Monday, November 20, 2017

Lin Carter's Lost Fantasy Series

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, which published some 70-odd books from 1969-1974, is justly renowned, and Lin Carter (1930-1988) is often acclaimed as the editor of the series, but he was not the editor.  Look at the footer of every single one of his introductions to books in the series: his title is given as "Editorial Consultant, The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series."  The Editor of the series was actually Betty Ballantine.  What titles Carter suggested for the series had to have her approval, and since Carter's own taste was known to reach pretty low, we can be grateful to Betty Ballantine for holding the reins and keeping the standards higher. Thus I think the series as a whole was much better than if Carter had had carte blanche over the selections.  

Carter did have the chance of editing another fantasy series. He described it in an interview published in March 1980: 

"Zebra will be doing the Lin Carter Fantasy Selections. They'll be doing seven books a year, and I am able to cross over the borders into other genres. It doesn't have to be "like Tolkien", the epic fantasy sort of thing that was the premise at Ballantine. I'm able to do straight weird fiction, both novels and short story collections. I can do real science fiction, and some lost race and things like that. We're  starting with, I think, a very exciting book, Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner, which will be the first time all of Kuttner's sword-and-sorcery has ever been in one place at one time. I've been trying to get this book into print for years through various people. . . . Some of the first titles we've already got in the works are John Silence by Algernon Blackwood, Phra the Phoenician by Edwin Lester Arnold, and a collection of Robert Bloch's Cthulhu Mythos stories.  It'll be called The Histories [sic] of the Worm, after the title of Bloch's imaginary volume in the Cthulhu Mythos [De Vermis Mysteriis]. We'll be doing one of these a year, one book out of the seven which will put together all the Cthulhu Mythos stories by the authors who wrote in the mythos. The only exceptions will be Derleth and Lovecraft, because those are available elsewhere, but we'll be doing a book of Kuttner's Cthulhu mythos stories, as well as Howard's and Frank Belknap Long's. I envision a collection of about eight volumes, which will bring into print all the Cthulhu mythos stories up to this date, at least by the older authors. I'm not sure we can get all of Ramsey Campbell's work into on place, and so on. Anyways, we'll also be putting out a collection of miscellaneous Cthulhu Mythos stories, by people who only wrote one or two; Carl Jacobi wrote one, Manly Wellman wrote one, there's a couple by Wandrei. Eventually, we 'll have a library of the Cthulu mythos, which I think will be a great thing. . . . I learned some lessons from Ballantine, that the sort of thing I thought should be in print wasn't commercial enough, and I don't like spending other people's money. Therefore, with the Zebra series, even though I hate the idea, I'm going to have to turn away from doing any more Clark Ashton Smith, or any more Kai Lung, because these things have to make cash, they have to be viable on the market-place. I'm going to be doing a number of adventure-fantasy novels, like Valdar the Oft-Born, Phra the Phoenician. I have some Atlantis novels I want to do and quite a bit of good stuff. I have a magnificent original novel from someone I've never heard of before, who's done a sequel to The Dying Earth with the permission of Jack Vance. I looked at it and said, "Nah, not a chance."  Then I read it and I was very impressed. It was such a good imitation, it was really a lot of fun. In other words, in the Zebra series, I can sprawl across categories much more broadly than I was ever allowed to at Ballantine, which is good." (Science Fiction Times, v. 1 no. 7, March 1980)

Carter had previously published with Zebra. He contributed an introduction to the July 1978 Zebra reprint of H. Rider Haggard's Eric Brighteyes, which sold well enough to achieve a second printing.  Zebra followed this title with three further Haggard titlesThe Wanderer's Necklace; Morning Star; and Pearl Maidenand while these titles did not have Lin Carter introductions, he probably suggested them to Zebra. Zebra also published in October 1979 Carter's original novel Tara of the Twilight, which Carter himself described as "elegantly written porno." Carter's editor at Zebra was Roy Torgeson (1936-1990), best known for editing ten volumes of Zebra's original anthology series Chrysalis (1977-1983).

So, pulling out the details from Carter's statement above, here is an alphabetical list of the proposed titles of the Zebra fantasy series.

Arnold, Edwin LesterPhra the Phoenician [Originally published in 1890, under a slightly different title, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician]

Blackwood, Algernon. John Silence [Originally published in 1908]

Bloch, RobertThe Mysteries of the Worm [Book of Cthulhu Mythos stories. See below]

Campbell, Ramsey.  [Book of Cthulhu Mythos stories. Campbell's Lovecraftian stories were first collected in Cold Print (Scream/Press, 1985); an expanded edition came out in 1993.] 

Carter, Lin, presumed editor. [Book of misc. Cthulhu Mythos stories, including two by Donald Wandrei, and one each by Carl Jacobi and Manly Wade Wellman. Depending upon how expansive one's definition of the Cthulhu Mythos is, Wandrei, Jacobi and Wellman can be considered to have written several more Cthulhu Mythos stories than the few suggested by Carter.]

Griffith, GeorgeValdar the Oft-Born [Originally published in 1895]

Howard, Robert E.  [Book of Cthulhu Mythos stories. Twelve stories were collected in Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors, by Robert E. Howard, edited by David Drake, and published by Baen Books in May 1987.]

