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02 May 2004 @ 05:12 pm
Fandoms I Have Loved 1: Lord of the Rings  
Note: This is the start of an ongoing series that will take a look at the fandoms I read - what I think of them, what I want from them, and how you can read FF in them even if you don't know the canon. I've had this series waiting for a while; I've been hesitating to post any of the essays, because I know that's not why people come here. Ardent (aka ardent_muses) said she'd be interested in reading the Due South FIHL, so I've decided to post at least a few of them. I have to begin, obviously, with my first fandom: Lord of the Rings.

I know I'm not the only one the Lord of the Rings movies led into the darkness of fan fiction. Some days, in fact, I suspect I have approximately the entire population of the western hemisphere for company. Lawyers looking for new class action lawsuits should probably check into this; New Line and Jackson have a lot of money, and there's been a lot of pain and suffering and lost work time as a result of their recent behavior, if you see where I'm going with this.



Ah, the memories of my LotR era...back when I thought I had to know the canon to read the fan fiction. (Seriously. I felt guilty because I was reading FF even though I hadn't read, for example, The Lays of Beleriand. Ha. Now I know that I was unusually well-grounded in the canon just 'cause I'd read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.) When I thought fan fiction was a bad habit I'd be getting over any - day - now. (Turns out not to be the case.) When I believed that the only way to find stories was to go to an archive and click on link after link after link, and as a result, I bookmarked maybe one story a month. (Note to newbies: archives are really best left to the advanced FF reader - in other words, someone who is already insane.) When I was ashamed of fan fiction, and my reading thereof, and therefore would never participate in a conversation about it in a public place, let alone start a LJ just to chronicle my consumption of it.

Those were the days, my friends. The days when I was innocent.

It's nice to know, looking back, that I was innocent once.

It's also nice to know there was a time when I was a single-fandom girl, when I would page impatiently past recommendations that weren't in my fandom, that didn't involve my pairings.

But, really, it's nicest to remember the day when I moved on.

See, the movies lured in a lot of people, yes, but they also triggered the first documented instance of the Orlando Bloom Effect (bad slash follows Bloom as night must follow day, and those who read said slash cannot be true to any fandom, at least not without losing their freaking minds). In the dark days following the release of Fellowship of the Rings, bad LotR fan fiction accumulated online like dollars in Peter Jackson's bank account.

And, when I gave some consideration to the matter, I realized I didn't actually enjoy most of the pairings of the fandom, either. Hobbits remind me of puppies; even the vaguest hint of hobbit sex leaves me twitching and nauseated and telephoning my HMO for therapy authorization. Legolas reminds me, as I have said many times, of a My Little Pony or something - shiny, pretty, and intended only for little girls. (No offense to those who love him; clearly, you're just seeing something I'm not, which is, believe me, nothing new.) And I have to believe that Gimli and Gandalf are totally asexual, because if I don't, well, the resultant mental images will prevent me from ever reaching orgasm again. So, as far as the Fellowship goes, I'm left with - hmmm. Boromir. And Aragorn. And as fun as those guys are, spend a month or two with the Man Who Will Be King and Is Really Conflicted About That* and the Man Who Is, Dammit, Definitely Going to Die, and you're ready for the industrial vats of psychotropic medications. Seriously. These guys have angst and doom dripping out their ears. Or, if the story is rated NC-17, out of other bodily orifices.

So there came a day when I realized I needed to find an alternative to the damn LotR fan fiction, ideally before the damage - and the SSRI dependence - was permanent. In an alternate universe, I stopped reading FF altogether, started doing good deeds, saving the world, and focusing on the needs of others. In this universe, I began...branching out.

Cue the scary music.

-Helpful Links for the LotR Newbie-

If you don't know the canon, you can fake it with: The Encyclopedia of Arda. This is book canon, but it should work fairly well if you haven't seen the movies, either. And it's incredibly detailed.

Where to start: I'd actually suggest starting with PWP in this fandom. Seriously. See, the thing is, Tolkien and Son pretty much covered every damn thing that could reasonably happen in Middle Earth in the canon writings, and what's left for fan fiction writers to do, plotwise, is fairly, um, scary. It's best not to know. So the best fics tend to be meditations on character, and those are mostly either gen or PWP; I think the PWP ones would be easier to get. (Because, hey, who doesn't get sex? It's the universal fandom!)

