Saturday, September 26, 2015

Three Years Ago Today (Stonehenge)

So, Janice reminded me today of where we were three years ago today: STONEHENGE.

We also, on the same day, got to walk around Avebury and see Silbury Hill in the near distance, among other neolithic sites.

One of those dream-come-true days that actually come along once in a while.

--John R.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Nice Review

So, thanks to Steven Schend for forwarding the following link to Janice, who forwarded it to me.

It's nice to know that all that work found its way into the hands of readers who like this kind of thing, and they liked it.


current reading: BROTHER TO DRAGONS (still), IDYLLS OF THE KING (still). Alas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jan Bogstad's Call for Papers (HOBBIT movie book)

So, a few weeks ago (the 8th, I think)  I got a copy of the Call for Papers for a new collection of essays comparing Peter Jackson's film trilogy of THE HOBBIT with Tolkien's original book. This is the second Tolkien/Jackson anthology edited by Jan Bogstad, the first having been PICTURING TOLKIEN (2011), co-edited with Phil Kaveny, to which I contributed a piece on Tom Bombadil. I don't have any piece appropriate to submit to this collection, as well as being fully booked up on other commitments for the next year or so, but it's a subject I'm deeply interested in and I'll be looking forward to reading the resultant book. Since the best way I can think of helping is to spread the word, I've copied and pasted the Call for Papers into this post. Here are the details:


    Edited by Dr. Janice M Bogstad

Call for papers for an essay collection -12-15 essays of 6000-8,000 words in length.  Contact me directly to request an exception.

The deadline for receipt of an abstract, for consideration, is November 1, 2015.
 Final manuscripts are due January 1, 2016 with encouragement for earlier submission. 

Send Abstracts and address queries to:            
Dr. Janice M. Bogstad, Professor  715-836-6032 (OFF.) 715 497 9963 (CELL)
McIntyre Library Rm 3040/3041
U of Wisconsin-Eau Claire   Eau Claire, WI  54702-5010

Manuscripts will be reviewed by at least one outside peer review in addition to the editor.

The collection will consider comparisons between Tolkien’s original Hobbit and the three Jackson films.  Of interest are structural parallels and differences, changes in character-focus from the book to the films, and considerations of philosophical differences in the overall message of Tolkien’s original book and Jackson’s films, but other well-supported arguments will also be considered.  As with the previously published Picturing Tolkien, this collection will focus on positive comparisons. Essayists may wish to discuss features of the film that are, in their judgment, less successful, but will be asked to hold condemnation of the cinematic text simply on the basis of its differences from the textual narrative.  Authors may decide to focus on the films or the novel but the primary focus is comparative features of both.  Contribution to Tolkien scholarship can be articulated with two concepts:  its audience is the informed reader, not only the Tolkien, literary or film critic.  Its basic framework is in respect of co-measurability, that the books and the films are co-creations with parallel structures that intersect at certain points.  Each should be examined and compared as if those comparisons and intersections are significant to understanding contemporary Tolkien studies.

Points of departure for essays may include, but are not limited to:
1.     The effects of the filmmaker/director/producer and writers on the final realization of the film as compared to the creation of the novel.
2.     The relationship between our mind’s eye and the eye of the camera, or the cinematic gaze in contemporary critical dialog on cinema is of central interest.
3.     The epic dimensions of Tolkien’s creation.  For example, J.R. R. Tolkien wanted the first editions to include a four-color copy of the original manuscript, but it was not included due to projected expense.  Manuscripts are more easily pictured in the films.
4.     Differences in the structural elements, parallels, comparisons, repetitions of visual and auditory elements, by which cinema creates meaning in comparison with written fiction
5.      The influence of Cinematic conventions and nostalgic elements related to the Lord of the Rings films and other fantastic films of the early 21st century. 

Here's looking forward to seeing what folks come up with.
--John R.

Word of the day: "abled".  Apparently a back-formation from 'disabled' (disabled/abled). Also encountered with a derisive application: "ableist" (= one insufficiently enlightened on issues re. the disabled). Think I'll stick with 'ept' and 'couth'.

The New Calendar

So, a week ago Friday I made it down to the Barnes & Noble in Federal Way, where I'd not been in a while, thinking that it being mid-August there was a good chance they might have next year's Tolkien calendar in.* This year the art is by an artist and fantasy writer who's famous in her own country but practically unknown here: Tove Jansson. I'm not that familiar with Jansson's work, having only read one of the Moomintroll books long ago and thinking at the time that Carol Kendall did that sort of thing better.** But she's apparently one of Finland's best-known and most-translated authors,*** so I shd probably give her work another try.

