Nervousness and Fanfic

We’re at less than 48 hours until adults are in charge again, and I can’t settle. I can barely breathe for the anxiety. I’m braced for more terrible fascist violence. I expect a good hard run today will help shake some of that out, but the nervousness is going to mount until the actual event.

Quite possibly beyond, too. Already I can’t even sit still.

The dogs don’t know why I’m so nervy, of course, and I’m content to have it so. The last thing they need is politics swamping their tiny doggy brains. Still, they’re both very concerned and sticking to me like velcro, attempting to soothe whatever invisible thing is tormenting their human.

Tormenting me is their job, and they don’t like being superseded.

I was supposed to take the weekend off, and am also not allowed to work today. Burnout is awful. I want to work, not least because it’s how I escape *waves hands* All That. I might–might–be allowed to write some fanfic; the only question there is what kind.

There was a bit of a dustup on social media over the weekend about fanfic. Someone just had to get shitty over it, which is about par for the course and happens with depressing regularity. I was heartened to see everyone whose opinion I respect weighing in on the side of “Fanfic is glorious, stfu”; it let me know I’m following the right people.

You can’t get better as a writer without, well, actually writing. (And reading, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Fanfic is great practice; it can be training wheels, fuel, and bowling bumpers all at once. It’s also a deep compliment to the original writer–I love your characters/world so much, I can’t let go of either.

I have strong and very definite feelings about writing–I believe in writing every day. (Burnout, of course, means only about 200 words a day on something that won’t ever be published, but it’s keeping the habit that matters.) But as for what that daily writing can be? It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfic, drabbles, original, dialogue sparks, or what-have-you.

A writer isn’t a writer without a lot of reading; it doesn’t matter what you read. It matters that you read, and likewise, it doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you write.

It matters that you get in the habit of prioritizing your writing, that you reserve some of your daily energy for it, that you practice. It matters that you do. Writers write, it’s the nature of the beast.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will be upset at the “write every day” thing, but you’re here on my site and I’m telling you what I think, so deal. The fact remains that fanfic is a gift, a great practice, plus it strengthens a writer’s grasp of characterization, structure, plot, timing, and craft. I suspect the “writer” of that silly thread touching all this off is just annoyed that nobody likes her characters enough to write ficlets about them.

I can’t, of course, read any fanfic of my own work, for fear of poisoning the well or possible legal ramifications. But you bet your bippy any time I’m told someone loved my stories enough to want to write in those universes, I get a deep warm feeling and can’t help but grin. I consider it a huge high compliment that the characters in my head have also made themselves at home inside someone else’s. It’s a beautiful, joyous, loving gift, even if the fanfic writer was mad at me for an ending or a character’s fate.

Love or hate of my work is fine. The job of a writer is to provoke an emotional reaction, and either is acceptable. The very worst reaction to one’s work is lukewarm boredom; I don’t even mind the hatemail or the how could you emails, because those mean I’ve done my damn job.

So. In case there was any confusion about where I stand on fanfic, let me reiterate: Fanfiction is GREAT. It’s awesome, I love it, and it makes writers better. Do it all you want. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters only that you write.

And now I go walk the dogs, not to mention run myself ragged, and try to distract myself from dread and anxiety. And later today I’m probably going to write some Madalorian fanfic. Sure, only 200 words or so, but it’ll keep my hand in, and it’s my own personal fuck you to the idea that fanfic writers are somehow lesser creatures.

Over and out.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.

What Weekend?

I spent the weekend on line edits for an upcoming romance (you guys are gonna love this one) and crashed pretty hard Sunday afternoon. Every wound and swelling left over from Boxnoggin trying to murder me via pavement was speaking up, and I had a headache so bad I was thinking “brain bleed, Lili, you’re gonna die.”

So I made dinner and went to bed early, figuring if I was going to shuffle off the mortal coil I might as well be snuggled under comforters when it happens. There were confused dreams of the fall of Gondolin mixed with a bank-heist caper and a Shannara-style wishsong sequence through a city overgrown with giant sentient tentacles, too.

