Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Quasi Moons and Planet 9

So, I was following up on a piece  of astronomical news by Bruce Cordell on his blog about a new designation of asteroids. The original article can explain it better than I could: 



What particularly caught my eye is the piece about Planet X (here called Planet Nine) and the 

long and fruitless effort to locate some evidence that it exists. Instead this new approach is collecting evidence to prove places it's not, planning to solve the matter by process of elimination.


--John R.

The final intriguing bit for me is that observation that they might not find evidence it exists because it might no longer exist, in case they'd be looking for traces it left behind. 

Anyway, an interesting piece for those who like to put on their astronomer hat once in a while.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Author vs. Character

 So, here's an amusing piece I recently ran across called Stab Me Now. The conceit is that an author planning out her new story decides to let the heroine decide what she will do, how she will react to the main events in the enusing story. Right from the start things go not-according-to-plan, as when the main character objects to the fancy clothes the author wants her to dress up in, as opposed to the practical outfit the character wd prefer. Character and Author clash over everything from what weapons she shd carry to her failure to fall in love all over the place.  

It's not fan fic, which by definition is based on the work of others (particularly characters, but usually with setting too). It reminds me of Flann O'Brien for an internet generation.

If you want to give it a try, take a look at


for this and other works by the same author; she seems particularly taken with fantasy armor and the shorthcomings thereof.

--John R.

--current reading: audiobook version of LETTERS OF JRRT, expanded edition (bogged down on the print book, so switching to the audiobook instead).

Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Art of the Triptych (Brust)

So, for those unfamiliar with the triptych, as Brust uses the term this is a rhetorical tool inspired by a feature in medieval church decoration. A medieval triptych is a large central painting flanked by two smaller panels that complement the central image in both style and theme. By analogy Brust's triptych focus on a central figure, with the subsidiary figures chosen for the way they highlight specific elements all three share in common. 

For example, one cd bring together a trio of tempresses centered on Guinever as she appears in The Fall of Arthur, flanked by Lady Bertilak from Sir Gawain & the Green Knight and the Corrigan from The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun. Another triptych cd portray women trapped is failed marriages: Erendis (The Mariner's Wife), Aredhed (Silm), and Miriel (ibid). Or yet another of warrior women, headed by Eowyn (who best exemplifies the role within LotR), flanked by Galadriel in her virago role in her early days (as depicted in UT), and Haleth (also Silm), who unlike the other two remains a warrior-maid throughout her life. 

The possibilities are myriad. I look forward to seeing what scholarship this scholarship inspires.

--John R.

P. S. I'm not aware of anyone else working along these lines these days, but it's interesting to note that one of the earliest books on the Inklings, ARTHURIAN TRIPTYCH by Charles Moorman, used this as its central image in his 1960 book on Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and T. S. Eliot, though it's too long since I read it for me to remember any details.  --JDR


So, a while back I was asked to write a brief Foreword to the new book TOLKIEN'S TRANSFORMATIVE WOMEN: ART IN TRIPTYCH by Annie Brust (Vernon Press, Series in Literary Studies, 2024).  I'm happy to say the book is now out:


Brust's major innovation is to bring Tolkien's works within his legendarium into dialogue with his scolarly work explicating, editing, and translating poems in Old and Middle English -- which was, of course, his life's work at Leeds, Pembroke, and Merton as a working medievalist. Brust suggests we could learn a lot by bringing together in comparison or contrast women from the LotR  (Galadriel, Eowyn, Shelob, Goldberry, Arwen, Rosie Cotton) and the core texts from the legendarium, esp the 1977 Silmarillion and 1980 Unfinished Tales  (Luthien, Melian, Erendis the mariner's wife, Haleth, Aredhel, Ungoliant, Morwen, Nienor, Elbereth, Yavanna, Arien)  with figures from medieval literature (Pearl, Wealtheow, Lady Bertilak, Gudrun, the Corrigan, Gwinever, Grendel's Mother). 

For more on Brust's method, see the next post.

--John R.

P.S.: extra points for anyone who can identify all these Tolkien characters without having to look up any of then, 


Thursday, May 2, 2024

Two Dark Towers -- a clarification


Looking at the title of my recent post it occurred to me that I might have been inadvertently obscure in my references.

To clarify: DARK TOWER is a D&D adventure, written by Jennell Jaquays, released by Judges Guild in 1980. 

 THE DARK TOWER is an unfinished novel by C. S. Lewis, written circa 1944 but not published until 1977. 

I contributed an appreciation to the recent deluxe edition of DARK TOWER. Years ago (1996 I think) I wrote a piece detailing THE DARK TOWER's origins.

Sorry for the potential confusion.

--John R

Wednesday, May 1, 2024


So,  for several years now we've made a point of visiting the Bonsai Garden, part of the Rhododendron Garden down in Federal Way. Not only is it a fascinating display but the little trees change so quickly that it's best if viewed every four to six weeks or so. Nor is that all: besides the Bonsai, the Botanical Garden as a whole is a quiet, peaceful setting.

Ttat's why I was dismayed to learn that the people who oversee the garden have decided to cut down their biggest and oldest trees:

The RSBG* has some massive trees over 150 feet tall and it's a significant expense in maintaining our plant collection. . . . While we have made substantial progress in shaping the garden tree canopy, work remains. Your gift will allow us to focus on 'problem trees' and do more required thinning and, if necessary, removal.

So I'm torn between wanting to support the Garden as a whole and dismay that they want to use that support to cut down the kind of trees I most want them to preserve and protect.

This is the kind of progress we cd do without.

At any rate, here's a link to the Gardens


--John R

--current reading: looking over old non-TSR D&D modules I've picked up over the years, from the recent GaryCon dealer's room through relics of the Judges Guild era. 

*i.e. Rhododendron Species Botanical Gerden