Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gygax Biography is Out

So, I've been waiting for the copy I ordered of the new biography of Gary Gygax, (co)creator of D&D, to arrive in the mail, only to find it today on the shelves at the friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble.  At a quick glance it looks chatty and informative, with a useful timeline and listing of E.G.G.'s publications (rulesbooks and modules; don't think it included his many articles and interviews*)

Here's a link to a brief discussion of the book: EMPIRE OF IMAGINATION: GARY GYGAX AND THE BIRTH OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS,  by Michael Witwer.


--John R.

*perhaps a Gygax bibliography wd be a gd project for someone else out there. Though I suspect Jon Peterson has probably already done all the work during the research for his own opus.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Best Tolkien Interview, Ever

So, sometimes I belatedly discover great things out there on the web.

In this case, it's thanks to Marjorie Burns passing along to me something she'd learned from John Garth, that Tolkien's 1965 radio interview with Denis Gueroult is available online.* Not only that, but this recording is much fuller than the one I currently have, the one issued on an old cassette by AudioForum back in the 80s or early 90s. That one was about thirty minutes in length;** this new one is thirty-nine, so about a quarter of it is new material.

I think this is by far the best interview Tolkien ever gave. It's one of only two that extends to a good length (the other being the Henry Resnik interview, as printed in NIEKAS) and the only one in which the interviewer had both done his homework and clearly carefully prepared for the interview. Just as importantly, Gueroult was not been content with extracting from Tolkien a few disconnected soundbite but asked follow-up questions and pressed Tolkien to expand upon his answers. Would that we had a half-dozen interviews like this. Instead we have only one, but what a treasure it is. It's rare that I write any article on Tolkien in which I do not quote from this interview at some point.

Here's the link:


--John R.
current reading: ibid.

*and apparently has been since April. I will say, in my defense, that this has been a really busy year.

**with an interview with Basil Bunting on the back

UPDATE: I've substituted the correct link, for Tolkien, in place of the one on Lord David Cecil (which belongs to a pending post instead). Thanks to Magister for the corrective.  --JDR

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Good Day for Marquette

So, one of the interesting things that happened when the pope was over here on his American visit the week before last was his naming of four great Americans he personally admired: Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day.

Now, of these four, two are universally famous and the third pretty well known: our most popular president, a martyr to civil rights, and an icon in mid-century Catholicism. But the fourth, Dorothy Day, is less well known, esp. to a southern Presbyterian like myself.

I knew about her from the Marquette Archives. Two of their most extensive collections, which cd not be more different, are J. R. R. Tolkien's manuscripts* and Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker papers.**  And so just by osmosis I came to know a bit about her in a general way. And I've come to realize there's much to admire: she was a pacifist and worker for social justice, someone who took quite literally the gospel injunctions to love thy neighbor, feed the poor, et al. I was also bemused, within the last year or so, to learn that there's both a movement to declare her a saint and an opposition movement opposing her canonization.

Clearly, at any rate, someone it'd be worthwhile to find out more about.

Here's the link.

--John R

current reading: IDYLLS OF THE KING, by Tennyson (tedious), STRIKE THE BLOOD (young adult 'light novel').


** http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/day.shtml

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Another RPG Purge and a disgruntled cat

First, the photo.

Note the disgruntled cat (not one of ours) as he surveys the boxes of old rpgs.

Next, the explanation.

On the way back from my most recent trip, I was thinking of getting back to work on various projects once we got home. I'd made a stab at straightening my desk before we left and now began to think of ways I could free up some space in my office. My shelves are drowning in books and the area around my desk in piles of papers and stacks of books, which makes finding what I need at any given moment more difficult than it need be. The only solution was to move some stuff out of my office to make room. So I decided, partly inspired by the example of my father-in-law and also of some friends in decluttering, that it was time to let go of a lot of the old rpgs I never play (or, in some case, have never played). This included all of MERP (for which I found a good home) but also other games like JAMES BOND 007 (for which I kept only the boxed set, giving away all the supplements), CHILL (likewise), DOCTOR WHO (likewise), EVERWAY (plus its three supplements), EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE / TEKUMEL,* et al.  The only things I kept everything of from all the games kept in my office were (1) all the AD&D/D&D stuff (of course),** (2) all the CALL OF CTHLUHU, and (3) all the PENDRAGON.

By now being on something of a role, I next tackled the old TSR games on the shelves down in the box room. Aside from the original Marvel Superhero Game (which felt prey to water damage long ago) and the WotC Star Wars game (which I never had any interest in), I had pretty much all the rpgs TSR had put out before and during my time with them. So out the door went AMAZING ENGINE (except for the two that I worked on), all of ALTERNITY (including DARK MATTER), BUCK ROGERS (both IN THE 25TH CENTURY and HIGH ADVENTURE), CONAN (by Zeb Cook!), DUNE, INDIANA JONES (all), DRAGONQUEST, DRAGONLANCE SAGA SYSTEM, MARVEL SAGA SYSTEM, all of d20MODERN, all of STAR FRONTIERS; even BULLWINKLE and POKEMON JR.  The only things I kept were all of GANGBUSTERS, all of BOOT HILL, all of the original TOP SECRET (getting rid TOP SECRET / SI), and the original GAMMA WORLD box and first two modules.  Whew.

