Monday, June 26, 2017

Facts That Aren't (Dorothy Sayers)

So, Thursday Janice and I headed up to Seattle to see a play at the Taproot Theater. It's been so long since we've been there that the theater we'd gone to last time (where we saw SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE) has since burned down and they've shifted to a new location (v. nice).

This time we had come to see BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, having heard it recommended by friend Jeff ( We enjoyed the play -- they didn't quite nail it, but it was good fun nonetheless. But my scholar's soul can't let pass one error in the program book.

In the director's notes (page A2 in the program book), he says 

"Sayers intrigued me -- and as a member of The Inklings
she was surrounded by a cadre of writers like C. S. Lewis 
and J. R. R. Tolkien. Clearly she ran with very smart people"

--the last bit ('very smart people') is true enough, but the part about being an Inkling isn't. In the words of C. S. Lewis, cofounder (w. Tolkien) of the group, "She never met our own club [The Inklings] . . . and probably never knew of its existence" (THE INKLINGS, p. 189). 

All in all, though, an enjoyable evening. I'd gladly go there again. And it got Janice and myself thinking back over the Petherbridge adaptations in the 80s -- is it really that many years ago? -- and the Carmichael ones a decade or so before that. Seeing how many classic mysteries and series have been remade in recent years, I'm surprised these haven't been redone. One can hope . . .

current reading: THREE HEARTS & THREE LIONS (just finished) by Poul Anderson. #II.3380.
ANATHEMATA (read aloud) by David Jones.

my favorite Sayers mystery: STRONG POISON. runner up: prob. NINE TAILORS (despite the silly method-of-murder)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Warnie Trashes Mrs. Moore

So, the most recent volume of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES has arrived, and as always there's at least one piece to which my eye is immediately drawn -- in this case, Don King's piece on a previously unknown (to me, at least) little work by Warnie Lewis, longtime Inkling and C. S. Lewis's older brother: MENS HUMANA (or 'Kilns Table Talk').

It's long been known that Warnie, who lived with his brother and CSL's common law wife, Janie Moore, despised the latter. It's also well-known that Warnie and CSL kept a collection of things their father said* that made him look stupid** -- a prime example being their claim that he believed the ancient Babylonians were Japanese, due to his inability to understand the difference between the words "Sumerian" and "Samurai".

Now, in addition to the 100 sayings that make Albert Lewis look bad, we have seventy-two that make Mrs. Moore look bad. Except we don't: in this case we don't get the whole of MENS HUMANA but excerpts, most of them summarized rather than quoted directly.

As for the individual items, they're a mixed lot. Just as many of the sayings in PUDAITA PIE sound like jokes that flopped, some of the MENS HUMANA sound like misunderstandings, whereas a few are truly bizarre, such as this exchange:

JKM (shouting from hall): 'Warnie!'
WHL (leaves study and appears): 'Well?'
JKM: 'What's the time?'
WHL: '6.45'
JKM: 'Oh rubbish! It's 6.40'
WHL (nettled): 'Well why ask me?'
JKM: Because I thought you'd tell me right'
   (entry # LIX, p. 113-114)

Oddly enough, editor King pretty much accepts Warnie's point of view as his own-- that Moore was a horrible woman: conceited, mean-spirited, snobbish, self-righteous, and petty, as well as "dogmatic, contentious, and irascible". He also conflates the Janie Moore who was suffering from dementia (probably Alzheimer's) in the final four years of her life with the person CSL fell in love with; much of CSL's comments when she was in her final decline sound v. familiar to anyone who's been a caregiver.

All in all, a curious and disturbing piece.

--John R.

*PUDAITA PIE, published the year before last in the journal VII (volume 32, p. 59-67)

**which he wasn't: not only did he have two brilliant sons but seems to have been a voracious reader and was well-known as a sharp-witted Belfast lawyer.

New Arrivals

So, new glasses.

These'll take some getting used to.


current reading: THE GHOST IN THE CORNER (the new book from Lord Dunsany).

The Cat Report (W.6/14-17)

Great news that Mr. BOSCO found a new home. He was a charismatic fellow and I have no doubt he’s already won the hearts of his new people.