Kuttner, HenryElak of Atlantis  [A limited edition of 500 copies, containing four Elak stories and editorial matter by Gary Lovisi, was published under this title by Gryphon Books of Brooklyn in 1985]

Kuttner, Henry. [Book of Cthulhu Mythos stories. Ten of Kuttner's Cthulhu Mythos stories, plus one collaboration and with stories by other hands, were collected in The Book of Iod, published by Chaosium in 1995] 

Long, Frank Belknap. [Book of Cthulhu Mythos stories. In June 1979, prior to the Lin Carter interview, Zebra published Night Fear, a large collection of stories by Frank Belknap Long, edited and with an introduction by Roy Torgeson. It includes Long's Lovecraftian novella, "The Horror from the Hills," originally published in Weird Tales in 1931.]

[Unknown author, a sequel to The Dying Earth by Jack Vance and authorized by him. This can not refer to Michael Shea's sequel to The Dying Earth, A Quest for Simbilis, also authorized by Jack Vance, for it was published by DAW Books in 1974]

Though this interview with Lin Carter was published in March 1980, only one of the books of his proposed series was ever published by Zebra. Mysteries of the Worm by Robert Bloch came out a year and a half later in August 1981 as "A Lin Carter Fantasy Selection" comprising thirteen stories by Bloch, and Introduction by Carter, and an Afterword by Bloch. A second edition, revised and expanded (including three additional stories), edited by Robert M. Price, was published by Chaosium in 1993, and a third edition (also edited by Price), adding four more stories, was published by Chaosium in 2009.

Thus with Mysteries of the Worm Lin Carter's fantasy series with Zebra died.

Alongside the Zebra fantasy series, Carter was editing for the same publisher a revival of the magazine Weird Tales in mass market paperback form. This will be covered in a subsequent post. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

JRRT & the Cthulhu Mythos, New Nodens Books, and Points on the US editions of Charles Williams's Novels

A few unrelated mini-posts.

Tolkien and the Cthulhu Mythos

It is not possible to consider Tolkien as an influence on H.P. Lovecraft himself, for Lovecraft died in 1937, months before The Hobbit was even published.  Yet the Mythos that Lovecraft created, and which has posthumously achieved the misnomer of The Cthulhu Mythos, has been continued by many other writers up to the present day.  These writers include August Derleth (1909-1971), who is famous as the person behind the publisher Arkham House, founded in 1939. 

Derleth published a collection of six of his own Cthulhu Mythos stories as The Mask of Cthulhu, under his Arkham House imprint in June 1958.  It includes a story "The Seal of R'lyeh", reprinted from the July 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction, where it appeared as "Seal of the Damned."

Basically, the story is about a man named Phillips who inherits his uncle's house in Innsmouth. (There are many more references to Howard Phillips Lovecraft and his invented mythos.) In going through his uncle's effects, including his uncle's occult researches, Phillips finds a ring with some unusual qualities.  Here are some quotes:
"I examined it closely. There was nothing extraordinary about it, save its sizeto look upon; the wearing of it, however, carried with it unimaginable results. For I had no sooner put it on my finger than it was as if new dimensions opened up to me—or as if the old horizons were pushed back limitlessly. All my senses were made more acute."  (pp. 168-169)

"With the assumption of the ring, I became cognizant of the pressure of unseen forces, potent beyond the telling, as were this house the focal point of influences beyond my comprehension; I stood, in short, as were I a magnet to draw elemental forces from all about me, and these rushed in upon me with such impress that I felt like an island in the midst of the sea, with a raging hurricane centered upon it." (p. 169)

"I had put on my uncle's ring one day, and, drawn to the sea, was bent on climbing down to the water's edge, when I found myself, while in the act of crossing the great central room of the house, virtually unable to leave it, so strong was its pull upon the ring, I ceased to try, presently, recognizing that a psychic force was manifest, and simply stood, waiting for guidance." (p. 170)
It is interesting that no other author that I know of used a ring in this manner before Tolkien, the use of which is manifest in The Fellowship of the Ring, published in 1954.  Could Derleth have read Tolkien's book?  We know that certainly he did, for he reviewed it in his regular column, "Minority Report," in the 18 November 1954 issue of the Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper The Capital Times.  Here's the meat of the review:
"It is completely captivating on a grand scale . . . It is set down in memorable prose . . . A vividly imaginative work, it is surely a classic in its field; one will look forward with keen interest to the succeeding volumes. I have no doubt at all that Tolkien's three-volume work will come to be regarded as one of the great books of its kind."  (p. 18)
Derleth also reviewed The Two Towers in The Capital Times, 30 June 1955:
"It is the story of  Frodo the Hobbit, of his possession of a ring which rules all the Rings of Power. . . . Mr. Tolkien's book is almost unique. It is related to such sagas as E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, it has kinship to the Arthurian legends, to the Icelandic Sagas, but it stands quite alone. It is a great book in the realm of fantasy. . . . I commend the book to all discriminating readers, old and young; begin it with The Fellowship of the Ring, and go on with The Two Towers. And wait on The Return of the King, soon to come." (p. 20)
No one has yet found a review by Derleth of The Return of the King, but Derleth was one of the dozen or so writers and critics who awarded The Lord of the Rings the International Fantasy Award for 1957,  presented at the London World Science Fiction Convention in September of that year.  Derleth is known to have written a short review of The Tolkien Reader for Books of the Times in 1966, so his interest in Tolkien is shown to have continued.

