Rings, Swords, and Monsters Reviewed at The Silver Key

SFFaudio Review

Over at The Silver Key, our friend Brian Murphy posted a review of Rings, Swords, and Monsters, a Modern Scholar course taught by Michael D.C. Drout. I’m a big fan of Drout’s – I thoroughly enjoyed this course, and his science fiction course (From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature) as well.

|CLICK HERE| to visit The Silver Key to read what Brian has to say about Rings, Swords, and Monsters. Also: look around a little! He’s been posting incredible stuff about Tolkien over the past couple of months.

(NOTE: Actually, the entire review can be found at The Cimmerian.)

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #017


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #017 – Brian Murphy of The Silver Key blog joins the podcast and talks to us about his terrific blog, writing habits, and how vikings and rappers are alike.

Talked about on today’s show:
Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Michael D.C. Drout‘s Beowulf, Neil Gaiman‘s Beowulf, religion in fiction, god in fiction, Stephen King, Carrie, The Stand, Desperation, The Regulators, Kate Nelligan, Delores Claiborne, Cujo, The Tommyknockers, On Writing, Duma Key, The Dark Tower, George R.R. Martin, A Song Of Ice And Fire, Roy Dotrice, Pandora Star, Peter F. Hamilton, Audiofile magazine, how being a truck driver is worse than being in prison (without audiobooks), Mini-Masterpieces of Science Fiction edited by Allan Kaster, Fantasy, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, The Wheel Of Time, Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, my fantasy fiction rant, “fantasy fiction works best when magic is talked about but rarely seen”, The Cimmerian blog, Mark Finn’s Blood And Thunder, Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Gentlemen Of The Road, Henry Treece, The Viking Trilogy: Viking’s Dawn, The Road To Mikligaard, Viking’s Sunset, Bernard Cornwell, Saxon Stories: The Last Kingdom, Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels, William Gibson, Neuromancer, The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft, Wayne June, horror movie: Session 9.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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

Recent Arrivals

Science Fiction Audiobook Recent Arrivals

Science Fiction Audiobook - Draco Tavern by Larry NivenDraco Tavern
By Larry Niven; Read by Tom Weiner
5 CDs – Aprox. 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9780786159475

When a tremendous spacecraft took orbit around Earth’s moon and began sending smaller landers down toward the North Pole, the newly arrived visitors quickly set up a permanent spaceport in Siberia. Their presence attracted many, and a few grew conspicuously rich from secrets they learned from talking to the aliens. One of these men, Rick Schumann, established a tavern catering to all the various species of visiting aliens, a place he named the Draco Tavern.

27 stories and vignettes collected for the first time in one volume.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Songmaster by Orson Scott CardSongmaster
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
10 CDs – Aprox. 12.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9780786178421

Kidnapped at an early age, Ansset has been raised in isolation at a mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life is filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any other. But Ansset’s voice is both a blessing and a curse—for it reflects all the hopes and fears of his audience, and, by magnifying their emotions, can be used either to heal or to destroy.
When it is discovered that his is the voice that the Emperor has waited decades for, Ansset is summoned to the Imperial Palace on Old Earth. Many fates rest in Ansset’s hands, and his songs will soon be put to the test: either to salve the troubled conscience of a conqueror or drive him, and the universe, into mad chaos.

One of Orson Scott Card’s favorite themes; a child’s protagonist coming-of-age story. One Orson’s earliest books and it’s beautifully/frighteningly effective.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Hitchhiker's Guide, Quintessential PhaseHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Quintessiential Phase
By Douglas Adams; Performed by FULL CAST
2 CDs – length 2:26 [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0792738586

Panic! It’s the last ever instalment of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, with a brand new full-cast dramatisation of Mostly Harmless, the final book in Douglas Adams’s famous “trilogy in five parts.” A stolen ship, a dramatic stampede and a new and sinister Guide lead to a race to save the Earth … again. But this time, will they succeed?

Science Fiction Audiobook - Super Pal by Great Northern AudioSuper Pal
By Great Northern Audio; Performed by FULL CAST
1 CD – Aprox. 70 min.
Publisher: Great Northern Audio
Published: 2006

SUPER PAL and The Jewels of the 11th Generation. Recorded live at the Mark Time Radio Shows in 2005 and 2006.

“Super Pal: The Saving of the World” – the rogue comet, Skippy, is headed right for Big City in this superhero mocumentary.