That left us with four cats in the cat-room: AVERYMINERVATONKS, and TABITHA

Everyone came out right away except Minerva, who enjoyed games (laser pointer) and petting in her cage. She’ll let you know if she wants you to stop, with a slap if needed to drive home the message. At one point we had quite a ruckus when Tonks jumped into Minerva’s cage, who proceeded to give her the what-for. There was much hissing and much swatting but after Tonks had gotten back out of there she didn’t have a scratch on her — it was intense but unarmed, so to speak. Minerva is the only one who didn’t get a walk -- even though I got her out enjoying herself on one of the cat-stands at one point, she was back in the cage when walk-time came around and I thought digging her out of the cage a second time wd just rile her up and start off the walk on a sour note. I’ll have to remember to start with her next time.

Avery was moody, although I think glad to be back in the big cage now that Bosco's adoption had freed that up again. She spent most of the morning in the outer room, keeping an eye on the other cats and occasionally joining in a game. She had a good walk over in the training room, purring all the time. Her fur’s finally grown out, just a beautiful as expected. Think maybe she needs more one-on-one attention.

Tabitha was charming. She came out right away and curled up on the bench, purring whenever anyone gave her some attention. I can finally tell her from Minerva! (Minerva has an all-black nose). She enjoyed games, but she’s a lazy predator and wants to swat at things that come in range, not to have to chase after it or leave her comfy spot. She had a short walk, mostly a carry, which I cut short after she started mewing. She was happiest when someone sat beside her.

Tonks was adorable. Into everything: wanting to climb in every cabinet, play with every toy, ride on your shoulder, and see if whatever you’re doing is a good game. She had a good walk, especially when she discovered the end-cap with catnip toys: she thought it was a great idea to have them all at her level where she cd sniff each in turn. She wanted to play with everybody, but nobody wanted to play with her except me. What a great little cat.

In the still-new-at-the-Cleaner-thing department: I forgot to check off the boxes on the clipboard. Sorry about that.

health concerns: none, but I did notice that (1) none of the cats ate their wet catfood and (2) they all love to sneak into each other’s cages and use other cats’ sandboxes.

—John R.

UPDATE (Friday morning)
And yesterday comes the news that little TONKS got herself adopted and by last night was settling in, already making herself v. much at home. A happy ending. Here's a picture to remember her by:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Very Short Gnomish Glossary (non-Tolkien)

So, Tolkien's GNOMISH LEXICON is well-known,* and the Sindarin deriving from it is one of the world's most famous invented languages. Recently I became aware that there was a second gnomish language, this one poorly attested (in fact, we only know two words from it).

I am speaking of course of the once-popular book GNOMES by Wil Huygen (text) and Rien Poortvliet (art), which had a vogue in the late '70s (and was much imitated) but is now I think pretty much forgotten.

I recently tracked down a copy and reread it for the first time in many years, as part of a larger discussion (still ongoing) I've been having with some friends about the origins of gnomes as a player-character race in D&D. It does not stand up well, but I was bemused to find that it does give a little 'Gnomish' in passing.

The first occasion is when we are told about mid-book (GNOMES having no pagination) that the Gnomes' word for 'goodnight' is slitzweitz.

The second occasion comes about a third of the way from the end, on a full page with the header 'Language':

Among themselves gnomes speak their own language. 
But since we come in contact only with solitary gnomes, 
we never hear it. (They can become very difficult 
if asked about their language.) It is certain, however,
that animals understand it. "Goodnight" is slitzweitz
and "thank you" is te diews. We did not progress much
beyond these few words mainly because the gnomes
master man's languages perfectly. And if they cannot
place a word, they immediately ask its meaning. 
Their written language is the ancient runic script.

Beneath this is a picture of a gnome saying "Slitzweitz" = Goodbye
--a slightly different gloss from goodnight but no doubt close enough.

And that's it: I don't know if they made up more words in 'Gnomish' in the books that followed (only the first few of which I read, and that long ago -- definitely a case of diminished returns) but I thought it worth sharing that they at least made the effort. Though I suspect they were inspired more by Richard Adam's WATERSHIP DOWN than JRRT.

