Diana Glyer Talks Inklings with Babylon Bee

In a new episode of The Babylon Bee Podcast, hosts Kyle Mann and Ethan Nicolle talk to Diana Glyer, author of Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings

The Babylon Bee calls itself “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire” and going by posts I’ve seen linked on Facebook, they’re pretty good at teasing the foibles of the church. I had no idea they did anything as serious as an interview podcast prior hearing about this episode, and be warned in advance that the set decorations suggest the hosts would not be shocked to meet someone who voted for Trump, although contemporary politics are not under discussion this time.

Dr. Glyer is on the show because —

She has spent 40 years combing through archives, studying old manuscripts, and is considered a leading expert on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her scholarship, her teaching, and her work as an artist all circle back to one common theme: creativity thrives in community. Kyle and Ethan talk to Dr. Glyer about Tolkien, Lewis, and the creativity that can happen in a community like The Inklings.

Diana plays it straight, giving good information about the writers while the hosts nibble around the edges for punchlines. Indeed, one host remarks, “Such deep answers to my stupid questions. That’s what makes a good guest.”

A free excerpt is on YouTube, and the rest of the conversation is available to subscribers.

Happy the Dwarf

By John Hertz:  Results of the 2020 SF Poetry Ass’n Contest were posted here on September 25th.

I won 3rd Place in the Dwarf category (1-10 lines).

Two Filers’ comments congratulated me by name.  Thanks.

Perhaps you’d like to see my entry.  It’s an unrhymed stanza in 5-7-5-word lines.

That hill – a giant
Green elephant asleep, lost
On his way to Mars.

File 770 reported the Contest’s biographical notes about the winners.  Mine was simply “John Hertz is”.  This was due to no request, coyness, or like that, from me.  No one asked.  If the Contest called for any biography from entrants, I missed it.  However, I’m content.


Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the first full-length cel-animated feature film.  In Disney’s telling, Snow White meets dwarfs called Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.

Two Fritz Favorites

By John Hertz:  It’s the death-anniversary of Fritz Leiber (1910-1992).  He wrote both fantasy and science fiction – all strange; if I may quote a Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Desire of strange things swept him on” (“The Isle of Voices”, 1893).  Actually that’s not fair.  I keep objecting when someone attributes what authors write to what they want.  Leiber’s writing sweeps us on.

Two of my favorites among his science fiction are The Big Time (1958) and The Wanderer (1964).  Both won Hugos.

Recently I hear people complaining when attitudes of characters in a story published in the past are other than what we’d aspire to now.  I’m partly with this and partly not.  I think the first look is at how authors treat their characters.  A Filer said the other day I’d not call that book misogynistic.  The character is, but the text clearly shows he’s an idiot.  Then, as another Filer said, Of course it seems laughable to us now.  Isn’t that a gratifying sign of how far we’ve come since then?  There’s more, and Our Gracious Host has encouraged me to explore it, but I’m going to stop there for the moment.

We discussed The Big Time at Denvention III (66th Worldcon) in a set of SF Classics which I called “Wonders of 1958”.  See this Eddie Jones cover of a German edition.

I wrote, 

Spiders are the good guys, and our hero is a woman.  The first Hero was a woman too, go look up Leander.  Indeed this is a very classical book; it preserves the unities of time, place, and persons, which is mighty strange, considering.  There’s slashing drama, and if you’ve never been a party girl, it might not be what you think.

We discussed The Wanderer at Renovation (which I always pronounce “Reno-vation”; 69th Worldcon).  See this Allison cover of an Italian edition.

I wrote, 

Here are a host of viewpoints, a first contact with aliens story as we learn a third of the way in, a look at some favorite notions like “Rovers are free and good” and “Love conquers all”, and a breathtaking exercise in climax and perspective.

May I recommend these two books to you? 

Media Birthday Bonus for September 4

By Cat Eldridge:

THE SHADOW’S “BLACK BUDDHA”

  • On this evening in 1938, The Shadow’s “Black Buddha” first aired on Mutual Radio. It starred Orson Welles as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Margot Stevenson as Margot Lane. “A shop owner will kill anyone to regain a statue from the Far East, beginning with the lawyer to whom the statue was sold by mistake.” It was sponsored by BF Goodrich Tires. You can listen to it here.

