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Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 18, 2:26pm

Post #1 of 35 (1557 views)
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Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises Can't Post

From the TORn homepage: Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises and will explore new movies based on LOTR and Hobbit IP and characters
by Demosthenes


Quote
Swedish video game and media company Embracer Group today announced the purchase of Middle-earth Enterprises (MEE) from The Saul Zaentz Company, acquiring all its IP for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in the process.


Full story here.

#FidelityToTolkien
#ChallengeExpectations

(This post was edited by Eledhwen on Aug 18, 6:28pm)


NottaSackville
Valinor

Aug 18, 5:14pm

Post #2 of 35 (1443 views)
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Wow - that seems like huge news! [In reply to] Can't Post

I suspect it isn't good news for a cranky old "by the bookster" like myself, but huge and invigorating news nonetheless.

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


squire
Half-elven


Aug 18, 5:25pm

Post #3 of 35 (1456 views)
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I wish TORn was not so enthusiastic... [In reply to] Can't Post

...at the prospect of endless "Tolkien" fan fiction movies.

Granted, the upcoming Rings of Power and Rohan serials, and even the grossly over-wrought Hobbit trilogy, have already shown us what would come next after Jackson established "Tolkien" and "Middle-earth" as viable cash cow brand names for the 21st century media audience. But the more fake Tolkien is out there in the public imagination, the harder it is to believe reassurances that "The books are still available" and "It is worth it because more people will read the books".

Of course the books are still available. But on fan sites and even in published writings there are likely to be fewer and fewer people who will want to engage with Tolkien and other Tolkien fans purely on a book basis, when so much more "Tolkien" material in the easier-to-digest audio-video format is available to talk and write about instead. We see that happening already on sites like this one and on social media and in critical writings, thanks to the impact of the Jackson adaptations of the two extant Tolkien books.

There are no more books to adapt, but as this announcement confirms, once the books are abandoned and the setting of Middle-earth is all that is needed to call something "Tolkien", the sky is the limit for original non-adaptive screenplays and (as likely as not) spin-off books marketed with Tolkien's name and brand.

I admit I don't see any way to stop this, and I know my protest is futile, but I do wish this latest deal had not been made and I very much wish it would not be announced as if it were a good thing.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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VoronwŽ_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 18, 6:19pm

Post #4 of 35 (1436 views)
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I share your concern [In reply to] Can't Post

As well as your sense of helplessness. I agree with everything that you wrote.

'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


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 18, 6:57pm

Post #5 of 35 (1434 views)
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I don't want to be a curmudgeon [In reply to] Can't Post

but this news makes it difficult to not give in.

I see how the Star Wars franchise is adhering to the rule of diminishing returns (with the notable exception of Rogue One) and I don't want to see the same thing happen with Middle-earth.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 18, 7:11pm

Post #6 of 35 (1429 views)
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Minor Correction [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Granted, the upcoming Rings of Power and Rohan serials, and even the grossly over-wrought Hobbit trilogy, have already shown us what would come next after Jackson established "Tolkien" and "Middle-earth" as viable cash cow brand names for the 21st century media audience. But the more fake Tolkien is out there in the public imagination, the harder it is to believe reassurances that "The books are still available" and "It is worth it because more people will read the books".


It's a minor point, squire, but The War of the Rohirrim is not a serial adaptation but a feature-length animated film.

#FidelityToTolkien
#ChallengeExpectations


The Dude
Rivendell

Aug 18, 7:47pm

Post #7 of 35 (1425 views)
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Assuming this is allowed here... [In reply to] Can't Post

"Official TORn" (articles, social media profiles, etc.) ultimately strikes me as just another "fandom" site, whose main purpose is to parasitically feed on the merchandize-related detritus of commercial mass-cult IPs (Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, etc.). So hardly a surprise here...

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of your post. The old line "It is worth it because more people will read the books" has been nothing more than wishful thinking for a long time. This is not even a criticism of Jackson's films per se. Most people nowadays simply do not read anymore; men especially have almost entirely abandoned reading as a hobby. It is not an exaggeration to say that 99% of the people who watch an adaptation these days will not read the source material. Some will buy the book and read the first couple of pages; some more will visit a "wikia" on the internet and get their "lore facts" there, but very few will actually read and engage with the material. Call me a nitpicker, but the trade of having the entire discourse about a specific literary work being overpowered and swallowed by a new, more totalizing medium (film, TV, video games) in exchange for a couple of more readers does not sound like a good trade.

