Sunday, July 8, 2012

The New Arrivals (2nd of 2)

(continued from last post)

The other item was completely different, and represents one of my rare purchases from e-bay. Lately I've been trying to find a copy of the issue of LOCUS (November 1987, I think) in which they reported the results of a poll of the all-time Best Fantasy novels. I had this at one time (twenty-five years ago) but it's long since been lost or buried. The list itself is available online

but I recall that the original also had some information and interesting remarks about the results -- as in, the top book on the Fantasy poll (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) vastly outstripped the winner of the Science Fiction list (DUNE), being the only Fantasy book some science-fiction respondents voted for. The second-place Fantasy winner (and here's where my interest comes in) was THE HOBBIT -- which got more #1 votes for the best fantasy book ever than any other book except LotR, establishing again that Bilbo's story has fans of its own, independently of LotR. Also, that among fantasy writers Tolkien stands in a league of his own: LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA came in what was described as a distant third. I know they redid the poll about a decade later (1998) but haven't seen that verison of the results. I'm sure if they did it again now a number of the books ranked highly in 1987 wd have dropped a good deal or dropped off the list altogether. Which wdn't bother me that much: only three of the books I'd rank as the top ten even made it on their list, and two of those were the Tolkien).

What I did come across, in searching for that elusive 1987 issue, was the J. R. R. Tolkien memorial issue of LOCUS, dated September 14, 1973. In those days, it turns out LOCUS was not the slick magazine we know today but several sheets of greenish paper stapled together in one corner. The first three and a half of its seven pages are filled with memorial tributes by Charlie Brown (LOCUS's editor), Lester del Ray ("Something of joy and delight has gone from us"), L. Sprague de Camp (who briefly describes his meeting with Tolkien), Sterling Lanier (who mentions his dozen or so letter correspondence with Tolkien -- now that wd be interesting to see), Fritz Leiber, Frederick Pohl (who's surprised to like Tolkien as much as he did), and Roger Zelazny. Quite an unusual array to go on record in praise of Tolkien;***** hence my deciding to try to get a copy once I learned of its existence. Here are a few snips:

CHARLIE BROWN: "The world Tolkien created has always seemed too complete and real to me to actually be the work of any ordinary author. I wish I could communicate to you the feeling of wonder I had when I read the first volume in 1954 or the feelings of frustration in the eighteen months between American publication of the first and second volumes. (I couldn't go through it again and ordered the English edition of RETURN OF THE KING direct after that.) . . . I'm looking forward to reading [the forthcoming SILMARILLION], but I don't think it, or any other book can have the impact that LORD OF THE RINGS had on that teen-age introvert nearly twenty years ago."

STERLING LANIER: "His last great legacy to the world, the SILMARILLION, has been saved. He wrote me years ago, that it was done in verse! He seemed puzzled in a mild way, that at the time, no publisher seemed interested in it. I recall asking what he was doing for a comic or light element, since no Hobbits existed this early. He agreed this was a problem, but felt it could be solved. I can't wait."

FRITZ LEIBER: "Tolkien is unsurpassed in his descriptions of subtly eerie solitudes and in his delineations of a manifold variety of true loyalties and comradeships, and of reactions to evil. He gives thoughtful consideration to the reality of villainy in the sword-and-sorcery story, as Charles Williams does in the tale of supernatural terror. Creatures of his imagination such as the ents are marvellous. He casts a long, brightly-edged shadow."

FREDERICK POHL: "I rejoice that my life has been enriched by writers capable of inventing whole worlds for me to explore, and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest of them."

ROGER ZELAZNY: "I came to J. R. R. Tolkien's books at a very unusual time in my life. But then I guess that everyone who has read them and been moved by them has felt the same way. Perhaps it is because they helped to make it an unusual time. He enriched the entire field of fantastic literature with his great story. He changed many of us who passed through his world. And this is the mark of true power -- to make oneself felt so intensely, so pervasively and with such affection. While I was saddened to hear of his passing, it is good to know that his life was long, long enough for him to feel our appreciation of his work and long enough to realize that so many of us are grateful."

The other interesting news in this brief issue is an announcement about the folding of Lancer Books, who did to Rbt. E. Howard's CONAN what Ace and Ballantine together did for J. R. R. Tolkien. That, and a full-page add from T-K Graphics, including a wide array of interesting stuff: Post's ATLAS OF FANTASY and Kocher's MASTER OF MIDDLE-EARTH, Bradley's MEN, HALFLINGS, & HERO WORSHIP and Foster's GUIDE TO MIDDLE-EARTH; Le Guin's FROM ELFLAND TO POUGHKEEPSIE and Rickard's THE FANTASTIC ART OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH (which I had a copy of the latter), and more. I wonder: is there actually anyone out there who has a complete set of their little run of Tolkien monographs? I came along a little too late for that, but know others collected them avidly.

In short: an interesting snap-shot from a vanished era. Well worth the price. Now to put it in a Safe Place where I can find it again, someday when I need it . . .

--John R.

current reading

*****but then Doug Anderson did note, in his contribution to the Blackwelder volume, that it was the science fiction fans who 'got it' when Tolkien was first published and made up a solid, enthusiastic core of his earliest admirers in the U.S..

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