X MINUS ONE’S TUNNEL UNDER THE WORLD

  • On this date in 1956, X Minus One’s “Tunnel Under the World” first aired. It’s based on the short story by Frederik Pohl that was first published in the January 1955 issue of Galaxy. The story is that June 15th keeps repeating each day with a very slight change each day. George Lefferts wrote the script.  Cast was Norman Rose, Dean L. Olmquist, Amy Sedell,  Elaine Ross, Bob Hastings, Ken Raffitte and Larry Haines. You can listen to the broadcast here.

ROLLERBALL

  • On this date in 1975, Rollerball premiered in the United Kingdom. It was directed and produced by Norman Jewison. The screenplay was written by William Harrison from his “Roller Ball Murder” story which had first been published  in the September 1973 issue of Esquire. It stars James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn and Ralph Richardson. Critics on the whole were unimpressed but it did well at box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent 67% which is decidedly better than the 14% rating the twenty-five-year-later remake receives. 

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

  • On this date in 1995, Xena: Warrior Princess first aired in first-run syndication. It was created by John Schulian and Robert Tapert with development work by R.J. Stewart and Sam Raimi.  It was executive produced by Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi. It starred Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor. It would run for six seasons and one hundred and thirty-four episodes. An animated film, Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus, myriad novels and even comics followed. The late Josepha Sherman ghost wrote XENA: All I Need to Know I Learned From the Warrior Princess. A reboot was planned five years ago but canceled. 

Like a Wide Road

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1410) I hadn’t read Mencius for a while, so was glad to find in a used-book shop the 1970 translation by D.C. Lau for Penguin Classics.  Dr. Lau (1921-2010) writes,

Only two Chinese philosophers have the distinction of being known consistently in the West by a latinized name.  The first is Confucius.  The second is Mencius…. second only to Confucius … in the Confucian tradition … officially recognized in China for over a thousand years [p. 7]….  [one of] the Four Books which, until the present century, were read and memorized by every schoolboy in his first years [p. 8]….  Mencius, besides being one of the greatest thinkers, happens to be one of the greatest stylists in the whole history of Chinese literature [p. 222].

Mencius, living a hundred years after Confucius i.e. 2,300 years ago (372-289 B.C.E. – roughly contemporary with Plato), as Dr. Lau says is called the Second Sage i.e. after Confucius himself.  His power as a stylist is as might be expected hard to render in translation.

Education based on committing texts to memory is so strange to us – perhaps rightly – that it is hard to grasp.  We know it has too often meant rigidity and blind acceptance.

Yet Mencius said (Bk. VII, pt. B, sec. 2) Chin hsin, tse pu-ju wu.

{Note 1: This piece from Vanamonde had to be re-formatted because Our Gracious Host’s software won’t allow some characters I could use in Van.  I’ll indicate as I go.

{Note 2: As some of you know, I prefer the Wade-Giles system of romanization to the p‘in-yin system so loved in Mainland China.  I’ll say something about that at the end.

{Note 3: The Vanamonde piece used both parentheses ( ) and brackets [ ].  I’ll use braces { } here to show what I’ve had to do for reprinting by OGH.

{Now back to what I had in Vanamonde – jh.}

The p‘in-yin romanization favored on the mainland would write this Jìn xìn, zé bùrú wú.

In Mencius’ literary Chinese – sometimes called “classical Chinese” – the word shu “book” is implied: Chin hsin [shu], tse pu-ru [shu].

I confess that while I prefer the Wade-Giles romanization, or transliteration if you like, its use of is confusing to readers of English.  W-G hs for the sound p‘in-yin writes as isn’t bad, but the of p‘in-yin is less misleading than W-G’s j.

Also I confess that the four diacritical marks p‘in-yin uses for the Four Tones are more helpful to readers of English than W-G’s superscripts i.e. chin4 hsin4 [shu1], tse2 pu4ju2 wu2 [shu1].  {But not all those diacritical marks are allowed by OGH’s software, while the superscripts come through just fine!}

Literary Chinese is terse.  Not only does Mencius omit the Chinese word shu, he expects readers to know from the context what book he means: the Book of History.

Wikipedia on Mencius, rendering the original’s six words, apparently misses some of what they imply, resulting in an exaggeration: “One who believes all of a book would be better off without books”.

