One does not simply outgrow Tolkien

I was nine years old when The Fellowship of the Ring came out. I was occasionally confused by Gandalf, completely terrified by the orcs, and, come the closing credits, utterly enthralled. I devoured the books, immersing myself in Tolkien’s world. I learned the songs, I studied the timelines, I poured over the maps – and, like most young girls at the time, I was in love with Legolas.

When the new Hobbit trailer was released and the pointy-eared prince made his return, I fangirled so hard I embarrassed myself.

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Honestly, it was pretty bad. Like I was nine years old again.

In light of the upcoming movie, we had a Lord of the Rings marathon last weekend. Extended editions, of course. There was pizza and pillow forts and lemon meringue pie and elves.

I really love the elves.

I’m pretty sure my family was hoping I’d grow out of my Tolkien phrase at some point, but it turns out I haven’t. Middle-Earth is as exciting as it was when I was a lonely fourth grader reading those ridiculously heavy tomes during lunch. I still hum along with the soundtracks, I still sing Elvish songs, I still pretend I’m a shield maiden of Rohan when the wind catches my hair or imagine I’m an elf when I walk through trees. I’m twenty years old. I told you it was embarrassing.

It’s difficult to put into words what the stories mean to me, or why they mean so much. After all, they’re just stories. I’m well aware they’re not real, that the whole world is made up, but Tolkien’s world brought me incredible joy growing up, and continues to do so today. It began my love of fantasy, and fuels my desire to create worlds of my own. I hope I might one day bring readers a fraction of the excitement and happiness Tolkien brought me.

Sometimes I encounter people who are only just discovering this world now that the Hobbit movies are happening. I am more than happy to welcome them into the fold of the Tolkien fandom, but part of me doesn’t quite understand how they did it. Not only do I wonder how they managed to avoid the craze back when the movies were originally released, but I wonder how these stories haven’t been part of their lives because I honestly don’t know way that would be like. What did these people read and watch and obsess over in their formative years? How did they escape this witchcraft when I got caught?

(Yes, it has occurred to me that I am the exception, not the rule. Apparently most people are able to live their lives without getting deeply emotionally invested in fictional tales. This confuses me)

I love Tolkien. I will always love Tolkien. I’ve given up trying to figure out why and decided to just enjoy it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to planning my next trip to New Zealand. I wanna go to Hobbiton.

Tea and Sympathy

My favourite tea house closed down today. It was a very sad and sombre occasion.

This store has been a huge part of my life for the last few years. Close to campus, it was a favourite haunt of tired-eyed arts students and pseudo-hipsters, a standard meeting place, a beloved study break and source of deliciousness for me and my kind. Dimly lit and decked out in black and orange with huge, mismatched armchairs and the widest tea selection this side of China, it was working a kind of Chinese-brothel-meets-Victorian-opium-den vibe, and we loved it.

But their lease is up, and the announcement that they were closing led to outrage. Literally. People screamed. There were tears. One guy’s pacemaker went off. This place meant a lot to us.

This all means we now need to find a new hot-beverage-and-cake cafe. This task is harder than it sounds. Finding a place with good food, an interesting drink selection, comfortable chairs and friendly staff, all of which needs to fall within a student’s price range.

But once I got past the denial and the grief and the impending separation anxiety, there was an element of excitement. This cafe closing, as sad as it is, could make way for something new, something exciting, something, dare I say it, better. It could also make way for a stationary store or a sushi bar or one of those weird little shops that sells scented candles and bracelets made in the mountains of Peru. None of which would necessarily be a bad thing.

What I’m getting at here is that change isn’t always bad. Scary as hell. Utterly terrifying, no doubt, but it can be for the best. Maybe being forced out of my tea-and-scone safety zone will lead me to something just as sweet.

Then again, the last time a store I liked closed, they put a TGI Fridays in its place. Apparently they’re trying to make TGI Fridays a thing in Australia. Forgive me if my hopes aren’t too high yet – this whole ‘change’ thing could come back and bite me in the ass.

I think these are the end times

I am reading World War Z. After a semester of reading nothing but Gothic literature and journalism theory, post-apocalyptic zombie plague doom and gloom is actually quite a refreshing change.

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Nowadays if you’re going to end the world, zombies is the way to do it, and Max Brooks is a master of the craft. His novel has all the requisite skull-crushing gut-spilling gore, along with some of the most truly terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, all cleverly woven in with political and social commentary. And that, I think, is where the real horror of his work lies – it all seems so real.

Naturally, with doomsday and zombies on the brain (pun intended), it got me thinking about endings. I’m coming up on a turning point in my life. In a few months I’ll be 21, and shortly after that I’ll be wrapping up my Bachelors. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was approaching the end of high school and terrified of What Came After. Now, just as Im getting the hang of this ‘adult’ thing, I once again have to decide what I want to do with my life when the safety bubble of university is gone.

At some point I’m going to move out of home and leave my job and hope I get a new one, and who knows how many relationships I may have started and ended by then, or if I’ll ever finish my book and if it’ll actually be any good, and we’re all going to die anyway so is it really worth the worry?

I struggle with fear – fear of inadequacy, fear or loneliness, fear of loss, fear of uncertainty. Maybe that’s why I enjoy disaster films and end-of-the-world novels so much. They give me somewhere else to direct my fear, even if it’s only temporary. In that way, I suppose, zombies (and vampires and aliens and unstoppable viruses) (but mostly zombies) are oddly comforting. It’s easier to be scared of something you know will never be real.

Maybe we revel in our fantastical fears because our real-life worries are too terrifying to actively face. For me, zombies are a thrilling kind of fear, distant enough to enjoy and set aside. But if I look at zombies as a metaphor, like the shambling flesh-eaters of World War Z, I become all too aware of the fact that my future as a supposed grown up is looming closer and closer and I haven’t got the first clue about mortgages or credit ratings, and does anyone really understand their taxes anyway?

In the face of all that, maybe the zombies aren’t such a bad option.

Serious writers have blogs

Or so they tell me.

Two and half years into my writing degree I find myself surrounded by lecturers and tutors and cynical students who spend an inordinate amount of time whining about how no one makes any money in writing, no one’s getting published, no one’s getting contracts, how it’s impossible to make a career as a wordsmith in this day and age.

And they seem to think this should be encouraging.

I don’t deal well with negativity and, in a state of depressed desperation, I sought out other voices. I talked to writers and publishers and journalists and every single one of them told me what a load of bullshit this was.

I’ve received a lot of good advice from a lot of good people, and without doubt the most important thing anyone ever told me was that you can’t wait around for opportunity to come to you. You make your own opportunity when you take matters into your own hands.

Nowadays, if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to get your name out there, if you want to have any success as a writer, you need to have a blog. 

This, I suppose, is my attempt at being a so-called ‘serious writer’.