Thursday, February 11, 2010

A date with Tom Shippey at Boskone 47

This week I signed up for a one-day pass to attend Boskone. It's a regional convention put on by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA). It runs all weekend at the Westin hotel in Boston and features dozens of authors, artists, panel discussions, board and computer games, medieval weapon displays, zombies, and more.

I just found out about the convention this week, and was stunned to see that one of the special guests is Tom Shippey. Immediately I knew that I must attend.

For the uninitiated, Shippey is the premiere J.R.R. Tolkien scholar of our age, author of the incomparable works J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century and The Road to Middle-earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien created a new mythology. Shippey knew Tolkien personally, teaching Old English at St. John's College during Tolkien's last years of retirement. He later followed directly in Tolkien's footsteps, inheriting JRRT's chair and syllabus.

If you own the extended versions of Peter Jackson's LOTR films, Shippey is featured prominently on the extras on these discs. I have learned more about Tolkien from Shippey than any other author. He's brilliant.

Shippey will be at Boskone throughout the weekend, but the stuff I'm most interested in all takes place tomorrow. I was able to buy a one-day pass for $17 and plan to attend the following panel sessions (you can bet I'll be bringing my copies of The Road to Middle-earth and Author of the Century for autographing):

Friday 7 p.m. Autographing
Andrew Zimmerman Jones, Tom Shippey, Jane Yolen

Commentary: I don't know AZJ, but I have read Yolen's Owl Moon to my children. She's a prolific children's author and Owl Moon is wonderful.

Friday 8 p.m. Harbor 1: The Lord of the Rings Films: 5 Years Later
How are they holding up? Any virtues or themes (or faults) that are clearer nos? Think they'll be popular for decades, watched annually on September 22 (Bilbo's birthday—but you should know that)? If computer graphics imagery keeps improving (see Avatar!), should we redo LOTR every five years? Come join the discussion of what is lost and what is gained when adapting beloved books to the silver screen, and share what your vision of a (non-Peter Jackson?) LOTR 2.0 might look like.

Ethan Gilsdorf, Laurie Mann (m), Tom Shippey, Michael Swanwick, Ann Tonsor Zeddies

Friday 9 p.m. Harbor 2: The Problem of Glorfindel—and Other Issues in Tolkien
Tolkien's elves never re-used names (they were immortal, after all) yet a Glorfindel lived and died in the First Age of Middle-Earth and another was a character in The Lord of the Rings six thousand years later—what happened? One of the joys of Tolkien's world is that it is so well-realized that minor anomalies (which in a lesser writer would be assumed to be sloppiness) only make it seem more real, since the history of the real worls also abounds in puzzles. Enjoy a walk through Middle-Earth's lesser-know byways. Who was Eldest: Treebeard or Tom Bombadil? What were orcs, actually, since Morgoth could not create anything new? Why are the wood-elves such jerks in The Hobbit? Whatever happend to Ungoliant? Arwen became mortal, but what happened to the sons of Elrond when he took ship for Valinor? Where did Sauron hide the One Ring when he was taken captive to Numinor? Let's take the time to explore these and other intriguing curiosities of Middle Earth.

Mary Kay Kare, Kate Nepveu, Mark L. Olson (m), Tom Shippey

I'd love to get the chance to ask the guy a few questions about Tolkien, but it all depends on how crazy the con is. I'll post a report here afterwards.


Lagomorph Rex said...

I've read Road to Middle-Earth and Author of the Century and enjoyed them both..

I'm also currently reading the 'Hammer and Cross' trilogy which Tom Shippey, under the Pseudonym of John Holm co-wrote with Harry Harrison.

I don't know how much of it is his and how much is Harrison's. But I like it all the same..

Wish I was going!

Brian Murphy said...

Shippey co-wrote The Hammer and the Cross? I own the book, have read it, and never knew. I'm looking at my copy now and there's no mention of a co-author anywhere on the front or back covers, just Harrison's name.

But yes, buried inside on page 3 in small font, the mysterious "John Holm." Interesting!

David J. West said...

Wish I could make it-least I have another con happening here I can go to saturday.


I like thinking he was sent back just like Gandalf, but that begs the question of why he wasn't more prominent in the LOTR.

My brothers suggestion was his innate goodness would have been a beacon that Mordor could have seen hundreds of miles away and thus he could not have been a part of the Fellowship.

Falze said...
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Falze said...
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Falze said...

It'd be quite a trick to be older than Tom:

"'Eldest, that's what I am...Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn...When the elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.'"

Looking forward to hearing how the event went.

Taranaich said...

I took Glorfindel's return as being either G himself wanting to return, or being sent by the Valar like Gandalf.

As for why he wasn't more involved in LotR, I'd guess he was more involved in the North. There was the defense of Lorien, Dale and Mirkwood from Dol Goldur and the Easterlings, and I'd say Glorfindel was the "Gandalf of the North", inspiring people against the forces of darkness.