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

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Ian Holm Dies

So, I was sorry to hear of the passing of Sir Ian Holm, at the age of eighty-eight; full of years, as they used to say. I know him mainly through his work on Tolkien, which I have a high regard for. I was pleased to see that the NEW YORK TIMES obituary gave equal attention in their headline to his performances as King Lear and as Bilbo Baggins. His well-regarded performance as Frodo in the 1981 BBC twenty-six part radio adaptation also gets a respectful nod.

Here's the link:


--John R.

My Newest Publication, In Brazil

So, here's an unusual occurance for me. A brief piece I did on Christopher Tolkien's passing that had appeared in MYTHLORE has now been translated into Portuguese (with permission) and posted on a Brazilian website, TOLKIENISTA.

It's called  "In Memorian: O Último Inkling".

Here's the link.


--John R.
--current reading: PHENEAS SPEAKS by Arthur Conan Doyle (1927)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Interviewed for a Podcast

So, today I was interviewed for the podcast LONGWINDED ONE, a postcast that combines D&D with Tolkien. Here's the link showing that I'll be in a lot of good company:


If all goes according to plan this shd be posted on July 20th; I'll post an update then.

--John R.
--current reading: PHENEAS SPEAKS by Conan Doyle

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

quote for the day

So, here's a quote I came across that I thought I'd share.

In a 1989 interview, Robert Holdstock described American science fiction magazines of the mid-sixties as

"where ideas were combined with illiteracy"

I wdn't put it that strongly, but I think Holdstock was picking up on something I noticed when trying to get a handle on the key difference between the New Wave of the late sixties and what came before it: writers of the Gernsback and Campbell eras, whose readers judged science fiction on whether a work had a new or interesting idea and not the eloquence of the prose. Some fans even made it a point of honor to disparage writers who wrote well, like Bradbury.

Anyway, thought it was a great quote. Enjoy!

--John R.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

At the demonstration

So, today I went to the Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Kent, on the lawn in front of the Justice Center.

I've never been to a demonstration before. My thinking was 'if not now, when?'

I must say that it was a well-behaved group of perhaps a few hundred people with lots of signs, all variants on the same theme: this has got to stop.

The occasion marred only by the fact that due to a poor sound system it was pretty much impossible to hear anything the speaker was saying at any given point.

This was the first time since mid-March I've been out to a place where I knew there'd been a crowd. Unfortunately difficulties with the mask prevented me from being there for the whole two hours; I bailed about a third of the way through. Still I'm glad to have made it. I think it's something my father wd have done if he were here.

--John R.
--today's song: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by The Rolling Stones (esp the line 'I went down to the demonstration')

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Book Review (Mark Doyle's UTOPIAN AND DYSTOPIAN)

So, my latest publication is now out, a book review for THE JOURNAL OF TOLKIEN RESEARCH (Volume 9 issue 2).

The book in question is Mark Doyle's UTOPIAN AND DYSTOPIAN THEMES IN TOLKIEN'S LEGENDARIUM (Lexington Books, 2020). In a nutshell, Doyle discusses the utopian/dystopian tradition, suggesting possible sources (Medieval, Victorian, Modern) for Tolkien's use thereof, as expressed through environmentalism, mythology, and politics. I didn't cover it in the review, but he ends with a Coda that looks at moral drift in 21st century adaptations of Tolkien and the Tolkienesque, from the Peter Jackson films through Tolkien-based computer games to GAME OF THRONES.

Here's the announcement


and here's the review itself



--John R.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Saving Tadpoles

So, amid all the distressing news of late, here's a little story that caught my attention.

An Irish girl noticed some tadpoles in a puddle. Fearing that they'd be in a bad way if the puddle dried up, she rescued them and carried them home and put them in a tub. A few days later she went by and saw more tadpoles in the same puddle, so she rescued those too and took them home as well and put them in another tub. Fast forward a few weeks and she has by her estimation 37000 tadpoles in a little wading pool with rocks and greenery. The ones that are starting to grow legs she's been taking and releasing in local ponds and creeks within a two mile radius of her home.

Having attempted the rescue of many a tadpole back in the day, my sympathies are entirely with this frog-rescuer, who I hope has started what may turn into a career of taking care of a lot of overlooked small animals among our midsts.

Here's a link:


--John R.
--current reading: ANCIENT ECHOES by Rbt Holdstock

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Watching plays

So, one of the few positive side effects of the quarantine crisis is that The National Theatre, The Globe, and other companies that specialize in live theater have been broadcasting filmed versions of some really good plays, most of which I'd not otherwise get to see:

Lloyd Webber
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
Jesus Christ Superstar
Phantom of the Opera
'Love Never Dies'
greatest hits concert

Twelfth Night
Anthony and Cleopatra
The Tempest

A Man with Two Governors
Jane Eyre
Treasure Island
This House 

Some of these were amazingly good (Jane Eyre, The Tempest), others bad (Love Never Dies,* Twelfth Night,** Anthony and Cleopatra,*** Treasure Island), and most interesting in some way. I'm happy to have finally gotten to see a staging of MacBeth that includes Banquo's ghost: as I hoped, it was creepy as all get out. And even though their MacBeth was twichy their Banquo, MacDuff, and (pregnant) Lady MacBeth were all v. good.

The only one I've skipped so far is A Streetcar Named Desire (Janice watched it, I took a pass).

Up next: Coriolanus, which I disliked when I read it back in grad student days; I'm hopeful it might have virtues when performed not apparent on the page.

--John R., who'e also been watching an array of less rarified entertainment, from SHIN GODZILLA to Scooby Doo, plus the usual anime.

*a misconceived sequel to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
**a good play badly performed
***neither a good play nor performance

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

New TOLKIEN STUDIES (Voume XVII) Coming Soon

So, the contents of the forthcoming issue of TOLKIEN STUDIES (Volume XVII) have just been listed on David Bratman's blog:


I have connections with two pieces due to appear therein: a book review I did of TOLKIEN'S LOST CHAUCER by John M. Bowers and a review of a book I edited, A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS, the Verlyn Flieger festschrift.

And, as always, there's a lot here I'll want to take in when opportunity offers; I'm particularly looking forward to Wayne and Christina's piece on Christopher Tolkien.

--John R.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

WATERSHIP DOWN in the news

So, thanks to Janice K. and Douglas A. for pointing me at the story about the just-concluded lawsuit between the Richard Adams estate and the filmmaker of the 1978 animated film, Martin Rosen. The estate charged, and the court agreed, that the filmmaker had engaged in a lot of unauthorized licensing, such as an audiobook, as well as keeping the estate's share of royalties from the 2018 remake.

For those who have been following the story of the dispute between the Tolkien Estate and Saul Zaentz and his successors over the years, this may sound eerily similar:


It will be interesting to see what, having regained control over a book that ranks as one of the greatest of all fantasy novels (arguably second only to Tolkien), the Adams estate does with it.

--John R
--current reading: the Preiddeu Annwn