Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:


(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

74 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

  1. 8) Yes I am Captain Obvious here, but both Twin Peaks TV series (ABC and Showtime) are very very genre.

  2. David Lynch’s DUNE was a pretty good bad movie. Memorable, fascinating, a feast for the senses. It just feels like the first half of a movie, and then five minutes from the end, they realize they’re running out of film, so all of a sudden, planets collide, armies race from left to right, then from right to left. “He IS the Kwisatz Haderach!” THE END.

    I think DeForrest Kelley’s appearances on Roy Rogers should be genre. That West never existed! It’s the old Wild West with cars and telephones.

    Thanks for the title cred!

  3. (1)

    The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who at last eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work…

    Pretty sure that should be “at least eighteen,” not “at last eighteen.”

    Possibly even “are at least…”

    I’m thinking Robin must have been typing while tired! 😉

  4. I’m pretty sure that should be “are at least eighteen,” not “at last eighteen”. 😉

  5. (8) Terran Tomorrow, the 3rd book in Nancy Kress’s series is out. I have it in hardcover.

    (1) What about Buddhists?

  6. 8) Baker was my Doctor as well. And Golden Voyage of Sinbad was one of my formative movies.

    I really do need to read more A. Merritt one of these years — every time I try, I get through Moon Pool/Metal Monster and maybe Ship of Ishtar and then I kind of peter out.

  7. @8: Baker appeared on stage in the title role of An Inspector Calls; there are arguments about exactly who this role is, but it’s clearly not purely mimetic.

  8. (12) I score my Girl Scout cookies online these days, from a girl working on her e-commerce badge. They arrived last week; this is far superior to those tables in front of the grocery store where the Thin Mints are always sold out. Her parents are nerds that met in World of Warcraft. Nerd cookies for the win.

  9. Jack Lint made a start on it in 2017 —

    A clown with his sales falling down
    Or the talk that’s a god who is stalked
    Or the post where the puppy is toast.
    That’s appertainment!

  10. 1) I’m extremely surprised that people thinks Tolkines religion has anything to with his religion. Well, perhaps if he was a secret Asa-worshipper. I’d never heard of people trying to find christianity in his books before.

    13) BBC has no sense of romance.

  11. Hampus Eckerman: I’m extremely surprised that people thinks Tolkines religion has anything to with his religion. Well, perhaps if he was a secret Asa-worshipper. I’d never heard of people trying to find christianity in his books before.

    Oh, I have. It’s not at all surprising that people who are religious, and who know that Tolkien was religious, would read religion in his works.

    I, on the other hand, would say that the religion is quite obvious in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia novels, but that Tolkien’s LoTR books read like bog-standard fantasy to me (notwithstanding the fact that he’s the one who created the bog standard).

  12. Rob Thornton says Yes I am Captain Obvious here, but both Twin Peaks TV series (ABC and Showtime) are very very genre.

    You must’ve missed my note a ways back that I don’t always list everything that Birthday person has done. I fully expect y’all to fill out the list of what they’ve done.

  13. @Hampus Eckerman I’d never heard of people trying to find christianity in his books before.

    Depends what you mean by “find Christianity”, I think. Tolkien doesn’t grind axes in the manner of Chesterton or Gene Wolf but Middle Earth is written with a Catholic sensibility, to be compatible with his Catholicism.

  14. 1) I think it’s a testament to Tolkien’s skill and honesty as a writer that even though it’s clear from his letters that his work was strongly influenced by his faith, not only does it stand completely on its own but, at least in my experience, learning that doesn’t worsen it retroactively as it does less skillful examples (cough, Narnia, cough.)

    (12) Here in Canada, the Girl Guides have had a digital citizenship badge for almost a decade; I know because I helped to develop it (and in the process became the only man I know to earn a Girl Guide badge.)

    Not quite a Meredith moment, but I did want to mention the Bundoran Buddies Storybundle, a bundle of books by Canadian publisher Bundoran Press (including my novel Fall From Earth) along with others by people like Ramez Naam, Madeline Ashby and Tanya Huff. It’s on until the end of January.

  15. Also, regarding Tolkien and religion, the Silmarillion in many way reads as if it was the Holy Scripture of a religion. That is even more so, and the connection to christianity clearer, in some of the posthumous works. Read for example the Dialogue of Finrod and Athrabet in Morgoths Ring (vol 10 of the History of Middle Earth).

