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January 8: Happy Birthday Terry Brooks and David Bowie


Novelist Terry Brooks celebrates his 74th today.  When he was in his early twenties he began writing a novel.  He was in law school, and then beginning a career as a lawyer, at the time, so it is understandable that it took him seven years to finish it.  When he did, in the mid-seventies, he shopped it to a few publishers before selling it to Ballantine, which was starting their new Del Rey fantasy imprint.  Titled The Sword of Shannara, it came out in 1977, and readers loved it—it sold about 125,000 copies its first month in print.  Reviews were mixed—some found it so derivative of Tolkien as to be a “ripoff,” others found merit in Brooks’s use of the Lord of the Rings as a template.

While Sword of Shannara maybe have been imitation Tolkien, Brooks didn’t take long to find his own voice.  In 1982, a second novel and loose sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara, came out, and like its predecessor was a bestseller.  The early Shannara books are often identified as the first fantasy novels for adults to be bestsellers at the time of publication (Lord of the Rings didn’t become one until about a decade after it initially was published).  Brooks has gone on to write about thirty Shannara novels (including the Word & Void trilogy of urban fantasy novels, which were retconned into the series).  He has also written the Magic Kingdom of Landover fantasy series and novelizations of Hook and The Phantom Menace.

In 2016 MTV brought The Shannara Chronicles, a very, very loose adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara, to television.  A second season aired recently on Spike.

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January 8: Happy Birthday Sarah Polley and Elvis Presley


Canadian actress, writer and director Sarah Polley celebrates her 38th today.  She began working as a child performer in Canadian television, first as the title character in Ramona, a series adapted from Beverly Cleary’s series of children’s novels, and then starring for several years as Sara Stanley, the lead character of Road to Avonlea, adapted from the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In the late 1990s, Polley began to build an impressive resume in independent films.  She had a pivotal role in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, and in 1999 appeared in several films, including David Cronenberg’s Existenz and Doug Liman’s Go:

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