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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
On the notion of "fan fiction" and why it should be retired.
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Lacrimae Rerum
Grey Havens

Aug 12 2012, 11:55pm

Post #151 of 164 (413 views)
I suspect I wouldn't enjoy a novel by Jackson et al [In reply to] Can't Post

And I am almost certain I wouldn't enjoy a film by Tolkien.



Aug 13 2012, 2:56am

Post #152 of 164 (389 views)
Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

But a good screenplay is essential for a good film, and PJ, Fran and Philippa should have, IMO, farmed that part out to a more experienced hand.


Aug 13 2012, 2:59am

Post #153 of 164 (404 views)
Don't get me started [In reply to] Can't Post

She's always going on about how "X very cinematic part of the book couldn't possibly translate well to cinema."

I often get the feeling, while listening to her talk, that a better writer could have come up with infinitely better adaptation solutions than she did. And not just adaptation solutions. Purely cinematic ones as well.

Ah well. She's on board, and we have to live with it.

Tol Eressea

Aug 13 2012, 6:05am

Post #154 of 164 (374 views)
I agree.// [In reply to] Can't Post


Tol Eressea

Aug 13 2012, 6:06am

Post #155 of 164 (386 views)
Again, I agree.// [In reply to] Can't Post


Tol Eressea

Aug 13 2012, 6:13am

Post #156 of 164 (397 views)
Oh, I don't know - [In reply to] Can't Post

- Tolkien never made a movie, but he did record his poem 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son', which reads and sounds like a two - handed radio play. Tolkien recorded it at his home in Sandfield Road, and did an excellent job of it.

The recording was never released commercially; Christopher Tolkien made a gift of it to delegates at the Centenary Conference, held at Keble College, Oxford in 1992. Christopher himself reads his father's introduction; 'Beorhtnoth's Death', and also 'Ofermod'. It's an excellent production!



Aug 13 2012, 7:17am

Post #157 of 164 (371 views)
Who would be your ideal director, writers, etc? / [In reply to] Can't Post



Aug 13 2012, 9:16am

Post #158 of 164 (394 views)
what´s the similarity between adaptation and fan fiction? [In reply to] Can't Post

Demosthenes wrote: "If there's any difference average Joe and Jane doing Tolkien-inspired writing, and the work of Peter Jackson and his crew, it's one of degree, not of kind.

You might debate how many degrees are involved, but it's still degrees."

I don´t really see the reasoning behind this argument. How is Joe and Jane doing Tolkien-inspired writing similar to an adaptation of books into film?

When you write fan fiction you often use the unexplored material of a body of work as a basis for making your own separate story. You stay within the same medium as the original story you´re inspired by, so there´s no real adaptation involved. Writing fan fiction you´re not bound by the borders and constraints of the books/material you´re inspired by. As far as I can see the difference between this and adapting a book into film is one of kind and not of degree, because film makers are working to make a book into a film and working within the boundaries of the original story.

When additions are made in an adaptation of a book into film, it´s usually done because the film makers think it´s suitable for the film to work as a film. It can be for instance compressing the film, pacing, getting the right dramatic curve, creating background for a character, creating a character to make it easier for the audience to connect with a particular people in the story etc. You can of course disagree with the director and scriptwriter´s particular film style or view on what makes a good film, but it´s still a long stretch to accuse them of doing fan fiction.

Sometimes additions are made to an adaptation just for marketing reasons, to reach a certain demographic in the audience - a weak basis for additions seen from an artistic point of view - but that is a separate discussion in itself.

(This post was edited by elostirion74 on Aug 13 2012, 9:24am)

Sr. Staff

Aug 13 2012, 12:05pm

Post #159 of 164 (396 views)
a simple dialectic [In reply to] Can't Post

If it's not written by the author, it's fan-fic. End of story.

That's why I said that Chris Tolkien wrote fan-fic in his work to prepare Silmarillion for publication. I'm particularly thinking of the chapter "Of the Ruin of Doriath" here.

Whether you want to argue a particular fan-fic is good or bad (gosh, could anyone be more qualified to write Tolkien fan-fic than his son and literary executor?) is an entirely different thing though.

All adaptation is fan-fiction unless it's author-adapted.

TheOneRing.net Senior Staff
IRC Admin and Hall of Fire moderator

Tol Eressea

Aug 13 2012, 12:31pm

Post #160 of 164 (399 views)
I think Christopher's contribution is a special case - [In reply to] Can't Post

- in that JRR left his unpublished material (not all of which is Middle-earth related, mind) to Christopher whom he asked to be his literary executor with powers to 'edit, alter or complete' any of the material as he sees fit. Or to destroy it.

I see Christopher's work on the Silmarillion more as a collaboration with his father, rather than fan-fiction: selecting and matching the various parts of Silm. and assembling them.

As a matter of interest - or not - it occurs to me that some might think JRR was 'guilty' of fan-ficcing when he wrote his 'Homecoming of Beorhtnoth' which I mentioned above. I don't think so; I reckon what Tolkien senior did there comes under the heading of 'historical fiction'.



