Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [mythsoc] Re: Article on Tolkien in _Salon_

Expand Messages
  • David S. Bratman
    Didn t see this before posting my previous reply. ... I agree with you on this, actually. My review of the new book in Mythprint implies as much without
    Message 1 of 19 , Jun 4, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      Didn't see this before posting my previous reply.

      At 08:33 AM 6/4/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:

      >(although I am on record, elsewhere, as preferring The Road To Middle-
      >earth to Shippey's latest work -- I hope I won't inspire outrage in
      >the respectful ranks by saying so here).

      I agree with you on this, actually. My review of the new book in Mythprint
      implies as much without saying so directly. And I accept the possibility
      that a person reading the new book first may prefer it.

      >More of the same, however, does not make anything better. And
      >Tolkien doesn't need defending in the eyes of the people who discover
      >him every day.

      Millions more people, however, even those without the inclination to read
      Tolkien or indeed any fantasy, may wonder what's going on and what is it
      about this work that appeals to its readers. No objection to telling them
      every once in a while. And who knows - maybe some of them might then pick
      up the book. That many people don't need this introductory boost doesn't
      mean that others might not need it.

      >When the media interviews me about Tolkien, I prefer to discuss the
      >man himself, or his books.

      As opposed to ...?

      >I still run into this Tolkien cult
      >nonsense and I just dismiss it. And I've pointed out to more than
      >one reporter that when Shakespeare outsells Tolkien, I'll take the
      >Bard a little more seriously than I have in the past.

      That's a clever remark, but unfortunately it's also a cultish defensive
      remark. As Mooney observes in his article, attempts to put Tolkien on the
      same level as Shakespeare are part of what cause the dismissers to dismiss.
      (I never thought I'd defend Mooney, but ...)

      Even if Tolkien is as inherently great as Shakespeare, Shakespeare has a
      several hundred year head start on critical approbation. It'll take at
      least a couple hundred years more before we can gaze at the two of them
      from sufficiently equivalent distances. Remarks like these open the door
      to claims that Tolkien is merely a fad (though, after 45 years, I think
      he's passed beyond _that_ stage).

      David Bratman




      Tolkien is
      >relevant to most people who read him because he doesn't need
      >defending or explanation.
    • Michael Martinez
      ... Usually as opposed to whatever brings them to me in the first place. :) I seem to be one of several online faces for Tolkien fandom. I don t know
      Message 2 of 19 , Jun 6, 2001
      • 0 Attachment
        --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
        > At 08:33 AM 6/4/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
        > >When the media interviews me about Tolkien, I prefer to discuss
        > >the man himself, or his books.
        >
        > As opposed to ...?

        Usually as opposed to whatever brings them to me in the first
        place. :)

        I seem to be one of several online "faces" for Tolkien fandom. I
        don't know exactly who the others are, but usually the reporters
        imply or say they have talked to other people in online fandom. One
        did ask me for references, and I gave him a few names.

        Generally, I've found the media want to know what makes us tick,
        usually with respect to some announcement or development from New
        Line Cinema.

        Some of the people on this list, I gather, were contacted for the
        upcoming article in Wired (the print version). It should be
        published in a couple more months. I found that interview experience
        to be more enjoyable.

        > >I still run into this Tolkien cult
        > >nonsense and I just dismiss it. And I've pointed out to more than
        > >one reporter that when Shakespeare outsells Tolkien, I'll take the
        > >Bard a little more seriously than I have in the past.
        >
        > That's a clever remark, but unfortunately it's also a cultish
        > defensive remark.

        It's intended to be a pseudo-literary snobbish defensive remark. It
        does make people stop and think about whether Tolkien's following
        should be regarded as a cult.

        I don't put Tolkien and Shakespeare in the same boat, if I'm asked to
        explain the comparison. Shakespeare wrote for a different medium in
        a different time. But Tolkien's popularity exceeds Shakespeare's
        (today -- a comparison across the centuries is impossible, as you
        imply). If we are Tolkien cultists, then Shakespeare's admirers are
        Shakespeare cultists, and they should feel no more shame at being so
        labelled than we.

        Of course, shaking that image will probably become impossible after
        the movies debut and people start appearing at conventions in
        companies of Elves, Dwarves, and Rangers.

        For better or worse, I believe the popular conception of Tolkien
        fandom (if there has been one) will soon change radically.
      • David S. Bratman
        ... OK, this time I m not getting your joke. ... I found my interview experience with Chris Mooney to be highly enjoyable. Beware ... Beware! ... That may be
        Message 3 of 19 , Jun 6, 2001
        • 0 Attachment
          At 07:32 AM 6/6/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:

          >--- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
          >> At 08:33 AM 6/4/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
          >> >When the media interviews me about Tolkien, I prefer to discuss
          >> >the man himself, or his books.
          >>
          >> As opposed to ...?
          >
          >Usually as opposed to whatever brings them to me in the first
          >place. :)

          OK, this time I'm not getting your joke.

          >Some of the people on this list, I gather, were contacted for the
          >upcoming article in Wired (the print version). It should be
          >published in a couple more months. I found that interview experience
          >to be more enjoyable.

          I found my interview experience with Chris Mooney to be highly enjoyable.
          "Beware ... Beware!"

          >> >I still run into this Tolkien cult
          >> >nonsense and I just dismiss it. And I've pointed out to more than
          >> >one reporter that when Shakespeare outsells Tolkien, I'll take the
          >> >Bard a little more seriously than I have in the past.
          >>
          >> That's a clever remark, but unfortunately it's also a cultish
          >> defensive remark.
          >
          >It's intended to be a pseudo-literary snobbish defensive remark. It
          >does make people stop and think about whether Tolkien's following
          >should be regarded as a cult.

          That may be its intent, but the likes of Mooney are going to interpret it
          as meaning that you think that sales = quality. That's a cultish thing to
          think, ergo you'd get tagged as a Tolkien cultist.

          >I don't put Tolkien and Shakespeare in the same boat, if I'm asked to
          >explain the comparison.

          A big if. And if they ask, they probably won't print the explanation.

          >Shakespeare wrote for a different medium in
          >a different time. But Tolkien's popularity exceeds Shakespeare's
          >(today -- a comparison across the centuries is impossible, as you
          >imply). If we are Tolkien cultists, then Shakespeare's admirers are
          >Shakespeare cultists, and they should feel no more shame at being so
          >labelled than we.

          I don't follow this reasoning. Shakespeare's defenders aren't defending
          him on the grounds that he's popular. Indeed, they'd usually say he hardly
          needs defense. Certainly they wouldn't make such an obviously defensive
          remark.

          Nor will more pointed comparisons work. Mooney seems to think Tolkien's
          admirers are cultists because some of them dress up as Tolkien characters.
          Well, guess what: some of Shakespeare's admirers dress up as Shakespeare
          characters too. But somehow nobody thinks that makes them cultists.

          >For better or worse, I believe the popular conception of Tolkien
          >fandom (if there has been one) will soon change radically.

          There will be more of a popular conception, but I don't see that conception
          changing much at all.

          David Bratman
        • Michael Martinez
          ... Well, people seek me out to ask questions about Tolkien or Middle- earth all the time. But usually when the media contact me, the reporter(s) has(have) an
          Message 4 of 19 , Jun 8, 2001
          • 0 Attachment
            --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
            > At 07:32 AM 6/6/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
            >
            > >--- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
            > >> At 08:33 AM 6/4/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
            > >> >When the media interviews me about Tolkien, I prefer to discuss
            > >> >the man himself, or his books.
            > >>
            > >> As opposed to ...?
            > >
            > >Usually as opposed to whatever brings them to me in the first
            > >place. :)
            >
            > OK, this time I'm not getting your joke.

            Well, people seek me out to ask questions about Tolkien or Middle-
            earth all the time. But usually when the media contact me, the
            reporter(s) has(have) an agenda of some sort. One reporter in New
            Zealand wanted, apparently, to knock off a quick story about the
            elite Tolkien fandom (he was one of the first to use the word "cult"
            in my experience, although I suppose that designation has been around
            for decades). A lot of people reacted angrily to his questions. I
            wrote what I hoped was a thoughtful reply explaining the
            Tolkien/Shakespeare comparison, but also speaking about points I felt
            were more interesting.

            He thanked me and when the article was finally published he had toned
            down his negative perspective considerably. If I recall correctly,
            he admitted to me that he had never read Tolkien and had merely been
            assigned the story as part of the daily regimen.

            > >Some of the people on this list, I gather, were contacted for the
            > >upcoming article in Wired (the print version). It should be
            > >published in a couple more months. I found that interview
            > >experience to be more enjoyable.
            >
            > I found my interview experience with Chris Mooney to be highly
            > enjoyable.
            > "Beware ... Beware!"

            :)

            If I get more than a sentence in the final article, I'll be pleased.
            Heck, I'll be pleased if Eric mentions me at all. Will I be
            misquoted? Possibly. But if that happens, it may not be the
            reporter's fault. Sometimes the editor has to make a story fit. I
            suppose you may have run into similar issues in your own editing. In
            college, I sometimes had to trim a story to get it into our college
            paper.

            > >It's intended to be a pseudo-literary snobbish defensive remark.
            > >It does make people stop and think about whether Tolkien's
            > >following should be regarded as a cult.
            >
            > That may be its intent, but the likes of Mooney are going to
            > interpret it as meaning that you think that sales = quality.
            > That's a cultish thing to think, ergo you'd get tagged as a Tolkien
            > cultist.