I do also note that in the "Introduction" to The Mask of Cthulhu, Derleth claims that "The Seal of R'lyeh" was "conceived and written in Los Angeles in the summer of 1953," i.e., in the year before The Fellowship of the Ring was published; and I also note that the manuscript of the story was returned to Derleth by Weird Tales magazine in November 1954, just after the magazine had folded. However, it seems likely that Derleth would have revised it before submitting it to Fantastic Universe Science Fiction, who published it in July 1957.  I have not seen the magazine text, and cannot compare it to that published the following year in The Mask of Cthulhu. [Update: the texts appear to be identical.] But it is not unlikely that Derleth would have revised his story after reading The Fellowship of the Ring, seeing the added aspects he could give to his ring in his story, publishing it three years later. Thus the very Tolkienian echoes of the One Ring found their way into Derleth's Cthulhu Mythos story.

Thanks go to Richard C. West and to John Haefele for help on this topic. 

New Nodens Books 

I've published three books in my Nodens Books imprint since my last blog post here, so let me give some account of them.

Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Stories, by Dale Nelson, is a collection of eleven ghostly tales (think M.R.James and Robert Aickman, not H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King), written over the last thirty years.  Ordering details click here.

The Laughing Elf, by Ronald MacDonald, is a fairy tale in the style of the author's father, George MacDonald. More details here.

The Man Who Lived Backwards and Other Stories, by Charles F. Hall, collects all three known stories by Charles F. Hall.  The title story of this volume influenced The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  More details here.

More book will be announced soon.

Charles Williams's Novels and Their Early American Editions

The above title refers to an article I recently published at, for which click here. It is basically a bibliographical study of the publication of Charles Williams's novels in the US by Pellegrini & Cudahy and Wm. B. Eerdmans, with illustrations.  It is not very well-known that there are points on several of the books, including their dust-wrappers.  I have been sorting out these editions for years, and here present my conclusions. I published it on primarily because I couldn't think of an academic venue that would allow the space for all of the dust-wrapper scans, and they are central to my discussion (as well as being interesting to look at!).  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Whither the River Running?

I have recently had some interesting correspondence with Stephen Angelo Vrettos, a student of Commerce and Law at the University of Sydney in Australia.  With Stephen’s permission I have combined our comments to make this blog post and invite comments from readers.   

Basically, our discussion concerns Tolkien’s changing conception of the course of the River Running near the Lonely Mountain, the location of the ruins of Dale, and the movements of Dain’s dwarves around Bard’s camp of men and Elves. Tolkien’s own drawings show the geographical development, and I copy two of them below (scans lifted from the web, the illustrations are copyright The Tolkien Estate) to illustrate the differences at a glance. The situation across all of Tolkien’s illustrations is complicated, and will be discussed below.

First, Tolkien’s illustration of “Smaug Flies Round the Mountain” (no. 75 in The Art of The Hobbit—see below). You can see the River coming out of the Front Gate of the mountain, going towards the viewer (east) towards Ravenhill,  where it turns abruptly to the north, with the ruins of Dale on the west side of the River next to the eastern spur of the mountain.  This illustration shows Tolkien’s earlier conception. 

Second, Tolkien’s illustration “The Lonely Mountain” (no. 77 in The Art of The Hobbit).  Here you can see the River emanating out of the Front Gate, moving east towards Ravenhill, near which it makes an abrupt turn north, followed by an abrupt turns west back towards the mountain, followed by another turn north, and another turn east, leaving the ruins of Dale now located on the east side of the River, with a loop of the River. 

Textually, the scenario is also complicated. In the manuscript, as given by John D. Rateliff in The History of The Hobbit, we have this description:

Before setting out to search the western slopes for the hidden door, on which all their hopes rested, Thorin sent out a scouting expedition to spy out the land to the east by the Front Gate. Bilbo went with them—and Balin and Fili and Kili. After a couple of days of silent journey they came back to the Running River, which took a [?sudden>] great western turn and flowed toward the mountain, which stretched out its arms to meet it. The bank was rocky, tall, and steep here, and gazing out from the brink, over the narrow river, foaming and splashing over boulders, they could see in a wide valley shadowed by the mountain’s arms, the grey ruins far-off of ancient [?towers>] houses, towers, and walls.
   “There lies all that is left of Dale” said Balin.  [p. 472]

This passage seems to describe the scenario visible in “The Lonely Mountain,” but it does not mention the looping of the River Running nor the specific location of Dale.

The text as published in September 1937, in Chapter 11 “On the Doorstep” of the first edition of The Hobbit, reads (bold emphasis added):

Before setting out to search the western spurs of the Mountain for the hidden door, on which all their hopes rested, Thorin sent out a scouting expedition to spy out the land to the South where the Front Gate stood. For this purpose he chose Balin and Fili and Kili, and with them went Bilbo. They marched under the grey and silent cliffs to the feet of Ravenhill. There the river, after winding a wide loop over the valley of Dale, turned from the Mountain on its road to the Lake, flowing swift and noisily. Its bank was bare and rocky, tall and steep above the stream; and gazing out from it over the narrow water, foaming and splashing among many boulders, they could see in the wide valley shadowed by the Mountain’s arms the grey ruins of ancient houses, towers, and walls.
   “There lies all that is left of Dale,” said Balin. [The Annotated Hobbit, p. 257]

The change was apparently made at the proof stage. Tolkien corrected the first proofs in March 1937, and the revised proofs in April 1937. 

