SOL Rising

Number 24, April 2001


Canadian Scholar Reflects on Dracula at the Merril
View From the Chair
From the Collection Head
Dracula's Leading Lady
Nothing But 'Net: Websites Of Interest

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Canadian Scholar Reflects on Dracula at the Merril

Many local fans of gothic literature & the novel Dracula in particular, turned out on the evening of February 1st for a very special literary event, The Origins of Dracula, a slide show and lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Miller. Professor Miller is Canada's foremost scholar of 19th century British Gothic Fiction, especially Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. A professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, her courses on gothic literature are extremely popular and she is in constant demand as a lecturer at academic conferences across the globe. She has published three academic works on Dracula and most recently, a coffee-table art book entitled DRACULA in the spring of 2001.

The theme of her presentation was on the many misconceptions that have risen over the years on the subject of vampirsm, with Bram Stoker's creation "Dracula" being the main subject of review.

Having several times toured through the province of Romania known as Transylvania, Dr. Miller has converted her extensive collection of travel photos into slides. With these illustrations she was able to take all 42 of us back through time to show us the real Europe of the 1800's, and how the times, places and people inspired Stoker to create Count Dracula, who has since become one of the world's most famous literary characters, certainly the world's most famous vampire.

Professor Miller spoke about Stoker's upbringing, life and eventual career in the English theatre, and his other early attempts at supernatural fiction leading up to the writing of Dracula. While Dracula was only a modest success when it first published in 1897, it was much later when it would finally find fame first as a stage production and later in two famous films; Nosferatu in 1921 and Dracula in 1931. There have been hundreds of theatre, film and television productions featuring Dracula and nearly a thousand stories have appeared in print.

Dr. Miller described some of the more famous stories about Stoker and his creation that have been proven to be false, the most famous being the common use of the Romanian word "Nosferatu" to mean vampire. She explained that there is no such word in Romanian as Nosferatu, and that she's yet to discover that word existing in any language. Another myth is that Dracula is based on the life of an infamous Romanian nobleman called Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler. This character did exist but had next to nothing to do with Stoker's creating the character of Dracula.

Dr. Miller has photographed many of the most famous geographical settings of Stoker's book, including Borgo Pass in Transylvania where Dracula's castle was supposed to have been. Although Stoker describes this pass as rocky and mountainous, the real locale is relatively flat. Dr. Miller also showed slides of Whitby, the harbour area where Dracula's ship came ashore, and of course, the abbey and graveyard. This area really hasn't changed much since Stoker's visit, aside from the many new tourism traps and tie-ins associated with Dracula.

Although I had recently reread Dracula and was quite familiar with it, I was still surprised at how much there was to learn about the novel, its author and the real background behind the story. So was the greatly appreciative audience, many of whom were diehard vampire or Dracula enthusiasts. Everyone I spoke with enjoyed themselves and we all agreed that it was a great presentation, one of the best shows ever held at the Merril Collection.

Credit must go to Professor Miller who with her vast knowledge, great slides and genuine enthusiasm on this subject made this evening so wonderful.

After the lecture, Dr. Miller autographed copies of her books, which sold out as quickly as they were signed. The staff of the Merril Collection had prepared a special display on vampires and the Dracula legend as a complement to Dr. Miller's visit. This exhibit, which features a rare first edition of Stoker's Dracula, will continue until mid-April. I strongly urge everyone to visit the Collection to view this wonderful display.

Jamie Fraser, Vice Chair

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View From the Chair

When I sat down to outline this column, it seemed like a hodge podge of activities and decisions but I realized as I began to write that the common thread is support. The Friends support the Collection and the Executive Committee supports the Friends. What could be simpler or more effective?

Here's what the Executive has been doing to support the Friends:

After much number crunching and even more soul searching we are forced to implement a dues increase for the first time in years. We've increased membership dues for the 2001-2002 membership year to $30 from $25. Why? Simply put, the amount of money we were spending each year was more than the total amount of the dues we were collecting. This annual shortfall had been masked by other revenue generating efforts. But in order to have stability year to year, dues must cover basic costs. We trust the Friends will recognize the necessity so that we can continue to have a busy year of readings, launches, lectures, and get-togethers. The Executive will be making a short budget presentation at the Annual Meeting for those of you interested in the nitty gritty. And, speaking of the Annual Meeting, please mark May 5 on your calendar and plan to attend.

