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Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XVIII. Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

The Noldor, strong and numerous, fair well in their alliance with Men.  For about five hundred years at least.  Time gets a bit wonky when dealing with the conniving of immortals, and "patience" becomes a bit relative.  I can't even say that Morgoth was really patient by waiting five hundred years because he built up his resources until he reached "good enough," and rushes out to burninate the countryside without really evaluating his plan.

His opening salvo is fire, rivers of flame, volcanoes, dragons, and Balrogs.  Morgoth's forces wrecked destruction on their unprepared enemy, but many retreated and regrouped, to strengthen those further away from the front and fortify defenses.  Fingolfin beholds the apparent destruction of his people, and calls out Morgoth in challenge.  Their fight is one of legend, a fight between demigods.  Morgoth rends the earth with his hammer, while Fingolfin springs away from Morgoth's blows, wounding Morgoth seven times.  …

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XVII. Of the Coming of Men into the West

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And behold, Elves discover Men. 

Or more specifically, an Eldar discovers Men, because they already associated with the Dark Elves.  We've covered a basic summary of Men in this story in Chapter 13, but it lacks depth or a clear sense of timeline.

Finrod Felagund, lord of Nargothrond stumbles across a camp of Men under the leadership of one Bëor (really named Balan, but I guess the Elven name wins out) by chance and becomes rather fascinated by them. After they fall asleep he steals into the camp, and they awake to the sound of an elf singing and playing with such skill that they had yet to encounter.  They at first take him for one of the Valar, but he stays among them and imparts knowledge, forging a bond between these Men and his line.

Thanks to some Elven mojo, and some pre-exisiting familiarity with Elven speech, the bypassed linguistic barriers without much difficulty.  Bëor shares little of their origins and their journey, just that a "darkness" lay behind them.  …

December Read: We

Actually, I have two December Reads.

The first one is We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the other is The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.  A bit of a spread, I know.

I learned about We when a local book club ordered copies last year.  I had never heard of this Russian dystopian novel from the 1920's, and I was fascinated by the description.  It's a small book, but I hope it proves a worthwhile read, and small books are good for the end of the year when everything comes to a head.  So that's my Virtual Speculation pick.

The Hogfather on the other hand, is a delightful re-read, that I'm diving into with a group of others as a holiday buddy read.  It's one of my favorite Discworld novels, and I actually really enjoy the movie.  I'm not sure how much I'll be posting mid-read, though that seems to be a big part of buddy reads.  The problem is, I'll want to post 70% of the book.  So be it, right?

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XVI. Of Maeglin

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I suppose it's semi-redundant to say any particular chapter exists to introduce characters and set the stage, as we're reading a "history" text... but this chapter introduces us to characters and sets the stage.

The really short summary is the daughter of Fingolfin goes on walkabout, gets ensnared in a marriage, has a kid, then goes back home, sacrifices herself to keep her kid alive, and her kid brings glory to the Noldor while slowly becoming consumed with envy and anger.

Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, the White Lady of the Noldor, daughter of Fingolfin, once roamed far and wide in the realm of Valinor.  Now she lives within the bounds of Gondolin, under the rule of her brother Turgon... and after 200 years she's had enough of living in one spot.  When asked for permission to explore again, brother dear wanted her to do so his way.  If you haven't noticed by now, Tolkien rarely writes women who simply concede to what the men around them want.  So Turgon sends his guar…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XV. Of the Noldor in Beleriand

A summary of this chapter could be "the sins of the fathers come to haunt the sons."  The elves as a whole prosper, but the Noldor suffer from their alienation of he Valar and their infringement on the established elven societies.  The Doom of Mandos hangs over them, the threat of treason from within, rather like the Sword of Damocles.  Adding to comparisons, Melian is Thingol's Cassandra, who seems to get the "don't worry your pretty head" treatment quite a bit for some reason.

Regardless of Galadriel's careful omissions, and her speaking true when she says she is not under the shadow of evil, the truth (and rumors) come out.  And so, the language of the Noldor is banned, Sindar shall not speak or answer to the language.  The most profound moment comes for me at the end, when King Finrod Felagund says "An oath I too shall swear, and must be free to fulfil it, and go into darkness.  Nor shall anything of my realm endure that a son should inherit.&q…

Legend of the Stars 2

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This weekend, we lived a Gothic Horror/Romance.  With space wizards and light sabers.  On a real life heavy cruiser.  I did horrible things to amazing people, causing characters emotional trauma and player tears.  I lost track of the number of times friends told me they hated me or that I was the worst as they gleefully went deeper into the dark places of the plot.