            Sales always equal quality in any entertainment medium, and there is
            nothing cultish about the standard. The publishing, film, and other
            entertainment industries have been using sales to measure quality for
            decades.

            Literary quality is just another, alternative arbitrary standard by
            which to measure quality. It is no better or worse than sales.

            If an author like Tolkien sets out to entertain people (and that was
            his goal with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), then sales are
            an important indication of quality.

            Some people are quick to point out that, by that standard, books like
            The Sword of Shanarra (which is absolutely awful) are high quality
            books, too. And they would be implying that the standard is
            therefore faulty. But it's not. It's neither cultish nor misguided
            to accept that if a lot of people are entertained by a story, then
            the story has a widespread appeal to it and, therefore, is
            a "quality" story.

            If someone were to interpret that as a "cultish" perspective, they
            would be no more correct in saying so than I would be (were I to do
            so) in saying that only sales can measure "quality".

            > >I don't put Tolkien and Shakespeare in the same boat, if I'm asked
            > >to explain the comparison.
            >
            > A big if. And if they ask, they probably won't print the
            > explanation.

            I'm not keeping count, but at least one did quote me (the fellow in
            New Zealand, if I recall correctly) on that point, and generally
            speaking, if the comparison dissuades them from calling us a cult,
            then it achieves what I intend for it to achieve. Anything else is
            cream (or spilled coffee, I suppose, if it goes awry).

            > >Shakespeare wrote for a different medium in
            > >a different time. But Tolkien's popularity exceeds Shakespeare's
            > >(today -- a comparison across the centuries is impossible, as you
            > >imply). If we are Tolkien cultists, then Shakespeare's admirers
            > >are Shakespeare cultists, and they should feel no more shame at
            > >being so labelled than we.
            >
            > I don't follow this reasoning. Shakespeare's defenders aren't
            > defending him on the grounds that he's popular.

            Whatever grounds they have for defending him, or whatever it is
            against which they are defending him, doesn't serve to make them seem
            any less cultish than Tolkien's readers.

            > Indeed, they'd usually say he hardly needs defense. Certainly they
            > wouldn't make such an obviously defensive remark.

            I always say Tolkien doesn't need defense. I merely point out that
            Tolkien has had a greater literary impact in the last century than
            Shakespeare (who has had a greater cinematic impact than Tolkien).
            Usually, these discussions of Tolkien defenses only occur with his
            defenders.

            Tolkien DOESN'T need defense or justification. But if people are
            going to insist on defending or justifying him, they shouldn't be
            surprised to see that they have helped to carve out a perspective
            that may not appeal to them.

            On the other hand, who am I to say that people shouldn't enjoy
            defending Tolkien. There are people who enjoy defending
            Shakespeare. There ARE people who argue that there was no
            Shakespeare, or that he plagiarized other writers.

            To be quite honest, I have always thought the Shakespearean community
            a bit odd, but that is probably due to my experience with a few odd
            Shakespeareans.

            > >For better or worse, I believe the popular conception of Tolkien
            > >fandom (if there has been one) will soon change radically.
            >
            > There will be more of a popular conception, but I don't see that
            > conception changing much at all.

            I think you're in for a great surprise, then. Or perhaps a
            disappointment.

            Most people don't think of Tolkien as anything other than a good or
            great or popular author. And I only ran into this "Tolkien cult"
            perspective in the last few years, even though I've been happily
            discussiing Tolkien and reading Tolkien literature for more than 20
            years.

            The American campus phenomenon of the 1960s is not a definitive
            representation of the general appreciation of Tolkien.

            I can almost always strike up a conversation with strangers about The
            Lord of the Rings. When I try to quote Shakespeare, or make
            reference to one of his plays, I usually get a blank look.

            More people know Shakespeare's name than know his work. Undoubtedly
            that is true about Tolkien and every other author, too. But it's
            still easier to talk to people about Tolkien than it is to talk to
            them about Shakespeare.

            So, if a few misguided souls like Mooney view Tolkien's readers as
            a "cult", even if only because they know of a few occasions where
            people dress up as hobbits, they are not going to amount to a hill of
            beans in the big picture.

            But the movies will undoubtedly inspire the "cult" which doesn't yet
            exist.
          • Trudy Shaw
            ... From: Michael Martinez To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2001 1:25 AM Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Article on Tolkien in _Salon_ On the other
            Message 5 of 19 , Jun 9, 2001
            • 0 Attachment
              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Michael Martinez
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2001 1:25 AM
              Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Article on Tolkien in _Salon_


              On the other hand, who am I to say that people shouldn't enjoy
              defending Tolkien. There are people who enjoy defending
              Shakespeare. There ARE people who argue that there was no
              Shakespeare, or that he plagiarized other writers.


              And when Shakespeare's plays (whoever wrote them) were first produced, they were done so with an eye to the true fans--the groundlings, not the literary critics. Do you think Shakespeare would be as surprised as Tolkien to have his work taken so seriously?


              Most people don't think of Tolkien as anything other than a good or
              great or popular author. And I only ran into this "Tolkien cult"
              perspective in the last few years, even though I've been happily
              discussiing Tolkien and reading Tolkien literature for more than 20
              years.


              I believe you can thank the Internet for the new outbreak of "Tolkien cult" perspective (see the Village Voice article).


              But the movies will undoubtedly inspire the "cult" which doesn't yet
              exist.


              It's being energized by the movies, but it already exists. Check out the message boards. The "cultists" are generally about 13-20 years old.




              Check out the message boards. It's already there! The "cultists" tend to be about 13-20 years old.


              Yahoo! Groups Sponsor



              The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

              Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • David S. Bratman
              ... I ve been interviewed more than once myself. But usually the author s agenda is to write about Tolkien. Even when they re biased, that s the agenda. ...
              Message 6 of 19 , Jun 9, 2001
              • 0 Attachment
                >At 06:25 AM 6/9/2001 +0000, Michael Martinez wrote:

                >Well, people seek me out to ask questions about Tolkien or Middle-
                >earth all the time. But usually when the media contact me, the
                >reporter(s) has(have) an agenda of some sort.

                I've been interviewed more than once myself. But usually the author's
                agenda is to write about Tolkien. Even when they're biased, that's the agenda.

                >He thanked me and when the article was finally published he had toned
                >down his negative perspective considerably. If I recall correctly,
                >he admitted to me that he had never read Tolkien and had merely been
                >assigned the story as part of the daily regimen.

                Mooney told me he's read Tolkien, and likes him. I guess it was merely
                part of his attempt to avoid unconscious bias that he excluded any sign of
                that from his article.

                >If I get more than a sentence in the final article, I'll be pleased.
                >Heck, I'll be pleased if Eric mentions me at all. Will I be
                >misquoted? Possibly. But if that happens, it may not be the
                >reporter's fault. Sometimes the editor has to make a story fit. I
                >suppose you may have run into similar issues in your own editing. In
                >college, I sometimes had to trim a story to get it into our college
                >paper.

                I've done a lot of editing. I do not believe I've ever misquoted anybody
                as a result. Mooney defended what he'd done. He admitted to no errors
                except misspelling "Mythprint". So it wasn't his editor's fault, or he
                didn't believe the editor had done anything wrong.

                >Sales always equal quality in any entertainment medium, and there is
                >nothing cultish about the standard. The publishing, film, and other
                >entertainment industries have been using sales to measure quality for
                >decades.
                >
                >Literary quality is just another, alternative arbitrary standard by
                >which to measure quality. It is no better or worse than sales.

                Eliminate the adjective "literary", and you're saying that quality is only
                one method of measuring quality. What other sort of quality is
                there? It's certainly the one I was referring to, and I know of no other
                sort for which "quality" is the best term. Sales measure sales, nothing
                else. (Not even popularity: the Unread Bestseller is a well-known
                phenomenon.) Only literary quality measures literary quality, though there
                are different ways of measuring within that, and it is over those different
                ways that the litterateurs are having their disagreements over Tolkien. I
                have my theories as to what's really going on there, but that's another topic.

                >If an author like Tolkien sets out to entertain people (and that was
                >his goal with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), then sales are
                >an important indication of quality.

                They are not. They are a sign that an investigation into quality should be
                made. What they are an important indication (though not proof of) is
                popular appeal: see below. They're also important in the history of taste,
                but that's another matter.

                >Some people are quick to point out that, by that standard, books like
                >The Sword of Shanarra (which is absolutely awful) are high quality
                >books, too. And they would be implying that the standard is
                >therefore faulty. But it's not. It's neither cultish nor misguided
                >to accept that if a lot of people are entertained by a story, then
                >the story has a widespread appeal to it and, therefore, is
                >a "quality" story.

                Popular appeal and literary quality are entirely different things. This
                comes up every time a reviewer complains that he disliked a book or movie
                because it was of such wretched quality, in writing or
                aesthetics. Inevitably, someone will write a letter in response saying it
                doesn't have to be good (i.e. of literary quality) if it's enjoyable (i.e.
                "fun"). Usually there's an implication "good" in this sense and "fun" are
                polarized, that the two tend not to co-exist. This is the same
                configuration of nature held by the high-minded literary scholar who looks
                down at all bestsellers as being necessarily bad, only viewed from the
                other side. To both this high-minded scholar and the defiantly low-brow
                letter-writer, literary quality and popular appeal are different things.