Dr. Lau (p. 194) makes it “If one believed everything in the Book of History, it would have been better for the Book not to have existed at all”.

I call to your attention that this – from the Second Sage – is a healthful splash of water on our notion of a memorizer: the Book of History was almost revered, and thought to have been compiled by Confucius.

Here’s some more Mencius.

The organs of sight and hearing are unable to think and can be misled by external things.  When one thing acts on another, all it does is to attract it.  The organ of the heart can think.  But it will find the answer only if it does think [Mencius IV:A:15, Lau p. 168].

Benevolence overcomes cruelty just as water overcomes fire [IV:A:18, p. 169].

The Way is like a wide road.  It is not at all difficult to find.  The trouble with people is simply that they do not look for it [VI:B:2, p. 172].

To feed a man without showing him love is to treat him like a pig; to love him without showing him respect is to keep him like a domestic animal….  Respect that is without reality will not take a gentleman in merely by its empty show [VII: A:37, p. 190].

Wishing you the same.


B.C.E. = Before the Common Era, used by many who do not care for dates stated according to divinity in Jesus.

The Four Books were canonized by Chu Hsi (1130-1200 i.e. the Sung Dynasty): the Great Learning which he took from the Book of Rites (this English word is often used, but decorum might be better; to Confucius is attributed “Of all things to which people owe their lives, the Rites are the most important”; recorded in the Chou Dynasty 1122-221 B.C.E.), the Doctrine of the Mean another part of the Rites, the Analects of Confucius, and Mencius.

Gentleman has been the usual translation of chün tzu {with Wade-Giles superscripts, chüntzu3; the First Tone is shown by a macron in p‘in-yin, the Third by a caron, but since I can’t do either of those here, I’ll write jûnzï: in p‘in-yin an is used here for the unstressed central vowel, like “a” in English “about”}, “either a man of moral excellence or a man in authority”, Lau p. 49 note 3.

This is not what we in the U.S. today call a class distinction, i.e. not hereditary, but a condition of being, to which any can aspire, which any can achieve – to which Confucianism directs us.

As for me, while I aspire to moral excellence, and think it engenders authority, I’m not a Confucian (nor am I big on memorizing); but I don’t read books to be agreed with.

{Here’s the further note on Wade-Giles which I promised above.

{The sign ‘ is used in Wade-Giles for Chinese aspirated consonants, so e.g. p‘in means an aspirated consonant, pin would mean an unaspirated one; in the mainland’s system, those two consonants are written pin and bin.

{Also, Wade-Giles uses a hyphen to show connected words, while in the mainland’s system they are run together, like writing in English “used-book shop” or “usedbook shop”.

{Thus in Wade-Giles p‘in-yin but in the mainland’s system pinyin.

{Wade-Giles writes the unaspirated consonant ts which the mainland’s system writes z.  Wade-Giles writes chin where the mainland’s system writes jin.

{As to whether Wade-Giles might actually be preferable for readers of English, I’ll quote the translator Red Pine: “I continue to find Mainland China’s p‘in-yin romanization system too cruel to use on uninitiated readers . . . [I] romanize all Chinese words according to the more traditional and somewhat less bizarre Wade-Giles system”.

{To give you something you can find electronically, I quote his 2004 edition of the Buddhist “Heart” Sûtra, p. 161.}

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #53

Some Birthday Thoughts – 64th Annual Edition

By Chris M. Barkley: 

Chris M. Barkley. Photo by Juli Marr.

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four

– John Lennon and Paul McCartney, circa 1967.

One of my earliest childhood memories occurred fifty-seven years ago this week; on Wednesday, August 28th 1963, I clearly remember parking myself in front of my grandmother’s Philco television for an afternoon of cartoons and silliness that I was accustomed to.

Instead, I saw a sea of faces. All gathered at that time by what I took to be a large lake. The faces, mostly of black people but with a sprinkling of others mixed in, all gathered near a domed building. I tried other channels. It was on all three major network stations. I was so mesmerized by this mass of humanity that was speaking and cheering that I gave up on seeing cartoons and watched for a while… 

What I was witnessing of course, was the March on Washington For Civil Rights, centered around the Lincoln Memorial, was one of the most galvanizing events of American history at that time. I had just turned seven years old.