--John R.
current reading: PRESIDENT FU MANCHU by Sax Rohmer (1936)**

*among Tolkien scholars, anyway.
**which I bought way back when working on the PULP CTHULHU project but have never read till now.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Thoughts While Sorting Gaming Magazines

So, I've been having another go at sorting out the few to keep from among the many to get rid of from among the boxes of gaming magazines. I used to be an avid reader of such magazines, back when there were such things as rpg magazines, before I distanced myself from the industry after I left Wizards for the third and final time. It's been interesting revisiting that lost time when rpg magazines stalked the earth, reading reviews of then-new releases, some of which are now revered as classics, others long since forgotten.

Looking back over the array of rpg journals -- some of which had long runs, others here and gone -- it amazes me just how many journals there were. Each major (and many minor) rpg companies had their own magazine. DRAGON MAGAZINE was always the dominant one: it had an extraordinarily long run and for much of its run was by far the best journal out there, the standard against which all the others were (and shd be) judged.

But it wasn't just TSR's DRAGON* (and its later spin-off DUNGEON, not to mention the RPGA newsletter POLYHEDRON, both of whom had high-quality content, circulations, and longevity that most of DRAGON's rivals wd have envied). Chaosium had DIFFERENT WORLDS. Metagaming had SPACE GAMER. GDW had CHALLENGE. Steve Jackson Games had PYRAMID. Games Workshop had WHITE DWARF. Even Flying Buffalo's TUNNELS AND TROLLS had its own dedicated magazine, SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. There were some rpg magazines that grew into full-scale rpg companies, like WHITE WOLF (White Wolf) and SHADIS (Alderac) and KOBOLD QUARTERLY (Open Design). Sometimes a single game had a whole journal to itself, like MYTHUS MASTERS MAGAZINE, the short-lived MYTHUS newsletter.**

Have to give a special shout-out to a few though, any of which wd be worth revisiting in a post all its own: ARCANE (one of the finest rpg journals ever to see print), INTERACTIVE FANTASY (smart, thoughtful, always looking for boundaries to push, albeit a bit too self-important, prizing innovation above everything else), and THE GAMER (in which editor Scott Haring managed to produce the closest thing to a truly independent rpg magazine -- a feat all the more impressive considering some of the fractious talent he had as regular contributors).

And of course there are a few I simply have a personal fondness for, such as ADVENTURE GAMING (which successfully continued the DRAGON MAGAZINE experience for a time and, more importantly, provided a home for FINIEOUS FINGERS). And then there's GYGAX, the recent attempt to see if the old-school' revival cd carry over enough to support an old-style gaming magazine as well (the answer turns out to be no, not so much).

That said, if anyone out there wd like the first four issues of CASUS BELLI or an assortment of five random issues of SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, let me know and I'd be glad to see them off to a good home).

--John R.
current reading: the two adventures in the new 7th ed. C.o.C. core rulebook.

*of which I have a large, but unfortunately not-quite-complete, run.

**I played an inadvertent role in its demise, but that's a story for another time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Character Generation (Fayetteville Rules)

So, it's taken me a while, but here are some more of those D&D variant rules being used in early 1980 in Fayetteville, Arkansas: the first version of the D&D rules I learned.

I shd stress that these are for the most part typed, with the exceptions hand-copied.*  Nothing was typeset or xeroxed** from a book or even a magazine. 

Character Generation
Human    01-80
Elf           81-86
Dwarf      87-92
Hobbit     93-95
Gnome    96-97
Other       98-00

Group I     01-65
Group II   66-95
Group III  96-00

Group I
Eagle-Winged Human 01-30
Bat-Winged Human     31-36
Centaur                         37-66
Werewolf                      67-86
Werebear                      87-94
Werelion                       95-96
Wereboar                      97-98
Other were                    99-00

Group II
Common Troll   01-20
Common Ogre   21-44
Cave Troll          45-56
Hill Troll            57-67
Frost Giant         68-78
Fire Giant           79-84
Hill Giant           85-90
Storm Giant        91-96
Mountain Ogre   97-00

Group III
Ogre Mage         01-25
Mountain Troll   26-45
Cave Giant         46-70
Stone Giant        71-99
Hellmarch Troll*      00

   *2% chance of being a troll mage

Social Class
Royal                 00
Noble            90-99
Guildsman    66-89
Townsman    41-65
Yoeman        26-40 [sic]
Serf               01-25

--also on this page, probably just because it fit, are the rules for changing ability scores, lowering one score in order to raise another:

Str to Agil 2:1  not reversible
Str to IQ    2:1  reverible
Str to Wis  3:1       "
IQ to Wis   2:1       "
Wis to Dex 2:1  not reversible***

Next up comes the Characteristic Table, listing all the pluses and minuses you get based on what race your character turned out to be, with the ability scores listed along the top and the character race along the left margin.  The ten characteristics given are Str, IQ, Wis, Dr, Dex, Ag, Voi, Com, Sz, & Con.

