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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…)

The new year is often treated as a fresh start and an opportunity to look forwards at the significant events over the coming 12 months. And in 2017 we do indeed have a very exciting year ahead, but first I want to look back over the previous year and explain why I think 2016 was a great year for Tolkien. (more…)

November 2016

I will start this month with a post that I felt that I could have written myself, except for the details of the neglects
Brenton Dickieson, Tuesday, 22 November 2016, ‘Battling a Mountain of Neglects with J.R.R. Tolkien
The fact that it is (at the point of writing this) less than a week until Christmas is, I suppose, telling of my own situation. I have often enough thought of Tolkien’s letters when writing these introductions, and Dickieson’s clever use of Tolkien’s phrase, and his elegant weaving together of his own situation and Tolkien’s struck me as particularly apt.
For this reason, you will probably find that more of the links are given without comment than I usually do – even in months when I have been busy, but I hope you will nontheless find them interesting. This month I have also re-used a few of the best pieces of art-work that I have been permitted by the artists to use this year.

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Imagine a bas-relief like this from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius for the Fellowship of the Ring. Would it use a religious motif or simply a martial one?
Imagine a bas-relief like this from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius for the Fellowship of the Ring. Would it use a religious motif or simply a martial one?

It is such a little thing, the word “fellowship”, that one might not expect it to elicit so much commentary from so many learned and wise (or to draw administrative admonishment to be polite).  A while, Jeffrey Ryan was walking down the yellow brick road and he stopped to ask on the Tolkien Society Facebook page about … well, here are his words: “So one thing I’ve been wondering, and I don’t think I’ve asked the group about this, why the books use the term ‘Company’ while the films use ‘fellowship’ to describe the Ring-bearer and his companions.”  No one seems to have thought to ask Peter Jackson and his fellow writers to answer the question.

But the discourse about “company” versus “fellowship” drew my attention and got me to thinking about the uniqueness of the word “fellowship” in Tolkien’s Middle-earth fiction.  You have various companies in The Silmarillion and you have Thorin and Company in The Hobbit and you even have the Venturers Guild in “The Mariner’s Wife” but nowhere do you find Tolkien using “fellowship” to refer to a group of companions except in The Lord of the Rings, and there he only uses it of the Company of the Ring. (more…)

October 2016

There is nothing new, really. Except, perhaps, that I have managed (apparently without any permanent injury) to pass, as my children lovingly remind me, a farthing score decades …. Personally I like the slow polysyllabic distinguishedness to semicentenarian 🙂 Tolkien obviously featured on my wish list, and my own present for myself, Jenny Dolfen’s brilliant Songs of Sorrow and Hope arrived just a few days after, with more to appear at a later date. My pre-order of the second edition of Scull & Hammond’s J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide probably being last to arrive as it will not be released until September next.

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Kel Richards is an Australian radio broadcaster and crime novelist who’s undertaking a series of classic “cozy” 1930s-style murder mysteries with C.S. Lewis as sleuth, interweaving detecting with conversations about mere Christianity. (The British publisher is an imprint of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, so the apologetics are intended as the real point.)

He contacted me a year ago because I maintain a bibliography of the Inklings as represented in fiction and he wanted to be entered on it. I ordered and read the first two books, which take place in a fictional locale somewhere in England, and reviewed them.

I guess Mr Richards was impressed with my perspicacity or something, because he asked if I would read over the manuscript of his fourth book, The Sinister Student, which at last takes place in Oxford and introduces Tolkien and more of the Inklings. (Warren Lewis had been in the first book as well.) Now the book has been published, with my name in the acknowledgments at the end, so I might as well report on it.

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