Thinking the unthinkable: SBOH

Discussion in 'J R R Tolkien' started by revelshade, Jul 6, 2009.

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    revelshade

    revelshade New Member

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    Clute and Grant's Encyclopedia of Fantasy includes an entry on "Sequels by Other Hands" (shortened to SBOH in the body of the text). The phrase and the acronym have stuck in my head.

    It goes without saying that sequels (and prequels) to dead authors' works are very common in fantasy and sf, but Tolkien is the great exception. There has been fan fiction, choose-your-path books and other gaming material, and of course the recent and forthcoming movies, but no "real" books.

    But nothing lasts forever, and no caretaker is either immortal or incorruptible. Sooner or later someone with the power to do so will authorize new Middle-earth novels.

    When I was young and insufferably snobbish the thought appalled me. But I'm no longer young, or insufferable in that particular way, and now the LOTR movies have come and gone. I think they are over-rated as films and utterly wrong-headed as adaptations, but I have to admit the sky hasn't fallen and the earth hasn't swallowed anyone up. Life goes on and in a world where Elrond/Legolas slash is only a few clicks away can any authorized prequel really seem like a desecration?

    I suspect the answer is still a resounding YES to a lot of Tolkien fans and if you're one of them, well, you're a better man than I am, Jungle Jim.

    But if anyone else has found themselves thinking the unthinkable... well, exactly what are you thinking? Which characters? Stories? Authors? Here's a specific question: the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs is one of my favorite bits from the Appendices. What living author should or could tell the full tale?
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    Hilarious Joke

    Hilarious Joke Fool

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    George R R Martin. He's got plenty of time on his hands.
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    Dozmonic

    Dozmonic Member

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    Oh dear god no, it'd become an endless fantasy soap opera like all his other work ;-(
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    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    New Middle-Earth novels will appear like a plague from 2nd September 2043, when copyright expires.
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    Wiglaf

    Wiglaf New Member

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    Personally, I always thought that an authorized account of some of the Silmarillion stories written as coherent stand alone works for younger readers would be nice. Sort of a kids version for Hobbit fans.
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Well, I doubt I'll be spared to see that...thank the gods...:p
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    Clansman

    Clansman Lochaber Axeman, QC

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    Damn. I'll only be 76, and likely alive to see it. Is this the copyright for The Hobbit (1937), LOTR (1953-55) or The Silmarillion (1977). Or various others edited by Chris since JRRT's death? Or is this a Middle Earth-wide copyright that expires on the whole lot in 2043?

    Leave well enough alone, I say. And the best authors wouldn't dare to touch this with a barge pole. They have enough of their own good stuff to work on. This being said, someone will do it. I won't read it, and I should have enough will power by that point in my life to stick to my convictions!
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    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Copyright expires 70 years after the author's death, Clanny (at least in the UK). I would likely still be alive to see it, but I've just upped my intake of alcohol and cholesterol to counter the possibility. What should I name a cocktail that's half brandy and half lard?
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    A Lardy?...:D
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    revelshade

    revelshade New Member

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    Wiglaf, I never would have thought of that. So much of the Silmarillion is so dark. "The Children of Hurin" would be out of the question, I would think, but I could see "Beren and Luthien", for instance, working well for a YA audience, and it would have a good chance of appealing equally to boys and girls.

    On a more depressing note, I'm afraid that, in America at least, fundamentalist/evangelical types would be watching any such project like hawks, ready to put on the war-paint and protest pagan(!) influences on "our" children (good of them to protect my children alongside their own, though I don't actually remember asking them to). I've tried to explain the Christian foundations of Tolkien's work to my hillbilly in-laws, among others, but they ain't havin' any. These groups (mostly Baptists and Pentacostals) keep their anti-Catholic prejudices pretty quiet nowadays, but that hate and fear lie just below the surface and run very deep.

