Author has written 5 stories for Lord of the Rings.
July 7, 2008.
I'm really, really sorry about the delay in finishing Truce. It will happen as soon as Real Life permits.
Background/Cast of Characters
With two novels and two stand-alone stories featuring the same general cast of characters, I thought maybe a rundown of original characters might be helpful.
A note on Halbarad first, since he features prominently in all my stories except "Truce." Although he's a canon character, Tolkien didn't tell us a lot about him, and authors' interpretations vary somewhat. Since canon didn't dictate his age or specific relationship to Aragorn, I took the liberty of making him four years younger than Aragorn, so that in 3008, when "In the Hands of the Enemy" and "A Matter of Honor" take place, he's 73, with grown children and young grandchildren. Some authors have depicted him as much older than Aragorn, some considerably younger - my choice was based on nothing more than the kind of relationships I wanted to write about. As to his exact kinship relationship to Aragorn, I decided to leave it unspecified, as I felt it was irrelevant. Halbarad's love and devotion for Aragorn were far more important than whatever degree of blood relationship they shared.
Cast of OCs - Eriador-based stories (In the Hands of the Enemy, A Matter of Honor, and A Time for Joy):
Dudo Tillfield: bastard son of a n'er do well Bree hobbit and a runaway Shire lass; chicken gutter, estwhile spy and honorary Ranger
Rolly: An orphan who fell in with a bad crowd
Eirien: Halbarad's wife
Alagos: their elder son, will die at Sarn Ford in 3018
Falathren: their daughter, a headstrong fireball, widowed at a young age
Hurin: their younger son, a warrior and an artist, member of the Grey Company, survives the Ring War
Elanor: Falathren's daughter, about five years old in 3008 (Halbarad has another grandchild, a son of Alagos, who hasn't yet made an appearance)
Nelaer: Halbarad's mother; a pistol
Meneliel: Matron of the Angle, Nelaer's best friend (but with a much easier disposition)
Brandol: a Ranger very fond of his pipe; Meneliel's son
Tologarth: Brandol's taciturn son, fancies Falathren
Saddlebags: An Elvish healer with a bad bedside manner
Daisy: Not a Rohan warhorse.
Spike: A very unfortunate kitten
Cast of OCs - Gondor (Truce):
Turgon: Denethor's horrid brother-in-law; the latest in a long line of social climbers
Cirion: A young messenger from Thorongil's company
Background on the "In the Hands of the Enemy" and "A Matter of Honor":
“In the Hands of the Enemy” started out in late 2002 as a simple story about friendship. Tolkien tells us that Aragorn and Gandalf were friends long before the forming of the Fellowship. It was Aragorn whom Gandalf called upon in the years prior to the Ring War for assistance in protecting the Shire, searching for Gollum, and establishing the provenance of Bilbo’s ring. Canon has little to say about Aragorn's kinsman Halbarad, but the single, joyful embrace he receives from Aragorn in ROTK captured my imagination and made me want to explore the friendship between these two grim, "dour-handed" Rangers.
I also enjoyed exploring the forces bearing down on Aragorn during what I think must have been the most difficult period of his life - the long years of waiting. The Aragorn of this story exhibits angst and self-doubt; not because he is reluctant to assume the kingship but quite the opposite – he wants it more than anything. But having sacrificed and struggled for fifty-seven years to prove himself worthy of the prize, it remains tortuously out of reach. With the benefit of hindsight,we know that Aragorn will indeed achieve all that his heart desires in only eleven years, but he doesn't. To Aragorn in 3008, the only certainty the future offers him is that greater and more terrible trials lie ahead. Redemption and free will are major themes of the story, which features two young boys who must choose sides in the struggle between darkness and light.