                But the reviewer, if he replies to the letter, will say that the two can
                co-exist. Not that they're the same, but that they can co-exist. And a
                good example is LOTR, a book which ranks high on both scales. (According
                to our opinion, of course.)

                >> I don't follow this reasoning. Shakespeare's defenders aren't
                >> defending him on the grounds that he's popular.
                >
                >Whatever grounds they have for defending him, or whatever it is
                >against which they are defending him, doesn't serve to make them seem
                >any less cultish than Tolkien's readers.

                I don't follow this at all, any more than I did the first time.

                >I always say Tolkien doesn't need defense. I merely point out that
                >Tolkien has had a greater literary impact in the last century than
                >Shakespeare (who has had a greater cinematic impact than Tolkien).
                >Usually, these discussions of Tolkien defenses only occur with his
                >defenders.
                >
                >Tolkien DOESN'T need defense or justification. But if people are
                >going to insist on defending or justifying him, they shouldn't be
                >surprised to see that they have helped to carve out a perspective
                >that may not appeal to them.

                Anything that's good that's attacked needs defense. Anything that can be
                misunderstood needs justification. See below.

                >On the other hand, who am I to say that people shouldn't enjoy
                >defending Tolkien. There are people who enjoy defending
                >Shakespeare. There ARE people who argue that there was no
                >Shakespeare, or that he plagiarized other writers.

                I know of nobody who argues that there was no Shakespeare. I do know of
                people who claim that the name was a pseudonym, but that doesn't affect the
                work. Trudy Shaw raised the old argument that Shakespeare wrote for the
                groundlings, not the elite. Actually he wrote for both. In other words,
                his work ranks high on both of the scales I mentioned above. And that is
                what makes him truly great, and Tolkien's greatness is of the same kind (if
                not the same order). Other dramatists of Shakespeare's time wrote for the
                groundlings only: they are less well-remembered than he, or has there been
                a BBC production of "Ralph Roister-Doister" lately?

                But many people nowadays think Shakespeare is boring. (See, for example,
                the prologue section of Al Pacino's film "Looking for Richard", in which he
                shows people saying just this, and thereby packages his film as a defense
                of Shakespeare.) So what's happened to the groundlings?

                The plagiarism charge raises an interesting point, but at a tangent to what
                we're discussing here. Up through Shakespeare's time, originality of plot
                was not prized as a virtue, and much if not most great literature was a
                retelling or at least a re-envisaging of something written or at least
                orally told before. Somewhere during the century or two after Shakespeare
                (or perhaps after Milton), originality became a prerequisite for the
                prevailing standards of literary quality, and I wonder when and why that
                happened.

                >> >For better or worse, I believe the popular conception of Tolkien
                >> >fandom (if there has been one) will soon change radically.
                >>
                >> There will be more of a popular conception, but I don't see that
                >> conception changing much at all.
                >
                >I think you're in for a great surprise, then. Or perhaps a
                >disappointment.

                I think you have no idea what I consider the popular conception of Tolkien
                to be. See below.

                >Most people don't think of Tolkien as anything other than a good or
                >great or popular author. And I only ran into this "Tolkien cult"
                >perspective in the last few years, even though I've been happily
                >discussing Tolkien and reading Tolkien literature for more than 20
                >years.

                And I've been running into the "Tolkien cult" perspective constantly
                throughout my experience. I apologize for waving my Tolkien credentials,
                but I've been happily discussing Tolkien and reading Tolkien literature for
                more than 30 years. I came in at the end of the 60s Tolkien boom. Perhaps
                you don't remember that, but I do (barely). At that time, Tolkien was
                generally perceived as just another campus cult author in a long line of
                campus cult authors, accompanied and/or preceded by Vonnegut, Hesse,
                Golding, and Salinger, in approximate reverse chronological order.

                Cult perception has continued throughout the years. When _The
                Silmarillion_ was first published, it became a bestseller (which LOTR had
                never been, because its sales built up over the years, whereas Sil. was
                dropped suddenly on a large expectant audience), many people found it
                unreadable, and this reinforced the perception that Tolkienists must be a
                large cult, because who other than people devoted to an author to the point
                of cultishness would be buying an (apparently) unreadable book in
                bestselling quantities?

                I have been a member of the (British) Tolkien Society, and have watched
                their never-ending battle with media descriptions which always mention the
                costumes, which very few TS members ever wear. I have watched their dismay
                as Humphrey Carpenter, once the perceptive author of a fine biography of
                Tolkien, gradually drifted into the view that Tolkien was a nut and that
                Tolkienists are cultists.

                What I cite are mostly media views, and you write of "most people," so you
                may be thinking of man-in-the-street types. That may be how our views of
                how Tolkien is perceived may be partially reconciled. But my experience is
                that people who've never read an author take their perceptions of that
                author from what they're told or have read, and what they've read about
                Tolkien is frequently that he's a cult author. What will change - and here
                we're apparently agreed - is that this message will be conveyed more often
                and more insistently in the future.

                >So, if a few misguided souls like Mooney view Tolkien's readers as
                >a "cult", even if only because they know of a few occasions where
                >people dress up as hobbits, they are not going to amount to a hill of
                >beans in the big picture.
                >
                >But the movies will undoubtedly inspire the "cult" which doesn't yet
                >exist.

                Actually, the Tolkien cult does exist. We're just not it. Except in the
                sense that people who are knowledgeable about and devoted to Shakespeare
                are Shakespeare cultists, in which case half of humanity are cultists of
                something. It's just that baseball-team cultism is respectable.

                But I'm talking about cults in a more limited sense. Students who read
                LOTR in the 60s because it was fashionable and for no other reason - they
                were cultists in the sense of being mindless followers of what is generally
                referred to as a "campus cult author." Middle-earth communes have
                existed. I have actually met people who didn't just wear Tolkien costumes,
                or even just took Tolkien characters' names as eponyms, but insisted they
                were those characters. (I don't think they were deluded: I think they were
                role-playing beyond the call of duty.) Fantasy gaming is, in a sense,
                nothing but one big extended Tolkien cult. And if that seems excessive,
                consider the strong popularity in Russia of live-action Tolkien war games.

                What will possibly change, and here I think we are in agreement, is that
                there will be much more of this. After all it's much easier for the
                mindless to watch a movie than read a book. The unknown factor is, how
                popular will the movie be? Some greatly-hyped films bomb, to everyone's
                surprise; some successes prove ephemeral: "Titanic" is already a 1990s
                period piece.

                David Bratman
              • alexeik@aol.com
                In a message dated 6/9/1 12:45:07 PM, Trudy Shaw wrote:
                Message 7 of 19 , Jun 9, 2001
                • 0 Attachment
                  In a message dated 6/9/1 12:45:07 PM, Trudy Shaw wrote:

                  <<It's being energized by the movies, but it already exists. Check out the
                  message boards. The "cultists" are generally about 13-20 years old. >>

                  And there's been a Tolkien "cult" (fully justifying the word) in Russia for
                  some time. Perhaps because they've been starved of imaginative or
                  metaphysically concerned literature for so long, the response of Russian fans
                  to Tolkien is more intense in its passion and make-believe than anything seen
                  in the West since the late '60's.
                  Alexei
                • Michael Martinez
                  ... A fan cult isn t defined by message board participation. I m sure there is no universally accepted definition, but the Tolkien fans are distinguished from
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jun 9, 2001
                  • 0 Attachment
                    --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
                    > Check out the message boards. It's already there!
                    > The "cultists" tend to be about 13-20 years old.

                    A fan cult isn't defined by message board participation. I'm sure
                    there is no universally accepted definition, but the Tolkien fans are
                    distinguished from the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dorsai fans (to name
                    a few long-established fan groups) by the lack of fan organizations
                    which focus on specific aspects of the created worlds, lack of
                    costuming communities, lack of fan festivals.

                    Xenite.Org has, so far as I know, the oldest Tolkien-oriented forum
                    on the Web (the news groups and some mailing lists are older). We
                    don't have a "cultish" reputation, even though you'll find plenty of
                    people there using screen names from the books, or made up from
                    elements of Tolkien's languages. We have a pretty solid reputation
                    for serious discussion. Now, maybe that's because I have not
                    consciously fostered a cultish atmosphere. Yes, there are hundreds
                    of other Tolkien-related forums out there (I laugh every time I see a
                    news article claim there are about 400 Tolkien Web sites -- the
                    number of forums alone exceeds 400). The sheer number of forums, but
                    for the fact the media don't seem to know they exist, could lend
                    weight to the idea of a cultish fandom, but Tolkien fans are just not
                    as visible as, say, Xena fans (with whom I have a great deal of
                    experience).

                    Tolkien "conferences" tend to be just that: conferences. Mostly run
                    by or supported by people in the academic community, or who have some
                    experience with the academic community. Which is not to say that
                    only academics are drawn to such conferences, but you can pretty much
                    find academic names in the rosters (at least for the conferences with
                    Web sites). Look at a Xena convention guest list or organizer list
                    and you'll find little indication of the professional stature of the
                    people involved. That is, I know that Xena has been studied
                    academically, but Xena fandom and the television show lack the
                    reputation for seriousness that Tolkien fandom and Tolkien's works
                    possess.

                    When I proposed a Tolkien and Middle-earth track for Dragoncon, I
                    said I didn't want just another series of panels where people talk
                    about how Tolkien inspired them, etc., etc. It's hard to put
                    together an interesting program in part because there is so little to
                    feed the popular SF community's imagination.