Not only that, I portrayed a space wizard ghost trapped in a ship and who thinks its the AI.

Sometimes, life is pretty sweet.

I also admit that I'm a strange person.

When I was invited to contribute to Legends of the Stars 2 (website, Facebook), I think I had a bit of a brain glitch.  Really?  They wanted me to contribute?  Holy crap.  We'll hand wave the ensuing anxiety of whether or not it was a true invite that lasted through my first story development meeting up until I was officially on the writing team.

This made for one of my top LARP experiences so far.  I'm still buzzing from it.

I've never done a N…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XIV. Of Beleriand and its Realms

I'm keeping this one short and sweet, in part because this is the type of chapter that is very hard for me to read.  In short, Of Beleriand and it's Realms is a narrative description of a map and the prominent names attached.  It would make a rather lovely graphic, the map with tags for the different areas and the data sectioned accordingly.  Actually, I'm pretty sure I've seen it as such, but life has me a bit swamped, so I'm cheating on this one, and moving on.

November Read: Grass

I'm taking time to re-read some of my favorites, like I need an excuse to re-read Tepper.  I haven't read Grass since high school, so it should prove interesting what I remember and what I missed.  I know there are layers and connections I didn't see on my first read, including the connection between Grass and Raising the Stones and Sideshow.  It goes without saying that there are likely nuances I'll pickup on as an adult that I missed as a teen.

I'm a few chapters in already, and may need to go on and finish the trilogy once I'm finished up.

[Book Review] Viscera

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Viscera / Gabriel Squailia

No one writes quite like Squailia.  I met her when we were both on a panel about body horror, and shortly afterwards looked up her book, Dead Boys.  It was strange, creepy, creative, and wonderful.

So that brought me to eagerly looking forward to reading Viscera, and it seemed like a good choice for an October read, so here we are.  Viscera is dark, funny, weird, creepy, unexpected, and human.  I also see a lot of what Squailia talked about in the panel, particularly at looking at gender dysmorphia in the framing of body horror. Excellent novel that I could not put down.

Discussion Fodder:
What are the different approaches to morality in the book?  How do the characters construct and frame their lives and behaviors?  Think of Ashlan, Hollis, followers of Fortune, and the Puppeteer.How do the Gods fit into the story and the shape of the characters lives?How does the author write gender and identity?What genre would you say this book should be classified as?  H…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XIII. Of the Return of the Noldor

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The Return of the Noldor, perhaps a bit less successful than The Return of the King, but that's due to how early it is in our story still.

The focus of the recounting hides Morgoth's motivations and intents, beyond "crush my enemies."  So when the Noldor set a great beacon of their activities by burning the ships at Losgar, plus failed to remain particularly inconspicuous along their journey... the host of Morgoth decides to pay a visit.  Though in exile (voluntary or involuntary) from Valinor, the Norgoth still bear the grace of the light of Aman, and make quick work of the sudden foes.

I'm not quite sure if "Evil indeed were the tidings that came at last to Angband, and Morgoth was dismayed," is really the best way that Tolkien could have worded it.    Something about "evil tidings" to the closest incarnation to evil this world has and all that.  But it gets a point across.  The Noldor, even without fortification or preparation, make for a f…

What was I thinking?

Somehow I got myself involved in writing for four LARP events going off this month, including the MES North East Regional Showcase and Legend of the Stars, Run 2.  It's made things a bit interesting around here.

I also wrote another Escape Room and ran it at my library, and am running a rework of the one I ran this summer at another library.

And the 14th sees Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch visiting my library for an author event I organized.

:dies:

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XII. Of Men

And at the start of the new Age, the Valar rested.  We've got a bit of a pattern here, but on the other hand, we have the equivalent of children or teenagers running the planet.  Immortality, powers of creation, and honestly little to do but entertain themselves besides the occasional scurry to pick up all the dirty socks off the floor does not do a whole lot for developing a work ethic or a sense of responsibility.

