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Posted 18 December:

Dear Locus Online,

Subject: Shirley you jest

Re: John Shirley on The Return of the King

"But if this kind of symbolism makes you squirm, just assume that Tolkien wasn't thinking of all this consciously..."
In fact just take his own word for it, from the foreword to The Fellowship of the Ring:
"...arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence."

Per Jacobsen
10 December

John Shirley replies:

Allegory is more something like The Pilgrim's Progress I suppose. It's not quite that on-the-nose symbolic, in that sense — and Tolkien didn't want his book interpreted by people according to fashionable political agendas. But because he has disliked allegory doesn't mean there are no symbols in the book. He was so fully-formed and entrenchedly a Christian the symbolism could not but find its way into the fantasy. And to substantiate this read the book The Inklings about him and Lewis and friends...

Dear Locus Online,

     Re: David Herter on SF/F Opera

     Very good, particularly on Janacek's pair of operas, but the author omits (has never heard of?) Philip Glass's The Voyage (1992) which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera on the date of the Columbus centenary and was revived two seasons later before sliding toward oblivion. (Unfortunately no commercial recording exists; I have an on-air tape of the premiere performance, internationally broadcast.) A brilliant opera set in prehistoric past (aliens' space voyage toward Earth debarks as they are greeted by early humanity), historical past (Columbus, dreaming on his voyage, has a long, tender exchange with Queen Isabella, his lover) and future (the aliens among us, now the "space children", embark for home), the fifty-minute first act, leading to a thunderous, incantatory finale is the fullest musical realization I know of that which drove the l940's Astounding. I wrote of the opera in a Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction "Curiosities" piece published a few years ago and I will be its advocate as long as I live.

Barry N. Malzberg
9 December

Dear Locus,

     Stephen Baxter, in his review of Where is Everybody? (August issue, page 44) touches, in his discussion of the Fermi Paradox, on the famous Drake Equation, which seeks to quantify alien civilizations. Recent lunar study may, however, drastically change the Drake "magic number", since it now seems that intelligent life may be impossible without the equivalent of an Earth-moon system, which brings orbital and weather stability (as well as the benefits of tidal effects) to what would otherwise be an environmentally out of control planet. It may turn out that another factor to the equation, fm (for the fraction of planets with a moon of a certain size and within a certain distance of its parent to provide this stability) needs to be added to the Drake equation. Given that research now indicates that the moon in all probability was formed after the collision with Earth of a Mars-sized object, we may be more unique than we'd hoped.

Al Sarrantonio
8 December

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