New Fantasy Books at the UGL

The fantasy genre has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years with the success of the Game of Thrones television show based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. There is an abundance of good fantasy literature, both old and new. This encompasses the familiar swords and sorcery setting, Lovecraftian weird fiction, fantasy horror, and other works that subvert genre expectations. The UGL recently added a number of fantasy works to its collection. Let’s take a brief look at some of the more notable additions.

Dreamsongs: Volumes I and II by George R.R. Martin


GRRM now looms large over the fantasy genre, accompanied by fellow master J.R.R. Tolkien. If you’ve been eagerly waiting for Martin to finish The Winds of Winter, his next release in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, you can bide your time by checking out this two-volume collection of some of his shorter work. These volumes include Hugo and Nebula award-winning short stories, as well as Martin’s novella “The Hedge Knight,” which acts as a prequel to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Image courtesy of Rmdolhen at Wikimedia Commons

The Works of Michael Moorcock


Although he’s not as well-known as Tolkien and GRRM, British author Michael Moorcock is one of the most critically acclaimed authors working in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. Moorcock has been publishing since the 1960s, producing a body of work that can be daunting to the uninitiated. Thankfully, the AV Club has written a helpful primer to the works of Moorcock. The author is perhaps best known for his character Elric of Melnibone, an albino prince with a magical sword called Stormbringer. Elric’s adventures have been re-released in a multi-volume collection, which starts with Elric: The Stealer of Souls.

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton


The winner of the 2004 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, Tooth and Claw takes the familiar Victorian romance novel (think Anthony Trollope) and gives it a major twist. Rather than focusing on cultured, upper-class humans, Walton instead chooses to populate her plot with firebreathing dragons. The intricate plot of Victorian novels is left intact, making this a must read for fans of Dickensian literature who are craving something a little more fantastical or for people who loved Watership Down.

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer


Jeff Vandermeer, noted author of the New Weird genre and resident of Tallahassee, Florida, captures the Sunshine State’s dark side in this mysterious trilogy of novels. All published in 2014, these award-winning novels (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) revolve around an abandoned ecological disaster zone called Area X which is controlled by a government agency called The Southern Reach. Highly recommended for fans of Weird Fiction, environmental literature, and thrilling mysteries.

Books of Blood by Clive Barker


If you prefer your fantasy with a heavy helping of horror, look no further than the collections of short stories in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Barker is perhaps most well-known in popular culture for writing the works that the Hellraiser and Candyman film series are based on. Barker’s work definitely leans heavily towards horror, but contains fantasy elements as well. Recommended for fans of horror film, Stephen King, and those who like to terrify themselves in short doses.


These are just some of the fantasy works the UGL has recently added to the collection. Take a look around our bookstacks on the lower level, particularly in the P shelves, for other fantastical literature.

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Summer Music Festivals


The Rolling Stones at the 1976 Knebworth Festival. Photo by Richard Humphrey.

The music festival season is once again in full swing! Every summer brings seemingly more and more options for concert fans to choose from. Festivals can be a great way to experience a wide variety of musical acts from the superstar headliners to lesser-known local groups. Many music festivals have been expanding their offerings to include literature readings, art displays, and massive record and merchandise tents. Recent years have also seen festivals focus further on partnering with innovative local food and beverage companies. The UGL is here to highlight some of the festivals that will be going down in Illinois as well as a couple in locales a little further away.


Sleater-Kinney. Photo by SLEATER92.

Pitchfork, arguably the most prominent music website in recent years, puts on an excellent festival in Chicago in Union Park. This year’s festival takes place from July 17-19, and will feature Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, and hometown hero Chance the Rapper as headliners. Other performers of interest include Future Islands, Run the Jewels, Courtney Barnett, and Vince Staples, among many others. I’ve been to the Pitchfork Music Festival a couple times, and it’s always a good time. Pitchfork does a good job splitting the difference between the super huge festivals (Coachella, Bonnaroo, etc.) and the smaller more niche festivals, while still offering a varied lineup.


Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Photo by Moses.

If you’re looking to travel a little further afield for a festival experience, you should consider checking out the inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Founded by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and The National’s Aaron Dessner, this festival seeks to “encourage music-genre-walls to melt away.” The lineup includes Bon Iver, The National, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, and Low. It also includes some artists that don’t fall under the indie rock umbrella, such as hip-hop collective Doomtree, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Sturgill Simpson (for my money the best contemporary Country artist), and Japanese noise rock all-stars Melt Banana. First-year music festivals can sometimes be dicey propositions, but this one should be well worth visiting, especially if you are a fan of Bon Iver or The National.