It was fun inside my skull last night.

In any case, the headache is gone as if it never existed, I feel a thousand percent better, and the swelling has gone down dramatically. Of course I just needed rest, and was unwilling to take it because there was work to be done, dammit.

I also learned a new word this past weekend: Irisu. Apparently it’s Japanese for “not answering the doorbell even though you’re home.” It pleases me there’s an actual term for it.

I don’t know if this is exactly accurate–if a native or educated speaker is reading this, feel free to correct in the comments–but it’s a concept I love. The doorbell, like the telephone, is a convenience, not an obligation, and in a world where we’re expected to be “on” all the time it feels delicious to carve out a little space for oneself. (Especially when it’s employers expecting us to cater to corporate whims 24/7.)

In any case the line edits are sent off–my editor is a bloody saint, I love her, and she is available for hire if that NaNo novel of yours wants a shot at rising to the top of the query or slush pile–and today I take a short easy run and a whirl through the portal fantasy one last time before it goes out the door and on submission. That should eat up half the day, and maybe if I play my cards just right I’ll be able to take half Monday off in recompense for working all damn weekend.

I don’t want to relax too much, though. For one thing, the sudden release of pressure might cause the bends.

Boxnoggin feels pretty bad about the murder-by-pavement thing; I might not take him on a run for a while just in case. His stomach seems a little nervous, probably because I was not my usual self this weekend, being mostly nonverbal and stare-y. He keeps trying to lick at my healing wounds, his big brown eyes full of pleading when I flinch and say “ow, kiddo, maybe not that.” Miss B, of course, has decided to show her concern by relentlessly bossing and herding both of us. Boxnoggin will break off playing with her to trot back to the office and check on me, his head cocked at an anxious and inquisitive angle; she will race down the hall and skid into said office to give a sharp, half-muffled bark (since I will snap “don’t take that tone in my office, woman” at her) and nips and herds him out to the living room to play some more.

It’s a good thing they have each other to keep occupied. Just thinking about amusing either of them for a stretch makes me tired.

And now it’s time to get out the door, since I’ve already crossed off a few things on the to-do list. Retreating to the couch with Unfinished Tales sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and might even give me more fuel for yelling about Tolkien™ at a later date. Which I’m sure you’re in breathless anticipation of, my dears. (I have a lot to say about Feanor, but who doesn’t?)

Anyway. Happy Monday, beloveds, we’re on the downward slope of 2020 and it looks like the coup might have failed this time (of course, they’ll just try again harder in 2024, I’m sure) but the damage is deep enough to satisfy even the worst sociopaths in office.

…yeah, I’m not very optimistic today. Maybe it’s the scabs and the residual swelling.

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.

Yelling About Isildur, Part I

I was going to do a whole Masto/Twitter thread yelling about Isildur last night, but there was the Incident with the Vindaloo-Coated Rice Grain at dinner and then I was quite naturally worn out, since the day had been unsatisfactory at best despite getting all my wordcount in.

The cognitive load of 2020 is something, ennit. I feel like the year itself, rushing past, is deforming me like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Plus, I have a LOT to say about Isildur, and most of it requires some background. If you’re not interested in my Tolkien binge, you might want to skip this particular blog post–and probably tomorrow’s as well, since this is gonna be a two-parter.

Still here? All right. Strap on your helm and get ready for some massive OMG WTF. Let’s go.


I spooled up the Fellowship of the Ring movie earlier this week, figuring that the Tolkien binge deserved to be visual as well. (I still get chills at Cate Blanchett doing the voiceover.)

We see Elrond in the prologue, driving home just how old Earandil’s son is; it reminded me of later in the movie when he tells Gandalf, “I was there the day the strength of Men failed.” Now, normally I’m Team Elrond all the way–he might be constipated, but he’s also a solid mensch most of the time–but I’d just finished reading the Akallabeth chapter and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe Elrond should lay off Isildur a little.

I’m about to get a little nerdy here in order to give you background. Just… trust me.