So with little notice or fanfare, the Younger Children of Iluvatar awake in Middle Earth.  The Elves greeted Men like an unwanted sibling, and the Valar are the absent parent.  The metaphor isn't perfect, but it's close enough.

With the Sun in the sky checking Morgoth's power, Men and Elves become great allies.  Together they  strive against the hosts of Morgoth, though Men were more fragile than the Elves, vulnerable to sickness and more easily slain.  But in time, division grows between the races, Morgoth triumphs, and the Elves wane while Men flourish.  …

[Book Review] Dhalgren

Dhalgren / Samuel R. Delany

This was the September book club pick.  The first thing that struck me was that the writing was far more lyrical than I expected.  The narrative twines through the city and an examination of writing itself, while experiencing almost a dissociation from time and the main character itself.  It's definitely a book I think my enjoyment of depends a lot on my state of mind, as does what I take away from it.  I'm truly not sure what I think of it.

Discussion Fodder:
What is happening in this story?How does author talk about race, gender, and sexuality?Do the decades since publication change the impact and context of the book?How does Delany make use of (or subvert) literary traditions and narrative cycles?

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XI. Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor

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The trees have fallen and the Silmarils lost.  Teleperion bears one last flower of silver, and Laurelin a single fruit of gold, which were taken and put into vessels to hang in the sky as great lamps.  With these lamps they resolve to illuminate Middle Earth, bringing light to the people's there and hindering Melkor's (literally) dark deeds.

Good news: the Valar have a solid idea that they need to actually pay attention to Melkor and the danger he poses.

Bad news: with the arrival of humans imminent (plus the waking of the dwarves), waging war on Melkor might take out the life they're charged with preparing the world for.
Isil the Sheen the Vanyar of old named the Moon, flower of Telperion in Valinor; and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun.  But the Noldor named them also Rana, the Wayward, and Vasa, the Heart of Fire, that awakens and consumes; for the Sun was set as a sign for the awakening of Men and the waning of the Elves, but the Moon cherish…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : X. Of the Sindar

We change gears for a bit, looking at the Sindar, those that started the "Great Journey," but who stayed in Beleriand instead of crossing the ocean.  After all, there's more than just Valinor.

I have to assume if you're reading The Silmarillion  you're at least vaguely familiar with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  But if you aren't, I hope that the fact that Tolkien makes specific mention of the birth of Lúthien stands out.  Spoiler, she's kind of a big deal, and not just because she's the daughter of the Maiar Melian and the Elven King Thingol.

The focus here is of the meeting of the Dwarves and the Elves, and what came of that meeting.  The
Elves experienced a bit of a shock on learning they were not the only creatures who spoke and crafted (Valar and Maiar excluded, of course).  The dirty secret being, of course, that the Dwarves predate the Elves, and were just in forced hibernation for awhile.  The Dwarves keep their secrets though, and le…

[Book Review] A Scandal in Battersea

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A Scandal in Battersea (Elemental Masters) / Mercedes Lackey

The Christmas season has come to London, along with a new moon, and there are things that take advantage of the dark of night (reviewer aside - why Christmas Eve and not Solstice?).  Among all the gifts and cheer, a Book finds its way into the hands of a resentful young man who desires power.  What starts as a sacrifice and invocation, soon proves dark and alien, to a dangerous end.

So.  Mercedes Lackey has written a story with Lovecraftian flavor.  This has resulted in probably the coziest "C'thulhu Mythos" story I have ever encountered.  Note: there is no direct reference in name or language to the Mythos, but the traits are heavily present throughout.  It also gives us more of her vision of Sherlock Holmes & Co, as introduced in A Study in Sable, and stars the ever steady Nan, Sarah, and their birds.  If you want more Nan and Sarah, or just want cozy Mythos story, give it a try.  If the idea of a cozy Lo…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : IX. Of the Flight of the Noldor

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The Trees are dead, their light existing now only in the Silmarils wrought by Fëanor.  So, of course, they ask Fëanor to release the light within his Masterwork so that Yavanna might heal the Trees.  Of all the Valar, only Aulë the Maker understood exactly how much they asked of Fëanor, the destruction of his life's work and a piece of himself, and being asked by beings of greater power and authority so that a request weighs as heavy as an obligation.  During this debate of action, Melkor slips into the home of Fëanor, killing his father and Silmarils.  In his anger and grief Fëanor curses Melkor, naming him Morgoth, and holding Manwë in part responsible for keeping him away from his father and his home in a time of need.  In this grief he claims the kingship of the Noldor and calls on his people to leave "the kin of my father's slayer and of the thief of my treasure."  And in this he calls for freedom from the Valar, speaks of what the Noldor lost by coming to this …

October Read: Viscera

Sometimes I put a book on my book club list because I desperately want to read it but other books keep getting in the way.  Yes, this is a problem in my life.

