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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A big shot with his name in a book

I asked my friends to get me a copy of Jess Nevins' new book A Blazing World: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume Two for Christmas.

A little background, especially for those of you who have only heard of the League as a so-so movie from 2003. Before it was a movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (or LOEG, as I will refer to it henceforth) was originally a comic book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill involving various characters from 19th-century literature thrown together in the service of the British crown. Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Griffin (the Invisible Man) are coerced by the portly Campion Bond, acting on behalf of the mysterious "M", into searching for a stolen batch of Cavorite, the anti-gravity substance from H.G. Wells' The First Men In The Moon. They find it in the clutches of a sinister Chinaman (who is never quite identified, for legal reasons, as Dr. Fu Manchu), who plans to use it to power an airship that he will use to destroy London. Snatching the precious Cavorite from him, they are later horrified to learn that "M" has his own nefarious plans for it, and is in fact none other than...

Well, as I was saying, this is a comic book, but a comic book packed to bursting with literary references both obvious and obscure. It's the sort of thing you would more thoroughly enjoy if you had a guide of some sort to point out the bits you would never get on your own. And research librarian Jess Nevins has set out to be this guide, taking it upon himself to decipher all of the allusions and references and to lay them bare for those of us who don't do literary research for a living.

His annotations for the first volume of the LOEG were already being compiled into book form, Heroes & Monsters, by the time I was introduced to the Moore and O'Neill book. But not long afterwards a second volume of the adventures of the League was published. This time around, our intrepid heroes find themselves facing off against invaders from Mars, who arrive in cylinders but soon begin tearing about the countryside in mechanical tripods, firing heat rays and spreading black death clouds wherever they go.

This time Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill had recognized Jess Nevins as a worthy adversary, and decided to try to stump him with extremely obscure references. Jess doesn't create the annotations entirely on his own; he credits "divers hands" with assistance. I made some small contribution by noting that the hardcover compilation of Volume Two included a dedication (in Martian) which, when viewed in a mirror (as Jess's site had indicated was the proper way to decode Martian text), could be seen to contain a message for Jess Nevins.

Martian dedication mirror image Posted by Hello

Unfortunately, I couldn't translate much else, except for "Gullivar" in the top line, possibly "observe" or "obscure" in the third line, and maybe "officer" in the fourth and sixth lines. (This turns out to be "Lofficier", as explained in Jess Nevins' book.) When I reported this to Jess, I did express some concern that this was perhaps not a dedication but rather some sort of threat ("Listen, boyo, quit telling everybody the answers, or Alan and I will come around your house late at night and...")

How cool to get your name in somebody else's book, I thought. Imagine my surprise a few days after Christmas when I began looking over A Blazing World and saw my own name in the Acknowledgements, right on page 8! Along with about 350 other names, of course. But there, right alongside mine, was the name of the most famous reference librarian in the world! (If the words "famous reference librarian" don't seem to go together, see if you can give the question to this answer: "Most reference librarians earn a living by knowing how to answer questions, but he found fame and fortune by knowing the questions to the answers.") I'm assuming this is the same (person of this name) that we all grew to sort-of know on (name of place we know this person from.) After all, who is in a better position to help a reference librarian than another reference librarian?

So now I, too, am a big shot with his name in a book! Go and buy a copy of A Blazing World and see for yourself!


rimalicious said...

Awesome! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

why didnt you post a jpeg of that?
did you have to buy a book with your name in it? that's like those poems they publish if you send them 100$ for the book.
did you know there's a plot to that show Alias? i thought it was just that hot broad in different hot costumes...