Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2019 Tolkien Calendar

So, is there something up with next year's Tolkien Calendar, which is to feature Alan Lee's work from THE FALL OF GONDOLIN? Amazon cancelled my order, saying their stock had run out. Barnes & Noble say they haven't gotten it in yet. Just bad luck on my part?

--John R.
current reading: the new Aaronovich (just out!), with more evidence therein that his master villain The Faceless Man* is a Tolkien fan, even using the G-for-Gandalf rune at one point. Though for some other runes the detective hero points out that the villain is using movie-runes there, not book runes. Which confused me, since I thought they'd gone to a lot of trouble in the movies to use Tolkien's runic system.

*'faceless' rather like Saruman's being Of-the-Many-Colours

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A C. S. Lewis puzzle

So, between the excitement of the new book I edited (A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS) now being out, and caring for a much-loved senior cat now entering her final days (Hastur), seeing a small project off my desk ('Project X'), getting back to my current main project of turning the old online column into a print book (CLASSICS OF FANTASY), and some doctors' visits, it's been an extremely busy holiday season.

Today I was able to take a break to visit one of my favorite haunts: the Starbucks inside the local Barnes & Noble. While visiting the book-selling side of the symbiot, I discovered that among there puzzles section they have a thousand-piece puzzle made up entirely of front covers of C. S. Lewis. This seems to have come out right about this time last year from Re-Mark Puzzles, which at a quick glance looks to be a local Seattle-based company.

There doesn't seem to be a Tolkien equivalent, at least for now. Does this mean the powers that be in the world of jigsaw puzzle making and marketing feel CSL is a greater draw to their core audience? Or simply that they haven't gotten to it yet?

Here's the link:

--John R.
current reading: BRIDGE OF BIRDS: first draft version (just finished; re-reading)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS -- Table of Contents

And here's the table of contents for the Flieger festschrift, listing all the essays with their authors.

Table of Contents 


            John D. Rateliff

Tolkienian Studies 

A Seed of Courage: Merry, Pippin, and the Ordinary Hero
            Amy Amendt-Raduege

Smith of Wootton Major and Genre Fantasy
            David Bratman

Three Stories Holding Hands: The Wind in the WillowsHuntingtower, and The Hobbit
            Marjorie Burns

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Foolhardy Philologist
            Jason Fisher

‘Mythology is Language and Language is Mythology’: How Verlyn Flieger’s Favourite ‘Bumper-sticker’ Works in Tolkien’s Legendarium                                                                                                        
            Andrew Higgins

Do Eldar Dream of Immortal Sheep?: Dreams, Memory, and Enchantment at the End of the Third Age
            Thomas Hillman, with Simon Cook, Jeremiah Burns, Richard Rohlin, & Oliver Stegen

‘A Green Great Dragon’ and J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Native Language’
            John R. Holmes

Splintered Heroes: Heroic Variety and its Function in The Lord of the Rings 
            Thomas Honegger

Lessons of Myth, Mortality, & the Machine in the Dream State Space-Time Travel Tales of J. R. R. Tolkien and Olaf Stapledon
            Kristine Larsen

‘To Recall Forgotten Gods from their Twilight’: J. R. R. Tolkien's ‘The Name Nodens
            John D. Rateliff

A History of the Acquisition: Marquette and the Tolkien Manuscripts
            Taum Santoski

Seers and Singers: Tolkien’s Typology of Sub-creators
            Anna Smol

Tolkien’s Story of Kullervo: A Lost Link between Kirby’s Kalevala and Tolkien’s Legendarium
            Vivien Stocker

The Rare and Elusive ‘Green, Great Dragon’
            Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

‘A Recognizable Irish Strain’ in Tolkien’s Work 
            Kris Swank

Canute and Beowulf
            Richard C. West

Fliegers Fictions

‘Green Hill Country’: A Scholar’s Tale
            Peter Grybauskas

Words Made Flesh in Avilion: A Romance of Voices
            Paul Edmund Thomas

Identity, Time, and Faerie in Pig Taleand The Inn at Corbies Caaw: An Unexpected Convergence of Realms
            David Wilson Wise

