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Philosophy to Fantasy: Bellingham Philosophy Professor Turns Sci-fi Writer
Interview by Michelle Nolan
Reprinted courtesy of the BELLINGHAM HERALD, Bellingham, WA, 24 October, 2008 edition.
Bellingham fantasy novelist Richard Purtill's eyes lit up when he was handed what amounted to a pulp paper "time machine." When a visitor showed him a 1943 copy of Startling Stories, he was 12 years old again for a few moments. "That's it, the very first science fiction story I ever read," he said with a grin. "'Pirates of the Time Trail.'"
Q: Tell me about your writing career.
A: I started by writing textbooks, with my first appearing in 1971. My first novel, The Golden Gryphon Feather, was published in 1979 as a paperback original in the long-running DAW science-fiction series. I've also written three books about Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I think I've done 10 textbooks and nine novels, making it 22 books in all. I've also published a few short stories.
Q: Is it true that you don't type?
A: I just never learned to type in high school. If I had known I would become an author, I would have taken typing. I've always been able to get help from people who can read my handwriting. I still write my novels that way -- by hand.
Q: Why are your stories so influenced by Greek culture?
A: I've made 28 trips to Greece. I've just been fascinated by all things Greek. In my novels, the Greek gods really exist.
Q: In your novel Murdercon (1982), about murder at a science-fiction convention, the protagonist is a female version of yourself, right?
A: I've always been able to write from both the male and female points of view in my novels. My stories are about one-half archaeology and one-half fantasy.
Q: Since science-fiction was a relatively unrespected branch of fiction when you started reading it, how did you get involved?
A: My dad brought home that issue of Startling Stories because he thought I would like it. I couldn't afford the 15-cent or 25-cent prices, so from that point on I haunted the used-book stores in Chicago for science fiction magazines. I could get them for a nickel apiece.
Q: How did you get into teaching philosophy?
A: I'm interested in logic, ethics and metaphysics, really pretty much all aspects of philosophy. I would always be willing to teach courses that no one else wanted to.
Q: Where were you educated?
A: I obtained my bachelor's, master's and doctorate from the University of Chicago. I also spent a lot of time studying at UCLA. It was while I was there that I saw an ad for professors placed by James Jarret, who was then president of WWU. I came to Bellingham to teach in 1962, and I had never seen the town. But I've loved it ever since.
copyright 2008, Michelle Nolan, reprinted by permission.
adventure awaits you in kaphtu
the kaphtu trilogy and the lost tales
new to kaphtu? you can start with any book.
"With a scholar's grasp of the period and its mythology, and an unerring eye for character,
Richard Purtill brings a gripping reality. As real as today's news--and vastly more enjoyable."
-F.M. Busby, author, The Demu Trilogy
the golden gryphon feather
Chryseis' adventures take her to the legendary isle of Kaphtu, where she enters an ancient world of Bull Leapers, gods and half-gods.
"A magical patching together of fact and myth and sorceries, until what comes clear is not of stone and timbers, but the soul of the place...It's a book I wish I had written. It has magic; there are gods and mortals, and the kind of golden haze about it all which belongs to that age." -C.J. Cherryh
the stolen goddess
Ducalion finds the road to Hades is paved with bad intentions when he must venture to the deathlands in search of a kidnapped goddess.
"Purtill's tales of ancient Crete bring myth to life with exciting action, colorful detail, and magic. Don't miss
the Bull Leapers!"
-Sara Stamey, author, Islands.
the mirror of helen
The story of Helen of Troy is one of the greatest classics of all time....Here is Helen as a child, kidnapped and held hostage. Here is Helen as a woman, captive in an alien city, while the civilized world sought for her, fought for her. Told as by one who had seen the events, who knew her, who knew the gods who pulled the world's strings, this is a novel that brings it all back in the vivid reflections of the mirror of divine judgement. -Donald A. Wolheim, founder, DAW Books.
"Good writing, good story, good mythology."The Green Man Review
the eleusinian gate
Two women: one an Olympian goddess, one a mortal human being. Two quests. When their quests become one, they must work together to avert a titanic war. On the eve of battle, all roads lead to a mysterious nexus of worlds, the Eleusinian Gate.
"These pages bring our gods and mythological creatures back to us."
letter to nausicaa
After the Trojan War came the perilous voyage home. Letter to Nausicaa takes up where the Kaphtu trilogy left off, as Odysseus begins his journey back to Ithaca in an adventure fraught with danger.
"Richard Purtill is both a clear and commonsensical philosopher and an accomplished fantasy writer."
-Peter Kreeft, author The Philosophy of Tolkien.
Other Fiction Books
"Purtill constructs a vivid fantasy around his extensive knowledge of, and fascination with, the ancient Greeks. Alice Grant is an independent college freshman doing research at the ruins of Delphi. Drawn repeatedly into the past by the gods Dionysus, Apollo and Athena, she eagerly helps them fight the forces of the dark. Alice's freedom, her adventures in the country whose customs we come to know something about, and her romance with the young Greek Nikos give the story plenty of fascinating action. The gods, too, and the various scenes in which they appear with her are convincingly drawn." -Publishers' Weekly.
"A tightly woven story, combining elements of classical mythology with classic contemporary fantasy and time travel fiction, plus a healthy dose of romance." -Susan Harding, Mesquite North Branch Library, Tex.Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Purtill penned three fantasy novels drawn from his annual trips to Greece for philosophy conventions and his love of and interest in Greek mythology. In this mystery, he again reworked his experiences into novelistic form: in this case a murder takes place at a fantasy convention. Reviewers of this book (which only appeared in hardback) almost always seized on the con atmosphere which, as anyone who has attended one knows, begs for fictional treatment, but the strength of the book lies in Purtill's philosopher heroine, Athena Pierce, and readers of Murdercon have long clamored for a sequel." -Amazon review.
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