Monday, September 24, 2018


The Harry Potter septology’s initial works were written with a youthful audience in mind. By the release of the fourth book, Goblet of Fire—the first of the much larger works, the series began to transition into more horror-oriented fiction.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continued this transition and carried forward the themes established in Goblet of Fire. This novel represented the “calm-before-the-storm.” In that, resistance is established and plans are made, but it is only at the very end that the action kicks into high gear and doesn’t let up until the series concludes.


Harry opened his eyes.

Tall, thin, and black-hooded, his terrible snakelike face white and gaunt, his scarlet, slit-pupiled eyes staring . . . Lord Voldemort had appeared in the middle of the hall, his wand pointing at Harry who stood frozen, quite unable to move.

“So you smashed my prophecy?” said Voldemort softly, staring at Harry with those pitiless red eyes. “No, Bella, he is not lying. . . . I see the truth looking at me from within his worthless mind. . . . Months of preparation, months of effort . . . and my Death Eaters have let Harry Potter thwart me again. . . .”

“Master, I am sorry, I knew not, I was fighting the Animagus Black!” sobbed Bellatrix, flinging herself down at Voldemort’s feet as he paced slowly nearer. “Master, you should know —”

“Be quiet, Bella,” said Voldemort dangerously. “I shall deal with you in a moment. Do you think I have entered the Ministry of Magic to hear your sniveling apologies?”

“But Master — he is here — he is below —”

Voldemort paid no attention.

“I have nothing more to say to you, Potter,” he said quietly. “You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!”

An excerpt from page 812/813


J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in 2003 by Scholastic Press and was the fifth book in the Harry Potter series. Order of the Phoenix was also the second of the large novels and by far the longest of the seven—see below.

The Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1), 1997. Page count 309.

The Chamber of Secrets (Book 2), 1999. Page count 341.

The Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3), 1999. Page count 435.

The Goblet of Fire (Book 4), 2000. Page count 734.

The Order of the Phoenix (Book 5), 2003. Page count 870.

The Half-Blood Prince (Book 6), 2005. Page count 652.

The Deathly Hallows (Book 7), 2007. Page count 759.

Order of the Phoenix also had the longest wait-period between the previous volume and itself, i. e. 2000 (GoF) vs 2003 (OotP).

With Goblet of Fire, the Harry Potter books grew dramatically in page count (See above). Extracted from The Harry Potter Lexicon website is this chronology of the events in the book.


The increasing complexity of multiple plotlines makes this a highly useful aid in comprehension.[i]


As in Goblet of Fire, this story of the trio’s (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) fifth year begins long before they even arrive at Hogwarts. Back at the Dursley home, Harry is just waiting for news of Voldemort’s return. Circumstances intervene and the story begins.

Themes that were presented in a previous post will be continued and expanded upon. A few more themes and sub-themes will be introduced as well.

Expanded World

Throughout Order of the Phoenix, the wizarding world is further expanded. Also explored is how the wizarding world and the muggle world intertwine. The reader wanders the corridors of the Ministry of Magic, at first for Harry’s trial. The trial is held before the Wizengamot, the official high wizard court. At the close of the book, the final clash with evil occurs in a rarely traveled area of the Ministry building.

On a darker note, the trio visits St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries where Mr. Weasley is recuperating from a violent attack. By accident, the trio comes upon Neville Longbottom visiting his parents. Both of Neville’s parents were tortured unto insanity by Bellatrix LeStrange. She repeatedly used the cruciatus curse on the couple until their minds broke.

When the school year begins at Hogwarts, a pillar of stability for Harry, Ron, and Hermione is not there. Hagrid is not at Hogwarts! In fact, Hagrid is absent from a significant part of the book; only returning under strange and secretive circumstances. It was later revealed to the trio that Hagrid had been sent by Dumbledore to attempt to forge an alliance with the giants. Hagrid being a half-giant himself was perfect for the talks. Hagrid goes into some detail explaining giantish society and culture to the trio. Also, this discussion re-introduces the subject of racial prejudice and the evils that might spring from it.

It is not only the physical world that is expanding in Order of the Phoenix. Our 15-year-old, fifth-year students are expanding (or growing) mentally and emotionally as well. A significant part of this growth came with the realization that they cannot rely on adults to always help and protect them. Sometimes they have to stand up for themselves against what is wrong and for what is right; in a mature way, of course. This manifests itself, most clearly, following Hogwarts new approach to the D.A.D.A. (Defense Against Dark Arts) class which basically eviscerated it. The trio can not wait for adults save them; they must act independently to take the security of their lives into their own hands by teaching themselves the D.A.D.A. Even if it means that they must challenge authority. The trio does not appear to consciously realize it but they are acting more like adults.

