Monday, October 30, 2023

Hodgson vs. Lovecraft (style)


So, recently I've been re-reading Lovecraft's THE DUNWICH HORROR, which reminded me of a post I made about this story a good decade or so back. My parody was a bit unfair, as parodies often are, but I think it makes a valid point: that Lovecraft suffers as a writer of horror because he's too easily frightened. Here's the link:


A particular feature that stands out for me this time is Lovecraft's prose style. Lovecraft criticizes Wm Hope Hodgson for his prose, while committing eccentricities of style himself.


Here's what Lovecraft had to say about Hodgson' prose style:


. . . seriously marred by painful verboseness, repetitiousness, artificial and nauseously sticky romantic sentimentality, and an attempt at archaic language even more grotesque and absurd [than in WHH's earlier book THE BOATS OF THE "GLEN CARRIG"].*


So let's compare Hodgson's invented dialect, which succeeds in distancing his tale into a late 17th through early 18th century framework


And surely I sped forever through the dreadful hours, and went neither to the right nor to the left, neither did I strive to hide in the bushes nor to evade aught, for I knew that the Maid died slowly in mine arms, and there to be no more gain in life, save by speed, that I have her swift to the Mighty Pyramid to the care of the Doctors. And a great and despairing madness grew ever within me **


with Lovecraft's painful attempt to capture yankee hillbilly dialect


Up that in the rudbeyont the glen, Mis' Corey -- they'ssuthin' ben thar! It smells like thunder, an all the bushes an' little trees is pushed back from the rud like they'd a haouse ben moved along it. An'that ain't the wust, nuther. They's prints in the rud, Mis' Corey -- great raound prints as big as barrel-heads, all sunk daown deep like an elephant had ben along, only they's a sight more nor four feet could make.  

[Kindle text]


Whatever these two texts' merits or otherwise in authenticity,*** I wd suggest that Hodgson's is far more readable. 

And then there's Lovecraft's fondness for a few obscure words, such as eldritch, which have achieved the status of self-parody.


--John R.

current reading: Stoker biography.






***Lovecraft did a much better job with the 18th century diction in THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, the best of all his 'antiquarian' tales


Thursday, October 19, 2023

A Saharan Tortoise in the Spinich

 So, here's an odd story about someone who went out to check her garden and found huge tortoise eating her spinach. Clearly someone not given to panic, she contacted her local animal rescue, who have taken it in until it can be rehoused. Here's the link:

--John R.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Giving Agency to Words

 So, this caught my eye in Friday's WASHINGTON POST, and I thought I'd share:

--John R.

--current re-readings: THE MARTIAN by Weir and THE NIGHT LAND by Hodgson

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

An Odd Little Election

So, as I've occasionally commented on before, Washington State elections are purely by mail these days. This makes it easier to vote. All you have to do is take the voter's pamphlet that comes in the mail, read over the candidates' statements of qualifications and endorsements, mark your choices on the official ballot sheet, and mail it in. There's even time to go online and see which candidates have their own websites or look at the flyers different campaigns have put out; sometimes I vote against a candidate based on the toxicity of his or her supporters.

But no system is perfect, and democracy as practiced here sometimes has its absurd aspects. For example. the most recent voter pamphlet, arriving today, listing all the candidates and their pitches reveals that this election only has three races. All judicial, and all unopposed. The state seems to have made the deliberate decision to hold elections often, presumably to get people used to voting often, I worry that having a stream of little elections dilutes the impact having one or two big election wd have.

Here's hoping Washington has an engaged but undramatic election(s) over this next year

--John R.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Seattle's Antiquarian Book Fair (October 14th & 15th)

 So, it's that time of year again when booksellers of old, rare, or unusual books gather down at the Seattle Center to offer up for sale everything from historical documents (e.g., signed letters from presidents and authors*), pulp magazines (need to fill out missing issues of Weird Tales?), and of course old books or those with regional connections. 

In past visits I've found such items as early books by Leiber, Hodgson's CARNACKI THE GHOST FINDER,  and several Arkham House collections by Clark Ashton Smith. 

Perhaps best of all is the discovery of books I didn't know about before running across them at some dealer's display. We're having a busy October of it so far and may not make it this year, but if we do I know that in a few hours of exploring the offerings I'll find more books than I can afford or find space for. We'll see how it goes, esp.  with my current resolve to balance the number of books coming in with that of those going out. 

Here's the link.

--John R.

*It's where we bought our Tolkien letter years ago, before the price shot up

Sir Philip wins the Bodley Medal

 So, fans of Sir Philip Pullman's work will be glad to learn that he is being awarded The Bodley Medal next month. This is the same award given to Christopher Tolkien in 1916. Once again, it's good to see his work in fantasy particularly called out for recognition.

Here's the link describing the event (schduled for November 9th):

And here's a short piece listing previous honorees.

--John R.

Monday, October 9, 2023

TSR R&D Staff, Lake Geneva, 1996

So, the slow sorting continues to turn up items of interest from my years at TSR, Wizards of the Coast, and even (to go further back) Marquette. The latest such is the routing list that circulated among the R&D department (all the game designers and editors). This particular copy was inserted in the May/June copy of PYRAMID (TSR's creatives being interested in the industry as a whole, though management was not). Consider it a snapshot of who was working there at a specific place and time. 

Looking over it now highlights a number of things about the department that didn't get much attention at the time but are striking in retrospect.

First, the department was 100% white. An occasional freelancer might work on a project, but even this was rare.

Second, there were quite a few women who worked as designers and editors (mostly editors) and product group leaders (our lowest level of management, pretty much all of whom had been promoted out of editor positions  --definitely a minority but nevertheless a force to be felt within the department.