I'm happy to report other more welcome initiatives of the Executive Committee. We are in the process of launching our own Friends website. Executive Committee members Claudiu Murgan and Jim Pattison have shepherded the design and development of the website over the last few months. We hope to use the website to keep you informed of Friends events and activities, link to other sites, etc. Stay tuned for our official launch date.

A new Merril Collection brochure is being prepared by Toronto Public Library in which the Friends will have a membership insert. Our plan to produce our own membership brochure was well underway when we were offered this opportunity. We jumped at the chance to be partners with TPL! Thanks to David Kotin, Manager of Special Collections for his great idea. The brochure will be a useful tool in promoting the Collection and membership in the Friends.

One thing I wondered when I first joined the Executive Committee was why the membership of the Friends was so very stable -- neither growing nor shrinking over time. My own work experience urged me to try to get some "data" on who the Friends are and what they want from their membership. Those of you who attended the launch of Karl Schroeder's Ventus will recall being handed a short event survey. The results are good. Twenty-three responses were returned; 52% non-members and 48% members. The average number of events attended for all respondents was 3 but this increased to 5 for members! We asked for event suggestions and the most common response was for "more". One respondent asked for a "turkey shoot" where a particularly bad piece of writing is read aloud and Friends offer the reader money to stop. Another member asked for a "massive cash giveaway". I'm not sure which idea is less likely! Some of the requests although reasonable are impossible. For example, serving wine at readings is prohibited at the Library without costly special event permits. As for SOL Rising, all members report reading it regularly. They asked for book reviews (see the thumbnail reviews in this issue), more author interviews and theme issues like this one!. I'm pleased by the good responses we had and by our ability to give Friends more of what they want. You can be sure we'll be asking you for more input regularly.

Also, we've got a great way to support the Friends and make your tax burden a little lighter at the same time! I'm very pleased to announce that we are now offering charitable receipts for donations to the Friends of the Merril through the auspices of Toronto Public Library Foundation. Make cheques payable to the "Friends of the Merril Collection" and your donation will be receipted for its full value. (Since Friends receive substantial discounts on admission to events, membership dues are not receiptable.) All donations will be used specifically by the Friends in support of our own activities and for support of the Collection.

I know that each of you supports the Friends in all the ways that you can. Thank you.

Lucy White, Chair

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From The Collection Head

The Merril Collection is a subject specialty collection which also functions as a rare book room. It currently serves several communities of interest, all of which are intensely specialized and have an extremely narrow focus. Within those communities of interest, each group is rather like an algebra problem, in that it is made up of sub-sets.

The people who read the literature may in turn be sub-divided into groups; people who will only read fantasy, people who will only read science-fiction, people only interested in graphic novels (which were called comics back when the world was young), the people who play role-playing games, the book collectors interested in modern first editions, the book collectors interested only in the old, the rare and the obscure, the artists interested in comic book art, without necessarily being interested in the text that accompanies it, as distinct from the artists interested in contemporary fantasy and science fiction artists, the costumers who attend science fiction conventions and compete with each other wearing elaborate, often fantastically beautiful costumes, and always the academics, as interested in the people reading the subject material as they are interested in the material itself.

Within the subject areas, the questions vary wildly: so far this week (Monday at 2 PM), we have had invisibility, black holes, the illustrations of Mervyn Peake, the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, changes in the third edition of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, a thematic analysis of "comic-book' movies, and the Lord of the Rings. Many people who have become interested in the Lord of the Rings as a movie have been astonished to learn that it is in fact based on a book. Sigh. I remind myself that libraries are time-binding devices.

The question most often asked for the fifteen years I have been on staff, lest anyone wonder, is how people in the past thought that the future would look. Not how they thought events and or science would develop in the future, but with the emphasis on visuals, how did they think the future would actually look. The visual materials have been of interest to academics of all persuasions, advertising agencies, high school students, transportation designers you name it, this question is a universal favourite.

Only once has anyone asked me what the libraries of the future were supposed to be like. A professor from Drexel University wanted to know how science fiction novels justified the Universal Computer. You know, the computer in Star Trek that knows everything, and furthermore, can answer your question in whatever language is handiest?

