A Bibliography of Jules Verne Translations

By Jeffrey Smith: I’ve always enjoyed making lists of books, though with the internet and its copious bibliographies I don’t do near as many as I used to. I love my recent, handwritten Agatha Christie reading order one; I keep thinking I should type it up, except I like the handwritten one so much, with its arrows shifting the positions of books around.

Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that.

In the back of this edition, there is a bibliography of Verne’s work that includes lists of good translations and bad translations for each novel. I typed up a simplified version of just the recommended editions of the Voyages Extraordinaires for my own use, and then decided to share it here. This bibliography is from 2015, so reasonably up to date, though there might have been a few good translations since then.

If the recommended ones are old, I’ve marked them “best available” instead of “recommended,” figuring they still aren’t as good as a modern translation. And while my initial thought was that all the ones from the 1960s on were probably good, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Also, anything translated by I.O. Evans is an automatic don’t-buy; although he loved Verne’s work and thought he was providing a service by translating so many of his novels, and some of them might not be bad, they are spectacularly unreliable. Many of the later novels have no recommended versions at all.

[The list begins after the break.]

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International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Compiled by Sultana Raza.

Introduction: Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium. The following questions were asked at the discussion group, hosted by Sultana Raza. The responses below were written and compiled after the event had ended. While María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG) took part in the Discussion Group, Shareef Kitabi didn’t attend it. We’d like to thank the Tolkien Society and the Oxonmoot organizers for including this Discussion Group on Diversity in their programme. The views expressed herein are those of the contributors, and not of the Tolkien Society.

(1) Whether you first came across Tolkien’s books or films, please feel free to tell us about what struck you most about them.

Sultana Raza: I first came upon Tolkien’s work while watching TV. In fact, many people, from friends, acquaintances, to complete strangers (on the bus, or even some Kiwis on a plane) told me to watch the films when they first came out. In fact, though it’s a bit far-fetched, I felt a bit like Dr Joe Darrow (played by Kevin Costner) in the 2002 film Dragonfly, as he got many signs from his wife to go to a certain place. In my case, though I was told to watch the films, I resisted, because of all the media hype surrounding them. Strangely enough, I even watched the 2004 Oscars late at night, rooting for Return of the King, though I didn’t know why at that time. Then one evening, as I was having a telly dinner, FOTR started playing, and I was hooked. I couldn’t move at all, till the film was finished. Then I asked a friend who had DVDs of TT and ROTK to lend them to me, so I could watch the rest of the trilogy. While the films made Middle-earth seem to be real and believable, I was most struck by the overall plot, as I am with most films/TV series. I could have read a summary of the rest of the books on the Internet, but I resisted doing that. Watching the other two films was the fastest way to get to the end of the story. But I’ve read the books several times since then.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: It is hard to say exactly when I knew of Tolkien’s books. My parents loved watching the movies, and my dad had read the books. But the first time I read Tolkien wasn’t exactly planned. I decided to have a look at my Dad’s books, and there was one with John Howe’s illustration of Smaug. The cover and the title, The Hobbit, called my attention. I marvelled at Thrór’s Map. When I discovered that the book belonged to my paternal grandmother, and that she was a big fan of Tolkien, I read The Lord of the Rings, and we discussed it together, and I can remember that one of the things that struck us both was the incredible world-building, and the strong emotions presented in the story. Everything seemed to be meaningful, nothing seemed superficial.

Shareef Kitabi: I’d read The Hobbit and LOTR in my mid-teens in India through a lending library. What kept me going through the books was the sense of adventure, and I wanted to know how it would end. I got quite invested in the characters, especially the Fellowship, and it was fun to go on this journey with them. I could also identify with some of the characters and their struggles to save their world. When the films were released, I went on the first day to watch them, mainly because I was interested in the special effects created by Weta Digital as I was intrigued by the technical aspects of these effects, especially how Gollum’s character was created. 

I’d like to mention that since I was used to reading classical literature (such as a set of George Bernard Shaw’s plays or Victor Hugo’s The Hunch-back of Notre Dame, or Tolstoy’s War and Peace), in my mid-teens, I didn’t find LOTR to be too long, or heavy-going, and was content to lose myself in his world. I was too young to understand everything in these masterpieces, but I enjoyed the plot-lines which kept me going.

(2) Which aspects of various characters, value systems, races, cultural mores, mythical elements etc. did/do you (or someone from your country would) relate to most?

Sultana Raza: I found Frodo’s character to be the most appealing, mainly because he was carrying such a heavy, and unique burden. His gender didn’t matter, because all of us have some sort of baggage that we try to carry as best as we can. He seemed to be somewhat isolated, as none of the others could have understood what he was going through, except perhaps for Gollum in a twisted sort of way. As Frodo neared Mount Doom, we got hardly any glimpses into his mind, which was a very effective technique used by Tolkien. Mainly because the reader wants to know more about what’s going on inside Frodo’s head. On the other hand, since the story is told through Sam’s point of view, he got more exposure to the readers than Frodo in the third book. Did Tolkien do a disservice to Frodo by not letting us see his huge internal struggles in ROTK? How much of his destiny did Frodo control?