With regard to the illustrations, the River Running and Dale are notable in “Thor’s Map,” and in various versions of “The Front Gate,” “The Lonely Mountain” and “Smaug Flies Round the Mountain.” The easiest way to cover the maps is to use the numbering system in The Art of The Hobbit (2011).  There, “Thor’s Map” appears in items numbered 24, 25, 27, 28 and 29.  No. 24 is the only page from the first manuscript of The Hobbit, while no. 25 is a more complete drawing that probably circulated with the manuscript.  Both 24 and 25 show the Lonely Mountain with North towards the top, and Dale on the east side of the River Running, which does not yet have a loop.  No. 26 is a sketch, which positions east at the top, and with Dale located on the west side of the looping River Running.  This is followed in no. 27 (final art) and no. 28 (the proof). 

No. 63 is the final version of “The Front Gate,” which doesn’t give enough perspective to show the course of the River Running.

No. 83 is an ink map of the Lonely Mountain and surrounding lands, which shows a pencilled correction, adding the loop of the River Running, over the ink original.

There are four versions of “Smaug Flies Round the Mountain” that are relevant. The first two, nos. 74 and 75, both show Dale on the eastern side of the River Running, and one can see the remains of the bridge near Ravenhill.  With nos. 76 and 77, the loop is added, and Dale appears on the western side of the River Running, which runs from the Front Gate down to Ravenhill (the remains of the bridge is visible in both drawings), before looping up to the other spur of the mountain and then turning southwards again after Dale (leaving Dale now on the western side of the River).

What is clear from all this is that between December of 1936 (when Tolkien completed some illustrations) and April 1937 when he finished correcting the proofs, his ideas on the location of Dale and the shape of the River Running changed.  

What is less clear is how to explain the apparent ambiguities left in the text, particularly about the positioning of the camp of the men of Laketown and the Elves, and the way of passage by Dain and the dwarves coming from the east to the Front Gate.  

The question remains as to why Dain’s emissaries needed to cross the River in order to approach the camp of the men of Laketown and the Elves. Here are the appropriate published texts (bold emphases added):

Chapter 15, “The Gathering of the Clouds”

There came a night when suddenly there were many lights as of fires and torches away south in Dale before them.
   “They [the men of Laketown and the Elves] have come!” called Balin. “And their camp is very great. They must have come into the valley under the cover of dusk along both banks of the river.” 
   That night the dwarves slept little. The morning was still pale when they saw a company approaching. From behind their wall they watched them come up to the valley’s head and climb slowly up. Before long they could see that both men of the lake armed as if for war and elvish bowmen were among them. At length the foremost of these climbed the tumbled rocks and appeared at the top of the falls; and very great was their surprise to see the pool before them and the Gate blocked with a wall of new-hewn stone.
   As they stood pointing and speaking to one another Thorin hailed them: “Who are you,” he called in a very loud voice, “that come as if in war to the gates of Thorin son of Thrain, King under the Mountain, and what do you desire?”
   But they answered nothing. Some turned swiftly back, and the others after gazing for a while at the Gate and its defences soon followed them. That day the camp was moved to the east of the river, right between the arms of the Mountain. The rocks echoed then with voices and with song, as they had not done for many a day. There was the sound, too, of elven-harps and of sweet music; and as it echoed up towards them it seemed that the chill of the air was warmed, and they caught faintly the fragrance of woodland flowers blossoming in spring.  [The Annotated Hobbit,  p. 320]

Chapter 16, “A Thief in the Night”

   As soon as Bombur had gone, Bilbo put on his ring, fastened his rope, slipped down over the wall, and was gone. [. . .]
   It was very dark, and the road after a while, when he left the newly made path and climbed down towards the lower course of the stream, was strange to him. At last he came to the bend where he had to cross the water, if he was to make for the camp, as he wished. The bed of the stream was there shallow but already broad, and fording it in the dark was not easy for the little hobbit. He was nearly across when he missed his footing on a round stone and fell into the cold water with a splash. He had barely scrambled out on the far bank, shivering and spluttering, when up came elves in the gloom with bright lanterns and searched for the cause of the noise. [The Annotated Hobbit,  p. 328]

Chapter 17, “The Clouds Burst”

Trumpets called men and elves to arms. Before long the dwarves could be seen coming up the valley at a great pace. They halted between the river and the eastern spur; but a few held on their way, and crossing the river drew near the camp; and there they laid down their weapons and held up their hands in sign of peace. Bard went out to meet them, and with him went Bilbo.
   “We are sent from Dain son of Nain,” they said when questioned. “We are hastening to our kinsmen in the Mountain, since we learn that the kingdom of old is renewed. But who are you that sit in the plain as foes before defended walls?” This, of course, in the polite and rather old-fashioned language of such occasions, meant simply: “You have no business here. We are going on, so make way or we shall fight you!” They meant to push on between the Mountain and the loop of the river; for the narrow land there did not seem to be strongly guarded.
   Bard, of course, refused to allow the dwarves to go straight on to the Mountain.
[. . .]  In the camp all was now astir, as if for battle; for the dwarves of Dain were advancing along the eastern bank.
   “Fools!” laughed Bard, “to come thus beneath the Mountain’s arm! They do not understand war above ground, whatever they may know of battle in the mines. There are many of our archers and spearmen now hidden in the rocks upon their right flank. Dwarf-mail may be good, but they will soon be hard put to it. Let us set on them now from both sides, before they are fully rested!”   [The Annotated Hobbit, pp. 336-338]

The question is:  “If Bard’s camp is already situated east of the river, why do Dain’s emissaries need to cross the river in order to approach the camp?”