In any case, her illustrations come from the 1962 Swedish edition of THE HOBBIT,**** heretofore mainly known to people by one illustration from it (wargs dancing in the firelight) having appeared in THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT (p. 153) and by its bizarre depiction of Gollum (who strongly resembles one of Sime's pieces from THE GODS OF PEGANA, but clearly cd never have been of hobbit-kind). Oddly enough, the drawings are both childish (in the sense of clearly-geared-to-a-child-audience), yet also quite dark sometimes bleak. It's an odd combination. On the childish side we have the dwarven musicians, complete with Bombur banging away on his drums; on the more solemn side we have the picture of Lake Town, which is almost Escher-like in its brooding staircases going up and up. Both appear mixed in some drawings, a good example of which being the starving dwarves lost in the forest. All in all it's not an art style I enjoy but it does have the virtue of being distinctive.

--John R.
current reading: BROTHER TO DRAGONS (resumed)

* the nearer B&N nr SouthCenter usually having a slimmer selection, though I did see it there not long afterwards.

**here I'm thinking of A WHISPER OF GLOCKEN and THE GAMMAGE CUP more than the later and lesser THE FIRELINGS

***I haven't been able to find out if she was ethnically a Finn or Swede, just that she was both Swedish-speaking and a lifelong resident of what's now Finland (that is, part of a Swedish-speaking minority in Finland).

****this is not, by the way, the edition that so upset Tolkien (LETTERS.249); that was the original 1947 Swedish edition

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE THIRD INKLING launch party

So, next month the new biography of Charles Williams by Grevel Lindop comes out from Oxford University Press.*  This book, called  CHARLES WILLIAMS: THE THIRD INKLING, has been a long time in the works (I first heard of it back in 2010) and marks only the second time Wms has been the subject of a full-scale biography (the other being the two versions of Hadfield's biography appearing in 1959** and 1984, respectively).  And at 544 pages it shd indeed be full of information about a figure who is paradoxically relatively little-known (the OUP write-up calls him a "shadowy figure") despite having lived a massively documented life.

Previous works on Wms tend to be highly selective, focusing in on a single aspect of this complex and elusive man: as an Inkling, as a mid-century Xian poet, as a writer of thrillers, et al. It looks like Lindop will have none of that: the online description of his book calls Williams a "poet, theologian, magician, and fantasy writer". So maybe we'll finally get a more rounded look, a better idea of this secretive writer who charmed so many and yet who left so little legacy behind. Here's a link to the OUP website's entry on the book:

They're having a launch party at Blackwell's in Oxford on the night of Thursday October 29th (the book's official release day), including a reception, a talk by the author, and a Q&A session. Wish I cd be there. There's a fee (five pounds), but they'll be offering the book for sale at 20% off, so it all balances out.*** I'm particularly glad to hear of this event, since during the 1992 Centenary conference at Oxford I and several other Burrahobbits wore buttons with "Charles Williams" and the international No image (the circle and the strike-out)**** as our way indicating that while we found him a fascinating figure we didn't think he belonged as a writer on the same shelf with Tolkien and Lewis. I thought it a telling moment when a Blackwells employee came over and asked who this 'Charles Williams' person was; she and her co-workers had been wondering. That his name wd be unknown at Blackwells, of all places (a bookstore he used to patronize), really drove home to me how utterly forgotten Wms was outside of American Inklings-studies circles.

Which looks to be changing now, what with this book, and the Zeleskis' inclusion of Wms as a co-equal with Tolkien and Barfield and Lewis. My own point of view is quite different from Lindop's,***** which is why I'm all the more eager to see how he presents Wms: whether he can change my mind and convince me I've been wrong about Wms all these years.

So, another interesting book eagerly awaited.

--John R.

current (re-)reading: THE ROOK

 *fittingly so, since they were Wms'  longtime employer and published several of his books during his lifetime.

**making it about as old as I am. It has the advantage of having been written by someone who knew Wms, indeed one of his disciples; it also has the disadvantage of having been written by one of his disciples.