Backed by, “The Jewels of the Eleventh Generation” – treasure hunters board the 300-year-old generation starship, The Professor Irwin Corey, and, as usual, find pirates, love, adorable children and plenty of squeaky toys. Starring David Ossman of the Firesign Theatre.

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Children of Men by P.D. JamesThe Children of Men
By P.D. James; Read by John Franlyn-Robbins
9 CDs – 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 1993
ISBN: 1419323431

It is 2025, and the human race faces imminent extinction. Since 1994, not a single child has been born on earth. Now, a pervasive lethargy blankets the world. Anarchy reigns in the prisons; immigrants are enslaved; renegades terrorize the land. P.D. James, the “Queen of Crime,” takes a new path in this futuristic thriller, bringing to it her customary flair for drama, craftsmanship, and intriguing characters.

Adapted into a movie starring Julianne Moore.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Time of Changes by Robert SilverbergA Time of Changes
By Robert Silverberg; Read by Pete Bradbury
6 cassettes – 8.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1402537255

Blurp from back of the 1971 paperback: In a world numbed of feeling, he felt deeply. In a world drained of passion, he loved fiercely. In a land of anti-people, he dared to search his soul and find himself. Prince Kinnal Darival was an alien in his homeland, a traitor to the realm his fathers ruled. Yet it was Kinnal Darival who would decide the destiny of Velada Borthan. For the planet’s fate lay in a drug which promised any man a meeting with Infinity, a drug which could spread throughout the planet and destroy it — a drug contained in a small flask which the Earthman Schweiz was holding out to Kinnal Darival…

Winner of the 1971 Nebula award.

Modern Scholar - Rings, Sword, Monsters Rings, Swords, Monsters: Exploring Fantasy
Lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout
7 CDs – Approx. 7 hours [LECTURES]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Series: The Modern Scholar
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1419386956

Should fantasy be considered serious literature, or is it merely escapism? In this course, the roots of fantasy and the works that have defined the genre are examined. Incisive analysis and a deft assessment of what makes these works so very special provides a deeper insight into beloved works and a better understanding of why fantasy is such a pervasive force in modern culture.

The Time Traveler

Review of From Here To Infinity: An Exploration of SF

Science Fiction Audibook Review

Clipper Audiobook - From Here to Infinity From Here To Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction
Lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout
7 CDs or 7 Cassettes – Approx. 7 hours [LECTURES]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Series: The Modern Scholar
Published: 2006
ISBN: (cassettes) 1419388754; (CDs) 1419388762
Themes: / Non-Fiction / History of Science Fiction / Lectures /

Esteemed professor Michael D.C. Drout traces the history of science fiction in this series of stimulating lectures. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to today’s cutting- edge authors, Drout offers a compelling analysis of the genre, including a look at hard-boiled science fiction, the golden age of science fiction, New Wave writers, and contemporary trends in the field.

I remember my Science Fiction English course in High School. Perhaps it was because I was at the peak of my teenage-angst snobbery, but I felt the teacher was teaching the course against her will. I left with a dislike of the “scholarly pursuit” of SF in the classroom.

After listening to Professor Drout, all those dislikes were washed away. He has a real knowledge of the history of Science Fiction and its roots. Although I’m not an expert, I pride myself on my knowledge of the genre’s history. Much of the material was not new to me, but Drout’s enthusiasm and pacing made the listening a pleasure.

Starting with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he recounts the major progressions of SF up to Neal Stephenson and beyond. He offers some original thinking on how he categorizes many of the authors. I never considered Ray Bradbury a surrealist until Drout compared his work with J.G. Ballard. And anybody who devotes a large amount of a lecture to Cordwainer Smith is easily going to win me over.

Lectures included:

1 What Is Science Fiction?
2 The Roots of Science Fiction
3 Mysterious Lore, Marvelous Tech: The 1930s
4 Hard-Boiled Science Fiction: The 1940s
5 The Grand Master: Robert A. Heinlein
6 Onward and Outward: The 1950s, Space Travel, Apocalypticism, and the Beautiful Weirdness of Cordwainer Smith
7 A New Set of Questions: The “New Wave” of the 1960s and 1970s
8 The World Builder: Frank Herbert
9 The Surrealists: Ballard and Bradbury
10 The Computer Revolution: Cyberpunk and the 1980s
11 Post-Punk: Neal Stephenson
12 Women and Gender
13 The Satirists
14 The Shape of Things to Come