                    The movies pretty much saved us (and were the chief but not only
                    reason for why I proposed the track). We can bring in actors and
                    TheOneRing.Net did a whizbang presentation with spy reports and
                    special footage. But we've got other programming content which is
                    less formalized. I did put up a couple of panels with three
                    linguists who discussed the mechanics of Quenya and Sindarin. The
                    sessions were not standing-room only, but they were well-attended.

                    Nonetheless, I think that, if Dragoncon continues to do a
                    Tolkien/Middle-earth track over the next few years, we'll inevitably
                    have costume contests, Prancing Pony galas, and other "typical"
                    fannish presentations. I have even tried to find people to do some
                    music videos for me (haven't had much success).

                    Eventually, there may even be official Lord of the Rings conventions
                    (I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Creation Entertainment had
                    already approached New Line Cinema about that), and dedicated Tolkien
                    fan conventions which go well beyond what I'm able to do with the
                    Dragoncon track.

                    Tolkien's fandom has not distinguished itself with much of the
                    traditional fannish activity beyond creating some (fairly well-known)
                    fanzines. The blending of fannish research and academic study
                    represented by the publications of the Mythopoeic Society and a few
                    other organizations helps to give the impression that Tolkien fandom
                    is a bit more "serious" than, say, your typical Babylon-5 fan group.

                    The moveis are going to inspire a lot of people to build up the
                    traditional fannish activities which have been devoted to other
                    authors, other worlds, other movies. People will look back on what
                    we have today and say, "How quaint" or "how different it all was."
                  • Michael Martinez
                    ... Your credentials are different from mine. I founded a popular science fiction and fantasy fan site. Of course, my pointing that out may only underscore
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jun 9, 2001
                    • 0 Attachment
                      --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                      > >At 06:25 AM 6/9/2001 +0000, Michael Martinez wrote:
                      >
                      > >Well, people seek me out to ask questions about Tolkien or Middle-
                      > >earth all the time. But usually when the media contact me, the
                      > >reporter(s) has(have) an agenda of some sort.
                      >
                      > I've been interviewed more than once myself. But usually the
                      > author's agenda is to write about Tolkien. Even when they're
                      > biased, that's the agenda.

                      Your credentials are different from mine. I founded a popular
                      science fiction and fantasy fan site. Of course, my pointing that
                      out may only underscore your point for you. Why would the media seek
                      me out to talk about Tolkien fandom if I wasn't perceived as an
                      online leader of or representative of Tolkien fandom, the "cult" I
                      say doesn't exist.

                      But Xenite.Org hardly fosters any sort of Tolkien fandom like our
                      Xena fandom. We sponsor a Webmasters association for Hercules and
                      Xena, and have the Web's largest directory of Hercules and Xena
                      links. We also have other Herc/Xena content, and several forums
                      devoted to those shows and related shows.

                      But I also write a regular Tolkien column (which is late this week).
                      And each time I am mentioned in the press, I get a little more
                      attention. So, you and I are walking different paths, and I'm not
                      surprised to see that we are approached by the media for different
                      reasons.

                      Nonetheless, with all my fan contacts, I've yet to find anything
                      among Tolkien fans which resembles the fan groups devoted to other
                      topics.

                      > >If I get more than a sentence in the final article, I'll be
                      > >pleased. Heck, I'll be pleased if Eric mentions me at all. Will
                      > >I be misquoted? Possibly. But if that happens, it may not be the
                      > >reporter's fault. Sometimes the editor has to make a story fit.
                      > >I suppose you may have run into similar issues in your own
                      > >editing. In college, I sometimes had to trim a story to get it
                      > >into our college paper.
                      >
                      > I've done a lot of editing. I do not believe I've ever misquoted
                      > anybody as a result. Mooney defended what he'd done. He admitted
                      > to no errors except misspelling "Mythprint". So it wasn't his
                      > editor's fault, or he didn't believe the editor had done anything
                      > wrong.

                      Point taken.

                      > >Sales always equal quality in any entertainment medium, and there
                      > >is nothing cultish about the standard. The publishing, film, and
                      > >other entertainment industries have been using sales to measure
                      > >quality for decades.
                      > >
                      > >Literary quality is just another, alternative arbitrary standard
                      > >by which to measure quality. It is no better or worse than sales.
                      >
                      > Eliminate the adjective "literary", and you're saying that quality
                      > is only one method of measuring quality.

                      But I included "literary" deliberately, because by itself "quality"
                      means nothing. Quality is part of a standard, and all standards are
                      arbitrary. You can measure the same thing a hundred different ways,
                      and define a hundred different types of quality.

                      A story is good if people enjoy it. Sales therefore measure
                      quality. A story may also be good if it includes elements which only
                      a select group (even a self-appointed group) of people can identify
                      and appreciate.

                      Quality is not the purview of any one group or standard. It is
                      simply a designation, a rating (something may be of "poor" quality
                      or "good" quality, obviously). We measure quality in different ways,
                      and measuring quality by sales is equally valid with measuring it by,
                      say, the innovativeness of the author's ideas, or by measuring the
                      faithfulness of the author's style to a specific format.

                      A poem may be of poor quality if it is written to emulate the great
                      poems which were written in iambic pentameter, and it fails to use
                      iambic pentameter. But if 1,000,000 people read the poem, know
                      nothing of its author's intent, and love it, then it's a high quality
                      poem.

                      If the work moves its audience and evokes a reaction, it achieves a
                      success. If it sells 1,000,000 copies, it achieves a success. If it
                      makes a point that every reader immediately sees, it achieves a
                      success. If it does none of these things, it fails in many ways.

                      > >If an author like Tolkien sets out to entertain people (and that
                      > >was his goal with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), then
                      > >sales are an important indication of quality.
                      >
                      > They are not. They are a sign that an investigation into quality
                      > should be made.

                      No. Sales are always a valid measure of quality, except in cases
                      where the sales are propagated through misleading advertising. In
                      such circumstances, long-term sales, or sales less returns, are an
                      indication of quality.

                      As I pointed out, they are simply ONE measure of quality.

                      Quality is always defined arbitrarily. The old adage, "one man's
                      junk is another man's treasure", is an indication of how quality is
                      measured differently. Quality is, in fact, a subjective measurement,
                      even if the measurement can be achieved objectively (as through
                      sales).

                      The Sword of Shanarra may be a poorly written book, but it's a
                      bestseller, and therefore is a high quality book. It's just not the
                      kind of book which will inspire people to write reams of literary
                      criticism.


                      > >> I don't follow this reasoning. Shakespeare's defenders aren't
                      > >> defending him on the grounds that he's popular.
                      > >
                      > >Whatever grounds they have for defending him, or whatever it is
                      > >against which they are defending him, doesn't serve to make them
                      > >seem any less cultish than Tolkien's readers.
                      >
                      > I don't follow this at all, any more than I did the first time.

                      That people defend Tolkien doesn't make Tolkien's readers a "cult".
                      By that definition, any author or playwrite's readers would be
                      a "cult".

                      That is the point. Shakespeareans are a cult if Tolkienists are a
                      cult. There can be no exceptions to such a generalization.

                      > >I always say Tolkien doesn't need defense. I merely point out
                      > >that Tolkien has had a greater literary impact in the last
                      > >century than Shakespeare (who has had a greater cinematic impact
                      > >than Tolkien). Usually, these discussions of Tolkien defenses
                      > >only occur with his defenders.
                      > >
                      > >Tolkien DOESN'T need defense or justification. But if people are
                      > >going to insist on defending or justifying him, they shouldn't be
                      > >surprised to see that they have helped to carve out a perspective
                      > >that may not appeal to them.
                      >
                      > Anything that's good that's attacked needs defense. Anything that
                      > can be misunderstood needs justification. See below.

                      Attacks on Tolkien are few, far between, and extremely minor.
                      Millions of people are hyped up about the movies. When I bring up
                      Tolkien in discussion with strangers, they don't dismiss him with
                      contempt.

                      There is simply no need to defend Tolkien because the attacks achieve
                      nothing. It's like a few pea shooters are being used against a tank.

                      If the battle which seems to demand a defense of Tolkien is taking
                      place in academia, well, that's just academia. They are always
                      arguing about something, and today's academia has a generation of
                      Tolkien fans who express their appreciation through dissertations,
                      theses, and classes. I've been contacted by teachers, professors,
                      librarians, and graduate students around the world for years who want
                      to use some of my material. Tolkien is a juggernaut in the popular
                      imagination, but he is hardly weak and ineffectual in academia.

                      > >On the other hand, who am I to say that people shouldn't enjoy
                      > >defending Tolkien. There are people who enjoy defending
                      > >Shakespeare. There ARE people who argue that there was no
                      > >Shakespeare, or that he plagiarized other writers.
                      >
                      > I know of nobody who argues that there was no Shakespeare. I do
                      > know of people who claim that the name was a pseudonym,....

                      Pretty much the same thing. Either there was a William Shakespeare
                      or there wasn't. Either one man wrote the plays or more than one
                      author wrote them.

                      > But many people nowadays think Shakespeare is boring. (See, for
                      > example, the prologue section of Al Pacino's film "Looking for
                      > Richard", in which he shows people saying just this, and thereby
                      > packages his film as a defense of Shakespeare.) So what's happened
                      > to the groundlings?

