Archives: Authors

Tolkien Birthday Celebration 2019

January rolled around again and with it came another opportunity to celebrate the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien at the Kennedy School. The event added a new wrinkle this year with a room dedicated to Lord of the Rings tabletop games. I hadn’t realized there were so many of them. I’d be tempted to give the game room a shot next year if unaccompanied. However I’m rather certain the HA wouldn’t have the patience for it.

Audiobooks

I may have mentioned that I have a substantial commute to work. Others might not consider forty minutes each way substantial, but I do. The point is that I spend a great deal of time each week in the car. Some might spend this time listening to the radio: music or new or talk. I listen to books.

Amateurish Tolkien Sleuthing

MBW, the HA, and I drove out to the Columbia River Gorge yesterday and embarked on a paddlewheel sightseeing excursion upriver. The sky offered better visibility than it had most of the previous month: about this time every year everything west of the Rockies bursts into flame. Smoke obscures the views. Yesterday wasn’t bad. The river breeze was nice.

Jack Vance, The Wizard of Appendix N

I come at last to Jack Vance. Arguably he should be first, to the devil with alphabetical order. Look, there isn’t a lot I need to say about Jack Vance. There are encomiums a plenty to the man, and rightly so. His urbane, genteel command of the language, smoothly integrating an archaic lexicon with slang and invented words is nonpareil. Of course, in context of Appendix N and Dungeons and Dragons every commentary on Vance must refer to The Dying Earth, Vancian Magic, and such iconic spells as Phantasmal Spray.

Remedial Fantasy For the Chronically Lazy: A Top Five List

A couple of weeks ago I moderated a panel on the essential science fiction writers of the Golden Age. The premise was which writers should someone read if he were interested in acquiring a grounding in sci-fi but possessed either limited time or small inclination to read copious amounts of early twentieth century fiction. Who are the not-to-be-missed highlights? It was an engaging, free-ranging conversation. Many writers were brought up and discussed. The panelists agreed more often than not. I doubt we managed to pare the options down to an easily digestible reading list.

My original concept for the panel included fantasy as well. But, as it was a science-fiction convention, that idea was (rightly) nixed. But I still think it worth discussing. What if you, dear reader, had an interest in fantasy, indeed enjoyed reading the current crop of authors? What if you wanted to learn more of the inspirations guiding your favorite writers and where certain tropes and archetypes originated. But what if, for whatever reason, you didn’t want read a bunch of old stuff? Which authors could you read, at a bare minimum to fill this gap?

The Little Convention That Could

So that’s NanoCon Mk. V done. What is NanoCon? It is a science fiction convention hosted by the science fiction club of Longview Community College in Longview Washington, a port town on the Columbia River about an hour from the Pacific. It isn’t big. I doubt two hundred people attended. Hence, I presume, “Nano.”

Still, as Gandalf probably reassured himself, size isn’t everything.

Carousing Through the Dismal Season

The leaves are dropping, exposing the bare wooden scaffolding of the trees. The rain is either a constant or an intermittent irritant. Moments of warmth are welcome rarities. Yes, the dismal season is upon us until Spring comes to our relief.

And so, we party. There’s a reason we call it the holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve in rapid sequence. Why? Because the days are short, gray, and miserable and remind us of our mortality. When faced with thoughts of death what do we do? We gather up our friends and family and we eat and drink, deliberately focusing on the positives. Each beer, each glass of wassail is a middle finger to the skeletal fellow with the black cloak and sickle.