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Reviewer: hennethgalad Signed [Report This]
Date: August 12, 2017 - 09:46 pm
Title: On Writing Aman, or the Balance between the Mythic and the Real

fascinating and thought-provoking !

as my mum said to her brother, when he visited her in Mexico and kept commenting on the fine weather: 'this is Mexico, every day is fine !'. 

that is poignant stuff about Fëanor, i had not considered how inexplicable he must have found himself. however, with reference to your point that they came from Middle-earth to Aman already aware of death and the Enemy, Fëanor surely must have been able to confide in survivors of the crossing to Aman ?

curious that Fëanor should say 'first of all the Eldar in Aman' about his death, do you think he has forgotten his mother, or simply does not think her dead ? denial ? a symptom of the storm ?

yeah, making elves 'other' is tricky. i've read alot of sci-fi, the best aliens are in Bob Shaw's book 'Orbitsville'; they are so alien that 'our heroes' literally have nothing to say to them and no way of saying it anyway. ha, even dragons like Smaug are recognizably 'people', with emotions like pride, anger, and greed.  

of course, the marring of Arda began with the Music of Melkor before the world was made, and Aman is within Arda, so it is already flawed. but, for instance, what is Taniquetil really like ? eagles fly in and out with news.  big eagles. either Taniquetil becomes iced with guano, or Elves are shovelling eagle-droppings into wheelbarrows and carting them down to the fields. 

'illusion' is a loaded word, it implies the intent to decieve, but the Valar are naive, and limited, so they do what they can to improve things. they do not force on everyone the view that they have already succeeded, like real world 'leaders' do. 

i mean, the Valar were right, that staying in Aman would have been better for the Eldar. but then the Eldar would not have brought their culture back to Middle-Earth, which was better for middle-earth. did Eru sacrifice the Elves to save Middle-earth ? are Elves merely embodiments of the laws of nature, or symbols of the heroic dead of WW1 ? 

encore, maestro!

Author's Response:

Thank you for reading and especially for such a thoughtful comment! ^_^

Fëanor surely must have been able to confide in survivors of the crossing to Aman ?

It's certainly possible. Finwe himself, I would think, would be able to offer some consolation: As a leader of his people, he surely consoled those who grieved for their lost ones (possibly even lost people himself). I suppose it comes down to the extent that one believes the Valar were able to create this veneer of "deathlessness"; I wonder also how many Elves from Middle-earth regarded their lot in Aman as much improved over what they had in M-e, and whether Feanor might have felt that itself created a wall that prevented them--even if they understood grief--from fully connecting to HIS grief, as specifically occurring within Aman, i.e., grief was something left behind in M-e, which must have been particularly difficult for Feanor to hear, suffering as he did IN AMAN.

All of this is speculation, of course, but this is why we need fanfic. ;)

curious that Fëanor should say 'first of all the Eldar in Aman' about his death

But he specifically says "slain" first in Aman, i.e., killed by the deliberate act of another (the Valar), which does not apply to Miriel.

either Taniquetil becomes iced with guano, or Elves are shovelling eagle-droppings into wheelbarrows and carting them down to the fields.

LOL, that's a brilliant image! These are the things I often suspected I wasn't supposed to think about but, once I started writing fanfic, found I couldn't NOT think about.

If this detail appears in a Republic of Tirion story, I'll credit you. ;)

did Eru sacrifice the Elves to save Middle-earth ?

There's a line from Eru in the Ainulindale that I think explains this (and also strikes me as vaguely sinister to and that I exploited particularly in my story "Hastaina"): "And thou, Melkor, shall see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devisting of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."

So as you point out, the exile of the Noldor to M-e and all the tragedy that came with it was a necessary instrument to the eventual defeat of first Melkor and then Sauron. I would say, yes, the Elves were sacrificed in a way, though I don't think Eru would phrase it as such: Rather, their suffering produced something more beautiful than if they hadn't suffered. (Hence the sinister aspect! :)

Thank you once again for such a thought-provoking comment and taking the time to read my blatherings in the first place!

Reviewer: oshun Signed [Report This]
Date: March 03, 2017 - 11:18 am
Title: On Writing Aman, or the Balance between the Mythic and the Real

Thanks for your kind acceptance of my yammering and managing to understand me despite my generous salting of typos! I was just thinking the other day about being told that Elves don't use contractions and a story involving digging Elven latrines by Jael (another canon heretic)! She had the nerve to write Elves that shat.

It always struck me as hilarious back in the day, at how everyone seems to slavishly worship Shakespeare (myself included and I would assert with good reason) and yet those people griped about my fanfiction including contractions, slang, and informal usage in dialogue. Whatever! I felt like the Silm fandom freed me of the need to let the naysayers alter my vision.

I finally worked a tattoo into a Tolkien fanfiction just this past month. I had one in my novel The Princess and the Horse Lord and under immense pressure and objections from people reading the early chapters of it in serial on HASA, finally was persuaded to take it out! I wish I had not caved in now. It really was hilarious and would have given me another thing to add to the arsenal of age-appropriate decisions that Elves and Men could tease my young princess about throughout that novel.

Way too late now! If I could give a brand new young fanfic writer any advice it would be to use spell-check and be true to yourself and your own version of the story.

