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!
Popping in again here on the LOTRFF site to compliment you on this engaging essay. Your keen ability to hone in on key examples of themes of Tolkienian fan fiction is so impressive! Great examples for these five themes, too! I've read a fair sampling of them and was nodding vigorously in agreement with you as I read along.
In your essay Fanfiction, a long road to the Grail, you noted that you were nervous about posting. Don't be. Your insight into the milieu of Tolkienian fan fic is great, and your writing style is engaging, intelligent and infused with humor. You give me a good reason to haul my lazy self out of my web on the SWG and check out the LotRFF site more often. So be bold and keep 'em coming!