  16. 1) Certainly the earliest part of the Silmarillion is intended as a creation myth. Iluvatar is a direct analogue of the Judaeo-Christian creator God. Melkor (‘he who arises in might’) seems to be an analogue of Lucifer, and is later renamed Morgoth, ‘dark enemy of the world’ after his pride causes his fall from grace. Yet it seems things diverge, too. If the Valar are Tolkien’s angels, then it’s interesting that Aule creates the dwarves when, so far as I’m aware, ‘real-world’ angels are incapable of subcreation.

    There are also a small number of plot points in LOTR that hint at subtle intervention by a higher power: the finding of the ring by Bilbo, Gandalf’s return after death. The recent scroll item talking about Tolkien’s theory of Euchatastrophe as small reversals of the world’s tendency toward evil talks about this.

    I’m also reminded of an old school friend telling me, when we first read this stuff, that he understood that the elves were meant to represent humanity ‘before the fall’. I don’t know where he got this, and I don’t know how much sense it makes given that the elves clearly understand good and evil (and don’t always make the right choices) and also have free-will. (Not being a Christian, I’m unsure of exactly what eating from the tree of knowledge entailed, but I think it’s one of those two things.)

    But the great thing, for me, about Tolkien, is that while his Christian ideas form the bedrock of his books, the books themselves are in no way evangalising: I’ve never felt like his opinions are being forced upon me.

  17. Hampus Eckerman wrote:

    1) I’m extremely surprised that people thinks Tolkines religion has anything to with his religion.

    I had read LOTR years before I found out that Tolkein was Catholic, and I didn’t find anything overtly religious in it. But I am Catholic, and fish have no word for water, so it’s possible that it’s too obvious for me to notice.

  18. Meredith Moment: Nick Mamatas’ I Am Providence is currently $1.99.

    Also, I know I mentioned this yesterday, but just in case it was missed, C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station (probably my favorite book of hers) is also $1.99.

  19. @Cliff I’m also reminded of an old school friend telling me, when we first read this stuff, that he understood that the elves were meant to represent humanity ‘before the fall’. I don’t know where he got this, and I don’t know how much sense it makes given that the elves clearly understand good and evil

    I’m not a theologian but I think it makes more sense to read the elves as closer to the Divine than humans (and hence in some senses more perfect(*)) but also therefore less of the world.

    R A Lafferty’s “The Reefs of Earth” has the best take on what it would be like to be unfallen, I think. His Pukas are the _other_ kind of elves: childlike and capable of kindness or cruelty, but without the empathy or care for consequences that come with knowledge of good and evil.

    (*) I’m told, for example, that elf pregnancies are always exactly a year so elves count their birthdays from conception. File this under “Catholic sensibility” too, obviously.

  20. Also with a birthday yesterday, British musical comedian and SF novelist Mitch Benn.
    For a long time he was the musician in residence on the Now Show, on BBC Radio 4, where he premiered such songs as ‘Call me during Doctor Who and I’ll kill you’


    He has published two Young Adult novels, Terra and Terra’s World about a young girl brought up by an alien who witnessed the car crash in which her parents died. A third has been promised, but it’s taking its time.

  21. Also with a birthday yesterday, British musical comedian and SF novelist, Mitch Benn.

    For years he was musician in residence on the BBC Radio 4 The Now Show where he presented songs such as Call Me During Doctor Who and I’ll Kill You along with other more political work.

    He has published two Young Adult SF novels, Terra and Terra’s World concerning a young girls taken to an alien planet after her parents are killed in a car crash. A third is promised, but is taking its time.

  22. (14): “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

    Which Armstrong famously did not say, instead uttering the gnomic “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (The linked BBC story has it correct.)

  23. @ Sophie – Lafferty’s elves sound a little like some conception of faeries that I’ve heard about.

  24. @Cliff

    The name’s taken from Irish folklore so that was evidently part of Lafferty’s intention. Though the novel borrows at least as heavily from children’s adventure stories, with a touch of the older violent fairy tales.

    I recommend The Reefs of Earth if you can find a copy. It’s one of Lafferty’s better books, and more accessible than Fourth Mansions or Past Master. (And he manages to rhyme “roses” with “apotheosis” at one point, which is an achievement of some kind.)

  25. Yeah, it was in the context of Irish folklore that I’d heard that impression. Thanks for the rec!

  26. “Would Sir prefer the Pixél Mignon with Ratascrollie, or perhaps the Filed Chicken with Chinese 770-spice?”

