Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Fantasy from Bantam Books after the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series ended

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series ended in 1974. Other publishers had capitalized on the trend of marketing books as fantasy, and some publishers had started their own lines. Bantam Books was then well-known for their science fiction line, and at this time they marketed a small number of their titles as Fantasy. This advertisement (from a Bantam book published in the Spring of 1976) gives a list.
Of the thirteen titles listed here, I have seen only five that were labelled specifically as "Fantasy." The three books by Samuel R. Delany were labelled science fiction, as are the titles by Frank Herbert, Mack Reynolds, and Joanna Russ. Bantam published a number of titles by Ray Bradbury, but all the copies I've seen are labelled science fiction instead of fantasy.

The most significant fantasy titles that were published by Bantam between 1974 and 1976 are the three volumes of the Earthsea Trilogy (back then there were only three books). All three have nice uncredited covers: the art is by Pauline Ellison (b. 1946)--their is a nice profile of her: Part one here; and part two here. (I confess I'm more fond of her style of illustrations as shown in part one.) The Bantam paperback of A Wizard of Earthsea came out in August 1975; The Tombs of Atuan in September 1975; and The Farthest Shore in October 1975.
The other two fantasy titles are odder and off-trail books. The first is The Man Who Lived in Inner Space, by Arnold Federbush (1935-1993), published in May 1975. It is labelled "Fantasy" on the spine.
The final book is Star of the Unborn by Franz Werfel (1890-1945), who was born in Prague but wrote in German. The original edition was posthumously published in 1946, and translated into English in the same year by Gustave O. Arlt. It is a strange visionary novel that reminds one of works by Olaf Stapledon and David Lindsay. The Bantam edition (labelled Fantasy on the spine) was published in May 1976. The intriguing cover art is by Gene Szafran.
These five titles make for an odd fantasy list, but most of them would not have been out of place in the original Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and would also be of considerable interest to readers of the Ballantine series.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Competition for the Balllantine Adult Fantasy Series?

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series proper began with the May 1969 publication of The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt. Over the next year Ballantine published one or two additional titles per month, and other publishers were certain to have noticed the success of the series.

Paperback Library was one such outfit. It had been founded in 1961 and by the end of the decade it was known for publishing a lot of science fiction, a lot of westerns, and a lot of tie-in books to the popular television series Dark Shadows. Their attempt to move into the fantasy market was in the end limited to four titles, all published in 1970. It was apparently not very successful. Warner Communications bought the firm in 1972, and by 1972 the Paperback Library output had descended to a trickle, with the final books coming out in early 1973.

The fantasy imprint apparently had no name, beyond the label of "Paperback Library Fantasy Novel" which appeared at the top of the front cover of each book. However, like the unicorn masthead of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, these four books each have a device of a centaur wielding a bow and arrow.

The four titles are as follows:

The Citadel of Fear, by Francis Stevens (August 1970).
The Serpent by Jane Gaskell (October 1970)
Atlan by Jane Gaskell (October 1970)
The City by Jane Gaskell (October 1970)

The Francis Stevens book has an introduction by Sam Moskowitz, riddled with his usual errors (this introduction is the source of the erroneous idea that H.P. Lovecraft had written an appreciation of Francis Steven back in 1919. Lovecraft's fellow Providence resident Augustus T. Swift had in fact written a letter to Argosy in 1919 in praise of Stevens. Moskowitz simply presumed that Augustus T. Swift was probably a pseudonym of Lovecraft's, and Moskowitz began his introduction by quoting a long passage from Swift's letter, attributing it to Lovecraft, and not even mentioning Swift's name).  The cover artist's name is not printed anywhere, but you can clearly see the artist's signature, Steele Savage, in the art itself in the lower middle of the front cover.
The three volumes in Jane Gaskell's trilogy had previously been published as "science fiction" by Paperback Library in 1968. With the new October 1970 printings, they are each now labelled as "A Paperback Library Fantasy Novel." And they have new uncredited cover art, but I'm pretty sure the art is by Michael Leonard.

There is one further release from Paperback Library of potential interest. This is the September 1971 issue of The Tritonian Ring by L. Sprague de Camp. It was published not as a fantasy, but as science fiction. Yet the cover art (uncredited, but probably by David McCall Johnston, who did some covers in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, including those for the Evangeline Walton books), and the blurb comparing it to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, certainly give more of a fantasy vibe than a science fiction one. 

P.S.  I'm adding here the cover of the William Ready book on Tolkien as mentioned by David Bratman in the comments below. The cover art is clearly meant to recall Barbara Remington's mural published on the 1965 Ballantine editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Early Dust-Wrappers of The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison (1882-1945), was first published by Jonathan Cape of London in May 1922, with interior illustrations and a dust-wrapper design by Eddison's brother-in-law, Keith Henderson (1883-1982). Here is the front dust-wrapper of the 1922 edition.