A rather famous LoTR "fandom" channel referred to this deal as the beginning of the MCEU, i.e., the "Middle-earth Cinematic Expanded Universe". Even for me, that left a particularily bad taste in my mouth. The idea of turning Tolkien's work into a Marvel-like rollercoaster franchise sounds like something cooked up in the reaches of Hell, and while it is somewhat of bad trope to speak for dead authors, I am fairly certain Tolkien would have rather not published anything related to his legendarium at all than to see it being turned into a Disneyfied corporate fast-food meal.

Having said all that, things could be (even) worse. There were rumors that Amazon wanted to buy the rights too. Embracer Group, on the other hand, seems to be mostly a video game publisher. They have massively expanded in recent years, but most of their recent acquisitions have been video-game related and as such I view the Middle-earth purchase mostly connected with this particular medium. Although video games should not be underestimated in their discursive importance (Assassin's Creed, etc.), I still prefer the release of a dozen tasteless video games over the launch of MCEU-films, let alone over "new" books. This is not to say that in the long run Embracer will not try their luck will films as well, but that depends on the success of "Rings of Power" - if their is no long-term mass interest for the show, don't expect such films in the next 10-20 years.

Ultimately, however, I fear it is almost inevitable that Tolkien's world will be almost totally commodified, unless, of course, there are fundamental shifts in how we as a society consume particular forms of art: As long as there are multiplex theaters, as long as Marvel and the other mass-IPs are profitable, as long as cinema is mostly about imprisoning the masses in a perpetual, narcissistic adolescence, doom awaits.

But then, one might say that even such a cruel fate has an upside - by destroying anything that is meaningful about Tolkien's legendarium in the public eye, by reducing Middle-earth to just another thoughtless, artless product, the reader is keenly reminded about one of the eternal truths/strengths of the written form: the deeply personal, always unique dialogue between himself and the book, where the fleeting pop-discourse of social media, newspapers, etc. is cast aside.

And in the end, in 50-100 years, after consumerism has bled the source dry and moved to new victims, it will be the art that lasts, i.e, the legendarium and maybe the snippets of adaptation which tried the same.


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 19, 2:02am

Post #8 of 35 (1405 views)
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We don't gatekeep how fans enjoy Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

Everyone has different ways to enjoy Tolkien and we respect all those different approaches. For example, I am not into gaming but I would not suggest that TORn exclude anyone who enjoys the online LOTR-related games. Let's all find our own way to experience Tolkien and let others do the same.


hatster
Rohan


Aug 19, 3:52am

Post #9 of 35 (1392 views)
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Sadly, I'm with you [In reply to] Can't Post

Or at least, I will withhold judgement, but am prepared for the worst.

The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.

(This post was edited by hatster on Aug 19, 3:54am)


Lieutenant of Dol Guldur
Gondor


Aug 19, 9:23am

Post #10 of 35 (1360 views)
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Great point! [In reply to] Can't Post

This is something I've learned with STAR WARS too. There's so many stuff today and not everything out there is for me personally but every game, movie, series or book has it's lovers. At some point you have to pick which ones are for you and which ones aren't. SW "purists" will always have the OT to go to and Tolkien "purists" have the books.

And I guess it will happen to Middle-earth too. There are people (including Christopher Tolkien famously) who hated the LOTR movies because they're not "true to the book". Other people (like myself) only fell in love with Tolkiens books because of the movies. Same goes with THE HOBBIT films and will be with ROP.

In the end Tolkiens writings will always be there and be the center of each new media even for those "non-canon" games like "War in the North" or "Shadow of War/Mordor". Even they will introduce new generations of people to Tolkiens world, stories and values and that's a good think.

I personally will always be happy for every new Tolkien reader. And Tolkien would've been too!

"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power."


skyofcoffeebeans
Lorien

Aug 19, 12:10pm

Post #11 of 35 (1337 views)
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But the online LOTR-related games are not Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

And theyíre not his Middle-earth. We shouldnít gatekeep, and should even welcome such fans and conversations around such games, but I do think the distinction and protection of the authorís work is important.

Itís hard not to mourn the inevitable here. The language in this release is nauseating.


Lieutenant of Dol Guldur
Gondor


Aug 19, 1:56pm

Post #12 of 35 (1323 views)
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Which online games do you mean? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's been a while since I last played Lord of the Rings: Online but felt that for an MMO it was quite detailed faithful to Tolkiens works with all it's characters, creatures and places. Especially those.