    I'm impressed by the number of hardliners who have replied so far: only 1 out of 6 admits to seriously entertaining the idea at all! I hope more people will chime in so we can see if it's really that much of a landslide.
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    revelshade

    revelshade New Member

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    If anyone is planning on being beyond "the circles of the world" before authorized prequels appear, I wouldn't base my calculations on copyright. The unthinkable can become thinkable overnight, especially when money is concerned.

    Remember that new Foundation trilogy by Greg Bear, Greg Benford and David Brin a few years back? If I was a gambling man (I can't afford to be) I would bet even money on a similar high-profile, "classy" project within five years of Christopher Tolkien's passing (long may that be delayed).

    Is Tolkien more loved or respected among fantasy authors than Asimov among sf? And Bear, Benford and Brin are respected, award-winning authors, not second-stringers or hacks. No fantasy authors of similar distinction would would want to play in Tolkien's world?

    Maybe.

    Oh, and in Arkansas a brandy and lard is called a Billy Bob, usually served burning with an Oreo floating on top.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Well, I can't speak for your part of the country, but all the bookstores around here have shelves and shelves full of children's and YA fantasy. It's not as though we have any shortage of fundamentalist Christians, either. I think they're just more interested in which books end up in the school library than in what the rest of us buy for our own children.

    Anyway, I don't think that most of the stories in the Silmarillion would be interesting to young readers. The themes in those stories don't touch on the kinds of things that are usually on children's or teenagers' minds.

    And I have to range myself with those who would be unhappy about any sequels. I can only hope that Tolkien's grandchildren feel the same. I don't quite see how they could be tempted by money alone. There must already be plenty of it to go around, considering how the books have been selling all of these years.
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    WizardofOwls

    WizardofOwls King of Typos

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    Actually there already has been a sequel to Tolkien's work.... of a sort. When Dennis L. McKiernan first wrote his Mithgar books, he wanted them to take place in the 3rd age (I think) of Middle Earth. So when the Tolkien estate denied him, he changed the hobbits to warrows, Middle Earth to Mithgar, and voila! A mildly disguised Tolkien sequel!
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    Wiglaf

    Wiglaf New Member

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    I was primarily thinking of Beren and Luthien; my 5 year old daughter likes the chapter in the Silmarillion but I have to translate an awful lot. In fact, I went to the trouble of trying to rewrite it. I got half way through; I type slow and it was just easier to adjust it on the fly. I got plenty of practice with the process while creating Ghetto-wulf for her mom. Think Beowulf for hood-rats.
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    revelshade

    revelshade New Member

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    That's a point I should have thought of myself. So much of post-LOTR fantasy is so profoundly derivative of it that in a sense we've already had 50 years of non-Tolkien Tolkien!

    As for Tolkien's heirs having plenty of money, I'm afraid both history and science have shown that happiness just doesn't work that way. When your material circumstances change your ideas about what is luxury and what is necessity change with them. There is also the "arms race" effect: it doesn't matter if you were born in a one room shack and now you own a fifty foot yacht - if your neighbor buys a sixty foot yacht, you're going to start looking for some way to afford a battleship. That's why all those investment bankers kept lowering the loan standards more and more, inflating a bubble they knew couldn't last. They had a lifestyle to keep up and neighbors and peers to keep up with. They weren't stupid or evil (mostly); they were just human. Tolkien's heirs are human too.

    Speaking of one room shacks :) -
    "We got evicted from our hole in the ground. We had to go live in a lake!"
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    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    In my normal vacillating manner, I've had another thought about this. Tolkien's aim with his work was to create a mythology for England, but myths, to be myths, can't be bound by a single text; they have to live within the culture of a people. So maybe he would have (or should have) been pleased if people took his characters and stories and developed them, or put a new slant on them. After all, we're quite happy with the idea of different artists with widely varying visions illustrating his works, even if we don't like all of them.

    I don't know what it says about me or my perception of the US, but I had to stop myself checking this on Google.
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    revelshade

    revelshade New Member

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    OT

    Many of us can't afford to buy a lot of books, so "which books end up in the school library" matters quite a bit to "our own children".

