John D. Rateliff's Bio in Breif

John D. Rateliff

Probably the only Tolkien scholar to hail from Magnolia, Arkansas, John has at various times been a shoe-shine, library assistant, a long-time graduate student, fact-checker for a children's books publisher, game editor, designer, and independent scholar. In addition to presenting papers on Tolkien and other fantasy writers at a number of conferences, he has helped organize two major Tolkien conferences and spent many years researching among Tolkien's manuscripts at Marquette University, as well as other archives. Out of this work grew The History of The Hobbit, his two-volume edition of Tolkien's original manuscript of The Hobbit. He has a special interest in the history of fantasy, and likes to describe his Ph.D. as "a degree in fantasy".

In addition to his scholarly work, John is also a longtime editor and designer for roleplaying games, particularly D&D, having worked for TSR (1991–1996), Wizards of the Coast (1997–2001), and Hasbro/WotC (2003–2005), along with freelancing for a number of other companies.

He currently lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three cats, whose names derive respectively from a Beatles song, a Great Old One, and a Tolkien character.

Why Sacnoth's Scriptorium?

So, why 'Sacnoth's Scriptorium'? Although I'm primarily known as a Tolkien scholar, I did my dissertation on the work of Lord Dunsany, the great fantasy pioneer whose works were as influential for the first half of the twentieth century as Tolkien was for the second half. The name 'sacnoth' itself comes from Dunsany's 1908 story "The Fortress Unvanquishable Save for Sacnoth", arguably the first sword & sorcery story ever written, in which Sacnoth is an intelligent magical sword. The 'scriptorium' part comes from my profession as an editor and writer and my vocation as a scholar. Since a scriptorium is the place where, in days gone by, books were actually made, pen put to paper, it seems appropriate for a place where figurative pen and sword come together in writing and research about fantasy.