An American edition, published by Albert & Charles Boni of New York, appeared four years later, to the month, in May 1926.  It retained all the interior illustrations by Keith Henderson, yet has a new dust-wrapper illustration. Here is the wraparound dust-wrapper of the 1926 edition, followed by the same art's appearance on the endpapers.

The artwork is uncredited, and a bookseller recently catalogued it as by Henderson, but it's not in Henderson's usual style, and I have long understood that the art was by someone else. But by whom? Here  is a closeup of the artist's recognizable monogram from the lower righthand corner:

The stylized "A"monogram was regularly used by the Russian-born American artist Boris Artzybasheff (1899-1965). Here is a similar worm-styled creature from a closely contemporary book, The Wonder Smith and His Son (1927) by Ella Young, which was wholly illustrated by Artzybasheff. This art is spread over two facing pages.

Notice the stylized "A" monogram at the upper right of the art.  And compare the eye-motifs running all along the top of the serpents' bodies in both illustrations. The motifs are closely similar. Clearly the art on the dust-wrapper of The Worm Ouroboros was by Artzybasheff, not Henderson.

Artzybasheff was also contracted to illustrate Ella Young's subsequent book, A Tangle-Coated Horse, but when it came out in 1929 it had illustrations by Vera Bock.  Interestingly, this conundrum is solved in the correspondence between Ella Young and Kenneth Morris.  Ella Young's publisher was Longmans, Green of New York, and it was on her recommendation that Kenneth Morris placed his novel Book of the Three Dragons with Longmans.  Morris was very angry to learn that Longmans decided to cancel the contract with Artzybasheff for Ella Young's book, and have Artzybasheff illustrate Book of the Three Dragons instead.  Yet when Longmans published Book of the Three Dragons in 1930, it was with illustrations by yet another artist, Ferdinand Huszti Horvath. In October 1930 Morris wrote to Ella Young that "I am content with having escaped Artzybasheff—heresy though it be to say so!"

What about Artzbasheff's art did Morris find so objectionable?  His letters make it clear that Morris thought that "dragons are the most beautiful and graceful of God's creatures: surpassing the swan for grace, the gazelle for beauty."  Artzybasheff's dragons, particularly the one on The Worm Ouroboros, are more comical than beautiful, and not representing the elegant and spiritual creatures as envisioned by Morris. As talented as Artzybasheff clearly was, his art was not a good match for the writings of Kenneth Morris. Nor for those of E.R. Eddison as well.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Did Clark Ashton Smith read Tolkien?

This topic came up several years ago, but has gained currency on the web. There are no letters by Smith in which he discusses Tolkien, but only in a reminiscence by Smith's late-in-life friend, Dr. William Farmer (1938-2015), in which Tolkien is discussed. The full April 2005 interview with Farmer by Larry Fischer is available here at Eldritch Dark, but let me quote the relevant Tolkien-related passages (my emphasis added in red):
L F: Which books published since CAS's death do you wish you could have shared with him?
Dr F: Oddly enough, probably the Harry Potter series — Clark would have loved the subtle fun poked at the English public schools — and the manner in which real evil is contrasted as something far more sinister than the trivial media representations, and posturings of Satanists. The best translations of Kazantzakis were not available and he would have loved those works — particularly I think, his Odyssey, A Modern Sequel. [T.E. Lawrence's] Seven Pillars of Wisdom was not available to the general public when he was young, and I don't think he ever got to it again, and by the time I had read this great work, Clark was gone. I would like to have re-visited Tolkien's stuff with Clark after I had a master's seminar with Dr. Tolkien in '63. I think, too, that some of Don Fryer's work inspired by Clark would be good to have gone over with Clark — he would have appreciated Don more, and would have had more opportunity to get to know him as I did. I think he might have enjoyed seeing [Ray Bradbury's] Martian Chronicles on film — the advent of the video could have been interesting to share with Clark. Most "sci-fi/fantasy" or "sword & sorcery" has not captured my interest or attention — to have been worth discussing with Clark, there must be more than just story — there must be some deeper current that stirs beneath the surface, subtly gripping the reader and leaving him uncertain as to what just happened to him at the end of the book — "best look again..."
L F: How much Tolkien and C.S. Lewis did CAS read, and what did he make of what he read?
Dr F: He read all of it he could get his hands on — The Allegory of Love would have frustrated him because he had little Greek, Italian, and Anglo-Saxon and the book is not foot-noted.

