Lecture: Joe Haldeman on "The Craft of Science Fiction"

SFFaudio Online Audio

iTunes U iTunes U, is a new section in the iTunes store offering the content of higher education institutions. Lectures and seminars dominate, some video, some audio. A few of the cooler ones that have caught our eyes are up already. The last set is a collection from Seattle Pacific University (a “Christian university of the liberal arts, sciences and professions”) as such these are lectures that look at their subject decidedly Christian POV. For those of you who don’t use iTunes we’ve also tracked down the original sources when we could find them. Either way, listen online or pop into the iTunes store and get U some education!
Massachusetts Institute of Technology “The Craft of Science Fiction”
By Joe Haldeman
iTunes U download or 1 RealAudio file – 1 Hour 47 Minutes – [LECTURE]
University: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Released: Nov. 2006
A lecture by MIT professor (and Science Fiction legend) Joe Haldeman.
Arizona State University “Nano-Ethics through the writing of Science Fiction”
By Rosalyn W. Berne PhD.
iTunes U download or 1 MP3 – 54 Minutes – [LECTURE]
University: Arizona State University
Released: May 2007
Berne is Associate Professor at the University of Virginia.
Seattle Pacific University 4 Tolkien Lectures
By John G. West, Janet Blumberg, Peter Kreeft & Joseph Pearce
iTunes U downloads & 1 Mp3 – Approx. 3 Hours 16 Minutes [LECTURES]
University: Seattle Pacific University
Released: 2001
Lectures included:
Tolkien 1 of 4: “The Lord Of The Rings as a Defense of Western Civilization” by John G. West
Tolkien 2 of 4: “Literary Background of The Lord Of The Rings” by Janet Blumberg
Tolkien 3 of 4: “Wartime Wisdom: Ten Uncommon Insights from The Lord Of The Rings about Evil” by Peter Kreeft |MP3|
Tolkien 4 of 4: “Tolkein, Man and Myth”* by Joseph Pearce

* Please note, Tolkien’s name is spelled wrong in the 4th lecture’s title, be sure to enter the title as it appear above in the iTunes search.

Review of Rings, Swords, And Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature by Michael D.C. Drout

SFFaudio Review

Modern Scholar - Rings, Sword, Monsters Rings, Swords, And Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature
Lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout
7 CDs & Book – 7 Hours 51 Minutes [LECTURES]
Publisher: Recorded Books LLC / The Modern Scholar
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1419386956
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Lectures / Fantasy / J.R.R. Tolkien / Middle Earth / Beowulf / Children’s Fantasy / Arthurian Legend / Magic Realism / World Building /

“It used to be that fantasy was a boy’s genre and that was clear even back through the 80s and 90s, that 90% of your audience for fantasy literature, 90% of your audience for Tolkien was male. That is no longer the case. When I give lecturings [sic] at gatherings of Tolkien enthusiasts the crowd is easily 50-50 male female and often times more female than male – though I will have to say that many of the women in the crowd are wearing elf-princess costumes – I’m not really sure what that means.”
-Lecture 13: Arthurian Fantasy (on the ‘Marion Zimmer Bradley effect’)

Most of this lecture series is concerned with Tolkien. Drout explains what influenced Tolkien’s fiction, how his work impacted Fantasy and how later writers reacted to and imitated him. A full five of the 14 lectures are on Tolkien’s books proper, with another four on what influenced him, and who he influenced. The scholarship here is absolutely engrossing, hearing Drout tease out details from names, the structure and the philosophy of Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion will delight any Tolkien fan. At one point in Lecture 4 Drout explains the sources for the names of both the 13 dwarves of The Hobbit and Gandalf too. According to Drout, Gandalf was originally named “Bladderthin.” But this isn’t just scholarship here, Drout is very much a critic, a fan of the works he studies. He gives a critical examination of plots, themes and the worlds of each of the Fantasy novels he talks about. Drout dissects Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, calling them possibly the best Fantasy since Tolkien, on the one hand and also shows what doesn’t quite work in them. Drout, like Tolkien is an scholar of Anglo-Saxon so there is also plenty of talk about Beowulf and the impact it had on Tolkien. In fact, central to many of his arguments is the linguistic background each work of Fantasy makes use of. Tolkien works so well, argues Drout, in part, because it all hangs linguistically together. Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, which Drout thinks immensely prominent in post-Tolkien Fantasy, doesn’t have a cohesive linguistic bedrock, and that hurts the series – which he thinks is otherwise one of the best realized “secondary worlds” created. Whatever it is Drout talks about, he backs up his critical opinion. Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he’s read them, and has dissected the plots to show how as time has gone by and Brooks has written more, he’s come to have something of his own voice, and not just stayed the pale Tolkien imitator he started as.