                      Technically, the people Shakespeare wrote for are all dead. That
                      anyone beyond that generation appreciated the Bard's work is a
                      testimony to his skill and general appeal. It's not a fault of
                      today's generation if they don't like their parents' music, any more
                      than it's a fault if they find Shakespeare to be boring.

                      > >> >For better or worse, I believe the popular conception of
                      > >> >Tolkien fandom (if there has been one) will soon change
                      > >> >radically.
                      > >>
                      > >> There will be more of a popular conception, but I don't see that
                      > >> conception changing much at all.
                      > >
                      > >I think you're in for a great surprise, then. Or perhaps a
                      > >disappointment.
                      >
                      > I think you have no idea what I consider the popular conception of
                      > Tolkien to be. See below.

                      And perhaps you have no idea of what *I* consider to be the popular
                      conception of Tolkien. See above and elsewhere.

                      > >Most people don't think of Tolkien as anything other than a good
                      > >or great or popular author. And I only ran into this "Tolkien
                      > >cult" perspective in the last few years, even though I've been
                      > >happily discussing Tolkien and reading Tolkien literature for
                      > >more than 20 years.

                      Restoring the snipped portion:

                      The American campus phenomenon of the 1960s is not a definitive
                      representation of the general appreciation of Tolkien.

                      > And I've been running into the "Tolkien cult" perspective
                      > constantly throughout my experience. I apologize for waving my
                      > Tolkien credentials, but I've been happily discussing Tolkien and
                      > reading Tolkien literature for more than 30 years. I came in at
                      > the end of the 60s Tolkien boom. Perhaps you don't remember that,
                      > but I do (barely). At that time, Tolkien was generally perceived
                      > as just another campus cult author in a long line of
                      > campus cult authors, accompanied and/or preceded by Vonnegut,
                      > Hesse, Golding, and Salinger, in approximate reverse chronological
                      > order.

                      That WAS the 1960s. The "cult" was replaced by a wider audience in
                      the late 1960s and 1970s. The "cult" was just a passing phenomenon.
                      When The Silmarillion was published, it sold 750,000 copies from the
                      first printing in the United States alone. That is NOT a cult
                      phenomenon. And Unfinished Tales also became a bestseller. Many
                      people enjoyed both books immensely.

                      And there are now archives available on the Web for many news
                      organizations, some of which go back to the 1950s or beyond. The New
                      York Times, for example, created a special Tolkien section which
                      collected all its Tolkien articles. The "cult perception" is lacking
                      in their articles.


                      > What I cite are mostly media views, and you write of "most people,"
                      > so you may be thinking of man-in-the-street types.

                      I HAVE been careful to distinguish between the two. The media, in
                      general, don't know much about Tolkien's readers. They don't take
                      the time to research Tolkien or his readers. Their perceptions,
                      however, are not consistent.

                      > >So, if a few misguided souls like Mooney view Tolkien's readers as
                      > >a "cult", even if only because they know of a few occasions where
                      > >people dress up as hobbits, they are not going to amount to a
                      hill of
                      > >beans in the big picture.
                      > >
                      > >But the movies will undoubtedly inspire the "cult" which doesn't
                      > >yet exist.
                      >
                      > Actually, the Tolkien cult does exist.

                      I've yet to see any documentation of such a cult. There is certainly
                      no mention of them among the fan groups I'm associated with. The
                      examples you list below are not clearly associated with one another.

                      > But I'm talking about cults in a more limited sense. Students who
                      > read LOTR in the 60s because it was fashionable and for no other
                      > reason - they were cultists in the sense of being mindless
                      > followers of what is generally referred to as a "campus cult
                      > author." Middle-earth communes have existed. I have actually met
                      > people who didn't just wear Tolkien costumes, or even just took
                      > Tolkien characters' names as eponyms, but insisted they
                      > were those characters. (I don't think they were deluded: I think
                      > they were role-playing beyond the call of duty.) Fantasy gaming
                      > is, in a sense, nothing but one big extended Tolkien cult...

                      The difference between a cult and a fad, however, is persistence.
                      And fantasy gaming owes a great deal to other authors, not just
                      Tolkien.

                      We aren't exclusive, so cultism has to be determined by the
                      obsessiveness of the fans. The early obsessions did not take hold.

                      >...And if that seems excessive, consider the strong popularity in
                      > Russia of live-action Tolkien war games.

                      That's twice you've mentioned Russia. The Russians deserve
                      consideration, but even live-action Tolkien war games in Russia don't
                      define the cult that the media is looking for. How many of those
                      games are even mentioned in the West's news media?

                      But people are not mindless because they watch movies. By that
                      definition, anyone who watched a Greek play in ancient Athens would
                      have been mindless.
                    • David S. Bratman
                      ... I don t know what you think my credentials are, and I suppose I m not sure what the interviewers think they are either. I was referred to Mooney as a
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jun 10, 2001
                      • 0 Attachment
                        >At 06:30 AM 6/10/2001 +0000, Michael Martinez wrote:

                        >Your credentials are different from mine. I founded a popular
                        >science fiction and fantasy fan site. Of course, my pointing that
                        >out may only underscore your point for you. Why would the media seek
                        >me out to talk about Tolkien fandom if I wasn't perceived as an
                        >online leader of or representative of Tolkien fandom, the "cult" I
                        >say doesn't exist.

                        I don't know what you think my credentials are, and I suppose I'm not sure
                        what the interviewers think they are either. I was referred to Mooney as a
                        Tolkien scholar, but he cited me as the editor of a Tolkien fan magazine:
                        not very different credentials from yours. At any rate, despite my
                        university affiliation (I'm a librarian), I'm actually an independent
                        scholar - like Doug Anderson or Carl Hostetter - not a professor, so I
                        don't expect outside observers necessarily to take me seriously as a
                        scholar, even if the real professors are sometimes kind enough to do so.

                        >Nonetheless, with all my fan contacts, I've yet to find anything
                        >among Tolkien fans which resembles the fan groups devoted to other
                        >topics.

                        Well, maybe you have different contacts than I do. I've been, as I
                        mentioned, reading Tolkien and contacting other Tolkienists for over 30
                        years, and I never heard of you until a couple months ago, when I found
                        your book listed when searching Amazon for new books on Tolkien. That's
                        neither your fault nor mine: it just indicates the broad and disparate
                        range of Tolkien fandom, and the danger of arguing a negative, that
                        something does not exist.

                        Just to improve my understanding of your Tolkien world, though, may I ask
                        when you came across the Mythopoeic Society? Have you ever been a member
                        of it, or of the (British) Tolkien Society, or any of a number of other
                        print-based organizations? This is not to imply that there isn't Tolkien
                        fandom outside the world of print-based organizations; far from it. But if
                        I can go 20 years without having heard of you, I wonder how long you went
                        without having heard of us; and if you did hear of us, why your obviously
                        passionate interest in Tolkien did not earlier spill more prominently into
                        places where we'd come across it.

                        I don't think it will be useful to argue the definition of "quality" any
                        more. Your definition is so broad as to render the term meaningless, in my
                        opinion. If you wish to use the word "quality" in addressing me, please
                        always attach an adjective so I know what sort of quality you're talking
                        about. I think I've already demonstrated at too-great length that even
                        those who like and defend "junk" (the term "eye candy" is often used by its
                        defenders) differentiate enjoyability from quality (all right, literary
                        quality - literary quality by their own standards, not someone
                        else's). The adage, "one man's junk is another man's treasure" only
                        demonstrates different types of value, not different types of quality. A
                        book that's junk for reading may be an absolute treasure as a
                        doorstop. That doesn't make it a book of quality, only a doorstop of
                        quality. And a book may be enjoyable for other reasons than its
                        quality. I've gotten huge treasurable enjoyment out of reading completely
                        incompetent Tolkien scholarship: that doesn't make it scholarship of
                        quality, or even a book of quality. Variations in evaluation may also be a
                        result of different scales of specifically literary quality. It's there
                        that the disagreements about Tolkien lie, and that would be a much more
                        fruitful avenue of discussion than pursuing this definition up its own
                        fundament.

                        >That people defend Tolkien doesn't make Tolkien's readers a "cult".
                        >By that definition, any author or playwrite's readers would be
                        >a "cult".
                        >
                        >That is the point. Shakespeareans are a cult if Tolkienists are a
                        >cult. There can be no exceptions to such a generalization.

                        Those who argue that Tolkien is a cult author are not doing so on the
                        grounds that he's being defended. It's the nature of the defense, and the
                        nature of the interest in him, that cause this reaction, fairly or
                        otherwise. But if you lump together literary quality, popularity,
                        enthusiasm, and sales as just different aspects of an undifferentiated
                        "quality", you may not see this.

                        >Attacks on Tolkien are few, far between, and extremely minor.

                        See above about "different contacts." I wish I lived on your planet.

                        >If the battle which seems to demand a defense of Tolkien is taking
                        >place in academia, well, that's just academia. They are always
                        >arguing about something, and today's academia has a generation of
                        >Tolkien fans who express their appreciation through dissertations,
                        >theses, and classes. I've been contacted by teachers, professors,
                        >librarians, and graduate students around the world for years who want
                        >to use some of my material. Tolkien is a juggernaut in the popular
                        >imagination, but he is hardly weak and ineffectual in academia.