    That sounds very harsh, now that I read it, but I won't change it because the quote above makes it sound like what's in the library isn't a concern for "the rest of us". I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, but we could all stand to be reminded that a lot of kids, and not just the poor ones, aren't exposed to any books at all outside of what they can find in the library and what's read to them in class, either because their parents are very poor or because their parents just don't read. In a democracy restrictions on what those kids can read will affect my kids' future, even if those kids live in a red state and mine in a blue. We live in the Seattle area now, but I grew up in Arkansas, the buckle of the bible belt, and I still keep a wary eye on the southern Christian Right, especially the Texas fundamentalists, because their influence over the Texas Board of Education affects the content of textbooks used across the nation - a pretty good example of how a group of people who seem very far away, geographically and culturally, can touch "the rest of us".

    *Sigh* I've been told more than once I should have been a preacher, and if preachers could get away with telling their flock they're not sure there's a God I might try it. Lucky for everyone I can't. Here endeth the sermon.

    Closer to topic: yes, the YA shelves are slopping over with fantasy. (So are the Romance shelves, for that matter. Yeesh, where did all these sexy demons and werewolves and vampires and for all I know dybbuks and golems come from?) But, as someone said recently, no one reads anymore, and the kooks have bigger windmills to tilt at: Hollywood and the Librul Media. But when one of those YA series becomes a bigger target by, say, selling a zillion copies and starting a movie franchise... well, google Harry Potter satanism. And Rowling's books are so deliriously innocent! Tolkien (who has inspired a few "exposés" of his own) wrote his own creation myth! And just try telling these yahoos that Eru is an analogue of Jehovah, or that Tolkien very carefully brought mankind into his stories pre-fallen, so as not to step on the biblical account, or that there are no churches in Middle-Earth because the Third Age ended about 4000 years before the birth of Christ. Their eyes will glaze over even before you use the word analogue. Their hearts hardened before you opened your mouth. Any Christianity they detect in the Silmarillion they will read as Catholicism, which at best doesn't count and at worst is Satan's work. If books intended for children got anywhere near Eru or the Valar (sure they're angels) battle would be joined.

    And so to bed.
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    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    A minor point, (and again OT, sorry) but did he actually say this? Because it makes no sense to me. Arda itself was marred by the interference of Melkor in its creation, and I believe Tolkien said that the elves were his idea of how men might have been if there had been no fall (being immortal and what have you) - which implies that the men in his stories are no different, in the fallen sense, to us.
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I've known a lot of Tolkien fans from all kinds of Christian denominations, from Catholic to Russian Orthodox. All of them agree it's a Christian book. In fact, many Christians know about it even if they haven't read Tolkien at all. I mean, even Orson Scott Card the Mormon views it favorably and he's as fundamentalist as you can get :)
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    I've known plenty of both -- having grown up in a fundamentalist household, with a large network of fundamentalist connections; I think the difference is that it tends to be the more hardline ignorant fundamentalists who take this view of Tolkien -- you know, the type who follow the most rabid and moronic of the televangelists -- rather than those who have any sense at all. I've known my share of such, and they view even C. S. Lewis with a very jaded eye. Basically, anything which doesn't tow the most literal interpretation of the Bible (and especially the Rapture, etc.), is viewed with at least grave suspicion of being a tool of the devil. When it comes to this, at least, they take very seriously that passage in Revelation:

    -- Revelation 22:18-19​

    Only they take it to mean the entire Bible: i.e., you don't mess about with, reinterpret, or utilize any part of the Bible for anything which does not suit their very narrow view of what it really means, or you are a worshipper of the Evil One.

    That sort of view does exist, and is quite prevalent... but there are fundamentalists who aren't quite that extreme, and appreciate what Tolkien was attempting to do.

    As for the original topic: Yes, I'm sure that eventually we'll see sequels and/or retellings, just as we have with nearly every popular literary book at one point or another. All I can hope for is that, as with most of those in the past, they sink like a stone and are never heard from again....
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