The lectures on Tolkien inevitably lead to the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. Drout gives them their due, and shows why some of it works and some of it doesn’t. Arthurian Fantasy, which predates Tolkien, seems to have run a parallel course to “secondary world” fantasy literature. After hearing Lecture 13 you’ll come away with a desire to find a copy of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin series. My own opinion is that Drout gives too much credit to J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter novels, he talks about her writing for about 8 minutes. In fairness it would probably not be possible to talk about Children’s Fantasy literature without mentioning her popular series. But on the other hand there are many different kinds of Fantasy that Drout doesn’t talk about at all. I wonder why Neil Gaiman isn’t mentioned. What of Robert E. Howard? And why almost no talk about short stories? James Powell’s A Dirge For Clowntown needs some attention! The only solution is for Recorded Books to go back and ask for more from this professor. Call it Gods, Barbarians, and Clowns: Further Explorations Of Fantasy Literature or something. Until then I’ll be working on my Cimmerian-clown costume.

Posted by Jesse Willis

J.R.R. Tolkien Reading and Singing From The Lord Of The Rings

SFSignal.com has found a tasty Tolkien treat on the Record Brother Blog: “J.R.R. Tolkien reading and Singing his Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers/The Return of the King” This was originally released by Caedmon on LP in 1975 but was actually recorded by George Sayer, Tolkien’s good friend, in 1952, prior to the trilogy’s publication.

J.R.R. Tolkien Reading And Singing His Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, The Return Of The KingJ.R.R. Tolkien Reading And Singing His Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, The Return Of The King
By J.R.R. Tolkien; Read and sung by J.R.R. Tolkien
2 Mp3 Files (from an original 33 ? LP Record) – [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Caedmon
Published: 1975
Product #: TC-1478

Record Brother has asked that syndicators only point to his blog post rather than link to the files directly, so GO HERE, to get the goodness.

Side 1: The Two Towers excerpts
Side 2: The Return of the King

“On side one we have Sam and Gollum discussing stewed rabbit (and fish and chips!). Tolkien is better by far reading the tales and songs of Treebeard and the Ents and expressing his (Tolkien’s no less than Fangorn’s) love of trees and sorrow at their destruction. But for me side two is the stronger, with a powerful and moving account of the Muster and Ride of the Rohirrim. Close your eyes and you are there with Merry amongst Théoden’s host on the long ride to Mundburg.”

posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Pearl and Sir Orfeo by J.R.R. Tolkien

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audio - Pearl and Sir Orfeo by J.R.R.TolkienPearl and Sir Orfeo
By J.R.R. Tolkien; Read by Terry Jones
2 cassettes – 2 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0001053744
Themes: / Fantasy / Mythology /

Pearl, the longer of the two stories in this collection, is an elegy for the poet’s baby daughter, told in alliterative verse. It tells the story of a man who goes into a graveyard to mourn the death of his baby daughter, whom he has lost like a pearl that slipped through his fingers into the grass. Worn out by his grief, he falls asleep and has a glorious vision of another, symbolically bejeweled, world, in which he meets his daughter again and discovers what has happened to her.

Sir Orfeo, a Celtic version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, complete with a twist happy ending. The moving story of a love so strong it was
able to overcome death itself.

*ALSO INCLUDED* ~Two Essays by J.R.R. Tolkien
Two introduction and background essays by the master himself, J.R.R. Tolkien regarding the translation and preservation of the anonymous fourteenth-century poems upon which these stories are based.