For me it was the most interesting part, traveling through Middle-earth and discover places I've only read about or had only seen glimpses of in the movies. To be fair I only made it to Rivendell but I really liked the areas around the Shire, Bree or Eregion.

Or are you speaking about those mobile games like Rise to War and whatever else there is?

"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power."


skyofcoffeebeans
Lorien

Aug 19, 2:56pm

Post #13 of 35 (1319 views)
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The distinction was not initially made [In reply to] Can't Post

And I agree that LOTRO is an example of a thoughtful adaptation that is engaging deeply with Tolkien's text.

Pretty much anything else doesn't rise to that level, or doesn't even aspire to.


Former Steward
The Shire

Aug 19, 6:46pm

Post #14 of 35 (1314 views)
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Some of "it" was worth it [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"The old line "It is worth it because more people will read the books" has been nothing more than wishful thinking for a long time.... It is not an exaggeration to say that 99% of the people who watch an adaptation these days will not read the source material.... Call me a nitpicker, but the trade of having the entire discourse about a specific literary work being overpowered and swallowed by a new, more totalizing medium (film, TV, video games) in exchange for a couple of more readers does not sound like a good trade.


Hi. Clay Harper here - former Tolkien Projects Director at Houghton Mifflin during the years leading up to and through PJ's FotR, TT, and RotK.

The relationship between the rights sold away in 1969 and the merchandising rights someone might believe they've bought 50+ years later is a complex one with many twists and turns along the way. Just something to keep in mind in contemplating these issues. These are old contracts that didn't anticipate (or grant) rights in mediums undreamed of at the time, or rights that might be "usual and customary" in big IP sales now. And there have been, um, disagreements over their exploitation over the years. Though the Estate's philosophy seems to have evolved in some ways over the years, they have never been shy about defending JRRT when "rights holders" stray from the letter of the law, so to speak.

Anyway, it's just a fact that during my many years of stewardship over US book publishing at least, the readership of the legendarium grew massively as we persued a strategy to "immunize" the audience (and a generation of readers) against the possibility that the folks in New Zealand might fail in adapting LotR to the screen. In the lead-up to the first release we did everything we could to get people to read actual Tolkien and experience the books for either the first time or again - to have Tolkien's imagery and words in their heads before they ever experienced PJs. This was both an "offensive" and "defensive" strategy: if the film was great I thought an army of readers who could say "the book is better" would be to Tolkien's advantage in the long run. And if the film was not so great I wanted them saying the same thing - with the added caboose of "...and you should read them to find out what happens next".

As I saw it, It was my responsibility to do everything I could to protect the long-term value of Tolkien's work in America and that's what I tried to do. By a sales measure - and with a huge lift from baby TORn among others - Houghton succeeded wildly with close to a ten-fold increase in readership in the US book publishing market alone in the year prior to the release of FotR. Astonishingly (perhaps) those numbers grew much larger still In the year after FotR and before TT as a wider public than we'd ever experienced learned these were not (just) the stories of magic, wizards and pointy-eared elves they supposed them to be and sought to "find out what happens next" from Tolkien himself.

In the US, Houghton Mifflin had more rights-derived freedoms over things like book covers or strategy than our colleagues in the UK with their closer partnership with the Estate. Ours was the largest market, and we could be both cautious and aggressive in defending Tolkien... and we were a bit of an outlier in that sense. I did consult with the Estate and the UK publishers and keep them appraised of what I was doing and why, what I was seeing in the bookstores, and what I thought it meant in both the present and future. But in the US we could do what we wanted at Houghton Mifflin... and the result truly was a huge growth in the number of Tolkien readers.

I was gone by the time of the Hobbit films and, fortunately, have nothing like firsthand knowledge on what those did to the readership. But I suspect, and believe in my heart, that the more adaptations stray from Tolkien, the less impact they actually have on Tolkien - good or bad. And to me that's also an important distinction in the months and years ahead.

I was also gone when, ironically, HarperCollins gobbled up venerable Houghton Mifflin's US trade publishing arm fairly recently. But I was there the day we turned down a huge sum when they sought all our Tolkien rights before PJ's films. I knew what they were worth and did everything I could to both protect JRRT's legacy... and vindicate the decision to turn down HC's extraordinarily large offer. Thanks to the millions of new readers we found during those years, and thanks in no small part to the growth of internet discussion like that found here - we succeeded.