For example, a Hobbit (so named) gets no change to Str, IQ, or Wis; +6 Dr, +4 Dex and Ag, no change to Voi and Com, -12 to Sz, and +6 to Con.
By contrast, a Stone Giant got +10 Str, -33 IQ, no change to Wis, Dr, Dex, or Ag, -5 to both Voi and Com, +55 to Sz, and +10 Con.

Also on this page are possible bonuses and penalties for rolling really well or really poorly on characteristics. If you rolled 18, you could roll again. A 16 on this second roll gave you +1 to the characteristic [=19, I suppose]. A 17 gave you +2, and an 18 a +3 and the right to roll again (and so forth). Similarly, if you'd rolled a 3 when generating the character you had to roll again. A 5 on this second roll gave you a -1 to that characteristic [=2, I suppose]. A 4 gave you a -2, and a 3 a -3 and you had to roll again. I'm not sure how a characteristic score of 0 or below worked; hopefully not many had to face that dilemma. 

Also on this page is a note that female characters all get -3 to size, and two more minor random tables

01-75 R
76-97 L
98-00 A

L  01-30   N 31-70   G 71-00
G 01-30   N 31-70   E 71-00

As you can see, this game really believed in random dice rolls.

More to come.

--John R.

(*by me -- my handwriting was more legible in those days)

(**because we didn't 'photocopy' back then)

(***this tends to confirm my memory that you didn't get to arrange the scores: you had to take them in the order rolled. So if you wanted to play a magic-user and rolled a high strength and low intelligence, you were just out of luck)

Wednesday Cat Report (6/7-17)

So, today was the first with me filling in for the 9 to 11 am cleaner/socializer shift rather than my usual 11 to 1 walk-the-cats shift. 

Thanks to Shane for coming in and showing me the ropes. I’d gotten the training for the cleaning/feeding routine back when I started at the Renton cat room (which is a bit different from the way we did things back in the old Tukwila cat-room), but that was more than a year ago now and I’d forgotten the details; good to have a refresher course.

We’re now back up to five cats, so the room feels full again for the first time in a long time. In the big cage is BOSCO, a big (18 lb) cat who’s a love bug. He loves attention, being fed, being played with, and wouldn’t mind more food if someone else’s is left unguarded. He went out for a walk that was interesting. He got carried a lot and otherwise kept trying to hid under and behind things for the first half, up until he came face-to-face (mere inches away) with a large and fortunately friendly dog. After that he relaxed and explored. It was as if he decided nothing worse than seeing a dog could possibly be out there, and he’d come through that alright, so he might as well relax.

Like so many tubby cats Bosco has difficulty grooming his bottom, so had to do a little intervention there, which he didn’t much appreciate. We’ll need to keep any eye on it, since cat-bottoms get red and tender when not kept clean. 

He’s definitely a stumpie not a rumpie — that is, I think his little fat stump of a tail is because he was born that way, not from any traumatic injury along the way.

The second new cat is TONKS, a small black little cat with deep golden eyes. She wants to come out and meet everybody, play with everything, and generally show off her friendly, playful personality. She likes to ride on your shoulders. She too had a walk but was on edge the whole time (lots of time up on my shoulders where it was nice and safe). I’d be surprised if she doesn’t find a home quickly. She was pretty friendly with the other cats, with just the occasional hiss when she felt threatened. 

She was apparently a litter-mate of Lupin, who passed through our cat-room on his way to being adopted a few weeks back.

The third new cat is tuxedo-cat TABATHA. Also pretty friendly, once her suspicions about the other cats had been overcome. She too had a walk, but it was a short one: she was sharply focused on trying to get back into the room, too nervouse to enjoy herself. Maybe when she settles into her new quarters and gets to know and trust us better. 

