wanted with the world of Krynn, what would it be?
Matthew L. Martin: Several things come to mind, but most of all, I'd like to do a full-fledged, lavishly produced, elaborate Age of Dreams campaign setting, allowing heroes to participate in events such as the Dragon Wars, the Kinslayer War, the rise of Solamnia, and other key points in Ansalonian history. It would include sourcebooks on all key locations and events, and guidelines for multi-generational epics (a la PENDRAGON) and changing the course of history. And if I can get really out there, I'd like it to be used to relaunch the SAGA System, as well as including d20 statistics.
Dragonhelm: What benefits would come from using both the SAGA and d20 systems?
Matthew L. Martin: I'm not sure if it would do much for the setting's sales, but it would broaden the possibilities by including both traditional D&D material and support for those who want a lighter, more freeform version of DRAGONLANCE that plays more like the novels. I'll admit to a partisanship for the SAGA System—while I greatly enjoy d20, I think SAGA has many unique virtues, and I'd love to see it make a comeback. After all, as long as we're dreaming . . . :)
Dragonhelm: Matthew, thanks for speaking with us today!
Matthew L. Martin: Glad to be of service.