Now, Elrond and his twin brother Elros saw their mother Elwing1 throw herself into the sea rather than give up a Silmaril to the remaining Sons of Feanor2, and the boys were adopted by Maglor3 and never saw their dad again. They were essentially orphans even though their parents are celebrated in song, and you’d think that would give Elrond a little bit of fellow-feeling for Isildur.

Because my dear sweet gods, Isildur had it rough, and I didn’t realize quite how rough until my last read-through of the Silmarillion.

Isildur is descended from Earandil too (he’s the however-many-greats-grandson of Elros, who decided to be counted among mortal Men4), so he’s a kinsman of sorts. But Isildur grew up in Numenor while Sauron was in charge, which was… not ideal.

You see, Sauron was the henchman of Morgoth, the Big Bad of Arda. Morgoth’s essentially a Luciferian figure5 but his ass was whupped by the Valar and Earendil (big battle, lots of dragons) at the end of the First Age. Sauron decided he didn’t want to go back to the Valar and possibly get capital punishment or worse, so he fucked off to the hinterlands and started fooling around calling himself the Lord of Gifts and helping people out–for a price, and the price was rarely immediately apparent.

And he was GOOD at it! Sauron was Stalin to Morgoth’s Lenin, sort of?6 Before the whole Rings of Power thing, only Galadriel and Gil-galad refused to have any truck with this guy calling himself Annatar7 and the Valar were busy with getting all the Elves back home and repairing the damage the huge battle had done, plus they were all “Men? We don’t need no stinkin’ Men, Iluvatar can deal with that, we’ve got all we can handle.”

One suspects even Manwë8 was feeling kind of harassed at this point, what with Ulmo lifting an eyebrow every time their gazes met.9

Anyway. The Men who fought against Morgoth got long lifespans and their very own island homeland kind-of-within sight of the Deathless Isle, which was a pretty sweet deal. (Look, I know this is all very boring and nerdy, but I have a point, I PROMISE.)

That isle was Numenor. The first High King there was Elros; the kings of Numenor were descended from him and Elendil was too, on the distaff side.10

Fast forward a few *mumblemumblemaybethousand* years and past the whole “creation of the Rings of Power and war of Sauron vs. the remaining Elves” thing, and Numenor was a huge power in Middle Earth. But Sauron had noticed them, and he was always more likely to try to corrupt Men.11 Plus there was that whole “Gift of Iluvatar” thing.

In other words, death.

Plenty of Numenoreans started thinking “WTF is this death thing? Elves get to be immortal, and we can sail west to the Undying Lands. I mean, we’re not supposed to, but we could… you know, maybe the Valar weren’t being quite honest with us…”

No doubt Sauron thought, hey, that’s handy! And he settled down in Mordor to wait after he blew his cover with the whole Rings of Power thing.

Tolkien was, of course, intimately acquainted with the fear of mortality. You could say his entire legendarium is a protest against the senseless slaughter he saw in WWI’s trenches.12 It’s quite clear in the Akallabeth chapter that it’s fear of death that prepared the ground for Sauron, although Tolkien says earlier in the Silmarillion that Morgoth got to Men before the Valar could in the First Age and planted a fear of the Gift in them, sensing it would bear fruit later.

SO. The last and most powerful king of Numenor doesn’t want any of this death bullshit, thank you very much. He marries the true heir to the throne13 and then decides “You know what? I’m a super badass, I’m going to SAIL TO THE CONTINENT and CHALLENGE SAURON!”

The Numenoreans who were still tight with the Elves were all “this is a super bad idea” but Ar-Pharazon14 sailed off to the Continent and challenged Sauron to combat.

Now, Sauron was sitting in Mordor, and he looked at this dude, and I can only imagine he smiled like a fox watching chickens march right into its den.

Ar-Pharazon, because he was totally That Dude, sent his heralds out to say, “Yo, Sauron! Let’s fight! Or, you know, you could just be my vassal, because look at my army, right? IT’S SO HUGE!”15

And Sauron said, “…Okay.”

