Kenneth G. Bennett is the author of the new sci-fi thriller, EXODUS 2022 (Booktrope Publishing, 419pp.) as well as the young adult novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA. Kirkus Reviews recently said of EXODUS 2022: “Bennett, after a neat Dean Koontz-style curtain-raiser, keeps raising the stakes. Deft storytelling and a riptide of action.” A wilderness enthusiast who loves backpacking, skiing and kayaking, Ken enjoys science fiction, fantasy, action adventure stories, and novels that explore the relationship between humans and the wild. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and son and two hyperactive Australian Shepherds. Follow him on Twitter as @kennethgbennett.

The Lord Of The Rings, Dark Side Of The Moon, And The Role Of Humility In Art

by Kenneth G. Bennett

I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on my family’s fishing boat in Alaska, at age 14 (surrounded by mountains that reminded me of the Misty Mountains) and have read the books many times since. I admired Tolkien’s writing then and I admire it now, as an adult.

Over the years I’ve come to believe that the esteemed professor possessed another storytelling talent as vital as his facility with language. A gift that informed all of his work. A subtle skill few writers master and one that makes LOTR the epic fantasy ‘to rule them all.’
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REVIEW SYNOPSIS: Despite a relentless pace and impressive effects, most notably bringing to life the impressive dragon at the heart of the tale, part two of Peter Jackson’s adaptation seldom engages and often bores.

MY REVIEW:

SYNOPSIS: The hobbit Bilbo Baggins and a pack of dwarves continue their quest to liberate dwarvish treasure hoarded in the Lonely Mountain by the dragon Smaug.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: The dragon Smaug, arrestingly realized by CGI and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch; well-realized renditions of the Elf Kingdom and Lake-town; winning if hammy performance by Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town; impressively staged action sequences…
CONS: …that go nowhere for most of the movie; needless chases that serve little purpose; blending of elements from both Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Silmarillion that fit together too unevenly; forced love story between elf Tauriel and the dwarf Kili; dialogue and character development that sit poorly with the action sequences.

In a niche in world letters there lived The Hobbit.  Not an unknown, unobserved niche filled with the trite borrowings of second-rate hacks and uninspired tales palely reflecting J. R. R. Tolkien’s much-loved children’s book, nor yet a dry, bare, desiccated niche where fantasy fans sucked dry the marrow of their favorite genre: it was The Hobbit, a groundbreaking work that, despite countless imitators (and outright theft), still holds the power to enthrall readers of all ages today.
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Even The Fellowship Of The Ring is not safe!
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J.R.R. Tolkien Biopic Being Developed

The LA Times is reporting that a biopic about author J.R.R. Tolkien is in the works. The biopic, tentatively titled Tolkien, looks at the author’s life with a focus on his years at Pembroke College and as a soldier in World War I. These are the formative years that most influenced his work.

David Gleeson is writing the script for Fix searchlight. It’s being produced by Chernin Entertainment.

Not much more is known at this point, ut the timing of the news is serendipitous as the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug draws near.

The 2013 inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame have just been announced.

Congratulations to:

  • H.R. Giger
  • Judith Merril
  • Joanna Russ
  • David Bowie
  • J.R.R. Tolkien


Garrett Calcaterra is author of the epic fantasy novel, Dreamwielder, released earlier this month by Diversion Books, and touted by steampunk legend James P. Blaylock as “fast-paced, colorful, and richly detailed.” His previous titles include The Roads to Baldairn Motte and Umbral Visions. In addition to writing, Calcaterra teaches literature and composition at various academic institutions. When not writing or teaching, he enjoys hiking with his two dogs and quaffing good beer.

Epic Fantasy: A Civilization in Peril and the Heroes to Save it

by Garrett Calcaterra

With Disney’s recent purchase of the Star Wars franchise and a new movie looming, everyone seems to be talking about Star Wars. I’ve been no exception. In a guest post at the very cool Inkpunks blog I confessed how the ending of Return of the Jedi inspired me as a young lad to go off and write sprawling stories with multiple viewpoints and climatic endings. More recently, I was a guest on the Defective Geeks podcast where I talked with the delightfully nerdy Gizzy B and Space Pirate Queen about why the original Star Wars trilogy is so much better than the prequels. The consensus among the three of us was that Episodes 1-3 are little more than Star Wars porn-sure we get our fix of exotic planets, light saber duels, and space battles, but the plot premise and characters are about as plausible as a buxom babe inviting a plumber inside to “check her plumbing.”

