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  1. It's the moment we've all been waiting for - the start of our Plaza read-through of The Notion Club Papers! As announced, we're going to start off with the various introductory bits by Christopher, the Foreword, the list of members, and Night 54. That actually should have been Nights 54 and 60 (60 somehow fell through the cracks) - so feel free to give your thoughts on Night 61 this week if you've read it, or else comment on it next week along with Night 61



    Unlike the read-through of The Hobbit, there's no keynote posts or anything. Instead, everyone participating in the read-through is invited to share some initial thoughts or reactions (as brief as a sentence or as lengthy as you wish) as a starting point for further discussion.
    I'll start off with a few comments just on the announced part (not including Night 60):
    -The list of members isn't just a list, but a pretty funny set of short character sketches and punning names (Rashboldbeing the most obvious). I particularly liked the comment about Alexander Cameron, that 'No one remembers his being invited to join the Club, or knows why he comes; but he appears from time to time'.
    -It's interesting to see how much the start of the work is using Tolkien's real-life literary circle the Inklings as a spring-board - and in particular how the whole beginning part is framed in part as a reaction to C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet(right at the beginning this is hinted at with the provisional title Out of the Talkative Planet, and we'll see plenty of references to Lewis's space trilogy in the rest of Part One).
    -There's really very little hint at the start that we're going to end up heading towards ancient Atlantis/Númenor in this tale. I think this story is a great example of a whole bunch of different threads in Tolkien's mind coming together in one piece of fiction: his love of slightly over-the-top pseudo-academic style in the preface, his personal experiences with the Inklings as a social group, his friendship with Lewis (and interest in Lewis's works), his thoughts about fantasy literature as a style of fiction, and then a whole complex of more mythic themes that we'll see coming in later.
    So there're three thoughts from me - what are yours?
    It is hard indeed to believe that one of so great wisdom, and of power—for many wonderful things he did among us—could perish, and so much lore be taken from the world.

  2. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #2

    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">First, a bit of context.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">You are in your 50s, and not in the best of health; you have just resigned from one professorship to take up another slightly different one with a different administrative base which involves a lot o work getting to grips with the system; meanwhile you have a fair amount of backlog from your previous post that you need to deal with. In addition, you have a long-overdue major project that has been looking reproachfully at you for over a year, with your publisher getting ever more impatient. So how do you sort out your priorities?
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Simple, if you are J.R.R. Tolkien. You start on a completely new and apparently unrelated major project.Edited by: Dorwiniondil
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  3. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    Anyway, back to the readthrough.

    The Foreword and Note to the Second Edition are an example of Tolkien poking gentle fun at academia and its concerns. Even in 2012, as far as I know, Oxford does not have a School of Bibliopoly (= book-buying), or an Institute of Occidental Languages (a long-pre-Said dig at "Orientalism"). One of the interesting (and occasionally amusing) things about this is looking at it from the perspective of actual 2012: for example, on the footnote to p.158, about the dating of the manuscript, the 'editor' remarks that
    The use of a pen rather than a typewriter would indeed, in itself, already have been unusual for a man of 1990, whatever his age.
    Well, nearly right! This of course refers to the hypothesis that despite appearances this was not written after the Great Storm of 1987, but at some time in the 1940s, by a person with a power of "prevision".

    The names of members of the Notion Club raise the question: to what extent is this based on actual Inklings? A few can be attributed with (I think)reasonable certainty, most notably Frankley ( = Lewis) and Lowdham ( = Dyson). "Old Professor Rashbold" also would seem to be an obvious reference to Tolkien himself, except that Rashbold is concerned with the linguistic texts with which he is presented purely as a problem in cryptography, with no interest in the actual contents, a most un-Tolkienian trait. In fact, I think that decoding the Notion Club Papers as a sort of record of Inklings' gatherings is about the least productive paths to follow. Do others agree?

    More later.

    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  4. First, a bit of context.
    It was also at the close of a particularly harrowing war, and extensive rationing was still very much a part of daily life. In case anyone thought Tolkien's life in the 1940's didn't sound stressful enough from Dorwiniondil's comments!

    In fact, I think that decoding the Notion Club Papers as a sort of record of Inklings' gatherings is about the least productive paths to follow. Do others agree?