Frank Ocean performing at Lollapalooza in 2012. Photo by Shane Hirschman

One of the monsters of the summer music festival circuit, Lollapalooza is taking place in Chicago’s Grant Park from July 31st to August 2nd this year. Lollapalooza always draws massive headliners, and this year is no exception with Paul McCartney, Metallica, and Florence + the Machine taking the top three slots on the bill. Lolla features a ton of acts, but here’s a brief sample of some of the non-headliners: Sam Smith, Tame Impala, A$AP Rocky, Bassnectar, and TV on the Radio. On the culinary side of things, the festival’s Chow Town food section is curated by Graham Elliot of MasterChef fame. If you can swing the high ticket prices and large crowds, Lollapalooza is a treasure trove of musical entertainment.


Photo by Suzette.

If you’re looking for something a little more local, I’d recommend checking out the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival. Set in downtown Urbana, this year’s festival takes place on August 28th and 29th. British post-punk/new wave rockers The Psychedelic Furs will be headlining the festival this year. Eddie Money and Kansas were the last two headliners to give you an idea of the festival’s target demographic. Although the musical acts skew a little older than some of the other aforementioned festivals, it’s still a great time, particularly if you’re interested in eating delicious locally grown sweet corn.


Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards

Although the Pygmalion Festival technically starts on the first day of Fall, I can’t avoid mentioning the biggest Champaign-Urbana festival. This year’s fest takes place from September 23rd to the 27th, and features musical acts Ride, Purity Ring, Tune-Yards, and Strand of Oaks among others. The festival takes place at various venues around Champaign-Urbana, and includes a number of tech speakers and literature readings, including Stephen Wolfram, Will Leitch, and Brandon Stosuy. One cool thing about this festival is you can buy individual tickets for shows or speakers if you don’t have the time or money to get the full festival pass. Pygmalion is going to be announcing more musical acts and speakers in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for announcements.

Are there any summer music festivals in the area that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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ACM GameBuilders Event at UGL

The University of Illinois has a wide range of organizations and clubs that allow students to nurture their talents and explore their interests. One of these groups, Gamebuilders from the University of Illinois chapter of the Association of Computer Machinery, will be showcasing their work Tuesday November 11th, from 7 to 9 PM in the UGL. The event will take place in the gaming area of the Media Commons. Students from ACM Gamebuilders will be on hand at the event to demonstrate over 25 games that they have created. It should be an informative and a fun look into the art and craftsmanship that went into producing these games. If you’re not able to make it to the event, you can still check out the groups work, as the UGL will have a computer running the games until the end of the semester.

GameBuilders focuses on creating and developing computer video games. This involves a wide range of activities and processes, including programming, visual asset creation, sound and music authoring, as well as game design. The group also provides education on game development and mentoring for interested students who are new to game development. If you’re interested, GameBuilders meets every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8 in Room 3403 of the Siebel Center.


The following are some of the games that students from GameBuilders have created.



Flagfight is a capture the flag game created by Luke Puchner-Hardman and Ryan Norby for the 2013 Global Student Game Developer Competition.




A turn-based tower defense game created by Luke Puchner-Hardman for the Fall 2013 Gamebuild-a-Thon.




This game is a 3D block-based puzzle game that features a number of abilities used to solve puzzles (ex: breaking blocks, throwing fireballs). Created by Jack LaSota.




Mineralz is a 3D tower defense game where you control a robotic dragon that is tasked with defending a crater against a horde of robotic enemies. Created by Ryan Norby, Luke Puchner-Hardman, Eric Christianson, Danny Sapato, and Rafael Rego Drumond.


If reading about these student-created games whetted your appetite for gaming, you’re in luck! The UGL has a large collection of modern videogames (including Xbox One and Playstation 4 titles), which can be either used in the UGL at the gaming center or checked out to play at home.The UGL also has a vintage gaming collection that is being preserved for classroom instruction and research use. We’re always adding new titles to our collection, so be sure to keep an eye out for new releases and old favorites.

What are your favorite independently developed games? Any favorite games of 2014 so far? Let us know in the comments.

