There are two types of appendixes that come to mind.
The first kind is fairly useless and harmless, a vestigial remnant that is still there but not necessary. However, if it gets swollen it can kill.
The second kind is a body part.
Yes, Sci-fi and Fantasy lovers, I am talking about your gross, weird body.
Wait. No. I’m talking about the dangly bit at the end of the book.
So You REALLY Think You Need An Appendix?
Congratulations! You’ve successfully built a world, you clever little god, you! Not only do you have cities, you also have reasons why those cities are in their particular locations. You know the exact length of the seasons and you know what people in every hemisphere do during those seasons. You’ve created an intricate conlang AND the ways that the conlang evolved over time from various other, older conlangs.
And now you need to share that with the world. And why wouldn’t you want to? You are in love with this world, AS YOU SHOULD BE! You’ve taken care to grow your baby. The world must know how awesome it is!
Only, perhaps it shouldn’t.
Here’s the thing about appendixes and the nasty habit that Tolkien left us…
Or is that “nasty hobbit?”
No. It will never be that. Sorry. Please disregard.
Anyway, this nasssty hobbitses
Sorry. I had to hit my head on the keyboard to stop that.
Start again? Great idea!
Tolkien shoved in his appendix for a couple of reasons. First of all, no one knew any better. Second of all, his last book was a little short; they had to thicken it up a bit. Third of all, this was a fresh work; not too many people had seen completely constructed, logical languages that made philological sense in a fantasy novel. Nothing this detailed, anyway.
Also, Tolkien had spent his life since his teens constructing this world without the expressed intention to publish it. He did it for the kicks.
So even if you think his prose seems long-winded and it takes forever for him to get to the point, he was a class-A world builder. Perhaps an appendix was called for.
But in most circumstances, it’s not.
Sure, it’s tempting to slap one on the back of the book and call it filling out the world (filling out the page count, more like). But sometimes it comes off as explaining the joke. I think we know better than Tolkien now (and hiss nasssty trickses afdshjkdfaso;hags;hads.)
It’s just my opinion, I think if you can’t fold the details you want to share into the novel itself, then perhaps you need to think of why you can’t. Reprioritise.
A lot of times (to me), an appendix seems like a white flag:”well, here’s all the stuff I wanted to get into the novel but couldn’t. Enjoy your information dump!”
If there are things you really want to share but couldn’t fit in, write another book in that world. You can unfold further details about the world, and your love for your creation will be infectious to the reader. Trust me – we can sense your joy in your words.
Enthrall us, share your love with us, but let us also discover your world ourselves. Unfold your world with the story. Leave the appendix to a quick little operation that disposes of it forever.
Unless you want to keep it after the operation to throw at someone.