Neo, Ness, and Places in the Reader’s Heart

By grace, this was an excellent writing day — 2,849 new words — good ones! Writing muscles do improve over time, with training and use. Back when I tried NaNoWriMo in 2005, it was all I could do to turn out 1,600 words, working hard at it all day.  Now a good writing day is 2,000 words, and a great writing day is 3,000.

Union Station, Chicago

Union Station, Chicago

Anyway, here’s a shameless product endorsement: I recently bought an AlphaSmart Neo. It’s a light-weight, durable little machine that runs on three AA batteries for many hundreds of hours. It has a full-sized keyboard and a screen on which up to six lines of text are visible. I

The entrance through which the bookkeeper arrives

The entrance through which the bookkeeper arrives

bought this one new to replace an AlphaSmart Dana that I bought used, on its last legs, and still got a good year of use out of. The Dana finally gave up the ghost, which was actually for the best — it’s a more advanced model of the AlphaSmart which is built to do more things than I need done, and consequently consumes more battery life.

The balcony where Eliot Ness stands

The balcony where Eliot Ness stands

But the Neo essentially eats power much as a pocket calculator does — and how often do you have to change your calculator battery? The Neo allows me to write in places away from my desk: outdoors (in warmer seasons), in transit situations (trains, planes, and airports), in coffee shops (I confess I haven’t tried that yet), and at other people’s houses. I don’t know about you, but I generally do my best work when I’m in a situation of controlled chaos — the hubbub of some public place, or at a kitchen table at non-meal times, with family life revolving in the background. I think it has to do with low pressure. When I’m not in my Sacred Writing Space, I’m not under pressure to create the most brilliant literature in human history. At a kitchen table, I can just tell a story, because tables aren’t for writing anyway, are they?

Where the bookkeeper is held hostage

Where the bookkeeper is held hostage

At the end of the writing day, I connect the Neo to my computer with a USB cable and dump the day’s writing into a Word file. (There is also a wireless way to make the transfer, if you’re interested in that method.)

I love the fact that the Neo allows me to write anywhere I can write with a pencil and paper. And we’re talking inexpensive: including a $20 carrying case and shipping to Japan, my brand-new Neo came in at under $300. Product details can be found at

A Ness's-eye view

A Ness's-eye view

Changing the subject with a monkey wrench — grroooinnkk! — what you’re seeing here are some pictures taken at Union Station, Chicago, which I passed through last summer. Fans of   The Untouchables will recognize this as the location used in the famous “baby carriage scene,” in which Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his men intercept Al Capone’s bookkeeper on the station stairs as Capone’s men are attempting to whisk him out of town.

The setting at a distance, from the Great Hall

The setting at a distance, from the Great Hall

And grrroooiinnkk once more — it’s high time we played another alphabet game. Any takers? The theme this time is your favorite places in stories — places that you wanted to live in when you read about them or saw them on the big screen.

I’ll start us off again with A: Amity Island, the fictional setting of Jaws. Back in 1975-6, I dreamed of living in Amity, famed for its white sand beaches, and being haunted by a 20-foot great white shark. Fourth-graders don’t ask for much to make them truly happy.


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45 Responses to “Neo, Ness, and Places in the Reader’s Heart”

  1. Warrior of Mars Says:

    Glad I got in on this one right at the outset, because the place that grabbed my imagination from the third grade and kept a warrior’s grip on it well into high school was: BARSOOM.

    I’ll even confess (but hey–since I’m posting under an alias, only Fred knows who I am!) that until about the fifth or sixth grade, I thought maybe if I concentrated hard enough on the Red Planet up in the night sky, I, too, would be whisked away to Barsoom like John Carter, Warlord of Mars. Sure, I was just a little boy, but if I shot off in an astral projection to Mars it’s lighter gravity would endow me–as it had with that famous Virginian–with near-superhuman powers of strength and agility. I would learn to use a sword, and fight the pirates and the evil tharks and white apes for the love of my very own red princess (yes, I was a romantic even then).