In fact, I even presented and published a paper about it: Who Forged Frodo’s Fate: the Elves or Himself? For what it’s worth, I think Frodo’s the hero of the story, because at least he got to Mount Doom overcoming enormous inner conflicts to run away with the Ring. I found the value system in the books to be more, or less the same as ours, and the Elves to be the most fascinating race. Since I’m very interested in legends, I appreciated the mythical depths of Tolkien’s worlds, specially after I managed to wade through The Silmarillion, and later on the three ‘new’ books, i.e. Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and Fall of Gondolin.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): It might sound absurd, but I try to follow some values embodied by Treebeard. I know he can be analysed according to Cohen’s Monster Studies, or his mythological association with the personification of nature. But I believe this character represents some positive qualities that are fundamental in life. He is an old Ent who was taught by Elves about the creatures that inhabit Middle-earth, their names, and languages. However, when he meets Pippin and Merry, he realizes he’d never heard about Hobbits before. At first, he might be a bit suspicious and confused, but then, he is eager to know more about them, and he accepts them for what they are. He’s tolerant, and open-minded. He listens to them and also practices hospitality. Additionally, as an Ent, he cares about Fangorn Forest, and of course, nature. Those are qualities that I value, which is why I named my blog “Books from Fangorn”.

Shareef Kitabi: I was impressed by Aragorn’s noble goals, and his leadership style as well. Though Gandalf was an effective strategist, he could have been more communicative with his team. Some people think I was similar to Pippin when I was younger, but possibly all of us were a bit naïve and foolish once. I really liked Pippin in the films too, for the much-needed comic relief. Sam showed us the value of hard work and perseverance, which is an integral factor of the Asian work ethics. The Fellowship represented the way our international teams have to work and get on together, since there’re a lot of different cultures in Asia. We can glean valuable lessons about cooperation from the functioning of the Fellowship. I suppose one could learn capital management from the Dwarves, as long as we don’t wake up any monsters by mining too deep for gold. I also liked the character of Faramir, and the exploration of his (blind?) obedience to his father, which is something that’s encouraged in the Indian culture too. In fact, we can relate to a lot of the values present in the books in Asian societies as well.

(3) What aspects of Tolkien’s works reminded you of facets of your own traditions/legends/classical stories from your region?

Sultana Raza: I couldn’t help thinking of the two most famous epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Since Tolkien was inspired to a certain degree from European epics, and these in turn have some common factors with Indian sagas, there are bound to be some similarities between Tolkien’s sub-created world and Indian legends. People tend to forget the word ‘Indo’ in Indo-European myths. For example, inter-planetary vehicles are mentioned in Indian epics, comparable to Elvish ships that took them to the Undying Lands from Middle-earth and vice-versa. The stars where the Valar have their home are described as heavenly, as is the abode of Lord Vishnu, for example, called Vaikuntha or Vishnulok. Shiva’s abode is in Kailash or Mount Meru. There are imperishable seven upper lokas or dimensions, realms, or spheres. And seven lowers lokas/spheres.

There are also similarities between certain characters such as Dronacharya (an (irate) ascetic in Mahabharata) and Saruman. Though Dronacharya was sympathetic towards the Pandavas (the protagonists), he sided with the Kauravas (the antagonists) during the Mahabharat war. Dronacharya’s excuse was that he was doing his duty towards Hastinapur, the kingdom of the Kauravas which he was supposed to protect. Similarily, when it suited his own interests, Saruman switched sides as well. In fact, I’ve given papers on the similarities between Indian legends and Tolkien’s worlds, one of which, Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds can be viewed on Tolkien Society’s YouTube channel.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): This is honestly a very hard question to answer. On the one hand, unfortunately, my generation has been shaped mostly by “Western” tales and stories rather than local ones. On the other hand, Iegends, tales and traditions are diverse in Chile, as they depend on the geographical region. Nevertheless, I found some similarities, for example, between the monstrous beasts that the Nazguls ride, and the Mapuche´s legendary creature, the Tué Tué. Both make a sound that fills almost anyone who hears them with dread. Now, the Tué Tué is an evil wizard who can turn into a wicked bird. Another example I can think of, are some similarities between a legend from the North and some Tolkien’s stories about the Elves.

In the north of Chile, there is a popular legend that gives the name of a red flower, Añañuca, which tells the story of a beautiful young lady, and a young foreign miner who fell in love with each other. After they lived together for a while, the man went away to find a mine he had been searching for, and never came back, implying that he died in the desert. Añañuca waited for him until she passed away from pain, but when they search for her body, they found some red flowers instead, which they named after the lady. The story of Añañuca reminds me in a way of the story of Nimrodel, as both ladies acquired a new shape that is related to nature: a flower, and a spirit of the river respectively, and they are both associated with a place. Now, some versions of Añañuca’s story mention the fact that the woman was of indigenous origins, and the man was a Spaniard. This might be also compared with Elvish ladies such as Lúthien, and a man such as Beren. A love that breaks cultural barriers, but unlike Tolkien, the local legend ends tragically.

Shareef Kitabi: As I grew up in India, obviously the two big epics mentioned above come to mind. But since I’ve been living in Singapore for a long time, I’ve also watched various documentaries on the history of China. Not to mention epic Chinese or Japanese TV series (including some fantastical ones). I can answer this question in reverse. When I was watching Chinese TV series such as Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (2009), The Sword of Legends (2014), or Fights Break Spear (2018), I was reminded of Peter Jackson’s films based on Tolkien’s books. Sometimes it’s the long story lines, the stunning landscapes, the intrigues among the characters, or attention to detail when it comes to props. Also, the fighting styles of different races in PJ’s films are interesting to compare with the way the action scenes are choreographed in Chinese TV series. In fact, I think PJ could have learned a thing or two from watching the sword fights in Chinese/Japanese TV series.