So Sauron was taken to Numenor in chains, which was of course right where he wanted to be. And Elendil and the Elf-friends were all “guys, this is a really super bad idea” but Ar-Pharazon and his buddies were like “SHUT UP,” and started rounding up Elf-friends and putting them in prison.

As he’d planned to, Sauron talked his way out of chains and into Ar-Pharazon’s cabinet, and they were best buds for a while. It got to the point where Sauron even had a temple to Morgoth set up in the middle of Numenor’s capital city, and was offering human sacrifices to his “master.”16 The sacrifices were–you guessed it–most often Elf-friends.

One gets the idea Orwell and Tolkien, while not exactly getting along, might at least have agreed on a few things about human nature.

This is the world Isildur grew up in. To top it all off, he wasn’t even the favorite son, that was Anarion. Anarion was named after the sun, Isildur after the moon. You get the feeling that Elendil, even though he was sort of a standup guy, couldn’t help but play favorites, but Isildur was like “yo, this is cool, I love my brother AND my dad.” But at the same time, there’s human sacrifices going on, and living under a despotic regime isn’t good for anyone.

Sauron takes it into his head to cut down the White Tree of Numenor, and it’s not Elendil or Anarion who sneak in past all the guards and take a fruit from it, basically ensuring the survival of a scion of one of the Two Trees of freakin’ Valinor. No, that’s Isildur, basically lifting a giant middle finger to Sauron, because he kills some of Sauron’s lieutenants and cronies in the process of sneaking in and not-so-sneaking out. And Isildur got totally trashed during it17 and only recovered when the sapling bore its first leaf.

Then Ar-Pharazon, egged on by Sauron–who is basically the head minister now, Walsie to Ar-Pharazon’s Queenie18–decides “You know what? Screw this death thing, Imma sail West to the Undying Lands, and if the Valar don’t like it, I’ll make them my servants just like I did with this Sauron dude the Elves were saying is all big and bad.”

Elendil and his sons look at this, and Elendil says, “All right, boys. Get the ships ready, because this is not gonna end well.” So Isildur and Anarion prep getaway conveyances like the good sons they are.

And then… it all goes even more pear-shaped than Elendil could ever imagine.

To be continued…

Villains and Dream-Reading

I took almost the entire holiday weekend off (save some mischief-managing, of which not a word shall pass my lips until the entire affair is finished) and read a lot of Tolkien. Like, a lot–the Fall of Gondolin which his son put together, and the Silmarillion once more. I also splurged, since there was a release day, and more book Middle-Earth is coming to my house.

I don’t know why the Fall of Gondolin fascinates me so much. Probably it’s the tragedy, and the figure of Maeglin. The son of the Dark Elf had a hard go of it, and honestly without him there wouldn’t be much of a story. Like how without Morgoth everything would be hunky dory and we’d hang around singing to Iluvatar all ding-dang day, which might be nice, but… and without the Silmarils there wouldn’t be the entire Wars of Beleriand and all that jazz. The villain is a prime motivating force in many a story, and thankless work it is, too.

You remember those old Disney specials where the Magic Mirror would talk about how cool the villains were and how without them there’d be nothing? Or maybe it was only one special, but it occurred at different points on television and I was always fascinated.

I don’t necessarily want to write it from Maeglin’s point of view, much less Morgoth’s, though the idea that Eru was like, “I’ve got this plan,” and Morgoth was all, “It requires me to be a bastard, though, doesn’t it,” makes me want to laugh like the “get help” gag between Hemsworth’s Thor and Hiddleston’s Loki. It presupposes a plan and a just, if not a kind, universe; in that, Tolkien wrought more religion than he knew.

Of course there’s the whole psyche-violated-by-WWI thing, and the idea that Morgoth just didn’t want to go with the program and Eru was a jerk about it, or that Morgoth was the Arda equivalent of an authoritarian fuckwit, which yea even unto the gates of heaven shall be with us like the poor are said to be. Who knows?