I'd start with these NC-17 stories:

Silence, by cinzia. Boromir/Aragorn. A wonderful use of sex to show character. Lovely foreshadowing, excellent scene setting - a PWP that shows why people read PWP.

Westering and Midwinter, by Gloria Mundi, aka viva_gloria. Aragorn/Boromir. Another example of excellence in PWP, with a wonderful, in-depth look at the main characters. In my opinion, the guys here are closer to book than movie standard, and the overall style of this story is in some ways reminiscent of Tolkien, so this is an excellent one to read if you haven't read the books.

Bound, by Tricia. Aragorn/Legolas. The easiest way to break into the canon, I think - this is a PWP that requires no prior knowledge of the characters. I don't think you'd even need to know the characters' names to read this one.

Then I'd move on to gen:

The Care and Feeding of Hobbits, by Baylor. The subtitle of this story is "Ruminations on the Little People by Boromir, Man of Gondor," and that pretty much sums it up. The most impressive thing here is that Baylor manages to be touching and sweet without being cloying. And she sure does nail hobbit personalities. In fact, if you knew nothing of this canon at all, you could read this and come away with an understanding of hobbits at least as good as the one you get from reading The Hobbit.

All That You Can't Leave Behind, by Mary Borsellino. This is another story that takes a good look at hobbits and the Fellowship's hobbits' relationship with Boromir. This is gen, of course, so we're not talking about hobbit sex. And this story isn't perfect - it needs some proofreading, for example - but it does capture all three characters very well.

-Footnote-

* Movie canon, of course. Book Aragorn is never conflicted about anything; he marches to the beat of his own destiny and it's damnation and boot nails for anyone who gets in his way.
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 07:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am familiar with crack_van. Tragically, hideously, addictively familiar. That community's name is definitely truth in advertising.

Hmmm. You're right, of course - the VSD really are required reading. On the other hand, you need to know the canon (or read a lot of FF in it) to get them, I think. Maybe I should have a classics or required reading section in addition to the easy stories for beginning readers (in this fandom)?
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 11:29 pm (UTC)
I actually used to assume that everyone in the world had seen the LotR movies. But then I met a woman who hadn't seen the movies in the bathroom after a showing of Return of the King; she complained to me that it didn't make a lot of sense - what was the thing with the ring? why didn't the king end up with the blonde girl? I asked her how long it had been since she'd seen Fellowship and Two Towers, and she said she never had. She'd just assumed she'd be able to pick it up from the third one. And she hadn't read the books, either.

That really reformed my worldview, you know? Now I assume that any fandom could be totally unfamiliar to someone out there. And so, yes, all my links in FIHL will be chosen for their ability to lure in those unfamiliar with the canon. What we like to call fresh meat.

(For a while, I wanted to believe that there was no one like that woman I met in the bathroom actually in the fandom. Then I started reading stories with author disclaimers that said things like "I've never read the books but I just got back from seeing Felowship [sic] of Rings [sic] and OMG I had to write sumthin [sic] because Leggolas [sic] is so HOTTTTTTT [sic sic sic]!" And I realized that there was no depth so low that no one could sink to it. So, while I would like to believe that the minimum requirement for entry into the LotR fandom is familiarity with the movies, and that most fans have also read at least the basic books, I cannot. Sorrow. But I'm still assuming there's no one like that woman reading this blog. No, LotR newbies in this blog will be people who didn't see the movies because they were stuck in the Yukon while the movies were out, and didn't read the books because they prefer fiction written before 1900.)
Raven: Two pleasures by Alaxraveninthewind on May 4th, 2004 05:34 pm (UTC)
I hope you've added yourself to the Crack Van queue to rec in your fandoms!

I really need an icon that says Sex--the universal fandom.
Because that is so true. I've been "sucked" into more fandoms than I could name because of porn.
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC)
I like the other characters. I just don't, for the most part, ever ever ever want to think about them doing anything even remotely sexual. Hobbits being Exhibit A.

With Legolas, it isn't so much that I don't want to think about him having sex. It's that I find the idea that he might really funny, which tends to inhibit my enjoyment of your average Legolas-intensive PWP.

I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in my strange non-attraction to Bloom. We must band together for mutual support and rallies. We are the People Who Find Orlando Bloom Oddly Asexual! We're here! We're weird! Get used to us!
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 11:32 pm (UTC)
I, myself, cannot do RPS, although I encourage those who can to read it. It just makes me feel all ooked out. But if I could read RPS, I'd be like you - comfortable with hobbit actor RPS, disgusted by hobbit slash. Nothing will ever make me able to read hobbit slash with an easy mind (not to mention an easy stomach). At least, I hope nothing will.