I discovered Gabriel Squallia when we were co-panelists for Lovecraftian Intimacy: Body Horror & Mind Melds at Arisia 2016.  Long story short, I found Squallia inventive and fascinating, descriptions which I would both apply to their first novel, Dead BoysViscera promises fantasy, horror, comedy, wit, and wonders.  Sounds like a good October read to me.

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VIII. Of the Darkening of Valinor

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For a time Melkor avoids those hunting him, still empowered with the ability to change shape or pass unseen.  Meanwhile, Ungoliant, a creature of whom her origins are wondered at by even the Eldar, made her home within Avathar, taking on the form of a giant spider, and consuming any Light that fell within her grasp and spinning it out into shadowy webs.  Ungoliant is the progenitor of the Spiders we meet throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Shelob and her ilk, dark creatures in spider form that are burned by blessed Light.  Melkor seeks her out, taking on his guise of a Dark Lord he bore in Utumno, a form in which he remains, and strikes a deal.  "Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand."

Under a cloak of darkness woven by Ungoliant, Melkor strikes at Valinor in the midst of a celebration of thanks giving and forgiveness.  Fëanor comes in simple presentation, and reconciles with Fingolfin before…

[Book Review] Sweet Revenge

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Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes & Enemies / Heather Kim

Sometimes I'll pick a book up just for it's title or it's cover.  If it's a cookbook we're talking about with the promise of gratuitous puns, well, I'm pretty sold.

The book delivers on promised tone and puns both, fun, snarky, and well explained.  The recipes veer into the unexpected, with the inclusion of various snack foods such as Doritos and Hot Cheetos as part of the flavor, texture, or highlight of sweet treats.  But even if you're conservative when it comes to flavor combinations, there's plenty for you here, and a number of recipes you can make a more traditional version of by simply sidestepping the inclusion of the salty munchie in question.

A fun addition to your cookbook collection, and if you're in a library one I think that will definitely circulate on amusement value alone.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Capstone via Netgalley; differences may …

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VII. Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor

During this time Fëanor creates his Masterwork, the Silmarils, in which he captures the light of the Trees.  Varda imbued the rings "so that thereafter no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil might touch them," (which leaves me wondering how the Silmarils and the quasi-mortal half-Elves would interact) and Mandows foretold that the very fates of Middle Earth lay within them.
I'm going to assume no one here is surprised that Melkor wants them for himself?  I actually find Melkor's desire and frustration regarding the Silmarils backing for his claims about teaching Fëanor being little more than lies.  He could make many great and terrible things, but these lay beyond his power.  That being said, there's nothing to say how much knowledge from Melkor made its way indirectly to Fëanor.  What cannot be denied, however, is how skilled and insidious were Melkor's lies.  He spoke to them of favoritism, of ambition, and glory.  And, it cannot be denied…

[Book Review] Rat Queens Volume 4 : High Fantasies

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Rat Queens, Volume 4 : High Fantasies / Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Previously Reviewed:
Rat Queens Deluxe Hardcover Volume 1 (contains Volumes 1 & 2)Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons This is undoubtedly the Rat Queens I've come to love, but there's a lot missing and I don't know where it went.  It's not just the missing story between the end of Volume 3 and the beginning of Volume 4 that's jarring and confusing, no matter how happy I am to see Hannah back in the heart of things.  Even with an overarching plotline, Volume 4 reads like a series of vignettes rather than  cohesive story.  There are pieces missing, and some of those pieces belong to the very heart of the story.
Don't get me wrong, I laughed at walking in on Hannah's dad with the ghost of her mom, the adventure that boiled down to a dick joke by a bored magical frog/pufferfish/thing, and I love pretty much everything Braga.  But I know these unruly, riotous women can do more than make me laugh…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VI. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

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All good things must come to an end.

