Saturday, June 21, 2008

Excavations

So, last Sunday's D&D game was cancelled, with the results that we had a good block of time unexpectedly open up. Usually we'd spend it reading, going for a walk, watching a dvd, catching up on online news, or walking the cats. But this day it seemed like a good time to tackle some belated straightening and sorting in the box room, the large storage area off the garage. While Janice tackled the garage end of things, I undertook to organize the shelves upon shelves of old issues of DRAGON magazine, DUNGEON magazine, and POLYHEDRON. My attention had been drawn to these because for several days I'd been searching through old issues looking for Gygax's infamous editorial on Tolkien's influence on D&D for a talk I'm preparing on the history of Tolkien roleplaying games (turns out it's in the March 1985 issue, #95, or about thirty issues later than I'd thought). I'd last attempted to get these organized in March 2003, according to some notes I turned up; this time I got them all sorted, duplicates removed, boxed & labeled, with gaps noted. It's a pretty good run of DRAGON; I'm lacking twenty-five out of a total of 360 issues, all but one of them grouped amongst the very early and very late issues (e.g., excepting #15 & #326, I have every issue from #10 through #339). Same with DUNGEON, where I have all but fifteen of 150 issues, with all the gaps here coming at the end after my subscription lapsed (aside from #115, I have every issue from #1 through 130).


And while it feels great to get all this organized on its own set of shelves, there was also the thrill of discovery as I came across long-lost files in the course of searching through boxes that haven't been opened in a long while. Sometimes things I found were puzzling -- why do I have a duplicate copy of Pagan P's DELTA GREEN: EYES ONLY VOL. TWO: THE FATE? (answer: because the copy on my shelf turns out to be a replacement copy bought back in 2000 to replace this mislaid original -- so, there's something that goes on the give-away-to-a-good-home pile. Other puzzles remain: where are all my copies of MYTHLORE? Where's the old TSR artwork I promised Paul Stormberg when it eventually turns up? Where are my notes on the Tolkien game I worked on briefly at Wizards? Where's my photocopy of Vol. III of the original [1973/74] D&D rules booklet, and of the second edition of CHAINMAIL that preceded it? There's a satisfaction in finding the stray issues of AVALON TO CAMELOT (so they can be re-united with the others on my Arthurian shelf upstairs), and I'm delighted to find my notes from my 1985 interview with Christopher Wiseman, but the real finds were threefold:


I. My Lindskoog file, including my original faint, marked-up photocopy (from 1980) of her 1978 piece that started it all. In addition to a lot of photocopies of pieces either advancing or refuting her charges, here's the draft of my scathing review of her subsequent book. It's the only time I've started a review by stating that the author shd be ashamed of herself -- strong words, but I stand by them then & now. My copy of The Cole Report is still missing, but here's The Matson Report, where some friends of C. S. Lewis examined the DARK TOWER Mss and pronounced it genuine. Best of all, here are the newspaper clippings of three pieces by Erlend Clouston that appeared in THE GUARDIAN in 1991-1992 documenting Lindskoog's plagiarism and, more importantly, her lying about it when caught. All this has now been re-united with the upstairs file in the file cabinet containing the more recent material (since, as Marc Anthony might have put it, the evil Lindskoog did lives on after her).


II. Taum Santoski material: an unpublished story, some v. pleasant Frank-Lloyd-Wrightish watercolors, his copy of a letter I sent out organizing a Tolkien event back in May 1989 (with a sticky note from myself to Taum on the back telling him about the cat I'd just gotten -- the now-infamous Parker, a.k.a. The Cat Who Bit People*). Also a few letters and postcards we exchanged -- given how often we saw each other, there was v. little correspondence between us; I'm now realizing it mostly consisted of notes we left each other in the Marquette Archives about whatever each had most recently been working on. Also here are his notes for a presentation comparing HME to other posthumous publications of well-known authors (in which, as I recall, he argued that Tolkien's was unique). And, from one note on a postcard to Taum, I can now date exactly when I began work on MR. BAGGINS: January 7th, 1991.

*Thurber analogy deliberate


III. Finally, a typescript of the unpublished TOLKIEN CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS that represents the final, edited versions of the papers presented at the 1983 Marquette Tolkien Conference. I helped edit these but the book ultimately failed to find a publisher (despite several serious nibbles) and unfortunately remains unpublished to this day. That conference was the start of a lot of connections and friendships that have shaped Tolkien scholarship ever since, and these papers make a fascinating memorial to the 'state of the art' of Tolkien studies a bygone era.



And so now, after a pause to digest and properly file these discoveries so I'll know where they are from now on, it's back to more excavation work.

--John R.

4 comments:

Johan said...

Hello John, is the interview with Christopher Wiseman published somewhere?

Aelfwine said...

I spent time last summer cataloguing Taum's linguistic papers for Marquette. A bittersweet experience. I never had the chance to meet Taum personally, and had only a couple of letters with him, so it was sobering to get to know him through the vast amount of indexing work he did: which would still serve as a helpful _vade mecum_ for any future researcher in Tolkien's papers. (Though it's a pity he never had a chance to transcribe it electronically!)

Is there any chance that the 1983 proceedings could yet be published? E.g., via the Mythopoeic Society Press?

Jason Fisher said...

Agreeing with Aelfwine, I would love to see those proceedings pubished. If not the Mythopoeic Society Press or another “brick and mortar” publisher, then what about self-publishing it via Lulu, CreateSpace, or one of the other Print On Demand services out there? This would be a very cost-effective solution.

John D. Rateliff said...

Johan:
The Wiseman interview is not published, though I plan to write it up once I can locate my notes from my earlier (1981), longer interview with him. His health and memory had slipped badly in the interrim, so the earlier interview would make a better foundation for the piece. I also have two pictures of him that I'd like to include, so I'm keeping an eye out for those too as I search through old storage boxes.

AElfwine:
Yes, Taum was amazing. I remember at one point he told me he'd created a card file of reverse elvish, writing down each word of Elvish then known (from sources like THE HOBBIT, LotR, RGEO, LETTERS, the Mss at Marquette, Silm, UT, and poss. the first volume or two of HME) backwards in order to identify suffixes. I sometimes grow wistful thinking what he could have done with resources like the material in PARMA. Not meant to be.
He wd certainly have made an electronic file out of all of it had he lived a few more years; I remember he bought an early laptop around 1988 that was essentially a typewriter and word processor, into which he typed the text of THE HOBBIT's drafts directly from the manuscript, then hooking it up to a printer at home and printing out the hard copy of his book. Primitive by today's standards, but it worked.

AElfwine & Jason:
Re. the 1983 Proceedings, I'll investigate the options. In the meantime, I'll post a list of the papers within the next day or two so folks who weren't there (and it's unsettling to me to think there are published Tolkien scholars out there who weren't even born in 1983) can see what they missed.

--John R.