Tolkien's creation of an entire history, obviously biblically parallel, with its own several languages and grammar he admired immensely. In discussing it briefly at odd interludes, he always came back to the basic remembrance: "Sauron is only a servant". He always felt real evil was something Tolkien understood as something infinitely more profound and dangerous than trivial little dilettantes like [Anton] LaVey [of the Church of Satan] and his ilk could imagine — he would be amused by the common theme in many books and films where some very bad person desires great power and calls up an ancient horror he thinks he can control, only to be utterly consumed by it when he at last succeeds.
The comment about Farmer having attended a master's seminar with Tolkien in 1963 rang a bit odd with me, as Tolkien retired from teaching in 1959, but returned for two terms in October 1962 through April 1963 when his colleague C.L. Wrenn was on sabbatical. Tolkien's duties seem to have involved only the giving of public lectures (on Beowulf). I queried Dr. Farmer on this, and he didn't provide any further details. In a post at the Eldritch Dark forum on 30 November 2011 (scroll down, here), he elaborated further:
I cannot say that Clark had read the whole Ring trilogy, and I don't recall the books being available in Paper-back at that time, so I know he didn't own any - I know that he had read "The Hobbit", and at least some of the "Fellowship..." He liked the Hobbit, and admired the inventiveness, particularly in the variation in names and language as relates to species - (cf difference between Dwarf names and Elf names). As I recall, he also expressed admiration for the consistency of the images and "leit motif" over such extended narrative - a gift he admired, but had never attempted. The single quote I recall is his having said that Tolkien appeared to be a true master of language. I was not myself at that time equipped to engage much farther in the discussion as my own knowledge of the books was limited.
Smith died in August 1961, which was indeed four years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings appeared in paperback. All of what Farmer says may be true, but I think it should be qualified a bit. Some of Farmer's comments (here and elsewhere) seem to be projections of his own opinions onto Smith. I really wish we had some first-hand comments from Smith himself in lieu of second-hand comments made forty-some years after Smith's death.

On the other side of the coin, we do know that in 1964 Tolkien read at least one story by Clark Ashton Smith.  L. Sprague de Camp had sent Tolkien a copy of his mass-market anthology Swords & Sorcery (Pyramid Books, published in December 1963).  Tolkien's copy, dated by him July 1964, with some hastily scrawled pencilled notes was on sale many years ago (see here), and I noted that Tolkien didn't much care for the Clark Ashton Smith tale, "The Testament of Athammaus" (which is not one of Smith's best anyway). Tolkien felt the monster was wholly unbelievable and the story had a tooraloo of nonsense in it. Tolkien wrote more diplomatically to de Camp in August 1964 that "all the items seem poor in the subsidiary (but to me not unimportant) matters of nomenclature. Best when inventive, least good when literary or archaic."

Friday, January 17, 2020

Another Dismal Day of January: Christopher Tolkien 1924-2020

In medieval superstition, two days of each month were accounted especially unlucky, the so-called dies mali in Latin, or dismal days in English. For me these dies mali of January will henceforward remind me of the deaths of two friends. Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien's biographer, passed away on 4 January 2005 at the age of 58, and now, fifteen years later,  Christopher Tolkien has passed away in the night of 15/16 January 2020 at the age of 95. These two men taught me more than I can express about the literary life and what it means to be, and how to go about being, a literary scholar. I became friends with Humphrey in the summer of 1978 when I attended a summer program in Oxford. A few years later Humphrey put me in touch with Christopher. Though I had some excellent and helpful teachers in college, none of them affected me as profoundly, or as lastingly, as did these friendships with Humphrey and Christopher. It is too soon for me to comment about Christopher, but here I pass on my condolences to his family and to his wide following among Tolkien readers and scholars. Below I share a photograph, taken at Keble College during the Tolkien Centenary Conference in August 1992, of Verlyn Flieger, myself, and Christopher.  The postcard I am holding shows one of the faces and stone heads outside of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.* I had just commented that that particular head epitomized how I felt just before delivering my talk at the conference. (The photo was taken by Marjorie Burns.) It is unfathomable to me that more than twenty-seven years have passed since that day.

*I think. I still have one similar postcard that I bought on that same day.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Robert Holdstock (1948-2009)

UK ed, with great Alan Lee cover
It's hard to believe that Robert Holdstock passed away ten years ago today, on November 29th, 2009.  I loved most of his Mythago Wood series, but especially liked the second volume, Lavondyss, which I thought the finest fantasy novel published in the 1980s.  In honor of his memory, I'm re-reading one of his great short stories,"The Ragthorn" (with Garry Kilworth). If you've never read Holdstock, give that story a try. 

Robert Holdstock

Monday, November 18, 2019

Tolkienian Resonances

My messy year of 2019 actually began in the summer of 2018, after a close lightning strike fried the electronics in my house, including my computer (despite it being hooked into a surge suppressor). Regaining equilibrium has been a slow process, for many reasons that I need not recount here. For now I'm dipping my toe back into the Tolkienian blog waters . . .