Things start out quite nicely, with Melkor locked away, the Eldar gathering and enjoying a time of peace.  We even have a love story.

Spoiler: it all ends horribly.

As soon as I read that Míriel could only stand to bear a single child and that Finwë wanted more my first thought was "Well, this is going to end poorly."

Tolkien enjoys his epic love stories, ill fated or destined for greatness.  And so we have the marriage of Finwë and Míriel, deeply in love and from whom comes perhaps the greats of the Noldar artisans, Fëanor.  Birth is never easy, something that we often forget when it happens behind the closed doors of hospital rooms.  Women undergo intense physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy and at the end of it they suddenly have another life they are responsible for.  Actually, one of the biggest fears I have regarding spawning is that with my baseline neurochemical imbalances (and other factors) I have a deep seat…

[Book Review] A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz / Walter M. Miller, Jr.

The back of my copy in hand lists an excerpt from The New York Times review, "Angry, eloquent... a terrific story."  I can't disagree with that.  A Canticle for Leibowitz is bleak assessment of humanity in a continual cycle of self-destruction and struggle for survival, with strong themes on information literacy, morality, and anti-intellectualism.

I think I would have been far happier reading it... maybe last year.  However, it is definitely worth reading and I'm glad I got to it.

Discussion Fodder:
This book in many ways is about cycles and patterns.  What cycles and patterns did you notice (themes, civilization, narrative, etc)?Does the Church as an archivist change the preservation and passing on of knowledge, and how does that manifest?  What are the differences between Science as a secular or as a religious practice?wWhat do you think of the permutations of society and cultures present?  What about taboos and supe…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : V. Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië

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This week, a picture says a thousand words.


The divisions between the Elves partially came down to luck, which I have various grumbly feelings about.  That those who were too far away to hear Ulmo's summons are a sub-classification in terms of Elven standing and lore is a bit snobbish.  Especially since the Valar could have reunited the groups much earlier than they did.

That being said, residing in Valinor and among the Valar wrought changes on the Quendi, so there is reason behind the division between the different groups.  And, while I generally bitch about the Valar failing their duties, even those doing some of them, Ulmo actually does seem to take care of the Elves, including forming an island for the Teleri and their love of the sea.  The Valar variously had their favorites, those inline with their own inclinations.  After all, they are only fallible, so such a human favoritism is almost to be expected.  But to their favorites they impart knowledge, wisdom, and skills, enri…

September Read: Dhalgren

Somehow Samuel R. Delany managed to stay under my radar for most of my life.  Reading about him and his works, I feel like the fact that I have yet to read any thing by him is absurd.
In Bellona, reality has come unglued, and a mad civilization takes root A young half–Native American known as the Kid has hitchhiked from Mexico to the midwestern city Bellona—only something is wrong there . . . In Bellona, the shattered city, a nameless cataclysm has left reality unhinged. Into this desperate metropolis steps the Kid, his fist wrapped in razor-sharp knives, to write, to love, to wound. So begins Dhalgren , Samuel R. Delany’s masterwork, which in 1975 opened a new door for what science fiction could mean. A labyrinth of a novel, it raises questions about race, sexuality, identity, and art, but gives no easy answers, in a city that reshapes itself with each step you take. This sounds exactly like a book I will love, and hopefully that proves true for the September Virtual Specula…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : IV. Of Thingol and Melian

Considering the significance of the moment covered by this chapter and Tolkien's treatment of epic love stories, this chapter stands out as shockingly short.  Elwë (referred to in the chapter title as Thingol), an was one of the elves to visit Valinor then come back to their people to offer the choice of haven in the Light of the Trees.

And then he comes across the Maia Melian, and that whole plan of residing in Valinor goes out the window.  We've met the Maia before, the name Gandalf probably rings a bell.  Melian brought song to the twilight of Middle Earth.

Beyond inspiring Elwë to abandon the life he convinced what would become a whole subset of his own race to follow, they are the first couple in a lineage of epic love stories that transcend race.  Melian births Lúthien Tinúviel, of Elven song and lore and her marriage to Beren.  The line continues through to Elrond, and then to Arwen who marries Aragon in her own repeat of the trials of Lúthien and Beren.

