Perpetual Endeavors

A hazy dawn is rising, and I woke up with Hell’s Acre moving and shifting inside my head. Looks like the serial will be two seasons after all, because the last lingering bit I needed for the back half just dropped into place and it’s a rawther elegant solution, if I do say so myself. Pulling the story off Vella did a great deal of good–I still have an experiment lingering there, though not under my real name. The platform treated me so dreadfully over a support ticket I don’t want my name associated with it.

In any case, it’s a Thursday, and I had a run planned but what with one thing or another it will have to be some yoga instead. The dogs are eager for walkies–Miss B in particular is attempting to get me on her schedule instead of the other way ’round. It is a perpetual endeavor, one she has been engaged in for well over a decade (we’ve been together a while) and I think her baffled spite when it doesn’t work is part of the reason she’s still in such good shape.

Spite is a wonderful motivator. Keeps one young at heart, and all that.

I have to feel out the dimensions of the gap in the VC Andrews/Cat People werewolf story, because I know what needs to happen but I don’t quite see how to get there yet. And in Sons of Ymre #2 I have left the heroine feeling rather badly now that she’s discovered a few things about her monster-hunting protector, and I don’t quite know if she’s going to try to wriggle out the window before the other monster hunters get there. She’s seriously considering it, I think it’s a bad idea, and we’re hashing it out. The process takes time.

I was able to settle in bed last night and knock off a respectable bit of Fire in the Lake. I’m gutting it out; it’s slow going, especially with the stress of current events. After this I have some of Anais Nin’s diaries to read. I splurged a bit (call it research, that’s what I’m doing) and bought a set. I’ve always wanted to read them, and now is a good time to cross that off my bucket list. Once I wend my way through the set I’ll see if the itch is scratched. At least there’s no shortage, Nin was prolific.

Still trying not to look at the news. The world’s pain is prowling just outside my mental doors, eager to rush in and consume me. Of course I feel terrible that I can’t do more, that I’m sitting here writing my little stories as the burning intensifies. It’s all I can do. On my better days I tell myself that people need stories, need escape and catharsis, now more than ever. On my worse, there’s nothing else I can do anyway so I might as well get some work done while I’m waiting for the mushroom cloud.

The worse days predominate lately. Any optimism I might have been able to lay claim to has been severely strained.

So I just keep swimming. Gary Moore is playing inside my skull this morning too, while the plot-building machine whirrs and jolts. I’m also thinking about tomorrow’s tea–we’ll talk about the difference between the Inner Editor and the Internal Censor, always a fun time. I’ve finally reached the point where I’m exporting old teas to YouTube, where they can live after they drop off Twitch’s two-week cycle. We’ll see how long this experiment lasts. My agent tells me I’m witty and personable, but all I feel in front of a camera is doltish, atavistic fear. At that point my most devout hope is that nobody is watching, which I suppose defeats the purpose of the whole thing? It’s irrational on many levels, but I trust my agent and if she says to try this, I suppose I should.

Well, frankly, she wanted me to TikTok, but that’s a lot of work for no return at all and I’m already in publishing, I’ve got enough of that, thanks.

I should bring this to a close and get toast underway. Miss B just perked up as I glanced at her–she can sense, with unfailing canine intuition, that I am about to cave and give her what she wants. Action! Adventure! A stroll around the block, during which she gets to sniff all her favourite things and be cranky at Boxnoggin’s exuberance! And finally, the pièce de résistance, a treat when we return home, because her owner is a sucker and she is, after all, an elderly statesdog who has turned in years of diligent work.

Have a lovely Thursday, my dears. Today’s subscription drop is prepped and scheduled, and I have plenty of work to keep me occupied. If the day behaves we might reach the end without having to get out the baseball bat.

Maybe I’m more of an optimist than I thought…

Blank Day

Woke up to snow–winter’s last gasp, and will probably be gone by tomorrow–and normally that would be exciting. Normally I’d be thrilled, and watching the dogs cavort in a frosty wonderland would make me smile. I might even try some sort of tokking and tikking, or Insta reeling, in honour of the weather.

But not today. The news was horrid last night and just keeps on getting worse and worse today.