It appears that the text might follow the original idea of the River Running not having the loop, and thus Dale was on the eastern bank.  Adding the loop in the river puts the ruins on the western bank.  However, the camp is described (in Chapter 15) as being moved to the east of the river, and right between the arms of the mountain.  This apparently means that the camp was moved to the northeastern edge of the peninsula that is circumscribed by the first loop of the Running River, and thus the camp is much nearer to the Front Gate, which is “right between the arms of the mountain.”  This leaves one to wonder where Dain’s forces were precisely.  Might they have crossed the river from east to west, thereby being on the Dale side of the river, while they were coming round the eastern spur of the Mountain?  Thus they would have to cross the river from west to east as it looped up to the north before turning east and running alongside the eastern spur of the Mountain?  Again there are ambiguities here.

Two areas of importance to this discussion are marked on this close-up. 

The yellow area is where Bard probably set up the main camp.  The orange mark highlights the east bank of the loop of the River opposite Dale. It seems that the River runs next to the cliffs of the eastern spur of the mountain. Is there enough room along that eastern bank for Dain’s dwarves to have moved, or might they have had to ford the river somewhere to the right of the orange mark, and thus be on the western/Dale side of the River?  

In chapter 17 it is noted that “Runners came in to report that a host of dwarves had appeared round the eastern spur of the Mountain and was now hastening to Dale” [The Annotated Hobbit, p. 336] There is ambiguity here in the phrase “hastening to Dale.” Does this mean that Dain and his dwarves crossed the river and were thus on the western/Dale side of the River?  Or are the words just subjective meaning that the dwarves were hastening towards Dale. Tolkien does note later that the dwarves “halted between the river and the eastern spur; but a few held on their way, and crossing the river drew near the camp” [The Annotated Hobbit, p.337]. Which brings up the questions of  whether or not Bard kept some men camped on the Dale side of the River, or whether Dain might have sent a party of dwarves across the River while the main army halted east of the River? One expects that Tolkien would have described either scenario more clearly if it had been the case. 

Why did Tolkien make these alterations?  Might it have been to make it a bit more difficult for Dain to come to the aid of his kinsmen in the Mountain, adding the terrain as one further obstacle? Comments and other interpretations welcomed.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A New Issue of ORCRIST!

Orcrist no. 9, dated April, but published May 2017
**UPDATE 16 June 2017: Copies of Orcrist no. 9 can be now be ordered directly. Inquiries (and paypal payments) to **

The J.R.R. Tolkien Society at the University of Wisconsin--Madison was founded in 1966.  It has met continuously for over fifty years. It also published eight issues of a journal, Orcrist, with issue one dated 1966/1967 and issue eight dated 1977.  Orcrist has been dormant for forty years, but now, at long last, issue nine has just been published!  The contents are listed below.

Orcrist [no. 9] (April 2017) ed. Richard C. West (Tolkien and Fantasy Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 57pp, quarto, cover by Sylvia Hunnewell, rear cover by Rachel Hunnewell)

2 * table of contents
3 * Foreword * Richard C. West * ed
5 * About the Contributors * Anon. * bg
6 * The Novels of Evangeline Walton * Douglas A. Anderson * ar [Evangeline
10 * Off to Wellington without a Handkerchief * Kristin Thompson * ar  [reprinted
       from, 26 July 2012]
15 * I Know What Happened to the Entwives * Jeanne Gomoll * ar
17 * The Lord of the Rings: An Analysis of Power and the Origin of Evil * Peter
       Brummel * ar
21 * How The Hobbit Came to Milwaukee * John D. Rateliff * ar
33 * Linguistic Diversity in Middle-earth, Malacandra, Perelandra, and England *
       Thomas A. DuBois * ar
40 * Our "Precious": A Buddhist Meditation on the One Ring * Zuiko Julie
        Redding * ar
44 * Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy, ed. Douglas A. Anderson
        * Hank Luttrell * br [incorporates a 2004 review from]
48 * Moot Point: Letters to Orcrist * Charles Noad, Debra Daemmrich * lt
49 * Earendlil and Auzandil * Nelson Goering * ar
53 * Saint Smith: Reading Smith of Wootton Major as a Saint's Life * Matthew A.
        Fisher * ar

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Beginnings and Endings

Some recent events have got me looking back upon how I got started in this field.  I first read Tolkien in the summer of 1973, and for the next few years I looked for anything similar to Tolkien to read.  There were some notable successes, like Lord Dunsany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Clark Ashton Smith, and Patricia A. McKillip.  I relished what I could then find of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which ceased publishing any new titles in 1974.

I started studying the fantasy field further when I started buying some new bibliographical resources. Four stand out after all these years.  The first I bought was H.P. Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature, in the Dover edition with an Introduction by E.F. Bleiler. Not only were Lovecraft's comments a guide for me in reading older supernatural literature, but E.F. Bleiler's many books for Dover were nearly always standouts.  Lovecraft's comments in his essay aren't particularly perceptive (they read like over-written book-blurbs, and indeed they have appeared on many book covers), but overall the books he was interested in were usually worth reading. Some of the books he recommended I found early; some were difficult to find in those pre-internet days.

Another early reading guide was Diana Waggoner's The Hills of Faraway: A Guide to Fantasy, which I bought soon after publication in 1978. A few things I especially liked about it was that it gave intriguing comments about the books it covered, as well as references to critical articles about the authors, and it covered a lot of juvenile fantasy that other books didn't.  According to the dust-wrapper blurb, Waggoner was working on a historical novel and a series of essays on popular adult literature.  Alas, so far as I know, she published nothing else, though for years I hoped and expected that she would.

