Writing a Green Sun: 1. Introduction

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1. Introduction

Fantasy has also an essential drawback: it is difficult to achieve. Fantasy may be, as I think, not less but more subcreative; but at any rate it is found in practice that "the inner consistency of reality" is more difficult to produce, the more unlike are the images and the rearrangements of primary material to the actual arrangements of the Primary World. It is easier to produce this kind of "reality" with more "sober" material. Fantasy thus, too often, remains undeveloped; it is and has been used frivolously, or only half-seriously, or merely for decoration: it remains merely "fanciful." Anyone inheriting the fantastic device of human language can say the green sun. Many can then imagine or picture it. But that is not enough--though it may already be a more potent thing than many a "thumbnail sketch" or "transcript of life" that receives literary praise.

To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, story making in its primary and most potent mode.


- JRR Tolkien, "On Fairy-stories"


I read this passage from Tolkien in 1980. His words about a green sun - a fantastic invention within an imaginary world - and what it would mean to create a world wherein such a sun could exist have stayed with me for over two decades. When I read a work of fiction, even realist fiction, his words are always there in the background. The supreme achievement of fantastical writers, such as Thomas Pynchon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Salman Rushdie, is their ability to do just that; create a believable world in which their green suns can reside. This is perhaps the greatest example that Tolkien set for modern writers, and the basis on which he can be included in the pantheon of modern fantasists and counted as a progenitor of magical realism.

As much as I love the fanfiction inspired by JRRT's writings, I often find myself dismayed by the lack of care authors bring to writing their interpretation of this "Secondary World". It is a sentiment I hear from many fellow readers and fanfiction writers, so I do not think it a misperception. The task of creating a compelling original story within Tolkien's fantastical world is more than simply knowing the names or the descriptions of characters, or understanding a plot device, or even comprehending a philosophical point. It is the way in which such simple facts (the green suns) are or are not made credible by the author. Works which are "canonical" in terms of simple fact are all too often incredible in terms of execution - they do not inspire "Secondary Belief". Arda is not present. I think this points not so much to failures in authorship as much as it illustrates how difficult good fantasy writing is to do. Still, there is greater and lesser care taken, and some sub-genres are more prone to inattentive writing than others.

My own foray into writing about sexuality in Tolkien's world, Legacy, arose from my persistent dissatisfaction with the portrayal of Hobbit social relations and sexuality presented in most slash fanfiction. What if I tried to write about an omni-sexual being in the Shire society? With close attention to how this (and not just this) being's sexuality is played out within a game of dynastic politics in a stagnant, agrarian society that is about to get swept up in the maelstrom of continental war? Where the most valued social good is to be "respectable" and the highest praise is that someone is "predictable"? Where fortunes are decided by getting into the right marriage?

Within a few days, the story took on a life of its own. I ended up creating an interpretation of Shire culture based on the teasing glimpses of Hobbit history found in The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and other works, and what had begun as a simple slash story ended up as an examination of social and political relations in the ruling clans and how sexuality as such plays out in these machinations. I wanted to write about how it is possible to write Bilbo and Frodo as not gay in any modern, post-Freudian sense, yet still have room for a wide range of sexual behaviors, few of them sanctioned by the larger society.

Legacy is sex and politics, inspired by Jane Austin and Henry James, examining the political relations between blood relations, and how the coin of respectability merges with and is trumped by the coins of commerce (and vice-versa). It's not simply sexual expression (as if that is ever the case) but is the implicit and explicit manipulation of the sexuality of subordinates (and how they resist that manipulation) by the socially superior. How our curiosity leads us to agree to things our common sense tells us to stay away from. Most of what I wrote is speculative, and a good amount is artistic license. In this essay, I will try to provide an account of what I uncovered in Tolkien's own works, and how this knowledge guided my writing.

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: Anglachel

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Critical Essay

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/15/04

Original Post: 09/17/02

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This discussion is primarily dedicated to discussing Anglachel's very long fic On Merry Yule. Some minor discussions of earlier stories are to be found here, as well, but focus is on OMY.

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