  2. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thanks, Warrior of Mars! I’m jumping in with C here. C is for Caprona, also known as Caspak, that lost land of prehistoric life in _The Land That Time Forgot_, _The People That Time Forgot_, and _Out of Time’s Abyss_, a delightful trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read them at about the age at which “Warrior of Mars” up there was reading about Barsoom.

    Anyway, Caprona is a lost island ringed by high, impenetrable cliffs, with no beach to land on. It was named by its discoverer, the Italian navigator Caproni, who found no place to land (fortunately for him and his crew). But our heroes approach the island in a German submarine during World War I. They find an underwater passage that allows them to pilot the U-boat beneath the cliffs and come up on the inside.

    What makes this story so interesting (apart from the dinosaurs) is the tension among the protagonists: they’re a group of Germans, Englishmen, and our American hero, who struggle for control of the U-boat, and form the most precarious of truces for the sake of survival.

    This concept was a great source of inspiration to my cousin Phil and me, who loved to combine our dinosaur play sets with our WWII army men play sets. At his house, at my house, over several gradeschool years, we spent countless happy hours playing out the adventures of the green plastic GIs who got lost (with their Jeep and tank) in a land of dinosaurs. Conveniently, they always discovered naturally-occurring pools of refined gasoline, which kept their Jeep and tank running indefinitely. And I think they found a way to manufacture ammunition out of found materials, too.

    Ah, Caprona! Ah, Caspak! Thanks, Burroughs!

  3. chris Says:

    Danvers State Mental Institution.

    Oh sure, Lovecraft called it “Arkham Asylum”, but the chance to actually drive by the Danvers asylum in Mass on I-95 on snowy nights looking up at it on the hill darkly overlooking the lit hamlet below.

    I liked getting a chance to see the inside of it in the film “Session 9” (not a particularly good film, but it featured Danvers a lot).

    I’m fascinated by urban spelunking but I don’t think I could ever do it myself. Too many hazards and not the least of which would be meandering around the toxic stuff in an old abandoned hospital.

    But it’s fascinating to think about.

    And it used to be such a strange far-off world. Massachusetts and New England are “wicked cool”. I miss it. (And no, I don’t miss being in a mental institution, if that is what you are thinking I meant. Thank-you-very-much.)

  4. Catherine Says:

    E for Endor — I mean, the planet in Star Wars. When I first watched the movie, I had recently moved away from the place I’d lived all my life and the scenery around me was drastically different from what I was used to. Endor reminded me strongly of my previous home, and for my homesick soul, it was the best place I could think of. As a strange reverse, I recently watched the movie again (having moved back to my birthplace) and I found myself strongly reminded of the scenery that I had loathed so much back when I first watched the movies. So Endor for me!

  5. chris Says:

    (Side Note: Endor? Really? That place was crawling with Ewoks! Ewwww! Get ’em off me! I can feel them all over my skin! EeeeeeEEEEEK!

    -Sorry. now back to the previously scheduled discussion)

  6. I loved Hooper Says:

    Thank you, Chris, for putting Endor in its proper place. I do not have an “E” but had to support your disgust of the Ewoks.
    Catherine: we know where you are coming from, it is just too easy not to bash Ewoks.
    And, Mr. Durbin (whose long-ago dog is the “Hooper” in question): what a wonderful choice for “C”!
    “I can’t believe they are leaving us! Von Schoendorst! Von Schoendorst!”

  7. fsdthreshold Says:

    I knew some of these guys were going to bash the Ewoks, but Catherine, you have every right to love Endor on this blog! Let’s none of us be afraid to celebrate the fantasy worlds we love! (And it’s not limited to “fantasy” in the narrow sense. These places can be realistic, too, like my “Amity” back in A.)