(4) In what ways do you project familiar elements from your culture onto Tolkien’s works and vice versa?

Sultana Raza: I enjoy reading, or watching films/documentaries about the Mughal dynasty in India. Their complicated relationships with each other, their social and cultural values of appreciating art for example, remind me somewhat of Elvish culture too. If some Elves had travelled East, would they have ended up building a monument with white marble like the Taj Mahal? Certain mosaics of flowers found in Mughal era buildings wouldn’t be out of place in Rivendell, for example. To quote Cath Pond: “The first Art Nouveau designs were Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome in 1883,” says Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich and an expert on Art Nouveau. Beardsley had been inspired by the eclectic aesthetic of the department store Liberty, which combined Arts and Crafts furniture with Japanese and Indian imports.”

There’s an oriental element in Art Nouveau, and Alan Lee mentioned in the DVD extras that his design of Elvish architecture and interiors (such as Rivendell in the films) was influenced by Art Nouveau. The delicate trellis-work found in Mughal buildings, might have been appreciated by the Elves too. There are massive forts in various parts of India, including the famous Mughal Red Fort in Delhi, or many forts in Rajasthan, the ruins of which remind us of somewhat similarly huge structures in Middle-earth.

The Mughals designed beautiful gardens too (some of which still exist), which might have appealed to nature-loving Elves as well. Additionally, the fabrics (whether delicate silks, or heavily embossed taffetas, or richly embroidered organzas) for the LOTR films were imported from India, so that’s another connection to my country of origin. Some of these (regional) fabric designs and techniques have been used for centuries in India.

[Here is a slideshow with examples of architecture Sultana discusses above.]

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): When I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I felt more familiar and comfortable with Hobbits than with Men, (I’m using the capital letter “M” like Tolkien to refer to humanity). One of the main reasons was their political system, they had a mayor, and no king or queen, no Medieval type of architecture and customs. In Chile, there has never been a king, not even among the indigenous peoples, (if I am allowed to call the culturally diverse group that way, who lived here before the Spaniards came). It made sense to me that the Hobbits didn’t care about kings or queens, but rather, voted for their mayor and were just interested in their own local affairs.

Another reason is that even though Chile has big cities, if you ask any Chilean what they like most about our country, we will say it’s our landscapes and nature. Also, hobbits are different, depending on their geographical regions. People from Hobbiton differ from Bucklanders, in that they have dissimilar traditions and ways of living. Chile is a long country with a diverse geography, from deserts, to channels, to islands, and people don’t talk and live the same way. We are united in a way, of course, but local traditions associated with each geographical area are unique and special, not homogeneous.

Shareef Kitabi: I agree with most of what Sultana said about India above. Another aspect that I’d like to mention is the music of the 2006 LOTR musical. I’ve seen some short videos on YouTube. I’d say the music of the well-known Indian composer, A. R. Rahman fitted very well into Middle-earth, though they were obviously Indian tunes, played on instruments familiar to us. So, I’d say this is another connection between our culture, and Tolkien’s sub-created worlds.

Also, I’ve travelled a lot for my work. When I visited the Great Wall of China, for example, I could easily imagine similar mammoth ruins existing in Middle-earth too, though there’s no mention of a specific great wall. For example, when I was in Mongolia, the flat, sweeping steppes reminded me of the great plains of Rohan. In an article2 that I came across a theory has been put forward by Iranian scholar, Mohammad Reza Kamali that Prof. Tolkien may have been inspired by some regions in the Indian sub-continent such as mountains in Pakistan, the river Indus, or the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, and may have included them in his map of Middle-earth. I’m inclined to agree with this theory.

(5) What’s the glue that binds so many fans, readers, viewers, scholars together from all over the world?

Sultana Raza: I’m think that believe that most of humanity shares the same values, which are also present in Tolkien’s works. It’s assumed that Tolkien was inspired to write the LOTR saga after he witnessed horrific events in the First World War. Most people in the world don’t want wars, would like to preserve nature, and live in peace, rather like hobbits. His novels are quite inspiring as well, for we don’t know what we can achieve or accomplish once we set our mind to it. One of the enduring popularity of hobbits, specially Frodo and Sam is that it’s easier for most folk to identify with their struggles than with the powerful Elves. Characters such as Aragorn and Gandalf can be inspirational too. For a lot of women, the actions, and decisions of Galadriel and Lúthien tend to be quite admirable.

Tolkien’s world is so vast that readers from all continents can easily find various elements to attract and hold them in it, whether it’s the character, story lines, places, or cultures. Since it’s fantasy, it’s easier for us to slip into it, and to lose ourselves in the story.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): One of the things that binds so many fans are the emotions that Tolkien’s works produce. If they were plain and dull, I don’t believe many people would be moved and attached to them. I know Tolkien wasn’t a big fan of Shakespeare, but Shakespeare’s works remain popular because of the intense emotions they produce. Now, to be honest, I am not a big fan of Shakespeare either. For this reason, emotions can’t be the only element that help to bind people from all over the world who enjoy Tolkien’s works. Possibly, another factor, as my grandmother noticed, is that in his works there are different cultures, races, and characters, but to succeed in their mission, they must overcome their differences, and co-operate together. It’s a work of art that shows that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, as you’re likely to find your own place in Middle-earth or Valinor wherever you might belong. Additionally, I think this is also because Tolkien’s works present some universal values and motifs which are transversal and can be found all over the world.