                        I wasn't talking about academia, but media. But OK, let's talk about
                        academia. It's certainly true, and delightfully so, that Tolkien is an
                        author studied in great detail and with great enthusiasm in some academic
                        circles, but these are extremely limited ones. When Tom Shippey inveighs
                        against the academic dismissal of Tolkien, he is referring to something
                        decidedly concrete, which I've heard testimony of from elsewhere. This
                        can't be dismissed as "well, academics are always arguing about
                        something." It's an argument of a different nature from, say, whether
                        Milton was of Satan's party, or even whether Milton scholarship is passe.

                        >> I know of nobody who argues that there was no Shakespeare. I do
                        >> know of people who claim that the name was a pseudonym,....
                        >
                        >Pretty much the same thing. Either there was a William Shakespeare
                        >or there wasn't. Either one man wrote the plays or more than one
                        >author wrote them.

                        I know of nobody who argues that more than one author wrote the Shakespeare
                        plays - even a now-obsolete fad for claiming that his works were the
                        product of a committee of prominent Elizabethans is not the same thing as
                        saying that he did not exist (instead, he was a committee) - except insofar
                        as some of his lesser-known plays are collaborations and that he lifted
                        some text directly from his sources, points acknowledged by conventional
                        Shakespeare scholars. Arguing that the name was a pseudonym is not pretty
                        much the same as arguing that there was no Shakespeare. Indeed, the most
                        striking thing about the pseudonymists is how fervently they believe there
                        was a Shakespeare, and that he fits the personal characteristics of their
                        own favored candidate.

                        >> I think you have no idea what I consider the popular conception of
                        >> Tolkien to be. See below.
                        >
                        >And perhaps you have no idea of what *I* consider to be the popular
                        >conception of Tolkien. See above and elsewhere.

                        I didn't when I first wrote. I did when I wrote my herein-quoted
                        reply. My statements were a response to your elaboration of your
                        view. But I should have phrased this differently: perhaps "I think we have
                        entirely different ideas of what the popular conception of Tolkien is."

                        >That WAS the 1960s. The "cult" was replaced by a wider audience in
                        >the late 1960s and 1970s. The "cult" was just a passing phenomenon.

                        First you say that you never encountered any Tolkien cultism perceptions
                        until quite recently. Now you say that the 1960s cult doesn't count.

                        I wasn't just talking about the 1960s. My examples were largely from the
                        1970s and 80s, and are still valid today.

                        >When The Silmarillion was published, it sold 750,000 copies from the
                        >first printing in the United States alone. That is NOT a cult
                        >phenomenon. And Unfinished Tales also became a bestseller. Many
                        >people enjoyed both books immensely.

                        And many didn't. And I already pointed out that the large sales of what
                        many people perceived as an unreadable book was itself seized on as
                        evidence of a "cult". This happens whenever a bestseller is strongly
                        looked down upon. I don't recall the word "cult" being used about "The
                        Bridges of Madison County", but the same perception was there.

                        For someone who insists upon using the word "quality" to indicate any sort
                        of appreciation or liking whatsoever, you're oddly narrow about your
                        definition of "cult".

                        >And there are now archives available on the Web for many news
                        >organizations, some of which go back to the 1950s or beyond. The New
                        >York Times, for example, created a special Tolkien section which
                        >collected all its Tolkien articles. The "cult perception" is lacking
                        >in their articles.

                        That's one outlet. I could point to others, but why bother?

                        How many volumes of "The History of Middle-earth" did the NYT review?

                        >I've yet to see any documentation of such a cult. There is certainly
                        >no mention of them among the fan groups I'm associated with. The
                        >examples you list below are not clearly associated with one another.

                        Which is why I won't bother to provide anything else - you won't accept it
                        if you see it.

                        >The difference between a cult and a fad, however, is persistence.

                        Tolkien's popularity has lasted nearly 50 years since LOTR was published,
                        35 years since the boom. Since this can no longer be dismissed as a fad -
                        believe me, they tried to do so - now they call it a cult.

                        >And fantasy gaming owes a great deal to other authors, not just
                        >Tolkien.

                        Indeed, which is why I wrote "in a sense". Actually, many of these authors
                        owe more to fantasy gaming than the other way around.

                        >That's twice you've mentioned Russia.

                        I only mentioned Russia once, I believe. Alexei Kondratiev mentioned it
                        entirely independently, calling it "a Tolkien "cult" (fully justifying the
                        word)."

                        >The Russians deserve
                        >consideration, but even live-action Tolkien war games in Russia don't
                        >define the cult that the media is looking for. How many of those
                        >games are even mentioned in the West's news media?

                        Now this is a curious sleight-of-hand argument. The actual existence of a
                        cult is a different question from whether the media perception of one is
                        accurate. The media are defining, or beginning to define, as a cult
                        something that isn't, we're agreed on that. You go further and say there
                        is no cult at all. Alexei and I point out that there is. You say that
                        doesn't count because it's not what the media are looking at when they say
                        "cult". But the media doesn't have to be looking at it for there to be
                        one. And if your guess about future media reactions to Tolkien is correct,
                        they'll probably find it.

                        >But people are not mindless because they watch movies. By that
                        >definition, anyone who watched a Greek play in ancient Athens would
                        >have been mindless.

                        Oh, I never said that. I said, "it's much easier for the mindless to watch
                        a movie than read a book." That doesn't make all viewers mindless. Don't
                        falsify me in this manner, or you shall see Gandalf the Grey uncloaked.

                        David Bratman
                      • Michael Martinez
                        ... I think a lot of people fling the phrase Tolkien scholar around without really having any idea of whether there is a correct usage for it. I ve been
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jun 10, 2001
                        • 0 Attachment
                          --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I don't know what you think my credentials are, and I suppose I'm
                          > not sure what the interviewers think they are either. I was
                          > referred to Mooney as a Tolkien scholar, but he cited me as the
                          > editor of a Tolkien fan magazine: not very different credentials
                          > from yours. At any rate, despite my university affiliation (I'm a
                          > librarian), I'm actually an independent scholar - like Doug
                          > Anderson or Carl Hostetter - not a professor, so I don't expect
                          > outside observers necessarily to take me seriously as a
                          > scholar, even if the real professors are sometimes kind enough to
                          > do so.

                          I think a lot of people fling the phrase "Tolkien scholar" around
                          without really having any idea of whether there is a correct usage
                          for it. I've been called a Tolkien scholar by many people, but have
                          never claimed to be one myself. I feel that anyone who doesn't go
                          through a peer review process may have all their ducks in a row but
                          is still a bit of a rogue.

                          You, at least, participate in a more formal medium of scholarship
                          than I do. And I don't think reporters come to me because I am
                          a "Tolkien scholar" but rather because I am a "Tolkien writer". At
                          least, that is how I've been portrayed in the news stories that have
                          been brought to my attention ("Writer Michael Martinez says....")

                          I now call myself an essayist, since I write essays and have
                          published a book of essays. I HAVE written some scholarly stuff, and
                          published a little of it, but I feel more comfortable as an outsider.

                          > >Nonetheless, with all my fan contacts, I've yet to find anything
                          > >among Tolkien fans which resembles the fan groups devoted to other
                          > >topics.
                          >
                          > Well, maybe you have different contacts than I do. I've been, as I
                          > mentioned, reading Tolkien and contacting other Tolkienists for
                          > over 30 years, and I never heard of you until a couple months ago,
                          > when I found your book listed when searching Amazon for new books
                          > on Tolkien. That's neither your fault nor mine: it just indicates
                          > the broad and disparate range of Tolkien fandom, and the danger of
                          > arguing a negative, that something does not exist.

                          Yes, well, I've often enough said you cannot prove a negative. But
                          then, we seem to be referring to two different things. There is
                          nothing in Tolkien fandom today like the groups of Star Wars and Star
                          Trek and Babylon-5 fans who put on specialized conventions with
                          masquerades and bring in actors and writers and producers to speak to
                          them about those created universes.

                          Middle-earth is growing but not in the same way. That process will
                          change.

                          > Just to improve my understanding of your Tolkien world, though, may
                          > I ask when you came across the Mythopoeic Society? Have you ever
                          > been a member of it, or of the (British) Tolkien Society, or any of
                          > a number of other print-based organizations? This is not to imply
                          > that there isn't Tolkien fandom outside the world of print-based
                          > organizations; far from it. But if I can go 20 years without
                          > having heard of you, I wonder how long you went without having
                          > heard of us; and if you did hear of us, why your obviously
                          > passionate interest in Tolkien did not earlier spill more
                          > prominently into places where we'd come across it.

                          I don't remember when I first heard of the Mythopoeic Society, but
                          that was many years ago. I joined it for a year around late 1997,
                          IIRC, after a number of people had pressed me to do so for a few
                          years. I contemplated submitting some of my research to Mythlore at
                          the time, as I was publishing some research in other journals (of, I
                          suppose, less stature than Mythlore, but people like my writing).

                          Anyway, I knew of the Mythopoeic Society, and the Tolkien Society,
                          for many years before any of you heard of me. As for why my passion
                          for Tolkien didn't spill into areas you'd have encountered it before,
                          that's a long story that would bore even an Ent. I did not become
                          active in fandom until 1992 or thereabouts, and have only gradually
                          expanded my activity each year as my interests have connected with
                          new topics. And my fandom activities started out small, as a "warm
                          body, bless you" at a small Georgia convention.

                          So, for years, my Tolkien research was limited only to my own
                          pleasure, and occasional debates with friends.

                          > I don't think it will be useful to argue the definition
                          > of "quality" any more. Your definition is so broad as to render
                          > the term meaningless, in my opinion.