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Classic Horror Stories Readers’ Advisory

Halloween season is here! Although there are many things to enjoy about the holiday (dressing up in silly costumes, eating tons of candy, the return of the NBA, etc.),a favorite part of Halloween is the tradition of reading scary stories. You can be scared witless by a story at any time of the year, but around this time feels just right to curl up with a scary book as the leaves are beginning to turn.


Horror fiction has a long, rich history. Many modern horror novels and films are influenced by the classic horror stories of yesteryear. The following reader’s advisory are horror stories and novels whose frights have withstood the test of time.


The Raven: Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

 Arguably the father of the horror short story, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most notable writers in the horror/suspense genre. Poe is perhaps best known for his poem, “The Raven,” but his short stories are where the true scares can be found. This collection includes the titular poem, as well as nail-biters like “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Recommended if you like Gothic literature, detective stories, and mystery.

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

 This 1895 collection of weird, supernatural short stories has experienced something of a renaissance this year. The cause behind this spike in interest is the HBO series “True Detective”, which heavily referenced Chambers’ work in its suspenseful first season (ex: The Yellow King, Carcosa, etc.). American horror master H.P. Lovecraft was also heavily influenced by this collection. Recommended if you like supernatural stories and/or if you’re a “True Detective” fan waiting for Season 2.


“The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

 Published in 1898, this novella is a literary tale of psychology and the supernatural. Given its short length, this is a good choice if you’re looking for an evening of mystery. Like many of the best horror stories, this novella is still inspiring a debate over whether the ghosts in the tale are real or merely imagined. Recommended if you like psychological literature, ghost stories, and New Criticism.

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

 Despite not being widely recognized during his lifetime, H.P. Lovecraft is now one of the most celebrated authors of Horror and Weird Fiction. Although not all of his work falls into the horror genre, Lovecraft’s short stories and novellas have plenty of terrifying and eerie moments. This collection contains all of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories, including his most famous story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” as well as his legendary novella, “At the Mountains of Madness.” Recommended if you like terrifying creatures, complex mythologies, and artist H.R. Giger’s work on the Alien films.


The Shining by Stephen King

 One of Stephen King’s best works, The Shining is a quintessential haunted house (or hotel) story. Although Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation is excellent and quite scary at times, the book is way more terrifying. Set at a luxurious mountain hotel in Colorado, The Shining explores what happens when the Overlook Hotel closes for the winter and aspiring novelist Jack Torrance and his family stay on as caretakers. Recommended if you like supernatural terror, haunted houses, and being scared of bathtubs.


These five works merely scratch the surface of the scares that horror literature has to offer. What are your favorite scary stories or films? Tell us in the comments below. Happy haunting!

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Baseball Playoffs Readers’ Advisory

Football is back, political campaigns are turning in to high gear, leaves are beginning to change color, and the 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs are mere days away. This year’s playoffs are shaping up to be very intriguing with several different exciting plot points. Los Angeles Angels Mickey Mantle-replicate/baseball cyborg Mike Trout will be making the first playoff appearance of his career. After missing the playoffs last season, Bryce Harper and the Nationals will be back in the race to the Fall Classic. Clayton Kershaw will bring his Koufax-esque pitching stats along as the big-spending LA Dodgers make another run at October. Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers will try to atone for their streak of disappointing playoff finishes, and the St. Louis Cardinals will be back as the nearly dynastic team that everyone outside of the Midwest loves to hate.


Although there will be several fresh faces in the playoffs this year, baseball is a game steeped in history. Fans often make sense of new players by comparing them to the stars of the past. Baseball is also (arguably) the major sport that best lends itself to literary works. The following list contains some excellent fiction and non-fiction works in the UGL’s collection that you can read while enjoying the playoffs.


October 1964 by David Halberstam


Halberstam was one of our best chroniclers of American political and cultural history. He was also a damn good sportswriter. This 1994 book covers the 1964 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Halberstam also explores the complex racial issues of America in the mid-60s through the lens of professional baseball.


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

One of the finest sports novels to come out in recent years, The Art of Fielding follows golden gloved college shortstop Henry Skrimshander at the fictional Westish College. Henry approaches the record for most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop, but a tragic accident derails his streak. This nuanced character study is especially recommended for fans of Melville’s Moby Dick.