I was sorry to have to tell him that while Larry Niven predicted organ-legging and John Brunner the internet, these days, when someone devises a better search engine, instead of writing a science fiction novel, he starts a dot com.

Most science fiction novels dispose of the need to upload all data through space and time by determining that someone else did it, somewhere back in time, probably long about now. For example, the Toronto Public Library has a keen interest in what the libraries of the future will be like, what services they will be able to provide, and exactly how staff will mine information in a future where the datastream will be moving so fast that unsophisticated users may drown in it. TPL's Virtual Reference Library is the proto-version of Star Trek's know-it-all computer.

I have faith that we will eventually leap the gap between our world and the know-it-all computer, even though sometimes instead of boldly going forward, it feels as if we are lurching into the future. The Merril Collection, in some form, will be present in this future because people will always wonder about the future and answer it by writing a story that asks "what if". The interaction between humans and their environment, wherein we shape our environment, which in turn reshapes us, isn't going to stop.

As Theodore Sturgeon was fond of saying, "Ask the next question!" A librarian will help you find the answer. The future mechanisms for service and delivery are impossible to predict, but the fictional extrapolations will be wilder, the questions will be ever more focused, the databases will be ever more sophisticated.

It sounds like a lot of fun.

Loma Toolis Collection Head

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Dracula's Leading Lady

It's not every Canadian university professor who holds the title of Baroness of the House of Dracula: in fact there is only one, Dr. Elizabeth Miller of Memorial University in St John's. As Canada's leading scholar of vampire studies, she teaches an English course on Dracula, and both attends and gives lectures all over the globe. The popularity of her classes are such that they are always oversubscribed and she was recently the keynote speaker at the World Dracula Conference in Transylvania.

Dr. Miller's interest in 19th century British gothic fiction and Dracula in particular is primarily as an academic, starting with Bram Stoker's life and how he came to write Dracula. Then the initial and eventual effect the novel has had on literature and popular culture, such as the Goth culture and the idea of the romantic or sexual vampire. Dr. Miller has written four books on the subject of Dracula, the most recent being Dracula a coffee-table art book which has just been published. And she recently visited The Merril Collection to give a lecture and slideshow on the origins of Dracula.

JF: Could you give us an idea of your interest in Dracula and Vampires?

EM: I blame it on Lord Byron. Around 1990, after about twenty years working in the field of Newfoundland literature, I went back to teaching a course in Romantic writers including Byron (on whom I had written a graduate thesis many years before). I started to focus on his "gothic" side, including his influence on Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and John Polidori's short story The Vampyre. Polidori was Byron's personal physician, and his story marked the first appearance of the vampire in British fiction.

It started in 1816 on the shores of Lake Geneva where Byron and Poiidori were residing at the Villa Diodati .

They were visited by Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin (who would soon become Mary Shelley) and Mary's step-sister. One evening after a collective reading of ghost stories, Byron suggested that each member of the party write a story of their own. Two tales were inspired by his challenge.

Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, while Byron wrote a fragment of a story that he soon discarded; Polidori picked it up later and used it as the basis for The Vampyre. So the two famous monsters have a common literary origin. I traced the vampire figure through 19th century literature and ended up with Dracula (1897). I was hooked. What I thought would be a passing interest (resulting in maybe an article or two) has become a full-time occupation.

JF: As Canada's leading vampire scholar could you give us your views on the burgeoning scholarship in this area?

EM: Thirty years ago hardly anyone considered Dracula a novel worthy of scholarly analysis. But that has changed. What happened? First of all, postmodernism has brought with it a challenge to the concept of a traditional literary canon and a reluctance to privilege one literary text over another. This has had significant implications for the whole field of Gothic literature (as well as science fiction and other previously neglected genres).

Secondly, Dracula appeals to scholars in many disciplines, not just literary studies. The spectrum includes folklore, history, film studies, cultural studies, religious studies, anthropology and medicine. Serious analysis of Dracula began in the 1970's with two significant books: In Search of Dracula ( Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu ) and A Dream of Dracula (Leonard Wolf ). The former brought Vlad the Impaler to the world's attention. Though I have challenged much of their findings in my own work, their book was instrumental in jump-starting the "Dracula" industry. The book by Wolf indicated the potential for psychological readings of Stoker's novel.

JF: Aside from your own books on the subject of Dracula, are there any other works you've found to be particularly innovative or interesting?