"A Matter of Honor" picks up only a week or so after the end of "In the Hands of the Enemy," when Aragorn is forced by circumstances to return to Rivendell for what he expects will be a tense reunion with Elrond. There is an intriguingly dark statement in Appendix A where Elrond, upon learning of the betrothal of Aragorn and Arwen, places a condition on their marriage and then announces to Aragorn, "A shadow lies between us." Yet there is no sign of this shadow when Aragorn arrives in Rivendell with the hobbits in the fall of 3018. The first part of AMOH deals largely with my exploration of how the shadow lying between these two characters might have manifested itself and later been dispelled, while the second part challenges Aragorn with the possible loss of all the rewards he has been working towards for fifty years.
I think one of the most enjoyable challenges of writing Tolkien fan fiction is working within the existing framework of the canon timeline while mining the trilogy, the appendices, and the Unfinished Tales for threads to weave into the plot – in this case the doubling of the Shire guard, Butterbur’s forgetfulness with letters, nasty Dunlendings, spies of the Enemy, traps for Aragorn, Saruman’s obsessive jealousy of Gandalf, Gandalf’s blindness to his deceit. Using this fabric I tried to stitch together an enjoyable, readable story that explores and remains true to Tolkien’s themes of friendship, loyalty, self-sacrifice, obedience, temptation, fall, redemption, and free will.
In straight English: the books matter. This doesn't mean that every fan must embark on a life-long mission to painstakingly dissect the most obscure passages of the Silmarillion or HoME (unless you want to!), but if you're reading Tolkien fanfiction and you haven't gotten around to reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, please, stop now. Go out and buy the books and read them. They are more layered, more complex, funnier, more uplifting, and more tragic than anything you'll find on this or any other fanfiction site.
Background on "Truce"
This story started out as a reaction to a suggestion I read elsewhere that Denethor hadn't had the guts to lead from the front during his younger years. Although I never fancied myself a Denethor fan, much less an apologist, that assertion left me feeling somewhat offended on his behalf. Tolkien obviously envisioned Denethor as an immensely noble character, a hero in his own right, who, under any other set of circumstances than the unlikely ones which arose in his last days, would have been the redeemer of Gondor he always imagined himself to be. Tragically flawed; perhaps. Cowardly? Not on your life (nor can I imagine child abuser!Denethor, but that's a whole 'nother rant). On the other hand, such an enormously complex, proud, and flawed man demands, I think, the respect of not having his flaws and complexities glossed over or minimized. He was who he was, up to the last moment, and he didn't get to that last moment by being either a hapless victim of circumstances or a misunderstood saint. He ruled his own life and he ruled his own death. He earned every wrinkle and rough spot in his character honestly. This story was my humble bow to Denethor - wrinkles, rough spots, nobility, honor and all; in the context of his struggle with an ascending Thorongil. It was a lot of fun to write, and I developed quite a fondness for Denethor as I was writing it. He's very human in his failings.
What else? I manage the Dunedain of the North C2 list here on ff.net, and I've also compiled a recs list of some of my favorite Dunedain stories from all sites, which can be found on my LJ here:
Note on Archives:
My stories are posted on Stories of Arda and HASA in addition to this site. I consider SoA my "home" site; I still generally post stories/chapters a day earlier on that site than this one so I can weed out typos as it's impossible to edit published chapters over here. Occasionally, I make post-publication edits to the chapters at SoA because of the ease of using its text editor. Mostly I'm changing "happys" to "glads" but I do consider the SoA versions of the stories to be the preferred versions.
Fiction and non-fiction recommendationsI
Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalem
Evolutionary biology, including possible explanations for diabetes and hemochromatosis. Epigenetics. Great stuff.
Secrets from the Field- An Ethnographer's Notes from Northwestern Pakistan by Benedicte Grima
Few Westerners now dare to travel to the tribal areas of Northwestern Pakistan. The author, a Western woman, actually lived among the Pashtun there.
Macachiavellian Intelligence - How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World by Dario Maestripieri.
In the words of one jacket blurb: "...not a pretty picture to read about manipulative social opportunism" - or to put it another way, why nice guys don't get ahead.
After the Ice by Steven Mithen.
If you can overlook the rather distracting device of a fictional 19th century time-traveling narrator (for real!) you'll find this a general but well-researched and readable survey of post-Last Glacial Maximum archaeology.
Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt.