On the other ha…

[Book Review] The Brightest Fell

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The Brightest Fell (October Daye #11) / Seanan McGuire

Previously reviewed:
Once Broken Faith
Most of Toby's stories drop you into the action and feed you necessary bits of exposition as they barrel along.

This book takes the time to introduce you to the world setting, and in that marks a note of gravity and weight that has been absent at the start of the stories, but has always lain lurking.  In that, the novel starts off feeling like we've reached a new step, gone past some point of no return in both Toby's life and in Faerie itself.  Fitting, since ina the author's own words, Toby is starting to pay off debts created five or six books ago.

We know something is coming, hints have been dropped and there's the looming matter of Toby's debts to the Luideag.  Matters which were both brought starkly to light in Once Broken Faith when Luideag mentions it would take too long to replace Toby, and then later when she saves Tybalt's life.  But much of that is for a …

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : III. Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

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Wherein the Valar largely avoid doing their job, let things get bad, then scramble to make up for it.

"Through long ages the Valar dwelt in bliss in the light of the Trees beyond the Mountains of Aman, but all Middle-earth lay in a twilight under the stars."

Dwelling in their own private Haven is really not what they were sent to the world to do.  Yavanna moped about, but at least did what she could to protect the life that couldn't grow under the twilight.  Besides that...well, Melkor certainly took advantage of the situation, digging in and fortifying his position.  Most notably we learn about his fortress, Angband, commanded by his lieutenant, Sauron.

Finally the Valar realize maybe they should see about that assignment to prepare the earth for Iluvatar's children?  From this we see the greatest of all works of the Valar since they first came to Arda, that is the making of the new stars.  Not fully bringing light to the world, but bringing some... and this is the…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : II. Of Aulë and Yavanna

Valanar to me seems almost a Garden of Eden, but Ilúvatar proves rather more benevolent than Yahweh.  Rather than a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge we have the creation of life.  Which by Christian standards and morals strikes me like the larger transgression.  So Aulë so desired Children to pass on his knowledge to that he formed the Dwarves, and Ilúvatar shows compassion in the face of Aulë's demonstrated humility, awarding the Dwarves a place in the world.  Even if that place comes after a long hibernation so that the Elves can still be the First.  I guess the crime in Eden could be considered Pride, a sin Aulë debased himself against.

The Seven Father of the Dwarves are laid to rest, to reawaken once the children of Ilúvatar come forth.  Perhaps most interestingly is the Dwarven belief of the afterlife, where they go to their maker's halls, and to serve beside im in the remaking of the world after the Last Battle.  While clearly different, it brings to mind Valh…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : I. Of the Beginning of Days

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In the early days, while the world was still being formed, a powerful spirit came to the aid of the Valar against Melkor, driving him off with his "wrath and laughter."  And thus did Tulkas the Strong come to reside among he Valar and become one of their number.  It also earned him the life-long enmity of Melkor, but let's be honest if you can face down Melkor, earning his enmity isn't exactly a huge surprise or challenge.

Melkor's retreat to regroup and fortify gives everyone else some breathing room, and the Valar take it as an opportunity to tend to the world and bring life and beauty to it.  Two mightly lamps are built, blessed, and set to the North and South (Illuin and Ormal), spreading light across the land.

Then after their labors, they celebrated and rested.  Since no one bothered dealing with Melkor in this time, well, we know where this is going.  While the Valar shaped the world, Melkor was seeding spies among the ranks.  As his stronghold grew in siz…

[Book Review] The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin / Margaret Atwood

I really wanted to do some Atwood, and while much of what she writes is regular literary fiction, some of it does fit within SF/F, or general Speculative Fiction.  I made a deliberate choice not to do The Handmaid's Tale (instead choosing The Core of the Sun), and I didn't really feel like re-reading Oryx and Crake, or using the second book in the series as a book club pick.  So, I stumbled across The Blind Assassin which teased of a historical fiction with a science fiction story intertwined.  So there we go, a June read.

Yeah, I'm writing the review in August.  It took me a bit to get through this one.

I've come to discover that with most of Atwood's novels the first half tends to slog for me, then somewhere around halfway through they pick up and suddenly become significantly more interesting.  That definitely proved true here, at least for my experience.  The "science fiction story" was less than I was hoping for …

Silmarillion Blues : Valaquenta

In which the Elves (Eldar) tell us about the Valar and Maiar.