There’s no sense to be made of it except the fact that bullies suffering no pushback will continue to escalate. Large or small, a bully just…keeps going, until they’re met with actual consequences for their actions. Caving doesn’t work. Attempting to “understand” and console the bullies doesn’t work–and I say that as someone who firmly believes understanding brings compassion.

Compassion should never be mistaken for weakness. Yet bullies consistently do just that, and the cost mounts to a terrible level before humanity mounts an immune response to the infection. The idea that the sickness might be endemic torments me.

From the local to the national to the international level, we’ve put up with bullies, coddled and propitiated them, for far too long. They’re great at divide-and-conquer, of course–bullies use the method because it works. Yet their playbook is thin. Domestic abusers, bigots, and dictators all work off the same timeworn strategies, weaponizing the empathy and distraction of the rest of us. It’s an effective set of tactics because it strikes right at the heart of the cooperation that is humanity’s biggest feature and advantage. It works partly because we have a deep need to get along, and partly because sociopaths and malignant narcissists do not feel the shame the rest of us do. Rather, they are rewarded for their brutality, turned into highly paid CEOs and lauded as “strong rulers.” Then they terrorize the rest of us, even though we outnumber them by several orders of magnitude.

You’d think we would have learned by now. You’d think history would have taught us.

My heart hurts, and so does the rest of me. I can’t look away, and while I know I need to focus on telling stories so others can find some hope or relief, I just…I can’t. I don’t know what to do today.

The dogs are, of course, unconcerned. They are simply, wildly ecstatic at the fact of snow, even Boxnoggin, who downright loathes being cold. We’re all safe at the Chez, but for how much longer? And how much more of this can I watch before I break?

I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Weather Exfoliation

Welcome to Monday, please keep your limbs (and your skull, don’t forget that) inside the carriage. No, really, it’s for your own good.

The wind is up, the cedars are dancing, and plenty of heat damage is being exfoliated. Literally, that is–dried and dead bits have been swept briskly from branches, twigs, and trunks, landing with thumps and bumps. An edge or two of lashing rain passed through yesterday as well, while the kids and I were all home, cosy and buttoned-up.

It was nice to light a log of compressed sawdust in the upstairs fireplace and settle on the couch. Watch the rain, watch the wind, watch the fire, yawn, maybe take a sip of something spicy-warm, and go back to reading a book. I’m halfway through Shirer on Nazi Germany once more, having read it last a decade ago, and swinging wildly between “the situation is different from the 30s” and “well, nothing much changes in this benighted world, does it.”

I suspect a good run this morning will put me right. It’s nearing the end of the witch’s year, after all, and of course I feel a little under the (blustery) weather. Most of it is the persistent sense that I’ve lost two years due to the pandemic. Time has become weird and elastic, and both my children have missed what we think of as major life markers because of it.

Or, more precisely, not due to pandemic but to the persistent fumbling non-response of a crumbling empire in the face of plague. I hadn’t expected, reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, to see it repeated in my own lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to happen ever since the post-9/11 march to war. I just…thought it would take a little longer. Rome’s autocracy-fueled crumbling was a matter of centuries, America’s seems to be a matter of decades.

Of course we could be looking at a shakeup before a renewal and a great advancement in civilization and human enlightenment. That’s always possible. I just don’t want to get my hopes up, because every time I do, it’s a big ol’ kick in the teeth right afterward.

The end of a cycle always provokes such thoughts. I don’t think I’m alone in them, either.

There’s bread to bake and children (my own and others’) to care for. There are books to write, dogs to walk, kindnesses to practice on a daily basis. There’s laundry to do and movies to watch (Irma Vep is next on the list) and, as always, books to write, even if I’m taking it easy before November arrives with NaNo and a looming revision to a certain magical-realism diptych.

I suppose a load of candy and the burning of joss-paper wishes in one of the iron cauldrons will do a great deal to renew my mood. As it stands, it’s a matter of one small day at a time, struggling against the larger currents. Not borne ceaselessly into the past, Gatsby old sport, it’s more “being swept slo-mo towards deeper disaster.”

