Many thanks, undomiel57, for highlighting my ficcery in this essay. Please forgive me for my egregiously belated expression of gratitude. I tend to stay hunkered down like a dyspeptic old lob in my web the SWG. I’m honored to be part of this group of authors whose work (which I also admire) you have highlighted in this essay.
As a card-carrying scientist and a Tolkien addict, I have some comments (which amount to an essay!) in response to your offering.
Let us face it, Tolkien did not care much for science.
Actually, JRRT had a keen interest in science, e.g., the following excerpt from The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader’s Guide Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York 2006 pp 876-877.
"Science. Tolkien said in On Fairy Stories that the books that interested him most as a child or a schoolboy were not fairy or adventure stories: ‘I liked many other things as well, or better: such as history, astronomy, botany, grammar, and etymology’ (Tree and Leaf, pp 40-41). He added in Note D to On Fairy-Stories that he was introduced to zoology and palaeontology while quite young. Similarly, when asked c. 1970 to reply to the question ‘Which book or books were your favorites or influenced you most as a teenager and why?’ Tolkien said that he was not interested in ‘literature’, but rather in his early teens the ‘things I read with most pleasure were mostly scientific in reference, especially botany and astronomy. My most treasured book was [C.A.] Johns’ Flowers of the Field [first published in 1850] [Attacks of Taste (1971) p. 43]."
Tolkien incorporated his layman’s knowledge of botany, astronomy and even paleontology into his works to great effect, creating the inner consistency of reality to his secondary world, which allows us to immerse ourselves so readily into Middle-earth. Rather, my approach derives from how Tolkien tended to look with a jaundiced eye at great craftsmen (read: scientists and engineers) of Middle-earth and Aman. I have already railed about this in the screed The Tolkienian War on Science, something of a misnomer because it really applies to those who practice science and delve deep (too deep in JRRT's opinion) for knowledge or those who embrace technology, one of JRRT's bugaboos.
Naomi Mitchison called The Lord of the Rings “super science fiction.” That may raise some eyebrows, but she’s right. "Science fiction" need not be about space ships, and anyone who thinks that Tolkien was not aware of or even influenced by the science fiction of his day needs to read "The Notion Club Papers" (HoMe vol IX).
Which is probably why Pandemonium has offered us The Apprentice and The Elendilmir.
Heh. Well, I figured that I could continue to write non-fiction opinion pieces like "Tolkienian War" or dry non-fiction discourses on science in Middle-earth. Henry Gee has compiled a neat collection of in his essays in The Science of Middle-earth so I’d just be recapitulating his publication (although I do have some different takes on some scientific features of M-e). So for better or worse, I opted for expressing myself through fan fic. Fëanor, my long-suffering scientist-hero, has already been written and written quite well (Dawn’s Another Man’s Cage was the first Tolkien fan fic I read, and it sucked me into the fan fic vortex) so I opted for another one of Aulë’s students gone bad for my canonical centerpiece: Sauron.
I took an entirely different tack w/this character than those works you cite in the fourth fandom theme "Sauron the evil seducer or rapist." Taking a cue from Tolkien’s writing in Letter 153 to Peter Hastings, my version of the Dark Lord seduces the Noldor ("on the side of what we would call 'science and technology’') through the "knowledge that he genuinely had.” My Sauron’s sexuality is written deliberately as "vanilla" and non-coercive to emphasize intellectual seduction. Knowledge and power are the key themes, something I have witnessed (and experienced) throughout my RL studies and career. In both academia and industry, one finds powerful, brilliant men who are empire-builders and will resort to nefarious means to achieve their ends, including stabbing others in the back mercilessly, and then the same men drive home to walk to dog and take the kids to soccer practice (when it's convenient for them). These corporate and professorial “villains” make one’s head spin.
Sauron’s a wonderful vehicle for me in his mad scientist/dark technocrat aspect as well as a means to explore what "good" and "evil" mean. As a humanist, I do not buy into such absolutes, but then if one takes a close look at JRRT’s works, there are many shades of grey there, too.
The stories are written with a great deal of passion and adherence to the basics of chemistry.
This is a natural for me because I am a biochemist, but there are many other aspects of science and technology incorporated into my ‘verse. I can’t tell you how much glee I had when writing Sauron stepping into a Faraday cage to defy the lightning during the storms over Númenor (cf. Into This Wild Abyss: A Tempest’s Name on the SWG).
