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HoMe: [G]NoMe Tome 1: On Things That Are Rare Except When They're Not (Part I, I-V)

I've started The Nature of Middle-earth and gotten through Part I, sections I-V, which includes many of the early bits that were released and caused such a stir: the length of Elven pregnancies and the convenient fact that Elven men are significantly older when they are "ready for marriage" (read: done tomcatting around) than Elven women, who are conveniently young and nubile when the grizzled olds are ready to settle down with them. (And also the reason why there are no Elf-women in the histories, which I didn't hear much yelling about but I'm sure it was there, just being conducted out of my admittedly small-these-days earshot.)

First and foremost: I think Tolkien would have been mortified that we are reading this and discussing it with such seriousness. (Which does not mean I won't discuss it with seriousness because Tolkien is long beyond being able to care, having been dead longer than I've been alive.) It seems really obvious to me as the kind of noodling around we writers do when trying to figure out how things work in our respective legendaria. I get squirmy even thinking about that stuff published. I say this not to discourage discussing NoMe (clearly) but to clarify my own understanding of the material in it as perhaps even less intended for public consumption than the drafts in the HoMe. As both a fan author and a scholar, I consider everything in the NoMe in that context, i.e., it is unlikely to convince me that my understanding of the legendarium requires a radical upheaval.

Time. Oh, time. Time and timelines. Perhaps one of the biggest banes of my existence as a Tolkien fan because they always feel like such a hot mess to me and so often mutually contradictory, and the NoMe material doesn't help.

It just doesn't add up. To me. Collapse )
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Ratings, Warnings, Thoughtsings

I've just updated the SWG's "Ratings & Warnings" document and, perhaps more importantly, posted to the SWG's social media about it, which will mean a few days of white knuckles whenever I open my inbox because no matter how many years we've gone around about this, it still triggers the fuck out of people. Having dealt with* ratings and warnings for sixteen years now as the SWG's owner, I have thoughts on them.

* This word chosen intentionally.

The rest goes below the cut because ratings/warnings themselves set people off, and I may well mention the kinds of things people warn for, so I'm warning now that those warnings may be under discussion of warnings that you will find below the cut.

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This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Just Kidding!

This morning, at 8:30 AM, Bobby woke me from a dead sleep by calling my name: "Dawn!"

My first thought: Oh shit, I overslept. I was interviewed for the Tolkien Experiences podcast and was doing a live premier with my interviewer, Luke Shelton, at 9:30 this morning. I'd been up late the night before due to a combination of 1) drinking a beverage that consisted of the day-old coffee and amaretto at about 9 PM, 2) getting hooked into research lately, late at night, huddled up in the corner of the couch under my blanket, and last night no exception, and 3) Hermione pooping the bed last night and so changing her bedding and wiping down her crate at 1 AM.

Then: "Come outside, quick!"

Which at that point I thought: Denali's out. Or something got eaten. Or Denali got eaten.

(This is not as randomly morbid as perhaps it seems. Guinevere was very keyed up last night and kept going out onto the deck to bark at the darkness. Then we heard a single gunshot, which in the country, at night, usually means that some animal has gotten into someone's livestock.)

Then: "We have goat babies!"

So despite my brain rushing to all manner of tragedies great and small, it turned out to be a good thing. In thirty seconds, I was running down the steps of my front porch, pulling on my coat, to the barn. They had just been born. One hadn't even stood up yet, and they were both still wet. If Bobby was five minutes earlier, he would have seen it happen. The doe was Elanor, which is not surprising: She is the youngest but also the daughter of a champion milker, and she is ambitious. Always shoving to the front for everything, the biggest, the pushiest, the loudest. Even her hooves grow faster than the others. While I am fond of Lobelia, and Bobby prefers Estella, a.k.a., Brother Silly, Elanor is hard to like because she's so intense. Naturally, she'd be the first to freshen.

We had begun preparations for freshening, but we didn't think it'd happen till mid-May based on our math. We brought home our buck, Denali, in mid-November. His owner didn't have him on grain, so he was tiny, and ... how do I put this politely? ... he frankly couldn't reach our does, who have been on grain since they were little and were large animals by this point. We started him on grain, and he grew fast after that, and we figured he could reach by mid-December, giving us till mid-May. Well! It seems where there is a will, there is a way, and Denali and Elanor figured something out because, by the math, she got pregnant in mid- to late November, shortly after we brought Denali home. Anyway, Bobby had a birthing kit set up, and thank goodness he'd gotten Denali moved out into his own bachelor pad a few days prior, but we weren't expecting to need any of this stuff for a few weeks yet, so there was much scrambling around to get it and the usual miasma of nerves that attends doing anything like this for the first time. But we did it. We got the kids dried off and dipped their navels; they wouldn't nurse right away, so we milked out colostrum from Elanor and bottle-fed enough to them according to their weight.