Shareef Kitabi: I think the readers/audience form a sort of fellowship, even if we come from many different regions. The Fellowship in LOTR showed how we can complement each other to achieve our goals. I tend to do that in the teams I manage for international projects. I often have to meet colleagues or future business partners from many countries, and we have to get along together to accomplish our objectives. Just like the Fellowship in Tolkien’s books. There are many principles in his novels that can be applied in real life too. I suppose a love of his stories, and the characters bind us together.


Note to Prospective Contributors: In case you’re familiar with non-European cultures/regions and would like to contribute to a similar Roundtable, feel free to contact Sultana via: https://www.facebook.com/sultana.raza.7 or https://twitter.com/Sultana_Tara1

About Sultana Raza: An independent scholar, Sultana Raza has presented papers related to Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien) in international conferences. Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Literary Yard, Litro, Literary Ladies Guide, impspired.

Of Indian origin, her poems have appeared in 100+ journals, with SFF work in Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, spillwords, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Peacock Journal, Antipodean SF, Galaxy#2, and impspired. Forthcoming: poemsin theMusing on Muses Anthology (Birgid’s Gate Press) in 2022. Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review, and has been published in Coldnoon Journal, Knot Magazine, and Entropy. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, and at WorldCon 2018, and CoNZealand 2019.  Tolkienists | Sultana Raza  

Sultana Raza

About María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez inherited her first Tolkien’s books from her grandmother. She has studied English Literature and Linguistics, and a Minor in Art History at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She wrote her thesis on gender studies in Tolkien’s works, focussing on feminism. She promotes her love for literature, art and nature in her blog: Books from Fangorn. https://booksfromfangorn.com/about/

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez

About Shareef Kitabi (a pseudonym): He grew up in India where he obtained an MBA, and later settled in Singapore. He’s a senior manager in the corporate world. He likes to read/watch films/TV series in his spare time. (Note: he didn’t participate in the Global Tolkien Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021).

Notes:

1Excerpted from the article: What Art Nouveau can teach us about national identity by Catherine Pond, published on 31st May 2018https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180525-what-art-nouveau-can-teach-us-about-national-identity

2Source: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/tolkien-map/

Relevant links:

  1. The photos of Mughal arts and architecture in the link below give a sense of their refinement. Would the Elves have found some of their artefacts, clothes, and jewelry to be appealing to their tastes? –https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-arts-of-the-mughal-empire
  2. Global Tolkien – A Roundtable (vector-bsfa.com)
  3. Sultana Raza – ‘Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds’ – YouTube

New Publisher and Other Changes Herald Encyclopedia of Science Fiction’s Fourth Edition

“Today the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction moved house,” said co-editor David Langford. A new publisher and web server are part of the October 6 release of its Fourth Edition. However, their familiar domain sf-encyclopedia.com is unchanged, and the Encyclopedia (SFE) remains free online for all users.

When the Third (and first online) Edition was unveiled in October 2011, it was done in coordination with Orion/Gollancz, who launched the online SFE simultaneously with their SF Gateway ebook operation and arranged for many links between the sites. SFE acknowledges their invaluable support from 2011 to 2021, during which period the SFE has more than doubled in size.

But the expiration of their Orion/Gollancz contract on September 29 has led to an amicable parting of the ways. SFE is now jointly published by the holding company SFE Ltd, based in London, and Ansible Editions, based in Reading, Berkshire. The announcement of the transition to a Fourth Edition recognizes not only this internal change but also the introduction of several improvements not previously possible for them. To users, the most obvious will be the addition of foregrounded graphic content, with a relevant cover image (if one exists in the SFE Gallery) displayed in every entry. Improvements, some more visible than others, have been made to site navigation, in hopes of making them more intuitive to use. The SFE will continue to evolve along these lines.

The work of SFE’s publishers and editors over the past 45 years has also been commemorated as part of the announcement. The editors note that during that time the textual autonomy of SFE has been strictly honored. Thanks are given to Hugh Elwes, John Jarrold, Colin Murray, Tim Holman, Malcolm Edwards, Darren Nash and Marcus Gipps.

The first edition of SFE appeared in 1979 with Peter Nicholls – the founder – as editor and John Clute as associate editor; the publishers were Granada (UK) and Doubleday (USA). The second edition of 1993, jointly edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, was published by Orbit (UK) and St Martin’s Press (USA); this was slightly expanded as a 1995 CD-ROM from Grolier. The third edition launched by Gollancz in 2011 was edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls until his lamented death in 2018, and Graham Sleight. All three editions won Hugos and other awards.

The SFE’s Third Edition launched in October 2011 with 12,230 entries totaling 3,222,920 words with 113,492 internal hyperlinks. Today there are 18,834 entries, 6,362,055 words and 226,451 links.

[Based on a press release.]

Anniversary: A Game of Thrones (Novel)

By Cat Eldridge: Twenty-five years ago this week, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was published. It’s the first novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. It was published simultaneously by Bantam Spectra (US) and Voyager Books (UK). 

The novel won the Locus Award and was nominated for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards, but was only on the long list for the Hugos. It was a preliminary nominee for the BFA August Derleth Fantasy Award. A Game of Thrones has received critical acclaim with several reviewers comparing it to A Wheel of Time for its epic sweep. 

The “Blood of the Dragon” novella taken from the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from A Game of Thrones would win a Hugo Award for Best Novella at LoneStarCon 2. 