Sorry for the long ramble. It grew in the telling.
tl;dr - the Shire was saved but not for me.
Cheers -C


(This post was edited by Former Steward on Aug 19, 7:00pm)


The Dude
Rivendell

Aug 19, 9:34pm

Post #15 of 35 (1293 views)
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Thank you for your insightful reply. [In reply to] Can't Post

I would also like to clarify that I do not doubt that in the years surrounding the LotR film trilogy in particular there was a massive increase in the number of readers of Tolkien's works; thanks in no small part to your efforts. In fact I myself was first introduced to the legendarium in 2001 through Jackson's "Fellowship of the Ring", so I am not necessarily dismissing the beneficial consequences of adaption on an individual basis, and more importantly, I would say that the early 2000s were still a better time to attract long-term readers of Tolkien than the early 2020s.

At the same time I would argue, however, that in particular for "The Lord of the Rings" from 2001 onward, the number of actual new readers has paled in comparison to the increase in book sales. Or to put it differently - a lot of people might have bought the book or received it as a gift from their parents, etc., but only a minority actually started to read it, and only a few finished it. In many ways the "Lord of the Rings" has largely met the same fate as the the collected works of Shakespeare or even the Bible - something found in a large number of households, but rarely read. In my high school, for example, nearly all the boys owned a copy of LotR, but I only knew one other guy who had finished it, and for the few who had tried and failed the common saying was "very boring, I stopped when Bombadil showed up". Sure, one might dismiss this as purely anecdotal evidence, but when looking at the wider discourse about Tolkien's work it is difficult to deny how little Tolkien's actual writings actually feature in it and how instead it has become dominated by the films and various other visual art forms (internet fan-"art", video games).

As indicated in my previous post, I do not specifically fault Jackson's films for this development. In many ways I consider myself a defender of the original film trilogy. But whether one considers them masterpieces or abominations does not matter so much in this context. One of the terrible strengths of the medium of film is its ability to "discursively eclipse" the source material. Or, as hinted in the words of one of the few good contemporary film critics: "As I watched this film, an eager victim of its boundless will to astound, I found my loyal memories of the book beginning to fade."

This is especially true for a society in which young people read less and less literature. According to one 2019 US study, "in the late 1970s, 60% of 12th graders said they read a book or magazine almost every day; by 2016, only 16% did. (Twenge et al.)". This downturn trend interestingly stalled somewhat in the mid-2000s, but since the wide-spread adoption of social media (late 00s) the decline has accelerated dramatically. Compared to Jackson's films, any current adaptation of Tolkien, no matter the quality, therefore has a lower chance of attracting significant numbers of actual readers, who will not just interpret the source material through the lens of the visual adaptation. The "trade" of any mass commercial adaptation - attracting a relatively small number of new serious readers in exchange for a severely diminished, utterly commodified, and largely chronic mass perception of the legendarium, which then, at least implicitly, even bleeds into most serious discourse about Tolkien - grows worse from year to year.

But it seems I have gone on another ramble myself. Again, thank you for your insightful post, and for all your work. And last but not least, as indicated in the last paragraph of my first post, I would add that I strongly agree with your belief "that the more adaptations stray from Tolkien, the less impact they actually have on Tolkien - good or bad". The final test of truly great art is that it lasts - beyond critics, beyond current trends, and even beyond generations; it might appear corrupted or diminished for many years, but ultimately the core, and only the core remains. Otherwise, it was never great art to begin with...


(This post was edited by The Dude on Aug 19, 9:37pm)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 20, 2:07am

Post #16 of 35 (1263 views)
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That's your opinion [In reply to] Can't Post

and you are free to hold that opinion, but TORn will not make those decisions for other people. We also don't tolerate members of the message board telling other members what is and is not Tolkien.


Former Steward
The Shire

Aug 20, 1:26pm

Post #17 of 35 (1200 views)
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Buyers vs Readers [In reply to] Can't Post

Impossible to quantify the difference between Buyers of the books and Readers of the books - especially those that finally get to "Well, I'm back" (never mind the Appendices). But give or take patrons of libraries, readers are mostly buyers first.

I agree that bookselling and the publishing of books is an increasing challenge... but folks have been bemoaning "the death of the book and reading" since the advent of television. In an age of increasing distractions - especially those that pump the dopamine like cellphones apps, video games, cable TV channel surfing, serial binge-watching, etc - it is even more so.