Another book from 1979 is Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, Kenneth J. Zahorski, and Robert H. Boyer.  It has different strengths from Waggoner's book, and they are in some ways complementary.  Boyer and Zahorski's names I already knew for their excellent series of anthologies, beginning with The Fantastic Imagination (1977) and The Fantastic Imagination II (1978), which introduced me to the works of Barry Pain, Kenneth Morris, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and others.

One more important reading guide for me also appeared in 1979, and that is Roger C. Schlobin's The Literature of Fantasy: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction. While its comprehensiveness was a matter of debate even in 1979, it was pretty inclusive, and had one feature that I especially liked:  for single author story collections, and multi-author anthologies, the title of each story was listed, and that was a real plus when searching for specific stories. This volume also has annotations and entries for bibliographies of some writers, which led me to find further things to read. Roger taught for many years at the North Central Campus of Purdue University, in northwest Indiana.  He lived in the town of Chesterton, where I  went to high school, but I never knew Roger lived there until after I went away to college. Beginning in the early 1980s, whenever I'd visit Chesterton, Roger and I would meet up, and we became friends.  He was one of the founders of the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA), and for a while edited its Journal. He also edited the long-running series of Starmont Reader's Guide to individual fantasy and science fiction writers. Roger passed away at the end of April, at the age of 72, and his passing is one factor leading to this reminiscence. Here is a link to his obituary.

For some years I used Roger's bibliography as another reading list, finding one item to be particularly unknown:  Regor Clarkk's The Last of the Sorcerer-Dragons (1944).  There is a blurb about the plot:

In this poignant and bittersweet love story, a young professor, on leave in the Gobi desert, discovers the last of a race of sorcerous dragons. The dragons have guarded mankind since its beginnings. The beautiful and compassionate reptile tells the young man the story of man's beginning--a tale stripped of its Christian overtones that is influenced by the medieval love story, Tristan and Iseult, and which retells the Eden myth in a totally new and delightful way. Throughout, the tragedy of the slowly dying race of benevolent dragons is intertwined, and their powers are gradually explained and transferred to the young professor. As she ends her tale, the dragon dies and the man suddenly realizes that he is now the only one with the power to aid mankind. One of the least read and least noticed of all fantasy works.

Sound intriguing?  I thought so.  But when I learned to use such resources as the National Union Catalog, and the British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books, I could find no trace of it.  And looking again I realized that "Regor" is "Roger" spelt backwards, and Roger's middle name was "Clark."  Years later I queried him on it, and asked if he had other ghost entries in the book.  He replied: "It's the only ghost, and you're the first to find it. Of course, I did go on to write and publish the novel although it's between e-publishers at the moment."  At that time, e-books were new, and I didn't pursue getting a copy. Now, it appears that Roger finally self-published it as a book in 2012, priced only $6.63 and titled Fire and Fur: The Last Sorcerer Dragon.  It is now, alas, a cat fantasy, which may appeal to some, but not to me (I'm with Tolkien when he noted that cats are among the fauna of Mordor).

To further relate all this to Tolkien, Roger did publish an essay on Tolkien and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances (2001), edited by George Clark and Daniel Timmons.  It also appears in Roger's Phantasmoriana: Collected Essays on the Nature of Fantasy and Horror Literature (2013), an oversized book priced at only $10.99.

Sometime in the early 1980s I finally got a copy of E.F. Bleiler's Checklist of Fantastic Literature, which  is one of the most consulted books I have.  Bleiler was a titanic figure in the field of fantasy and supernatural literature.  I remember ordering his Guide to Supernatural Fiction (1983) soon after publication. It's basically a compilation of decades of Bleiler's reading notes about supernatural literature. Years of use has shown me that while I don't always agree with him on specific books, he's certainly on the right track about many of them.

Another titan in the field passed away last week. This being Richard Dalby, one of the best anthologists of Victorian and Edwardian supernatural literature. His first anthology was The Sorceress in Stained Glass and Other Ghost Stories (1971), but it wasn't until the mid-to-late 1980s that he became prolific as an anthologist, often resurrecting excellent stories from obscure magazines. I never met Richard, but knew him only via occasional letters. Mark Valentine has written a memorial of Richard at Wormwoodiana, and I refer readers there to read his more comprehensive account.

Finally, a link to Susan Cooper's recent J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, held on 27 April 2017 at Pembroke College, Oxford.  Cooper touches on the fact that she heard both Tolkien and Lewis lecture at Oxford in the mid-1950s. She sums this up in an interview at her website:

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were both teaching when I was at Oxford and without a doubt influenced the lives of all of their students. As dons, they had set the rule that the Oxford English syllabus stop at 1832 and that it be heavy on Middle English and writers like Malory and Spenser, so, as a friend of mine says, they taught us to believe in dragons. They were both often to be seen drinking beer in a pub called the Eagle and Child, known as the Bird and Baby. I never personally met Tolkien or Lewis, and I’d never heard of Narnia, but we were all waiting eagerly for the third volume of The Lord of the Rings to come out, and I loved going to Lewis’s booming lectures on Renaissance literature. Tolkien lectured on Beowulf and was rather mumbly, except when declaiming the first lines of the poem in Anglo-Saxon, beginning with a great shout of “Hwaet!”

You can watch the lecture and see some photographs here

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tolkien Scholars Write Fantasy!

