Whither/Wither Tolkien Fandom?

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[page 4] Whither Wither Tolkien Fandom? Organized Tolkien Fandom began in 1960, at the 18th World SF Convention in Pittsburgh, with the formation of The Fellowship of the Ring. It was originally the idea of several Los Angeles science fiction fans, especially Bjo Trimble (then Bjo Wells), and Ted Johnstone. The original plans called for quarterly publication of the Official Organ, I PALANTIR, and for local branches of the parent organization, with membership in the Fellowship to be based, once the organization got under weigh, on knowledge of the Middle Earth works. The structure envisioned was similar to that of the Baker Street Irregulars, devotees of Sherlock Holmes. It didn't work out that way, of course. I PALANTIR's schedule was anything from annual to triennial: 1960, 1961, 1964, 1966. The Fellowship, after holding another meeting at the 19th World Science Fiction in Seattle, 1961, found it didn't really have anything to discuss, so it stopped meeting. All it could offer its members for their $1 membership fee was a printed membership card too big to fit in a wallet card-case. That is still all it offers. The Fellowship sponsored awards for Tolkien art at the art shows of the world science fiction conventions. Only twice was the award given --at Pittsburgh in 1960, and at Chicago in 1962. For 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1965, though the award was available, nothing sufficiently outstanding was entered in the art show, and the award was not given. Three years in a row being too much of an indication of disinterest, the award has been discontinued -- at least for a while. The awards themselves -- an engraved goblet, a cross-stich sampler, and a figurine of an Orc in bronze -- were better than most entries. (The figurine was actually _part_ of an entry: the winning entry at Pittsburgh, a set of 9 bronze Middle Earth figurines, later donated by the artist, Sidney Lanier, to a member of the Fellowship, Bjo Trimble, who made the Orc available as an award.) This lack of activity on the part of the Fellowship was, in a large part, the fault of the officers, myself included, who found they would [page 5] rather spend their time on other projects than on the Fellowship, because time and money spent on the latter brought very little response. The membership was quite willing to buy I PALANTIR and participate in any activity which was thought up, but no one had anything to offer in the way of actually contributing to the thinking up or promulgating of the activities. Each of us -- member and officer alike -- went his own way, advancing his own appreciation of the Middle Earth works. Then, within the last two years, these works suddenly Caught On with a larger audience. The cause may have been the publication of the paperback editions, or it may simply have been Steam Engine Time for Tolkien. Several fanzines devoted to Tolkien's works sprang up -- and so did a new fan organization, the Tolkien Society of America, founded by Dick Plotz in New York. This Society has held quite a few meetings, and been addressed by such notables as W. H. Auden. Phrases like "Frodo Lives!" have been scrawled in the New York subways and printed on lapel buttons (in both English and Tengwar or the Angerthas). Articles which were previously relegated to a few fanzines now appear in nationally syndicated magazines -- like the Saturday Evening Post! There is no doubt about it, J.R.R. Tolkien has Arrived. So where does this leave those who were the In-Group back in 1960? Well, we're still here, and we still enjoy the Middle Earth works. We aren't very much of an In-Group anymore, but there are quite enough In-Groups in Science Fiction Fandom as it is, and we don't particularly regret the expansion of this one. It is very nice indeed to have Tolkien recognized and rewarded,while he is still alive, for these books we have enjoyed so very much. Appreciation of a writing or group of writings can, over the years, grow, lessen, or stagnate. For those of us who have been around Tolkien Fandom for seven years or so, we hope our appreciation has grown. But it may have grown in several ways. It may have increased in serious criticism, through finding more and more details each time a book is re-read; it may have increased through assimilation of others' viewpoints on the books. And in the choice of one of these two routes lies the fate of Tolkien Fandom. The first route leads in the same direction that the Baker Street Irregulars have taken - the microscope-like scrutiny of infinitesimal details in the books, and extrapolation from these to the point of absurdity. Along with this goes