Announcing Summer School: Tolkien 101 – Index

Tolkien holds a special place in my book-heart, and in my more desiccated heart-heart.  It does not go too far, I think, to say that I wouldn’t be doing any of this but for Tolkien.  And by any of this, I’m not sure that I only mean the blogging.  It was Tolkien who turned a spark of a love for reading into a roaring conflagration.  A poor kid from the southern Appalachian Mountains, it was largely a facility with the written word that got me from there to here.

It almost didn’t happen.  And then I wouldn’t be giving you an entire summer of posts on Tolkien (you will be able to find every post linked here).  I will be posting on Tolkien every Thursday through the end of August.  This is no truncated summer session.  Read on for more about my history with Tolkien and more about what you can expect from Summer School: Tolkien 101.

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Tolkien 101: The History of the Hobbit by John Rateliff

Writing a post on John Rateliff’s encyclopedic The History of the Hobbit isn’t the problem.  The problem is writing one that doesn’t turn into a 3,000 word behemoth itself.  I will try very hard to keep this post to a reasonable length while dropping as many nuggets of knowledge as possible.  If you want more, well, the Kindle edition was still available for $1.99 last I checked.

Rateliff’s primary focus is Tolkien’s original draft of The Hobbit.  A full, heavily annotated copy is included.  The text itself is footnoted, and each chapter (there were no chapter divisions in the original draft, so according to the final book) is followed by a section digging into it.  Most notable perhaps are the notes on the etymology of various words Tolkien invented and comparisons with the Silmarillion as it existed at that time (quite different than what would eventually be published).  Rateliff also includes Tolkien’s occasional bouts of outlining, and notes the probable split in the drafting (Tolkien tended to work in great spurts in between academic semesters).

(For a spirited defense of Tolkien against the recent scurrilous charge of “truncating his creative palette” because he was “thoroughly immersed in modernism” and because “he wanted to be taken seriously and he knew there would be consequences for not walking the line,” see this post.)

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Rat Queens vol. 5 is a disjointed, hot mess

*Sigh*  This graphic novel is a hot mess.

The first issue focuses on Orc Dave.  It is interesting and good worldbuilding, but it is also repetitive and tangential.  Why include a flashback at what will be the beginning of a bound volume if it is only relevant to the rest of the volume in the tiniest way?  Why not save it until you are actually going to tie it to the main storyline?

But, to be honest, I would rather have read more about Orc Dave than the rest of the issues in this volume.

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Oathbringer Continues to Build on a Structurally Remarkable Series

This is it.  The review that I’ve been scheduling and cancelling in turn for three months.  I will keep this short, because if you have been looking for Oathbringer review, surely you have found one or…1,998 reviews to read first.

Oathbringer is book three in Brandon Sanderson’s planned 10-book Stormlight Archive.  I reviewed book 1, The Way of Kings, here, but if you are a Sanderson newbie, I think his Mistborn trilogy is better, to be honest, and it is more accessible.

Oathbringer isn’t my favorite Stormlight book, but, structurally-speaking, the series remains remarkable.  The hugely ambitious epic continues to feature multiple storylines that are satisfying at the volume level but that build as the series progress, and Sanderson has continue to lay on new twists and a truly impressive amount of worldbuilding.

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Tolkien 101: LOTR Appendices

Even as a kid, I was thrown off when I got to the climax of The Return of the King and there was still half a book left.  There is that overlong denouement (a problem Tolkien was able to avoid in The Hobbit, as we will see next week when I discuss John Rateliff’s The History of the Hobbit).  But there is also a huge chunk of the volume devoted to appendices when paper shortages drove the volume divisions.

But it was the LOTR appendices, as much as anything, that created epic fantasy as we know it.

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July 2018 Month-in-Review

July was a good blog month and a bad reading month.  After reading fourteen books (not include two DNFs) last July, this July I only managed to read four books.  But despite a very busy work schedule and still being the primary-baby-taker-carer-of for a four-month-old not yet in daycare, I managed to keep both blogs humming.  I had my best month ever at Every Day Should Be Tuesday, including the most unique visitors by a wide margin.  I also had my best month ever at Hillbilly Highways.  I mean, it was only my second blog month there, but still, improvement!  I am no longer reblogging all of my Hillbilly Highways posts here, so if the new blog sounds like something that would be up your alley, please give it a direct follow or follow the Facebook page.  I will also be linking to the top five posts at Hillbilly Highways in my month-in-review posts.


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New Fiction from Cirsova and Sky Hernstrom

Cirsova Magazine has four days left on its Kickstarter for issues 9 and 10.  Cirsova doesn’t mess around–issues 9 and 10 are paid for, but successful funding will allow the next issues to happen.  Cirsova is one of the best things to happen in the semiprozine and heroic fantasy space in the last several years.  There has been a minor boom in pulpy semipromags in the last few years.  Cirsova captures the spirit of Appendix N better than the rest.

Check out my reviews of issues one, two, and three.

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Tolkien 101: The Most Metal Deaths in Middle Earth

In the comment section to last week’s post on A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, Jason from Off the TBR asked when I would do a post on Tolkien’s influence on rock.

He would make a good Glorfindel

Obviously, my first thought was that he was referring to Tolkien’s influence on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  But, one, I could find no paper trail in support of said influence (the People’s Elbow is entirely too egalitarian for Tolkien’s tastes) and, two, apparently Jason was talking about rock music.

That, too, is sadly not my forte.  Just go over to Music Monday on the other blog and see how many rock songs you find (Steve Earle counts, damn it).  But.  But.  With family in town and a work deadline looming, I could use a breather (yes, this entire week has been a breather over both blogs—I have been squandering my time caring for my child and working at my actual job).  And.  And.  After a hiatus—our great national nightmare—possibly the greatest blog post in the history of the world has reappeared.

I present to you: Austin Gilkeson’s The Most Metal Deaths in Middle Earth, Ranked

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