Archives: Authors

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.

Appendix N, Margaret St. Clair

I’ve been reluctant to write this one. You know the ubiquitous maternal aphorism “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. “ And I dislike offering particularly critical opinions of other writers. After all, who am I to judge.

The first book by Margaret St. Clair I read was The Shadow People. I’m not going to offer up a single word concerning it. Understand?

But I’d read positive comments regarding Sign of the the Labrys. With my prior experience in mind, I had the library find a copy for me through inter-library loan instead of shelling out cash from my own pocket to procure a copy. I began it with somewhat higher hopes. Now, unfortunately, I have to offer an opinion. That makes me a bit uneasy.

What I’m going to do is provide my opinion in two sections. First, Sign of the Labrys as literature. Second, Sign of the Labrys as an Appendix N contributor to the development of Dungeons and Dragons.