a proclivity for scholarly articles on the influence of Tolkien on other authors (and, of course, of other authors on Tolkien), and equally scholarly articles on what Tolkien _really_ meant in his books. I'm sure you've seen the same thing happen to other authors. It can as easily happen to Tolkien. The second route cannot be followed by the Ultraserious. It is only for those who can go beyond the staid attitudes of the Serious Enthusiast to an appreciation of the _non_-serious (and sometimes even outré) attitudes toward the Middle Earth works. This is not to say that one must _agree_ with these attitudes, any more than one must agree to an artist's conception of a character in the books. But there can be appreciation without agreement --one can see how and why someone else views the Middle Earth works as he does, and one can admit the possible validity of these views. It is quite possible that I am not the best representative of Tolkien Fandom to be selected for a panel discussion; I am quite certain that Dick Plotz knows much more of what goes on among the Tolkienists of [page 6] today than I do. But I have been in Tolkien Fandom since its inception, and I have managed to advance my appreciation along the second route. The Fellowship's official publication, I PALANTIR, is open to all viewpoints. The first issue presented a Middle Earth history from Sauron's viewpoint; the second presented a cartoon comment and a folksong parody; the third viewed the _Lord of the Rings_ books from the standpoint of making a movie of them; and the fourth has both a musical comedy and a comic-book illustration of a chapter of _The Fellowship of the Ring_. If someone wants to try a verse-and-illo Primer, or anything in that line, he is welcome to send it along. From what I have seen, there are today two distinct sections of Tolkien Fandom. The Tolkien Society is very serious -- and very _good_; make no mistake about that -- and the Fellowship is either serious or not, depending on the material presented to it. The Tolkien Society is on a much larger scale than the Fellowship, but developmentally they are where the Fellowship was in 1960. Where they go remains to be determined. The Fellowship is a part of Science Fiction Fandom -- it was begun at a science fiction convention, its officers and the majority of its members are participants in science fiction fandom. As long as the latter statement holds true, the Fellowship will _remain_ in Science Fiction Fandom. The Tolkien Society of America has never been a part of this fandom, and there is no reason to assume that it will ever become so. When the Society was formed, there was some talk of disbanding the small amount of activity the Fellowship still has -- activity consisting mostly of members heckling the publisher of I PALANTIR to get out an issue, and the publisher thinking up excuses and making half-hearted pseudo-promises -- and deferring to the more stately and imposing Society. Apathy, more than anything else, prevented this from happening. And for once I am happy to have been apathetic. I think there is still a purpose to the Fellowship: it may serve as contact between Science Fiction Fandom and that part of Tolkien Fandom which has no connection with Science Fiction Fandom -- and it will continue to serve as an outlet for the non-serious viewpoints on Middle Earth works One part of Tolkien Fandom has never been in Science Fiction Fandom; I doubt that you could ever get rid of the other part while it exists -- because _that_ part has been in Science Fiction Fandom since before there _was_ a Tolkien Fandom, and it not only _should_ stay a part of SF Fandom, it _will_. So much for speech material. As for I PALANTIR itself, it is for the most part a reprintzine these days -- but the material reprinted has been limited in its circulation, and it is doubtful that too many of IP's readership will have read the originals. We _are_ still on the lookout for original material, but with the increasing numbers of APAs and genzines crying for material these days, most original material finds immediate publication elsewhere, and must appear here as reprint. One such reprint we had hoped to include was Marion Zimmer Bradley Breen's _Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship_, a treatise in FAPA several years ago which had been promised to IP, then held back until an attempt at publication in a Little Magazine could be made. It has now been re-printed in NIEKAS 16, 50¢ or 3/6 (if copies remain) from Felice Rolfe, 1360 Emerson, Palo Alto, Calif 94301. I regret that friction between myself and MZB has resulted in loss of this excellent treatise to I PALANTIR.

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