                          Actually, I agree with you on both points. But the word "quality",
                          like many a good English noun, has long relied upon context for
                          precision, and I did attempt to provide a context when I first
                          started discussing "quality".

                          Quality is always determined by value, and different value sets
                          always apply different ratings of quality to the same things being
                          measured.

                          > >That people defend Tolkien doesn't make Tolkien's readers
                          > >a "cult". By that definition, any author or playwrite's readers
                          > >would be a "cult".
                          > >
                          > >That is the point. Shakespeareans are a cult if Tolkienists are a
                          > >cult. There can be no exceptions to such a generalization.
                          >
                          > Those who argue that Tolkien is a cult author are not doing so on
                          > the grounds that he's being defended. It's the nature of the
                          > defense, and the nature of the interest in him, that cause this
                          > reaction, fairly or otherwise. But if you lump together literary
                          > quality, popularity, enthusiasm, and sales as just different
                          > aspects of an undifferentiated "quality", you may not see this.

                          I don't lump these things together, however, as I have striven to
                          point out repeatedly. Furthermore, it may not have been your
                          intention to imply that defending Tolkien establishes him as a cult
                          author, but you did write (in response to me):

                          >>I still run into this Tolkien cult
                          >>nonsense and I just dismiss it. And I've pointed out to more than
                          >>one reporter that when Shakespeare outsells Tolkien, I'll take the
                          >>Bard a little more seriously than I have in the past.

                          >That's a clever remark, but unfortunately it's also a cultish
                          >defensive remark.

                          In fact, in following up to you, I stressed the difference between
                          quality measured by sales and literary quality:

                          >Sales always equal quality in any entertainment medium, and there is
                          >nothing cultish about the standard. The publishing, film, and other
                          >entertainment industries have been using sales to measure quality
                          >for decades.

                          >Literary quality is just another, alternative arbitrary standard by
                          >which to measure quality. It is no better or worse than sales.

                          Something is of high quality if it meets some expectation for high
                          quality. A badly written story which sells 1,000,000 copies is a
                          high quality item (in terms of sales). Any major publisher would
                          want more successes like that, regardless of the literary quality of
                          the story.

                          > >Attacks on Tolkien are few, far between, and extremely minor.
                          >
                          > See above about "different contacts." I wish I lived on your
                          > planet.

                          It's called Earth. It does have its share of problems, though, such
                          as occasional condescension in the face of different experiences.

                          > >If the battle which seems to demand a defense of Tolkien is taking
                          > >place in academia, well, that's just academia. They are always
                          > >arguing about something, and today's academia has a generation of
                          > >Tolkien fans who express their appreciation through dissertations,
                          > >theses, and classes. I've been contacted by teachers, professors,
                          > >librarians, and graduate students around the world for years who
                          > >want to use some of my material. Tolkien is a juggernaut in the
                          > >popular imagination, but he is hardly weak and ineffectual in
                          > >academia.
                          >
                          > I wasn't talking about academia, but media....

                          Yes, I know. I simply dismiss the media's "attacks" on Tolkien,
                          since they aren't taken seriously by most people. The media is
                          generally clueless and laughed at by the Tolkien
                          community. "Generally" applies to both sides of the fence. There
                          are exceptions on both sides.


                          > ...But OK, let's talk about academia. It's certainly true, and
                          > delightfully so, that Tolkien is an author studied in great detail
                          > and with great enthusiasm in some academic circles, but these are
                          > extremely limited ones. When Tom Shippey inveighs against the
                          > academic dismissal of Tolkien, he is referring to something
                          > decidedly concrete, which I've heard testimony of from elsewhere.
                          > This can't be dismissed as "well, academics are always arguing
                          > about something." It's an argument of a different nature from,
                          > say, whether Milton was of Satan's party, or even whether Milton
                          > scholarship is passe.

                          It's all part of the world of academia. I've heard the same attacks
                          pressed against Faulkner and Twain as against Tolkien, and different
                          attacks. And I've seen plenty of defenses. Attack and defense are
                          part of the academic method of "engaging in learned dialogue".
                          Sometimes an attack is well-regarded.

                          I've spent many an hour in a college library, pouring through
                          literary journals, sifting through the overweighted ballyhoos of
                          genteel professors who felt they had discovered something which would
                          lay to rest all prior claims of authenticity or authority about a
                          particular author. They are generally laughed at and derided in the
                          next issue by their colleagues, or at least remonstrated for
                          overlooking vital facts, or discarding entire sections of the
                          relevant texts, etc., etc.

                          Some of these dandified flame wars have also been archived on the
                          Internet, but not many.

                          Every time someone sets pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), they
                          are writing the All-Time Greatest Revelation of True Knowledge. I
                          think the best papers are the parodies that the academics write for
                          their own amusement. As a crusading student I wasn't allowed to see
                          those things, but I knew when the professors were discussing them. I
                          still want to know what one Biologist meant when he exclaimed in the
                          student center one day, "Paradigm! I didn't use that word! @$%
                          ^$^#!!" and he got a round of laughter from his friends.

                          > >> I know of nobody who argues that there was no Shakespeare. I do
                          > >> know of people who claim that the name was a pseudonym,....
                          > >
                          > >Pretty much the same thing. Either there was a William
                          > >Shakespeare or there wasn't. Either one man wrote the plays or
                          > >more than one author wrote them.
                          >
                          > I know of nobody who argues that more than one author wrote the
                          > Shakespeare plays - even a now-obsolete fad for claiming that his
                          > works were the product of a committee of prominent Elizabethans is
                          > not the same thing as saying that he did not exist (instead, he was
                          > a committee) - except insofar as some of his lesser-known plays are
                          > collaborations and that he lifted some text directly from his
                          > sources, points acknowledged by conventional Shakespeare scholars.
                          > Arguing that the name was a pseudonym is not pretty much the same
                          > as arguing that there was no Shakespeare. Indeed, the most
                          > striking thing about the pseudonymists is how fervently they
                          > believe there was a Shakespeare, and that he fits the personal
                          > characteristics of their own favored candidate.

                          We're drifting into differences of abstractions here. I use a very
                          stringent rule of applicability with my terminology, undoubtedly
                          because my computer science and mathematics professors drummed
                          technical correctness into me. The study of literature doesn't
                          demand precision the way abstract sciences do.

                          > >> I think you have no idea what I consider the popular conception
                          > >> of Tolkien to be. See below.
                          > >
                          > >And perhaps you have no idea of what *I* consider to be the
                          > >popular conception of Tolkien. See above and elsewhere.
                          >
                          > I didn't when I first wrote. I did when I wrote my herein-quoted
                          > reply. My statements were a response to your elaboration of your
                          > view...

                          I hadn't explained my view, let alone elaborated on it. I was, in
                          fact, rather glibly referring to my view without explaining it,
                          chiefly because I haven't been able to spend much time on the Net for
                          the past couple of weeks. If I had more time, I could write more
                          concisely and perhaps would need to do less explaining.

                          > But I should have phrased this differently: perhaps "I think we
                          > have entirely different ideas of what the popular conception of
                          > Tolkien is."

                          I can agree with that.

                          > >That WAS the 1960s. The "cult" was replaced by a wider audience
                          > >in the late 1960s and 1970s. The "cult" was just a passing
                          > > phenomenon.
                          >
                          > First you say that you never encountered any Tolkien cultism
                          > perceptions until quite recently. Now you say that the 1960s cult
                          > doesn't count.

                          And I am hardly contradicting myself. I didn't discover Tolkien
                          until 1975, and at the time I was very involved with people in the
                          commune movement who said things like, "Oh, yeah, Tolkien. I read
                          him in the 60s." Not that I was an expert on communes and Tolkien
                          fads, but he just wasn't getting that much attention in 1975.

                          > I wasn't just talking about the 1960s. My examples were largely
                          > from the 1970s and 80s, and are still valid today.

                          So, on which campuses is Tolkien still a college phenomenon? I've
                          got quite a few college contacts, still. I haven't heard of any
                          Tolkien raves in at least the last 20 years.

                          You're being very broad and generic, and nothing you say in that
                          respect will convince me there is some sort of Tolkien cult craze
                          going on. The college crowds are into things like Anime, gaming,
                          Harry Potter, Xena, Babylon-5, etc.

                          People from all over the world (including the United States) contact
                          me every day. I hear from a lot of Tolkien fans. They just fail to
                          mention how their lives have been affected by Tolkien (in any of the
                          ways you refer to). I don't hear from as many Wiccans as I used to
                          (which I deem to be fortunate, as I always felt badly for them when I
                          explained that Andre Norton's Witch World novels have nothing to do
                          with Wicca, except for possibly a few borrowings of concepts).

                          Admittedly, a cult phenomenon doesn't have to have any connection to
                          the Internet. But I'm actively promoting a book about Tolkien and
                          Middle-earth. I sat in a bookstore yesterday and talked to people
                          about my book, Tolkien, the upcoming movies, etc., etc. Saw no sign
                          of any cult (as in any sort of obsessive interest in Tolkien). A LOT
                          of people knew Tolkien. Many were still surprised to hear that
                          movies are coming out.

                          But the most obsessive comment I heard from anyone was, "I'm still
                          getting the soundtrack for Princess Mononoke" (this said to a
                          boyfriend).