Also presented are negative examples of what being an adult means. In particular, I mean Percy Weasley and Dolores Umbridge. Percy chose to become part of the petty bureaucracy of the Ministry of Magic. More than anything else, choosing boot-licking career advancement over family and integrity, Percy hurt and confused Harry and the others. However, while pathetic, it is far less than being a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. In the Harry potter universe, one does not need to be a Death-Eater to have a twisted soul. Evil can take many forms and Dolores Umbridge, new professor at Hogwarts, is seriously twisted. Percy’s pettiness is as nothing compared to the depths Umbridge would stoop to enforce her bureaucratic despotism. To say nothing of the fact that she is a cruel sadist.

Hormonal Challenges

Building upon my previous post concerning “hormonal challenges,” in Order of the Phoenix, all the craziness is still there just not how one would expect. However, in order to better organize this discussion, two sub-themes are introduced; Love is in the air and Resentment and anger issues.

Love is in the air

While not taking any giant steps forward, Ron and Hermione grow closer and more comfortable with the idea of growing closer. It is with Harry and Cho Chang where the true challenges are to be found—miscommunication and misunderstanding. Highlighting the deeply confusing nature of teen romance, the relationship between Harry Cho reached a head on Valentine’s Day. As usual, both Harry and Ron were completely clueless regarding Cho’s reaction. Also, as usual, Hermione had to interpret Cho’s actions for them. Ron puts it best when he tells Hermione:

“You should write a book,” Ron told Hermione as he cut up his potatoes, “translating mad things girls do so boys can understand them.”[ii]

Resentment and anger issues

The most intense hormonal challenge felt throughout Order of the Phoenix was Harry’s feelings of anger and resentment directed toward everyone; though not without a modicum of justification. Almost from the opening of the book, Harry is frustrated at not knowing what is going on.

With the return of Voldemort, the sense of urgency, fear and threat have all greatly intensified. Harry’s aggravation will only build as he feels buffeted by fate, events, and even his friends, who keep him in the dark for his own safety. Compounding this, Harry’s enemies regard him as a real and serious threat.

Harry’s feelings are understandable. However, it is how he responds to such feelings of irritation, anger and such that is the true indication of his maturity. Regretfully, Harry reacts like a petulant 15 year old. He gives into all his negative emotions and lashes out to all around him. Harry believes that the adults around him are treating him like a helpless child, hiding things from him that he thinks he has a right to know! It was inevitable that all this bottled up emotion would erupt.

Rowling spends a great deal of ink giving vent to Harry’s anger and resentment, providing possible justifications for Harry’s petulance toward everyone. Rowling herself is credited with having stated:

Well, he [Harry] has obviously been through a lot since book one, and book five was the book when he cracked up a little.[iii]

No kidding!

By the conclusion of Order of the Phoenix, much of this animosity is reconciled, but not all.

The Past Instructs

In my previous Harry Potter book series post covering Goblet of Fire, at the end of the section on themes I stated that I would be introducing a new theme. “The Past Instructs”. As a historian, it is one I greatly appreciate. Further, to my knowledge, no commentator has discussed the belief that only a true and complete understanding of the historical past (as presented in the Potterverse) could play such a pivotal role in the storyline’s present. This theme will be revisited.

Below are a few instances from the books, up thru Goblet of Fire, where a more detailed knowledge of the past would have really been helpful to our trio.

· The very first interaction between Harry and Professor Snape occurred in Sorcerer’s Stone. Professor Snape’s statement is more than just fantasy verbiage. To one familiar with the 19th century Victorian language of flowers, these words have meaning deeply significant to the story of Harry Potter.

· Tom Riddle’s diary and the adolescence of Voldemort are introduced in Chamber of Secrets. The readers did not know it, but they have just been introduced to a horcrux.

· Much is revealed in Prisoner of Azkaban: the real story behind Sirius Black; the true mass murderer of muggles; and the actual betrayer of Harry’s parents.

· Goblet of Fire starts the process of turning knowledge of the past into a weapon against evil. The pensieve is introduced as a tool to reveal more mysteries of the past. Though Dumbledore’s faith in Snape is questioned, a complete understanding of the past would remove all doubt—as will be shown in later volumes.

What’s Old is New Again

Dumbledore and his adult supporters, in reacting to Voldemort’s return, reconstitute a secret organization to combat evil. Originally formed to oppose Voldemort during his first attempted rise to power nearly twenty years previous, “The Order of the Phoenix” reforms in the summer of 1995—following the events in Goblet of Fire and before the start of school at Hogwarts in Order of the Phoenix.