***for those who, like me, can't make it, the book can be pre-ordered from the O.U.P. website at the same discount with the promotional code TREVN14

****I still have my button, proudly on display in our curio cabinet

*****my own ranking wd be Tolkien 1st, Barfield 2nd, Lewis 3rd, Wms 4th

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Have a Hole in my Head

So, today during my regular visit to the dentist for a check-up and tooth-cleaning I was greeted with the news that they wanted to do a full set of x-rays to update their records. This always takes a while, since I still have my wisdom teeth, making it more difficult for them to position the equipment far enough back in my mouth. So I wasn't surprised when it took a number of re-takes back in there on both sides. What did surprise me was the questions they started asking about whether I'd ever had sinus surgery and the like.

Turns out the x-rays revealed a dark patch just above the wisdom teeth far back on the upper right. This didn't appear on a similar set of x-rays they took in 2006: it may not have been there then, or it may have been there and just not showed up.  In any case, they recommend I follow this up with a good Ears Nose Throat person, so tomorrow will include some calling around and appointment making.

In the meantime, I have a hole in my head. Which is kinda weird. Not really a call for concern, but still weird.

As for  the rest of the visit, it went well, except that I got The Lecture about flossing.*

--John R.

Today's word: radiolucency.

current (re)reading: THE ROOK by O'Malley.

*I don't floss

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Texas Clockmaker Arrested

So, police in Irving, Texas handcuffed, fingerprinted, and mug shot a fourteen year old for bringing a homemade clock to school.

Ostensively. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that he was really arrested for the joint crimes of being (a) black and (b) Muslim in America.

Here's a link to the DALLAS MORNING NEWS's reportage, by far the most interesting part of which is, if you scroll down,  the embedded two-minute video interview of the clockmaker.

This isn't the way things were in one of my favorite books growing up, THE MAD SCIENTISTS' CLUB. Alas.

--John R.

Curses! We would have gotten away with our Jade Helm 15 coup d'état in Texas if not for those meddling cops arresting a skinny 14 year old boy with a home made clock.

The Pope Likes Tolkien

So, here's something that's been kicking around the internet for some time, it turns out, but only came to my notice last Friday. We were picking up some carryout for dinner, neither of us being in the mood to cook at the end of a long week, when I noted that the restaurant's muted tv had a brief segment called something like 'Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Pope". What the other four were I have no idea, but the fifth was that he's a Tolkien fan.  This was on King 5 news around 4.40 on Friday afternoon, Sept. 11th, but looking now I can find no trace of it on their website (which instead links to a piece about seven things, of which this isn't one). All I managed to jot down was that they said something like "a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien . . . apparently uses the characters as examples of . . . "

It turns out, though, that the man who is now the pope said this back in his Archbishop days, in 2008, and that it's been known online since at least 2013. Here's a quick precis that includes a link to pope's original piece, in Spanish (with thanks to Janice for the link)

My junior high and high school Spanish is too rusty, and was never robust enough to handle material like this. Luckily, the latter part of the post under the next link below is helpful in establishing the context (e.g., saying that it mentions Borges too), and the first comment thereunder includes a rough translation of the relevant passage by Troels Forchhammer

In general, the impression I get is that Bergoglio (as he was then) is not so much singing Tolkien's praises as using his work as an example of a point he wants to make. Which shows respect for Tolkien's work, but is not quite the same thing as being 'a Tolkien fan'. I'd still love to see a good translation of the whole piece -- after all, it'd be interesting to see what he had to say about Borges, another great fantasist, as well.

I have to say that I'm not usually one to play the game of 'what would Tolkien say', because I object on principle to putting words in someone's mouth. But in this case, I don't think there's much doubt that he would have been pleased and no doubt moved that an archbishop of his church, someone who later rose to the post of pope, praised his work.


today's quote: "I'm still called an admiral, though I gave up the sea long ago" (Evita)

current reading: unfocused.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

on the road

So, yesterday I got to spend the morning in the Wade at Wheaton, having already had all day Wednesday at Marquette in the Archives. Since then it's been various activities surrounding a Coulter family wedding; the rest of the trip involves family visits. And, as time and internet access allowed, getting in touch with everyone who sent in a proposal for the Flieger festshrift (it'll take a while, but within a few more days I shd have gotten in touch with everyone).

