Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hands of the King - Complete

It is not all politics with me. No, really! There's family and friends, the new old house I'm renovating, a very busy job and other odds and ends.

For several years, from late 2002 until early 2007, I was writing a fanfiction novel, Hands of the King. After a hiatus to deal with family concerns and to jettison some very annoying and opportunistic fandfom jerks from my life, I wrapped up final edits and posted it on the HASA web site.

For those not familiar with fanfiction, it is nothing more or less than fans of a certain book, series, TV show and/or movie coming up with their own stories set in the world of the original work. It may be a completely new story, with original characters, plots, and locations. It may be a "gap-filler" which tells a story of something that had to have happened (an adult character's childhood) or to flesh out a scene that must have ocurred given things characters or the author says. Finally, the story may be an "Alternate Universe" (AU) where the writer radically changes something (or a lot of things) to presetn something new. Most fanfiction is atrocious, but that's part of its charm. In the Tolkien fandom, the appeal is that JRRT left so much writing lying about, with massive timelines and histories and stories only alluded to and multiple versions of just about everything, that it's an addictive world to write in.

I've written a number of stories (and, yeah, they are probably reasonably atrocious, judged by professional standards), with HotK being the biggest. It's very long at almost 900,000 words and 85 chapters plus appendices. It's a gap-filler, being an account of the courtship and marriage of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, and Finduilas of Dol Amroth.

I began it out of revulsion of the usual Denethor stories of the time (2002). In them, he was usually portrayed as violent, stupid, gay, abusive to his wife and children, into torturing people, immoral, short, socially inept, and just about every other negative you can think of. Finduilas was written as a helpless, hysterical, weak, stupid doormat, either killing herself or being murdered by Denethor. The story lines offended me as both a feminist and a political theorist because of the hackneyed gender stereotypes and the inability of the writers to rise to the occasion and write about fully rounded characters in a time of wrenching cultural and political change. I intended to write a short work, novella length, of about 12 chapters, taking a break from my Shire stories series. Hmm, didn't turn out the way I expected.

I ended up in an argument with Tolkien about faith, humanism and fate. What would it mean to be a humanist in a world where immortal, angelic beings walk the earth with you, openly engaging in divine warfare through the ages? What does it mean to value faith above politics, or to place a divine plan ahead of ordinary lives? It was a challenge to write with and against the grain of Tolkien's body of work, being bound by the limits of the world, but having the main characters contest the fundamental terms of being in Middle-earth. Of course, it couldn't just be exposition. It had to be told through the events of their lives and be something a reader would want to stick with.

It's got just about everything in it - battle scenes, love scenes, mysteries to be solved, babies to be cuddled, an obnoxious cat and more than a few kitchen sinks. It helps if you've read Lord of the Rings, and is even better if you've read the Silmarillion and the Hobbit, but it will (I think) stand on its own. The characterizations of Denethor and Finduilas were unique in the fandom when I began the work and have influenced how others now write them.

Just a little entertainment for those who are interested.



Nath said...

*g* well, I won't ask you to specify who the odds are in that opening paragraph...

And you've definitely set the standard for Denethor:) (as I think I may have mentioned once or twice before)

To all who have some time (a few weeks or so) to spare: go read.

I'll just go back to lurking and mostly resisting the temptation to comment.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Wow - that's pretty cool!

I thought I was a Tolkien fan. My mom read LOTR to me as a kid and I read (and loved) the Hobbit. But, the only references I recognized in your post were "the Shire" and "Gondor." I guess I'll have to check my bona fides at the door before entering the realm of Tolkien fandom. :-)

BTW, I plan to read LOTR to my kids in a couple years (no TV in our home; so they might actually sit through it!). Maybe after that refresher I'll remember some of these characters and be ready/able to read your novel. (feels kinda intimidating w/o remembering any of this stuff!)

By the way Anglachel, my favorite character in LOTR (as a kid and to this day) is/was Tom Bombadill ("look at me my coat is blue, and my boots are yellow!"). Is any of this Tolkien fandom stuff aimed at him/it?

ecrupa22 said...

To preface:

A. I generally have always avoided fanfic like the plague.
B. I only actually in the past year or 2 picked up reading Tolkein (though, in that time, I've read and listened to the audiobooks of the Hobbit, LotR, the Silmarillion and CoH several times each).
C. I only stumbled upon your blog (along with Taylor Marsh, Riverdaughter, NoQuarter, etc.) as a Clinton-leaning former Edwards supporter, tired of the Obama-idolotry going on in the majority of the media and internets. (It took me at least 2-3 visits to realize that 'hey. i know i recognize the name 'Anglachel' from somewhere')

All that to say, I haven't read your new "Hands of the King" yet. But I took a look at some of your other stuff on Henneth Annun, specifically reading 'Legacy' and 'Writing a Green Sun' and was quite impressed. Particularly with your ability to flesh out the characters we know so well, yet keep them strongly within the scope of the personality from the greater legendarium.
Basically, I believed the characters, as you wrote them, expanded on them and their world, without contracting them. And I had to remind myself a couple times that it wasn't actually part of JRRT's work. I don't think you've converted me to fanfic in general, but I'm surely looking forward to reading more of your work, both the political, here, and on Middle Earth.

Anglachel said...

Hi Turtle,

Yay, another no TV person! I haven't owned one since 1989. I read LotR to my husband several years ago and turned him into a total fan. I don't write Tm Bombadil stories, but other people do. He's an odd one to get your mind around for writing.


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