Represented below is a wonderful artist’s rendition of “The Order of the Phoenix” membership as it stands in July 1995.[iv]


The trio is not included because they are too young to join The Order at that time.

In Order of the Phoenix, when Dumbledore relates to Harry the complete prophecy concerning Harry and Voldemort’s linked fate, he also reveals the absolute importance true knowledge of the past can have:


Dumbledore brought up several times earlier in the series that the power Voldemort “knows not” was love, however, not from any obvious person. Quite by accident, Harry was made aware of just how cruelly a young Snape was treated by his father, James, and Sirius. While at the same time, how kind his mother, Lily, was to Snape. Though full appreciation of this revelation only comes with Deathly Hallows, the first inkling of Snape’s true loyalty is found here.

Truth Changes Everything.


The Fake Phoenix

As I was editing this post, I came across a blog post from 2014. The author reported that in 2003, he was able to get ahold of what he believed was a digital copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix months before its release. He goes on:

. . . the story is thrilling and has all the elements of the wizarding world. While reading it I was elated – it contained all sorts of cool new insights into Hogwarts and the history of Voldemort, as well as new magic spells and abilities. I really enjoyed reading it.

Now if you are familiar with the Harry Potter saga, something should be very evident to you now. Everything that I described above has absolutely nothing to do with the real story of the Order of the Phoenix, which Harry Potter fans got to read when the actual book hit the stores in June 2003. The book I read was a complete work of Fan Fiction.[vi]

The blog post author then goes on to other topics not related to Harry Potter.

I included this aside because: first of all, it is kind of funny. And, second, I like the idea of a piece of fan fiction fooling at least one person into thinking that it was the real deal. The world of fan fiction has improved to such an extent that best selling books have been based upon works of fan fiction. For example, Fifty Shades of Grey originally was a large piece of Twilight fan fiction called “Masters of the Universe.”

For any party interested, here is the link to the fake “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” As of writing this post, I have not read it. . . . Maybe for a future post.


As I have been doing in many of my previous posts, and will most likely continue to do, I listened to the unabridged audiobook narration of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, performed by Jim Dale. Once again, this greatly increased my enjoyment of the novel.


In my earlier discussion on Goblet of Fire, I went into a little detail on the strengths of Jim Dale as a narrator. While I shall not repeat those details here, it will suffice to say that Jim Dale is fantastic as narrator for the entire Harry Potter septology.


The Ending Begins

With the battle in the Ministry near the conclusion of Order of the Phoenix, and Voldemort’s undeniable participation in it obvious to all, the Harry Potter book series enters its final phase. Now, everything Dumbledore and Harry have been saying cannot be doubted any longer. Unfortunately, the price for this vindication has been high.

Part of any violent conflict, wizard or muggle, is the struggle to cope with death of family or loved ones, and as Order of the Phoenix ends with the war beginning; this is a haunting foreshadow for what is yet to come.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix marks the last bit of normalcy before the upheaval of war really hits. Existing themes are moved forward and new ones introduced. This was also the last opportunity for new characters to be established—for good or for ill.

In many ways, this book is a deep breath before the final sprint.




Print Resources

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, 2003. Print

Digital Resources

“Fake Order of the Phoenix.” Internet Archive. Web. 20 September 2018.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Narrated by Jim Dale, Listening Library (Audio). 2003. Audiobook. CD.

Online Resources

Contributors. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Harry Potter Wiki. FANDOM Books Community. 07 July 2017. Web. 08 August 2018.

Contributors. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” The “Harry Potter” Compendium. FANDOM Books Community. 23 April 2017. Web. 08 August 2018.

Contributors. “Sybill Trelawney’s First Prophecy.” Harry Potter Wiki. FANDOM Books Community. 24 August 2018.. Web. 11 September 2018.

Fieldman, Kate (Aidinera). “Order of the Phoenix 1995.” DeviantArt. DeviantArt. 18 July 2015. Web. 20 September 2018.

Haber, David. “The power The Dark Lord knows not.” Beyond Hogwarts. Beyond March 2007. Web. 16 September 2018.>

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” The Harry Potter Lexicon. Web. 17 September 2018.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix novel.” Web. 18 September 2018.

Lauf, Jordan. “'Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix' Revealed Once & For All That Harry Is The Worst.” Bustle. Bustle Digital Group. 11 July 2017. Web 18 September 2018.

“Order of the Phoenix.” The Harry Potter Lexicon. Web. 14 September 2018.