I missed my podcast premier.

I reached a point where I thought, if I make it, I hope this not on video: I was in my pajamas with unbrushed hair, literally covered in wood shavings and straw, dabbed here and there with blood, iodine, and goat colostrum. But I didn't make it, so it didn't matter. There is the truism that goats freshen at the worst possible time, and this was probably the worst possible time for me all week because this was something I was really looking forward to.

Elanor, true to character, did not seem enthralled with motherhood. So we milked her and, when the time came, dutifully heated up bottles ... and discovered that they had already been nursing! So, so far, no bottle feeding. No bottle feeding. If we had to bottle feed, of course, I'd deal with it. We bottle-fed all three does. Which is why it's not something I find enchanting anymore. We bottle-fed all three does, for months. It was cute and fun when they were little and got old fast after that. I'd much rather leave this work to Elanor.

And the stats: We had one little doeling--about 1 lb.--and a little buckling at about 3 lbs. We won't name them--their eventual owners can do that--but I've given then placeholder names of Stoicism (the buckling) and Persistence (the doeling), based on their personalities.

So. This is another huge step for our enterprise (which we have named Forn Rhûn Farm) as homesteaders and maybe someday small business owners. We now have our own source of milk and all the wonderful things that come with that. We were down to see the babies about an hour ago, and all are doing well. Elanor has settled in; the kids are content and either toddling around or nestled in the straw.

Lobelia and Brother Silly are next. Brother Silly is huge; it would not surprise me if she has triplets. Lobelia, on the other hand, is the smallest, and it would not surprise me if she singled for her first. At this point, we have to expect that they could arrive any day now because who knows when Denali managed his magic. Keeping with the freshen-at-the-worst-possible-time trend, I fully expect Brother Silly to freshen during the SWG book club on Sunday.

Naturally, I could not ask y'all to sit through all this and then not post pictures of the kids.

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This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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I keep thinking I should post about the covid (as Bobby and I call it at home), but honestly, feel like everyone would be fatigued about hearing the particulars of one more person's lockdown. Still, I know I should, for posterity, right? As a primary document for future historians?

But something has loomed even larger out of that. My father-in-law died yesterday. Three weeks ago, he had emergency open-heart surgery and came through it fine and was doing better every time Bobby spoke with him. He was doing well on Monday night, when Bobby talked to him last.

Yesterday, he wasn't feeling well, my MIL called his doctor, and he was instructed to go to the hospital right away. My SIL came over to help, and while they were helping him to get ready, he collapsed. My MIL did chest compressions; the paramedics managed to get a weak pulse after two applications of the AED, but they lost him again in the ambulance, and they were unable to revive him a second time.

Bobby was holding an online class, and I was in my daily social hour with my students (or trying to be ... both of us on video chat at the same time on our Internet does not work well) when my phone started ringing and ringing. It was my mom. Erin was trying to reach Bobby, who was in class and not picking up. At this point, my FIL had been revived enough to have a weak pulse. My SIL was going to call the hospital and update us. Because of the covid, of course, my inlaws could not go to the hospital with the ambulance. Immediately after, we got a call from the post office that they had a box of day-old chicks just arrived for us, so we headed into Orleans to pick them up. Bobby went in, came out, and put the box alive with peeps and tiny scratching claws in my lap and said, "He's gone."

In the context of the covid, it all feels very strange and not quite real. We cannot, of course, travel. Both sets of parents are in the high-risk category, and there is little we could do there anyway to warrant taking the risk. It is not as though there will be a funeral right now. Then there is the weirdness of work: of working with students and families online so right now being in a state of semi-bereavement leave, where I've asked my kids to give me some extra time to respond but otherwise getting my major job functions done and trying to also juggle what the next ten weeks will look like as our supervisory union releases their plan based on the State's guidelines. (The governor has closed our schools for the rest of the year.) It feels like it'd be easier if we were in regular work, where I could just take a couple days of leave.