Remember last week when I paraphrased a Bible verse?  Well, we get some Book of Genesis here.

In the beginning... Iluvatar created the Ainur, who made his Music and set forth to fulfill the visions of Earth and Iluvatar's beings within.  Which, we've already covered, so let's keep going into the nitty gritty of pantheons and numerology.  Or at least lightly brush up against them.

Of the Valar, the "angels" and the Ainur on Earth we go from less exciting "beings without sex but their own gender determination" to two nicely matched sets of seven Lords and seven Queens (plus Melkor of whom they don't like to speak).  The Ainur are often viewed as gods, and are at the very least, the intermediaries that are most likely to have any impact on one's life.  They preside over different areas of the Earth, in a manner familiar to Greek mythology, including Manwe and Varda residing in halls in t…

August Read: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Waiting for this one to come in via ILL.

I went back and forth on whether or not to include this one.  Some descriptions sound amazing, others I shy away from.  Now that I'm about to dive in and flipping through some more detailed summaries, I'm pretty sure this is a book I need to read, and not just because it's considered a seminal piece of speculative fiction.  My worry now is that it won't live up to my expectations.

The book starts out hundreds of years after a nuclear war, the fall out of which was beyond the immediate cost of life, nuclear contamination, and environmental destruction, but extended to a rejection of intellectual growth and invention.  Leibowitz smuggles, archives, and protects what he can, and the basis of his work later becomes a monastic order, and even further in the future we see it in the face of another nuclear war.

This will not be a light happy read.  That's OK, I deliberately chose light fare for July, and there's a value to well…

[Book Review] Old Man's War

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Old Man's War / John Scalzi

July has proven to be a horrible month for me, so I went for a light read as the Virtual Speculation pick.  Old Man's War is a light military SF read, written in a similar tradition of Starship Troopers, but it also manages to act as both a tribute and satire.

In general I enjoy Scalzi's work.  Fun, light reads, and he's proven to be a pretty good person as well.  This is the second Scalzi read I've done, the first being Lock-In (which I've still failed to post an actual review of).  I've also met Scalzi several times, the last time being several months ago where, as the inscription on my copy of Old Man's War indicates, I brought brownies to the author event.  In case you were wondering, it was a giant star brownie.  Sadly, I was trying a new recipe for making them from scratch, and it was not my best baking result.  (Sorry, John).

I ended up sitting down and reading the book in three days.  It would have been fewer, but I re…

Silmarillion Blues : Ainulindalë

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In the beginning was the Song, and the Song was with Ilúvatar, and the Song was Illúvatar.

Please forgive me the paraphrasing, and regardless of my atheist status, no disrespect is intended.

The thing is, I cannot read Ainulindalë without thinking of the Bible.  This is going to sound super weird, but I used to read the Bible in church because I was bored out of my mind during the sermon.  Plus one of my college English classes did some readings so I have an Oxford Study Bible living on my shelves with all my folklore, religion, and mythology texts.  I find study of religion, myths, and folklore fascinating, and I don't separate out popular modern religion from those of days past.

Instead, the above paraphrasing is a deliberate invoking of a well known Bible verse to draw attention to mythology parallels within Middle Earth.  And we see many parallels, from the angelic chorus, to the creation of a world for peoples with Free Will, and to the dissension and fall of the greatest of …

Valerian from Page to Screen

On a whim (and due to a complete implosion of plans for D&D today), I ended up catching Valerian, which timed nicely with the fact that I borrowed Valerian, Vol 1: The New Future Trilogy from my library to read.

Right off the bat I have to say the movie is utterly gorgeous.  Absolutely breathtaking, with moments of travel that I think if I watched in 3D or IMAX I'd end up trying to fall out of my chair.  Some of the aesthetics and feel look like the work of the Wachowskis.  Overall, a fun, consistent story, if a bit heavy on the romance.  Though I'm forced to ignore the implications of all the structural damage inflicted.

I started out a bit hesitant.  The trailers made me think the film was some hot new YA series, and I had stumbled across a few reviews saying the movie lacked in substance.  That our first interactions with Valerian and Laureline involves heavy flirtation and a clear statement of romantic intent on Valerian's part increased my wariness.  But you …

Silmarillion Blues

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We're about to kick off a pretty intense leg of this journey, diving into The Silmarillion.