Thinker of Thoughts. “The Book of Abraham and the Order of the Phoenix.” Thoughts on Things and Stuff. 09 July 2014. Web. 19 September 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. " Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 July 2018. Web. 29 July 2018.

[i] I wish I had known about this for Goblet of Fire.

[ii] Page 573.

[iii] Original source is unknown. Quote taken from:

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Harry Potter Wiki.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” The “Harry Potter” Compendium.

[iv] Fieldman, Kate (Aidinera). “Order of the Phoenix 1995.” DeviantArt. 18 July 2015.

[v] Page 841.

[vi] Thinker of Thoughts. “The Book of Abraham and the Order of the Phoenix.” Thoughts on Things and Stuff. 09 July 2014.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Random Thoughts on STRANGE EONS by Robert Bloch.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on 20 August 1890. As I am a huge fan of H.P.L and his circle of writer-friends and the Mythos tales they wrote, and since my birthday also falls in mid-August, “August is for Lovecraft!”[i]

Lovecraft’s most oft-quoted couplets inspired the title of this novel:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

And, oh boy, are there some strange aeons here.



Strange Eons was written by Robert Bloch and first published in June 1978, in hardback, by Whispers Press.


A year later (June 1979), Pinnacle Books released a paperback edition. It is this paperback edition which is under consideration in this post.


Robert Bloch was born on 05 April 1917. The author of over a hundred short stories and dozens of novels, he is most popularly known for his Psycho. He was presented with numerous awards for his work,

For the purpose of this short post, however, we shall limit our interest to a few comments on Bloch’s interactions with Lovecraft.

Bloch’s introduction to H. P. Lovecraft began when Bloch was still a child. Being an avid reader of the pulp magazine, Weird Tales, Bloch first encountered Lovecraft’s works at the age of ten years. Lovecraft’s writing connected with Bloch in a way traditional authors could not.

In 1933, Bloch first wrote to Lovecraft. This began a long and happy correspondence that would last until Lovecraft’s death in 1937. Sadly, the two never met. This was in part due to the times—The Great Depression, and in part due to Lovecraft’s relative poverty. Ironically, he was planning to visit Bloch later in 1937. He never got the chance

Lovecraft acted as an inspiration and graciously encouraged Bloch’s efforts in weird fiction and recommended he contact other members of Lovecraft’s circle. Very soon after graduating high school, Bloch sold his first story to Weird Tales in July 1934; the first of many such sales. “The Feast in the Abbey” appeared in the January 1935 issue.


He never forgot Lovecraft’s support and kindness to him and stated that he owed his career as an author to H.P. Lovecraft. Regarding the novel here under consideration, Strange eons, in an interview in 1983, the interviewer asked Bloch whether he wrote Strange eons as an homage to Lovecraft? Bloch responded with:

Yes. It was a book that I wanted to do for a long time. You see, when I started, I wrote things in Lovecraft's style. Most writers imitate a style to begin with, while they develop their own. So, I wondered, since I read so many other imitations of Lovecraft, what would happen if I could write a book in the Lovecraftian tradition, using my own style. Nobody had done that before. I'm afraid I'm not always that commercial, but I felt it was something that I had to do.[iii]

Bloch is pictured below with his award from the 1st. Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Awards Luncheon held on 05 December 1976.[iv]


Robert Bloch died on 23 September 1994 at the age of 77 in Los Angeles, California.


Strange Eons is structured as if three separate, but interwoven, novellas (rather than a single plotted novel). Each of the three parts follows a different person; each tale possessing a different flavor. Each person pursues clues as established in Lovecraft’s writings; coming to understand Lovecraft’s stories as truth . . . as warnings of a potential future.

Part I—NOW

Shuddering, he stared at what lay off the starboard bow. It was horrifyingly familiar, and for a moment he thought he was experiencing déjà vu. Then he realized that he was gazing at what Lovecraft had so vividly and accurately described in his story—the tip of a single muddy peak upthrust from the ocean depths, atop of which towered a mountainous mass of masonry rising to a monolith formed by gigantic blocks of slime-green stone.

It was R’lyeh, and it was real.

Albert Keith, a wealthy collector of outré art, is drawn into a globe-spanning conspiracy much against his will. In his investigations, he discovers that Lovecraft’s stories were not fiction at all, but rather warnings of cataclysm, couched in fiction.

Too late, Albert realized that he was not the author writing this tale. Rather, he was a character in a tale written by another. He was being moved by some unknown hand, for some unknown reason. He paid the price for this too-late realization with his life, his sanity, and probably his soul.