Three Personal Tributes

A Teacher’s Teacher: Verlyn Flieger
            Susan Yager

Music, Time, and Light in the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Verlyn Flieger: A Reflection
            Bradford Lee Eden

‘Whose Myth Is It?’: Tolkien Studies as Interdisciplinary Studies
            Kristine Larsen

About the Contributors                                                                                                     



Friday, November 16, 2018


So, here's a list of contributors to the Flieger festschrift:

Amy Amendt-Raduege
David Bratman
Jeremiah Burns
Marjorie Burns
Simon Cook
Brad Eden
Jason Fisher
Peter Grybauskas
Andrew Higgins
Thomas Hillman
John R. Holmes
Thomas Honegger
Kristine Larsen
John D. Rateliff
Richard Rohlin
Taum Santoski
Anna Smol
Oliver Stegen
Vivien Stocker
Sandra Ballif Straubhaar
Kris Swank
Paul Edmund Thomas
Richard West
Dennis Wilson Wise
Susan Yager
--Many thanks to all for the time and effort they put into their essays and recollections.
I'm looking forward to re-reading it myself once I have a copy in bound book form.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


O Frabjous Day!

So, it's been a long time coming, but the Flieger Festschrift A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS is now in print and available on

I'm both the editor and a contributor to this tribute to one of the true greats among the community of Tolkien scholars. And we got some really good essays that I'm glad to see in print.

The hardcover and ebook editions are still to come. From my point of view, it just keeps getting better and better.

--John R.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What's up with that?

So, the song that kept running through my head tonight was "Cabaret".

At least it was the Louis Armstrong version and not Liza Minelli.

Late in the evening I purged it with a playing of TARKUS. There is a god.


current reading: LATE REVIEWS by Douglas A. Anderson (Nodens Books, 2018)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

D&D Podcast (Ben Riggs)

So, I rarely appear in podcasts, but it was pleasant to get a namecheck in Ben Riggs' recent piece delving into the sad history that was DRAGONSTRIKE, TSR's doomed attempt to recast D&D by shifting its target audience to eight-year-olds. *  My contribution falls in the first two or three minutes.

A lot of interesting behind-the-scenes information here, though I hope he'll supplement it with another piece placing it into context with the New Intro Game of the year sequence that TSR sunk money into every year throughout the mid-nineties.

Plus, the even-handedness of this piece is admirable, but doesn't fully convey what a money hole TSR-West, the Hollywood side of the company, was.

Recommended. Here's the link.

V. much looking forward to the book version of the story of TSR's collapse that's coming out of all this research.

---John R.

*and I don't even think he mentions the follow up, filmed but not released, that came a year later: WILDSPACE. Or was it WILDSTRIKE? There used to be a copy in the Games Library but I don't remember what we eventually did with it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Boorman's LotR movie remembered

So, thanks to Janice for the link to a GUARDIAN story re. five weird movies that never got made:
Orson Welles' HEART OF DARKNESS, Jn Boorman's LotR, Le Guin's WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, the original version of ALIEN III, and a mooted sequel to Russell Crowe's GLADIATOR. Here's what the writer of this piece, Tom Huddleston, had to say about the Tolkien film:

