Saturday, 10 October 2015

Dr. Wotan's Autumn 2015 Musings and Upcoming Projects

Greetings all.  It has been a busy time for Dr. Wotan in the Tolkien Office at Balham!  Here are some updates!

Dr. Dimitra Fimi and I continue to work on our co-editing of the new volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's A Secret Vice which is now due out from HarperCollins in April 2016.

The 2016 Annual Fund Campaign for Mythgard Institute/Signum University (for which I serve as a Board member) is in full flow as we move towards our target of raising $50,000 to offer a full year of free Mythgard Academy courses and the very exciting Guest Lecture Series which is curated by Sorina Higgins - who is also the genius behind the current Almost an Inkling Flash Fiction Writing contest which has unleashed the narrative and sub-creative talents of many submitters - I have been blown away by the writing talent out there - this brilliant program even got me to dust off some old world-creating I did back in high school and submit some stories from my Lost Chronicles of the Croutoni (yes I also invented languages for this!).  The campaign is currently edging towards  $14,000 with lots of exciting planned on line activities and will be in full force to Halloween -  I encourage everyone to help support this incredible arena for the exploration, discussion and discovery of Fantasy and Science Fiction works.

As part of this fundraiser I was recently interviewed by the dream team of Sorina Higgins and Corey Olsen about my recently completed Doctor of Philosophy through Cardiff Metropolitan University and thesis 'The Genesis of Tolkien's Mythology, the upcoming 'Secret Vice' book and plans that are currently formulating to offer an 'Invented Language through Tolkien Course' through the Mythgard Institute in the near future - more details to follow on this.

I also recently completed for the excellent  Journal of Tolkien Research a book review for the Blackwell Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien which is a very important volume of papers for Tolkien studies by the top scholars in the field.  As I said in the introduction to the review during the writing of this I at times felt very much the way Tolkien must have felt when he had to review the work of the top philologists and lexicographers in those This Year's Work in English Studies (1924-1926).  Tolkien had to review the work of Jesperson, Bloomfield and Ekwall (among others) and I had to review Shippey, Flieger, Fimi, Rateliff (among others) - a daunting and challenging task!  You can access the book review here and I welcome comments. 

Talking about 'full force' I have really been enjoying Dr. Amy Sturgis's The Force of Star Wars: Examine the Epic course at The Mythgard Institute this autumn.  Amy is leading us on a brilliant exploration of world-building in the Star Wars Mythos through the six films, radio adaptations, books (many!), television shows (from The Star Wars Holiday Special (with Wookies and Bea Arthur!) up the current excellent Rebels series) as well as exploring audience and fan reception of the mythos.  It is really interesting to explore these texts and discuss the concept of 'canonicity' (now further complicated by Disney creating the 'Legendary' vs. 'Canon' distinction in Star Wars texts as we await for Episode Seven 'The Force Awakens)'.  I have read some brilliant Star Wars books including John Jackson Miller's Kenobi and James Luceno's Tarkin and (the excellent!)
Darth Plagueis (pictured).  This is world-building that is happening in our life time and it is fascinating to see how this secondary-world mythos has grown from Lucas's original concept through the multi-layered use of various forms of narrative texts...and the epic continues!

So that is the 'lit' and the 'lang' of my Mythgard Institute autumn is Introduction to Anglo-Saxon which is being team taught by Professor Michael Drout and the brilliant Nelson Goering (whose knowledge of philology and Germanic metre astounds me!).  I took this course to brush up on my Anglo-Saxon grammar and to get better at reading the poetry (an area that in the past I have plodded my way through).  One key element Drout puts important emphasis on in his lectures is listening to these poems before attempting to translate them and his website Anglo-Saxon Aloud offers audio recordings of all the poems and prose in the corpus - so I am listening carefully. We are using two excellent texts for this course Drout's Quick and Easy Old English and Pope and Fulk's Eight Old English Poems (pictured) - currently my translation of The Battle of Brunanburh is coming along!  So in a way this course is both 'lit and lang' and I am sure Tolkien would have been very pleased to see this happening (it being online may have reminded him of learning thru a palantir!)

