Friday, July 3, 2020

The Tolkien Society Seminar

So, I know where I'll be at 5.45 am tomorrow morning.

 I intend to get up far too early in order to take part in this year's Tolkien Society Seminar. I've only been able to attend this event once before, in May 1987, where Stephen Medcalf, Jessica Yates, Diana Wynne Jones, Geraldine Harris, and myself were the speakers.

Thanks to the Society's decision to hold it online this year, I'm finally able to attend another one after all these years, and I'm looking forward to it.  Though the start time of 4.30 am Pacific Time is just too early for me: I'm hoping to join the fun around 6 am. Of the several events I have marked down to attend I'm particularly looking forward to the Christopher Tolkien roundtable.

If you're both an early bird and interested in Tolkienian adaptations (the theme of this year's seminar), see you there.

--John R.

--current reading: THE AVEROIGNE CHRONICLES by Clark Ashton Smith (2016); FANTASIES OF TIME AND DEATH by Anna Vaninskaya (2020); AVILION by Rbt Holdstock (2009).

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Dunsany's "A NIGHT AT AN INN"

So, we mainly remember Dunsany today as a novelist and short story writer. But in his own time he was primarily known as a playwright. And of his many plays I think the best is A NIGHT AT AN INN, which appeared both in the collection PLAYS OF GODS AND MEN (1917) and as a stand-alone play (1916). Like most of his plays and stories it's quite short (a single act) and features the kind of surprise ending Dunsany did so well (something in which he resembles his contemporary, Saki).

What I had not known, until Doug A. drew it to my attention, is that A NIGHT AT AN INN had been filmed, not for theatrical release but as an episode of the show SUSPENSE as far back as 1949, in the early days of television. What's more, this tv adaptation had starred Boris Karloff as The Toff, a decayed gentleman turned master criminal.

If you're a fan of Dunsany, Karloff, or radio/tv thrillers, give it a try:

--John R.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vincent Price reads 'Chu-bu & Sheemish'

So, back in the early eighties Vincent Price put his memorable voice to good use and recorded four Dunsany stories for Caedmon Records, including two of Lord D's very best: CHU-BU & SHEEMISH and THE HOARD OF THE GIBBELINS, both from THE BOOK OF WONDER (1912).*

I knew this, and have long prized a now-worn cassette I made years ago of this long out-of-print material. Eventually I managed to find a copy of the album, worthwhile in itself for the extensive liner notes by L. Sprague de Camp recapping Dunsany's career and importance.**

But I did not know that more recently yet someone put one of the Dunsany/Price stories up on You-Tube (thanks to JC for the link). If you've never read this, and are curious about what seems to have been Tolkien's favorite Dunsany story, give it a try:

--John R.
--current reading: FANTASIES OF TIME AND DEATH: DUNSANY, EDDISON, TOLKIEN (Vaniniskya 2020)

*the other two stories, both drawn from the Jorkens series, are of less interest as stories, being overly repetitive, but Price does a good job on them as well.

**one of these days I'll find a copy of THE KING OF ELFLAND'S DAUGHTER concept album as well to supplement my cat-scratched copy of that odd but endearing effort.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Jim Holloway dies

So, I was sorry to hear today of the passing of TSR artist Jim Holloway.

Our time at TSR didn't overlap,* but he's one of the artists whose work I was familiar with as a gamer for its appearance in so many of the early D&D/AD&D modules, like Tom Moldvay's X2. CASTLE AMBER. A legendary figure, one of the Giants in the Earth, as it were, he came into his own after he left TSR and became the artist for PARANOIA, a perfect matching of artist and game.

I did get the chance to work with him once, when I edited Jeff Grubb's MARK OF AMBER boxed set (1995), and asked the art director if we cd use Holloway as our freelance artist. The result skewed sillier that I'd hoped but I was still glad to have had the chance to work with him on a project.

Oddly enough I'd been thinking about him last night when I dug out my old copy of CHATEAU d'AMBERVILLE to review its Clark Ashton Smith content; looking it over has got me thinking of running it as a solo game on weeks when my unusual gaming groups can't get together.

--John R.

* he'd been there the early eighties whereas I didn't sign on until a decade later

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Gygax Memorial

So, a few years back there was a campaign to build a Gary Gygax memorial statue in his home town of Lake Geneva. I think I even blogged about it at the time; I certainly tried to buy a copy of the memorial booklet intended to help fund the project, a collection of E.G.G.'s posts in a gaming forum, called CHEERS, GARY.

What with one thing and another, despite raising over two hundred thousand dollars the effort seems to have petered out. But I was reminded of the attempt when I recently came across a profile piece of Gail Gygax, E.E.G.'s widow,* which includes a nice photo of the intended site, as well as concept art of what the monument would have  looked like.

The good news is that while there is no memorial statue, nor likely to be one, there is The Gygax Brick:** an oversized flat brick depicting a dragon perched atop a twenty-sided die, with the words

 “In Loving Memory of 
E. Gary Gygax,

 Creator of Dungeons & Dragons, 
Donated by 
His Family, Friends and Fans.”

--John R.
--current reading: Clark Ashton Smith's poetry

P.S.: If anybody knows where I might borrow or buy a copy of that memorial volume, let me know: the first printing sold out before I cd get one and the promised reprint seems never to have occcurred.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The fairy word for water

So, the day before yesterday I found out quite by chance when looking up something else* that according to the 12th century chronicler Gerald of Wales, the fairy's word for water was ydor and that for salt was halgein. He knew this because he'd talked to a man who in his youth had found the way into the land of the fairies. This young Elidyr had become friends with the fairies, until at his mother's urging he had stolen a golden ball, whereupon the fairies hid the entrance to their land so that he cd never find it again.

What interests me most about this story, other than the detail of two words in fairy-language,** is Gerald's investigative method. Rather than just rely on a rumor, he actually sought out Father Elidurus, who had been known as Elidyr in his youth, and got the story first-hand from him. So our researcher did his due diligence but it still produced what we may call a false positive.

--John R.
current reading: between books

*the 'something else' being the current struggle between celtomania and celtoscepticism
**shades of Rhys's ond and fern

Monday, June 22, 2020


So, news is now out that there's a new book of J.R.R.T. material due out next year (May 27th 2021).  Edited by Tolkien linguist Carl Hostetter, it's called THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH, and its four hundred pages gather together many of the short essays Tolkien wrote about his legendarium in the post-LotR period.

If you're like me, the day when we learn about a new Tolkien book on the way is a good day indeed.

Here's a link to a site that seems to be updating the news as more comes to light.

--John R.
--current reading: essays in Celtoscepticism