Or maybe it’s just the wind making me tetchy. As soon as the caffeine sinks in I’ll be able to tell. Between the gusts and the fact of Monday, no wonder I’m in a Mood.

Ah well. I’m strapped into the ride, after all, and can’t do much about where the tracks are heading. All that’s possible is caring for the other people in the gondola, to the best of one’s ability. The dogs, of course, have absolutely no use for my philosophizing. They want walkies now, and aren’t shy about expressing as much.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. We’re all in this together, wherever it’s wending, and that will have to be enough.

Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Repair or Gasp

I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.

Create, Innate… Cookie?

Not the cookies in question, but still good.

Yesterday was… an experience. I was already exhausted, unable to sleep Tuesday night; I finally got up, let the dogs out and fed them, and grabbed my phone on the way back to bed, thinking I could at least have a bit of a lie-in.

Boy, was I wrong.

I found out white supremacist terrorists were rioting in federal and state capitols, egged on by their Dear Orange Leader. It was unsurprising–I did, after all, write a whole book about this back in 2015–but still terrifying.

I’ve read history. I know what could happen, what’s likely to happen. I don’t mind telling you I’m not sanguine about any of this. Most of all, I’m pretty sure none of the racist fuckwads attempting a coup for their Tangerine Twitler will suffer any real consequences.

The Princess was home from work, too, and had glanced at the news early in the morning–then remained fixed to it, horrified. Every time some-damn-thing else happened, one of us would call down the hallway. The Prince, busy with distance-learning, spent the entire day holed up in his room with schoolwork, and consequently had only faint intimations of trouble until we all convened for dinner. I was glad both of my children were safe and home where I could see them. Probably irrational, but powerfully comforting nonetheless.

What I really want to talk about, though, is chocolate chip cookies.

The day ended, for me, with hugging my children–though both of them are much taller than I am now, they still find comfort in Mum’s closeness–and reassuring them. Reminding each other to breathe, reminding them that we have plans in case things go haywire, reminding ourselves that we’re in fact extremely privileged and lucky. I retreated to bed hoping against hope for some sleep.

Helped by exhaustion (and, let’s face it, a dose of Tylenol PM) I did manage to pass out. My dreams were feverish, ending with some guy in a flying lawn chair swooping through neighborhood backyards. (I don’t know, don’t ask me.) And when I resurrected in the clear light of dawn to take the dogs out once more, there were chocolate chip cookies on the dining-room table.

“Yeah,” the Princess muttered, when she shuffled out of her bedroom for breakfast. “World’s on fire. Figured I’d bake.”

“The cookies,” I said, through a thick fog of pre-caffeination, “didn’t exist before, now they do. We’ll eat them and they’ll be part of us forever. You made something out of other things. That’s just so cool, and it doesn’t have to be monetized although we’re trapped in late-stage capitalism.”

My daughter grinned, in the particular way that means she understands but can’t resist poking me. “Get some coffee, Mum.” She paused. “I love you.”

Kids, man.

Really, they weren’t just cookies. They were a cry in the face of destruction, a hope for something better, a way to say I love you not just to me but to her brother as well, a soothing reminder that we can build and make and do things that weren’t there before.

Creativity–making things–is powerful and healing at the same time. Making something that wasn’t there before is an old, old human magic, and so innate we overlook it. Magic is changing consciousness at will (thank you, Aleister, you were a jerk but you did have a way with words sometimes) but it’s also willing something into existence. The human capacity to create is natural as breathing; we take it for granted. And it’s also therapeutic when some assholes seem determined to be as hateful and murderous as possible.

Creating doesn’t have to be monetized, it doesn’t have to be a side gig. It’s a natural human function performed in a hundred little ways each day. It’s also a powerful way to say fuck you to those murderous, treasonous assnuts who like to poison themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with racism and violence.

I have a whole rant about how choosing that poison means throwing away their humanity, but now’s not the time.

If you’re utterly exhausted by all this, if you can’t look away, if you can’t seem to focus on much else, well, welcome to the club. Don’t beat yourself up over it! It is an utterly reasonable response to this fuckery. And this is not a call for you to drag yourself forth and have to deal with one more thing. You don’t have to make something right now. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy.