But in the history of Tolkien sales in America, there have been several points where the overall readership has risen relatively dramatically - often driven by "pop-cultural" phenomena, but sometimes not. And the baseline has always stayed elevated above where it was before the external phenomenon. The debacle of the pirate Ace Books paperbacks (and the subsequent authorized Ballantine paperback editions) shook things up quite a bit while expanding the readership, as did everything from Led Zeppelin lyrics to Rankin Bass, Ralph Bakshi, and even the publication of The Silmarillion (Houghtion Mifflin's first million-copy bestseller, btw, speaking of Buyers vs Readers...).

The effect of PJ's films on book sales dwarfed (!) all that to the point where it was difficult to fathom that we hadn't already found every potential reader in the land. And lest I sound like I've been shining my own apple, I was wrong thirteen times in a row on how many more copies of the one-volume paperback edition we needed to print to meet demand!

One of the interesting thought experiments of the current moment on the eve of RoP for me is "What impact might RoP have on book sales? Even if it becomes wildly popular?" If the answer becomes "very little", I think it may be because there's a far more tenuous relationship to the source material than with PJ's films. Some fealty, sure, and some "rules" about not contradicting JRRT... but in my view success will depend upon their own storytelling ability, based on relatively thin material compared to the narrative drive of LotR proper. And then "competing" successfully with one of the greatest of all storytellers. On the other hand, perhaps the comparison to JRRT is less relevant than the comparison to PJ (or in the immediate realm to HotD and GoT).

So, to circle back to the news of the o.p. in this thread, the Swiss have bet that it's possible to succeed building new narratives around JRRT-created characters and settings. In some ways RoP will be a test of whether setting a film or tv show in "this" world, with a few characters we "know" is enough to succeed (however one measures success). I think it will be a challenge for "people of the book" to both celebrate the things that feel (or just "are") right in RoP and also condemn an effort to tell stories and fill in gaps in the available source material. Sub-subcreation as it were.

But we'll see, I guess.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 22, 11:25am

Post #18 of 35 (1047 views)
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Oh, Tell Me the Truth about Fans [In reply to] Can't Post

Some say fans are little boys,
And some say that they're birds,
Some fans' love makes their world go around,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the fan next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
Another fan got cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Do fans read wearing Tolkien pyjamas,
Must they give talks in conference hotels?
Do they have the composure of lamas,
Or do they just bicker and yell?
Are they prickly about Tolkien's status,
And wanting all kinds of things banned?
Are they friendly, or as noxious as flatus?
O tell me the truth about fans.

I probably ought to say 'apologies to W.H. Auden' here, but I'm not sure I'm sorry. Wink

~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 22, 11:32am)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 22, 11:42am

Post #19 of 35 (1029 views)
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Thanks for that perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for that perspective and an informed one, obviously. (Former Steward is 'former Tolkien Projects Director, Houghton Mifflin' folks).
I think, for me, another interesting test will be what happens in the Reading Room. Maybe we will see the arrival of new people whose interest in the books has been re-awakened or ignited by the TV series. I'd like that.

Or maybe The Dude's ideas about the decline in reading (of Tolkien books among Tolkien fans) are right, and the Reading Room will become a helpdesk for obscure lore queries (because if The Dude is right the books will be increasingly seen as the primary source, albiet too expensive to collect or too time-consuming or difficult to read for yourself). I would not like that so much.

Let's see.

PS: I can push "the death of the book and reading" back to the 1830s, with the arrival of 'Penny Dreadfuls' - cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories, that had various real or imagined effects on society and literature.


~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 22, 2:38pm

Post #20 of 35 (1020 views)
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I'm missing something here - can you help? [In reply to] Can't Post

Looking at your closing bit, Former Steward:


Quote
I think it will be a challenge for "people of the book" to both celebrate the things that feel (or just "are") right in RoP and also condemn an effort to tell stories and fill in gaps in the available source material. Sub-subcreation as it were.



I think I might be missing something here, especialy if (as per your first post):

In Reply To
I suspect, and believe in my heart, that the more adaptations stray from Tolkien, the less impact they actually have on Tolkien - good or bad. And to me that's also an important distinction in the months and years ahead.

Wouldn't that make sub-subcreation largely irrelevant, unless it is done so in keeping that it would be widely confused with the work of Tolkien? And if it is done that well, wouldn't it feel (or just be) right?

I don't want to go off on a tangent over one word-choice. If you had written "and point out where there is Sub-subcreation" I would think I understood.