And I think teasel is a brilliant writer, too. So many of my favorite authors write mostly hobbit slash or RPS that I really wish I could get into the stuff. Sigh.
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 3rd, 2004 02:14 am (UTC)
You started in HP? Yeek. I thought starting in LotR was bad because rape, torture, and unbelievably revolting pairings are something of a specialty of the fandom. But at least LotR never has chan. (Though that's mostly 'cause Tolkien really seemed to resent the whole concept of sexual reproduction; I think, if he could've, he would've created the whole of Middle Earth without any women or children at all. As it is he came very, very close to that. I always found that tendency of his annoying, but it does make the FF a bit safer.)

And, yes, I do think one must know the canon to write the fan fiction. Totally. Read what you find. Write what you know. That is the creed of the responsible fan.
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 3rd, 2004 02:27 am (UTC)
Thanks! And, yes, your life is easier. But we non-hobbit-slashers have our pride. Ours is an austere and lonely road and a noble calling.

(Eeek. I just described pairing preference as a calling. Yes, in jest, but I'm starting to scare myself here.)
resonant8 on May 2nd, 2004 07:05 pm (UTC)
Ooh, what an excellent idea! I've bookmarked some of your recs (the ones with sex in them), and can't wait to see what you'll say when you get to the fandoms dearest to my heart.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 3rd, 2004 02:06 am (UTC)
Thanks!

My next FIHL will probably be either Sentinel or Due South; I've decided not to go in chronological order now that LotR has its due - mostly, I'm afraid, because it would actually be hard to trace which fandoms I joined after LotR. Once I started looking beyond LotR, I had the world's fastest conversion from One Fandom Girl to Forty Fandom Girl.
Raven: Lennier-Marcus Love by Jenaviraraveninthewind on May 4th, 2004 05:40 pm (UTC)
I had the world's fastest conversion from One Fandom Girl to Forty Fandom Girl.

I don't feel so alone now. I think I won "Easiest to Pimp into a New Fandom 2003." Look at the nice framed photo I got of Krycek doing Mulder while Jim & Blair, Vic & Mac and the two Rays look on appraisingly. (Fraser just looks concerned that Mulder said "no" and was ignored. He's obviously thinking about intervention.)
Ardent: Wicked CKRardent_muses on May 2nd, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)
This is great! I'm so glad you did post it. :)

Legolas reminds me, as I have said many times, of a My Little Pony or something - shiny, pretty, and intended only for little girls.

I'm with you on Legolas. Give me dirty, sweaty Aragorn and....and..... Well, this is why I'm not into LOTR slash. *G*

But I'm laughing because I was just referencing My Little Pony to kelliem a couple of days ago. We were talking about certain kinds of fanfic which seem to be all about making a character (Illya Kuryakin, in this case) into a eunuch with long flowing hair so you can take him out of the box and brush him and give him french braids. *G*
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 3rd, 2004 02:22 am (UTC)
OK, help me out here. Who is Illya Kuryakin?

But, yeah, there is that horrible tendency. I think it's 'cause very pretty boys seem to bring very young girls into the fandom - I think they find the relative femininity of the pretties both familiar and safe - and, hey, I suppose that's a definition of early puberty: you go from dressing up dolls in your room to dressing up boys in your head.

Yikes. I think we've identified a fan fiction type that Mooncalf missed in "Every Fanfic Every Written!" - the My Little Pony Fic.

Anyway, thanks, both for the compliment and the well-timed push. (You really must be a great motivator, since you got me to post something you didn't even know I'd written.)
Ardent: Voyeur IK Sithdragnardent_muses on May 3rd, 2004 11:43 pm (UTC)
OK, help me out here. Who is Illya Kuryakin?

Come here, little girl... *G*

Just kidding. He's the man in my icon.
Another fairly good pic of Illya (and his boyfriend)

He's the Russian partner of Napoleon Solo, the Man From UNCLE. On the show, Illya is cold, brilliant, deadly, hard as nails, able to stand up to torture, etc.

In fanfiction, he has long golden hair like spun silk and he's a kitten-loving, sexually dysfunctional crybaby. :)

I think we've identified a fan fiction type that Mooncalf missed in "Every Fanfic Every Written!" - the My Little Pony Fic.

