Tag Archives: Gordon R Dickson

Book Review: The Dragon and the George

Book Name: The Dragon and the George
Author: Gordon R. Dickson
First Published: 1976
Winner of the British Fantasy Award

Gordon R. Dickson was born in Edmonton, Alberta. After the death of his father, he immigrated to the United States to live with his mother in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Later he served in the US Army and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota. Dickson has said of his work, “All my books are laboratory pieces. I’m trying something new in each one. They all have the same roots as the morality tale, but what I’m really tying into is something deeper. It’s this human urge to reach out for something better and bigger that is driving us all the time as a race.”

A regular on the science fiction convention circuit, he was known for chatting for hours with his fans or playing his guitar to entertain. Although he suffered from asthma all his life, an illness that eventually killed him, Dickson published two to three novels a year for five decades for a total of over 80 novels and 100 short stories.

Dickson is most famous for his Childe Cycle series and the Dragon Knight series, although the Hoka series he penned with Poul Anderson is certainly a well known favorite. Joel Rosenberg said of him, “He’s just one of those people who have had an impact on everybody in the field. He got his start in ’50s and has been a major force ever since.” Dickson was a past president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and had won three Hugo awards and one Nebula award before his passing at age 77 in the year 2001.

The Dragon and the George begins with 20th century academic Jim Eckert traveling to an alternate world via astral projection where magic is real, people live in feudal style and dragons not only can talk, but refer to humans as “georges” after the famous St. George the dragonslayer. Something goes awry and Jim finds himself trapped in the body of a young dragon named Gorbash. Not only does Jim have to deal with living life as a dragon, but he is also on a quest to rescue his fiancee Angie who is being held hostage by the Dark Powers of the world.

Jim is mentored by the wizard Silvanus Carolinus in magic and is aided on his quest by humans such as Dafydd Ap Hywel the welsh longbowman, Sir Brian Neville-Smythe a Knight Errant and the dire wolf Aragh who can speak and is quite abrasive. Several dragons come to his aid in the final battle, believing he is their friend Gorbash, such as the mere-dragon Secoh and Gorbash’s grand-uncle Smrgol.

In the end, Sir James Eckert has to make a final decision. Does he remain in this alternate world of magic or return to our world and live the life of an underpaid junior academic?

The Dragon and the George was one of those novels that has simply stuck with me down through the years. I first read it back as a kid when it was newly published in 1976. I fell in love with the story and it became one of my favorite books. It was the first novel I had read of Gordon R. Dickson’s, but it certainly was not the last. I did not read many of the follow ups because during the 1990s when they were written, I was busy in college and didn’t realize that they had been published, but they are all on my must read list. What I like about Dickson’s work is the humorous characters and situations he puts into his novels, but also the underlying since of personal responsibility that all his protagonists seem to have. Some may consider his work “dated”, but the wry humor and comic situations still stand the test of time. His work is a great example of classic science fiction romance.

    You can find The Dragon and the George online at most major booksellers.

    The Dragon and the George was made into an animated movie called “Flight of Dragons” (1982).

The Dragon and the George Book CoverThe Dragon and the George (1976, Nelson Doubleday) British Fantasy Award
The Dragon Knight (1990, Tor Books)
The Dragon on the Border (1992, Berkley Pub Group)
The Dragon at War (1992, Ace Hardcover)
The Dragon, the Earl, and the Troll (1994, Ace Books)
The Dragon and the Djinn (1995, Ace Hardcover)
The Dragon and the Gnarly King (1997, Tor Books)
The Dragon in Lyonesse (1998, Tor Books)
The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent (2000, Tor Books)

Book Review: Earthman’s Burden

Book Name: Earthman’s Burden
Author: Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson
First Published: 1957

Poul Anderson is known for his larger than life adventure stories of political satire and in the direct and inextricable connection between human liberty and expansion into space. A great supporter of the space program, Anderson’s science fiction stories took great care in using provable science in its objects and settings, the only exception being the use of the theory of faster than light travel. Gaining his baccalaureate degree with honors in physics, Anderson made no real attempt to work in that field. Instead, he published his first story while still an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, and then began his career as a free-lance writer after his college graduation in 1948. In 1953, Anderson married Karen Kruse and left Minnosota with her to live in the San Francisco Bay area. Their daughter, Astrid, was born soon after the move. They made their home in Orinda, California, near Berkeley. After Poul’s death, his wife donated his typewriter and desk to the local bookstore in Berkley, where the author had given readings over the years.

Gordon R. Dickson was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1923. After the death of his father, he moved with his mother to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He served in the United States Army, from 1943 to 1946, and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, in 1948. From 1948 through 1950 he attended the University of Minnesota for graduate work. It is at the University where he met his fellow anthology collaborator, Poul Anderson.

At the start of Earthman’s Burden, Ensign Alexander Braithwaite Jones crash lands on a planet 500 light years from earth. He is rescued by a cuddly race of aliens that resemble over-sized teddybears. The Hokas have the ability to absorb any trace of Earth culture they encounter and reproduce it with devastatingly unpredictable and hilarious results. You’ll see the wild wild west, an Italian style opera featuring a teddybear Don Giovanni, an atmospheric Victorian England featuring a Hoka Sherlock Holmes, a science fiction space patrol featuring a Scottish accented Hoka space engineer, pirates and French legionnaires.

Underscoring the fun, is a witty satire about the burden to raise up these “primitive” aliens so that they can join the space federation as full citizens. Jones, the appointed ambassador plenipotentiary to Toka, begins to understand the complexity of his aliens charges and that they are not the silly innocents that they appear on the surface. It is a direct commentary on the concept that the English poet Rudyard Kipling wrote about in his poem The White Man’s Burden that he wrote for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and defined the English idea of imperialism that was commonplace during the 19th century.

I first encountered this novel in my early twenties when I was looking for a light summer read at the bookstore. With teddybear aliens on the cover, I did not expect anything of substance. Inside the book I discovered a world with more depth than I expected and a satire that made me think about I viewed the world and my place in it. Over the years, the novel tends to come up in conversation, especially among vintage science fiction buffs such as myself. It is a novel well worth reading and adding to your collection. It will delight you with humor and leave you feeling uplifted. My favorite story is the first one about the sheriff of canyon gulch.

Stories included in the anthology:

    “The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch”
    “Don Jones”
    “In Hoka Signo Vinces”
    “The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound”
    “Yo Ho Hoka!”
    “The Tiddlywink Warriors”

Earthman's Burden Book CoverEarthman’s Burden is not available as an ebook, but you can still find copies for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at your local used book stores.