All these have now found new homes --- quite a bit of it with a friend whose cat, pictured above, was displeased that his owner's attention was on the new games and not said cat.

Next up, it's time to purge those d20 shelves. Which will take a deal of sorting.

Being both a collector and something of a horder, I hate to see all this go, but it's a good feeling to have more shelves to work with. And it'll be worth it to have what remains be so much more accessible and to have my office in much better shape.

--John R.

*I kept only the original 1975 EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE boxed set, the much later T.O.M.E. boxed set, and the one JUDGE'S GUILD adventure for EPT (i.e., three out of thirteen items).

**virtually everything from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th edition, as well as virtually everything from D&D that predated or was parallel with AD&D.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Three Years Ago Today (Stonehenge)

So, Janice reminded me today of where we were three years ago today: STONEHENGE.

We also, on the same day, got to walk around Avebury and see Silbury Hill in the near distance, among other neolithic sites.

One of those dream-come-true days that actually come along once in a while.

--John R.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Nice Review

So, thanks to Steven Schend for forwarding the following link to Janice, who forwarded it to me.


It's nice to know that all that work found its way into the hands of readers who like this kind of thing, and they liked it.


current reading: BROTHER TO DRAGONS (still), IDYLLS OF THE KING (still). Alas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jan Bogstad's Call for Papers (HOBBIT movie book)

So, a few weeks ago (the 8th, I think)  I got a copy of the Call for Papers for a new collection of essays comparing Peter Jackson's film trilogy of THE HOBBIT with Tolkien's original book. This is the second Tolkien/Jackson anthology edited by Jan Bogstad, the first having been PICTURING TOLKIEN (2011), co-edited with Phil Kaveny, to which I contributed a piece on Tom Bombadil. I don't have any piece appropriate to submit to this collection, as well as being fully booked up on other commitments for the next year or so, but it's a subject I'm deeply interested in and I'll be looking forward to reading the resultant book. Since the best way I can think of helping is to spread the word, I've copied and pasted the Call for Papers into this post. Here are the details:


    Edited by Dr. Janice M Bogstad

Call for papers for an essay collection -12-15 essays of 6000-8,000 words in length.  Contact me directly to request an exception.

The deadline for receipt of an abstract, for consideration, is November 1, 2015.
 Final manuscripts are due January 1, 2016 with encouragement for earlier submission. 

Send Abstracts and address queries to:            
Dr. Janice M. Bogstad, Professor  
bogstajm@uwec.edu  715-836-6032 (OFF.) 715 497 9963 (CELL)
McIntyre Library Rm 3040/3041
U of Wisconsin-Eau Claire   Eau Claire, WI  54702-5010

Manuscripts will be reviewed by at least one outside peer review in addition to the editor.

The collection will consider comparisons between Tolkien’s original Hobbit and the three Jackson films.  Of interest are structural parallels and differences, changes in character-focus from the book to the films, and considerations of philosophical differences in the overall message of Tolkien’s original book and Jackson’s films, but other well-supported arguments will also be considered.  As with the previously published Picturing Tolkien, this collection will focus on positive comparisons. Essayists may wish to discuss features of the film that are, in their judgment, less successful, but will be asked to hold condemnation of the cinematic text simply on the basis of its differences from the textual narrative.  Authors may decide to focus on the films or the novel but the primary focus is comparative features of both.  Contribution to Tolkien scholarship can be articulated with two concepts:  its audience is the informed reader, not only the Tolkien, literary or film critic.  Its basic framework is in respect of co-measurability, that the books and the films are co-creations with parallel structures that intersect at certain points.  Each should be examined and compared as if those comparisons and intersections are significant to understanding contemporary Tolkien studies.

Points of departure for essays may include, but are not limited to:
1.     The effects of the filmmaker/director/producer and writers on the final realization of the film as compared to the creation of the novel.
2.     The relationship between our mind’s eye and the eye of the camera, or the cinematic gaze in contemporary critical dialog on cinema is of central interest.
3.     The epic dimensions of Tolkien’s creation.  For example, J.R. R. Tolkien wanted the first editions to include a four-color copy of the original manuscript, but it was not included due to projected expense.  Manuscripts are more easily pictured in the films.
4.     Differences in the structural elements, parallels, comparisons, repetitions of visual and auditory elements, by which cinema creates meaning in comparison with written fiction
5.      The influence of Cinematic conventions and nostalgic elements related to the Lord of the Rings films and other fantastic films of the early 21st century. 

Here's looking forward to seeing what folks come up with.
--John R.

Word of the day: "abled".  Apparently a back-formation from 'disabled' (disabled/abled). Also encountered with a derisive application: "ableist" (= one insufficiently enlightened on issues re. the disabled). Think I'll stick with 'ept' and 'couth'.