So as I say, I have this feeling that I haven't understood something here.


~~~~~~
"there is the internet truth that good comments encourage other good comments, and bad comments encourage other bad comments"

David Allen Green QC


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 22, 6:31pm

Post #21 of 35 (1011 views)
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sorry, that was "unexpected and rather difficult" [In reply to] Can't Post

  

Quote
This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came out to a compliment.
LOTR I, i



The answer to all those extra-Auden-ary questions would of course be 'yes' (ooh, I do hope it's true about the pyjamas Cool). And I was meaning to emphasise that we are a very varied bunch of people, with differing interests and temperaments.

I think that's why it is that we have specialised boards for various kinds of Tolkien- or Middle-earth- related activities.

I happen to prefer reading the books (but I don't like some of them half as much as others). Someone else might not like half of them less than half as much as they deserve. But to be deserving, do they have to like half of them them half as much as someone else would like? If someone liked half the things that are in the half I like, then that is more than half as much again as I deserve. I don't half like a good discussion in the Reading Room, but half the time that's less than half of the forum business. And that does not mean that anyone is half-hearted. If I went off half-cock about that I hope I didn't sound like a half-wit (thought you might have half a mind to tell me that's what I deserve).

I hope that clears things up completely? Sly

But I do think we deserve to fly our flag at half-mast if we end up trying to work out the requirements for being A Real Fan (I do appreciate that nobody in this discussion has been suggesting that).

Because if we did end up trying to work out who is a Fan, how would we know?

Are there exams or maybe a viva,
Do I have to come out to my Mum?
Must I submit some blood or saliva,
Should I prove I've a hobbit-sized tum?
Is it true it's illegal in Texas?
Does a church have to publish some banns?
There is truly so much to perplex us,
Oh how should we prove that we're fans?

(Don't worry, I'm going to stop now Laugh)

~~~~~~
"I am not made for querelous pests." Spooner Baggins.

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 22, 6:35pm)


Former Steward
The Shire

Aug 22, 8:59pm

Post #22 of 35 (997 views)
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All we have to do is [In reply to] Can't Post


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So as I say, I have this feeling that I haven't understood something here.


Likely my fault entirely. I'm of many minds in all this and always have been. I started as a fan of The Lord of the Rings books as a teenager many moons ago. Along the way I somehow found myself working in marketing for the publisher owning the US rights. I was somewhat giddy suddenly having conversations with my predecessors who had corresponded with JRRT and met Christopher while looking after the books in the US.

When those books became my responsibility at Houghton, I always carried a personal protectiveness over these things that I loved (both Tolkien and, really, the publishing house) along with a professional responsibility to steer toward a good outcome. Perhaps differently than someone else in the industry might approach it, I wasn't primarily chasing maximum short-term profit, but was always looking and thinking first and foremost about how to maintain long-term primacy of the notion that these were "the greatest adventure stories ever told" rather than "some old movies" someday when we came out the other end. When that effort began, I had no real idea whether "Tolkien" could survive whatever PJ and crew were up to in NZ, and I thought of it, at first, as "danger". But as pre-release (FotR) confidence grew I needed to shift more towards carefully seizing "opportunity" that wasn't in conflict with my protective notions (it helped that I had spent a couple of days at New Line rifling through some 30,000 still images of the production of FotR about a year before release, and I had seen the 22 minute "Cannes footage" early too).

A long-winded preamble to say that a) I don't want to pick any fights with anyone else's speculation about RoP since that's all I've got too b) my professional experience has me wondering what market impact any of this might have on the novels c) how might any of us so inclined both enjoy a return to the rich visual world of Middle-earth (or Numenor) on "film" and also pick nits with story choices RoP makes?

That last is the crux of what I meant. Those of us that lived through it real time all did the same with PJ's films. For me much of that visual world derived from Alan Lee and John Howe - imagery that had looked "right" to me all along. But that protectiveness I feel and think many others feel in various ways causes us all to make judgements large and small, especially when we're in the "picking up crumbs and examining them with a microscope" pre-release phase. We used to do this individually 25 years ago. But now with the internet and online fan communities, it's natural and expected during the slow marketing rollout of almost any major release whether in film, TV, music or books for there to be anxieties... or grumbling... or outright rejection before any of us have seen, read, or heard the actual thing we're judging.

The other thing I didn't make very clear above is that there's relatively scant narrative armature in the source material for the RoP folks to draw upon - and relatively little for us to judge them against (at least compared to LotR). They'll be adapting as all adaptations do... but probably inventing in some areas where they aren't in conflict with the ur-text. And we aren't all going to like all of it - or even the same bits for the same reasons.