Finally it has been an incredible joy and treat to read David J Peterson's new book The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building.  David is a linguist and the creator of such languages as Dothraki and Valyrian for the HBO series Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.  He has also invented languages for Syfy's Defiance and Dominion as well as the language of Shivaisith for the movie Thor 2: The Dark World and most recently Star-Crossed and The 100.  Peterson is also a co-founder of The Language Creation Society - which is a group of not so secret language inventors.  If you are interested in the art of language invention and how language works I urge you to read this book.  Peterson adapts a very practical (and sometime humorous - this man does not like onions!) approach to laying out for the would be language inventor (and I know they are out there!) the sounds, words, and syntax of invented languages (using many practical examples and case studies from his and others invented languages).  He also includes a brilliant chapter on writing systems.  I very much enjoyed Peterson's descriptions of how his invented languages actually were used and pronounced by the actors on Game of Thrones and the detail he put into these languages as elements of world-building.  This is a must read for all practitioners (or want to be practitioners) of the 'Secret (and no so Secret) Vice' - and you will learn a lot about how language works as well.

As Autumn swiftly turns to Winter I've got a good group of stickies on my wall to work on -

The Call for Papers is out for the planned volume I would like to do to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows in 2016.  No takers yet and if this does not get a good take-up I may just attempt some papers on subjects I want to explore around the Dark Shadows mythos and post to

I am currently working on a re-submission of an article to Tolkien Studies was well as an upcoming paper for the volume A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honour of Verlyn Flieger.

In May 2016 I will also be giving a paper 'Early Explorers and Practitioners of A Shared Secret Vice ' as part of 'Tolkien and Invented Languages' panel at The International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo and also hoping to return to the Leeds IMC.

Finally my efforts are also focused on turning this monster......into a monograph for publishing!

So lots to do - best get on with it!

Lebe wohl, Namarie and Hajas for now!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Exploring The Dark Shadows Mythos CFP

Exploring The Dark Shadows Mythos
                    A Call for Papers                            

On June 27 1966 American television audiences encountered a unique daytime gothic soap-opera called Dark Shadows.  From the dream vision of a woman running on a beach, TV producer Dan Curtis and a dedicated team of writers and a stellar company of actors and actresses (many playing multiple roles in various time periods) created one of the most complex and pioneering liminal worlds for a television series which was focused on Collinwood – the great house on the hill and hosted ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves and zombies. 

In its over 1200 daily episodes, Dark Shadows drew from some of the greatest tropes of horror, fantasy and weird literature as well as related science-fiction themes especially time travel and the inter-dimensions of parallel time.  The Dark Shadows mythos continues to be developed through movies, novels (including several written by original cast members such as Lara Parker), comic books, several other television reboots, games, fan fiction and most recently a continuing series of audio dramas.

In 2016 Dark Shadows will celebrate its 50th anniversary and in honour of this I would like to produce and [self] publish a volume of academic and reflective essays exploring the world of Dark Shadows.  The broad topics these papers could explore are:

·       The sources and literary tropes that were reimagined and repurposed for Dark Shadows story-lnes.
·       Barnabas Collins' place in the development of the vampire in modern horror texts.
·       The unique use of time-travel and parallel time in the narrative of Dark Shadows.
·       The Mythos of Dark Shadows and the role of trans-medial world-building through various texts.
·       The fan reception of Dark Shadows including the muli-generational interest in the show.
·       The fan-fiction of Dark Shadows and what this has added to the Dark Shadows mythos.

These are just some ideas that can be explored in this volume.

Paper Abstracts should be submitted by 1 December 2015 
Finished Papers by: 1 June 2016

Contact: Dr. Andrew Higgins

Sunday, 21 June 2015

When Elvish Met Klingon - An Interesting Exchange of Two Art-Langs

Mae Govannen!  