I’m just saying there are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, because the Princess made them. People are making things, people are sticking together, lots of people are staying home to protect others during a pandemic and lots of people are trying like hell to do something, anything, whatever they can to make the world a little better.

We outnumber the racist, destructive, poisonous assnuts. We always have. The news is dire and the situation is bad, and (not but, AND) the human capacity to care and to create is so innate, so reflexive, that we’re still making and doing and caring for each other despite that. It’s natural and sane to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s also natural and sane to make something if you’ve the urge and the energy. Both are okay.

That’s what I’m clinging to, this first Thursday of 2021. There are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, and once consumed they’ll be part of us forever. It doesn’t feel like a lot when I stare at the news, I’ll admit.

It’s still important, and still a comfort.

Over and out.

Yelling About Isildur, Part II

So yesterday I began the morning yelling about Isildur, went for a run with Boxnoggin, and came back bleeding from knees, hand, forehead and chin because said Boxnoggin startled when a bus drove past and took my legs out from under me.

Don’t worry, Boxnoggin’s fine. I was face-down on pavement, somewhat dazed, and he had the grace to nose at me like why are you on the ground, Mum? Is this where we live now? Is this the new game?

It’s hard to be angry at a canine who literally doesn’t remember what happened five seconds ago. Anyway, I didn’t feel the rest of that run, what with all the adrenaline going on. The scabs are great and I’m telling everyone I got into a fight.1

But what you’re really here for is Part II of Why Elrond Should Cut Isildur Some Ding-Dang Slack, right? (Part I is here.) If you don’t like my nerding about Tolkien, you might want to skip this blog post too.

Ready? Here we go…


So Ar-Pharazon2 is getting ready to sail West, there’s portents galore3, Sauron is sacrificing Elf-friends to Morgoth in the middle of Numenor, and Elendil has looked at this shit and decided “oh HELL naw.” He tells his sons4 to load up their ships, and there’s some deciding which harbor to sneak into. So Isildur (recovered from his TOTALLY BADASS raid to rescue a fruit from the White Tree, don’t forget) and Anarion–his younger brother, who Elendil probably liked better since he was named after the sun instead of the moon like Isildur, although it could just be because the White Tree of Valinor was older than the Golden one, sure, whatever–load up their ships and await developments.

Not a moment too soon, as it turns out, because Ar-Pharazon weighed anchor and went sashaying westwards, and that pissed the Valar off but mightily.

AR-PHARAZON: “Look, about that Death thing, it really doesn’t seem such a gift from Iluvatar, and there’s this guy Sauron making some really good points–“
THE VALAR: “Look, we gave you ONE RULE, don’t sail west towards our island, and what do you go and do?”
AR-PHARAZON: “But I’m the Golden King of Numenor, and I made this Sauron guy my servant and… oh, what the fuck, I’m coming over, we’ll talk.”

Every time I read about Ar-Pharazon setting sail and the Valar’s response I can’t help but think of the John Mulaney bit about a teenager at an illicit party throwing a bottle to the ground and yelling “Scatter!” when the cops arrive.5

In other words, the Valar decided oh hell naw too, and called their big brother to handle this bullshit. Well, Eru Iluvatar, God Himself, or the creative principle, or whatnot. And what does Eru do?

Well, Eru’s conflict-resolution skills aren’t great. He could have intervened against Morgoth’s bullshit at any moment of the First Age, or against Sauron’s bullshit at any goddamn moment in the Second and Third, but instead he… throws a tantrum when Ar-Pharazon sails West? To be fair, this was probably not the only ant farm Eru was tending, and Manwë, like most eldest kids left in charge of fractious younger siblings, probably didn’t let him know things had gotten Out Of Hand until someone had to go to the E.R. So you really can’t blame Eru for saying “EVERYONE GO TO YOUR ROOMS RIGHT-FUCKING-NOW, DAMMIT!”

