J. R. R. Tolkien
(January 1892 – 2 September 1973)
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, a British author and academic at Oxford, more or less single-handedly made high fantasy popular. He was not involved in fandom nor in the pro community in Britain, though C. S. Lewis, who did have connections, was his close friend and colleague.
His major works are, of course, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Since his death, his son, Christopher Tolkien, has edited and published more than a dozen volumes of his father's papers. Tom Shippey succeeded to Tolkien's Chair at Oxford. Tolkien, along with George R. R. Martin and Terry R. R. Pratchett, define modern fantasy.
Tolkien was never GoH at a convention while alive, but was Ghost of Honor at DemiCon 15. One of his few contacts with fandom was in 1957 when he was presented the International Fantasy Award for The Lord of the Rings at a closed meeting of the SF Luncheon Club during Loncon.
Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- 1957 — International Fantasy Award
- 1972 — Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
- 1978 — Ditmar Award for Best International Fiction
- 2004 — DemiCon 15 (posthumous)
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
The fanciers’ name for the J. R. R. Tolkien canon, including:
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, a children's fantasy novel was published in September, 1937, to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature. It was the foundation for Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings (LotR), Tolkien’s epic, three-volume fantasy novel, began as a sequel to The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War II. It is the second best-selling novel ever written, with over 150 million copies sold, and has been adapted to radio, film, the theater, and games.
It was published in over the course of a year, from July 29, 1954, to October 24, 1955, as three volumes titled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
The Lord of the Rings was nominated for the 1966 Best All-Time Series Hugo, but did not win -- this was just before its popularity began its incredible rise. See Ace Books and Del Rey Books for some related history.
While its initial impact on fandom was small -- fandom in the 1950s was focused on SF and what fantasy it was interested in was either weird fantasy or heroic fantasy -- by the early 1960s it had developed a loyal following which blossomed into Tolkien fandom within a decade
One of the more colorful events in the book's history happened in the early 1960s when Houghton-Mifflin, the book's US hardcover publisher, turned down requests from paperback publishers to do a paperback edition. Due to an error that H-M made, the copyright on LotR in the US had lapsed and H-M didn't actually own any rights.
Don Wollheim at Ace Books decided to publish an edition and, when The Fellowship of the Ring did very well, rushed out the second and third volumes. (They were in such a rush that Jack Gaughan, who had been contracted to do the cover illustrations didn't have time to read the book. He contacted John Jakes, a friend who had been urging him to read it, and got enough of a description of what was happening to do credible cover illos.)
When fandom heard about this -- and H-M made sure it got wide publicity, since they had gotten Tolkien to make minor revisions to the book so that a new copyright could be obtained in the US on the revised copy -- there was an uproar and a boycott of the Ace edition. (Ace dropped their edition -- it is unknown if the fannish boycott was a factor -- and a Ballantine paperback became the standard US edition. (Later, when Wollheim was asked if it wouldn't have been simpler just to pay Tolkien a royalty, he said that A. A. Wyn would never agree to pay a royalty that he wasn't obligated to pay.)
The Silmarillion is a collection of mythopoeic works by Tolkien, edited and published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkien, in 1977, with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay. It won the 1978 Ditmar Award for Best International Fiction.
See also All Things Tolkien.
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