…evoked images of other worlds, lifeless planets, dead and distant suns, moving like motes of dust in the empty infinity of outer space, which in itself was dying. This is the way the world ends—not with a bang, not even with a whimper, but with a whisper. A whisper lost in darkness.

In this second part, Albert’s ex-wife, Kay Keith, takes up center stage. Striving to discover Albert’s fate, she begins retracing his steps. In uncovering what he knew, she comes to realize that Lovecraft did not write fiction. Kay is made the guest of a secret international organization—Project Arkham—that opposes the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Utterly defeated, Kay is offered up as sacrifice to Great Cthulu.

Albert was the lucky one.


That is not dead which can eternal lie, and the time of strange eons had arrived. The stars were right, the gates were open, the seas swarmed with immortal multitudes and the earth gave up its undead.

Soon the winged ones from Yuggoth would swoop down from the void and now the Old Ones would return—Azazoth and Yog-Sothoth, whose priest he was, would come to lightless Leng and Kadath in the risen continents that were transformed as he was transformed.

He stirred, and the walls surrounding him splintered and fell forward.

He breathed, and Nyarlathotep vanished into nothingness, clutching the tiny toy that was the Trapezohedron.

He waved, and the waters below surged upward, boiling and beckoning.

He rose, and mountains trembled, sinking into the sea.

Time stopped.

Death died.

And Great Cthulhu went forth into the world to begin his eternal reign.

This third and final “novella” opens 25 years later and follows Mark Dixon, a 24-year-old budding journalist. After a massive natural disaster, it is revealed to Mark that he was actually the bastard product of the unholy union of Kay Keith and Great Cthulhu. How the previous two parts lead into this moment are explained.

Mark opens the way for Cthulhu to be reborn into the world and the stars become right.


Many of Bloch’s tales were heavily dependent on the works of Lovecraft. They build upon and expand on Lovecraft’s works. Today, we might label such tales as fanfiction, or maybe pastiches of Lovecraft’s own stories. For clarity’s sake, a pastiche is a tale written in imitation of another author’s style, irrespective of story or plot or even intent; can be mocking or respectful. A work of fanfiction, however, uses elements from a previous work as a starting point to build upon or expand the original piece. Lastly, homage shows respect to the subject of the homage. A work created by an admirer to honor the one admired.

By his own admission, Bloch wrote Strange Eons as homage to Lovecraft. In addition, according to Douglas Draa, after penning numerous tales in Lovecraft’s world, Strange Eons was:

. . . Robert Bloch’s final tribute to his friend and mentor “H.P. Lovecraft”.  To my knowledge, Mr. Bloch never wrote another Chtulhu Mythos story after this novel. I figure that that is reasonable seeing that he brings the entire “Cthulhu Mythos” to an end in this book.  Yep, in the novel, the Stars are finally right![v]


Strange Eons is not a pastiche per se, written in Bloch’s own style, or even a work of fanfiction. It is Bloch’s homage to his friend, colleague, mentor and writing-collaborator, H. P. Lovecraft. Complementing this, Strange Eons is also Bloch’s final word on the Cthulhu Mythos where he brings it all to a close.

For Bloch, the stars were finally right.



Print Resources

Bloch, Robert, Strange Eons. Pinnacle Books: Los Angeles, 1979.

Digital Resources

Online Resources

Draa, Douglas. “Strange Eons.” Uncle Doug’s Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks. Blogger. 13 January 2013. Web. 28 August 2018.

Haefele, John D. “H. P. Lovecraft’s letters to Robert Bloch: End of era begins another.” Allied Authors of Wisconsin. 28 January 2015. Web. 26 August 2018.

Haney, J. Keith. “Review: Strange Eons.” Innsmouth Free Press. Web. 29 August 2018.

Hart, William. “12 1st. Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Awards Luncheon 05-Dec-76 Robert Bloch with His Award (Detail).” Flickr. 10 September 2010. Web. 29 August 2018.

Lofficier, Randy & Jean-Marc. “Interview with Robert Bloch.” The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website. Web. 29 August 2018.

The Library of America. “What Robert Bloch owes to H. P. Lovecraft.” Reader’s Almanac. Blogger. 23 September 2010. Web. 26 August 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. "Robert Bloch." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 July 2018. Web. 29 August 2018.

[i] Yes, I know it’s September and I’m late. Gimme a break.

[ii] From Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City” (1921).

[iii] Lofficier. “Interview with Robert Bloch.” The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website.

[iv] Hart. “12 1st. Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Awards Luncheon 05-Dec-76 Robert Bloch with His Award (Detail).” Flickr.

[v] Draa. “Strange Eons.” Uncle Doug’s Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks. 13 January 2013.