The other two cats are familiar faces back for a return engagement: MINERVA and AVRY. Avry loves being petted inside her nook but doesn’t yet feel safe enough to venture out into the room. I think once she gets used to being in previously familiar surroundings she’ll start to come out and accept her due attention.

For her part, Minerva looks so much like Tabatha that I had trouble tellling them apart. She too was on the quiet side today — a bit shy while adjusting to being back, I think. She’d already gone back in her cage and was settled, so didn’t want to un-settle her with a walk. Definitely a good candidate for next time.

Health issues:
— Someone had some sneezing after she came out and went into the front room, but I forget which cat it was — perhaps Shane remembers.
— also, the fur around Bosco’s bottom will need checking on a regular basis and, when necessary, cleaning. A wet cloth works really well, but in a pinch wet paper towels wd probably do.

—John R. 

current reading: MYSTERY AND MORE MYSTERIES by Robert Arthur (just finished).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beren & Luthien Have Arrived

So, today I got a notice that the copy of BEREN & LUTHIEN that I ordered from England will be arriving here around June 16th.

Fortunately, the Kindle version arrived at nine o'clock last night, so I'm already well into my first reading of these newly arranged and re-presented texts. The frontmatter by CT was deeply interesting; now I'm into the first version of the Tale itself. I'm enjoying it quite a lot; I'll say more when I have more to say.

Meanwhile, it's back to working on Endnotes. Collingwood and Stukeley and Yeates, oh my.

--John R.
current reading: The Tale of Tinuviel (JRRT), THE FOX WOMAN (A.Merritt)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Reinventing the Wheel? (Tolkien's sources)

So, while I was at Marquette on my most recent research trip, the name Holly Ordway came up as someone who had what looks to be an interesting book in the works: TOLKIEN'S MODERN SOURCES. I wasn't able to find out too much about it, other than this brief description:

"My current project is a literary-critical study, 
Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth 
Beyond the Middle Ages, to be published 
by Kent State University Press."

Her goal seems to be to counter the argument that Tolkien wasn't influenced by modern authors (as stated, indeed overstated, by Carpenter in his authorized biography):

"Morris was not the only modern author
 with an influence on Tolkien – I’m also
 tracing connections between Tolkien’s work
 and that of authors such as MacDonald,
 Haggard, Dunsany, and Chesterton, as well 
as others who are almost forgotten today . . . 
[such as] Tolkien’s friend Wilfred Childe"

When it comes to Morris, I think she's entirely on the right track. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's difficult to overstate Morris's influence on the early Tolkien, especially works like THE EARTHLY PARADISE, which I've long believed inspired the frame story for THE BOOK OF LOST TALES. And of course I've argued the Tolkien/Haggard connection myself, as well as stressed the importance of Dunsany on the early SILMARILLION.

But I'm puzzled by Ordway's statements about this being a new idea at odds with the mainstream of Tolkien criticism. One of the earliest books on Tolkien, Lin Carter's little TOLKIEN: A LOOK BEHIND 'THE LORD OF THE RINGS' (1969, before even Carpenter) argues that Tolkien belongs to a tradition, the major figures of which were (1) Wm Morris, (2) Lord Dunsany, (3) E. R. Eddison, and (4) Tolkien himself. A few years later the same literary pantheon, with additions, was evoked and explored in more depth by de Camp in his LITERARY SWORDSMEN AND SORCERERS (1976). More specific borrowings, such as MacDonald's goblins and Chesterton's Mooreeffoc and Haggard's Kor, are well documented and have been widely accepted. In fact, since about 1981-82 there has been a general recognition that Tolkien was influenced on the one hand by the medieval literature he knew and loved so well, and on the other by authors he found congenial from the period of roughly a century or so before the publication of THE LORD OF THE RINGS onward.

That said, it'd be nice to see someone go back and present the case for those influences in a more scholarly fashion than Carter & de Camp did, especially given how much more Tolkien we have to work with now than we did forty-plus years ago.