To me, the most disconcerting aspect of Episodes 1-3 is the fact that in the back of our minds we all know Anakin Skywalker is going to turn into Darth Vader. We all know the Republic will fall and Palpatine will create the Empire. This makes every one of the protagonists-even the most powerful ones like Obi-Wan and Yoda-utterly impotent. They can do nothing to change the fate of their civilization, and therein lies the weakness of the prequels. George Lucas had it right the first time when he started the story with Luke, Leia, and Han: the heroes who actually save the galaxy. But Lucas is hardly the first person to make this mistake. In fact, the grand-daddy of epic fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien himself, made a similar miscalculation a good 80 years before Lucas.
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From the YouTube description:

When Tolkien visited a friend in August of 1952 to retrieve a manuscript of The Lord of the Rings, he was shown a “tape recorder”. Having never seen one before, he asked how it worked and was then delighted to have his voice recorded and hear himself played back for the first time. His friend then asked him to read from The Hobbit, and Tolkien did so in this one incredible take.

Loving the Gollum voice…

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Through Sunday, the book Deconstructing Tolkien: A Fundamental Analysis of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is available as a free Kindle download (for Kindle devices, Kindle smartphone apps and Kindle computer applications).
Here’s the synopsis:

“DECONSTRUCTING TOLKIEN has something to offer just about everyone, no matter where your particular passions may lie. In this collection of essays, stories, discourses, and tributes, Ed McFadden has gathered together a wide range of topics, perspectives, and outlooks on some of the most intriguing factors concerning THE LORD OF THE RINGS. LORD OF THE RINGS is a masterpiece that can be examined and re-examined through the course of one’s life. The complex narrative, written with nonlinear gambits, plot-twists, stratagems, and a fusion of secondary stories, offer themselves up to continual review and analysis.” -from the introduction by Tom Piccirilli, author of Mean Sheep, The Night Class and Grave Men

This special e-book edition contains new analysis of The Hobbit not available in the print edition.

Praise for Deconstructing Tolkien: A Fundamental Analysis of The Lord of the Rings-

Nth Degree Magazine – “[DT] is one of the most approachable analyses of Tolkien that I’ve read. McFadden alternates between his own opinions on Tolkien and fiction from authors that he feels had some influence on The Lord of the Rings. I found myself disagreeing with McFadden’s points almost as often as I agreed with them but, most importantly, McFadden’s analysis always made me look deeper at a story that I thought I knew pretty well already. And isn’t that what all good analyses should do?”

YBFREE.com by Jennifer Walford. “Mcfadden’s choice of layout for this book using essays and short fiction is innovative and works quite well for the purposes of providing a rich understanding of the Tolkien phenomena. Blending essay with notable fiction, Mcfadden provides thought provoking evidence on Tolkien’s inspirations, especially from his contemporaries and friend C.S. Lewis, and the influence of writers like H.G. Wells. Even more impressive was the inclusion of a story by self-proclaimed protégé of the Tolkien school of style, Jane Yolen. This inclusion solidified McFadden’s arguments on how pervasive LOTR has been, and in light of the films, will continue to be for many generations.”

J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War

J.R.R. Tolkien was a veteran of the 1st World War, something that I’d never examined all that closely, and for this week at the Kirkus Reviews blog, we’re examining the impact of his time on the front lines. I found the story of Tolkien and his three close friends to be the most emotional and heartbreaking episode of his life. Interestingly, this piece comes shortly after Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day elsewhere), commemorating the end of WWI.

Read J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War.

And we’re not done with Tolkien yet, so stay tuned through December!

Mythgard Institute has posted the schedule for their Spring 2013 courses.

They include the following juicy programs for genre lovers:
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This clever airline safety video looks like something out of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, right down to the maps and furry feet. Perhaps it’s not the greatest idea to show Gollum on a darkened plane, but still, kudos for an awesome video.

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The Five Most Influential Books in my Life

A meme going around recently in the genre blogosphere is to name the five most influential books in your life, and how they changed your life.

Some examples recently include : Ian Sales), Justin Landon , and Aidan Moher.

I can never resist a chance to talk about books, and so here are mine:
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VIDEO: “The Hobbit” The Way It Was Meant To Be Read: By Andy Serkis

I wish this was more than a news clip!

Funny how Serkis mentions how people have mimicked the voice back to him in the intervening years sine Lord of the Rings. There’s a certain someone I know (looks at Tim) who will do the Gollum voice on command. I think I will hand him my copy of The Hobbit and ask him to read the good parts.

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Video games have come a loooong way from when I was but a lad…
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I have oddly fond memories of this animated treatment of Tolkien’s classic. Ralph Bakshi’s presentation may be a truncation of the trilogy, but for its day, the animation was fantastic. Watch and see for yourself…

[via Kevin Maher]

SF Tidbits for 7/29/09

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