    Chris, if you’re intrigued by urban spelunking (I’d never heard of it until last month!), you might enjoy David Morrell’s _Creepers_. [I got him to sign a copy of it for me at World Fantasy–he’s the guy who created Rambo–a fascinating guy–and anyway, _Creepers_ centers on urban spelunking, near as I can figure, not having read it yet.]

    In _The Land That Time Forgot_, I loved Von Schoenvorts’s line about: “I think there’s a secret to this island. And whether we go or stay . . . live or die . . . may depend upon that secret.”

    Anyway, I suppose F has to be for Fangorn Forest from _The Lord of the Rings_. I love Tolkien’s descriptions of it–its incredible age, the fact that it looks to the hobbits as if it’s never had a spring cleaning, and the barely-subdued animosity of many of its trees. . . . Fascinating place. Tolkien is the best author I know for writing forests, and although I loved the Peter Jackson films, the forests were one part that didn’t come through at all. So, everybody, read the book version if you haven’t done so!

    And, Chris, aren’t you glad you beat me to D, because I would have said “Drogheda,” which would have meant bringing up _The Thorn Birds_ again?

  8. I loved Hooper Says:

    Well, if these can be realistic places, I choose Gettysburg, right before, as Shelby Foote wrote “The flower of the South was about to be cut down at the moment of her most glorious beauty, and left to die on a field of blood.” To see Pickett’s charge … wow.
    However, I know there are dozens of other great ‘G’s out there … come on everyone, don’t let me ruin it for you! (Gondolin, anyone?)

  9. chris Says:

    H is for Hogwarts! The magical boarding school for boy and girl wizar…oh who am I kidding? I haven’t read Harry Potter and have little to no intention of doing so. So let me say the “unpleasant” choice for H: Hell.

    I don’t want to actually GO to or live in Hell (unless it’s Hell, Sweden, a real place), but one of the most fascinating things about literature and art is the amazing detail that artists put into depicting hell, hades, the underworld. It is infinitely more fascinating to look at Bosch’s version of Hell in the “Garden of Earthly Delights” tryptich than it is the depiction of Heaven.

    In a sense artists reveal in us our inner hidden desire to sometimes “visit” hell, if only as an “observer”.

    Dante’s Inferno also seems to point up humanity’s infinite fascination with what can be horrible. Sartre’s “No Exit” also comes to mind but in a less obvious means.

    As I said, I don’t want to go to Hell (thankfully I no longer believe in it, but it still scares the bejeezlies out of me to think of it; and as the song says “I could swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell”)

    Still in all, humanity is far more effective at envisioning, writing and painting “hell” than it seems to apply the same skills to “heaven”.

  10. fsdthreshold Says:

    Fascinating point! This is sounding like the whole topic of the “Hero’s Journey” a la Joseph Campbell — the archetypal Descent into the Underworld. I know the “little Hells” featured in so many great stories are what appeal to me most, too — the deep, dark woods through which Little Red Riding Hood must pass; the caverns, the wastelands, the vile swamps, the “Earth-rim” where Grendel walks. Skull Island. Wild Island. I played Dungeons & Dragons for the dungeons. For me, the far-and-away most enchanting setting in _The Lord of the Rings_ is Moria.

    By the way, there’s also a town called “Hell” somewhere in the U.S.A. — my dad used to talk about it, but I’ve forgotten what state it’s in.

    Anyway, who’s got an I?

  11. John Says:

    I is for India, a place where elders are respected, true love wins out and people periodically break into extravagant song and dance numbers.

    Or have I been watching too many Bollywood movies? 😉

  12. I loved Hooper Says:

    How about the Isle of Misfit Toys from the great Rudolph TV show? Or Ireland? (one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen). Or Imagination Land?
    If we are going to follow past patterns, going back in order is allowed, so anyone wanting to add something to a prior letter (especially if I hogged it away from you) please do so. I love reading everyone’s posts!