The Apprentice- Canon hereticism is an art brought to its peak by the author. All conventions of Tolkien are thrown to the winds when you begin reading The Apprentice.
Ha! Yes, I am a self-described heretic, and no doubt others would describe me as such, too. I do not write as a Tolkien mimetic. However, I have to scratch my head in puzzlement at throwing "all conventions of Tolkien" to the wind. I pick up the stone called “canon” (a nearly useless term when applied to the Tolkien legendarium), flip it over and look at what’s wriggling beneath. Or I read something written by JRRT and apply an interpretation that is a logical outgrowth from his contentions, often contradictory. In other words, I embrace heresy but it stands on a platform founded in my knowledge of JRRT’s writings. I kinda like "alternate history" applied to my hackery because I'd like to think my setting is recognizable as Middle-earth. It's simply a different tributary of the larger (and nebulous) history of Arda.
Dwarves, metals and pioneering women [emphasis mine].
I have to say that the term “Mary Sue” makes me bare my fangs because its pejorative use has dissuaded many writers -- particularly young writers -- from taking a chance on crafting OFCs. I embrace the latter both as a reader (points to Pink Siamese’s fantastic Lugmoki and Janet) and writer. I have a wonderful book called The Hidden Giants: 4000 Years of Women in Science and Technology. It’s extraordinary to read of the contributions of these women in our primary world, largely unsung because history is most often written by men, just like Tolkien’s imaginary historians, e.g., Rumil, Pengolodh, Elendil, Baggins. So my primary OFC is a Middle-earth equivalent of these "hidden giants."
Say science in Tolkien, say Pandemonium!
Thank you! :^) Tolkien’s wonderful incorporation of science into his mythopoeia (see comments above) provided me with the foundations for things scientific in Middle-earth. I’m just arguing with the old Oxford don and “kicking the tires” (as we scientists are wont to do to another’s theories) of his stances. ;^)
It is not too presumptuous to say must-reads for any Tolkien devotee. In many ways, the story is its own canon and has its own genre.[snip]
The fine art of creating a plot is one many would die to have. This writer possesses it in abundance. She tells the story with bold flair
These are among the highest compliments paid to my writing, particularly that my ficcery is its own canon. That means I am achieving some modicum of success in creating an "inner consistency of reality" in my tertiary world of Tolkien's secondary world. Thank you very, very much!
Author's Response: Notion Club Papers was something I learnt about after getting to know Jdav who knows about the HoMEs and Lost Tales. I like The Silmarillion and the 2nd age a lot So I guess I know only the tip of the iceberg. I like your stories. I am a silent reader and don't leave reviews or anything for the most part. I have been around here for a long time and know most of the writers work on these sites. When SWG began I didn't think it will grow so big and hold so many good stories. I came there after Dawn Felagund updated her ff.net profile. Then I got to read your stories, Ford of Bruinen and many other authors. It takes a lot of work to do good characterization and plots. You do it so great. Keep writing! I read your August stories including the Faraday cage. They were great! Your female characters are nicely done. The women readers can identify with most of the OFCs. But its true that new writers don't get accepted if they write OFCs. It's a trend. Some years ago slash was not accepted at all on the major archives if it wasn't about a standard slash pairing. But now writers like Erfan Starled and Jdav are making inroads into new genres. Tyellas wrote the Ansereg concept and her Maeglin stories when Silmarillion slash was not popular. Then people used to complain that slash writers were a curse to fandom. Now it's the reverse. I am not complaining! Writers like Jdav balance the importance given to slash and het in stories. Ford of Bruinen managed it well also. Dawn Felagund is another one. I don't normally write so much. Its scary to see something you wrote come up on the net just like that for everyone to see. Writers are very brave! Undomiel.
Author's Response: I like your chibis and pleasure gardens very much. I am a lurker and don't tell writers or artists taht I like their work. We'll see more of your stuff soon on Swg? j_dav/JDE is a treasure...if you can bear her angst ridden stories;). Thanks!
By Stars' Light : This is my personal favourite among the wonderful author's tales. Stray is a very close run too. I know the genres that are embodied in Stray need an author of exceptional talent to manage it.