Among several projects that now exist as little stickies on my Tolkien Office wall to keep me busy for the next year or two (a tip I recently picked up from a Tolkien colleague) - one of the fairly new projects I have embarked on is to explore the reception of Tolkien's invented languages among early readers, fans and then the different groups of Tolkien linguists which developed around a shared reception and interest in Tolkien's languages and the exploration of various elements of them.  

One group of texts I am currently studying are the earliest issues of Vinyar Tengwar ('News Letters') - the journal of The Elvish Linguistic Fellowship which started to be published in September 1988, edited by Jorge Quinonez and featuring contributions from the founding Tolkien linguistic giants whose shoulders we Tolkien language scholars of today work upon; including Bill Welden, Christopher GilsonTom Loback, Nancy Martsch, Jim Allan, Arden Smith and Patrick Wynne - with my personal Tolkien linguist role-model Carl F. Hostetter appearing first in issue six and who would go on to edit this journal.  In the second issue there is also a letter from UK Tolkien Society member and editor of the Tolkien language journal Quettar  David Doughan!  

Issue 4 of Vinyar Tengwar (which moves to a somewhat easier computer font to read), published in March 1989, has a interesting exchange from a Mr Ronald E Kyrmse from S. Paulo Brazil.  

'Pocket Books, NY, published recently The Klingon Dictionary by Marc Okrand.  If you're a Star Trek fan, you may find it interesting, maybe even fascinating.  I've read it quite attentively and have composed a little text in Klingon which is of interest to Elvish linguists, though not paradoxically, in an Elvish language (I won't give a translation, as finding out what it is all about is left as an exercise of the reader - as it it were that difficult): 

Hoch che'meH wa'Qeb, tu'meH wa' Qeb 
Hoch qemmH lan HurghDaq weghmeH je wa' Qeb 
Qotbogh QIbmey morDor puHDaq 

Well?!' (VT 4, p. 4) 

Well.... given the next to last word that gives it away it is clear that this is the inscription on the Ring of Power ('Wa'Qeb') based on Okrand's Klingon Dictionary which was published in 1985 and is considered the first foundational text for the art-language of Klingon.  The following glosses are attested in this dictionary....

Hoch - Everyone, all, everything 
che - rule 
MeH - infinitive form ('to rule') 
wa - one
Qeb - Ring (for finger) 
tu - discover, find 
MeH - infinitive form (to find) 
wa'Qeb - one Ring 
Hoch - Everyone, all, everything 
qemm - to bring 
mH - infinitive form (to bring) 
lan - place 
HurghDaq - be dark (v) 
weghmeH - confine (v) - to confine 
je - and 
wa' Qeb - One Ring 
Qotbogh - where 
QIbmey - QIb - galaxy (in the galaxy of Mordor?) 
morDor - guess thats what it is called in Klingon as well...interesting. what would be the actual word in Klingon I wonder? 
puH - land 
Daq - of dark (not to be confused with pu'Dah which means phaser banks!) 

So it looks like Kyrmse did some good work on rendering this poem in Klingon - although I don't think the adage 'You have not experienced Shakespeare - until you have read him in the original Klingon' (spoken by Chancellor Gorkon to James T. Kirk in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) is true for Tolkien!! 

In the next issue of Vinyar Tengwar Craig Marnock said of Kyrmse's Klingon version of the Ring Poem 'I liked Ronald Kyrmse's Ring Poem version in Klingon....could this be the start of new trend?' (VT 5, p. 6).  

In Vinyar Tengwar Issue 6 I also noticed another Elvish/Klingon connection.  There is a letter in this issue from Professor Lawrence M. Schoen who writes that he had been intending to offer to his students a Beginning Quenya Course 'sort of learn as you go (which would include my learning as well')' but he had to cancel offering it due to  being transferred to another school (VT 6, p. 2).   Schoen is one of the foremost authorities on the Klingon Language and in 1992 set up The Klingon Language Learning Institute (KLI) which has been responsible for such publications as The Klingon Hamlet (1996)  

So an interesting meeting of two art-languages in the early issues of this foundational journal for Tolkien Language studies - long may the issues continue! 

More to come as I go through them for this Tolkien Language Reception project. 

Namarie and Qapla! 

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