This post is way overdue. I started it about a year and a half ago, when I noticed that two Tolkien scholars, John William Houghton and Michael Livingston, had new fantasy novels coming out in the autumn of 2015.  I thought it would make an interesting post to call attention to their books and other similar ones written by Tolkienists.  The task grew in the making, and I tried different methods of organization before settling on the simplest and fairestalphabetical by author. (Click on the covers to see larger images.)

Update (3/5/17): There is a new Addenda at the bottom.

Jessica Burke and Anthony Burdge

The Friendly Horror & Other Weird Tales (Myth Ink Books, 2013) is a collection of weird fiction, six stories written together by both authors, with two introductory poems (one by each author alone), and an Introduction by Burdge and an Afterword by Burke.These are horror stories of a Lovecraftian type, and one of the standouts, the title novella "The Friendly Horror"it is nearly one hundred pagesrecords the history of a Innsmouth family and their ice-cream making business! The illustrations by Luke Spooner nicely complement the stories.

I might also mention an anthology, Dark Tales from Elder Regions: New York (Myth Ink Books, 2014), compiled by Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke (with their names in opposite order from their collection above). Both Burdge ("The Lonely Boat") and Burke ("Ghosting") each contribute one story, and the book is again illustrated by Luke Spooner (who also contributes an introductory "A Word from the Artist").  Noted Lovecraftian W.H. Pugmire also contributes a story, "The Hand of Bone."

Myth Ink Books has also published books on The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman and The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who. Check out their website here

Matthew T. Dickerson

Matt Dickerson published two historical fantasies, The Finnsbugh Encounter (1991), which covers the events which led up to the Battle of Finnsburgh, and sequel, The Rood and the Torc: The Song of Kristinge, Son of Finn (2014).

More recently Dickerson has published the first two volumes of a fantasy trilogy, The Daegmon War, comprising volume one, The Gifted (2015), and volume two, The Betrayed (2016).  The third will be titled The Mountain.

Dickerson's first book was a self-published collection of fantasy and science fiction stories, The Ultimate Freedom and Other Tales (1988).

Verlyn Flieger

Verlyn Fleiger's first novel  Pig Tale (2002) tells the story of Mokie (which means, we are told, “little pig girl”) who is linked in some way with the little pig she has adopted and named Apple.  Mokie is also a foundling who at age fifteen is brutally raped by teenage boys, after which she flees with the pig into the woods where she meets a trio of symbolic characters. Overall the story is a mix of Celtic folklore, with a bit of Shirley Jackson (specifically “The Lottery”), and a dose of George MacDonald. This is a well-written if rather dark tale.  Flieger followed it up with a sequel, The Inn at Corbies' Caww (2011).

Flieger has also written some short stories, including "Avilion: A Romance of Voices" which appeared in James Lowder's The Doom of Camelot (2000), and the Tolkienesque tale "Green Hill Country" which appeared in my own anthology Seekers of Dreams: Masterpieces of Fantasy (2005). 

John William Houghton

John William Houghton's first novel, Rough Magicke (2005), contains three sequential stories which make up a kind of supernatural, Christian occult thriller, centering on Fr. Jonathan Mears and the Annandale Military Academy. It is more Charles Williams-esque than Tolkien-esque. Its sequel, Like a Noise in Dream (2015), came out in October 2015.

I should also mention Houghton's collection of poetry, Falconry and Other Poems (2003), which I especially enjoyed for its personal touches. And Houghton's play, The Lay of Baldor: A Play for Voices, had a public reading in 2009 at the Kalamazoo International Medievalist's Congress. It has been published in the free online journal The Year's Work in Medievalism Volume 30 (2015), available at this link, where you can download a pdf.

Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston has now published two volumes of his historical fantasies of Roman times. The first, The Shards of Heaven (2015), is now available in paperback. The second, The Gates of Hell (2016), is still in hardcover.

Livingston has published other fiction.  I think his first short storyactually a novelettewas "The Keeper Alone" in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XXI (2005).  There were others in Black Gate magazine, and more recently at Here is his original story "At the End of Babel"; and here is an extract from his first novel. For the same website he has done some interesting non-fiction pieces of interest to fantasy readers.  These appear under the title "Medieval Matters", and you can find an index of them here

Jared Lobdell

Jared Lobdell has published a Tolkien-esque story as a booklet, Seeking the Lord (2015) limited to 100 copies, with Myth Ink Books (it has no ISBN, so look for details at the publisher's website here).  Though, like in Flieger’s “Green Hill Country,” no Tolkien-specific names are used, the tale is essentially about Gondorian young men of the early Fourth Age finding trouble. Quite nicely done.

Edward S. Louis (actually E.L. Risden)

I don’t think it’s a secret that “Edward S. Louis” is really Wisconsin novelist, teacher and medieval scholar E.L. Risden. In 2005, he published a short book Sir Severus le Brewse. In 2014, this book reappeared as the first half of  The Monster Specialist (from Walking Tree Publishers, known for publishing Tolkien criticism). It's a mix of Arthurian motifs with a graceful touch of humor.  Sir Severus is one of the least known of Arthur's knights because he preferred to fight monsters.  Here he joins with the sorceress Lilava in the Greatest Monster Battle of All Time. 
Another noteworthy novel is Odysseus on the Rhine (2005), a final adventure for Odysseus, who travels north on a mission looking for lost Trojans and in the meanwhile encounters many obstacles, giving a twist to familiar aspects of myth and legend.