Best known for his work with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry Jones lends his signature voice and style to these two wonderful translations by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jones, is well equipped to flesh out the characters and voices of Tolkien’s texts. The combination of the lilting verse and the audio medium bringing the absolutely right feel to the presentation. This audiobook makes it quite clear that heroic tales were meant to be heard rather than read. Jones uses his knowledge, he’s actually a scholar of medieval literature himself, for a particularly effective reading, he sets just the right tone to the musical quality of the verse. Also of interest to
Tolkien fanatics are the unmentioned (on the packaging) essays and introductions by Tolkien for both these tales, a fantastic resource for teachers and students studying Toklien and comparative mythology. One caveat – the accessibility of this audiobook’s text is high school or above and not at all suitable for young children.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Translated by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy Audiobooks - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by J.R.R. TolkienSir Gawain And The Green Knight
Translated by J.R.R. Tolkien; Read by Terry Jones
2 cassettes – 150 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0001053736
Themes: / Fantasy / Mythology / Arthurian Legend /

It’s Christmas at Camelot and King Arthur won’t begin to feast until he has witnessed a marvel of chivalry. A mysterious knight, green from head to toe, rides in and brings the court’s wait to an end with an implausible challenge to the Round Table: he will allow any of the knights to strike him once, with a battle-axe no less, on the condition that he is allowed to return the blow a year hence. At the center of the story of the challenge and its consequences is Arthur’s brave favorite, Sir Gawain.

*ALSO INCLUDED* ~An Essay By J.R.R. Tolkien
An introduction and background essay by the master himself, J.R.R. Tolkien regarding the translation and preservation of the anonymous fourteenth-century poem upon which this story is based.

Another mytho-historic tale translated by J.R.R. Tolkien, who was, as many forget these days, a professor of linguistics at Oxford. Another medieval scholar contibuted to this audiobook…. Though best known for his work with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry Jones lends not only his signature voice to Tolkien’s translation of the Arthurian legend but also his familiarity with the subject. Not just an internationally recognized comedian, Jones also happens to be a scholar of medieval literature. As such he is well equipped to flesh out the characters and voices of Tolkien’s text in an authentic way. The combination of the lilting verse and the audio medium bringing the absolutely right feel to the presentation, something that makes it quite clear that heroic tales were meant to be spoken aloud rather than simply read. Also of interest to Tolkien fans is the included essay by Tolkien on the translation. A hard to find audiobook but well worth the effort!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Farmer Giles of Ham & Other Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy Audiobook - Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. TolkienFarmer Giles of Ham & Other Stories
By J.R.R. Tolkien; Read by Derek Jacobi
2 Cassettes – 3 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0001056107
Themes: / Fantasy / Dragons / Giants / Magic / Humor / Art /

*Includes three tales from The Perilous Realm:

Farmer Giles of Ham
One of Tolkien’s most popular stories. Full of wit and humor and set in the days of giants and dragons, it tells the tale of a reluctant hero Farmer Giles, his grey mare, and his talking dog Garm, who all three conspire to save Ham and the middle kingdom first from the a deaf giant and again from the dreaded dragon Chrysophylax.

Smith of Wootton Major
Tells of baking a Great Cake to mark the Feast of Good Children and the magical events that follow.

Leaf by Niggle
Recounts the adventures of a painter trying to capture a tree on canvas.

A wonderful treat for the lovers of Tolkien. Though far overshadowed by his stories about Hobbits and rings the author of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit also wrote some great short stories, and here they are! Three amusing and interesting stories, by the greatest English fantasist since William Shakespeare. If you enjoyed The Lord Of The Rings for more than the battle scenes you should definietly try this two little cassette package on for size. Performed by Sir Derek Jacobi, best known for his role in “I, Claudius”, this is a skillful reading that transforms each character into a person, even the dog in the title story has his own voice. Jacobi captured my attention fully, I was really delighted to have a performer of such skill as his read it to me. Worth hunting down!

Posted by Jesse Willis