EM: One I would single out is Dracula Unearthed by Clive Leatherdale. It's actually an edition of the novel, but with 3500 annotations to the text. That's a singular accomplishment and one which as a scholar, I fully appreciate. Another significant work is Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopgdia of the Undead (the revised 1999 edition, which runs over 800 pages). There are several anthologies of scholarly essays out there, all of which are useful. I would single out Bram Stoker's Dracula: Sucking through the Century, edited by Carol Davison. Perhaps the best single-authored interpretive study is Carol Senf's Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism. Also helpful to scholars are Margaret Carter's Dracula:The Vampire and the Critics, Bram Stoker: History, Psychoanalysis and the Gothic by William Hughes and Andrew Smith and my own Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow.

JF: As someone who's quite familiar with Transylvania, could you tell us what effect Dracula's had on that region over the years, and how its people feel on the subject. ?

EM: First, we should note that Transylvania is part of the country of Romania (though when Stoker wrote the novel, it was separate). For Dracula aficionados, Transylvania is "vampire central" and a leading travel destination. This has produced a mixed response in Romania. On the one hand, many are offended that tourists are visiting Romania in search of vampires. Furthermore, there is some annoyance that Bram Stoker appropriated the name of one of their national heroes (Viad the lmpaler, also nicknamed "Dracula") for his vampire, and that in many Western minds the two have become one. They fear that a Dracula-centred tourist initiative threatens denigrates their true history and culture. There are indeed signs of this. For example, at Bran Castle (falsely touted by many as Dracula's Castle) one can buy quite a bit of kitsch, including a likeness of Vlad sporting a pair of vampire fangs. On the other hand, tourism has economic potential vital to a cash-strapped economy such as theirs. Dracula, if used appropriately, can be a valuable drawing-card.

JF How did Bram Stoker come to create Dracula?

EM: We do not know what exactly inspired Stoker to write his vampire novel. Maybe he was familiar with some of the vampire fiction that was popular throughout the 19th century. He did, however, leave a record of at least some of his source material in the form of a set of notes for the novel. We know where he found the name Dracula, we know where he got his information about Transylvania, we know where at least some of his knowledge of vampire legends came from. What we do not know is the extent to which people and events in his own life may have shaped the novel. There is much speculation, but that it all it is.

JF: What effect did the publication of Dracula have on Bram Stoker's life?

EM: Dracula did not dramatically change Stokers life. While the novel sold at a steady pace, it was certainly not a best seller. Stoker was far better known during his lifetime as the manager of Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre (in London) than as an author. It was not until after his death that the novel started to gain in popularity: during the 1920s when it was staged on Broadway and in 1931 when it was adapted as a block-buster movie by Universal Studios.

JF: There were some excellent stories about vampires published before Dracula but none captivated the public's imagination or became as famous as Stoker's creation. Why is this so?

EM: One wonders what would have happened to the vampire in literature if Stoker had not written Dracula. Maybe Polidori's Lord Ruthven would have been the late-night horror movie icon! But somehow I doubt it. In my view, Stokers novel was a catalyst, drawing together elements from folklore and fiction to create a powerful composite. Whether he realized what he was doing or not (I doubt that he did), Stoker succeeded in tapping into deep-seated fears and anxieties shared by the entire human race. That is why the book has been so successful; that is why film-makers, novelists, artists and others keep coming back to it. It is irresistible.

JF: Stoker wrote other stories of the occult and dark fantasy, what are some of your favorites.

EM: Stoker's best known novel, next to Dracula, is probably The Lair of the White Worm. But in my opinion, there is no comparison. While he did write several other novels and a few very good short stories (Dracula's Guest, The Judge's House, for example), he was in my view a one-novel author.

JF: Could you tell us some of the misconceptions about Bram Stoker and Dracula.

EM: There are so many I could write a book! In fact, I have written a book - Dracula: Sense and Nonsense - which deals exclusively with this issue. One of the negative side-effects of the proliferation of material on Dracula (books, articles, and TV documentaries) is the dissemination of an alarming amount of misinformation. We have downright errors, sloppy research (or sometimes none at all), and plenty of speculation stated as fact. It is everywhere: scholarly books, popular magazines, documentaries on the History Channel, encyclopedias, and (worst of all) the Internet. People tend to accept what they read or see without question. So I have set out to track down every significant misconception and provide its corrective.

