News and Views: Where Does the LOTR Fandom Go from Here?

Originally Posted December 2004

Gentle Readers,

Ah, December 2004. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an awkward moment for the Tolkien fandom as we enjoyed and hyperanalyzed the Return of the King Extended Edition DVD. Because where do we go from here? A lot of us who are communicating online were Tolkien nuts before the movies came out, and we're crazier than ever, but to me, this final release rings down the mass-media curtain on The Lord of the Rings phenomenon. Not that it hasn't been a superb fannish experience - three spectacular movies in a row, the ability (for me in NZ) to go to a lot of LOTR-related events and meet stars and artists, many Oscars, our friends and families finally seeing what we were going on about the whole time and joining us as fans. More intimate were the reams of fanfiction, further reams of fannish discussion, glorious fan art, home-made costumes, and questions and confessions throughout the online community. Some of us are best friends forever and some of us are sticking pins into voodoo dolls of our fandom foes.

You know a fandom is mature when study of the fandom is a minor academic field in and of itself. A stranger-than-fiction book has beenwritten about two loopy fans and their unparalleled obsession and related scam-artistry; check out When The Fan Hits The Shit for the bizarreness. Another group of fans has made a movie about the joyous extremities of Tolkien fandom, Ringers: Lord of the Fans, that is nearly as star-studded as the LOTR films themselves and includes a montage of Tolkien-themed tattoos. I was fortunate enough to see a New Zealand documentary about the Figwit phenomenon, which is excellent and hilarious and hopefully coming to a film festival near you, sometime.

I did see New Zealand's approach to the films change, from "strewth mate, our #8 wire will fix that orc armor up a treat" to "Everyone's looking at us!" to "Ca-ching." I am reliably informed that, in Wellington, "I was an extra in the LOTR films" is being used as a pickup line on pretty foreign backpackers. My informant said wearily, "Everyone in Wellington in a certain age group was an extra. It's just the demographic." Another Wellington person said, "It was lots of fun but we're over it - we're all into King Kong now. " On the fandom side, some of us are wandering into other fannish interests. Anime, Harry Potter books and movies, and writing by Mary Renault are things I see LOTR fans enjoying. Myself, I'm branching out into enjoying new authors and media, and rediscovering some old favorites. The day is drawing nearer when I will again concentrate on original writing. But LOTR - it was almost one of the nutrients I took in as a young teenager, and is thereby in my bones.


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