Third, this list is not comprehensive: some folks were not interested and had their name taken off the list, like Andria Hayday.

A quick count to the names listed here shows thirty-nine names, the last five of which are RPGA, a sort of mini-department, like books and magazines (DRAGON, DUNGEON). That leaves thirty-four. By my count there are eight women on the list, which makes it 25%. My memory made it about one-third, but I'm glad to see I wasn't too far off.

Given the chaos surrounding TSR's final days, looking back it's hard to keep track over who got laid off in The Great Reckoning (like myself), who survived the Passover Event (December 1996) but chose to stay behind in the Midwest (e.g. Anne Brown, Bill Connors, &c), who was already out in Renton, having survived WotC's initial forays into rpgs, like Jonathan Tweet (Primal Order, Everway, Ars Magica), those who were rehired after the department was reconstituted in Renton (like myself). 

Of these, a number were women: names I can come up with without researching the topic include

Lisa Stevens, Penny Williams, Sue Cook, Julia Martin, Miranda Horner, Michele Carter, Cindi Rice, Gwendolyn Kestrel, Kij Johnson, Jennifer Clark Wilkes*

Given Wizards of the Coast's reputation as more hip and happening than the old guard in Lake Geneva, you'd expect the percentage of women working as D&D designers and editors to rise dramatically. And while I think this was initially the case, it's my impression that their numbers declined steadily throughout the post reboot years. I don't have any documentation for this, simply anecdotal observation from the time, and wd be interested in anyone who can supply a corrective.

--John R.

*Of these I think JCW was the longest survivor, having preceded the arrival of the folks from Old TSR and I think outlasted the last veteran from Lake Geneva days.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I Buy Dice

[OLD DICE (17)]

[NEW DICE (13)]

So, the last time I was played an rpg in person (CALL OF CTHUHU, Saturday night)* I had so much trouble reading the dice that I've  had to face up: I need to buy new dice. The dice I regularly use, some of which I've been playing with on a regular basis since before we moved out here to the Renton / Kent area (twenty-six years ago now), just aren't visible enough with my aging eyes.  

I've always been a proponent of the school of thought whereby I use uninked dice, primarily black, eliminating the need for a DM screen. But I only rarely DM these days, and then it's usually a one-shot (I'm particularly fond of adapting solitaire scenarios, like ALONE AGAINST THE WENDIGO or GRIMROCK ISLAND) for small groups. 

So,  I used the new dice for the first time Monday night (the last of September), and I'm glad to report they performed magnificently. They're easy to read. The color scheme is one I like (yellow). They rolled purposefully and got on with it, not hesitating as is the case with some dice. For the superstitious among us, they delivered high roles when I wanted them, meaning that I can think of them as lucky dice. I even got to support a local business by buying them in a local game shop in downtown Kent.

So, an all around success. 

--John R.

*as opposed to our weekly D&D Fifth edition game, which is on Discord / Roll 20

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Ten New Books

 So, I love to buy books. And even though I've cut way back I still buy them at the rate of about a book a month. Try to balance this by giving away or otherwise parting with books that have been on my shelves a while and are easy to replace, unlikely for me to use in any project I'm likely to work on at this stage, or that I've had for years without reading yet. 

Here's a list of my most recent book buys, starting from around the beginning of this year, with two more on the way.*

Now to find their proper place of where each shd go on the shelves.


Ten New Books


How to Misunderstand Tolkien: The Critics and the Fantasy Master —Bruno Bacelli [McFarland 2022]


The Mythopoeic Code of Tolkien: A Christian Platonic Reading of the Legendarium —Jyrki Korpula (McFarland 2021)   [series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy #75, ed Palumbo & Sullivan]


The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes —Jackson Crawford  [Hackett, 2015]


Two Sagas of Mythical Heroes —Jackson Crawford  [Hackett, 2021]

            Hervor and Heidreks

            Hrólf Kraki and His Champions


J. R. R. TOLKIEN —The Battle of Maldon, with The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth — edited by Peter Grybauskas (Harper Collins, 2023) 


Imagining the Celtic Past in Modern Fantasy —ed. Dimitra Fimi & Alistair J. P. Sims  [Bloomsbury Academic, 2023]        [series: Perspectives on Fantasy] 



Creator of Gods and Men: Lord Dunsany and Fantasy Fiction — S. T. Joshi  (Sarnoth Press, 2019)


Gifted Amateurs and Other Essays on Tolkien, the Inklings, and Fantasy Literature—David Bratman (Mythopoeic Press, 2023)


Beowulf. —tr. Tom Shippey.  ed. Leonard Neidorf  (Uppsala Books, 2023)


Wm Hope Hodgson and the Rise of the Weird: Possibilities of the Dark —Timothy S Murphy  (Bloomsbury Academic, 2023). [series: Perspectives in Fantasy]


--John R.

--current reading: THE NIGHT LAND

*P.S.: This does not count books read on Kindle

**or manga

***or manga read on Kindle

****or audiobooks

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Earthworks in SeaTac

 So, I knew about Earthworks Park in Kent, which incorporates the remnants of the original Mill Creek that once ran off East Hill and across the valley floor  And a few years back I discovered the standing stones of Tukwila (or possibly Renton), near the remnants of the old Black River (now a riparian forest). But until Janice  took me there I today I'd never so much as heard of Robert Morris Earthworks park.

An old gravel pit converted into grassy tiers evocative of Machu Picchu, or perhaps an inverted ziggurat, it's immanently walkable, so long as you don't mind choices restricted to (a) down and (b) up. You can even see Mt Rainier from the rim.

I'd definitely go there again.

--John R.