John Boorman’s Lord of the Rings

In 1970, The Lord of the Rings was everywhere, its eco-friendly escapism dovetailing neatly with the communal mindset of the post-Woodstock era. A film was inevitable, and rights-holder United Artists turned to John Boorman, a British director with a passion for Arthurian fantasy and – more importantly – a moderate hit under his belt in Point Blank. Joining forces with the young screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, Boorman turned out a script that covers all three books, runs to 178 pages and is, without question, one of the weirdest documents in existence.
It’s hard to pick a favourite scene. Is it the one where the wizard Gandalf beats Gimli viciously with his staff in an effort to help the dwarf recover his ancestral memories? Or the one where Frodo is invited into Galadriel’s bed, much to the grumbling dissatisfaction of Boromir and Aragorn, both of whom planned to seduce her? Perhaps it’s the 11-page expositional kabuki play in which a small dog representing fate pursues a ball representing the ring, while Sauron (described as “a combination of Mick Jagger and Punch”) looks on.
There are undoubted highlights – the hobbits’ journey out of the Shire is a mushroom-fuelled voyage climaxing in a tornado of whirling petals, an idea Boorman would revisit in Excalibur. But it’s hard to imagine the finished film being anything other than a freaky – if fascinating – failure.

I disagree about a film of Tolkien's work being 'inevitable' -- as subsequent events wd show, it was a long time coming. Having read Boorman's script, which is preserved at Marquette along with several other attempts, I can say that Huddleston does not exaggerate but if anything downplays the deep-rooted weirdness of Boorman's vision; we're lucky this project fell through.

As for the EARTHSEA, I shd note that this is neither the disappointing Studio Ghibli effort nor the horrible tv miniseries but a third, earlier effort with Le Guin herself co-author of the screenplay. I hope that screenplay survives and sees publication someday.

Here's the link to the full story:

current viewing: RE.LIFE (anime)
current reading: Sayers reviews of detective stories; also a revamping of an early D&D module (THE BOTTLE CITY).

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Return of The Cat Report (Halloween 2018)

Back from my trip, I finally got to meet two cats I’d heard so much about: ORLY and EMILIA (especially Orly). Tiffany had both cats out, Orly atop the cat stand and Emilia curled up sleeping beneath it. Having heard that they’re fond of catnip, I gave both some, which pleased them v. much. So I decided to take advantage off their good mood to give walking a try, starting with Orly, so seemed less nippy than expected.

Orly didn’t object to the leash, but being out of the cat-room unsettled her, and there was mewing as I carried her over to the safe (training) room. She was anxious in there too, so after a while we set out exploring. Back in that corner of the store there were a bunch of boxes of merchandise waiting to be put up, and since she seems to like getting up high (as with the cat-stand) I put her up on the boxes. That turned out to be her favorite thing ever. She explored and then inserted herself into a narrow space between boxes where you’d think a cat wdn’t fit. She not only fit but cd turn around in it. She set there, perfectly happy, till I eventually made her go back into the cat-room after about an hour that cdn’t rightly be called a ‘ walk’ so much as an outing.

Once I’d gotten Orly settled back on her cat-stand it was Emilia’s turn. She didn’t protest about the leash but didn’t like being out in the great big store. The mewing started after just a few minutes outside the cat-room, and became loud and insistant before I got her half-way to the training room, so we reversed course and with the help of an employee soon had her safely back in the cat-room. I gave her cat nip again, to help calm her distress, and some to Orly too to avoid jealousies. Then sat on the bench for a good while with Emilia on my lap, purring. She’s a gentle cat who loves lap-time. 

Towards the end of my time there were games for Orly (Emilia’s wasn’t interested). A few visitors but geneally a quiet day (except for the out-of-the-cat-room mewing). Have to say settling in and getting lots of attention seems to be mellowing Orly: she even let me rub the inside of her ears. Orly is clearly the boss cat and Emilia seems to accept that. Hope things stay peaceful in the cat room when the new cat (Miss Miss) arrives.

health concerns: none for Orly, who I thought looked younger than five; without the paperwork I would have guessed more like a three-year-old from her alertness and activity level.

Emilia, on the other hand, although only eight acted like a senior cat. Her nose looks like a cat-scratch that’s now scabbing over. Looks bad but don’t think it’s infected, and she didn’t seem to be in distress over it. Here’s hoping she heals up soon.

—John R.