Right now, Bobby and I are trying to lean hard on good memories. We have a lot! My FIL was a funny guy! Because Bobby and I have been together since we were fourteen (well, he'd just turned fifteen), we essentially grew up together as young adults, and his parents became second parents to me and vice versa. We have been fully a part of each other's lives and families for twenty-four years now, so we have a lot of memories of vacations and holidays and just daily life with his dad.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Welcome, Hermione and Gawain

About a month after losing Lancelot, Bobby started to look at what options existed for Golden Retrievers in Vermont. We have always had two, and we really believe in having two because they are playmates and companions for each other in a way that we, as humans, cannot be. We did not intend to get a new puppy anytime soon, but much like when we called about Goldens in Maryland and ended up with Guinevere because they'd just had a litter, and she was the last one left, when Bobby found a breeder about an hour away and called, they'd also just had a litter. Since there were only four certified breeders in Vermont, we decided to take the opportunity. This time, we got to choose, which was honestly the most stressful part. I didn't want to choose. All three of our Goldens were the last in their litters to go, and all three were wonderful dogs. Nonetheless, two weeks ago, we went. It was a litter of thirteen, so the room was full of five-week-old puppies scampering around and playing. One crawled into my lap--a little girl with an orange collar--and a little boy with a red collar crawled into Bobby's. So as cliche as it sounds, they picked us. We ended up choosing them both.

Honestly, when we decided to get a new puppy, I was not ready. I actually got quite annoyed when Bobby posted about it on Facespace, and people at work pounced on me about it the next day, and I wasn't ready to think--much less talk--about it. I was also not ready for Guinevere, and I adore her, so I know it will turn out okay, but I would have wanted to be more excited for her babyhood. But puppy pick-out got me really excited. Meeting them made quite the difference. I couldn't stop thinking about them for the two weeks before we went to pick them up.

We brought them home Sunday. They are seven weeks old, the youngest we have ever had a puppy. (Both Alex and Lance were nine weeks old. Guinevere was fifteen weeks old.) We have called them Hermione and Gawain.

There's not a whole lot more to say now about them. I'll just dump a bunch of pictures of them below the cut with some anecdotes that have emerged in their first days with us.

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This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Some Fandom Things! (Journal Article, Couple of Stories, Wiki Page, Tolkien in VT)

I have been busy with fandom stuff over the past month or so. Some of this stuff is going to be old news to the people who are reading here. But for everyone else, here's a month's worth of fannish things!

First of all, my paper Affirmational and Transformational Values and Practices in the Tolkien Fanfiction Community has been published in the Journal of Tolkien Research. JTR is open-access, so you can read the whole thing for free. Yay, JTR!

The paper is the culmination of a lot of years of research and griping in fannish spaces that really originated with my observation, when I first started reading scholarly work about fanfiction, that much of my marginalia was along the lines of "Not Tolkien fanfiction!" I loved fan studies meta so much but felt like much of it wasn't about me and what I did. For the longest time, because of this sense, I focused on what made Tolkien fanfiction different from other fandoms' fanfiction, which was not the most productive approach, since that's comparing a single, very diverse entity to an enormously vast category (with tens of thousands of also very diverse entities) where every conclusion drew a ready exception. Instead, I started looking more at the theories in the scholarship and encountered the idea of affirmational/transformational fandom first put forth by obsession_inc, that places fanfiction largely within "transformational fandom." (Affirmational fandom values the original creator's authority, including the canon, while transformational values the fan's freedom to rework, reinterpret, and repair the original text based on the fan's own experiences.) I found that that didn't mesh well with my understanding of Tolkien fanfiction, which I see as a mixture of both types. (And to be clear, obsession_inc was not proposing a binary, but fan studies' work has leaned heavily toward the transformational.) So I dug a bit deeper into the research and found that, yes, my survey data, as well as other evidence, supported my sense, as a Tolkien fanfic writer myself, that we don't fit as comfortably on the transformational side as fan studies scholars have suggested of other fanfic. (I have my doubts there too, but I am not familiar enough with those fandoms to comment any deeper than that, so I'll let others do that work if they agree.) The article presents my research and conclusions that, ultimately, how we negotiate canon and authority and critical and reparative motives in our fandom is really complicated and shapes not only the stories we write but how we've built our communities.

Over December break, I finished two stories. First, I finished Home Alone: Forgotten in Formenos (SWG), my Silm/Home Alone crossover. This was rough, in the midst of losing Lancelot. I wrote the final 14K words in the two days before Christmas and did the "Battle Plan" map on Christmas. He was my constant companion in the study while I was working, so it was nice to finish it for him. I know Christmas is past, as is likely the taste for this story, but I'm still just happy I finished it. And hey, my sister-in-law listens to Christmas music year-round, so she can't be the only one who can tolerate jollitude outside the parameters of Thanksgiving-Epiphany that we impose in my family. It's also on my website and AO3.