Martin, of course, would go onto to write A Clash of Kings in 1998 and A Storm of Swords in 2000. Then, in November 2005, A Feast for Crows, and in 2011, A Dance with Dragons. A Storm of Swords would finish second to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Millennium Philcon. A Feast for Crows was a Hugo finalist at L.A.con IV, the year Robert Wilson’s Spin won. A Dance with Dragons was nominated at Chicon 7, which was the year that Jo Walton’s Among Others won. Finally Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) was on the long list for Best Novel at Dublin 2019.

As you know, it became a HBO series which deviated from the storyline of the series. At Chicon 7, the first season won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. At LoneStarCon 3 the next year, the “Blackwater” episode from season two would win a Hugo as well.

Two prequel series, Bloodmoon and House of Dragons are currently approved at HBO. 

Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

By Robin Anne Reid. Presented at MythCon 2021:

Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

WARNING: Spoilers for Clockwork Boys, Paladin, and White Rat series

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes.

In “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien defines and defends a sub-genre of fantasy by explicating his poem, “Mythopoeia.” Necessary characteristics for a mythopoeic text include structural, or textual, elements but also reception, or reader response. At heart, a mythopoeic fantasy is set in a secondary world that is internally consistent; the “magic” must “be taken seriously,” and the best in the genre involves “the Consolation of the Happy Ending” (32-33;75). Readers who appreciate the genre experience recovery, escape, and consolation.

Tolkien’s theory has been applied to his own fiction, but, increasingly, scholars are also applying it to films and contemporary fantasy fiction (Croft, Holdier, MacLachlan). However, I have found minimal scholarship on feminist mythopoeic fiction: in a 1989 essay published in Mythlore, Patrick Murphy argues that feminist poets incorporate “high and low fantasy” elements to create what he calls a “(re) mythopoeia, “or ” an alternative heritage” drawing on theories of a “pre-patriarchal goddess” (26). Murphy does not mention the sub-genre of women’s fantasy which draws on the traditions of a goddess worship aligned with strong ecological themes and explorations of psychic and spiritual powers. Scholarship on those writers, such as Janice C. Crosby’s Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction, is not concerned with Tolkien’s theory.

In order to think about the question of feminist mythopoeic fantasy, I draw on Faye Ringel’s essay, “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” Ringel adapts the concept of what Harold Bloom calls the “swerve” in his Anxiety of Influence which he defines as how male poets deal with the influences of earlier male writers on their work through a process of “poetic misreading or misprison proper.” Performing her own feminist swerve on Bloom’s theory, Ringel argues that while “women fantasists accept some of Tolkien’s premises, they differ strongly with him on the subject of women’s roles” (165) which is, of course, one of the purposes of the feminist movement.

In this presentation, I focus on five novels, in three series, published under the pen name that Ursula Vernon uses for her adult fantasy, T. Kingfisher: the completed Clockwork Boys duology, and two ongoing series: the Saint of Steel planned trilogy with one novel in print; and the Temple of the White Rat trilogy with two completed novels. And yes, I am waiting very very VERY impatiently for the next books to be published although luckily for me, she is currently publishing new fantasies fairly quickly.

Three disclaimers. First, I am not able to do justice to the scope, complexity, and sheer wonderfulness of Kingfisher’s work in this short presentation. If you have not read her work, I strongly recommend you do. Second, by identifying these novels as feminist mythopoeic fiction, I am not excluding Kingfisher’s other work from this genre. She has already won two Mythopoeic awards–the first for her graphic novel, Digger, in 2013, and the second for her YA novel, Castle Hangnail, in 2016. I focus on these series because they are set in the same world, as opposed to her stand-alone fantasy and horror novels, and show more of what Liz Bourke calls Kingfisher’s “energetic and atmospherically weird approach to world-building” (Review, Strength). The world of the novels is Archenhold which has different cities: Archen’s Glory, Anuket City, and Rutger’s Howe. In addition, several supporting characters appear in two of the series.

Third, my argument does not require evidence of direct influence by Tolkien. I do not know whether or not Kingfisher has read Tolkien although I strongly suspect she has. Her fiction and essays show a long and deep engagement with fairy tales, fantasy fiction, and games based on medievalist sources. For instance, in her epilogue to Swordheart, Kingfisher describes ranting to her husband about how annoying she finds Michael Moorcock’s Elric because he is constantly whining, and that “the real victim was his sword Stormbringer” who could not escape him. Swordheart was thus written to explore what happens when a “beleaguered magic sword [is] saddled with an inept wielder.” In another self-described rant on Twitter titled “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues,’ she posts about her dislike for the D&D the rules for Paladins which have influenced fantasy fiction and games. Identifying the Paladin class as “broken,” she argues that how the “rules” too often play out leads to a convention of characters who “[screw] up royally [and then] collapse into a wreckage of NOW I MUST EMBRACE EVIL” which “is really counter-productive” and also lacks awareness of how religions include “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance because if it’s one strike and you’re out, pretty soon everybody’s out.” In both cases, Vernon is clear in this epitextual and paratextual material that one purpose of writing at least some of her novels is to critique not only genre conventions generally but specific authors’ and creators’ use of them. When it comes to the paladins (who are not limited to male characters), other characters who have to deal with them most often are not shy about expressing their opinions as Bishop Beartongue does at the end of Paladin’s Grace: “‘ Yes, yes, you’re a paladin, wallowing in guilt over how you are the very worst person ever is part of the job'” (329).