                          I'm looking for the Tolkien cultists, actually. They might buy my
                          book. :)

                          If they are out there, they are very few in number, and they are NOT
                          the people the media have in mind when they glibly dismiss Tolkien's
                          readers as a "cult". The Tolkien cult to which I have referred is
                          the imaginary cult the media goes looking for. They are looking for
                          the dedicated fan groups like the Klingons, Storm Troopers, and
                          Federation officers that are shown on television.

                          Such people just are not a part of today's SF fandom. If ever they
                          were, they were just participating in something which has now faded
                          into the past.

                          > >When The Silmarillion was published, it sold 750,000 copies from
                          > >the first printing in the United States alone. That is NOT a cult
                          > >phenomenon. And Unfinished Tales also became a bestseller. Many
                          > >people enjoyed both books immensely.
                          >
                          > And many didn't. And I already pointed out that the large sales of
                          > what many people perceived as an unreadable book was itself seized
                          > on as evidence of a "cult". This happens whenever a bestseller is
                          > strongly looked down upon. I don't recall the word "cult" being
                          > used about "The Bridges of Madison County", but the same perception
                          > was there.

                          Then we're back to the point I made: if we are a Tolkien cult, then
                          every Shakespearean is part of a Shakespearean cult. Every Norman
                          Mailer fan, every person who looks forward to the next Jack Ryan
                          novel is a member of some sort of cult. These people are obsessed.

                          And we don't need to dwell on it. Which is why I dismiss it when the
                          media approaches me looking for contacts in the "cult". I don't have
                          any. I can put them into contact with thousands of Tolkien fans,
                          many of whom have never heard of me. I can't put the media into
                          contact with any obsessive fans who comprise some sort of popular
                          cult. I don't know anyone like that, I don't know OF anyone like
                          that.

                          > For someone who insists upon using the word "quality" to indicate
                          > any sort of appreciation or liking whatsoever, you're oddly narrow
                          > about your definition of "cult".

                          The word is used mostly of religious beliefs and practices. It is
                          also applicable to obsessive behavior. SF fandom has a lot of
                          obsessive groups. I have seen how Klingons can argue about honor and
                          loyalty for days on end. They are very politically aligned, too.
                          Just like the Klingons portrayed on television.

                          What do Tolkien fans obsess about? The linguists, I suppose, come
                          closest to meeting that criterion. But they don't strike me as being
                          any more cultish about Tolkien than a typical historian. That is,
                          the best Tolkien linguists seem to be pretty well-grounded in
                          historical languages.

                          [Re: NYT reviews, as 1 outlet of many, don't refer to any Tolkien
                          cult]

                          > How many volumes of "The History of Middle-earth" did the NYT
                          > review?

                          1 or 2

                          http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/02/11/specials/tolkien.html

                          > >I've yet to see any documentation of such a cult. There is
                          > >certainly no mention of them among the fan groups I'm associated
                          > >with. The examples you list below are not clearly associated
                          > >with one another.
                          >
                          > Which is why I won't bother to provide anything else - you won't
                          > accept it if you see it.

                          I would accept anything verifiable.

                          > >The difference between a cult and a fad, however, is persistence.
                          >
                          > Tolkien's popularity has lasted nearly 50 years since LOTR was
                          > published, 35 years since the boom.

                          Tolkien's popularity, however, is not a cult. The cult you allege
                          exists is supposedly only a subset of Tolkien's readers: members of
                          communes, people dressing up as Hobbits, etc.

                          Just because someone says there is a cult doesn't mean there is. If
                          there IS a cult, it shouldn't be hard to find. The cultists weren't
                          exactly beating down our doors to get into Dragoncon's Tolkien and
                          Middle-earth track last year, and I haven't heard from them yet
                          (unless we're going to call the linguists cultists -- I can agree to
                          that, though I don't mean to be condescending toward them).

                          I could use a few costumed hobbits and rangers.

                          > >The Russians deserve
                          > >consideration, but even live-action Tolkien war games in Russia
                          > >don't define the cult that the media is looking for. How many of
                          > >those games are even mentioned in the West's news media?
                          >
                          > Now this is a curious sleight-of-hand argument.

                          Is it always your response to be insulting and inflammatory when you
                          cannot get your own way? We WERE talking about the media, and no one
                          bothered to suggest that we were discussing the Russian media, so
                          it's hardly "sleight-of-hand" to try and keep the reference to the
                          media who have contacted you and me. I believe the people who most
                          upset you recently were American Prospect, were they not? And how
                          closely associated is the New York Times with Russia?

                          > The actual existence of a cult is a different question from whether
                          > the media perception of one is accurate. The media are defining,
                          > or beginning to define, as a cult something that isn't, we're
                          > agreed on that.

                          Then what the heck have you have been arguing on about? I merely
                          pointed out that I don't cater to media perceptions about a Tolkien
                          cult.

                          > You go further and say there
                          > is no cult at all. Alexei and I point out that there is.

                          But not where we've been talking about. If you have to go so far
                          afield to find a Tolkien cult, then perhaps you should stop and
                          consider whether it's really worth arguing over.

                          > >But people are not mindless because they watch movies. By that
                          > >definition, anyone who watched a Greek play in ancient Athens
                          > >would have been mindless.
                          >
                          > Oh, I never said that. I said, "it's much easier for the mindless
                          > to watch a movie than read a book." That doesn't make all viewers
                          > mindless.

                          Nonetheless, it does imply rather strongly that you feel qualified to
                          label as mindless some unspecified mass of people who watch movies
                          rather than read books.

                          I take a dim view of people who resort to quick and easy insults.

                          It's better to say you disagree with someone else, than to imply
                          you're better than they are simply because you don't agree with them.
                        • David S. Bratman
                          Michael Martinez - It s too difficult to try to make two superficially contradictory points at the same time: that the media is wrong in claiming that Tolkien
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jun 10, 2001
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Michael Martinez -

                            It's too difficult to try to make two superficially contradictory points at
                            the same time: that the media is wrong in claiming that Tolkien fans form a
                            Tolkien cult, and that there is in fact such a thing as a Tolkien cult. So
                            I basically give up. Most of the places where you're puzzled by what I
                            write result from confusion between these points. That's particularly the
                            case where you get so upset by my reference to the Russians, but it comes
                            up over and over again in your latest. I'm arguing point A, and you
                            respond as if I was arguing point B. This may be partially my fault. But
                            gee, when I talk about attitudes towards bestsellers that are strongly
                            looked down upon by critics, that does not lead us back to your point about
                            Shakespeare, because he isn't strongly looked down upon by critics. So I
                            don't think it's entirely my fault.

                            The media perception of a Tolkien cult, after the 60s and before now, is
                            not a campus phenomenon. I gave specific examples of what I was referring
                            to in an earlier post. I was not being "broad and generic."

                            I said before, and will repeat it: academic arguments over the value of
                            (e.g.) Faulkner and Twain are not the same thing as general dismissal, in
                            certain circles, of Tolkien as critically valueless. The kind of flame
                            wars you describe are entirely different from this. Just to give one
                            example: when "Ulysses" topped one oft-noted list of the greatest novels of
                            the 20th century (as I recall), there was no Germaine Greer to say that
                            this was the embodiment of her nightmare.

                            No doubt, for every esteemed author, there is some academic somewhere so
                            high-minded as to scoff at anyone interested in that author. And there is
                            no author so "low" that some junior-college professor, at the very least,
                            won't write an article discussing that author. But it takes a particular
                            combination of non-academic popularity and high-academic disdain to
                            generate the kind of dismissal to which I refer, and which Staci Dumoski,
                            for instance, took for granted in her post setting forth a query about
                            whether Tolkien's own academic standing had anything to do with it. (An
                            interesting question, Staci, and I wish I had time to address it now.)

                            In today's New York Times, composer Bruce Beresford is described as having
                            purchased "four discs of music by one of his favorite composers, Alan
                            Hovhaness. 'But don't make too much of that,' he said of the Hovhaness,
                            laughing. 'The classical music establishment doesn't think much of him.'"

                            That's the sort of dismissal I'm referring to, and Hovhaness is very
                            similar to Tolkien both in the nature of his mixed reputations, and the
                            nature of his work that leads to those reputations. I'd love to talk about
                            that sometime, but I don't have time to embark on that right now.

                            Lastly, sir, I would advise you very strongly to look to your own house
                            before you go around accusing people of being insulting, inflammatory, and
                            most of all implying that they feel qualified to label things and that
                            they're better than someone else.

                            David Bratman
                          • Michael Martinez
                            ... [snip] Your penchant for reinventing history is the chief cause of your frustration. If you would not reword everything I say (especially in such a
                            Message 13 of 19 , Jun 11, 2001
                            • 0 Attachment
                              --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                              > Michael Martinez -
                              >
                              > It's too difficult to try to make two superficially contradictory
                              > points at the same time: that the media is wrong in claiming that
                              > Tolkien fans form a Tolkien cult, and that there is in fact such a
                              > thing as a Tolkien cult. So I basically give up. Most of the
                              > places where you're puzzled by what I write result from confusion
                              > between these points.


                              [snip]

                              Your penchant for reinventing history is the chief cause of your
                              frustration. If you would not reword everything I say (especially in
                              such a misleading fashion), you'd find it easier to communicate with
                              me, not to mention understand what I write, since you wouldn't be
                              scoping out what you try to write for me.

                              Try being less hostile, antagonistic, and condescending toward others
                              and you'll find you'll get a better response from people who don't
                              believe your sweeping generalizations.
                            Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.