--John R.
current reading: GNOMES by Huygen & Poortvliet.
today's song: "Brainiac's Daughter"

P.S.:  Here's a link to a piece giving one specific example of the her treatment of the Morris/Tolkien connection:

And here's a brief profile of Dr. Ordway from her website:

"Holly Ordway is professor of English and director of the MA in apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius Press, 2014). She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst; her academic work focuses on imaginative apologetics and on the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams."

So, definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Inklings Book of Arthur

So, last week I learned about the Go Fund Me drive for Sorina Higgins' project THE INKLINGS AND KING ARTHUR, a collection of about twenty essays looking at the Arthurian works of Tolkien, Lewis, Wms, and Barfield. Apparently the book is done but permissions ran higher than expected, hence the fund drive to fill in the gap. The link below includes a complete table of contents, giving a good idea of what the book is about. I know it's certainly something I consider a worthy cause. Here's the link:

--John R.
current reading: THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (just finished; poor)
just started: THE LYTTLETON CASE by R. A. V. Morris (brother of the great fantastist Kenneth Morris)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jim Lowder Chaosium Announcement

So, the latest issue of the Chaosium e-newsletter announces the news that my friend Jim Lowder is now in charge of their fiction line. Jim's a good guy -- I've known him since we were at Marquette in the early '80s, he as an undergrad in the honors program and I as a grad student working on my PhD while sneaking off to look at the Tolkien manuscripts in the archives in my spare time. Together we survived The Science Fiction Class of Doom (more about that some other time), having found a shared interest in fantasy, roleplaying games, and King Arthur.* Later on he became the first person I knew who worked at TSR, and gave me good advice when I eventually came to apply for a job there myself.

He's also an experienced editor and designer, both freelance and in-house, with a long string of successful anthologies to his credit, and a longtime advocate for creator's rights, especially when it comes to things like work-for-hire, royalties, and reprints. Here's hoping he can revive Chaosium's fiction line, which put out some interesting collections in the '90s but has rather languished of late.


Award-winning editor and author James Lowder has joined Chaosium as executive editor of fiction. Chaosium President Rick Meints commented: “James embodies that magic combination of wisdom and enthusiasm. Knowing his craft inside and out, he brings his advocacy and integrity to the table at every turn. Having him relaunch our fiction line is a ‘the stars are right’ moment.”

I look forward to seeing what new releases they have in store.

--John R.
current reading: THE PROFESSOR AND THE MAD MAN by Simon Winchester, an interesting and annoying book about the creation of the O.E.D.

*he later put together the Green Knight Publishing line of Arthurian reprints

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Whistleblower Freed

So, the US news sites I checked yesterday didn't even mention it, but yesterday morning whistleblower Bradley/Chelsea Manning was freed after serving seven years of a thirty-five year sentence,  sometimes under conditions international rights groups decried as torture, for leaking news about war crimes ("Collateral Murder") and an illegal surveillance program.

It's been a long time coming.

Now if only the US would stop its attempts to jail Snowden and Assange.

Here's the link.

--John R.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gygax Tolkien-bashing

So, just before leaving for Kalamazoo I got a message from my local Barnes & Nobel that an item I'd pre-ordered had come in: RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D by David Kushner (text) and Koren Shadmi (art).  Essentially this is a biography in graphic novel form, with word balloons sometimes representing the biographer's narration or commentary and sometimes the thoughts of the character being shown instead—usually Gygax but for one chapter switching over to Arneson (co-creator, with Gygax, of D&D). Often these bits of text sound like they're answers to a question, which is because many of them were taken from interviews. 

Throughout their book Kushner & Shadmi try to be fair to both Gygax and Arneson, admirably so. There are few pure villains in their account (excepting the Blumes, whom they lambaste), which makes their unabashed Tolkien-bashing stands out all the more.

Here's the page in question:

For those who can't read the tiny print, the top half of this page proclaims Gygax's love of Rbt. E. Howard's Conan stories, the bottom half his disdain for Tolkien's work. 

— You're a fan of the "Conan the Barbarian" books by Robert E. Howard.

— You hope to evoke their swashbuckling action in a war game.

— But you loathe the major fantasy touchstone of the time, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.

— It was so dull.
— I mean, there was no action in it.
—  I'd really like to throttle Bilbo and Frodo.

(tosses the book into a box of discards)

This mainly raises my hackles because it misrepresents Gygax's relationship with Tolkien's works.