I also wrote a Tolkien Secret Santa pinch hit for [personal profile] fernstrike: Yule Lights (SWG). Here's the summary:
As the new lord of Ost-in-Edhil, Celebrimbor must preside over a Yule festivity lacking what he loved of the celebration when he was younger, elements that have become fraught by association with Fëanor, but Annatar has a surprise for him.

It's also on my website and AO3.

Fun-lovin' wild woman that I am, my treat to myself over December break was setting up a page on Fanlore for Tolkien Fanfiction. I just scratched the surface, then RaisingCain added more after me. But it's our page. Go add stuff, even a single sentence or link to a fanwork. Or much more than that. Go tame; go wild. Just know its ours for our history and everyone is welcome.

And finally, I'll be presenting again this year at the Tolkien at UVM conference, which is on April 4 at the University of Vermont. Anyone who is going or who might be interested, let me know!

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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So. Lancelot.

I have been putting off writing this entry because I was honestly exhausted by the whole situation. Going back to work, everyone wanted to console me about it, which is thoughtful but means I had to have the same conversation as I'm about to type here about twenty times, plus people wanting updates while he was sick. I just wasn't up to writing it again, but I need to. So. Here I am.

We lost Lancelot over December break. We had to put him down on the 22nd, on Solstice. The vet had said he'd do well until he didn't. That's exactly what happened. Earlier in the month, we came home and he wouldn't get up. We took him for an emergency appointment the next day, and his vet was able to adjust his meds and start him on a round of antibiotics that brought him back from the brink. Nonetheless, where he was gaining in endurance by the day before that point, now he was starting to lose the same. He was moving less and sometimes fell down the steps. He was less willing to try to do things and lost some of his interest in activities, like going for walks, that he always loved.

On Friday, the last day of school before break, I came home from work and found him on his bed, unable to get up. Bobby called his vet the next morning, and she adjusted his meds again. However, it didn't work this time. We were having to carry him outside to use the bathroom; his legs started giving out, and he'd just tumble sideways into the snow. On Saturday, I was home while Bobby was practicing with the snowboard team, and I carried him into the study with me and laid him on a blanket beside my desk. He always stayed next to me in the study while I worked. He wouldn't ask for anything, and I honestly rarely even registered that he was there. But he was there. He was unable to even lift his head from the floor. He laid there, panting hard and staring, wide-eyed, for hours. It was awful. It was clear that he was, at best, uncomfortable. At worst, suffering. And I knew it was the last time I'd have him beside me while I worked.

That night, we put him on the ottoman and watched Elf. It was the most comfortable he'd been all day. He slept for a while. I kept my feet pressed against him. I allowed myself to laugh. Bobby was beside me with Guinevere between us. When it was time for bed, I thought, "This might be the last time our little family is together." It's rare, I found, to know those moments when they come. But time is what it is, and even knowing what I did, I had to leave that moment behind me, in memory.

It was our last time all together. The next morning, Bobby couldn't even get him to stand when he carried him outside. He tumbled over no matter what he did. He called the vet, and she met us again for an emergency appointment so that we could put him down. I couldn't stand the thought of him suffering for even another day. I felt awful that he'd suffered even as much as he did. We had no idea that the adjusted meds wouldn't work, but when it was clear they wouldn't ... well, he'd been too good of a friend to us.

Bobby had already dug the grave, before the ground froze, at my mom's urging. We wrapped Lancie in the old comforter that was on our bed for most of his life before Guinevere, scratching at it to make a nest, ripped it beyond repair. We tucked in toys and treats and a little Matchbox dumptruck because we had invented this story of him as a construction worker that the entire family knows and, at this point, contributes to in small ways. (My dad once brought a cake for Lancelot's birthday with a construction worker decoration on it.) I read what I have come to think of as the funeral texts from Whitman's Song of Myself. And then began the long slow grief. It wasn't the gutpunch of bewilderment that losing Alex was. I knew it was coming, and so it felt easier in a way, but nothing can prepare you for the moments when you expect someone to be there and they just ... aren't. I still encounter them from time to time. I had one yesterday, coming here and seeing my entry from mid-December and thinking, he was probably right behind me on the floor when I wrote that ...

He was my sweet little boy. And goddamn the time went fast. I can still remember seeing him for the first time, running out into the road as we walked Alex, and our neighbors asking if we wanted him, and needing only a few hours to decide, yeah, we did. And then his life was superimposed on ours and woven with it.

