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I remember there being a community fallout surrounding the introduction of Giant Space Hamsters, but never got the details at the time, and had an adolescent "WOW, hamsters, giant, in space, this is awesome."

Is there a really good account of why and how a classic monster caused debate?

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I don't have any sources for it, but most people thought they were annoyingly silly. –  Canageek Jun 17 '12 at 16:19
    
The only true space hamster is boo –  Rob Mar 21 '13 at 10:54
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up vote 15 down vote accepted

Because they are silly and ridiculous in a game setting where players generally try to take the fictional world seriously. It was part of an unfortunate trend at the time to put things that were generally considered "silly" into otherwise coherent milieus - the greater outrage was a year earlier when WG7 Castle Greyhawk turned out to be a huge megamodule that was 100% joke content, when people had been waiting for a decade to see Gary's real Castle Greyhawk. When Spelljammer came out the giant space hamster seemed like more of the same - although some people really liked that, the patently ridiculous nature of the GSH rubbed many fans the same way. Since Gary Gygax had left TSR a couple years earlier, it was seen as a minor symbol of the decline of content quality (even though Gygax penned otherwise somewhat silly content like Land Beyond the Magic Mirror and Dungeonland).

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It is strange that the community so upset by the issue was blind to the depth of previous D&D silliness. This would be an excellent issue to use to expose the aesthetics of socially constructed verisimilitude in RPGs. –  Samuel Russell Jun 20 '12 at 4:50
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