Archaeological AU Challenge
As anyone knows, historical texts can be very slippery. There are several "Gospels" that didn't for some reason make the cut for the Bible; there are the Dead Sea Scrolls that testify to the life and beliefs of a sect of Judaism beyond mainstream Judaism; there are fragments of official documents about the life of Pontius Pilate; there are tax records that tell us something about what the nobility of mediaeval England actually could demand of the peasantry. There are personal diaries and official chronologies, suppressed works (The Mirror of Simple Souls) and sometimes copyists of Bibles and other texts would include hilarious marginal (and totally personal) notes. And to my everlasting frustration, most of Aristotle's major public works were lost.
So what's to say there aren't dozens of these sorts of 'records'—records internal to Middle-earth's history—floating about that Tolkien the textual archaeologist didn't have (but might have seen references to—like a very famous but unfortunately lost work of Maglor, or records of Elessar's reign as recorded by the Haradrim), or else didn't include? If only we had access to them, what sorts of different takes on the stories of "The Lord of the Rings" or "The Tale of the Children of Húrin" (for example) might we have?
That's the basic idea. Here's the 'how to' part:
There are two groups:
Group One would be writing up these pseudo historical documents and posting them to HA Writers as a sort of central storage location: our very own compiled "Red Book" as it were, which has been entitled "The Lost Books." Group One writers could write anything that the authors felt could realistically challenge the "dominant" canonical text. This is why I made a cattle call onlist to historians, classicists, museum workers, and "random folks who know something of information transmission over the centuries" who would have some idea of what sorts of things *tend* to be preserved, and how to read them. That way, they can realistically reverse engineer us some documents.
People in this group could create complete documents or ones that are fragments, to imitate damage by time. If someone were really ambitious, s/he could even have someone draw a picture (maybe a 'photograph' of the fragmentary remains of Arwen's greatest tapestry, for example; see "Prospective Challenges" forum for other examples). I would like to try and limit this group, however, because we don't need thousands of documents—I somehow doubt the members of group two want to play archaeologist *that* badly. :-)
Group Two, then, would take up these jigsaw puzzle pieces provided by Group One (as many as they liked, though perhaps some lower limit could be set, e.g., at least two) and organize them into some sort of coherent picture. They would then compare what they have with the original works Tolkien provided us, and then use those fake documents to write a 'historically based' AU to the original stories (complete with documentation). One could also conceivably take on a scholar persona and write about why, for example, one ought to read X into the Red Book, due to A, B, C bits of evidence, though I don't know how many people would want to do this.
I was also thinking that if anyone with HoME volumes thought some of Tolkien's drafts (or rather, portions thereof) might be great to use in this, that we could carefully quote and cite the relevent portions, thus adding another layer of complexity to this whole project.
The upshot of this is that we would have a set of AUs that took advantage of the "found this text and translated it" conceit that Tolkien employed, and which would be very specific to HASA.
Questions? Check the Arachaeological AU Challenge forum.
Entries with Stories
The following authors have entered a story in the Challenge.
- HA Writers Group - Lost Books, The
- General Audience
- Last Updated: 11 Nov 03
- This is for the Group One writers of the Archaeological AU Challenge to use. Upload your work according to the Age it is based in. I've left spaces around chapters to accommodate new uploads with a minimum of fuss and bother. Please be sure to have a title for your chapter, as this is what other writers will refer to when using your material.