'Hope that helps a little.


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 22, 11:58pm

Post #23 of 35 (988 views)
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How painful was it... [In reply to] Can't Post


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(it helped that I had spent a couple of days at New Line rifling through some 30,000 still images of the production of FotR about a year before release, and I had seen the 22 minute "Cannes footage" early too).


..to be delighting over this treasure trove and not being able to tell ANYONE about it? Shocked Laugh

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 23, 11:02am

Post #24 of 35 (956 views)
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Thank you! Chimes with some themes of Protectiveness & Powerlessness [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks very much for this.
I'm thinking that you were in a most unusual position. Because of your role, your personal protectiveness for Tolkien (and your duties towards your employer) had some outlets into action. Not that you could control everything, but there were things you could do. And with that, I expect, came worries that you'd get the decisions wrong.

In contrast, what I sense in fan discussons about adaptations and sub-sub-creations is a lot of anxiety about Powerlessness. Of course fans care, but (to use squire's word earlier) it can seem futile. One would indeed need the composure of lamas not to feel sad or worried at times. But I worry that with great powerlessness might come great irresponsibility.


The RoP board has sometimes reminded me of that joke about a man who agrees to do a Rorsarch test, but then storms out because they keep showing him pornography. That is to say, I think I have learned a lot more about what has been on the posters' minds than I have about the show. This was especailly true early on, when almost nothing was known about the show, and discussions mostly had to reflect the concious or subconcious hopes, fears and anxieties in peoples' heads.


Folks with a background in marketing would doubtless get a lot more than I have from viewing the RoP board discussions as a sort of badly run focus group. But here are my thoughts. I think it might be good to learn what we can from review: I expect much the same may be on our collective minds when we discuss any future adaptations (or whatever one wants to call it if 'adaptation' seems to infer more Tolkien material to adapt than in fact exists).

Firstly, I thought I noticed anxiety about what you might call 'red lines' or 'turner-offers'. What I mean by 'turner-offer' is that thing they did (or might be going to do) which is totaly unacceptable : after that you turn the show off immediately in anger, disgust, horror or whatnot, and there is almost no way the show will get a further chance. Maybe there's a better or more widely understood terms for what I mean?

Various examples of turner-offers have come up. For some people of course, the whole idea of the RoP show is a turner-offer (e.g. they don't want to watch something based on so little Tolkien source material, or they have objections to Amazon.)

There was a good discussion about levels of violence, and (as you might expect) we found that what for someone would be a turner-offer is for someone else artistically appropriate, relalistic and gritty. Similarly, the board discussed sex/nudity (same results).

There was a massive hoo-ha about the mixed race casting, or whether the show would be 'woke' (and what that even meant).

It isn't my intention to re-ignite those debates, firstly because they belong on the RoP board; and secondly, personally speaking, they too often went from discussions into fights. I just want to point out that we should have learned that what is totally unacceptable for someone is of no consequence or is good for someone else.

I'm mentioning here some subjects that seem like fairly widespread turner-offers. I think that some folks also have unusual, personal ones. The point here is not what is the right point of view?, but that people have dfferent responses, based on things about themselves that are probably too fundamental to yield to argument (or browbeating).




The other thing that I htink lots of discussions have come down to is an anxiety that Amazon (in this case) don't care enough about The Fans. There have been discussions on exactly how much Amazon do care, and what might be done to use that lever (if it exists). No consensus has been reached, unsurprisingly. And again, I don't want to re-ignite those discussions. But it looks to me like anxiety, and so the amount that the show Respects The Fans is never enough (however much it might really be or whatever they do to try and show it, or who is convinced by or cynical about their efforts).


I think this anxiety causes people to try and laager round into an in-group of Fans, under threat by an out-group . Personally, I think it is absurd to imagine there is any coherent market segment called The Fans whose needs could actually be met by any one thing- when it comes down to any actionable detail we disagree fiercely about practically everything!

And of course it could all too easily end up with fighting about who is in the in-group: what the membership criteria for fandom; about the purity and superiority of this group over everyone else; and about the need to preserve the group's power and prestiege. Such hyper-partisanship can be seen in lots of other areas of life at present. Personally, I think it's pernicious. NARF me first if it comes to that, pleaseWink

This all tends to set up the fans/no fans dynamic as a power-struggle (always win-lose). Hence, I think, demands Amazon show that they understand this or that bit of lore - the more obscure the better. I wondered whether that was behind why it is important to some that the TV show puts beards on the female dwarves,. This to me seems bizarrely inessential, and may be difficult for the show to do without stopping the action for an overt gesture to throw some red meat to The Fans. But maybe that is what some folks want, or need?