So, a quick recap: Tolkien’s mythopoeic elements are an internally consistent secondary world; magic that is taken seriously; and eucatastrophe, with readers responding by feeling recovery, escape, and consolation (32-33;75), Ringel’s feminist elements are accepting Tolkien’s sense of the importance of ‘ordinary’ rather than traditional epic characters (including Paladins!) while rejecting both his “medieval ideals of kingship and class structure” (165-166), and his portrayal of women’s roles. Kingfisher emphasizes ordinary people rather than kings and nobles in all her work: minimal narrative time, if any, is given to the rulers, and when they are mentioned, in at least two cases, they are women, holding the title of Dowager. In a third case, a man holds the elected office of Archon.

In two of the three series, a Kingfisherian version of Faërie, called the Vagrant Hills, plays a significant role, and in all three series, her system of magic, called “wonderworking” exists alongside a polytheistic belief system without major conflicts. The gods who have been identified in the series so far are: The Dreaming God, The Four-Faced God, The Forge God, The Hanged Mother, The Lady of Grass, The Many-Armed God, The Saint of Steel (who, despite the name is definitely a god) and the White Rat. More information about The Dreaming God and the White Rat has been given so far, but each God has their own church or temple system with priests, nuns, and paladins as well as support staff. Each God seems to have their own specialization–the Dreaming God empowers paladins to identify and destroy demons while the White Rat’s hierarchy provides legal and material support for people who need help. According to Zale in Swordheart, these different and autonomous churches exist without major conflict except for the Hanged Mother’s priesthood, called the Motherhood, which attempt to control or destroy all other groups. In the Paladin series, the churches in Archon’s Glory cooperate to make sure that the Motherhood, who are favored by the Archon, are restrained from gaining too much secular power.

The churches play a larger narrative role in the Paladin’s and White Rat series than in Clocktaur Boys, especially the Temple of the White Rat, and some of those called to the gods’ service are granted powers (becoming, in most cases, paladins). But the powers of the church have failed to suppress or control Kingfisher’s Faërie, the Vagrant Hills: according to Zale and Halla, the various churches’ attempts to “burn out bits of the Hills ages ago” led to a number of unhappy songs (Swordheart).

The Hills, which feature significantly in the Clockwork Boys and Swordheart series, have not so far played any part in White Rat series. They are an area of unknown/unknowable dimensions that seem to move or are able to pull characters who are nowhere near the Hills into them without warning. The descriptions of how characters enter the Hills are similar to traditional folktale images of the way to Faerie. In Swordheart, the major characters find themselves in a “hollow way” in the middle of an acorn wood: “Trees leaned over the road, their bare branches laced tightly across the sky. ‘It’s a hollow way,’ said Zale. ‘One of the old, old roads.’. . . .They reached the end of the hollow way and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. They were no longer in the acorn wood. They were halfway up a hillside, near a drop-off.”

In The Clockwork Boys, characters find themselves on “a narrow path, barely a lane, and badly overgrown. It did not look like the hard-packed smugglers’ road. Between patches of grass and horsetail rushes, the mud and packed pebbles glittered like the reticulated hide of a lizard. ‘This isn’t our road,’ said Caliban (197).

The Vagrant Hills are home to a number of magical non-humanoid species such as rune (speculated to be the descendants of “stag men and dryads”), but also to talking rabbits, aggressive mandrake roots, a large stone fish swimming upstream to spawn, and parasitic predators that are described as translucent “sky-swimmers,” beautiful but deadly. Various characters make it clear that nobody knows enough about the Hills to be sure of what exists in them, nor is it possible to study them. Travelers caught by the Hills have no more control over when or how they leave than they did in how the entered, and not all travelers survive to leave. The reason that characters are drawn into the Hills seems to be that they have a strong connection to magic or other types of supernatural power–Caliban in the Clockwork Boys carries the remnants of the dead demon that possessed him and could not be fully exorcised, and Sarkis in Swordheart exists within a magical sword and belongs to whoever owns it.

The other strange nearly unexplored country in Kingfisher’s mythopoeic fiction is the relationships between her female protagonists and the broken warrior. Ringel pointed out that the fantasy writers she interviewed rejected Tolkien’s marriage plots to show female protagonists living as witches, wizards, or warriors, not wives (167). Kingfisher goes a step further in writing mature romance plots that do not always involve marriage. At the start of the novels, her female protagonists are older and sexually experienced but have left unhappy or abusive relationships (sometimes but not always marriage) to support themselves. During the course of the story, they enter into sexual (and sometimes marital) relationships with male characters that swerve from the typical warrior-hero protagonist of fantasy through a process of feminist deconstruction.

The female protagonists are Slate, a forger (Clockwork); Grace, a perfumer (Paladin’s Grace); Clara (a nun of the convent of St. Ursa and a werebear); and Halla (a housekeeper). The male characters are three paladins and one magicked mercenary. Caliban (Clockwork Boys) was a paladin of the Dreaming God who was possessed by a demon and murdered eleven novices and nuns. Stephen and Istvahn were holy berserkers for the Saint of Steel and were among the few survivors of their God’s death which nearly destroyed the order. Although they have survived, the death of the Saint of Steel means that they are at risk for entering the berserker state without the God ensuring that they do not harm the innocent. Sarkis was a mercenary punished for betraying the city he and his troop were hired to protect by being killed and trapped in an enchanted sword five centuries earlier. All the male characters consider themselves, to varying degrees, to have failed, but in Kingfisher’s world, such failures do not lead to the simplistic result that Vernon describes as “Crapsack Jedi with Guilt Issues,” that is immediately turning to the dark side. Instead, the world of the series through the social support systems provided primarily by the Temple of the White Rat and their relationships with the female protagonists offers a range of “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance” including Kingfisher’s own version of quests which are another example of swerving from the conventions of fantasy established by Tolkien. I should note that the female characters are not presented simplistically as saviors: they also consider themselves failed in many ways, often blaming themselves for the failure of their past relationships.

