Does Gender Matter?: 4. The Tolkien Online Fanfiction Community: The Recent Explosion

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4. The Tolkien Online Fanfiction Community: The Recent Explosion

When I posted my survey, I was very unsure how many or few responses I would receive. To create a benchmark, I asked two questions that I thought would help to categorize the replies. One was “How long have you been writing Tolkien fanfic?”, and the second was “How old are you?” This group is self-selected, and more conventional methods of statistical analysis were not used. The first question ended up not being of much use, as 55 out of 62 replies, or 89 percent, were sent by people who have been writing and posting Tolkien fanfiction for a year or less. It is possible that the replies I received are skewed in that those who are newer to the medium are perhaps also more likely to reply to a survey such as mine, being caught up in the first rush of participating in the fandom world. Many of the writers indicated that they had been writers in other fandoms prior to the release of the Peter Jackson movies, and after seeing the films they found themselves compelled to write in the Tolkien fanfiction community. These are some of the replies to the first question:
    “Not very long. Just about a year, I suppose. I’ve loved the books for 20 years. But I guess I wouldn’t have written fanfic other than just in my head if there weren’t such an enthusiastic community…There was a Tolkien fanfic scene before the movies, but it was MUCH smaller, and the explosion of it seems to have brought a *lot* of us longtime book fans out of the woodwork to write and share stories.” Vulgarweed

    “I’ve written in other fandoms (Blake’s 7, Deep Space Nine) for more than ten years, and these are very bleak, very cynical universes. Writing fiction based on Tolkien’s work appears to have allowed me to explore my more romantic and idealistic streak!” Altariel

    “Entirely too long. But seriously, I’ve been writing Tolkien fanfiction since I was about nine years old, if you believe it. So that would be, what? 9 or 10 years… I remember always wanting to know more about the characters than what was in the books. So even from the time I was about six years old, I remember making up stories about the characters from LOTR.” Glorfindel’s Girl

For further clarification of the writers’ focus since the movies seemed to have sparked the sudden outpouring of new fanfiction, I asked these three questions, “Do you write about one particular character most of the time? If so, is s/he more closely based on the book character, the movie character/actor or a combination?” and “Would you say that your fanfic more closely resembles the books, movies or both?” The replies were as follows: of 62 replies, 25 (40%) said that their works were completely book based (often self-referred as canon-purists), 11 (18%) said their stories were movie based, and 25 (40%) said theirs were a combination of the two. One person did not answer.

Six writers, or one-tenth of those who replied, specified that their writings were primarily based within The Silmarillion. These writers, therefore, were not influenced by movie characters per se as The Silmarillion has not been made into a movie. That said, there are some characters in The Silmarillion who do feature in LotR, the Elves Elrond and Galadriel in particular, and the acknowledgement of the influence of the appearance of the movie actors on these characters was indicated by a couple of respondents. I emailed the writers who indicated that they set their works within this work exclusively and asked for clarification of what this meant to them. The answers revealed that their stories were set within the First and Second Ages of Middle Earth, not set exclusively within The Silmarillion text. Two writers in particular did specify that they did or did not use Unfinished Tales as an additional reference, since Tolkien was continuing to tweak the genealogy charts of his characters until his death, and there are some inconsistencies between The Silmarillion which was published in 1977 and those other writings that were permitted to be published as Christopher Tolkien worked his way through his father’s writings and brought more of the history to, and ongoing manipulation of, Middle-earth to the public.

As for age, the respondents tended to be under 20 or over 30. My interpretation for this is that women under 23 are predominantly in school and have more time for creative pursuits such as fanfiction writing, while many women in their mid to late 20’s and early 30’s are at the beginning of their careers and/or getting married and having children. Of the 62 replies, 37 (60%) were under 22, five (8%) were between 22 and 30, and 18 (29%) were 31 or older. Two people did not answer. There were two replies that seemed interesting in regards to self-representation as most people write with pseudonyms:

    “I hate to admit my age, it makes me feel like a child when I don’t really consider myself as one… but I’m 15. Please don’t relate the age to the hordes of screaming fangirls going behind the man who played Legolas…as much as I liked him, I like to believe I have a little more control.” Yours Truly

    “Age? Well, plenty old enough to read slash!” Tiriel

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Thevina Finduilas

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/04/04

Original Post: 03/19/03

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