Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mythcon, part 1

I ditched the evening programming after the costume presentation (cutest entry: "Baby Smaug") because of the musical program to follow. I enjoyed this motley crew's Tolkien-themed Beatles parodies of years past, but I have no interest when they do the Rolling Stones. So I am here writing this.

Better music made an appearance in today's program when Jason Fisher delivered an erudite paper on resemblance and possible influence of Goethe's "Erlk├Ânig" on Tolkien's Black Riders and Old Man Willow. He even went so far as to play a clip of the Ford of Bruinen scene from Jackson's "Fellowship" with Schubert's setting of Goethe substituted for whatever crap Howard Shore wrote for that scene. It was so much better this way it wasn't funny. I suggest we make a full Schubert lieder recital as a substitute soundtrack for the entire movie. Except then I'd have to watch the thing again.

Other good papers: Kris Swank defending multi-cultural casting in recent Arthurian movies/tv shows by pointing out the long history of Moorish or Saracen characters, some of them explicitly described as black-skinned, in medieval Arthurian sources. Panel on "Reclaiming Tolkien's Women for the 21st Century", with contributors to the Society's new book on the subject. Highlighted by co-editor Leslie Donovan's testimony that reading of Eowyn in adolescence was her first encounter with a female character who did what men do, and that this played a major role in shaping her feminist self-identity. Diana Pavlac Glyer on the writing of her upcoming book on the Inklings, Bandersnatch (no info online yet, I think). John D. Rateliff's brilliant GoH speech on the personal history and self-references in Charles Williams's Arthurian poems. It's a rare scholar who can be so fascinating on material that most of the audience probably hasn't read.

Friday afternoon, nine of us, under John's direction, gave a group reading of an abridged adaptation of Tolkien's recently-published Fall of Arthur, for multiple narrators and occasional speaking characters. When an audience member remarked afterwards on how well we'd rehearsed, we all laughed wildly. We'd gotten together at a round table (appropriate) outside the programming room about five minutes beforehand to discuss how to pronounce "Gawain" (we settled on Gow'n) and that was about it.

But I've noticed at previous years' group readings that the rehearsal, when there is one, usually goes better than the performance. So this time, merely because we couldn't find an earlier time at the con all to meet, effectively we just skipped the middle step and gave the rehearsal as the performance.

More to come. The sagas of getting here - of engine warning lights, pettable wallabies, and Margaret Thatcher in Pueblo, Colorado - also to come later.

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