Underworld by Don DeLillo

Although Don DeLillo’s magnum opus is not entirely about baseball, it opens with a fantastic novella-length section set in the Polo Grounds in 1951 on the day that the New York Giants famously captured the National League pennant on Bobby Thompson’s three run homer (aka The Shot Heard Round the World). In DeLillo’s novel we find out what happened to Thompson’s homerun ball (which in real life remains a mystery). Recommended for fans of baseball history, the Cold War, and postmodern literature.


Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time by Tim Wendel


If you’re not old enough to remember the 1991 series, or if you’d like to refresh your memory, Wendel’s 2014 book covers the utterly bonkers series between the Twins and Braves. To get some context on just how crazy the series was, take a look at the following sentences: 4 games were won on walk-offs. 3 games went into extra innings. Recommended if you like thrillers, Kirby Puckett, and/or John Smoltz.


Wrigley Field: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Chicago Cubs by Ira Berkow

Although Cubs fans have to suffer through another season of not even sniffing the playoff race, they can take solace in this book. An exploration of the storied history of Wrigley Field with accompanying photographs, the book includes interviews of many famous Cubs fans about their Wrigley experiences (including President Obama). Recommended if you like Chicago, architecture, and/or long suffering fanbases.


The UGL has all these baseball books, as well as many others in its collection on the lower level. If you’re looking for non-fiction baseball books check the GV section of our collection.







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Summer Music Festivals: Reader’s Advisory

Summer music festivals have been around for over half a century here in the United States, and they’re currently more popular than ever. Seemingly every city has some form of music festival these days, whether it be a commercial behemoth like Lollapalooza or one like Champaign-Urbana’s more modest, yet still excellent, Pygmalion Festival. If you’d like to learn more about the history of music festivals, get some insights into some of the biggest festival draws playing today, or would just like to enjoy some music festivals on DVD without having to brave the heat and crowds, look no further than this carefully curated list of DVDs and books from the UGL’s popular music collection.

Monterey Pop

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (DVD)

directed by D. A. Pennebaker

One of the first rock festivals in the United States, Monterey Pop took place in 1967 in California. Masterfully shot and recorded, this concert film shows how vibrant rock music, and the accompanying hippie subculture was in its early years. Notable moments include The Who demolishing their instruments, one of Janis Joplin’s first major performances, Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire, and soul legend Otis Redding tearing down the house. If you’re a Dylan fan, you may also be interested in Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker’s documentary of Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK.

Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter (DVD)

directed by David and Albert Maysles

This film covers The Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour of the United States which culminated with a free concert festival at the Altamont Speedway in California. This concert is often considered the moment when the idyllic dream of the 1960’s began to sour (particularly in contrast to the Woodstock Festival which took place four months earlier), with several people dying, including an 18 year-old girl who was stabbed to death. Gimme Shelter depicts a great rock band at the peak of its powers, and the culture that is beginning to fray around it.

Living with The Dead

Living With The Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead (Book)

by Rock Scully with David Dalton

One of the most acclaimed touring bands in rock, The Grateful Dead were notorious for their long, improvisational performances and their insanely devoted fanbase (known as Deadheads) who would follow the band across the country from festival to festival.  The band’s manager, Rock Scully, recalls his wild time on the road with the band in this memoir.

you don't know me

You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes (Book)

by Nathan Rabin

In this book former AV Club writer Nathan Rabin explores two subcultures of modern music fandom; Phish fans and Juggalos. Although Rabin was not a fan of either group before beginning work on this book, he attempts to understand their cult appeal by following the bands on the road. Throughout his journey (during which he is diagnosed as bipolar), Rabin discovers that these critically reviled bands provide the deep-rooted human need for community. An excerpt of the book is available from NPR.

Mo' Meta Blues

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (Book)

by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

Although it’s too late to catch The Roots Picnic in Philadelphia this year (there’s always next year!), you can still get a feel for the eclectic brilliance of hip-hop drummer Questlove in this memoir of his career and musical passions. Questlove is both an incisive music critic, cultural commentator (check his Vulture column on hip-hop), and an unabashed fan, making this book a must-read for hip-hop, soul, and R&B fans.

There are tons of other books on music in the UGL’s collection (you’ll want to look for the section beginning with ML), if you want to delve further into the stories of popular music. If you’re a fan of live music, you may also want to visit Smile Politely, a Champaign-Urbana culture website that provides coverage of the local music scene, including upcoming concerts. Pitchfork also has a handy guide to 2014 Music Festivals if you’re still looking to attend one. Stay cool and keep rockin’!

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