Anyway, there’s the third season of HOOD to finish and The Black God’s Heart to make good wordcount o, because I wasn’t allowed to work for the past couple days, at risk of being tied up to a chair in the living room while the children glowered at me if I even attempted anything that looked like work. I gather I was getting a little too stare-eyed and intense, and they were a bit worried.

I do wonder, though–do you, dear Reader, read in your dreams? One of my friends sent this article recently, and I’ve been thinking about the books that have come from dream-images as well as the plot problems my subconscious has thrown into my sleeping hours in order to get resolved in interesting ways. I dream in hypersaturated color and have read more than a few books in dreams, though I can’t work a cell phone in them for the life of me. Not a few of my anxiety dreams have centered on trying to make a dream-phone behave, but the circuitry always seems wonky.

I think the last book I read in a dream was a version of Nancy Price’s Sleeping With the Enemy where the protagonist Sara drove race cars. I remember one passage that Price couldn’t possibly have written with two minor characters late in the book, and sometimes when rereading (it’s one of my go-to reads, revisited about yearly) I’m surprised to find it not in there, and I miss the descriptions of cars flying on the track with the wheel safe in a woman’s gloved hands that I read only once in said dream.

So, I’m curious. Do you read in your dreams? And now I’m off to finish my coffee and take the dogs for their ramble; Boxnoggin is eager to run since we took a few days off. He needs work, and so do I.

Back to it, then. Back into the fray, or into the dream. Not sure I can tell them apart at this particular moment, but that’s for the coffee soaking in to fix. All I have to do is let it work.

Over and out.

Visual Rest

Over the weekend I (finally) read How to Win Friends and Influence People–it had been referred to thrice by three separate people within a week, which is usually a sign I should at least glance at something. I was somewhat pleased to find out most of it’s stuff I already do as a matter of course.

I was forcibly struck, however, by how much of the book presumes a parity of privilege between the two involved in friendly communication. Some of the principles can be altered slightly for dealing with people possessing far more privilege than oneself, it’s true. But the book, when taken as a sole guide to human interaction, woefully underprepares one for dealing with malignant narcissists and rampant, toxic bigots.

Of course one should never take any one book as one’s sole guide to human interaction; humans are impossibly complex. But if one’s going to read Carnegie’s opus I think it should be paired with Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and a great deal of Captain Awkward. Not quite like pairing wine and cheese, more like pairing calcium with vitamin D.

It’s a lovely grey morning full of rain. The flames of deciduous trees shedding their summer robes are dying down; we’re entering the time of monochrome. Or at least, as close to monochrome as firs and pines through a screen of mist can be. I know I’ll be ready for some splashes of color by the time the plum blossoms are ready to emerge, but for right now I could use some visual rest.

I have been rather sharp with people lately, though. Carnegie’s book is a nice reminder to be kind, when I am certain my interlocutor is not toxic. Toxic requires different strategies.

Yesterday evening neither dog would rest until both of them were crammed into the single chair I had settled in. Of course they couldn’t take the loveseat where the Princess was knitting or the couch where the Prince was frowning at his phone, occasionally muttering when a particular boss in a phone game did something rude. Of course not; the dogs simply had to stuff themselves into the smallest occupied space in a pile. The Princess caught a picture, and my expression is a variety of rueful amusement I probably haven’t worn since she and the Prince were toddlers. Then I went to bed, and of course both dogs had to pile atop me there, too.

It was nice and warm, but dreadfully difficult to breathe.

In any case, there’s walkies and a run to accomplish today, both in the rain. Which Boxnoggin will not like, but this is where we live, so deal with it we must. Fortunately his harness is a jacket and keeps the worst of the wet off; he will still high-step and shake his dainty paws every once in a while. He is a very catlike dog.

Tomorrow is a release day; I am already feeling the nerves. So I’m going to go and get what work I can done before I am too beside myself to even attempt to string sentences together, with as much tea as I can brew.

Burning world or not, tea must be made and the words, like spice, must flow.