    It's interesting that Tolkien himself tried to make a few identifications of that sort - at first. But I think he must have quickly realized that the characters he was creating were becoming too much individuals in their own right for these identifications to mean much. Even if Frankley has something of Lewis, they certainly differ in Frankley's horror borealis(Lewis may not have been as rigorous a scholar of northern antiquities as Tolkien, but he certainly felt their power and charm).
    Or in short, yes
    It is hard indeed to believe that one of so great wisdom, and of power—for many wonderful things he did among us—could perish, and so much lore be taken from the world.

  5. Naurusc's Avatar
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    This Notion Club Papers story sounds really fascinating! In some ways, it sounds a lot like the direction my brief cramming read-through of The Lost Road inspired me (although I never read it The Notion Club Papers itself).

    I'm a little afraid to read it though, lest it entwine itself inextricably with my own stuff which is decidedly dream-travelish but not Atlantisish or related to bloodlines in that way. It sounds decidedly different and I'd prefer not to accidentally make a mix I have to separate out later ... hmmm ... too bad because it sounds fascinating!


    Edited by: Naurusc
    If all the world is a stage, then who gets to write the script?

  6. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    Yes, "horror borealis" doesn't fit Lewis at all! The attributions are only approximate, and as LotRimplies get less important as the story goes on.

    Also,I tend to forget not everybody knows that food rationing in Britain went on long after the war; in fact in 1945 it hadn't quite reached its worst extent. Still, at least southern England was no longer experiencing the heavy missile attacksof the last months of the European war.But Europe, although at an exhausted peace, was shattered, something else that could have contributed to Tolkien's difficulties.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."




  7. I wonder if you are familiar with Bruce Charlton'sTolkien's The Notion Club Papersblog? Dr. Charlton has been writing aboutThe Notion Club Papersand related subjects for a while, and though I certainly do not agree with everything, I usually find that Dr. Charlton's views are thought-provoking in the good sense. Anyway, I thought I'd mention the blog specifically here at the outset, though I am likely to occasionally refer to postings there

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord of the Rings
    First, a bit of context.
    You are in your 50s, and not in the best of health; you have just resigned from one professorship to take up another slightly different one with a different administrative base which involves a lot o work getting to grips with the system; meanwhile you have a fair amount of backlog from your previous post that you need to deal with. In addition, you have a long-overdue major project that has been looking reproachfully at you for over a year, with your publisher getting ever more impatient. So how do you sort out your priorities?Simple, if you are J.R.R. Tolkien. You start on a completely new and apparently unrelated major project.
    It was also at the close of a particularly harrowing war, and extensive rationing was still very much a part of daily life. In case anyone thought Tolkien's life in the 1940's didn't sound stressful enough from Dorwiniondil's comments!
    (I've reinserted all of Dorwiniondil's comment here)
    One of Dr. Charlton's hypotheses is that Tolkien was‘suffering from some kind of psychological difficulties which amount to 'breakdowns' ('nervous breakdowns' in English lay terminology of that era)’ in 1945-6 and again in 1948-50 (‘JRR Tolkien's psychological illnesses or 'breakdowns'’) Being somewhat sceptical of the conclusions, I searched rather thoroughly in Hammond &amp; Scull's Chronologyfor evidence of such a breakdown in the years 1948-50, but in my lay view, the evidence there may point at some fairly mild stress-related symptoms, possibly aggravated by a chronic tooth-infection, but in my vocabulary, this doesn't come to a‘breakdown’ as such, being neither as sudden nor as severe as I would expect of something termed a‘breakdown.’
    Regarding the claimed 1945-6‘breakdown,’ Charlton sees Tolkien's turn to The Notion Club Papersas a kind of self-therapy. See particularly the blog posts ‘1945-6 Tolkien's darkest time - whilst writing the Notion Club Papers’, ‘Evidence to prove Tolkien's psychological breakdown 1945-6’ and‘The Notion Club Papers as Tolkien's self-therapy’ both from 2010, the first two from October 30th and the last from November 5th.
    I haven't myself done a thorough search of the Chronologyfor this period to see if there is evidence pointing in the other direction from Charlton's selection (this is on my to-do list), but if such a state, as suggested by Tom Shippey in his reply to the first of these posts, was common to professors at British universities at the time, then it's amazing that any academic work got done at all! However, from what evidence is presented at the blog, the impression I get is of something in between what is described by Shippey and Charlton (though this may also be a reflection of Charlton being used to a professional terminology)— i.e. somewhat more serious than what Shippey suggests, but not quite as dramatic as Charlton tends to portray it.
    The really interesting idea in this context, however, is the idea that the writing of The Notion Club Paperswas somehow therapeutic to Tolkien (see the last of the posts linked to above), and that the thematic topics of the Papers were significant,‘presumably telling us about Tolkien's deepest and most urgent satisfactions.’ Charlton's list of topics includesthe Inklings, history, language, inheritance and heredity as well as myth, but with the exception of inheritance and heredity, these topics are of course well known as some of Tolkien's favourite topics, topics that gave him a deep satisfaction, so I am not convinced by the argumentation here— Charlton's ideas certainly intersects with what I find plausible, but get the impression that there's more to it, and that not all of Charlton's ideas are plausible.