These swerves from Tolkien’s definition strengthen my experience of recovery, escape, and consolation as a reader, responses that grew stronger during my re-reading of her work during the first year of the pandemic. A number of the readers who review her work report similar experiences, including multiple readings of favorite books in the series. Thinking about her work in the context of Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fantasy raises questions about what a “feminist mythopoeic” work might be that I’ll be thinking more about in the future.


Working Bibliography

Bourke, Liz. Liz Bourke Reviews Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher. Locus, April 21, 2021.

Croft, Janet Brennan. “Tolkien’s Faërian Drama: Origins and Valedictions.” Mythlore, 32.2, Spring/Summer 2014, pp. 31-44.

Crosby, Janice C. Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction. McFarland, 2000.

Holdier, A. G. “On Superhero Stories: The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tolkienesque Fantasy.” Mythlore, vol. 36, iss. 2, Spring-Summer 2018, pp. 73-88.

Kane, Douglas Charles. “A Modern Fairy-story: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Seen Through the Prism of Tolkien’s Classic Essay.” Mythlore, vol. 37, no. 1, Fall-Winter 2018, pp. 133-45.

Kingfisher, T. Clockwork Boys. Clocktaur War: Book One. Argyll, 2018.
—. The Wonder Engine. Clocktaur War: Book Two. Argyll, 2018.
—. Paladin’s Grace. The Saint of Steel: Book One. Argyll, 2020.
—. Paladin’s Strength. The Saint of Steel: Book Two. Argyll, 2021.
—. Swordheart. Argyll, 2020.

MacLachlin, Christopher. Chapter 8 “‘On Fairy Stories’ and Tolkien’s Elvish Tales.” New Fairy Tales: Essays & Stories. John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Cizakca, eds. Unlocking Press, 2013. pp: 147-66.

Murphy, Patrick D. (1989) “The High and Low Fantasies of Feminist (Re)Mythopoeia.” Mythlore, vol. 16, no. 2, article 5. Available at: https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol16/iss2/5

Ringel, Faye. “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” J. R. R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. George Clark and Daniel Timmons, eds. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, no. 89. C. W. Sullivan III, Series Adviser. Greenwood Press, 2000. Pp. 159-71.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.”Tolkien On Fairy-stories. Expanded edition. Verlyn Flieger and Douglas Anderson, eds. Harper Collins, 2014.

Vernon, Ursula. “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues.'” Twitter. Oct. 13, 2017.

The Golden Age of Dystopia: Guest Post by Jenna Greene

Jenna Greene is a writer from Lethbridge, Alberta. She teaches elementary school. When she isn’t teaching, writing, or spending time with her daughter, Olivia, or husband, Scott, Jenna coaches, drums, and paddles with several dragonboat teams. She is the author of several YA novels, including the Heroine and the Imagine series. Renew (The Reborn Marks Book 2) is her latest book.

By Jenna Greene: Dystopian literature is far from new. George Orwell may have set the world on a disturbing, informative, and thought-provoking path with 1984, but it continued from there with works such as Brave New World, The Giver, and Ready Player One. All these titles are rich classics. Still, the insurgence of utopian-societies-set-upside down was an anomaly instead of the norm at that point in our historical timeline.

Then The Hunger Games crashed onto the scene, finding a YA audience that burned with desire for more prints and more pages, catching the attention of youth and adults alike. It could have been a one-hit wonder, skillful and unique, but it wasn’t. Divergent soon followed in Suzanne Collin’s footsteps, before authors such as Lauren Oliver, Ally Condie, and Victoria Aveyard hit the scene.

With many trends in literature, there are often ebbs and flows. Yet the dystopian trend has not had its ebb yet. The quality novels, short stories, and poems have continued to be produced. Hollywood studios are filming adaptations of newer classics as well as older titles. (Maze Runner and Ender’s Game anyone?) I could write for hours on The Handmaid’s Tale – willingly and with great passion, and see more and more titles popping up in my Netflix queue.

So how and why has the Golden Age of Dystopia been sustained this long, providing more quality than the temporary teenage-vampire trend? I believe it is connected to the depth of the questions that can be asked, should be asked, and most importantly need to be asked. Tackling discrimination, poverty, government corruption, fundamentalism, voyeurism, and a wealth of other themes through allegory and metaphor allows us to examine the issues in a critical way. Dystopian settings are both objective and subjective, authentic and fake. For those who have never examined these issues, they are drawn in by character arcs and rapid storylines filled with action and sentiment. Readership begins, fandoms arise, and then discussions happen. Sure, this happens with all literature, but with our global consciousness rising each day, dystopian literature has the power to do so in a way other genres cannot hope to equal. Paired with genuine societal movements such as #metoo, books have a way of changing the scope of thought and action in the world in a pivotal way.