  13. chris Says:

    J is for Jotunheim. Home of the Giants in Norse mythology. Here’s what the “Encyclopedia Mythica” says about Jotunheim:

    “Jotunheim is one of the nine worlds, the homeland of the frost giants and rock giants. Situated in Midgard, on the middle level of the Norse universe, Jotunheim is separated from Asgard by the river Iving, which never freezes over. It lies in the snowy regions on the outermost shores of the ocean. Mimir’s well of wisdom is in Jotunheim, beneath the Midgard root of the ash tree Yggdrasil.

    “Jotunheim is ruled by Thrym (“uproar”), the feared king of the frost giants. The stronghold of Utgard, the chief city of Jotunheim and the abode of the giants, is ruled by the giant Utgard-Loki. Other strongholds include Gastropnir, home of the giantess Menglad, and Thrymheim (“house of uproar”), mountain stronghold of the giant Thiazi. “

  14. fsdthreshold Says:

    These are some decidedly cool places you guys are coming up with.

    K is for Kingcome Village, the setting of Margaret Craven’s classic _I Heard the Owl Call My Name_. That book was on our recommended reading list when I went as a volunteer vacation Bible school teacher to some Cree and Ojibwe villages in northern Ontario during 3 of my college summers. That was quite an experience: they flew our teams into the villages in float planes, because there aren’t even roads that go there. We worked out of the local Anglican churches at the invitation of the local (native) congregations. Denominational differences don’t mean much in the North.

    Anyway, Kingcome Village: in the book, the main character is a young priest who, for medical reasons, has only about a year to live. His bishop decides not to tell him that fact, but instead sends him to this remote Kwakiutl Indian village in British Columbia, where in learning from the people there how to live, he will be prepared in the best possible way to die. Very good book.

  15. I am the Great Oz Says:

    I’m going to skip back a couple letters, if you don’t mind, and add another “H”: HILL HOUSE

    The uber-house of haunted houses (horror maestro Stephen King agrees, and has written several books and screenplays that pay direct homage to Shirley Jackson’s prototypical house: _The Shining_, _Rose Red_, “1408”, and others).

    What is so frickin’ cool (and scary) about Hill House is that the house is not necessarily haunted by individual ghosts: the HOUSE ITSELF IS A LIVING ENTITY. When you enter it, you are entering the belly of the beast…

    The original Robert Wise film version is also one of my favorite films (but do avoid the 1999 remake at all costs).

  16. Daylily Says:

    L is for Lilliput of _Gulliver’s Travels_. I can’t say I ever wanted to live there, but it is sufficiently intriguing that I would like to visit sometime! _Castaways in Lilliput_ by Henry Winterfeld is the story of three children who get to visit a “modernized” (ahem, well, a 1958 version of) Lilliput.

  17. fsdthreshold Says:

    M is for Moria. I’m going to attempt to describe something here that may be indescribable. And oddly, I’m going to refer to the film version of _The Lord of the Rings_ to do it. Every time I see the Peter Jackson movie version of _The Fellowship of the Ring_–when Gandalf announces the Dwarrowdelf, and Sam says that line, “There’s an eye-opener, and no mistake!”–and the music swells with those familiar strains–that triggers in me a strange nostalgia. . . .

    Quite apart from the love of THIS film and this story, it’s the nostalgia of movies seen during the daytime–matinees–in childhood. I don’t know why, but that’s what it triggers in me. It’s also partly the nostalgia of daytime Dungeons & Dragons meetings in the basement of my parents’ bookstore with the best D&D group the world has ever known. . . . Dripping candles, smudged pencil maps on yellowing graph paper from old notebooks, a table covered with wax drippings and graffiti. . . . Childhood evenings spent with my knees braced on the edge of the ancient desk in the back room of the bookstore, swigging Pepsi as I read _The Lord of the Rings_. For me, all of that nostalgia is somehow bound up in Moria.