While at the Wade, I did pick up the new biography of Joy Davidman (although I'm sadly behind on Davidman scholarship, not yet having read her letters, which I picked up some time ago, I think on an earlier visit) and a dvd of a one-man show of C. S. Lewis called AN EVENING WITH C. S. LEWIS, starring David Payne as CSL circa 1963. More on this one when I've had a chance to watch a bit (the running time seems to be ninety-eight minutes), though a little online research shows that the same actor has appeared in various productions of SHADOWLANDS. More interestingly, he has written two more plays about Lewis, one about Jack and Joy and the other about Jack and Janie (Moore, that is). I'm more interested in the latter, wh. unf. seems to have been neither recorded nor published (not even sure if it's been staged). More on this when I've had a chance to view some of his work.

--John R.
(on the road: Seattle > Milwaukee > Harvard > St. Charles > Wheaton > St. Charles > Rockford > Harvard)
current reading: MADNESS ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2014). A Chaosium Book. ed. Jim Lowder.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Flieger Festschrift

So, today marks the deadline for getting in paper proposals for contributions to A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS, the festschrift in honor of Verlyn Flieger.

We had a lot of good submissions, and over the next few days I'll be getting back to everybody who turned in a proposal.

Many thanks to all who participated.

--John R.

old TSR Art

So, yesterday I took some time out from preparations for our upcoming trip to tackle my room and do some re-organizing there, which was badly needed. All my shelves are bursting at the seams, so earlier this week I'd already moved two shelf-fulls of copies of different editions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS to another room (which will help make room in my office for all the recent new arrivals).

This time I looked at all those rpgs I've never played like MERP (almost a full set), ARS MAGICA, JAMES BOND 007, DOCTOR WHO (the FASA version), et al -- filling half a bookcase in all -- and decided they shd go join the other non-TSR, non-D&D rpgs down in the box room. The only exceptions I kept upstairs, aside from one or two misc. items (e.g., the original EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE boxed set) and a shelf of things I worked on freelance,* are CALL OF CTHULHU (my second-favorite rpg), of which I have a large but not complete set, and PENDRAGON (my third-favorite rpg), which I think I have all of (and recently find myself itching to run again, esp. since I've now found the Beowulf adventure designed for it.

And, of course, the D&D, which fills two and a half bookcases just by itself: everything from first, second, and third edition (rulebooks, modules, sourcebooks, boxed sets), a smattering of fourth edition (not my favorite), and everything that's out so far from fifth edition.

And in the course of all this moving stuff around I found some items of interest. A photo of Janice and myself, taken at least twenty years ago. A picture of a lion carrying a pumpkin. My copies of some really early TSR releases, like the dungeon geomorphs (which I actually played on, before I had any modules), et al. I also found some interesting art: two pieces of original artwork from THE RETURN TO THE TOMB OF HORRORS (which I edited, up to the point where I got laid off, after which Steve Winter took over the task and did a bang-up job of it too). I remember a few months after things got better at TSR (i.e., it got bought out by Wizards of the Coast and I got hired back) the art director coming to me in some distress to ask if I knew what had happened to the art for the project;** they cdn't find any scans that had presumably been made of it the better part of a year before. As it turned out I cd tell them exactly where the art was, or at least where it had been: the two artists had been selling it at their booth at that summer's GenCon, where I'd bought two pieces. The art director contacted the artists, who either still had the pieces in question or were in contact with whoever had bought it, the scans were made, and All Was Well, with RETURN TO THE TOMB I think winning the Origins Award when it came out the next year.

The other old art piece I found was something I not only forgot I had, I forgot it even existed: THE ARTISTS OF TSR: A PORTFOLIO, a folder of twelve art prints by six TSR staff artists, represented by two apiece: Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, James Roslof, and Tim Truman. Some of these pieces are v. familiar, like the first, the sleeping vampiric swordswoman from S4. LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH (Easley) or the Thor-vs.-Jormungandr battle from DEITIES AND DEMIGODS (Roslof), while a few were unknown to me (like Holloway's piece titled 'White Dragon Death'.  I'm surprised Parkinson isn't here, or Otus; the one must have come on a little later and the other departed a little earlier. Perhaps the most amusing part is the drawing on the inside back cover of all six artists as rpg characters; might be amusing to scan and post that sometime.

--John R.

*some of it unpublished, like the material I wrote for Decipher's ROHAN book, or the bits and pieces drafted long ago for PULP CTHULHU.

**my memory says that they didn't have scans of any of the art for the project, but I may be misremembering there and it might have been just the art for the big DM screen that was missing -- which, of course, I had a photocopy of, but that wasn't of good enough quality for them to use.