Dark Prince: I smiled at the Mary-ness of Van. It is a favorite of mine too.
Het: I confess I don't read much. But your recommendations will make it to my reading list.
Pande: I really have no words. She is the scientist. Mine don't compare anywhere near her works.
Celebrian's Journal: Epic. Grossly misunderstood. Wish it hadn't happened. Wonderful writing. Rightly nom-ed in MEFA.
Honoured, happy and awed by the fact you chose to include Sunset in such elite company. For a newcomer, I cannot dream of more.
Thank you for this essay.
Author's Response: Thanks, J. You are a very talented writer. I am happy to include your panoramic story in the list.
When I first started writing Celebrian's Journal, it was intended as a single-chapter piece, beginning and ending with the initial contact between Námo, Elrond and Celebrian. I had no idea it would evolve as it did; but it just wouldn't leave me alone, more wanted to be said...and then more, and then more. Every time I thought I had everyone included, another character would show up for a cameo...fitting them all in was like working a giant, demented jigsaw puzzle and trying to keep from contradicting myself along the way.
It is saddening to think that a story I literally had no idea where it would go from one chapter to the next would fall victim to accusations of plot sealing and plagiarism. If anyone had been standing behind me at the keyboard while it was being written, they would probably been both appalled and astonished at the revisions, insomnia, and general wailing involved; along with a self-imposed deadline of no more than one week elapsing between chapters.
That being said, only in certain instances of characterization and plot (the chapel in chapter 7)was there anything borrowed; and (the depiction of Námo and Eonwe as they appeared together in an early chapter) and this was done with the full permission of the originator. All other characterization and plot (with the exception of the character Serindë, who belongs to Surgical Steel and collaborated with me in writing her)is entirely my own. At that time, this author was my beta, a relationship that ended very badly. In hindsight, removing all reference to him was probably a bad move on my part for those who are unfamiliar with our former collaboration. I am proud to say I have never even remotely considered plagiarism an acceptable practice, and am very disappointed in those who choose to accuse me of such...all they had to do was ask- it's extremely disappointing to find out about accusations secondhand, but I do appreciate you letting me know, even if it wasn't intentional and you thinking I may have already known. I didn't, and so your effort is doubly appreciated.
I digress, however...Celebrian's Journal as it evolved was 'provoked' by the desire to know 'what happened next', and the lack of stories (at that time)centering around the events of the final battle. Needless to say, I was utterly intimidated, and thinking "Why Me?" That it turned out as well as it did, and folks have enjoyed it so much, is both an honor and a privilege. Again, thank you...both for your kindness in recommending it, and (even if unintentionally) giving me the opportunity in a public forum to set the record straight. Much joy, and greatest appreciation...
Author's Response: It was a wonderful story and I am sad that it was in the middle of all the controversy. I am happy for the MEFA nomination. I am also happy that this essay provided you a platform to voice your opinion about it. I wish I could say lots more. I don't have the gift of your words. All I can say is we expect more stories from you since you are a great author.
Author's Response: I can give you the links to a few. Erfan_starled: here Jdav: here Both the authors keep their sites updated always and most of the stories are public. Since they don't update on archives regularly it is easier to read at their sites. Spicedwine updates here. Pandemonium updates on Silmarillion Writers' Guild. jdav and Erfanstarled also occasionally do updates there. Beruthiel's Cats updates here. Whitewave on SWG. I hope you find the links useful!
You have touched on some good points here and mentioned some wonderful works, although I have not read all of them.
I don't know about other authors, but I certainly did not set out with the intention to write an Original Character or to write slash. When Dark Prince fell upon me the story was there in it's entirety, and I don't know that any-one who enjoys writing would have refused something dropped in their lap like that. (And I love writing with a passion that is only eclipsed by the passion I feel for the wonderful stories I have read and recommended on my bio and favorites.)
Being tied up with other things, the story didn't get fully written until 2007, although it was in my mind from 2004. Being ignorant of fanfiction, I had no idea that AU's, slash and OC's were apparently food for flames or attacked by canon purists ( know canon - just saying d;-) ) but I don't think I would have cared. I didn't know the term 'slash', knew nothing about it; all I had was a story that involved male relationships -- so I wrote it. After seeing the incredibly hateful attitude of some people toward slash, I am grateful I was such a tyro when I began posting on this archive. Dark Prince had to be written the way it was - and that was that.