Dale Nelson 

Dale Nelson has published a number of short stories in widely differing venues, including the Strange Tales series from Tartarus Press. A collection, Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Stories, is in the works.  I'll post news when the time comes. Update October 2017Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Stories is now published!

Anne C. Petty / M.A.C. Petty

The late Anne C. Petty published some suspense novels set in Florida and written in collaboration with P.V. LeForge, but she also published two of a planned quartet of fantasy novels.  The first, Thin Line Between (2005),  was published under the byline M.A.C. Petty, which did not take advantage of Petty’s name-recognition. A second edition, under her usual name, came out in 2011, tied in with the release of the second volume  Shaman’s Blood (2011). I was asked for a blurb and gave the following:

"Anne Petty's Wandjina fantasies feature some marvelously drawn characters from modern Florida in collision with the world of Australian aboriginal dreamtime, via a collection of art and family mysteries. Readers of contemporary fantasy and horror will find an interesting freshness in these compelling tales."  

Petty published one other dark fantasy novel, The Cornerstone (2013) and she contributed a novella “We Employ” to Limbus, Inc. (2013), a shared-world anthology about a mysterious metaphysical employment agency.

Tom Shippey

As "John Holm", Tom Shippey was co-author with Harry Harrison of "The Hammer and the Cross" trilogy.  Of course the publisher tried to hide it, so only the well-known Harrison's name appears on the covers, though both names appear on the title pages. The story is set in an alternative Dark Ages, and tells the story of the bastard Shef, driven by strange dreams. The books are The Hammer and the Cross (1993), One King's Way (1995), and King and Emperor (1996).  I'm not sure what the division of labor was between Harrison and Shippey, but I suspect much of the medieval detail was contributed by Shippey. 

As “Tom Allen,” Shippey published two early stories, “King, Dragon” in Andromeda 2 (1977) and “Not Absolute” in Andromeda 3 (1978), both edited by Peter Weston

Under his own name “Enemy Transmissions” appeared in Hitler Victorious (1986), edited by Gregory Benford and Martin H. Greenberg, followed by “A Letter from the Pope,” with Harry Harrison, in What Might Have Been Volume II (1990), from the same two editors.  Another short story, “The Low Road,” appeared in Destination Unknown (1997), edited by Peter Crowther.

Martin Simonson 

All of Martin Simonson's fiction (that I know of) has come from Portal Editions, whose website is unfortunately not very user-friendly. Books usually appear from Portal Editions in Spanish and in English (and sometimes in other languages), and Simonson's books are related or overlapping with others in some ways that I haven't been able to determine. Simonson wrote one book by himself, Shadows in the Woods (2010), translated into English by Robert Birch. Simonson co-wrote with R.M. Gilete some books in the Scarecrow Project, including The Scarecrow and the Storms: 1 Golgrim's Keys (2009), translated into English by Joe Jenner and Martin Simonson. There is another, apparently completely different book, which I haven't seen, confusingly titled The Scarecrow and the Storms: 1 Golgrim's Keys: The Book of Adventure (2012?), which has a different ISBN. Then there is a further volume (not seen by me) labeled The Scarecrow and the Storms 2: Anatomy of Air (2011) by Simonson and Gilete, also translated into English by Robert Birch.  So that counts up to four books, two of which I haven't seen. Of the two I have (covers illustrated at right), one is the 2009 Golgrim's Keys, which concerns young  Mirluc and his adventures in a fairy tale land.  It's aimed at a slightly younger audience than is my usual fare, but it's well-written and very entertaining.  Fans of L. Frank Baum (and I am one) will enjoy it.  Shadows in the Woods is another story of Mirluc, but it isn't titled as part of the Scarecrow and the Storms series, though it apparently is. What I wish I knew is: how many books are in the series, and in which order should they be read. Portal Editions don't have much distribution in the US, which is too bad, for I think these books would be welcomed here by readers. They are well printed and with attractive covers (by Anke Eissmann). 

Update (2/28/17):  I have it on good authority that the original trilogy of The Scarecrow and the Storms was to have been:

1) Golgrim's Keys
2) Anatomy of Air
3) The Dwellers in the Mountain  [unpublished]

Shadows of the Woods is a spin-off from the original trilogy.
Golgrims Keys: The Book of Adventure is a kind of game-book.

Now the books need a new publisher!


Doubtless I've missed some authors.  Feel free to point them out in the comments!

Addenda:  Here are a few Tolkienists whose fantasy novels are new to me.

Sue Bridgwater 

Bridgwater's first fantasy novel (co-authored with Alistair McGechie) was Perian's Journey, which originally came out in 1989 and was reissued in 2014. You can read a bit about it here.  A kind of mythological prequel, Shadows of the Trees, came out in 2015, and this will be followed soon by a third book, by Bridgwater alone, entitled The Dry Well.  It is a direct sequel to Shadows of the Trees

Another story (co-authored with Alistair McGechie) called "Legends of Skorn" appeared in Dreamless Roads  (2014), edited by Jan Hawke.

John Rosegrant 

Rosegrant's "Gates of Inland" has three books out so far, with the fourth coming very soon. They are Gatemoodle (2013), Kintravel (2014), Rattleman (2016), and Marrowland (forthcoming 2017).  You can find out more about them at the author's website, here.

The author notes: "These are Young Adult fantasies but with depth that appeals to adult readers as well. They integrate traditional fairy tale and folk tale themes and Tolkienian concerns with modern searching for meaning and love. Two more novels are expected to complete the series."