    In fact, I think that decoding the Notion Club Papers as a sort of record of Inklings' gatherings is about the least productive paths to follow. Do others agree?



    It's interesting that Tolkien himself tried to make a few identifications of that sort - at first. But [...]
    Or in short, yes
    Hear! Hear! On a vaguely related note, I really do wish that the real club had had a chronicler as conscientious as Nicholas Guildford.



    Edited by: Troelsfo
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  8. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    Yes, I am aware of Charlton's ideas and I do think he over-eggs the pudding by describing Tolkien's condition as a sort of breakdown - and anyway we do know from other instances that Tolkien's usual reaction to an imminent deadline was to do something else; hence, for example,the genesis of Smith of Wootton Major.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."









  9. I was fairly sure that you would know about it, Dorwiniondil, and I hope I didn't come across as accepting Charlton's position as such— while I think he has a considerably better case for the 1945-6 period than he has for the 1948-50 period, I also think that we can probably trust Tolkien's own interpretation when he said that he came‘near to a real breakdown’ (emphasis added) and that we can accept Hammond &amp; Scull's interpretation when the say for the period end of February — March 1946 that ‘Tolkien is ill, the result of various worries.’ (emphasis added). The most pertinent entry in Hammond &amp; Scull's Chronologyis:
    25 March —1 April 1946 Tolkien stays at New Lodge in Stonyhurst, Lancashire, where his son John had stayed several times in the period 1942-5. In the register Tolkien firmly declares himself ‘English’ rather than (as in other entries) ‘British’. In a letter to Stanley Unwin on 21 July 1946 he will say that he came ‘near to a real breakdown’ around this time, and went away and ‘ate and slept and did nothing else, by orders, but only for three weeks, and not for the six months that my doctor prescribed ... but I came back to a term so troublous that it was all I could do to get through it’ (Tolkien-George Allen &amp; Unwin archive, HarperCollins).The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology
    My purpose is two-fold here: one is to emphasize the severity of the pressure under which Tolkien found himself in this period, and the other to investigate the extent to which writing The Notion Club Paperswas a reaction to the stressful situation (and in the same period he also began or wrote in manuscript the new‘round-world version’ of the Ainulindalë). Charlton's views, while certainly controversial (and, to my best ability to tell, not fully supported by the available evidence), are also, in my opinion, a good way to spur some discussion of the relations between Tolkien's psychological state at the time and his writings; if such relations can at all be unravelled— I'm quite willing to accept that this might not be the case, but I think some discussion of this might be interesting



    Edited by: Troelsfo
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    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  10. corlisswyn's Avatar
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    #10




    Quote Originally Posted by Troelsfo







    25 March —1 April 1946 Tolkien stays at New Lodge in Stonyhurst, Lancashire, where his son John had stayed several times in the period 1942-5. In the register Tolkien firmly declares himself ‘English’ rather than (as in other entries) ‘British’. In a letter to Stanley Unwin on 21 July 1946 he will say that he came ‘near to a real breakdown’ around this time, and went away and ‘ate and slept and did nothing else, by orders, but only for three weeks, and not for the six months that my doctor prescribed ... but I came back to a term so troublous that it was all I could do to get through it’ (Tolkien-George Allen &amp; Unwin archive, HarperCollins).The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology

    This is stepping a little off-course perhaps, but when I pulled out my copy of Letters, the letter indicated on 21 July 1946 to Sir Stanley Unwin (105) doesn't seem to state that he 'came near to a real breakdown' and 'ate and slept and did nothing else'.
    The letter itself had the same vibe, but when I went hunting for the quotes, I found "near to a real breakdown" in Letter 33 to C.A. Furth at Allen &amp; Unwin, which was dated 31 August 1938 ... coincidentally, I find it rather interesting that in the 1938 letter, he goes on about submitting Farmer Giles, and in 1946, he again speaks of it in subsequent letters about it being published. The second half, (ate and slept and did nothing else) I did not find at all.




    Edited by: corlisswyn

  11. I would be very much surprised if Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond would made such a mistake, and notice that they do not reference the published Lettersbut rather the George Allen &amp; Unwin archive to which they had access while composing their Companion and Guide.
    I think it is unlikely that Tolkien sent more than one letter to Sir Stanley Unwin on that date, but the version published in The Letters of JRR Tolkienis redacted— something has been omitted between before the fourth paragraph, and I would suggest that the passages that Scull and Hammond quote are taken from the passage that is omitted in the published version.


    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  12. Findegil's Avatar
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    Thanks, Troels. In the Companion and Guide we used Letters when we were able to do so, but went to the original letter, usually in the Tolkien-Allen &amp; Unwin archive, when we wanted to quote a previously unpublished part of a letter or expand upon a passage otherwise printed in Letters. In this case, it's a coincidence that Tolkien refers to a breakdown (and to Farmer Giles of Ham) in his letter of 31 August 1938 - the exact words there are 'reached the edge of a breakdown' - and in his letter of 21 July 1946 ('near to a real breakdown'). The Companion and Guide has at least a hundred pages of previously unpublished passages from letters and other texts by Tolkien, or summaries thereof, so is a useful adjunct to Letters.

    Wayne &amp; Christina


  13. The<i style=": rgb255, 255, 255; ">Companion and Guide[/i]has at least a hundred pages of previously unpublished passages from letters and other texts by Tolkien, or summaries thereof, so is a useful adjunct to<i style=": rgb255, 255, 255; ">Letters[/i].



    I've noticed that there were quite a few excerpts from unpublished letters in the C&amp;G, but I had no idea that the total amounted to quite that much. Truly one of theindispensables
    It is hard indeed to believe that one of so great wisdom, and of power—for many wonderful things he did among us—could perish, and so much lore be taken from the world.