When I was that small child, I was totally oblivious to the troubles of the world: racial prejudice and strife, lynchings (still a THING back then, people), stranger danger or pedophile priests, redlining, segregation and the ongoing Cold War with various Communist entities. 

I’ve been told that when I was a boy, I was very shy and often seeking solitude, either by myself or curled up with any of a number of Dr. Seuss books my parents bought for me. 

There’s also this: sometimes, I would inexplicably wake up in the middle of the night and wonder about the future. Would I be alive to see it? What would it be like? Where would my parents and siblings be? I spent countless nights wrestling with these existential questions…

Now, on this end of the timeline and on the occasion of my 64th birthday, I can stand back and recall all of those struggles and how I dealt with them, one by one. There was a steep learning curve as I navigated through life; with school, dealing with other people, raging hormones, the bullies, beatings, self-doubt and several bouts of deep depression.

And against all odds, I survived, alive, well and somewhat healthy for my age.

And as I sit and write this, I see history repeating itself. This past Thursday, August 28th 2020, I again saw a sea of faces, a glorious rainbow of skin color, in high definition, all calling out for justice, equality and peace. But this gathering was concerned with the same sorts of basic issues that could have been ripped from a mid-20th century newspaper; racial strife, gun violence, police brutality, rioting in the streets and voter suppression. 

America today seems more like the America of 1968, when we seemed to be a mess, politically, physically and socially divided to the point of militancy, with the added complication of a pandemic disease which has no known effective treatment, vaccine or cure.  

All this leaves me wondering, after nearly sixty years, why do a substantial number of American white people still loathe, discriminate and outright hate people of color such as myself, simply because we look different or have differing attitudes and opinions. We may not have originated on this continent but neither did they!

THIS is not the science fictional future I signed up for.

And the answer is this; we, collectively, have not had a reckoning with our past history of the illegal taking of land from Native Americans, the enslavement of African natives and the combination of systemic racism that on the surface,  promises an abundance of freedom and opportunity but, in fact, has created a de facto caste system of poverty and income inequality.

The ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and the less than adequate response to the emergency (and other malicious missteps) by the current administration has shorn away the thin veneer of propaganda that the United States is a shining monument of freedom. 

And yet…

People, immigrants, illegal or otherwise, still want to come here. They want to come even though the President can’t string two coherent sentence together without the help of a teleprompter, the people he has chosen to guide governmental policies are incompetent or corrupt, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate deliberately subverts the process of democracy on a regular basis and a good portion of the white population doesn’t want them there.

Why? Because they have seen glimpses of how great we can be. 

We have enacted civil rights legislation. Our collective efforts put twelve men on the moon and returned them all safely to Earth. Our technological innovations are still admired to a certain extent. We continue to fight against climate change and environmental reforms even when the government refuses to acknowledge it. Our athletes are showing that they are politically aware and active. Our artists still have the right to express themselves freely, through books, paintings, sculptures, music and architecture.

And when black people, like Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Atatianna Jefferson, Philando Castille and George Floyd and are murdered in their homes or in the street by the police, the collective outrage is felt by many more than just the Black Community alone.

And then, most notably, there are the visual arts: Star Trek. And Star Wars. The Marvel Universe of films. Babylon 5. The Expanse. The Good Place. Rick and Morty, And, yes, The Orville and Galaxy Quest as well.

These films and television shows are our true brand and main calling card; the possible futures that may not be pretty, desirable or very easy, but they are thrilling to experience and definitely show that we have some sort of future to look forward to and it is worth living for.

I still wake up in the middle of the night, moreso in the past six months. As I lie in bed, I still worry about the future. Although now I mostly wonder what will happen in the November elections, if I have taken enough precautions so I don’t become ill and what sort of future my grandchildren will inherit from us. And, more morbidly and with growing distress, how much time I may have left to live.

Somehow, some way, I still believe that there is hope for myself, our country and the world. That’s probably due to my lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. 

That spark of optimism, buried deep within even the darkest of the novels, stories and films that I have loved and enjoyed all of these years, has kept my own spirits alive and well. I have chosen to embrace the future, not be consumed by it.

Because ready or not, the future is now. 