  27. Late To The Party Department:

    If I knew it before, I put it out of my mind well enough that it came as a complete surprise to me to see that Fred Gwynne was a talented illustrator. The first thing I saw was some art from a modern retelling of the Batrachomyomachia—the War Between the Mice and Frogs (formerly attributed to Homer)—which Penguin has published.

    Well, says I, that’s genre! I looked into his other illustrations (searched FRED GWYNNE ART), and he not only has an appealing style, but he seems to be in a light fantastical mode throughout. He’s done some writing as well, but it’s harder to judge that at a glance. Anyway, I commend it as being of interest. Meanwhile, I’ve gone to Project Gutenberg and Archive to look at older translations of the epic. Searching got easier once I learned how to spell it. (Um, thanks, Google.)

  28. I have more or less no christian background apart from being forced to church at end of each school year and having to sing psalms at school for the first years. Yes, I have read the bible, but I have also read the Quraan and the Edda.

    I recognize several elements from the Asa-faith in The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion such as the magic rings, the broken sword, the names of the dwarves, Gandalf obviously being inspired by Oden, the name Midgard. Even the balrog seems to be inspired by the giant Surt with his flaming sword.

    But I mean, that is from my background. The christian elements, I never noticed. I kind of wonder what people from other mythological backgrounds would find.

  29. Hampus Eckerman says I have more or less no christian background apart from being forced to church at end of each school year and having to sing psalms at school for the first years. Yes, I have read the bible, but I have also read the Quraan and the Edda.

    I’ve absolutely no Christian indoctrination coming from generations of Scotch and Welsh immigrant ancestors that near as I can tell only went near a Church if it was being used for a funeral or a wedding. Or possibly some sort of community event. No, I didn’t perceive anything in the Tolkien books as being from that faith though I thought a lot was from the Nodric mythos.

    (Yes Scotch, not Scottish. That’s what my grandmother’s side called it.)

    Never had any desire to read the Bible but I’ve read much of the Nordic texts which are interesting if occasionally difficult reads. Seamus Heaney does a most excellent if somewhat eccentric translation of Beowulf and his reading of it is splendid indeed!

  30. I first read LotR when I was in the middle of a Jesuit college education that included a required minor in theology, and while I recognized in it certain Christian notions (particularly providence), there was nothing in the Tolkienian theogony that struck me as particularly Catholic.

    Later, in grad school, Mark Hillegas’s seminars on the Inklings–Mark called them the “Oxford Christians”–worked out some of the connections among and between JRRT, Williams, Sayers, and Lewis (whose overt, intensely orthodox, and apologetics-heavy Christianity I’d long recognized), but I still would not have called Tolkien a “Catholic writer.” Instead, I saw a medievalist and linguist deeply affected by the Matter of the North, as distinct from, say, Lewis’s centering on the explicitly Christian high Middle Ages. (Tolkien’s essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” was also a formative piece of commentary for young medievalists back then.)

    What tied Tolkien and Lewis together for me, actually, was their understanding of the power of Story and their acceptance of the fantastic as an important part of that. “On Fairy-Stories” and “On Stories” (both published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams) were part of the early defense-of-SF/F for academics who wanted their research interests taken seriously by colleagues who tended to look down at what was then non-canonical. I noted back then how many of my SF/F-loving colleagues came out of medieval and Renaissance studies.

  31. 9) The last time I looked, I was the Susan Lucci of the Nebula Awards, many times nominated but never winning. I moved up from second to first place when Walter John Williams finally won one. This was a while ago, though.

  32. I’m a 3rd-gen SF fan, and I genuinely had no idea people still believed in gods (at least in the Industrial World) till I was about 8. I thought that going to church was just something people did because of bizarre social conventions, like wearing ties. Something that made no sense, but people didn’t want to rock the boat or seem weird.

    So I was really creeped out by the death of Aslan (spoiler alert!) in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was jarring and made absolutely no sense to me, dramatically or otherwise. And when it was finally explained to me, it just made Christianity seem that much more creepy and nonsensical. Lewis pretty much single-handedly ensured that I’d never be a Christian! 🙂

    I never had any problems like that with Tolkien, though. As I got older, I came to see how his religion had influenced his work, but he never let it rise to the level of ruining his story the way Lewis had.

    @Lisa Goldstein: You might hold the record now, but I’m pretty sure that Jack McDevitt had you beat for a while there. When Williams finally won his first Nebula in 2001, he had seven previous nominations. At the time, McDevitt had just received his seventh nomination, and he went on to get four more before finally winning one in 2007. He also added another non-winner the same year, so his record stands at eleven or twelve, depending on how you count.