Except when Iluvatar in his infinite wisdom6 does that, there’s a giant cataclysm, Valinor is removed from the world (though the Elves can still get there), Ar-Pharazon’s fleet is swallowed by the seas, and for good measure Eru sinks the entire frickin’ island of Numenor–dogs, cats, babies, assholes, and elbows alike–except for maybe the one place where Tar-Miriel7 fled to high ground.

It’s all very… Yahweh.

Anyway, I take all this time to explain because there’s Isildur, chilling on the ships with his dad and his little brother, maybe hoping the Valar will sink Ar-Pharazon and then everyone can get on with their lives, and BOOM. Here comes the sinking of Numenor/Atlantis, and since Elendil & Co. were super shady and snuck into a bay they weren’t supposed to be in, their ships aren’t immediately smashed to flinders but tossed towards the continent.

They make landfall, and since the Numenoreans have been spreading along the coasts and exacting tribute from a lot of people they’re not exactly penniless refugees, but the trauma of their entire damn island being smashed because one jackass just had to make a point probably didn’t help anyone at all.

The only silver lining, I suppose, was that Sauron, hanging out on Numenor doing the ol’ human sacrifices bit and laughing into his sleeve at how stupid Ar-Pharazon was, got caught up in the hubbub and lost his physical body. But he was one of the Maiar–basically an angel, you could say–so he didn’t really… need it? Anyway, he fled and couldn’t take “a comely form” after that, and spent a lot of time just rage-coalescing into The Eye.8

This would be enough trauma for any one person, but life’s not done with Isildur yet. To give the Elves credit, they don’t say “I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO,”9 instead focusing on “Hey, you’ve always been solid bros and you planned ahead, good job, let’s get you some Band-Aids.” So Elendil figures lemons outta lemonade, amirite? and he and his sons found Gondor in the south and Arnor in the north, and everyone settles down to maybe chill a bit and get some therapy.

Except there weren’t any therapists on Middle-Earth, I guess.

Unfortunately, Sauron was still pissy, and he couldn’t really consider the fall of Numenor a total 100% success because the jerkwads he hated most had survived and were swanning around with the Elves and making kingdoms and stuff. Elendil even thought Sauron was dead, but Sauron was all “OH NO, NOT EVEN CLOSE” and Elendil was all “…shit.”

ELENDIL: Okay, so I’ll hang out in Arnor and you two hang out in Gondor, play nice with each other.
ISILDUR & ANARION: Sure, Dad!
ELENDIL: I’m so glad Sauron’s gone!
ISILDUR & ANARION: Us too, Dad!
WITCH-KING OF ANGMAR (just not yet):10 THINK AGAIN, MOFOS!
ELENDIL: Oh, for Eru’s sake…

Now we’re getting into more well-known Tolkien history. There’s the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, and after they lose patience with Sauron being a pissy asshat they march out to give him stern talking-to. The Elven high king Gil-galad11 had a bone to pick with Sauron too, but Anarion (remember him?) was killed in the siege of Barad-dur.

ELENDIL: We’re gonna go kick Sauron’s ass.
ISILDUR & ANARION: Sure thing, Dad!
GIL-GALAD: Look out, there’s a–
ANARION: *gets crushed by a falling rock*
ELENDIL: …that was my favorite son, dammit.
ISILDUR: Well, this sucks.

So here’s Isildur. He grew up under the shadow of a murderous authoritarian regime, never once betraying his dad or his dad’s friends, risked his life saving a scion of the White Tree, did what his father said and got the getaway ships ready, saw his entire home (along with dogs, cats, babies, and everything else) perish in the grand-daddy of tsunamis or volcanic events or BOTH, built a fresh new whole-ass city in the south with his little brother, then has to go march to Mordor because Sauron is still being that fucking guy, and then he sees his little brother–who his father probably loved more–die terribly12 during the siege.

I’m just sayin’, a therapist or two in Middle-Earth would have saved a whole lot of hassle.

Isildur’s on the battlefield, friends dying all around him, his little brother’s crushed to paste, and what happens? Isildur’s dad–the father he never betrayed growing up, the father he stole the fruit of the White Tree for, the father he loved–also dies terribly at Sauron’s hands right in front of him.