This column is dedicated to the memory of Chadwick Boseman, a splendid human being and an extraordinary actor. Best known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther, he spoke the following lines, which resonates, for America and the world at large, NOW, more than ever. Rest In Peace, My King; we will always be inspired by you and the many roles you played, to make this a better world…

Three from Me

By John Hertz:  It’s not that I have nothing to do (sing rickety-tickety-tin).  But I thought you might like these.  Our Gracious Host once said I had the heart of a poet – yes, I know the Bob Bloch joke.

* * *

The clouds floating by,
Slowly, it seems, remind me
They are big, but far.

* * *

For Bjo Trimble’s birthday

Birthing new ideas,
Juno to many of us;
Old and young she sparks.

* * *

Dance, so much with time,
Rhythm its flowing blood, yet
Independently
Nourished, nourishing, opens
All it touches to depths, heights.

The first two are in unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines, somewhat like Japanese haiku.  The third is in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines, somewhat like Japanese tanka.  The last two are acrostic (read down the first letters of each line).  The third is a birthday present for a woman I know through another hobby.

Bjo’s name is properly spelled with a circumflex over the “j”, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”, but OGH’s software won’t allow it.

Wishing you the same.

I Had A Lovely Visit This Morning

By John King Tarpinian: I am lucky enough to be able to visit Ray on his birthdays, always leaving him a gift or two.  The cake had to be quickly removed because there were ants that appeared to be interested in the cake.  And no, I did not eat the cake but gave it to the mortuary staff as a thank you for taking care of Ray.

I left a Clark bar (Ray’s favorite), brass horse (representing his first book, Dark Carnival), & the polished coprolite (dinosaur poop) in honor of The Sound of Thunder.  Oh yes, I used a box of Dark Carnival matches to light the candles.

After visiting Ray I always go over to pay my respects to others who had influences in Ray’s life.  Truman Capote, who was partly responsible for Ray getting his first story published in a mainstream publication, the October 1946 issue of Colliers Magazine, “The Homecoming.” 

Also going over to Hugh Hefner, who as a young publisher, serialized Fahrenheit 451 in March/April/May 1954, in Playboy.

Of course, I also visit someone who I tease as being Ray’s chauffeur, Robert Bloch.

It is a pilgrimage I both enjoy making but wish I’d rather be going to Comic-Con or simply having lunch with Ray.

Dyer-Bennet Creates Words Over Windows Photo Book

By David Dyer-Bennet: I’ve committed art. Documentary art, in the form of a book and a website (plus I will be offering prints of some of the photos for sale).

I got caught by the fascinating things people were writing and painting on the panels put up to protect windows here in Minneapolis, when things kind of came apart after George Floyd was killed. And by the layering and juxtapositions, and the broad range of views being expressed.

The website and book are live, you can see what I’ve done at Words Over Windows. (The book is an Amazon print-on-demand production, but the proofs look quite good. There’s also an ebook, which would look great on a good tablet.)

The specific Uncle Hugo’s photos are here, here, and here.

There are also some Dreamhaven photos: here, here, here, here, and here.

100 Years

By Steve Vertlieb: As I remember what would have been his 100th birthday on August 22nd, my memories drift back to a time not that long ago when I was proud to think of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century as my treasured pal.

Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps …the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years.

More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced thousands of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years.

Here, once more, you’re invited to read my loving remembrance of the life and world of Ray Bradbury, “I SING BRADBURY ELECTRIC” at the American Music Preservation site.

Our historic first meeting with the immortal Ray Bradbury in his West Los Angeles living room during the joyous Summer of 1974.

Steve and Erwin Vertlieb with Ray Bradbury in 1974.

When I was preparing for major open heart surgery in March, 2010, I received an e-mail from Ray’s daughter, Alexandra (Zee). She wrote “My Dad told me to tell you that “you’re not allowed to die.”

I took Mr. Bradbury at his word, and didn’t. Who was I, after all, to argue with Ray Bradbury?

Sharing a few special moments with cherished pal Ray Bradbury at Forry Ackerman’s spectacular 1993 “Famous Monsters” reunion celebration in Crystal City, Virginia.

A cheery note from pal Ray Bradbury concerning my appearance in the Conor Timmis documentary, Kreating Karloff, wishing “you guys and mummies” an enthusiastic “Bravo.”