Which Writers Would You Like to See Do Stories Set in Middle Earth?

BAYLOR

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Hunter S. Thompson, and the whole thing turns out to be a hallucination?
Or we could alway have Quentin Tarintino do a remake of The LOTR Trilogy. They could call it Kill Suaron volumes I, II and II .:D
 

Toby Frost

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He's got JR in his name, so that's a start (of course, so has JR Ewing)!
 

StilLearning

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For non-cannon stories.. there are plenty whom I think could do something interesting. H. P. Lovecraft, for an origin story for Ungoliant, even. For actually adding to the mythology Tolkien created... No. OK. One exception I might see is a contempory author writing a story set in the modern day, but involving some trace of Tolkien's mythical times. E. G. The ruined palantir Denethor owned showing up and showing people horrific images of his hands melting in the flames, as a component of a story. If done well, and as a 'tip of the hat' that doesn't actually effect the mythology due to vast separation in time, I could see something like that eventually becoming accepted as a minor addition to the cannon. The same vast gulf would render less jarring the inevitable change in tone and lack of linguistic expertise. I'd suggest, probably to some folks horror, Stephen King - he wouldn't even try to imitate Tolkien, but he has the skill to weave an element of Tolkien mythology into some modern setting.
 

BAYLOR

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Nobody, nobody. Ecchhh!

Here’s a thought experiment. I imagine most people would agree that C. S. Lewis possessed enormous imaginative gifts.

Everyone would agree that he also revered his friend Tolkien and profoundly loved Tolkien’s fantasy (Tolkien himself credited Lewis with helping him stick with the task of getting The Lord of the Rings written and into print).

Both men were deeply read in Old and Middle English, to a degree probably almost no one is, especially today.

heir degree of agreement about the Christian faith, morals, the state of society, and the right understanding of the sexes, and their experience of, and love of, nature, and other topics was great.

So C. S. Lewis would have started with huge advantages, if he had to set about writing a Middle-earth tale. And yet who is there who believes that a Middle-earth story by Lewis would have been a true success?

Where Lewis would not have trod, what rational person would dare to tread?
Lewis could easily have written a good Middle Earth story .
 

BAYLOR

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Karl Marx.

Middle Earth is sorely in need of an analysis of the struggle of the Greenskin proletariat against Rivendell's pointy-eared bourgeoise ruling class.
Yes and they could call it Lord of the Revolutions.:D
 

Extollager

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Lewis could easily have written a good Middle Earth story .
I doubt it, just as I doubt Tolkien could have written a good Narnian story -- much as I love both authors, Middle-earth, and Narnia.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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And of course, unless the afterlife is far different to what I expect, Tolkien will be in peace whatever we do here.
I know this quote is from way back on page two, but it did occur to me a little while ago that the afterlife wouldn't be much of an afterlife if you couldn't write books in it. And the next thing I thought then was: "You know--if that's at all the case, Tolkien's probably still working on the mythology of Middle-Earth." With all eternity to play around in, he's probably fleshed out all the minor languages and written a six-volume set on the fall of Numenor by now. Given that, I'm sure he doesn't mind if we're all so desperately wanting more stories in the world he created that we try to write our own. It's not like we can read the books he's written since dying.

And then I thought of all the other dead, great authors, scribbling away up there....

Dying just got a little less dreadful.

In any case, I think we're roving close to talking outright about fanfiction here. How legitimate do we consider fanfiction? If it was completely legitimate, the writers would be allowed to publish it and earn revenue off of it--and right now, they aren't. So what we're talking about here is, what author would have to be the one writing a fanfiction of Middle-Earth in order for us to acknowledge they should earn money and credit off of it?

I see three main options here. Either nobody should be earning money off of fanfiction, at all, or only the people who are approved by the original author should do it, or anyone good enough to pass the normal gatekeepers of quality publishing should be able to do it. (If they're claiming to be approved, or authorized, or that they are the original author, that would be another matter, of course. That would be false advertising.) I suspect most people would put the bar at "permission issued by the original author." So are we talking about what writer the Tolkien estate should approve?

Or just who, in general, is worthy?

I think Star Wars Expanded Universe is an interesting example here. There must have been at least a dozen writers who, quite legitimately, added to the EU and enriched the world of Star Wars with their contributions before Force Awakens came out, and then the new "owners" of Star Wars decided, nope, not canon anymore. Reduced to the level of fanfiction. And then they gave us Force Awakens and Last Jedi.

I'm sure many fans much preferred the EU. There are even people who simply don't consider any films but the first three as real "canon," which as far as I'm concerned is a legitimate personal decision. They would rather have the story where the prequel trilogy didn't take place, and they won't accept the full authority even of George Lucas to say the prequels did take place. They didn't want to lose the story they had before the prequel trilogies, with the non-midi-chlorian Force and no Jar Jar Binks. They considered that a better story. To put it another way--even if an author (say, Brandon Sanderson) somehow publishes a story tomorrow that's utter mush and totally ruins all the good parts of his Mistborn series, does it mean that we have to include it in our personal canon? That we've entirely lost a story that was great and beautiful (I haven't read Mistborn, I'm just giving the guy the benefit of the doubt) and something we enjoyed, because we simply have to accept what the author says?

I just don't think the experience of reading a book is like that. We're not spoon-fed the stories. Otherwise we would all have the exact same impressions of a book and there would be no real debates and discussions about what was intended. The author presents a certain world, and we share in the storytelling. The image in my head when I read a scene could--and will--be far, far different from the image in your head when you read the exact same scene. Storytelling is a shared experience, a shared imagining of another (nonexistent) world.

So who, really, has final decision over what belongs in any particular canon? Every individual person who watches it, reads it, or listens to it. That, ultimately, is the only place where canon is ever going to exist. These worlds are fiction. It's not an absolute thing. ("My lie is better than your lie!" "Your lie is wrong.") Canon is an entirely personal thing, for the original author just as much as anyone else. Now, most people, I would guess, would want their own personal idea of canon to match as closely to the author's as possible, since ultimately it's all communication--and that's why clarity in authorship is important--but I submit that, in a perfect world, any author should be able to write their own stories for any universe, as long as they're not claiming it as anyone else's, and be judged on the exact same terms as the original author and original story: good enough to be canon, or not. Sure, it would get complicated. Branch series and alternate universes and complex timelines. But that's what Star Wars is right now, and would anybody argue that it's not a richer story-world for it?
 
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Star-child

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But that's what Star Wars is right now, and would anybody argue that it's not a richer story-world for it?
What's a "story world"? That sounds like a label useful for marketing an expanding franchise, rather than an apt description of a literary concept.

Star Wars (to use your example) is 'rich' in add-on media that gives fans the ability to keep servicing their desire to re-live their experience in less repetitive ways than simply watching the same 3 movies over and over. But is that really a worthwhile reason to create semi-new art? Or does it reduce the original work, with all its unique richness, to a data point in a slurry of largely unoriginal but commercially valuable cross promotion?

It isn't as if this is a normal impulse caused by being exposed to good writing or film making. No one is busting down the doors to expand the story worlds of Alfred Bester or the Cohen brothers. This tendency is only "fan fiction" from the POV of writers - to consumers it doesn't matter why it was created so much as it is officially available as product tie-ins, like Star Wars breakfast cereal and Frozen 2 juice boxes.


The problem I see is that the talent to produce original works and the public's ability to digest them is being subsumed by media that asks less of both the artist and reader/viewer. They are being offered the same delicious pizza they had yesterday and the day before, but it isn't getting any better with every new meal.

People that have the rare ability to create imaginative art ought to see that notion through by creating their own plot, characters, history and environments. Readers should be looking for the sort of wonder that exposure to an original fictional world provides, rather than nostalgia for a limited set of fictional places dictated by commercial viability, especially for children's consumption. It is too easy for re-runs, re-makes and tie-ins to replace the more difficult and risky endeavour of originality.
 
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Extollager

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Doesn't Lewis's world include multiple worlds? If he implicitly included room for other worlds in his own work...
That's true -- see The Magician's Nephew.

I was thinking of Middle-earth and Narnia as imaginary worlds pervaded by their respective authors' way of visualizing things, inventing things, choosing words, and so on. The living world of Middle-earth and the living world of Narnia could only be the products of their authors.

