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Some of Tolkien’s most interesting and illuminating letters are those in response to readers of The Lord of the Rings, especially those correcting misapprehensions of his intent. Misreadings are, of course, a hazard for all authors, as C.S. Lewis noted when he wrote, “I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.” (Wirt) And Lewis’s work has demonstrated this with the persistent misreading of The Last Battle known as the Problem of Susan.

If this can happen to great authors like Tolkien and Lewis, it can also happen to lesser ones like myself, even if the reader galloping firmly through the wrong gate is the learned and estimable Tom Shippey.

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January 2017

These monthly introductions have become an outlet for my feelings of having too much to do – to some extent as an explanation of delays and reduced commentary. As can be seen, I am now (albeit slowly) catching up with respect to the delays, which is certainly a relief (and due to a general lightening of loads compared to the latter half of 2016). The commentary is still light as I am unable to read through all items (and a number of them I simply include because they look interesting), and this is likely to continue for quite a while.

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For those of who have enjoyed Tolkien since childhood, we are aware that every year of our lives is a year of Tolkien. 2016 was great, but 2017 looks to be an especially significant year for J.R.R. Tolkien. And here’s why. (more…)

In 1977, Christopher Tolkien published a long-awaited book containing his father’s legends of the ‘Elder Days’ of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion. The central and longest section of this book was the ‘Quenta Silmarillion’, the ‘tale of the Jewels’, which told the history of Elves and Men from the earliest days through the end of their war against the first great Dark Lord, Morgoth. While Tolkien had for years worked on and meant to publish the ‘Quenta Silmarillion’ on his own, when he died the work was still incomplete. His son had to edit together the published work from his father’s drafts (with a small amount of invention to fill in gaps), attempting to create a final product consistent in both narrative content and in style.

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December 2016

Happy New Year!

Yup, I know: I’m late … again.
Still, not as much as last month, and things are looking up, and I am now gnawing away slowly at the backlog – the ‘Mountain of Neglects’, as I joined Brenton Dickieson in quoting Tolkien last month. There are still old neglects to catch up on, but they are fewer than they were.

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I attended my first fan convention in 1992. It was World Fantasy Con and there I met a dear lady and now departed friend, Clara Miller, who recruited me to join the volunteers of her small north Georgia convention, Magic Carpet Con. I say “recruited” but I was a complete stranger to Clara and she to me; she handed me a flyer announcing Magic Carpet ON I. For some reason, I found myself on the last night of the MCC convention helping Clara count money in the con suite. There had been a dispute among the con staff (as sadly happens too often) and virtually the entire crew left. I promised Clara I would help the next year but I wasn’t able to take on the responsibility of being a board member.

They eventually recruited me for the board of directors for MCC III and eventually we started a new convention, Galacticon. Somewhere along the way I met one of the senior directors for DragonCon. I had heard of Georgia’s “big” convention. All my friends had attended it at least once but I was remiss in my fan experience, mainly because I kept so busy with other things. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the DragonCon guy was there looking for volunteers for the big convention. Some people criticized this practice but when I mentioned the criticism to him he pointed out that all the small cons were recruiting each other’s staff, too. (more…)