Answers to all the questions you ask yourself while sitting in traffic, some of them surprising (Late merging is really better for everyone!) Why there are fewer accidents on narrow streets than on wide ones, why roundabouts move traffic faster than signalled intersections, and pedestrians are safer without crosswalks.
Why So Slow? by Virginia Valian
Yes, Virginia, there is a glass ceiling. Here's why.
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - An exploration of our modern, globalized (and, one might argue, dehumanized) food production industry, and some alternatives
The Language of God - A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief by Francis S. Collins. An answer to Richard Dawkins from the head of the Human Genome Project.
Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston - An investigation of how our government subsidizes wealthy corporations. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on major league sports stadiums.
Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson - Why we self-justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Covers everything from government to marriage to the criminal justice system
The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story by Stephen Oppenheimer, Constable - "A well-informed, original, and challenging application of new genetic data to the early population history of Britain - British pre-history will never look the same again" - Professor Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge. Using primarily Y-DNA and linguistic analysis, Oppenheimer analyzes immigration into the British isles from the immediate post-glacial period through the Dark Ages and challenges some long-held assumptions.
Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade, The Penguin Press - an exploration of the ancestral population in Africa 50,000 years ago that gave rise to all modern humans, and how it diverged into the population groups we recognize today
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, Three Rivers Press - a riveting biography of a man who rose from subjugation and near-starvation to "subjugate more lands and people in 25 years than the Roman Empire did in 400." Great insight into the tribal culture of Mongolia.
Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse by Jared Diamond, Viking - what makes civilizations grow, thrive, and collapse.
The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age by Richard Rudgley, Simon and Schuster - overlooked technological achievements of prehistoric societies ( Stone-age dental surgery, anyone?)
Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies, Harper & Row - a classic
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester, Little Brown - a bit dated but still a classic.
The Great Mortality by John Kelly, Harper Collins - the Black Death from a psychological and sociological perspective.
Salt by Mark Kurlansky, Penguin - how our need for salt influenced "the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires and inspired revolutions." Lots of good historical information about salt-mining, the salt trade, and the historical use of salt to preserve food.
The Mystery of the Aleph; Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity by Amir D. Aczel, Four Walls Eight Windows Publishers- the story of mathematician Georg Cantor's theories of infinity and how they may have driven him mad.
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning, Harper Collins - a study of how ordinary men are transformed into monsters.
The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, Norton - mitochondrial DNA and stone age population movement out of Africa. Still a good primer, if a bit dated and dumbed down.
The Man in the Ice by Konrad Spindler, Crown - the discovery of a 5,300-year-old man buried in an Alpine glacier, complete with all his clothing and gear. Slightly dated by newer revelations about the Iceman's cause of death, but still contains wonderful insights into daily life in the late Stone Age and lots of photos of the Iceman's clothing and gear.
A Persian Odyssey by Rami Yelda, Pankovich - a fascinating, insightful, colorful, and occasionally humorous look inside contemporary Iran by an expatriate on his first visit back after 40 years. Yelda manages to infuse both cultural insight and humor into experiences as simple as asking the hotel clerk for a phone book and paying for lunch at a cafe.
These days I mostly read historical mysteries. Three of my favorite series:
Dissolution, Dark Fire, and Sovereign by C.J. Sansom
A series of historical mysteries set during the reign of King Henry VIII, featuring a wonderful MC lawyer who investigates murders even as he slogs through the ethical, moral, and political minefield of the English Reformation. New!! A fourth Shardlake book, Revelation
Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January series
Benjamin January, a free African-American, was educated as a physician in Paris, but has to earn a living as a musician in 1830s New Orleans, while solving crimes in his spare time. Fantastic insight into the stratified and complex society of 1830s New Orleans. My favorite books in this series feature January's friendship with police lieutenant Abishag Shaw.
Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco mysteries, set in ancient Rome
Anne Perry's Victorian mysteries
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
A very good Victorian mystery that I probably would have skipped because the cover makes it look like a romance.
Where to get cool mysteries:
The Seattle Mystery Bookshop
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