  14. Thank you, Wayne and Christina!

    And on to the matter at hand:
    While I agree entirely with Dorwiniondil that it serves no purpose to play the game of ‘who's who’ between the members of the Notion Club and the Inklings, I do think that it might make sense to take a look at the various opinions and statements about literature and its creation that are expressed here and discuss to what extent they may resonate with Tolkien's own opinions.
    The discussion in night 60 is started by Guildford's dissatisfaction with the space vessel as a framing device for a story that is really about what the traveller finds at the destination. There are, I find, some echoes in this position of Tolkien's antipathy of the Machine
    I know that Tolkien spoke favourably of Isaac Asimov (‘I enjoy the S.F. of Isaac Azimov.’[sic.] Lettersno. 294, February 1967), but I don't know if anything is known about which of Asimov's stories, Tolkien read? In the early stories, Asimov doesn't include any interstellar travelling (and he devotes an entire short-story to the invention of interstellar travelling before he uses it -- something I think Tolkien would have approved of), and only little travelling even within the solar system (there is, IIRC, one short story taking place on Mercury, but that's the only one I remember). The point here is that a dislike of the space vessel as a framing device for the story would not necessarily conflict with his professed liking for Asimov's work (and in any case, Asimov does not, in his earlier stories as I recall it, use the journey as a framing device — it is either not present or integrated into the story as in Tolkien's own work).
    From a purely scientific perspective I also found this discussion highly interesting in an amusing way. The discussion of manned missions to the moon that was supposed to have happened in the eighties is of course off by a a couple of decades, and manned missions to Mars were being seriously discussed already at that time. Manned space travelling outside the solar system is, however, as much a matter of dreams today as it was when Tolkien wrote his story, while, curiously, serious scientists believe that they will be able to build a time-machine (i.e. a machine that will be able to send a signal to the past, sending signals to the future being trivially possible ). I surely couldn't help myself thinking of Igor Novikovand his self-consistent histories when reading Guildford's tirade
    Within Tolkien's story, however, the point is one of verisimilitude, with Guildford advocating that the space vessel is not believable. The discussion turns to fairy-stories, with Guildford saying that ‘they make their own worlds, with their own laws’ after which he gets the inevitable question of why he wouldn't allow the same mechanism for a science fiction (or, as it is called in The Notion Club Papers, a ‘Scientifiction’) story, to which he answers,
    ‘Because it won't then be your private world, of course,’ said Guildford. ‘Surely that is the main point of that kind of story, at an intelligent level? The Mars in such a story is Mars: the Mars that is. And the story is (as you've just admitted) a substitute for satisfaction of our insatiable curiosity about the Universe as it is. So a space-travel story ought to be made to fit, as far as we can see, the Universe as it is. If it doesn't or doesn't try to, then it does become a fairy-story — of a debased kind. But there is no need to travel by rocket to find Faërie. It can be anywhere, or nowhere.’Sauron Defeated, Part 2, The Notion Club Papersnight 60, pp.169-70 (underlining added)
    The point here would seem to apply also to much other non-fairy fiction: that it is a basic element, a part of the contract between author and reader, that the world described really is our own and that it doesn't in any way change the natural laws. The further consequence of this would, I believe, be that only in fairy-stories is it acceptable to do this kind of pilfering with the laws of nature (or in related genres such as myth— i.e. stories that involve an element of magic or of the supernatural)
    Now, we may agree or disagree with this position (I am certainly not ready to walk the whole nine yards with Guildford), but that wouldn't, for me, be what is interesting in this: the important question for me is whether Tolkien would agree or disagree with Guildford's position in this case, and I suspect that he would agree.

    Another point where I couldn't help but smile was when Lowdham remarked about Ramer that ‘You know his itch to re-write other people's bungled tales.’ I immediately thought of Tolkien himself — his Kullervo story, Sigurd and Gudrún (not so much ‘botched’ as incomplete), The Fall of Arthur, Smith of Wootton Major . . . the list goes on: surely this is a bit of self-irony?









    Edited by: Troelsfo
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    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  15. Naurusc's Avatar
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    It seems arbitrary to think that fairy couldn't be associated with certain rules about science or that it couldn't have rockets in it. I am thinking especially about the steampunk genre.

    I am always fascinated to see another person's re-write of an existing story. It is much more interesting in some ways than an edit of a roughed out collection of notes - although that is also interesting. I am amazed at the way that different people can be so divergent in the directions they take the same set of plot points or characters.


    If all the world is a stage, then who gets to write the script?