Until it was not.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Lancelot was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer today. Recently, he'd suddenly lost a lot of weight. On Sunday, I touched him and realized I could feel his skeleton; it felt like it happened overnight. We started observing him more closely, and he was not eating kibble, though he was happy to eat canned food. Bobby made him an appointment at the vet's office, and we started giving him canned food so he'd eat. Last night, however, he started turning down even the canned food, which told us how just how bad he gotten so fast.

As quickly as he'd lost weight, he would never have made it to his appointment if he wasn't eating at all. Bobby took off work today and called the vet, and she was able to see him first thing this morning. Based on his lab results, she diagnosed him with bone marrow cancer.

He'd lost about 16 lbs in a matter of a week or two. He's always been tiny and tended to be underweight (the vet generally wants Gwen to lose weight and Lance to gain!), so for a while, it slipped under our radar as him being both small and old, but Sunday really was extreme, and I knew something was wrong.

The good news is that it seems we caught it early. We were given several options for how to proceed; we've decided not to schlep him back and forth to Burlington for oncology treatments. His vet recommended a steroid that has very similar success rates to chemo and will preserve his quality of life, so we went with that. He's already past the life expectancy for a Golden (12 years), so we want comfort and quality at this point. He could have as long as two years, and we're planning to make the best of that.

I kept it together pretty well today. I told my students what was going on, both because I had my phone out/on in class (and I usually don't) and because I didn't want them to think if I was acting strangely, it was because of them. (I was trying hard not to, but of course, I was worrying like crazy!) After I found out the diagnosis and one of my 7th graders asked me if I had news about him, I told them, and I immediately found myself enveloped in 7th graders. Such sweet kids. I'm so lucky to have them. Of course, they all know Guinevere--she's in school at least once per week--but only a few of them have met Lancelot.

On their way back from the vet, Bobby and Lancelot went to Wendy's for lunch, and Lancelot had his first cheeseburger. We are careful about what we feed them (for both health and behavior reasons), but the vet's advice for him now is that, if he wants it, let him have it. Bobby used the cheeseburger to slip Lancelot his first round of meds, and he ate the whole thing. He's since had part of a can of food, a piece of ham, and a piece of bacon--the most he's eaten in a while--and his energy is back up a little, though right now, he is snoring on the floor of my study.

I don't know what's in store, of course. I hope we have a couple years left together, but whatever we do have, we'll make it the best it can be. We had just a month with Alex after his diagnosis, and it was a month I'll never forget.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!
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Some SSPs!

The summer is winding to a close for me, and it's been a busy one in terms of research and writing. I have a few new things out in the past couple of weeks that might be of interest!

First, I was interviewed on the Athrabeth Podcast about my survey research into the Tolkien fanfiction community. I talk about Tolkien fandom history, cultures, how Tolkienfic interacts with authority, and the use of Tolkienfic to address social justice.

I just posted a response on The Heretic Loremaster to C. Brandon Ogbunu's How White Nationalists Have Co-Opted Fan Fiction. My response, Dangerous Ideas Are Not Fanfiction considers what I see as some fundamental failings in Ogbunu's comparison.

And I wrote a story for the incomparable [personal profile] heartofoshun in honor of her 100th character biography. Yes, this was a few months ago. The story is called Boundaries (link to the SWG), and now that I've lived with it for a couple of weeks, I am more comfortable in saying that I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Here is the summary:

Fingon is constantly pushing Maedhros's boundaries, but this time, he has gone too far. Put on mandatory sick leave after an injury, Maedhros decides to spend his three weeks recuperating alone, setting Fingon on a chase across Aman to find and make amends to his lover ... and yes, transgress one more boundary, one more time. Maedhros/Fingon.

It is also on AO3 and my website, and comments are welcome in all places. This was my first time writing for a Matryoshka challenge; usually, since I write the prompts, I lose the element of surprise that is essential to making this challenge type work. The good part about my stressful conclusion to the school year? I lost all memory of the Matryoshka prompts I created during that time! So I finally got to participate. Never one to slouch, I did the difficult challenge for my inaugural attempt. It was harder than I expected! I really don't understand how people advocated for taking the word count limits out that I had the first time I ran a Matryoshka because they wanted to write 1000-word ficlets for the difficult prompt set. How??? The story ended up longer than it would have otherwise, and the prompts forced me to introduce elements that I otherwise would not have--but that is is the whole point, and since one of the elements is the little harp that many people loved, it turned out okay.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!