    Many before me have written of the unreproduceable FIRST experience of reading LOTR. Ah, that first trip through Khazad-dum. . . . I don’t know in what season(s) I first read the books, but for some reason, my memories of LOTR are connected with autumn, and the Ballantine paperbacks with Tolkien’s own illustrations on the covers.

    So, yes, M is for Moria. “Speak Friend and enter”–those gates made by Narvi. . . . “There’s an eye-opener, and no mistake!”

  18. Xenorama Says:

    M is for Monster Island in the Ogasawara Island chain in the seas south of Japan. home to most of the giant monsters (dai kaiju) of Japan, including Godzilla, his son Minya, Rodan, Mothra and many more. after seeing the movie DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968) in about 1973 it’s a place i always wanted to visit. scientific study of giant monsters? nothing could be cooler than that!

  19. Daylily Says:

    N is for Narnia! I lived in Narnia for many happy hours of my childhood. Lucy, Jill, and Aravis were courageous girls I admired. (I really like Peter, Edmund, Eustace [the complainer who is changed], and Caspian, too.) The beautiful country with the shining castle of Cair Paravel by the sea, the Talking Animals, and, of course, Aslan . . . I read my paperbacks over and over. Both my children read the same copies, and now the books reside in a place of honor in my library. Maybe it’s time to read them again . . .

  20. I loved Hooper Says:

    Could not agree more with the Moria sentiments. My Book Center-purchased LOTR is the self-same Ballentine edition.
    I have always toyed with the following in my imagination: Let us say Moria is a real place. But the orcs, the danger (save for a fall, etc.) is gone. Do you wish, with flashlights, Coleman lanterns, etc. to explore the place with a small group of friends, would you rather see it completely illuminated, or would you prefer to visit it in all its granduer ‘ere the fall of the great kings under the stone?’

    I do not wish to supplant Moria (an impossibility) but for me M is the steps on M street from The Exorcist. To this day people stop and make a little shrine at the bottom of the steps in Georgetown, leaving flowers, holy water, rosaries, prayers, etc…
    (and please, read the book!)

    Daylily: Narnia is a great pick. I am just now discovering Lewis’ fantasy writings … I have been immersing myself in Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, et al

  21. fsdthreshold Says:

    That is a really hard question about Moria! I’d take all 3 if I could. I guess if I were really forced to choose, I’d take the Coleman lanterns / small group of friends option. I don’t think vast spaces beneath the ground are meant to be seen under full electrical illumination. The shadows and the ever-encroaching darkness of the deep Earth are a crucial part of the design.

    That having been said, though, I’d also love to see it under the precise illumination Durin’s folk would have used in the heyday of Khazad-dum.

  22. Xenorama Says:

    i’d like to be in an Octopus’ garden in the sea…

    one of Ringo’s Beatles’ songs, it’s fun and easy to sing along with. plus has a very favorable view of octopi, one of my favorite critters in the whole world. if i were living underwater, that’s the place i’d want to be.

    if that doesn’t work, i’d like to visit Oa, the home of the Gaurdians of the Universe, where the Green Lanterns come from.


  23. John Says:

    P is for Pern, the planet where the Dragonriders and their Dragons protect the populace from the deadly Thread.

  24. tandemcat Says:

    R is for Rivendell, location of the Last Homely House. It’s always good to see such a place show up in more than one story–in this case, both _The Hobbit_ and _Lord of the Rings_. My blog on this site speaks of such places in my posting of December 19:

  25. Shieldmaiden Says:

    “Hmmm! it smells like elves!”

    R is for Rivendell. It is hard to choose just one place I’d want to live in Middle-earth but the way time passes there under the stars, it seems perfect to me. I find I want to climb into every picture I see depicting Rivendell and stay there in the Last Homely House until I am discovered.

    Elrond’s house is perfect, whether you like food, sleep, singing, storytelling, or just sitting and thinking. While staying there, bruises are mended as well as tempers and hopes and plans are improved, not to mention some really cool map and rune reading.