I'm using the term "Tolkienian resonances" in this post's title to refer to some things that predate Tolkien's own relevant works, but are certainly not influences. They could perhaps be called precursors, but that seems too expansive a term. In any case, a few of these works with such resonances are interesting, and I recount them here.

First, there is the discovery by Mark Hooker of the poem "The Orc and His Globular Island." Hooker wrote about it in the November 2019 issue of Beyond Bree. The poem is interesting not only for its use of the word orc, but for the orc's similarities to Gollum in The Hobbit. This orc lives on an island, where he is "exceedingly lonely." He is long-lived (and hasn't had an adventure for a century), always short on food, and to pass time he "thinks up a comical riddle, and guesses it."

"The Orc and His Globular Island" was published in the American magazine for children, St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, in October 1913 (Volume 40, p. 1070). It was written by E.L. McKinney, a recent Harvard University graduate (Class of 1912) whose full name was Edward Laurence McKinney (1891-1968). He was apparently a lifelong resident of Albany, New York, where in the 1910s he was employed at his father's iron-works. He contributed to The Harvard Advocate in 1911, and also to The Century, and St. Nicholas. Most of his publications were of light verse. His only-known volume was a fine press miniature book, The King of Indoor Sports (1963), containing  humorous anecdotes about typewriting. Here is the page from St. Nicholas with his poem (click on the image to make it larger). Even the image of the Orc seems almost Gollum-like.

Interestingly, the same issue of St. Nicholas also contains some of "The Nursery Rhymes of Mother Goose," illustrated (mostly in black and white) by Arthur Rackham. But there is one color plate, an illustration for "Hey! Diddle, Diddle," which of course can be related to Tolkien's famous poem "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late," published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962), which first appeared in Yorkshire Poetry in 1923 under the title "The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked." Anyway, just for fun, here's the Rackham illustration. (Rackham's texts and illustrations were collected in 1913 in his book Mother Goose: The Old Nursery Rhymes.)

Tolkien's ring of invisibility (as found first in The Hobbit) is often sourced back to the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic,  though I think this instance is more of a precursor than an actual source. I've recently discovered in an Edwardian children's book an exceptionally good and what seems to be a likely source for several of the qualities of Tolkien's (pre-Lord of the Rings) ring of invisibility. I'll write more about this in another place, but here I'd like to share a story from 1943 about a ring that brings power to its bearer, as well as working disaster, in the way of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. The story, by Nelson Bond (1908-2006), was first published as "The Ring of Iscariot" in The Blue Book Magazine, June 1943. Bond collected it under the title "The Ring" in his 1949 collection, The Thirty-First of February.

The story is set after W.W. I. where the main character, Otto Muller, is the Berlin correspondent for a New York newspaper. At an auction Muller becomes obsessed with acquiring a ring, reputed to have come from the Kaiser's personal collection. The bidding goes high, and his competition, a priest, pleads with him to cease, saying that it is of utmost importance that he --the priest-- buy the ring. In the end, Muller wins the bidding for ring, and his luck quickly changes. His misfortunes turn out dramatically for the better. But the ring, a trifle large, has a tendency to slip off his finger, so he instructs his wife to send it to a jeweler. Meanwhile, the priest tracks him down, offering to buy the ring at over three times the price paid, but Muller refuses, noting that is has become a good-luck piece. The priest retorts, "Not good luck, no! The reverse." The priest wants the ring to exorcise it, noting that a force of evil is embodied in the ring, for it is the Ring of Judas:  "The history of this ring's ownership is one of terrible, brief grandeur followed by black tragedy." The curse of Iscariot's ring is that "he who wears it shall aspire and win to world-shaking greatness." Muller recognizes the effect that the ring has had on himself, and promises to give the ring to the priest. Returning to his wife, he discovers that she hasn't yet gone to the jeweler, but the ring is now missing, evidently stolen by the assistant to the old paperhanger who is working in that room. The assistant has departed, but the old man says, "he is a bad one, that one. I curse the day I ever laid eyes upon him . . . common little thief! His name is Shicklgruber. But it is Hitler he calls himself these days . . . Adolf Hitler." The story ends here.  (Note: the idea that Hitler had been born Adolf Shicklgruber has been debunked, but was a common belief in the 1940s. See this entry at the OUP blog.)


I've been asked a few times in the last few years if I am the same "Doug Anderson" who did artwork for the Middle-earth game from the late 1990s. Nope, that's not me.  And I'd never seen the artwork until one of the people who asked sent me a sample.  Here it is. Far better art than anything I could produce.