The most widespread is that Stoker "based" the character of Count Dracula on Vlad the Impaler. You find that everywhere. But it is not so. We know from his Notes that he borrowed Vlad's nickname "Dracula" and 3-4 minor bits of informaition from a source. But there is no evidence that he knew anything about Vlad's infamous atrocities, or even that his name was Vlad!

Here are several others, not one of which can be supported with evidence: that Elizabeth Bathory ("the Blood Countess") was one of Stokers inspirations; that at the end of Dracula, a stake is driven through the Count's heart; that the original "model" for Castle Dracula has been identified; that Bram Stoker died of syphilis; that Stoker was in love with his employer, Henry Irving; that Stoker visited Transylvania to research vampire legends; that vampire bats can be found in Transylvania; that Dracula (in the novel) can be destroyed by sunlight; that Stoker was a member of an occult society. Still others include, that Dracula originated with a nightmare after Stoker ate too much dressed crab, that Dracula brought him instant fame, and that "nosferatu" is a Romanian name for vampire. On and on, ad nauseam!

JF: What do you think of today's Goth culture and their embracing of the Dracula or Vampire mythos.

EM: I must admit that I am no expert on the Goth movement. I do know, however, that not all Goths are fans of vampires and Dracula. The movement, from what I understand, is grounded more in music and style of dress than in role-playing. I see it as a counter-cultural expression that had its genesis in the anti-establishment movements of the 1960s.

JF: Film is a vastly different medium than the printed word but what Films about Dracula or vampires come closest to capturing Stoker's creation. And what are your favorite non-Dracula vampire movies.

EM: Several movies claim to be adaptations of Stoker’s novel. Of these, the one that comes closest to the original (in characters and plot) is Count Dracula, a BBC-TV movie made in 1978 starring Louis Jourdan as the Count. The popular Bram Stoker's Dracula (Coppola's 1992 adaptation) visually very satisfying, but takes major liberties with the novel (such as introducing a love affair between Dracula and Mina that would send Stoker spinning in his grave). For a movie that captures the atmosphere and spirit of Stoker’s book, try Nosferatu (1922).

There are hundreds of non-Dracula vampire films. My favorites are Fright Night, The Lost Boys and Dance of the Damned.

JF: What do you think of the romantic/sexual aspects often associated with Dracula or vampires in general

EM: The Dracula of Stoker’s novel is not a romantic figure, though some pre-Dracula vampires from 19th-century literature certainly were. The romanticizing of Count Dracula is a 20th-century phenomenon. It is partly Hollywood, but it goes beyond that. The novel has been subjected to numerous Freudian psychosexual readings which hold up quite well (whether Stoker intended them or not). Vampirism in the novel can be seen as a coded eroticism. Today, the vampire is more likely to be a seductive lover than a supernatural monster.

Jamie Fraser Vice Chair

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Nothing But 'Net
Websites Of Interest

In "War Of The Coprophages," an early episode of The X-Files in 1996, Scully (Gillian Anderson) is sitting at home reading a book when she receives a phone call from her partner Mulder (David Duchovny). Mulder has seemingly stumbled into an infestation of killer cockroaches and has called to ask for her expert scientific opinion. At the time, Scully is reading a copy of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. It just happens that Breakfast at Tiffany's was the subject matter of the Final Jeopardy question that David Duchovny got wrong when he lost to Stephen King during Celebrity Jeopardy! This is one of my favourite X-Files in-jokes: the series is full of them. One of the many pleasures of watching the show is discovering hidden gems like this. In fact, there are so many in-jokes that there's an entire site devoted to cataloging them, located at userweb.nashville.com/~subterfuge/xfiljoke.html. Along with a detailed list of such witticisms - organized by both season and episode - the site also keeps track of such useless trivia as the number of times Scully says "Mulder, it's me" (13 occurrences in Season 2 alone) or the number of times Mulder drops his gun. (How'd this guy make it through the FBI Academy, anyway?) All in all, it's an enjoyably light-hearted look at a show that, to its credit, doesn't take itself too seriously.