  16. I am going to stay a bit with the opinions offered in during night 60 . . .



    Guildford puts a lot of weight on the framing of the story: how does the author explain the transport to the otherworld.
    This of course fits well with the discussion in‘On Fairy-stories’ where Tolkien dismisses both dream-stories (such as Alice in Wonderland) and traveller's tales (such as Gulliver's Travels) from being fairy-stories for this precise reason— the framing.
    For dream stories his argument is that‘It is at any rate essential to a genuine fairy-story, as distinct from the employment of this form for lesser or debased purposes, that it should be presented as 'true.'’ (OFS§18) This of course has some small bearing on the present discussion insofar as the framing mechanism must be true within the story (that is, I think that this is at least implied).
    Travellers' tales, however, he writes
    I rule it out, because the vehicle of the satire, brilliant invention though it may be, belongs to the class of travellers' tales. Such tales report many marvels, but they are marvels to be seen in this mortal world in some region of our own time and space; distance alone conceals them. The tales of Gulliver have no more right of entry than the yarns of Baron Munchausen; or than, say, The First Men in the Moon or The Time-Machine.Tolkien On Fairy-stories,‘On Fairy-stories’, §16 p.34
    This, I think, is closely related to Guildford's argument: the travellers' tales are no different because the traveller goes by spaceship, though of course the spaceship doesn't belong to our own time: Guildford nonetheless argues from the same position, that the story reports ‘marvels to be seen in this mortal world’ and thus it hasto abide by the natural laws of our world.
    The point would seem to be that the framing device is important because it makes the connection between the ordinary world and the world of the story, and once that connection is made such that the world of the story is‘this mortal world’ Tolkien only allows Faërie to produce impossible effects. The curious point here is of course that his framing device for The Lord of the Ringsmakes just such a connection, but this is where the reference to fairy-stories in Guildford's argument comes in.
    Actually I think there's something inconsistent about Guildford's position such as I see it: I am sure that Guildford would allow The Lord of the Ringsas a fairy-story that could make its own world with its rules, but the framing device of The Lord of the Ringsdoes more or less the same as the framing device of much science fiction: it places the story in the same world as us, but in an imaginary period of time. I do agree that it is a part of the basis for many science fiction stories that their world is the same as ours, but containing a more advanced technology, which would imply that the same natural laws apply, and I, too, find that it detracts from the story when the science is faulty, but I think that the arguments that Guildford uses miss the point.

    The references to framing devices of various contemporary stories (including some of Lewis') together with Tolkien's focus on framing devices in ‘On Fairy-stories’ as well as his own use of a framing device in The Lord of the Ringsall combine to make me wonder if this was a topic that they discussed at the meetings of the real Inklings?
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  17. Naurusc's Avatar
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    #17


    Tolkien's fairy stories (as seen in the Silmarillion) involve plenty of metaphysics and plain events that seem to defy the most popular scientific theories of the present time.

    Beyond that, maybe there is a distinct difference between Steampunk (and it's variants that have alternative biotech or the like instead of alternative steamtech) is aimed at alternate realities or pathways through time as a human race while faery might be a bit different. Tolkien seems to take a historical bend but I could see faery being viewed through differing frames, having important dream-like elements, and even mingling with steampunk.

    Why not?


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  18. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">I don't know what steampunk has to do with Night 60.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">I suspect that interplanetary travel may well have been discussed at an Inkling, at least in connection with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, where the "machine" of space travel is dealt with in different ways - neither of which would be likely to have satisfied the Notion Club. As Guildford says,
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">... the "machine" used sets the tone. I found space-ships sufficiently credible for a raw taste, until I grew up and wanted to find something more useful on Mars than ray-guhs and faster vehicles
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">As we proceed through Nights 61 onwards, we shall find a "machine" that is less unsatisfactory than spaceships, and indeed than space travel. Ramer gives a premonition of this towards the end of Night 60.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">A couple of comments about words: unlike Frankley, I do like "slipshoddy". Then there is the term used for this sort of fiction: scientifiction. This is a term that seems to have been about in the 1920s, andit is a term thatHugo Gernsbackused in Amazing Stories. It is also used by Guildford, despite the fact that by 1945 it had been pretty comprehensively superseded by "science fiction".Edited by: Dorwiniondil
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  19. Naurusc's Avatar
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    #19


    Quote Originally Posted by Troelsfo
    ...
    Travellers' tales, however, he writes
    I rule it out, because the vehicle of the satire, brilliant invention though it may be, belongs to the class of travellers' tales. Such tales report many marvels, but they are marvels to be seen in this mortal world in some region of our own time and space; distance alone conceals them. The tales of Gulliver have no more right of entry than the yarns of Baron Munchausen; or than, say, The First Men in the Moon or The Time-Machine.Tolkien On Fairy-stories,‘On Fairy-stories’, §16 p.34
    ...
    Steampunk is an interesting case in relation to this quote because it supposes an alternate reality branching off from the current reality through a key change in technological development - which is different than a different world entirely, a dream, an impossible supposed world, or the world as it is.

    In that case, it is time and space plus a single change in circumstance that yields the story. I was wondering how the quote above about fairy stories would apply.

    Sorry if it wasn't clear. I see that I have less quotes on my posts ... perhaps I am out of my league in this discussion and shall bow out until a greater portion of my words can be the color blue .


