Thursday, February 21, 2019

Minor Publication (on aliens!)

A new book with a self-explanatory title, Aliens in Popular Culture, edited by Michael M. Levy and Farah Mendlesohn, has just been published. Mostly, this consists of a number of encyclopedia entries and a few more in-depth introductory essays on aliens in popular culture.

Proud to say that I had my own small contribution -- a brief entry (>1000 words) on the Amnion in Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap sequence. Nice that it came out, though exorbitantly priced at $94.00.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The LEGENDS series, edited by Robert Silverberg

When Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy appeared in 1998, edited by Robert Silverberg, I remember seeing it in bookstores, but otherwise didn't pay it much mind. Mostly, the novella by Robert Jordan caught my eye. Well, during my final read of Brandon Sanderson's completion of The Wheel of Time, I was waiting around for my amazon copy of the final book to arrive and decided to give that Jordan novella a shot. So I went down to Bookman's, got it (in 3 volumes for the paperback edition), and breezed through the eleven stories.

The quality of these novellas, however, varied so widely that I'm now going to grade them for fun. The only novella I skipped was King's, since I'd like to read The Dark Tower first. Otherwise, here goes:
  1. Stephen King: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (The Dark Tower)
    • skipped.
  2. Terry Goodkind: "Debt of Bones" (The Sword of Truth)
    • Grade: C+ 
    • Commentary: Not awful, I suppose, but too slick and shallow for my taste. Reminds me why I only got through half the first book of Goodkind's Sword of Truth.
  3. Orson Scott Card: "Grinning Man" (The Tales of Alvin Maker)
    • Grade: B
    • Commentary: Nice little story -- and, while not quite my thing, the ending is a classic American tall tale. Never read this series before, but it does seem amusing, at least.
  4. Robert Silverberg: "The Seventh Shrine" (Majipoor)
    • Grade: B 
    • Commentary: Another competent story -- though hardly ambitious -- from a series I hadn't previously encountered. Okay, overall.
  5. Ursula K. Le Guin: "Dragonfly" (Earthsea)
    • Grade: A+
    • Commentary: Wonderful; powerful; evocative. Le Guin at her best, as always.
  6. Raymond E. Feist: "The Wood Boy" (The Riftwar Cycle)
    • Grade: C-
    • Commentary: I've read a lot of Feist, but only when younger, and I'm wondering if all his work was similarly ham-handed. Some negative points for the "bitch woman" theme I remember from his The Serpentwar Saga.
  7. Terry Pratchett: "The Sea and Little Fishes" (Discworld)
    • Grade: B
    • Commentary: Pratchett's great . . . but it's also hard for me to distinguish his stuff from each other. All of it is so consistently, well, Pratchett.
  8. George R. R. Martin: "The Hedge Knight" (A Song of Ice and Fire)
    • Grade: A+
    • Commentary: Along with Le Guin's "Dragonfly," this novella was the pinnacle of this collection. Martin at his best. If I ever teach Martin in a fantasy class, I'd probably use this short work as indicative of everything that Martin does well for the fantasy genre.
  9. Tad Williams: "The Burning Man" (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn)
    • Grade: A-
    • Commentary: Got through the first two books of this series, but somehow never finished the third. This novella gets bonus points for some genuine emotional depth.
  10. Anne McCaffrey: "Runner of Pern" (Dragonriders of Pern)
    • Grade: D-
    • Commentary: The sheer awfulness of this story is what first gave me the idea to grade these things. Again, I've read a lot of Pern books, but not since my teenage years. Somehow, I'm doubting that they would've held up well.
  11. Robert Jordan: "New Spring" (The Wheel of Time)
    • Grade: B-
    • Commentary: As a story  . . .  this was okay. It just didn't seem about anything important; though; just some random fleshing-out backstory for The Wheel of Time that we didn't really need. It does contain the cool nugget that Moiraine thinks Cadsuane is a Darkfriend, and for the life of me I can't remember if that's mentioned in WoT.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

H.P. Lovecraft research fellowship

Huh -- new research fellowship for H. P. Lovecraft. Copied below:


The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2019-2020 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 15, 2019.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library. The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2019 and June 2020. The fellowship is open to individuals engaged in pre- and post-doctoral, or independent research. 

For more information and to apply, please visit

Please direct questions to Heather Cole, Curator, Literary & Popular Culture Collections,