First, the two greatest influences on original D&D where Howard and Tolkien. Tolkien provided the player character races, a goodly proportion of the monsters (I once worked it out to be about a third), and the whole idea of the player-character party, the plural hero. But the world in which those characters adventure, and the kind of adventures they have in them, owe far more to Howard (and Howardesque authors, particularly the great Fritz Leiber).

What's more, Gygax's criticisms of Tolkien began only after Tolkien Enterprises (the movie people) sent TSR a cease-and-desist over their many obvious borrowings (mithril, balrogs, nazgul, hobbits, half-orcs) from Tolkien's work. After that point Gygax sought to distance his game from Tolkien, to deny (in the face of overwhelming evidence) any but the most superficial influence. But the flat dismissal they present here as his initial response goes beyond anything I've ever seen; I'd like to know their source.

Luckily it's possible to enjoy the graphic novel as a whole despite this passage.

--John R.
current reading: THE BEATLES: AN ILLUSTRATED RECORD by Roy Carr & Tony Tyler

The Cat Report (W.5/17-17)

Being neither sick nor out of town, I got to come in and see the three cats today: Avery, Edith, and Minerva. It was nice to renew acquaintance with Avry and Edith and to get to meet Minerva. All were glad to get some attention but reluctant to come out of their cages. Avery was out the most, asserting her Boss Cat credentials, while Edith seemed to be trying, not very successfully, to get Minerva to accept a position at the bottom of the totem pole. All three had long (twenty to thirty minute) walks. 

Edith went first. I carried her around the store for the first half of her walk, then she decided she wanted down on her own feet and did pretty well.

Avry objected to going out and then had a good time once out in the store. She wanted to go in the dog-training room, a favorite spot of hers, but unfortunately it was locked. She kept leading me back to it again and again, hoping I’d change my mind and be reasonable. She was deeply alarmed by the fish, thinking that anything that chose to live in water was not to be trusted. 

Minerva was a real surprise. I had a time getting the collar on her, but once outside she showed herself to be energetic and decisive. She went all over the store, inspecting each door and wanting it opened. She wasn’t bothered by the fish tanks at all, apparently deciding it they stayed on their side of the glass and she stayed on hers all would be well. Think a lot of her exploring was to map out the store in her head, taking careful note of the location of things like the row of cat-trees. It’ll be interesting how much she remembers and to see where she goes next time.

Back in the room between the walks I tried out various games, with little results. I also got slapped a lot when petting all three cats; they welcomed attention at first but quickly decided that was enough and I shd stop now.

random observations: 
Avry is definitely the Boss Cat in the room.
Avery deliberately used Minera’s box while Minerva was out on her walk. 

Edith really loves being scratched beneath her collar; think it’s a bit itchy for her there.
Edith has an amazing purr. 

Minerva doesn’t look or act like a senior cat; I’d have guessed she was about half her posted age.
Minerva is a great walker; the best we’ve had in quite a while. But it’s a real struggle getting her suited up and on her way.

—John R. 

P.S. (update):
Sorry to hear about the Calci. Glad Pierre is responding to treatment. 

Also sorry at the news that Avry’s potential adoption has fallen through. Hope she’s soon in a home of her own again.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Year Ago Today

So, it was a year ago today -- the Friday night and Saturday morning of the Medieval Congress here at Kalamazoo -- that I lost the lucky coin I always, always carry around with me, only to have it rescued and restored to me the next day by Vaughn Howland (cf. my post at the time, 'Vaughn is my hero')

 Vaughn died a few months ago, but he's in my thoughts today. For one thing, he knew about, and thoroughly approved of, the festschrift project.

He was one of the Good Guys, and he will be missed.

--John R.
--most recent book purchase at Kalamazoo: Neidorf's THE TRANSMISSION OF BEOWULF.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

festschrift flyer (Flieger)

So, I'm happy to announce that A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF VERLYN FLIEGER now has a publisher, Gabbro Head Press. Primary editing has now been all but completed. The book still needs a second editorial pass, plus an introduction and index. We're hoping for a publication date before the end of the year. Here's the flyer I'm distributing here at Kalamazoo, where several of our contributors are in attendance.

--John R.

Here's the Table of Contents for the Flieger festschrift