Now of course I don't know, and maybe clean-chinned lady dwarves are really someone's genuine turner-offer, rather than a needy demand that the showrunners Respect The Fans. I do try to remember that people can't really help their genuine turner-offer, no matter how bizarre it seems to me. Nor can everyone articulate why they feel as they do.

But, if we are being anxiously needy about tokens of love and respect from the show, there will never be enough red meat, and Fans will end up feeling patronised and head-patted instead. So win-lose becomes all-lose.

I also know that one can Be A Fan performatively.

I know that not because I am accusing anyone on these boards of grandstanding (from what I've said about turner-offers, how could I tell someone is not not genuine, and that this trivial-seeming item doesn't really distress them?). But, friends, confession time: I was an obnoxious teeenage know-it-all (about military history, & long before I came to these boards, upon which I hope I've mostly behaved better). So I know it is possible, indeed solipsistically delightful, to pick the most obscure item you know about and make the biggest fuss possible about it.

It's a weird form of showing-off, you see: look how much I know! Look how much I care! Am I not the bestest, fanniest fan? (Such I may say about myself.) We didn't have Social Media back then, so I was restricted to competing with my friends and boring my family (who, surprisingly in hindsight, didn't gag me and Duct Tape me to the wall so that they could enjoy any historical film without my incessant nitpicky commentary). Who knows what I might have done with Social Media as an attention-seeking device.

British commedian Dave Gorman calls people like my teenage self 'Extractor Fans' because their fandom is essentialy about their need to feel superior, and tends to extract the fun of fandom from other people (Here's a bit of Gorman's standup act on this. The bit about Extractor Fans starts at 5:21, but the earlier bit is also good).

Come to think of it it coud well be my embaressment at being a Recovering Extractor Fan that makes me uncomfortable if I think other people are doing it. So I need to watch that.

And really, that is all probably just a long-winded way of agreeing with what you, Former Steward called "A long-winded preamble to say that..."

In Reply To

a) I don't want to pick any fights with anyone else's speculation about RoP since that's all I've got toob) my professional experience has me wondering what market impact any of this might have on the novels
c) how might any of us so inclined both enjoy a return to the rich visual world of Middle-earth (or Numenor) on "film" and also pick nits with story choices RoP makes?


I'd just add that (c) can be as criticism in the true sense - discussing what the new show has done "wrong" rather than raging and ranting about it.

~~~~~~
"I am not made for querelous pests." Spooner Baggins.

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 23, 11:06am)


Former Steward
The Shire

Aug 23, 12:27pm

Post #25 of 35 (946 views)
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Neither here nor there (Arrakis actually) [In reply to] Can't Post

"Fan service" and fealty to source material can take many forms besides plot and dialogue, forms that don't "interrupt" the flow for non-fans. On the 'art' side (i.e. the finished adaptation - or even its Extended Edition) nods to those who know the source material can take visual form: In set, prop or costume decoration. Thinking here of things like the runes on the wall's of Balin's Tomb or the paintings on the wall by the Shards of Narsil in PJ's FotR. They can take the form of cherished bits of dialogue like so many Easter eggs scattered around. So far, we don't really have access to much of that.

On the marketing side, it can take the form of specific teasers, or exclusives doled out in a slow and steady drip to the fan community... but the faucet typically gets turned off (and the groundwork they've laid in most of the media embargoed) 6 weeks or more before the debut to maximize the impact when the show wants it most. That can be really frustrating for eager fans... and it must be fairly nerve-wracking for Amazon right now with all the attention HBO is getting for HoD/GoT... but they knew that was coming!

Mostly though, what Fans think stays in Fan World. I'm sure someone at Amazon is monitoring the vibes (and I certainly was 20 years ago when online fandom was fairly new) - but there isn't a huge amount they can or should do to calm folks down. Plus: they know what they've got, where it's going... and fans don't for sure.

As an aside: there's a passing moment in Villaneauve's Dune, when Paul and Jessica are resting in the rocks, where Jessica seems to feel a kick in her belly. Fans know she's pregnant with Alia... but I'm guessing they didn't all notice the gesture. No one unfamiliar with the Herbert story would notice or have their experience of the film story as Villaneauve wants to tell it interrupted. But it's there, like a shortcut to mushrooms.

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