ASU journalism professor pens new book on Arthur legend

March 9, 2015

Virgil Renzulli is a devotee of pro football, a big fan of Humphrey Bogart and loves anything with bacon. So what’s a guy’s guy like Renzulli doing writing a book on the Arthur legend?

“When Virgil first told me he had written a book on King Arthur, I said, ‘Come again?’” said Charlene Vasquez, director of ASU’s Cultural Relations, who worked under Renzulli for several years. “It took a while to sink in, because I saw him in a work setting, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Virgil enjoys mediation and I could see where that would spark his imagination.” Virgil Renzulli Download Full Image

That spark was ignited in 2013 when Renzulli began work on a trilogy of books while he was still working as Arizona State University’s vice president of public affairs. That same year, Renzulli bumped into award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, who is also the director of the Virginia C. Piper Creative Writing Center at ASU.

“We got on the subject of fiction writing and Jewell offered to read one of my novels,” Renzulli said. “She read it and said, ‘You have potential. You didn’t fulfill it, and I will work with you over the next year to whip the manuscript into shape. I thought, 'Holy cow! What an offer!' So I took her up on it.”

Parker spent a full year with Renzulli, teaching him about plot, pace, tension and subtext. The result was "Caliburn: Merlin’s Tale," which was published this month by Bagwyn Books, a program of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The 263-page novel takes readers on a journey and describes how the young Arthur is unwilling to accept the life destiny ordained for him, with disastrous consequences.

“When I started, I thought, in all of history, literature or fable, what is the clearest case of destiny? Answer: it’s Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king,” Renzulli said. “I also wondered what would happen if he didn’t keep the sword and said he wasn’t ready and was entitled to some fun? In that sense, my Arthur is the Johnnie Manziel of the Dark Ages.”

Other engaging characters are introduced in this epic fantasy as well: a new love interest, the daring and indiscrete Brenna; a new threat, the insecure and moody Maeve; and a new adversary, the Saxon King Vollo, a charismatic megalomaniac.

Even though Renzulli has written several other novels, he regards "Caliburn" as his first real book. Jewell Parker Rhodes certainly thinks so, who calls the book “a stylish, thrilling retelling of Arthurian myth. Readers will be captivated by Renzulli’s imaginative tale.”

Renzulli, who is currently a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, plans on promoting "Caliburn" at book fairs, local and national events and conferences. The book will debut at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which runs weekends through March 29 in Apache Junction.

"Caliburn: Merlin’s Tale" is available in paperback at, and as an e-book for Amazon Kindle, at

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU astrophysicist honored with Simons Fellowship

March 9, 2015

The Simons Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing math and science research, will give an Arizona State University astrophysicist the opportunity to spend a year away from classroom and administrative duties to pursue research interests.

This year’s group of Simons Fellows includes ASU’s Francis (Frank) Timmes, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and ASU's director of advanced computing. Frank Timmes Download Full Image

Timmes is an astrophysicist interested in supernovae, cosmic chemical evolution, astrobiology, the gamma-ray astronomy and high-performance computing. His Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics award will let him focus on research for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Timmes plans to use his academic year sabbatical to advance his research activities, which include a NASA-funded Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics Networks project aimed at exploring the internal structure and evolutionary histories of supernova progenitors; an NSF-funded Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation project aimed at supporting the Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics software instrument; and various projects within the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics – Center for the Evolution of the Elements, an NSF-funded Physics Frontier Center.

“I am very excited about the opportunity provided by the Simons Fellowship, he said. "It will give me the time and flexibility to pursue leading-edge research with colleagues as research projects unfold.”

Timmes plans to visit the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at University of California Santa Barbara, as well as experts in nuclear astrophysics at Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame.

Research leaves from classroom teaching and administrative obligations can provide strong intellectual stimulation and lead to increased creativity and productivity in research. The Simons Fellows program is intended to make leaves more productive by enabling the extension of sabbatical leaves from one academic term to a full academic year.

Simons Fellows are chosen based on research accomplishment in the five years prior to application and the potential scientific impact of the fellowship.

“I feel fortunate because very few organizations fund sabbatical research in theoretical physics,” Timmes said of the award. “I am grateful to the Simons Foundation for their support of our field.”

Timmes is one of only 14 scholars to receive the award for theoretical physics. Timmes accompanies professors from other top universities and colleges in the United States, such as Harvard, Cornell and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to name a few. He is ASU’s first Simons Fellow.

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration