May 2017

S M T W T F S
  123 4 56
78 9 10111213
14 1516171819 20
21222324252627
28293031   

Custom Text

I'm doing these suckers all out of order and late and stuff, but it's totally cool because it's Fandom Snowflake! (Seriously, I have had such universally positive experiences in the years I've participated in this. It's such a low-stress, joy-inducing challenge. I'm so glad they managed to continue it this year. Thank you, volunteers, for stepping up!)

Day 8 asked us to:

In your own space, make a list of at least 3 things that you like about yourself. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I think they do a version of this challenge every year, and I'm glad they do. Not because I like singing my own praises--it's as difficult and awkward for me as it is for anyone--but because I think it is so important to become comfortable with honesty about one's strengths and skills. Especially in fandom, which is mostly women, who are explicitly and implicitly taught not to "brag" about what we do well and to deflect praise by downplaying our success or scrambling to explain who else should share our credit.

(I do these things too. But I find that being aware of them and the differences in how men and women talk about their accomplishments often helps me to stop them between my brain and my mouth.)

  1. I'm a hard worker. I give my all to everything that I do (and care about): teaching, research and writing, my fandom projects. It's a family trait. You know how people will say about dogs like Border Collies that they're happiest when working? Wallses are that way too. But it's allowed me to accomplish things I'm really proud of, and so I'm happy to be that way.


  2. I'm pretty resourceful, and I'm not afraid to learn new things. Well, I sometimes am (I'm terrified of PHP!), but I suck it up and learn it anyway. (I still haven't learned PHP yet, but I've been looking more often in the direction of those books on my shelf, and I will learn it someday!)


  3. I'm really proud of how I've grown during my years in fandom. I started as a quivering mass of nerves that got sick on posting days of my novel Another Man's Cage because I was convinced that every chapter would be the one where someone would expose me as a fraud. (What does that even mean? It sounds so silly in retrospect, but I remember very clearly worrying in that particular language.) I remember the first time I was criticized publicly as a moderator and losing sleep over it. I've gained a lot of confidence, and fandom has been a huge part of that. It doesn't mean that I don't worry sometimes if a story is up to my usual standards or that it doesn't hurt to see my work or the SWG criticized in ways that are unfair (or sometimes in ways that are fair but I'd rather people not notice!), but I'm much more able now to work on moving forward rather than dwelling on the fact that a reviewer didn't like my story or someone doesn't like this year's B2MeM event or thinks my site is annoying to use or whatever.


Day 9 asked for tropes, clichés, kinks, motifs, or themes:

In your own space, share your love for a trope, cliché, kink, motif, or theme. (More than one is okay, too.) Tell us about it, tell us why you love it, give us some examples and recs. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


What drives my writing a lot of the time is an adoration for complex characters, especially trying to understand characters who make bad or destructive choices. I wrote a blog post about this about two years ago, about why the Fëanorians appealed to me in the context of my work at the time with troubled young men. My goal is not to excuse these characters but to understand the complexity of the human mind that allows a person to commit horrible acts and still sleep at night.

I'm a sucker for stories that draw Tolkien's women out of the shadows and empower them with roles where they are allowed to influence the story. I very much believe that the dearth of women is a flaw of the legendarium that's in need of repair in a way that only creators of fanworks can accomplish.

Both of these point to probably my favorite notion in Silmfic: that of The Silmarillion as a historical text and subject to all the complexities and biases posed by historical texts. This idea results in stories that don't take the texts at their word--as "canon," that inviolable concept that sometimes constrains our creativity--but look critically at how in-universe writers would have depicted the history of the early ages of Arda and considered what they would have left out, gotten wrong, or straight-up lied about. And then writes those stories. This is what I try to do in my work and love to read in the work of others.
I am still working on my rec list (Day 5) and my fanwork (thanks to Himring's thorny prompts from the Silmfic prompt generator!), but so as not to fall too far behind, I'm going to work a bit out of order for the Fandom Snowflake. I had intentions of doing three days in one post, but Day 9 got away from me a bit. It's no wonder. As I started to write, I realized how much I rely on my comoderators and how little recognition they get for what they do, most of which occurs behind the scenes. So I wanted to give this small gesture of recognition to the people without whom the SWG would not exist.

Day 9 asked us to leave feedback.

Send feedback to two fannish people — they can be anyone you want: a writer who’s made you happy, a moderator of your favorite exchange (not us!), a fanartist you avidly follow… There are so many possibilities. Just let someone know you appreciate their work.


I've left two comments on stories between yesterday and today; I'm trying to read more (and therefore comment more, since I try to say something about everything I read). But I also want to shout out to the admins and moderators who keep the Tolkien fanfic community so lively and vibrant.

We are one of the few fandoms that has created its own websites, archives, and institutions over the years. Some of these groups, sites, and events have been around for a decade or more. None of this happens without a lot of dedication and effort, often from a tiny fraction of the people who participate in fandom.

I work a lot behind the scenes and know how much goes into it. And because I'm the owner of the Silmarillion Writers' Guild and usually its public face, I get a lot of recognition for my work. But my comoderators do not because most of what they do is never seen outside of our circle of moderators.

Uli (ford_of_bruinen) has been on hiatus for a few years now. But without her the SWG would not exist. She was one of the first people to join, and she pushed me to promote and grow the group rather than sitting in huddled terror, wondering what I'd done and half-hoping no one noticed. In the SWG's early years, she was a friend and a mentor, when I was young and very new to fandom, and she kept me from doing a lot of stupid things and helped us as a group achieve a lot of great things.

Jenni (just_jenni) was our second moderator. She stepped down as a moderator to care for her son many years ago. She did a lot for the SWG in the years she was with us, and she was one of my best fandom friends, always able to make me laugh when I needed it the most and always there when I needed her.

Rhapsody. Oh, Rhapsody. Where do I begin?? She is probably the person who does the most for Tolkien fandom with the least recognition. I don't think most people know half of what she does. Rhapsody has had a hand in so many things: not just the SWG but Many Paths to Tread, working to keep Naice a Nilme alive, helping to run Quills and Ink for years, a major player on Open Scrolls Archive, a volunteer for the MEFAs for years, and a moderator for many years on Back to Middle-earth Month. She has been my right hand on the SWG. She fixed the site the time I accidentally deleted all of the challenges. She takes on the boring, monotonous jobs (like mucking the spam from our moderator email!) without being asked. She responded to emails with diplomacy and kindness when my patience was frayed to a thread. She is one of the kindest people I know, always urging me and our comods to give the benefit of the doubt. She is one of the people I turn to when I need to rant or cry, and she always has a wise word and a virtual hug for me. She's probably going to throw tomatoes at me for writing all of this! But I want people to know how much of our fandom is built on the efforts of this one extraordinary woman. If anyone wants to say thanks to her? Here are her stories; she manages to be a gifted writer in addition to a cornerstone of our fandom. Go review one or ten of them.

Tarion Anarore has also been on hiatus for a while. She helped us tag our LJ community back in the early years of the SWG, and we asked her to be a mod, and she stuck with us for years. Tarion was instrumental in shaping the group in its early years. There are few people whose opinions and judgment I trusted more, and she is one of those people who seems able to do everything: graphic design, HTML coding, proofreading reams of documents and policies.

Angelica has also been with us a long time and has done so many diverse things for us that it's hard to list them all. I admire Angelica for her willingness to always step forward and learn. So many times, I've said that something needs to be done, and Angelica will say, "Teach me to do it, and I will." She's also really good at catching my typos and mistakes (one English teacher to another!) and always pushing me to do better in what I write for the group.

Russandol has been a lifesaver so many times. She's the only one of us that codes well, so when we need something done, guess who we turn to? And she steps to the challenge every time, without complaint. She puts the newsletter together every month, which is a task that takes a lot longer than anyone probably realizes it does and that frees me up to do other things. I also trust her judgment so much.

Elleth is our newest mod. Even when she was our Tumblr mod, she still gave us great ideas and feedback about all aspects of running the SWG. She was a full mod a long time before she had the title. Elleth is one of the most talented people I know--a gifted writer and artist and a thoughtful scholar--and I am so grateful always that she has chosen to share those talents with us.

Oshun is not a moderator on the SWG. I have asked her multiple times, and she always says no. But I want to recognize her nonetheless. She has, to date, written eighty biographies about Silmarillion characters for the SWG. I think sometimes about how the newsletter always seems to arrive at the worst possible time, and how it is hard to carve out the hours needed to put together, and I wonder how Oshun comes up with such thoughtful and thorough biographies month in and month out. I know it is not any more convenient for her, yet she works through just about everything to meet a deadline. Her biographies are one of the favorite part of the SWG site and not without reason. They're an amazing resource, and when I get to copyedit them monthly, I often come away with the itch to write about that character, which is the epitome of skill and inspiration, in my mind. I also learn so much from them.

For a long time, I believed that collaboration didn't--couldn't--work for me. I thought I was too willful and opinionated to work with others. I thought that collaboration tended to end up with me doing most of the work while having to share the credit--that was what "groupwork" in school taught me collaboration was. My SWG comods restored my belief in the synergy of a good team. Because of every person I just shouted out, we have accomplished something on the SWG or done something better than we would have otherwise. They are the people who hustle to fix bugs or delete spam in the small hours of the morning. They are the ones who respond when I say, "OMG I don't know what to do." They are there whenever it is not convenient, but needed. They have to listen to me chatter at them, often every day, for years at a time! They put aside their lives and things they'd rather do to serve this group we've built together.

I am so grateful to all of you.
Today's Fandom Snowflake challenge is to make a fandom wish list. I have skipped Day 5, not because I'm not doing it but because I'm reading a lot of stuff that has been posted recently in an attempt to create a rec list that includes both friends and writers new to me.

Here is today's challenge:

In your own space, create a list of at least three fannish things you'd love to receive, something you've wanted but were afraid to ask for - a fannish wish-list of sorts. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your wish-list if you feel comfortable doing so. Maybe someone will grant a wish. Check out other people's posts. Maybe you will grant a wish. If any wishes are granted, we'd love it if you link them to this post.


Wish lists are hard for me because I'm very well treated in fandom in terms of feedback on my work, in the form of comments, recs, and people wanting to do stuff with my stories like draw or translate them. So to ask for more of those things when I already feel like I'm treated so well seems greedy and wrong.

So once again I have to think outside the box a little.

I'd like people who write Silmfic to post it on the SWG and to comment on stories there. Here are the twenty-five most recent stories posted on the SWG. Go comment on one of them! I haven't read them all, but some are superb! There are a dozen different authors represented there and stories about all aspects of the canon.

If you don't write Silmfic? Post to another Tolkien-specific archive and comment there every now and then. Here's a list. I don't know why I have such a sense of urgency about this now, but I do. Perhaps it was the demise of the MEFAs and HASA, one right after the other: those inviolable giants from my early fandom days.

Be brave once this year (it doesn't have to be right now) and say hi to someone new or tell someone whose work you've admired from afar how much you appreciate what they do.

And finally--a little more fun, perhaps--roll a prompt with at least four elements on the Random Silmfic Prompt Generator and either write that prompt or post it here and I will write it (or both).
In true Fandom Snowflake tradition, I have fallen behind. Fandom is, appropriately enough, the reason I have fallen behind. The beginning of the month is filled with posting challenges and compiling newsletters. My free time at home for the past two nights has been entirely consumed by fandom chores. I'm still not 100% finished and have a beta to do, but I'm taking a break to get at least a little caught up.

Day 3's challenge:

In your own space, set some goals for the coming year. They can be fannish or not, public or private. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Man oh man *rubs hands together* I love setting goals! I'm going to set three in different areas of fannish participation.

  1. Start writing the prequel to Another Man's Cage. I've actually started writing it twice now. Once, I got four chapters in and the files corrupted. (This was pre-Dropbox, which tells you how long I've been promising this prequel.) The second time, the magic just wasn't there. Three's a charm, right? I've been promising this story for years, so it will be my next long work, just as soon as I can wrap up Tamlin.


  2. Solve the eFiction problem. This feels so super ambitious that I'm kinda scared just writing it. But I am hoping that it will also focus me and allow me to make this work a priority.

    The "eFiction problem" is that we do not currently have a good option for fanfic archives. eFiction was a gift that was probably too good to last. It's beginning to show its age. Yeah yeah yeah, eFiction 5 is in the works, but I'm not encouraged by how long it's taking and also reluctant to go to the work of changing to something that would also become obsolete if the developer also abandoned it. Once bitten, twice shy.

    What I'm trying to do is to figure out how to make a fiction archive using a CMS. I've been studying Drupal and have looked into Wordpress as well. (I have to admit that I am in love with Drupal like whoa. I think I've been a casual Wordpress user for so long that I don't really recognize its full potential, so I need to give it a fair chance too before committing to Drupal.) Whatever I figure out--because I will figure this out, y'all--I will share what I learn so that as other archives want to transition from eFiction, they hopefully can do so. We need to keep our small archives alive.


  3. Finish and send out that historical bias paper. Attainable Vistas was initially almost twice as long because it contained quite a bit of original research demonstrating historical bias in The Silmarillion. The editors advised that I cut most of that and submit it as a separate paper to JTR or elsewhere. I'd already felt it was two papers and so was glad to accept this advice; I had worried that the paper might be rejected for lack of evidence and so thought to cover my bases many times over. Probably a rookie mistake.

    Anyway, because of this, I have an academic paper basically written. I need to finish that and send it somewhere. I have no idea where. My current plan is my usual plan of aiming as high as I can and being prepared to cheerfully aim lower if my hopes are thwarted.
Here is today's prompt for the Snowflake Challenge:

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I would, of course, choose The Silmarillion. It is not my favorite book, but it is absolutely the book that has had the most outsized influence on my life.

 photo silmarillion_zpspycpzqog.jpg

I came to The Silmarillion as a newly minted Tolkien fan, having gotten hooked by the LotR movies, an interest that was only galvanized by reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. My first copy of the Silm was the one to the right, with the weird cover that has Fëanor with graceful hands, flowing leopard-print scarves, and what appears to be an owl eating his head. The back of this particular edition, which is of course sitting right on my desk in front of me because I need to look something up in it at least weekly, reads:

The Silmarillion is Tolkien's first book and his last. Long preceding in its origins The Lord of the Rings [sic], it is the story of the First Age of Tolkien's world, the ancient drama to which characters in The Lord of the Rings [sic] look back, and in which some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part.


Now to a new fan such as myself, ravenous for more of LotR, this sounded promising! Elrond and Galadriel! I knew them!! I had no idea, of course, that the book wasn't about Elrond and Galadriel, who more or less have walk-on roles in The Silmarillion, but about a cast of dozens, everyone's name of which seems to begin with Fin-. I was also very new to the fantasy genre and really had no idea how to read a book like The Silmarillion. I went into it with my brain relaxed, expecting a frivolous sword-and-sorcery worthy of a beach read, instead of honing on every detail and storing away every name. I failed miserably in my first reading of it. I was about halfway through when Fëanor was mentioned, I looked him up in the Index of Names (the very fact that there is an Index of Names in the book should have been my first clue, no?), and realized he was someone important whom I should have remembered.

It was only because I was stubborn and embarrassed by my failure that I decided to give it another go, this time knowing better what I was getting into and more prepared to read the book as it needed to be read. And I fell in love with my second reading.

It sounds trite to say that Tolkien's world is rich but it is, and I am far from the first to become ensnared in Middle-earth via LotR. LotR, however, did not offer me the complexity of character that I had learned to appreciate in modern literature. I found that much more in The Silmarillion, where few characters are cut-and-dried good or evil but pretty much everyone is floundering around, trying to make the best of a shitty situation. That really appealed to me. The fact that the characters are barely sketched in made it possible to interpret them in myriad ways, drawing on my knowledge of human psychology. (I was a psych undergrad at the time.) When I discovered fan fiction, The Silmarillion practically begged for it: all of these complex characters only skeletally drawn. I found ample raw material for my own creativity.

And I found that The Silmarillion was only the surface of a very deep pool. LotR is a gateway drug that, if you're not careful, you'll find yourself before long flopped on a couch in a dim room arguing with a stranger on the Internet about how to interpret Laws and Customs among the Eldar. In addition to my creative side, The Silmarillion appealed to my intellectual side because there was not only a whole literary history underlying the creation of that particular book--meticulously documented in The History of Middle-earth series that I began to acquire despite my poverty at the time--but an entire pseudohistoriography. The result was a mashup of creativity and scholarship where the borders blurred. I was in love.

The Silmarillion and what it inspired of my creative and intellectual work has had reverberations through most of my life. When I picked it up, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was terrified to imagine that my love of writing and creativity should be a major part of my adult life. Becoming involved in the Tolkien fandom through my love of The Silmarillion empowered me to embrace my love of language as a core of who I am. I went back to graduate school. I became a teacher. I eventually earned my MA in the Humanities and have had my scholarly work published. All because of The Silmarillion.

Through the Tolkien fandom, I have gained confidence in my skill as an artist, my voice, and the importance of my work. I have met amazing, lifelong friends whom I cannot imagine my life without. I have done things (like present at conferences) and learned things (like web design) that I never would have imagined as the young undergrad picking up The Silmarillion for the first time.

It's hard to imagine such a tiny action as picking up a book to read as having such far-ranging consequences. I still remember standing in the Barnes & Noble on The Avenue at White Marsh and holding my now-battered Silmarillion in my hands, deciding to spend my meager money to have more of this world, clueless that I had just decided to change my life. It's humbling and scary to realize that one's life is very rarely shaped by huge forces or in moments that one recognizes as turning points but in the tiniest of decisions that, looking back, set off a cascade of forces so that nothing was ever the same again. It is both frightening and hopeful to step daily into a world where that is possible.
I am going to try to do the Fandom Snowflake challenge this year. Like all of it. I usually do a day here or there, but I've liked journaling daily as part of the photo-of-the-day (although if my performance on that is any indication, then I'll miss a few days of Snowflake as well).

Day One's challenge is:

In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


So *rubs hands together* ... let's dive in!

I've self-recced stories for Fandom Snowflake and other challenges before, and my stories are the first place my brain tends to go when asked for self-recs. But I'm going to mix things up a little bit and also, in the spirit of the Snowflake Challenge, break the rules a little by only reccing two things. But they are two big things! So maybe that counts for something.

I am reccing the two sites that I built and that I currently help moderate: the Silmarillion Writers' Guild (which I also founded and own) and Many Paths to Tread.

Really, as far as fanworks that define me as a creator, here you have it. Yes yes, I've spent many hundreds of hours writing stories, and I'm not going to play coy and pretend that some of those stories haven't been important to the Silmarillion fandom, but deciding to turn my energies to learning web design now more than ten years ago was life-changing and--I like to hope--something that shaped the Tolkien fandom in positive directions.

For anyone who doesn't know the story, I decided to found the SWG after a night of insomnia in which I decided that the Internet needed a Silmarillion-only group and I should be the one to build it. I chickened out immediately upon setting up the SWG on Yahoo! Groups (remember that?!) and LiveJournal, but thankfully I was found by Uli/ford_of_bruinen, who would become my first comod, and pushed me to follow through on my dream. When SWG members wanted an archive, I set about learning to do what I'd need to do to build one. I taught myself HTML and CSS from books and started working with eFiction. This led the LotRGen moderators to approach me about building a site for them. I was impressed with the fact that, as a genfic group in an anti-slash point in fandom history, they were open to allowing any stories at an R-rating on below on the site, regardless of the orientation of the couple(s) in the story. So I agreed to help them build their site, and that brought me to MPTT.

I say all this because I've been in the Tolkien fandom for a long time now, and I'm seeing things start to change in ways that I don't like, namely that Tolkien fandom is becoming increasingly comfortable with centralization, and many fans are losing their self-sufficiency in the process. Back in the day, there were dozens of homegrown groups owned by people in the Tolkien fandom, and it wasn't particularly extraordinary to do what I did and learn specialized skills in order to run fandom projects. Plenty of people who couldn't do much more than switch on the computer when they started in fandom learned to write HTML, design graphics, and manage online communities.

There are disadvantages to local control, whether in government or fandom and I won't pretend this was always utopian, but one thing was certain: We did not depend on the blessing or existence of anyone but ourselves and our own minds and hands to have our communities. I will be blunt: I dislike how centralized Tolkien fandom has become. I dislike the snide way people look down their noses at websites like mine because we're not as advanced as AO3. I dislike how everything is on AO3 or Tumblr now. And let me be perfectly clear: I am on AO3 and Tumblr both myself. I have no problem with either site. I like both sites. I was an extremely early adopter and supporter of AO3 and continue to think that they are very much a needed part of the fan community. Notice I said "part." Because AO3 and Tumblr are not the Tolkien fandom, y'all. WE are the Tolkien fandom. These sites will not represent and defend our interests when they are different from Fandom as a whole. If you need proof, just look at the AO3 piped tag debacle, in which AO3 told Tolkien fandom to go fuck itself rather than listen to feedback about a usable system for tagging characters and pairings. And our fandom is weird. Tolkien-based fanfic is more than fifty years old; we have a history and a complex canon that is unlike any other fan community. Our needs are and will continue to differ from Fandom as a whole, and we deserve sites run by people from our own communities that listen to our needs and interests.

For my part, I plan to continue to fight to keep my sites alive and relevant. They are my proudest achievement in this fandom, and I continue to believe strongly that they are needed and important. I hope Tolkien fans reading here will make more of an effort in 2017 to support a Tolkien fandom site or project. Post your stories to a Tolkien archive; comment on something that isn't on AO3 or Tumblr; volunteer to help with an event or challenge. It doesn't have to be the SWG or MPTT, but do something to keep our Tolkien fandom institutions alive.
(Yes, I am probably the only person on the planet still doing the Fandom Snowflake Challenge, but I am determined to finish it this year if it takes me all month ... and at the rate I'm going, it might! That is why I am posting this, even though it makes me so uncomfortable. This fandom has shown me so much love in truly life-changing ways. I feel like I can't ask for more. But in the interest of checking them all off the list, I am swallowing my discomfort and posting it anyway.)

In your own space, create a love meme for yourself. Let people tell you how amazing and awesome and loveable you really are. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so. Surf the comments and find people to give love to.

I'm drawing the line at posting it on Tumblr, though.