If Mulder's computer has a screensaver, he probably got it from the SETI@home website, located at setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, from the University of California at Berkeley, conducts a search by analyzing data obtained by the radio telescope located at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. They're looking for artificial, non-random radio signals: an indicator of transmissions from technologically advanced civilizations. The "@home" part of the name refers to the way in which the analysis is done. Once you install the free SETI@home software on your PC or Mac, it will download radio telescope data, through the Internet, from the project's website. The data is processed whenever your computer is idle - the program is set up to run as a screensaver. Once the analysis is complete, the results are uploaded, the next set of data is downloaded, and the process continues. If any of the results look promising, further analysis is carried out. If and when an alien transmission is actually detected, the user that processed the signal first will be credited with the discovery. To date, no extraterrestrial broadcasts have been found, but the project has accumulated some staggering statistics. In a little over two years since the project began in December 1998, well over 2.5 million users processed over 27 million sets of data, racking up over half a million years of CPU time. (Not a misprint!) If looking for ET is not your thing, the site also has links to a number of other distributed computing projects, such as cracking encryption schemes, or the search for large prime numbers. When you think about it, SETI@home presents a unique opportunity. How else can you get your name in the history books for doing nothing more than installing a screensaver on your computer?

If you want to know who won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1983, or the Hugo Award for best short story in 1993, there are any number of places where you can go to look it up. But if you're wondering who has received the most nominations without winning a Hugo, or who has won a Nebula more often than anyone else, then you're going to have to do quite a bit of research to come up with the answers. Or, you could just look at The LOCUS Index to Science Fiction Awards at www.locusmag.com/SFAwards. While this elegant site is easy to navigate, it is a work in progress (and little progress has been made since the summer of 2000), but there's still enough information here to settle most arguments. In addition to the Hugo and Nebula, the site also catalogs all nominees and winners of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Locus, Campbell Memorial, Clarke and Tiptree awards, with many more to come. Awards and nominees are listed by year and by category. Along with the expected lists of names and dates, the site also has a set of tallies for each award. This is where we learn that Harlan Ellison has won 8 Hugos for his fiction, followed closely by Poul Anderson and Connie Willis, with 7 each. Willis also has 6 Nebulas on her mantelpiece, compared with 3 each for Ellison and Anderson. Among Hugo losers, the most "prolific" is editor David Hartwell, who has been nominated 22 times without winning a single award. Then there is Michael Bishop, with 9 nominations and no wins. But the late Avram Davidson has to be the most prolific Nebula loser with 10 nominations. Then again a special consolation prize should be awarded to Robert Silverberg; the recipient of a total of 50 nominations for the two awards, his nine wins mean that he's walked away emptyhanded a record 41 times.

No one ever accused Patrick O'Brian of being a science fiction writer, but the simple fact was that much of his success as a historical novelist was due to his ability to convincingly portray a setting that was as alien to most people as anything in sf or fantasy. In the case of O'Brian's 20 volume Aubrey-Maturin series, the setting was the British navy in the early nineteen century when England was at war with France. O'Brian s attention to detail was impeccable. He completely immersed his readers in a world of topgailant mainmasts and spotted dogs, blue peters and yellow admirals, without ever letting the exposition get in the way of the story. There's not a great deal about O'Brian on the web, perhaps because his fans are too busy reading (and re-reading) the books to spend much time talking about them. W.W. Norton, his U.S. publisher, has a somewhat austere site at www.wwnorton.com/pob/pobhome.htm, where you can order copies of the books. It also hosts an active discussion forum, but participation is best left to those intimately familiar with O'Brian's works. A better starting point is Gibbon Burke's Patrick O'Brian Web Resources page at www.io.com/gibbonsb/pob/. This is primarily a set of links, including a number to media reports about O'Brian's death (in early 2000), along with others to sites devoted to the novels, and to the historical period that forms their background. None of the sites is any substitution for the books themselves. I'd suggest starting with his first: Master And Commander and prepare to lose yourself in a world that is all the more fantastic because it was real.

Last, but far from least, is the brand new Friends of the Merril Collection website, located at www.friendsofmerril.org. Right now, this is still very much a work in progress. Ultimately, it will become a source of information for current and perspective members of the Friends, with news on recent and upcoming events, back issues of SOL Rising, links, membership information, and whatever else we have the time and inclination to post. The site exists primarily due to the efforts of Claudiu Murgan, who deserves a round of applause for his efforts in making it happen. Please give it a visit, and feel free to let us know what you think.

Jim Pattison, Member at Large

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2000 Friends of the Merril Collection