You're right! We need to make this official. And maybe the "My Little Pony Character" while we're at it. *G* (I love her essay, BTW. Brilliant!)

(You really must be a great motivator, since you got me to post something you didn't even know I'd written.)

LOL! I'm sayin'!
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 10:39 am (UTC)
Don't think I don't see what you're trying to do with your subtle little references to oft-slashed pony boy (no, the other kind of pony boy) characters in unfamiliar canons. Let me say here and now: I am not acquiring another fandom. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. And I am immune to all temptation to do so.

Although I admit my past behavior makes that immunity sort of hard to believe.

Ooo. I just had a dreadful thought. I think Draco Malfoy is the pony boy in the HP fandom. My god, what hideous depths for the scion of a noble, pure-blood house to sink to.
Raven: Get Folkedraveninthewind on May 4th, 2004 05:44 pm (UTC)
re My Little Pony slash
Ummm.

You do know there's centaur slash out there?

*g*

And Draco as the My Little Pony of the HP fandom? Yep. I think so.
(Anonymous) on May 4th, 2004 07:37 am (UTC)
Pretty Pretty Pony men
I wrote something about the Unthreatening Young Male in my journal here - http://genibee.diaryland.com/020114_2.html and especially here - http://genibee.diaryland.com/020116_57.html, talking specifically about Elijah Wood and sort of tying him into Donatello's David. It's not anything in depth, but some might find it of interest.

Genibee
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 11:02 am (UTC)
Re: Pretty Pretty Pony men
Those're some excellent posts, Genibee. And I think you've identified the ultimate pretty-pony-boy: Donatello's bronze David. From now on, I will be picturing the pony boys of every fandom in that pose. And, you know, giggling. A lot.

And, really, I think you're right about the whole nonthreatening young male thing, and your sister is right, too - they're the safety choice for girls who are starting to explore the whole sex thing but aren't ready for actual men.

One thing I hadn't thought about before I read your post is that Frodo is another pony boy in the LotR movies. In fact, with his small stature, his relatively passive role in the movie, and his huge, huge eyes, he's even more the archetypal pony boy than Legolas is. What a pity they didn't give him long golden hair to, as ardent_muses would say, french braid in fan fiction.

I also found your comparison between the historical audience for David and the modern audience for Wood et al interesting. I think you're saying that in those days, David had appeal mostly for the elite - the wealthy, the educated, and, by extension, adults. Whereas the modern PB has appeal mostly for the young and relatively uneducated (not saying they always will be, just saying they are during the PB phase). What do you think has caused the change in audience? Is it just that these days everyone has equal access to the PB? Or is it that people outgrow the PB phase a lot, lot faster? Or am I, you know, missing your point altogether?

(It could easily happen, especially right now. The contractors are here doing work on our house. Apparently with a jackhammer and a miraculous noise amplifier, from what I can tell by listening. I can hardly think, and I'm inside; I doubt any of the people outside will finish this job with their hearing intact. And god knows *I* won't live out this day with my brain intact.)
(Anonymous) on May 5th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC)
Re: Pretty Pretty Pony men
I think my point (if I had one, truly) is more or less what you say, except I think it was more about worldy experience and less about education, per say. Donatello's David would have a second, sensual meaning primarily to the educated, but it was a very specific type of education in a very specific, small group of wealthy males interested in NeoPlatonic philosophy, history, and poetry. They were adult, homosexual, (or homosocial) men writing about a pure love that they believed existed only between two men. See http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv3-64 and http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/ficino_m,2.html for more in-depth info.) The sensuality of the David stands for sex, but it also stands for a bunch of other things, all bundled into it. The audience for the PB these days seems to be primarily young women, looking for a way to negotiate that weird gap between figuring out that men are interesting but still being young enough to be intimidated by very overtly masculine men. So I don’t know if you can classify it as a change in audience, because the older one was so specialized and small, and while in certain timeperiods like the late 1400s, it did influence popular culture, I don’t think that our modern popular culture is one of those timeperiods. With a society more exposed to sexuality, young women probably use PB’s (and certain types of fanfic) as a safe way to figure out all these new feelings about men and sex. Crushing on these safe men (and having them in relationships with each other) puts the power in their hands, so they can experiment without risk. Things like hurt/comfort fic seem to hold up this theory pretty well. If/when they are ready to move on, they simply outgrow the phase and move onto, say, um…Aragorn? Or Boromir?

Of course, there is a strong chance I’m talking out of my ass.