Aug 13 2012, 12:45pm

Post #161 of 164 (391 views)
That is undeniably true [In reply to] Can't Post

As I put it my book that you refuse to read (Wink) it was "a unique and fascinating collaboration that reached beyond the grave."

Really, in terms of invented material we are largely only talking about Chapter 22, Of the Ruin of Doriath. As a sign of how successful that was, here is a comment from our friend N.E.Brigand (Merlin DeTardo) in the recently completed Tolkien Studies Volume 9:


The only chapter whose words are not primarily J.R.R. Tolkien’s is “Of the Ruin of Doriath,” where the last version completed dates from 1930 and disagrees with later “Silmarillion” developments. This has been known since the 1994 publication of The War of the Jewels, where Christopher Tolkien says (356) he was “overstepping the bounds of the editorial function” (Kane tends to repeat himself and cites this phrase three times). However, as Kane acknowledges, this pastiche is quite skillful, and the description of Thingol’s death in particular has been widely praised—but usually as the work of J.R.R. Tolkien (see Verlyn Flieger’s Splintered Light and Brian Rosebury’s Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, in addition to, as Kane notes [216], Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth).

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Aug 13 2012, 1:09pm

Post #162 of 164 (342 views)
well, some things can be too simple [In reply to] Can't Post

When the fact that two pieces of work only share one characteristic - not written by the author - but differ substantially in most other characteristics, putting them into the same category seems quite far-fetched to me. And many adaptations have no similarities to fan fiction at all, as they are made by people who are professionally hired to do a job, not because they are fans of the material they base their work on.

Anyway fan fiction entails creating entirely new stories, not just adding and changing and re-arranging some parts here and there.

As concerns Christopher Tolkien, I agree with other comments here that it´s much more appropriate to look at him as someone who collaborated with the author and continuted this collaboration after the author died.

(This post was edited by elostirion74 on Aug 13 2012, 1:18pm)


Aug 13 2012, 1:54pm

Post #163 of 164 (361 views)
Concur [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think paid vs. unpaid is a good yardstick of what constitutes fan-fic. I also agree that the material Christopher composed (rather than assembled and edited) to fill the holes in the Silmarillion does fall within the scope of the term—although in a somewhat singular way, since he was dealing with unpublished material, usually had indication that Tolkien Sr. himself intended to finish those parts, and often had some notes indicating how it all was supposed to pan out. However, he did take liberties. I would compare his efforts to musical scholars' attempts to complete various composers' unfinished symphonies from the sketches they had left at their deaths.

But I don't think adaptation into another media necessarily constitues fan-fic just due to the fact that the filmmakers aren't the author and they are required to interpret. To take an extreme example from earlier in the thread...

Almost everything is "fan fic" anyway

At random:

“Come in! Come in!” said Bilbo, and soon they were settled in chairs by the fire.

A simple line but now imagine creating the set, selecting the actors' expressions, choosing the tone of the line, directing each movement for each of the three characters etc etc and how many of those choices are, of necessity "fan fic".

While it's true that the undescribed minutiae implied in that sentence could be interpreted into film an infinite number of ways by different hands, I don't think I'd classify them at-large as fan-fic. However, if the adapter interpreted "soon" to imply a significant lapse of time and capitalized on the opportunity in order to have the characters enjoy a guided tour of Bilbo's favorite walking-paths before settling into their chairs—well, that would be approaching fan-fic, for me.

I don't think I've ever called any part of Jackson's LotR fan-fic. Even some of the major changes such as those made to Aragorn's characterization, at least for me and even if I don't like them, don't qualify. However I'm having difficulty framing just what it is that constitutes that qualification.

I think it's that there is a certain amount of self-closure implied by "fan-fic." Even though it relies for its existence on the "canon" original, fan-fic can be stood alone, on its own as a distinct entity from that original (even if short fragment.) Thus, the transformation of Aragorn into a post-modern, reluctant hero is, for me, just a deviation, not fan-fic (unless we would consider the entire film trilogy a fan-fic devolved from those and similar changes.) You can't just separate the Aragorn deviations from the canonical portions and present them as a new thing titled Aragorn. However, as ridiculous as it may sound, I could see a piece called A Guided Tour of Bilbo Baggins' Favourite Walking Paths which would fit the bill nicely.

With that in mind and considering from that perspective, I probably would say that the portions of Jackson's trilogy detailing Aragorn and Arwen's relationship do border on being fan-fic, as do the portions detailing Saruman's machinations, creation of the Uruk-Hai, and the whole Lurtz sub-plot. To me, those are distinct elements that could be separated and presented on their own, and I could see them appearing in print as short "novelizations." In regard to the upcoming film, almost any telling of the events at Dol Guldur will, of necessity, be fan-fic.

Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.

Kangi Ska

Aug 13 2012, 2:24pm

Post #164 of 164 (388 views)
All dichotomies are false. [In reply to] Can't Post

There are always exceptions.

Kangi Ska Resident Trickster & Wicked White Crebain
Life is an adventure, not a contest.

At night you can not tell if crows are black or white.

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