Fanzines reviewed: LIGHTHOUSE #12 & # 13
Lighthouse (#13) August 1965
Faned: Terry Carr. American Genzine.
I was going to write about Gina Clarke’s article on homosexuality in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy which appeared in LIGHTHOUSE #12, and I will, but first an article by Donald A. Wollheim which appeared in the issue following.
Legend has it that Wollheim, an editor at ACE books, simply pirated the British edition of LOTR without permission and was first to publish it in North America. The truth, as revealed in an article titled THE ACE TOLKIENS, which he wrote for LIGHTHOUSE #13, is more nuanced.
According to Wollheim, LOTR first appeared in the United States in a very limited hardcover edition put out by Houghton Mifflin the same year it was first published in Great Britain, 1954.
“One glance at the first page startled me,” writes Wollheim. “No copyright, no date of publication. Just the line ‘printed in Great Britain,’ although the name of the publisher was an American firm and the place of publication the U.S.A. It was apparent that this first American edition consisted simply of sheets printed in England and imported.”
Wollheim wondered why. He suggested “Perhaps the American publisher, figuring that the book was too obscure to take the trouble, had decided to bring in just a few hundred copies and not bother with copyright complications…”
Unfortunately “the darned books continued to sell steadily, though quietly, through the years, going into small printing after small printing. Somewhere along the line, somebody started to worry about the lack of a U.S. copyright and inserted a line in later editions which said the work was copyright under the Berne Convention.”
What was left unstated was that the U.S.A. was NOT a signatory and it didn’t apply to America.
As fantasy began to grow in popularity, more and more SF&F paperback publishers, including ACE, inquired of Houghton Mifflin if they could purchase reprint rights from them. They always said no. Only Wollheim, it seems, was aware Houghton Mifflin didn’t have the rights in the first place. Wollheim pondered the implications.
Why not contact Tolkien or his agent directly?
“Please bear in mind that this paperback book industry is very, VERY competitive – and that we were in possession of what might be a very valuable commercial secret. To let the cat out of the bag could well be disastrous and could lead to other editions appearing at virtually the same time. We had no sensible course to follow but to go ahead, in top secrecy, to prepare our editions. Which we did, and the result you know.”
ACE published LOTR in early 1965. It became a runaway hit.
What about accusations of piracy? Some from Tolkien himself. Wollheim had this to say:
“Literary piracy means infringement of copyright – and we have infringed no copyrights. [Because there were none.] Dr. Tolkien, apparently, simply was never told the score about his U.S. editions. He should reserve his anger for the source of his deprival.”
Wollheim then writes something of a gob-smacking nature:
“Further, as in the case of Edgar Rice Burroughs, we’re perfectly willing to pay the author for his work – and we’ve stated both publically and in a message to Tolkien that we want to make an arrangement with him for such payments.”
This suggests ACE began publishing Burrough’s books without the estate’s permission!
Looking through my own collection, I see PIRATES OF VENUS gives no copyright and simply states “This Ace edition follows the text of the first hardcover book edition, originally published in 1934.” By the time Ace published CARSON OF VENUS, readers are informed “An Ace Book, by arrangement with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.” So eventually they cooperated.
One thing for sure, Wollheim had a lot of guts.
And where did he get the text for the Ace editions of LOTR, a text legend has it was riddled with inaccuracies and flaws? Probably from the Houghton Mifflin editions I’m guessing.
This has been an insight into publishing practices of yore.
And now, finally, an insight into Gina Clarke’s sense of humour.
Lighthouse (#12) – February 1965
Faned: Terry Carr. American Genzine.
Gina’s article is titled JUST GOOD CLEAN FELLOWSHIP. She begins:
“I was working my way toward the end of THE TWO TOWERS when it suddenly came to me that the Tolkien trilogy was a furshlugginer *FAGG* book.”
Lest your nose be out of joint, this was still the dark ages as far as Gay rights were concerned, and “fagg” (evidently the fannish version of “fag”) was not viewed so much as an insult but rather a mere label.
More importantly, I don’t think it’s a dig at homosexuals so much as a button-pushing reference at the allegedly typical “fan-virgin-fantasist” who was wont to deride “fags” in order to demonstrate his “obvious” masculinity, a phenomena not uncommon even among fen and mundanes today.
And, of course, it’s an opening line designed to make Tolkien fans sit bolt upright in shock, mouths agape, etc.
At the same time it’s so obviously excessive it’s a clear indication that a bout of humour based on an almost-but-not-actually-believable premise is underway.
After describing the nature of Hobbits Gina has this to say:
“Now I ask you, what does this put you in mind of? What are more closely related to men, as Tolkien says, than some other creatures in the world? What have no beards but some have a bit of down? What have young among them yet seem to have no sexual activity? Why, children, of course. Tolkien doesn’t refer to the Hobbits as children in Book I, but in Book II, where only confirmed fans would follow, he mentions that they’re like children, at least in men’s eyes. A Hobbit named Peregrin took up with a man and here perhaps we can pin Tolkien down – the man said that his little friend looked like a nine-year-old boy. Why that’s worse than… Anyway, Tolkien grows quite reckless in Book III and talks fondly of Hobbits being like boys and how Frodo was pale, beautiful and quite elf-like.”
