Thursday, October 23, 2014

ANCHORING THE MYTH (My New Publication)

So, this week I got the good news about my latest publication, the volume THE HOBBIT IN TOLKIEN'S MYTHOLOGY: ESSAYS ON REVISIONS AND INFLUENCES, edited by Brad Eden, is now out.




My contribution is my keynote speech at last year's Valparaiso conference organized by Brad Eden, the essay "Anchoring the Myth: The Impact of THE HOBBIT on Tolkien's Legendarium", which chooses Tolkien's treatment of The Dwarves as a way to trace the (sometimes surprising) ways the older legendarium and THE HOBBIT interact. I spent a lot of time in THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT exploring that interaction, and writing this piece helped clarify my thinking on the issue, and the way Tolkien could have contradictory things going on in different parts of his overarching legendarium -- held in suspension, as it were, until and if he made a decision one way or the other.



The volume doesn't appear to be up on the McFarland website yet (where it'll be the most recent in what's now their eight volumes of Tolkien material, of which I've contributed to four*). However, you can find a link to its listing on Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/Hobbit-Tolkiens-Mythology-Revisions-Influences/dp/0786479604/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414015323&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=%22bradley+lee+eden%22+tolkien

The amazon listing doesn't give the table of contents, but fortunately that appears on Jason Fisher's blog:

http://lingwe.blogspot.com/2014/06/another-new-tolkien-collection-from.html


As you can see from the T.o.C., I'm in good company.** In fact, the best thing about seeing this book in print, aside from my own excitement about seeing another piece of mine out there where others can read it and react to it, is that now I get to read the essays by all the other contributors. So when my copy arrives it will immediately go to the top of the 'Read This Now' pile.

Many thanks to Brad for putting together the conference, inviting me to speak at it, coming up with the idea of this book, and seeing it through to fruition. 

Enjoy!

--John R.

current reading: TOLKIEN IN PAWNEE LAND (Echo-Hawk)
current viewing: SCOOBY DOO, MYSTERY INCORPORATED

*PICTURING TOLKIEN, THE BONES OF THE OX ('Tolkien and the Study of His Sources'), TOLKIEN IN THE NEW CENTURY (the Shippey festschrift, both as a co-editor and contributor), and now THE HOBBIT IN TOLKIEN'S MYTHOLOGY

** something that can be said of everyone who shares space in a book with Verlyn Fleiger, who gave the other keynote speech.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Burrahobbits

So, last Thursday, the final night of our trip, we spent the evening with old friends: The Burrahobbits.*  Here's what Janice had to say afterwards (thanks to JC for permission to forward her post):


Burrahobbits Rule the book group world. Meeting 30 years and counting. Thanks to Jan Noble Long, Jeff Long, David Hoose, Georgie, Greg, and Pat for proving you can go home again. It was great seeing everyone again and picking up where we left off 17 years ago.


This is the book group I helped found, growing out of a continuing ed. class on Tolkien, that still has three of the original members in regular attendance all these years later, plus several other long-timers who came in later, and a cadre of new folks -- though by 'new' I mean people who joined after Janice and I moved to the Seattle area, seventeen years ago now, some of whom have been coming for years by this point. We kept coming ourselves even after we left Milwaukee, driving up from Delavan one night a month, and have kept in touch via email in the years since, though nothing is the same as being there.**  Thus we had a great time drinking tea (Jeff & Jan even provided Tupilo honey!), catching up, remembering deceased members (Jim and Sue), and discussing books good and bad we'd read over the years.  Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the evening, but it left me determined to keep in better touch with what they're reading and, when possible, to read along with their monthly choices.

All hail Burrahobbits!

--John R.




P. S. In the meantime, our current book group (Mithlond) is reading Wm. Hope Hodgson's CARNACKI THE GHOST FINDER this month,*** if anyone in the Seattle area is interested in joining us. I'm enjoying re-reading the original stories -- the best of all the psychic detectives, in my judgment -- and also reading a collection of Carnacki pastiches by other hands (which are enjoyable enough but can't begin to compare to the original). I also have a Doctor Who novel featuring Carnacki and an e-book of Carnacki-meets-Holmes, which I may not have time to get to before the meeting this weekend. 





*originating as an independent group who have since become both a Mythopoeic discussion group and a Tolkien Society smial in addition to still being independently minded. The name comes from our vast amusement of Nicole Williamson's reading of the Troll scene on his record album giving a reading of THE HOBBIT.