    So our stay there is always too short –and if we should wonder why we can’t live there– where Elvish singing is not a thing to be missed, if you go for that sort of thing??? Well, Tolkien says it the best (I hope this is close to his quote)

    “Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and not much to listen to are soon told about and not much to listen to; while thing’s that are uncomfortable, palpitating or even gruesome, may take a good deal of telling and make a good tale.”

    And so we ride away, over the Misty Mountains to the land beyond, with songs of farewell and hearts ready for more adventure…

    BTW I was waiting for “Q” but tandemcat got to Rivendell before me. Hope you don’t mind visiting twice! Does anyone have a Q?

  26. Jedibabe Says:

    S is for Star Wars, but more specifically T is for Tatooine.

    Smitten with Star Wars from my first encounter at age eight my backyard became a pseudo Tatooine where my friends and I took the roles of our favorite heroes for ourselves. We created our own costumes out of cast off parental garments and, with Darth Vader dressed in a shimmery old black negligee of my best friends mom and I in my Dad’s old backward “Big Al’s Horse Shirt” (my Dad’s name was Alan), belted at the waist and worn over my beige riding pants and kid riding boots, I was Luke. Leia was my best friend’s younger sister, who we dressed in a bed sheet and had to take whatever role we gave her.

    We were all horse girls first and foremost, so our Star Wars took place on horseback; truly George’s vision of cowboy space opera. I’d drag the turntable and speakers out to the back yard and we’d blast the Star Wars sound track till our neighbor came out to watch. Luke and Vader, battling it out with Kenner lightsabers from the back of their horses, all orchestrated to the proper theme music. Truly Tatooine or Tatoo-equine, was a great place to realize one’s own heroic nature and I didn’t just want to live there, I did live there and secretly still wish to visit!

  27. tandemcat Says:

    Ooops! I missed Q! Q is for Quirm, one of the many madcap places in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The Quirm College for Young Ladies is located there. Susan Sto Helit, Lady Sybil Ramkin and Miss Perspicacia Tick count this institution as their alma mater. According to Susan Sto Helit, the college gives its students “an education in, well, education.” Heh, heh!

  28. Jedibabe Says:

    Q Continuum

    Not that playing tourist amongst an haughty, near omnipotent and omniscient population sounds like a whole lot of fun, I would just enjoy the fact that they all have the same name. As a mere mortal who can never remember anyone’s name, I find an extradimensional plane of existence where everyone’s name is “Q” quite alluring.

  29. Daylily Says:

    Let’s not forget that O is also for Oz, the place of many interesting adventures and also many odd creatures, such as the live Wooden Sawhorse, who can run endless hours without tiring. Some of the Oz stories enter the realm of horror, as in _The Magical Mimics in Oz_ A Mimic will steal your shape by casting itself on your shadow. It then rises up as an exact replica of you, while you yourself are helpless to move.

  30. I loved Hooper Says:

    What a great M! Monster Island! Hooray for the old cheezy monster movies!

    Yes, my good Tandemcat, R is for Rivendell.
    As Fred has heard from me ad nauseum, it is Rivendell that I would most like to visit in Middle Earth’s Third Age. There history is still alive, the memory of things ages past lives; there are Eldar, and Elrond and artifacts, and, as Bilbo said, “the food is VERY good, and there are elves when you want them …”
    I loved PJ’s Rivendell in the movies, If only Elrond had been better …

    And, privately, Fred, you and I both know the Real R is the Big R! ha ha

  31. fsdthreshold Says:

    You guys (and non-guys) are incredible! What a fantastic response to a game that started “as slow as molasses flowing uphill on a cold winter’s day” (an expression of my dad’s). Another great expression of my dad’s was “grinnin’ like a dog eatin’ crap.” That’s how much I’m “grinnin'” over your great entries!