I am also not sure the convoluted and incestuous relationships have any point beyond illustrating the complexities of human nature (and Tolkien did say Elves were Human.)
Pink Siamese is probably Eros’s gift to Tolkienland. Anyone who has read The Dawn of Many Colors will tell you why they consider building a temple to appease this lady of het erotica.
I have already offered to be Mistress Pink's slave in that temple. (If I do not hit her with a tyre iron for being so dashed...awesome!)
I read very little het and I am not a fan of gentle romance, be it slash or het (no kidding, lol) Pink writes precisely the kind of het I want to read. Dawn of Many Colors is also a perfect illustration of an OFC who is not a Mary Sue in the classic sense, but a stunning Original Female: Lugmoki, the Mouth of Sauron, and his creation, one of the most striking original women in the fandom. Janet, in Janet Goes To Hobbitland is based on Pink, (thus is a self-insert) but I do not mind at all, as she's fascinating :D
But how many of us have wanted to see those beloved characters exploring a different path from the actual version?
I mentioned somewhere the other day that by the time I was about 20, having read Tolkien for four years straight, I was already bored with canon. I wanted more Middle-earth, but *not* more Tolkien, I wanted deeper, sexier, darker stories, (The Silmarillion is a dark story, XXX rated, but little is 'uncovered' in it, being written as it is from a distant third person omniscient narrative) or stories/characters within Tolkien's universe more fully explored. I did not consider myself capable of such works myself at that age, it took many years before I believed I could possibly handle such themes, (which I used to write O-fic and Middle-earth role-play) but having stuffed myself with the Hobbit, LOTR, the Silm and UT, I was already thinking, 'But what if...?'
Fëanor and Fingolfin's relationship was the first to occur to me at 16, so I think a lot of us look 'beyond' what Tolkien wrote. The people you have named certainly do that. He wanted to create a mythological history, and he succeeded; people treat his world in the same way as they treat all history and mythology: they want to explore it, they do not always believe what is written down, they wonder what might have been omitted or twisted or covered up, very much like any history.
If Tolkien had ever thought about it, I think he would have realized this would happen. To me fanfic writing is the exploration of a world in all it's intricacies and marvels and the possibilities inherent in it, which includes the characters. And sometimes even the biology of them. I have to mention that Esteliel's Cuil Eden series enthralls me. It is the only MPREG story I can believe in. It is so multi-layered, and deals with such deep psychological situations that the more I re-read it the more engrossed I become. I'd never heard of MPREG either, actually, but apparently Tolkien created an ancient Elvish (Gnomish) word for hermaphrodite! :)
There have been comments made lately about the fear that infects the Tolkien fandom; fear of coming up against the elitists who know canon, (the *best * slash and AU writers know canon well, I have found) fear of scorn - not so much of flaming, (but that too) but of having one's own ideas poo-poo'd and brushed aside. That's a great pity, and it is putting a lot of newer authors off.
Me, I would say, read the books, since no-one writes about something they do not know (I studied the Crusades for years while writing and re-writing an O-Fic and the same should apply to Tolkien, or you might as well write O-fic - and could even make money from that, lol!) But -- if you know canon and decide you wish to write an AU, an OC/OFC or slash, or reinterpret a character, then write what you wish and be true to your inspiration. Do not be influenced by any-one else. (except a good beta who will pick up technical/grammatical errors.) Don't write for any-one except yourself or the joy will leave you. I wrote my series because I couldn't *not* have written it, which is the way I think writing should be. I am thrilled people read it and review, but that is a bonus; I did not expect it.
Thank-you for your essay, it is very interesting and well written! (and your comments about my own work - So very kind!)
Author's Response: I was nervous when I posted it! I am glad that I did it now. It offered Beruthiels' Cats the chance to make her stand clear. People like Pink are underappreciated. It makes me happy to do at least this for the wonderful writers like you.
Author's Response: You need temples! Many readers like me are not very forthcoming with fb. It's not fair, is it?
There are Mary-Sues that are likeable. Not all makes you wanna kill them.
Author's Response: Yes, the two series I mentioned are very good.