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.

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."