    If all the world is a stage, then who gets to write the script?

  20. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #20
    I don't think out of your league - more out of the loop The rest of us are looking specificallyand in detailat the text of the Notion Club Papers, where the science fiction / fantasy tropes referred to are those current in the early 20th century, whereas steampunk as a genre is resolutely late!

    However, that late 19th-early 20th century science fiction and fantasy is a fascinating field - not just the usual Verne and Wells, but aswell as Lewiswriters like David Lindsay (Voyage to Arcturus, already mentioned in Night 60) and Olaf Stapledon, among many others ... and even pseudo-scientists like J. W. Dunne. You can get really distracted by this!
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."





  21. I don't think Tolkien fully anticipated all the directions that 'speculative fiction' (to use another variant term) would take in the decades after he was writing - the different ways of using faerie or fantastic elements, or the genre of 'hard science fiction' which in a way tries to abide by Guildford's (and Dolbear's) strictures about plausible machinery (several of the specific concerns about gravity, the speed of space travel, and physiological and psychological effects of space travel on humans have been rather extensively treated in 'hard sci fi').



    On the term 'scientifiction', it's interesting that Guildford uses that word only to criticize it as 'an ill-made portmanteau'. I wonder if Tolkien was imagining a future where the more unsavoury variant won out, linguistically paralleling the development of a Transatlantic Bus System. Or if he/Guildford is just choosing the more awkward word as a more appropriate label for a type of storytelling he dislikes.
    In a way, I think one of the more significant comments in this Night is Frankley's comment that:
    I want to travel in Space and Time myself; and so, failing that, I want people in stories to do it. I want contact of worlds, confrontation of the alien. (p. 169)
    It's a short line, but really the whole discussion of Night 60 depends on to some extent - and actually it's part of the basic idea behind writing a story like theNotion Club Papersat all. Tolkien could have (and did) write the tale of Númenor (which features prominently in the later parts of the NCP) independently of creating any fictional modern people to discover it. But this element of contact, which I think is very close to what Shippey calls mediation, seemed important to him (probably for good reason - as readers, we're guests in an imagined world, and it's helpful to have fellow newcomers with whom we can discover the world).
    Tolkien had already achieved a contact of a sort in The Hobbit, continued in The Lord of the Ringsas far as it then went, basically by importing pseudo-modern people into a fantasy world, and then having them make 'contact' simply by walking out of the borders of their country. In practice it actually works very well, but I can see where Tolkien might have had the urge to have contact be between Faerie and true moderns rather than what might be called (too uncharitably) counterfeit moderns. The sort of contact enabled by the 'framing devices' hinted at by Ramer, and which will be developed quite a bit more over the course of the story.
    It's interesting that in Smith of Wootton Major, written quite a while later,Tolkien would end up adopting an extremely simple but powerful way of achieving contact. Smith is in what I take to be a version of our world (non-Faerie, at any rate), and gets to Faerie very simply: as long as he has the proper blessing, he can just walk there.



    Edited by: Lord of the Rings
    It is hard indeed to believe that one of so great wisdom, and of power—for many wonderful things he did among us—could perish, and so much lore be taken from the world.

  22. Having now posted also my October transactions, time has again become a little less critical, so I can return to these discussions (I have been reading along, but finding time to post has been more difficult).

    Regarding the whole discussion of frames, I came, in another context, across a very pertinent passage from ‘On Fairy-stories’ (OFS):
    It is at any rate essential to a genuine fairy-story, as distinct from the employment of this form for lesser or debased purposes, that it should be presented as 'true'. The meaning of 'true' in this connexion I will consider in a moment. But since the fairy-story deals with 'marvels', it cannot tolerate any frame or machinery suggesting that the whole story in which they occur is a figment or illusion. The tale itself may, of course, be so good that one can ignore the frame. Or it may be successful and amusing as a dream-story. So are Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, with their dream-frame and dream-transitions. For this (and other reasons) they are not fairy-stories.
    Tolkien on Fairy-stories, §18 p. 33-4
    I still think that there is something lurking just under the surface here — some thoughts about frames that have a deeper basis than what we see in OFS and The Notion Club Papers, but these assumed underlying thoughts keep eluding me.




    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

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