Christopher Tolkien published The Silmarillion after the death of his father, a book created from the living body of work J. R. R. Tolkien created in his notebooks encompassing the mythology, legends and annals of Middle Earth history.
Ostensibly, The Silmarillion is made up of five texts, Ainulindalë, ValaquentaQuenta SilmarillionAkallabêth, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.  Some will be familiar through direct mention or vague reference from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Other pieces of lore will require extrapolation to connect to the world we've been reading through for two years.
I will primarily be reading from my library's copy of The Silmarillion, illustrated by Ted Nasmith.  I own a paperback copy of the text, and I will likely dig through it as library loans require I relinquish the borrowed copy now and again.  My paperback copy also has notes pe…

[Book Review] Curse Words, Volume 1

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Curse Words Vol 1: The Devil's Devil / Charles Soule & Ryan Browne

A dark wizard has come to our realm to destroy our world for his master... and decides to become a hero (or something) instead.  Clearly nothing can go wrong with this plan.  Clearly.

Yeah... things go wrong.  In a splashy, chaotic, rock music video sort of way.  All in the company of talking rat/koala/being that's a bit more charismatic and moral than Wizord.  Probably for the best.

Entertaining and unhinged.


Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Image Comics; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Bilbo's Last Song

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Probably the most fitting way leave The Lord of the Rings behind is to visit Bilbo's Last Song.

A poem written as a gift to his secretary, Bilbo's Last Stand was published posthumously and serves as an epilogue to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Illustrated by Pauline Baynes, the poem makes a graceful transition to picture book, with paired scenes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as Bilbo pens his farewell to Middle Earth.

[Book Review] Meddling Kids

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Meddling Kids / Edgar Cantero

Scooby-Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft.  With an absolutely fantastic cover.

If you want to read someone singing praises of this story it's not hard to find (NPR: In 'Meddling Kids,' The Scooby Gang Grows Up — Hard, USA Today: 'Scooby-Doo' fans will dig Cantero's 'Meddling Kids').

My reactions are a bit muddled, and probably more in line with the Kirkus review.

Is the book fun?  Undoubtedly.  Familiar enough to evoke Scooby-Doo, but different enough to skirt violation of intellectual property.  Even better, Cantero has injected some actual diversity and complexity to the characters.  In true Scooby-Doo fashion, even as they encounter horrors from the gates beyond, the story holds fast as an adventure rather than a horror or thriller.

My copy was a pre-publication galley, so I'm not sure how much has changed in the final publication, but as I still lack access to the final piece, I have to go forward with the above caveat.  Can…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix F: II. On Translation

This is it folks.  The end of The Lord of the Rings.  A few pages of linguistics and then this book is closed, a brief visit to Bilbo's Last Song and then on to the Silmarillion.

Tolkien presents his work as a translation of what essentially is a found tale.  The journeys of Bilbo, Frodo, and assorted companions through events that ultimately began a new epoch in Middle Earth.  He wants us to treat this story as a translated work, with all the attendant changes that implies to the actual words spoken.

However, neither in our world nor in the world of Middle Earth is there truly one universal language.  There is a "Common Speech" but as a language it still has its derivations and differences across the different cultures and races.  So instead we get cultures that have expressed accents or different grammar rules.  The use of exceptional precise (or imprecise) English is a deliberate reflection of archaic forms of speech in cultures that view language as a core area of kn…

July and Mental Health

To be completely frank, July is an utter shit show for me.

This is not helped by my life-long coping method of suppression and keeping so busy I don't have time to think about the problem.  I'm not sure when July started being so difficult for me emotionally, but based on the snippets of writing floating around (some hopefully to never see the light of day again), almost every July since I was 11 or 12 I've struggled with very deep depression.

I guess I don't have to worry about it being Seasonal Affective Disorder, right?

(Never mind, according to the Mayo Clinic, SAD sometimes does involve summer depression.  So, who knows?  Not me, definitely not what I went to school for.)

One of these days I hope to have both the time and the income to allow me to see a therapist.  But I'll be honest, money is tight and thanks to working multiple jobs, my schedule ends up highly irregular.  And the fun thing about anxiety and depression is it makes the idea of finding a therap…