**Just to give some idea of how important this group was in our lives, it's where Janice and I met. And we're not the only couple to come out of the group.

***as part of our longstanding tradition to read a horror or ghost story each October

Monday, October 13, 2014

First Edition monsters & the new MONSTER MANUAL

So, before leaving for my trip I had a chance to take a closer look at the new Fifth Edition MM, which is just out.  And what I was most struck with is the degree to which it is dominated by 1st edition monsters.

Just quickly going down the list is redolent of the old days and the game's classic form:

bullywug and bullett. carrion crawler. demons, devils, and even angels (none of that Second Edition hapless evasiveness here).  ankheg and basilisk and beholder; cockatrice, chimera, cloaker. the classic giants and dragons (including that old favorite the dragon turtle, as well as the hydra) and golems. the behir and displacer beast.  doppelganger. shriekers and violet fungi, gorgon and harpy and hellhound. the invisible stalker and the five classic weres, kuo-toa and mindflayer, manticore and owl bear. gelatinous cube and piercer and mimic and roper (which between them killed far more characters than you'd expect). Even the little-used peryton is here, along with the mighty purple worm. all the classic undead. the remorhaz and behir, roper and salamander, shambling mound and sphinx (trimmed from four to just the two, in this case an improvement), and, iconic of iconics, the rust monster.

some come from the letter days of 1st edition (i.e., the FIEND FOLIO and MONSTER MANUAL II), such as the ettercap and galeb duhr, the hook horror and a few others.

About the only true classics I noticed missing were yellow mold and the green slime.

There were a smattering of third edition and 3.5 monsters, but luckily the book is overwhelmingly (say, 90%) dominated by monsters from its glory days.

So, while the new Firth Edition PLAYER's HANDBOOK is strongly reminiscent of third edition in the way it lays out character classes, races, et al., the new MONSTER MANUAL is very much aimed at re-creating a first edition milieu. Just flipping over pages made me want to play.


At this point, no telling what era the DMG (due out in December) will hearken back to. Will it split the difference and take second edition (a.k.a. first edition lite) as its model?  Will it, horror of horrors, try to recapture the look and feel of fourth edition? Or maybe it'll truly be something new and, for the first time, Fifth-Edition-y? Time will tell.



--John R.
current reading: THE BROTHERS CABAL by Jonathan Howard [2014]; TOLKIEN IN PAWNEELAND by Echo-Hawk [2013]

Today Is Not Columbus Day

So, sometimes when you are depends upon where you are.

Case in point: here in Rockford today (Oct 13th) is Columbus Day, a national holiday (which means gov't buildings closed, no post office delivery, most banks closed (hence the English name for them, 'bank holidays'), and the like -- all celebrating the man who discovered America in 1492.

But in Seattle, today is Indigenous Peoples' Day, celebrating not the person who discovered America but the people who were already here long* before he arrived, and memorializing the unmitigated disaster that the European arrival and take-over brought them.


Just another example of how different people can live through very different histories side by side and at the same time.

Here's the link: 


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/columbus-day-seattle_n_5942718.html

--John R.
current reading: THE BROTHERS CABAL by Jonathan Howard [2014]




*and by 'long' I mean not just the 12,000 years traditional archeology has accepted but the revised figures of recent excavation and re-evaluation pushing the date back to double or, possibly triple, that.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Me, with cars

So, during my trip to and after arriving at Milwaukee a week ago tonight, the only thing that didn't go smoothly was picking up the rental car. First the guy at the counter said they didn't have the compact we'd reserved and so he was giving us another car, showing me a picture of a sort of micro-car two-seater with so small a trunk it cdn't have held both our suitcases. So I asked for something bigger, like the car we'd reserved. He was happy to oblige, and after some delay I headed out to pick up the car, only to discover once I got the keys that (a) it was much bigger, being a four-door a good foot longer than our non-compact Honda Civic back home, plus (b) he'd charged me an extra $200 for an "upgrade". I returned the key, went back in, told him I wanted a compact, as originally requested. He said he could do that. More delay, then a new set of papers and I'm heading out into the garage when I check paperwork again and find it's now a $175 extra fee. I return once again the the desk and say I want the original little car he sent me: no upgrade, no extra fee: just what we originally reserved, at the price we reserved it for. Long delay, during which I read, studied maps, and the like. Finally he gives me the re-re-re-revised paperwork, for the original price, and I go outside to find he's given me --not the compact he promised, but a van.  A huge, wallowing, boat of a van.