We may, if we like, conceive of "Middle-earth" and "Narnia" as collections of properties (e.g. Middle-earth is stocked with "Ents," "Hobbits," "Palantirs," etc.; "Narnia" is stocked with "Talking Animals," "Lonely Isles," "Calormenes") -- in short, as dead worlds composed of furniture that we can move around, add to, etc.

We could even entertain the notion: What if a really good author wrote, say, a "new" Narnian book?


Say what you like, I don't think such a book will possess the life of the original books by Lewis. It might possess some sort of life of its own as a work by a gifted author appropriating the inventions of another. But it won't really be a Narnian chronicle. I suppose we could imagine a sort of alt.Narnia if that amuses us.

But if I ever get the chance to read Spufford's book, I suspect I might enjoy it in its own right but that I will never feel that this is a book Lewis could and would have written. Nobody else has, in his or her bones, the amazing reading background of Lewis, his passion for medieval romance, his boyhood in Northern Ireland, his youthful immersion in Northern myth while studying in rural England with a sharp-witted tutor -- and all the rest that, I won't say, "made" Lewis what he was, but was part of the imaginative compost upon which Lewis's creative process, imagination, etc. drew.

Lewis' Narnia is more "literary" than Tolkien's Middle-earth. One of the keys to understanding Narnia, I think, comes when one has absorbed something of, for example, Spenser's Faerie Queene. Yet, even though other literary works hover over Narnia, it's an imaginary creation with its own integrity.

If books about Narnia by authors other than Lewis won't be genuinely Narnian, much less will works by other authors that appropriate elements of Middle-earth. So, again, my answer to the question posed by this thread is: "Nobody."
 

Toby Frost

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I think things like Star Wars are different because they're not literary works to begin with. Obviously, a director can and probably will have a huge influence on how a film turns out. But a film is more the product of a group of people than a novel, which is almost always the work of one or two people. If you wanted more Tolkien, then you'd have to imitate not just the setting but the authorial voice, which I think would be harder than it would for most films - and then I'm not sure whether it would be more valid Lord of the Rings or just a pastiche. This problem of voice is why I've never read any of the sequels to Raymond Chandler's crime novels: not only do I think that they'd get the voice wrong, but I'd be continually distracted by the question of whether I thought they were doing it right.
 

StilLearning

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I suppose there is a bit of separation in my head between, say, Lewis stories and the universe they're set in. When the fantasy world has an explicit connection to our own, or even others, to me that's a two way thing - ie there's an implicit bit of room for others to come camp on or near the edges of Lewis's fantasy world, in the same way he's set it on the edge of our real world. So... If respectfully done and not actually intruding on or trying to change Narnia... I could tolerate a new author writing, not a Narnia story, but a story that gently implied some in world connection to the Narnia stories.

Or...
Going back to Star Wars.... ET's species is visible in the prequel trilogy. C3PO is visible in wall carvings in Indian Jones. While not a link that is explained, nor one I think ever should be elaborated upon, these things are there in the movies by intent (pretty sure that's confirmed and these things aren't just pranks by the VFX teams) and therefore a link of some kind between them is about as cannon as you can get. But neither world is significantly changed itself.
The literary equivalent of that is about as close as I would countenance to someone else writing, say, a 'new middle earth story'. But, done well and respectfully, I'd happily consider such an 'beyond the edge of the map' addition cannon, for myself.

Edit: According to Wookipedia ET's species is called Asogians, they have an interest in trying to reach other galaxies, and while the movie ET isn't explicitly part of Star Wars cannon it has not been refuted as such by any official source, and there are scenes in ET that do make more sense if there's a link. Spielberg and Lucas were friends, and this is apparently the result of an agreement between them...

To the extent that ET's homeworld (mentioned in the official tie in novel) is explicitly made part of the star wars galaxy. The plane Brodo Asogi (green planet).

OK, I'm wayyyy off topic here, but my point is: You don't need to write a star wars film script to be playing in Lucas playground (or at least in the playing field next door). So I don't see that no non Tolkien author could ever write something with a ligit in world link to middle earth (without trying to write a middle earth story) ... just, please, make it subtle and be bloody careful how you do it?
 
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