Author's Response:

Oh you know I love your yammering and don't give a fig about typos! If I have my druthers and can make Drupal work for this site, everyone will be able to edit their own reviews so you can angst over them then. ;)

I loved the tattoo story immensely. I'm sorry in retrospect that you didn't keep it in TPatHL too, although it's easier to look back and say we should have done more to stand up to canatics then now that we aren't constantly in their midst! This is supposed to be fun, after all. (It's unfun enough at times that I'm wholly unwilling to sacrifice more of the joyful parts!) I also took things out of my stories that I thought would be "too much" for some readers and would bring down unnecessary wrath upon me. Those details didn't seem worth the effort of the defense I'd inevitably have to launch. Thank goodness the fandom (at least the fanworks part) has progressed beyond that for the most part. We complain about how things are now, but writing this essay and looking back at what things were like ten years ago makes me grateful for what we have now. Ten years ago I would not have imagined sharing a story like "The Sovereign and the Priest" or my Fifth Age Aman series! (Unless under the protection of an AU label. I remember being told to defensively label AMC as AU because my Elves sleep with their eyes closed!)

I agree on that advice, and I think that we as a community/subculture have come a long way in making it possible for that to happen without people feeling like they are committing the fanfic equivalent of volunteering to march off with Finrod into the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth!

Reviewer: oshun Signed [Report This]
Date: March 03, 2017 - 09:48 am
Title: On Writing Aman, or the Balance between the Mythic and the Real

I think this is a fascinating discussion. It was a very important one to me--if not THE most important one to me--when I first came around the Tolkien fandom. I felt in my early experiences that I was banging on a closed door when all I wanted to do was to have fun and write some semi-authentic, emotionally relevant, character-based fantasy fiction which showed how deeply rooted was my love of Tolkien's work for over 40 years at that point. Although Lord of the Rings was my first love and a profound one, one of the reasons I was drawn to The Silmarillion fandom vs. the HASA-based mostly LotR fanfiction archive dealt largely with this exact question.

My first consideration of the worldbuilding aspects of my Tolkien fanfiction was arrived at through characterization. How does one write Tolkien's world in a way that does not contradict everything I want to think about relating to character-building? The humanity of the Elves came first for me and the worldbuilding that surrounded them followed as a close second.

Aside from you, two early Silm writers who greatly influence me were Tehta and Darth Fingon (writing as Claudio at that time). Their Elves were vain, foolish, vulnerable, wicked, passionate, and sympathetic (even the bad ones! or, in my case, especially the most flawed ones!). One of my favorite Tolkien fandom story titles is Tehta's "Flawed and Fair." A very nudge, nudge, wink, wink acknowledgement of her own self-consciousness about writing human Elves, who deal with a familiar physical reality, despite chasing giants spiders and living in Gondolin. These Elves are still other while remaining familiar and so very human.

I would also throw in that Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series had a huge influence on my first writing of Tolkien's Elves, from a different but more realistic angle. She also wrote hybred-human character an innate specialness and gifts, existint in an alien, if oddly familiar, environment. She, in turn, was greatly influenced by Tolkien, but she, like many women fantacists of her gneration, departed in the direction of a fantasy setting with realistic elements and day-to-day concerns and, most significantly, dealt with relevant issues of gender and human sexuality, based in her acute awareness of women's issues being debated and discussed at that time.

I have always asserted, as you point out above, that Tolkien did write human Elves. He and I might differ a little over the high fantasy tone from time to time. My Elves' English usage leans away from Medieval High Fantasy-based stilted dialogue and perhaps a bit (ha! more than a bit) into a colloquial tone--but it was not an unconscious or lazy decision on my part. A lot of pain and stress went into my final choices and no shortage of wading through fandom wank on the issue!

A great essay in a few words. I hope my comment is not longer than your essay!


Author's Response:

It was very important to me too. I feel like I had a more fortunate start than you, though; coming directly into the Silmarillion fandom, for one--which was not without its canatics but also wasn't waging war on the sins committed by PJ's LotR trilogy via a hardass bookverse canaticism--and falling in right away with Enismirdal and Uli/ford_of_bruinen, both of whom wrote not just slash but intelligent, thoughtful, character-driven stories. I also steered mostly clear of HASA and the big Tolkien archives; most of my work went up on LJ and then the SWG, so I had the privilege of playing mostly in spaces I controlled. The HASA people I was friends with--Juno whom I quote in the essay and Arandil I remember particularly--were likewise intelligent fans and more than a little heretical. All the same, I remember being terrified to the point of physical illness on AMC posting days. I was convinced that it was just a matter of time before the canatics found me and descended on me like a plague of locusts and shredded my story that had become such a joyful part of my life.

I remember some of what you went through, and vulnerable and young as I was at the time, the same thing probably would have driven me from writing Tolkienfic.

Likewise, my stories start from characterization. AMC began as a character study; I didn't know it wanted to be a novel until I was almost to Chapter Ten. I wanted to understand the Feanorians, and that's why I started writing it. Anything that doesn't make sense from the human/character perspective has no place in my worldbuilding. I have no interest in elevating people to something more than people; I get the "escape" argument, but that's not why I write. I write to understand PEOPLE.

I loved Tehta's work when I was still a lurker; I read everything she wrote. I was introduced to Claudio's writing later and then read everything he wrote. They are both writers of the sort I aspire to be. I've read a little of Darkover (on your recommendation! :) and have enjoyed those I've picked up so far.

> Tolkien did write human Elves.

Yes! I noted to Dreamflower's comment on this essay that, back in the day, I could always tell the people who hadn't read the Silm: They were the ones griping about fan fiction that included "imperfect" Elves or who made statements like, "Elves are too good and in control of their impulses to ever have pre/extramarital sex!" RIGHT. But that goodness and impulse control doesn't extend to murdering each other from time to time!

You know I love the style and voice of your writing. It is so uniquely yours. I feel like I could pull a story of yours out of a lineup with no problem. I read back on my early work, like AMC, and wish I'd allowed myself to relax the dialogue a little bit. At least I didn't attempt thees and thous! I've learned from writers like you that a more natural voice in dialogue can be done, even in Tolkienfic! :)

Thank you for the comment which was not as long as the essay but much loved. <3

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