To be specific, a Chevrolet Grand Caravan, more suitable for transporting the Van Trap Family than for letting Janice and I (and possibly another Coulter) bus around northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.  But by this time it's getting dark, and I have serious doubts about what horrors that person at the counter might visit on me, given another try. So I decide to sail the S. S. Enormous onto the interstate and try to get it to Marquette, where I promptly park it and drive it as little as possible over the next few days, until I go to pick up Janice at the airport on Friday and she quickly masters it.

End of story, except for two pictures.

Here's me and the van I wound up with, followed by the car we saw today at Edward's Apple Orchard (where I picked apples), which, if I had to drive a whale of a car, wd have been my choice: a 1938 Chevrolet.






Oh well. Better luck next time.

--John R.





Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Week at Marquette

So, I just wrapped up a week at Marquette, spending the days working with the Tolkien collection in the Archives* and the evenings seeing friends from my Wisconsin days I don't get to see nearly often enough.** It was great, and I'm already looking forward to Next Time, whenever that may be. In particular, staying on-campus brought back a lot of memories from the years when I lived on or just-off campus (first in the Abbottsford [1981-83] -- still standing-- and later in the apt on 17th street [1983-87], no longer extant).

As for my research, I spent a lot of time with the John Boorman script for his unproduced LotR movie, finally wrapping up a project I'd worked on in bits over several previous short visits (day trips).  But I also got to spend some time with the 1983 conference papers, and some with the timelines for LotR, and some on miscellaneous things.  I'd wanted to look at the timelines for some time, in part because they were among the material added to the collection after my time at Marquette, so they postdate my knowledge of the collection, Now that I've taken a good look at them and seen just what all might be there, it turns out to be fascinating stuff, in more ways than one. For one thing, they're oddly reminiscent of the Timelines and Itineraries that made up part of the 1960 HOBBIT, which I thought unique in Tolkien's work. I now see that what I worked w. for H.o.H. resembles the early stages of work Tolkien did that ultimately evolved into the TALE OF YEARS. I'll definitely be spending more time with and taking a closer at this material.

And there was one fun moment I wanted to share. Richard West came over from Madison and joined me for a day (Tuesday the 7th), during which time he made an interesting discovery in the course of his own researches. I'll leave the announcement of it to Richard, in whatever he decides is the appropriate time and place, but looking over that same material the next day, in the same box I came across an anonymous article on THE HOBBIT. No author, no place of publication, no date -- just a neat copy of the piece itself.  That attracted my curiosity, given my interest in THE HOBBIT, so I quickly skimmed the piece. It looked familiar. Turning back to the front and skimming again, I realized there was a good reason why: I wrote it. In fact it was one of my CLASSICS OF FANTASY pieces, the next-to-last in the series (#18, December 2003). I so informed the Archivist, and it's now suitably identified and all. But it was a weird moment to find an unknown piece by an unknown author, only to have it turn out to be me.

--John R.
current reading: SUMMER MOONSHINE by Wodehouse (just finished),
THE BROTHERS CABAL by J. Howard (resumed)




*I originally wrote "down in the Archives, but it's been more than a decade, I think, since they moved to the top floor in the new building.

**hi Jim! hi Richard! hi Peter and Mary and Hugh! hi Eileen. And of course all at the Archives

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Advice from C. S. Lewis ("Get a Cat")

No cat report today, since I'm in Milwaukee, but thought I'd share something I came across recently while looking up something else in that vast, fascinating compendium that is the COLLECTED LETTERS OF C. S. LEWIS.   Here's a bit of advice CSL gave his oldest friend, Arthur Greeves, when the latter's dog ("my old friend Peter") was in his final decline:

"P.S.  Get a cat. 
They're more suitable to us 
old people than dogs, 
and a cat makes a house a home."*

I found this striking, coming from a lifetime dog lover like Lewis; clearly he had been won over by his step-cat (that is, his wife's cat, whose name I don't even think we know); a Siamese, I think.

So here's a good tag-line I may add to some of my letters:

"a cat makes a house a home" — C. S. Lewis

--JDR

current reading: Echo-Hawk, Wodehouse, Boorman, Jenkins, Howard


*COLLECTED LETTERS, Vol. III, p. 1139; letter of March 12th 1960