Isildur does what eldest children do13–he saves the day, going mad with grief and rage, and he fucking kills an angel.14 We’re not talking Michael Landon mouthing soporifics or a little Hallmark cherub, no sir, Sauron was a fucking Maia, an immortal ageless being with so much life experience it wasn’t even funny.15 Even Gil-galad, a Noldorian High King, couldn’t stand the heat of Sauron’s hand, though there’s some contention that Elendil and Gil-galad sacrificed themselves to get Raid Boss Sauron down to the point where a single fighter could coup de grâce.16

GIL-GALAD: I’m on cooldowns! Cast something! Shield, something, anything!
ELENDIL: I’m not a fuckin’ paladin!
ISILDUR: I hate everything right now.
SAURON: *casts Immolate*
GIL-GALAD: *burning to death* …shit, I’m out, where’s my battle res?
ELROND: I’m in combat, I can’t fuckin’ cast it!
ELENDIL: *berserks*
SAURON: *has the One Ring buff* HAHAHAHAHAHA!
ELENDIL: *burning to death AND beaten to a pulp* …well, that didn’t go as I expected.
ISILDUR: *all cooldowns have reset* LEEEEEEEEROY JENKINS!
SAURON:shit.

Isildur slices! He dices! He saves the entirety of Middle-Earth during this terrible fucking battle, and at the end of it, all he gets is this lousy ring.

Now, if you’ve watched the movies, it’s actually pretty close to the book. Elrond and plenty of the Elves were all, “THROW IT IN THE FIRE, DIPSHIT!”

Just think about Isildur, though. This guy, probably suffering several different flavors of holy-old-hell PTSD, just saw his father beaten to death to top everything off. Is it any wonder the One Ring was all “hey, buddy, don’t throw me away–what else, after all, do you have left?” and Isildur listened?17

Isildur saved Middle-Earth and lost everything in the process; of course he was determined to keep a loot item that might rebuild a little of it. Then, as a final fuck-you,18 the goddamn Ring betrays him, slips from his finger in the river, and he ends up with a bunch of orc arrows in his back.

And Elrond–who of all people should understand, being orphaned too and seeing all this shit go down on the battlefield–still gets snitty with Gandalf over it centuries after.

Now, my beloveds, you understand what I’m saying. Isildur, son of Elendil, got a raw goddamn deal.


There’s a lot in Tolkien to disparage–the misogyny, the racism, the turgid prose, I could go on and on. There is also a lot I find value in, not least because Lord of the Rings was one of the works that gave me hope as a kid suffering my own version of thralldom in Angbad. There are certain points where Tolkien as a writer was operating at one, conscious level while the meta versions of his characters were doing something quite entirely opposite. (See: Book Eowyn, and that paragraph where Tolkien realizes he had a girl kill the Witch-King of Angmar and frantically backpedals, making it so the knife of Westernesse in the hands of a hobbit who at least had twig-and-berries could get the XP from the fight.19)

As a writer, often balancing on that knife-edge between control over the universe of my creation and the work doing what it will because it’s an organic whole, I derive a great deal of comfort from the meta-versions of the characters. Sometimes the work knows better than the writer what’s needed, and to his credit (or maybe because he took so much refuge in the legendarium to stave off his own horror and survivor’s guilt) Tolkien often let the meta-characters do as they would.

Maybe he didn’t even notice.

Maybe I’m delving into Tolkien as an escape from 2020. Maybe there’s the added attraction of being able to make ManFan heads explode, and the amusement I get from jackasses in my inbox telling me I have ruined Tolkien 4EVA by getting my filthy girl cooties on it.20 Maybe I see something a bit noble in Tolkien père‘s21 dedication to his imaginary world and Tokien fils‘s dedication to his father ‘s work.22 Maybe it’s just the exhausted writer in me crawling back into the comfort of fanfic, where someone else has done the heavy lifting and I can just enjoy the ride. Maybe I just want to share something I find strength in, maybe I just love to yell about cool things. Maybe it’s all this, and more.

I’ve got to get some more ibuprofen. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour into nerdery; heaven knows I’ve enjoyed writing it. Sail on into the West, my friends, and don’t take any wooden Silmarils.


Here endeth the tale.

for now.