    I just wanted to jump in here and explain something for those of you who may be wondering: when you post a comment for the first time (or for the first time under a particular e-mail identity), it comes to me for moderation. That’s why there’s a slight delay in the appearance of some of your comments. I hope that hasn’t discouraged anyone. Once I’ve approved you once, you should be good to go with that identity: your comments will then go on-line directly.

    So, we’re ready for S, and it sounds as if you don’t need any more help from me at this point!

  32. old hippie Says:

    S is for…
    Well S could be for lots of things like Shire for one. We are already in serious risk of turning this into “Places (from Middle-earth) in the Reader’s Heart” but I have to say S is for Southfarthing before TA 2953, and I would like to be a gardener.

  33. Shieldmaiden Says:

    I forgot to mention before that I loved the question from “I Loved Hooper” and I would have to go with a group of friends, nine maybe [smiles] camping out by lantern light and exploring. All three sound wonderful but that is my first choice.

    And I wanted to say thank you to everyone who writes in on this blog. I love reading everyone’s comments!

  34. Chris Says:

    T is for the magical kingdom of Taylorville. The great metropolis somewhere along Lincoln’s old circuit route. It’s not there anymore, having succumbed to the ravages of time. Now little more than a wide-spot on route 29 covered by a few poorly painted “Lincoln Murals” and now known almost exclusively for it’s having been the site of the famous Lincoln and the Pigs Event (google it).

    Taylorville is completely _unknown_ for having been the birthplace of a NOBEL LAUREATE in Physics: Ed Purcell who shared the prize in 1952 along with Felix Bloch for groundbreaking work on nuclear magnetic resonance. In case you didn’t know, if you ever get an MRI or hear a chemist talk about NMR these were made possible by pioneers like Purcell.

    But all in all, it’s probably best that Taylorville be remembered for a bunch of pigs getting under the courthouse Lincoln visited. I’m sure that’s far more interesting.

    Learn more about Ed Purcell here:

  35. fsdthreshold Says:

    Wow. We have all sorts of signs on Route 29 announcing Taylorville as the home of this or that athlete, but we don’t have one for a recipient of the NOBEL PRIZE?! Even I have to confess that I didn’t know about Ed Purcell–so, thank you!

    And since we’re on “U” — did anyone else get totally into the book Urshurak, by the Brothers Hildebrandt? It came out in the early eighties, during that epic quest fantasy boom we had then, with the second generation of Tolkien fans and the explosion of fantasy gaming. Urshurak, also the name of the continent on which the book is set, was not really original in any sense of the word, but it was beautifully and lavishly illustrated by Greg and Tim H., who were artists anyway — and for us teenagers who couldn’t get enough of the genre, it was exactly what we wanted.

    And, yeah, I mostly liked it because the heroine, Gwynn of Andeluvia, was the babest of the babes — I pined away for a Brown Elf girlfriend like her. . . .

  36. I loved Hooper Says:

    Ahh Taylorville, which is also the hometown (THS Class 1962, I think) of current New Jersey governor John Corzine.

    Taylorville has not only produced a governor and a Nobel Laureate, but one particular stretchof rural asphalt — historic Old Oak Rd. — is responsible not only for our blog host but also for Baron Threadkill, a.k.a. Chris.

    Historic site of the legendary Book Center, Bill’s Toasty Shop and underappreciated Manner’s Park, Taylorville will always be home.

    And V falls to me, as if by design.

    V is for Verallton. Period. To go further would involve thousands upon thousands of words. Suffice to say Mergon’s dark cellar is where it all started, at least for me, as I was blessed to receive this gift …

  37. Daylily Says:

    Woo-hoo! I’ve arrived just in time for this: W is for Watership Down. I _loved_ Watership Down. It was a great place to live. I read the book several times, as an adult. The characters are strongly drawn, the adventure is gripping, and I especially like the stories within the story, i.e. the rabbits’ tales of El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle.