    On the other hand, I like some of your stuff (and some of Williams’s and McDevitt’s) better than I like many actual winners, so it all just shows ta go, I guess. 🙂

  33. @Xtifr: Mention of Lewis reminds me of something I learned from Nevala-Lee’s “Astounding” – I had read ages ago about a young fan of Narnia who was worried that he loved Aslan more than Jesus, but I had not known that that boy was John W. Campbell’s nephew (Laurence Krieg). A later correspondence between Lewis and Laurence apparently led to the re-ordering of the Narnia books in later years (of which I do not approve!). http://larrykrieg.name/Lewis/index.html contains the letters and some discussion (which I have not read all of). http://www.larrykrieg.name/Family/index.html contains the family tree information confirming the relationship between him and JWCJr.

  34. Tolkien also borrowed from the Kalavela in The Silmarillion.
    (The story of Túrin is inspired by the story of Kullervo – Tolkien’s translation of the latter was published a few years back)

    I do, however, wonder how his apparent support for euthanasia (in sone forms at least) would play with the Catholic’s Church – as I recall, he wrote approvingly of the Númenorean Kings being able to “will themselves to death” when they felt senility creeping up on them. If I remember correctly, clinging to life instead was seen as evidence of the decay of Númenor.

  35. Speaking of Nebula stats, I’m surprised and pleased to discover that the three people with the largest numbers of Nebula wins under their belts are all women. And one of them is today’s (well, yesterday’s as I type) Birthday woman: Nancy Kress! She’s huge favorite of mine, so I’m particularly pleased by this. (The other two are perhaps less surprising: Connie Willis, who tops the list at 7 wins, and Ursula Le Guin, who is tied with Kress at 6.)

    Anyway, belated Happy Birthday, Nancy, if you happen to read this. (I know she’s occasionally read File 770 in the past, so there’s a chance.) And thanks for all the great SF!

    Re. (11) I can’t comment on the reason(s) why Megalodon went extinct–a supernova sounds as plausible as anything–but it’s certainly no surprise to me that they did.

    A lot of people hear “survival of the fittest”, and immediately think of big, huge, apex predators. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Reality, though is…slightly different. While individual members of these species may be pretty “fit” when up against other critters one-on-one, their species as a whole tend to be anything but fit. The top of the food chain turns out to be a small, unstable, and precarious niche, and apex predators going extinct is about as surprising as nerds getting wedgies in high school! 🙂

  36. @Xtifr–

    I’m a 3rd-gen SF fan, and I genuinely had no idea people still believed in gods (at least in the Industrial World) till I was about 8. I thought that going to church was just something people did because of bizarre social conventions, like wearing ties. Something that made no sense, but people didn’t want to rock the boat or seem weird.

    Yes, it’s no favor to kids to let them grow up with zero awareness that there are normal, intelligent people who look at the world differently than their own family does.

    Tolkien, having been raised Catholic rather than being a convert to Christianity after a long period of atheism, was a lot more comfortable with his beliefs, and didn’t have the same need to PROCLAIM his faith, or to teach it to someone who wasn’t open to learning it. It infused all his work, but his work wasn’t about his faith. I love a lot of Lewis’s work, but he’s not the one I’d recommend to a new reader without warning them and being sure they were comfortable with reading something coming from that viewpoint.

  37. Liz acarey says Tolkien, having been raised Catholic rather than being a convert to Christianity after a long period of atheism, was a lot more comfortable with his beliefs, and didn’t have the same need to PROCLAIM his faith, or to teach it to someone who wasn’t open to learning it

    That might be the way he was but it’s not true of all Catholics. I’ve run into more than a few who believe that spreading the Faith is their mission in life.

    And I had one Catholic that was really upset with me when I told him I had died as he said I couldn’t have died and come back as only one person had done that.

  38. Andrew asks me Did you ask him if he meant Lazarus?

    No, I didn’t think of that excellent rejoinder. Do Catholics acknowledge the story of Lazarus?

    It’s not very interesting to come back from the dead, particularly as I only knew about afterwards. And given the Witches Brew of meds I’m taking now for the head trauma and cardiac damage, it’s not something I’d recommend despite the fact that it seems to get a certain weird excitement arousal out of some people.

  39. @Cat Eldridge:

    I think Catholics acknowledge that miracle (and several other raisings from the dead by Apostles), though I could be wrong.

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