All that remains is the question of which issues will dystopian authors tackle next. As a YA fantasy/ dystopian author myself, the challenge of creating new worlds with new problems, connected to our consciousness of this world and this world’s problems, is one I am able and set to tackle – and excited to do so. I am a part of the discourse, and thankful to be so.

ABOUT RENEW

The Unclaimed Cities are not the idyllic setting Lexil, Finn, and Ceera thought it would be. This new land has challenges of its own – which they soon discover. When Lexil and Finn return to the Wastelands, they are accompanied by Kaylen, someone they can’t decide is a friend or foe. As they retrace their path, they meet up with old allies and enemies, and encounter other treachery embedded in the Wastelands. The trio are then forced to face their own assumptions, prejudices, and fears.

And in the end, to change her fate and alter the destiny of all other Reborns, Lexil must decide what she is willing to risk…

Of both herself and others.

JENNA GREENE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

SFWA Elects New Officers

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have posted the 2021 officer election results. Incoming President Jeffe Kennedy’s term begins July 1 and runs for two years.

President: Jeffe Kennedy

Secretary: Adam Rakunas 

Director-at-Large through 2023 – 3 open positions

  • José Pablo Iriarte
  • Remy Nakamura
  • Christine Taylor-Butler

The 2021 SFWA election was overseen by the Elections Committee: Maurice Broaddus, Matthew Johnson (Chair), Peng Shepherd, and Kate Baker (Advisor).

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #6 Reaches the Finals

By Dann: The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

SPFBO #6 is quickly coming to a close. Most of the reviewers have read most of the books. Twenty out of 100 reviews are yet to be completed. The following table (data from April 19, 2021) provides the ratings as well as (1) links to the books, (2) links to the authors’ websites, (3) links to the review blogs, and (4) links to their specific reviews (click on the score number).

Use the slide at the bottom of the table to bring the right half into view.

ScoreFantasy-FactionFantasy Book CriticLynn’s BooksBooknestKitty GThe Weatherwax ReportFantasy HiveQueen’s Book AsylumCritiquing ChemistFantasy Inn
The Fall of Erlon by Robert H. Fleming6.10657666.56.568*4
The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson(8.35/6)7.59*9.5**897
Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher(8.15/9)8.58**8.59998*7.56
Voice of War by Zack Argyle(7.85/6))88*77.588.5
Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire(7.75/8)8*7887987
Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin(7.30/7)66.587.58*6.58.5
 Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw(6.95/8)776.5768*6.57.5
Wind From The Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree(6.95/8)7.587858*75
The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin(6.15/9)3.58*48.566.5775
Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens(5.65/7)456.5673.57.5*
Blogger Average Score7.07.2

* = Blogger chose this finalist.
** = Blogger’s top book.

Mark Lawrence noted that a number of the blogs/reviews reduced their scores for The Combat Codes on the basis that it wasn’t fantasy.

Mark recently announced that SPFBO will return for a seventh season on June 1, 2021. One of the ten review sites will not be participating in SPFBO #7. Any reviewer(s) that would be interested in committing to the full reading/review process should contact Mark directly via one of his publicly acknowledged channels.

HWA’s Third Annual Summer Scares Reading List

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Booklist, has announced the third annual Summer Scares Reading List, with titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians and designed to promote horror as a great reading option for all ages, during any time of the year.

Each year, three titles are chosen in the Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories, and for 2021 they are:

ADULT

  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu [G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018]
  • The Cipher by Kathe Koja [originally published 1991 by Dell but reissued Meerkat Press, 2020]
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Translator Jonathan Wright [Penguin Books, 2018] 

YOUNG ADULT

  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline [Dancing Cat Books, 2017]
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray [Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012]
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson [Razorbill, 2018]

MIDDLE GRADE

  • Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce [Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2015]
  • Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi [Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017]
  • Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson [Workman, 2015]

The goal of the Summer Scares program is to introduce horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come. Along with the annual list of recommended titles for readers of all ages, the Summer Scares committee will also release themed lists of even more “read-alike” titles for libraries to use when suggesting books to readers this summer and all year long. And, in order to help libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will be working with both the recommended list authors and horror authors from all over the country, to provide free programming to libraries. From author visits (both in person and virtual) to book discussions to horror themed events, Summer Scares is focused on connecting horror creators with libraries and readers all year long.

Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the 2021 Summer Scares programming will be virtual, and held in conjunction with the Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon event (May 20 – May 23, 2021). Authors and committee members will be participating in live and pre-recorded sessions. Authors and committee members will also be available virtually throughout the year to libraries and schools to promote the Summer Scares program and discuss the use of horror fiction as a tool to increase readership and nurture a love of reading.

The Summer Scares program committee consists of bestselling author Silvia Morena-Garcia (Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Certain Dark Things, Untamed Shore), Becky Spratford (library consultant, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Ed.), Konrad Stump (Local History Associate for the Springfield-Green County Library and creator of the library’s popular “Oh, the Horror!” series), Carolyn Ciesla (library director, academic dean, book reviewer), Julia Smith (senior editor at Booklist), Kelly Jensen (editor, Book Riot, author of [Don’t] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health), and JG Faherty (HWA Library Program director, author of Sins of the Father, The Cure, and Ghosts of Coronado Bay).

For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, visit the HWA’s Libraries web page (www.horror.org/libraries), Becky Spratford’s Reader’s Advisory Horror Blog RA for All: Horror (http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html), or the Book Riot, Booklist, or United for Libraries websites and social media sites.

[Based on a press release.]