  38. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thank you, thank you! I am SO glad you said Watership Down for W, Daylily! Anyone who knows me knows that I love that book beyond all measure and reason. And “Hooper,” I’m just as glad that you said Verralton for V. Verralton is a place of wonder for which I provided nothing but the barest outline. It was given its heart and soul by the six friends who escaped into its labyrinthine halls for countless hours of adventure over several years. (All right, seven, if we count me!)

    Okay, I won’t hog X. (But I’m here to help if we get stuck.) Is anyone going to surprise me and NOT talk about Piers Anthony? Heh–I’m thinking more of Coleridge . . . but whaddaya say, whaddaya say? Who’s got an X this Christmas Eve day?

  39. Daylily Says:

    Someplace earlier in this blog is a tribute to Watership Down by Fred, our gracious host, and I did remember that. So I knew that _someone_ would be sure to mention Watership Down. I just enjoyed being the one to do it first in this alphabet game, as it is one of my favorite fantasy places!

  40. Xenorama Says:

    well, i was tempted to say Xenorama, where heroes and monsters dwell, but since it was a fanzine of mine and not a real place, i guess it’s not quite the same thing!

    but heck yeah, X is for Xanth! i love the first six books in the trilogy, and the next 4 or 5 are OK, but any place that is largely built on puns is aces in my book. Xanth would be a fun place to visit, despite tangle trees and gorgons and dragons, or perhaps because of all those things.


  41. fsdthreshold Says:

    Hey, fanzines are plenty cool, too! Xenorama sounds like a great and intriguing place! You say “was”? It’s not still available out there?

    “The first six books in the trilogy”? Heh, heh, heh! So it’s a trilogy in the sense that _Dune_ is a trilogy. I must confess I’ve never read any Xanth, but I keep hearing good things about it.

    Aside from what I was thinking for X, I also thought that we lovers of _Star Wars_ could also say “the cockpit of an X-wing” — definitely a place of wonder for me as I entered my teenage years.

  42. fsdthreshold Says:

    All right, if no one else is going to say it: Yggdrasil. That’s the Great Tree, the World Tree in Norse mythology. The ancient Norse seem to have envisioned Yggdrasil as a physical place as well as a metaphysical concept. It was like a tremendous road bridging the various worlds, traversed by the creatures who intended harm to the tree: the serpents and squirrel who steadily devoured it, and who would succeed in bringing it down at the Ragnarok.

    I’ll confess I didn’t know about Yggdrasil per se as a child, but I was always fascinated by titanic trees, trees which bridged worlds and concealed them in the shadows of their verdant crowns.

  43. fsdthreshold Says:

    Hey, did everyone go home? Are Y and Z really that hard? 🙂 Okay, Z is for _Zothique_, by Clark Ashton Smith. It’s the title of the book and the name of the fantasy world in which Smith set many of his stories. A fellow lover of fantasy in a creative writing class I took in high school introduced me to Smith and Zothique–lent me the well-worn paperback, in fact. I remember reading the book outdoors at the back of our property, by the pond, in summer twilights. I recall the adventures in the desert world Smith conjures, a world of sere, creaking mummies (creaking because they walk) and long-sealed, dusty tombs.

    Okay, we’ve reached the end of the alphabet on this game, so let’s close it off. But I have lots more ideas for future games, so don’t go too far away!

  44. John Says:

    Darn. For Y I was going to say Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems as featured in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. But then again, that place is such a dump, I’m not sure I’d like to go there. 😉

  45. Margaret Reyes Dempsey Says:

    I LOVE the AlphaSmart Neo, too. It made my Top 13 list of favorite writing things:

    Regarding Amity Island, you’ve got to check out that location in Second Life. Quint’s boat is there, and you can go down in the shark cage. The town itself has shops and a drive-in movie theater. I don’t have a lot of patience (or time) for these online worlds, but this one was actually fun.

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