Gina utilises the common (modern political) tactic of taking an absurd premise as given fact to hammer home her point:
“Ah, Sam. Sam and Frodo graduate from the state of being happy Shire children into adolescent homosexuality. Frodo takes the masterful role and Sam the submissive. This book is full of stuff like ‘Sam refused to leave his master… he came and sat curled up at Frodo’s feet…’ Frodo goes out and faces up to his task like a man and Sam, a la Milton, lives only through him. Yet Frodo was not as independent as he thought, for he wouldn’t have got along so well if it weren’t for faithful Sam bustling around, packing their bags, cooking meals, gathering herbs, keeping watch, and generally being a good wife. Do I exaggerate? Remember the scene in Book III where Sam cooked a rabbit for Frodo as he thought about how much he loved him.”
“So Frodo and Sam, and two minor Hobbits, started on their journey to Mount Doom. They found themselves pursued by the Nazgul, the ministers of Sauron, searching for the Ring. The Nazguls made a noise that was ‘…a long-drawn wail… rose and fell and ended on a high piercing note.’ I had a vulgar interpretation of this which I won’t mention.”
Whatever does Gina mean? I’m too pure to understand. You likewise, I’m sure.
Here and there Gina refers to the “obvious” symbolism of the Ring, shattered swords, and other hints. She seems to suspect Tom Bombadillo as well:
“Barrow ghosts put people to sleep and get them into to their barrows where they do unspeakable things to them. Fortunately Tom Bomba rescued the Hobbits, who then ran around naked on the grass and had a high old time.”
Rivendell is of particular note:
“Frodo was unconscious by the time they reached Rivendell. When he came to, Sam ‘…ran to Frodo and took his left hand, awkwardly and shyly. He stroked it gently and then he blushed and walked away.”
“In Rivendale were the elves, beautiful to the eye, beautiful to the ear, clever and artistic, fond of ‘poetry, music, and tales.’ Read “fairy” for “elf.” Sam says they’re ‘so gay,’ and I agree. Here Strife / Ranger / Aragorn / son-of-Arathorn / Dunadain / Elessar is revealed to be not an ordinary man as he had seemed, but a king – which of course is the masculine equivalent of a queen. Dig?”
Gina is pushing “logic” into the theatre of the absurd. Nevertheless the quotes and comments she comes up are a tad discombobulating:
“The rest of the party rejoined a resurrected Gandalf and joined the Rohirrim, led by a king who called his boy ‘sister-son.”
“Gollum is the ultimate creep, the ultimate degenerate, the ultimate nelly, who talketh funny… Gollum is big-eyed and sticky-fingered for Frodo and the ring… When Frodo slept Sam kept guard, but once he fell asleep. ‘In his lap lay Frodo’s head… upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.’ Gollum was envious. ‘…slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee – but almost the touch was a caress.’ Sam woke up. He saw Gollum ‘pawing at his master’ and was very upset.”
“Sam, carrying the Ring, fought the temptation to put it on. ‘In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most…’ Sam finally rescued his master, who was naked and had been whipped. ‘Sam, dear Sam,’ said Frodo and he lay back in Sam’s gentle arms… Sam felt that he could sit like that in endless happiness… he kissed Frodo’s forehead.’ But they got up and went toward Mount Doom. They slept sometimes, waking up ‘hand in hand.’ Sam noted with disgust that Gollum, ‘that gobbler,’ was still following them.
There are some extraordinary digressions I haven’t mentioned:
“The trip through the mines of Moria is a sort of birth fantasy. The first part of the trip was through very constricted spaces, and was very long, very slow… Then they entered more roomy caverns and the end of their trip was swift, bloody, painful…”
And even more upsetting, Shelob’s attack on Sam being equated with a sex act in which Sam takes the submissive role:
“Now splaying her legs she drove her huge bulk down on him… with both hands he held his eleven blade point upwards… and so Shelob, with the driving force of her own cruel will, with strength… thrust herself upon a bitter spike… deep, deep, it pricked… a shudder went through her. Heaving up again, wrenching away…”
Well, when you put it like that…
You can read anything into anything, especially in Freudian terms, though people do well to remember Freud once said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Still, the relationship between Frodo and Sam does seem a tad affectionate…
But it is important to understand Tolkien wasn’t drawing upon Freudian psychology or any other psychology. A certain amount of his WWI experience he makes use of, and no doubt his formative years in life and education as well, but above all he writes from the perspective of dark age and medieval literature, of which he was a scholar renowned for his expertise. Much of what transpires between Sam and Frodo is typical of the kind of sentiment to be found in such tales as SIR GWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (which I read once, found it boring).
This is part of what makes Tolkien unique. Others may imitate him, but only he actually captures the viewpoint of a bygone heroic-romance era far different from the way people think today. This is what gives THE LORD OF THE RINGS its ambience of absolute authenticity. In spirit it actually reads and feels like something written over a thousand years ago. It is something the bards would have sung.
Gina’s take on it is a piece of entertaining but essentially harmless whimsy. If it is an attack on anything it is an assault on the modern tendency to read sex into everything. It seems to “make sense” while you read it, but when you reach the end you go “Naaah!” and reject the premise on sober reflection. Good parody of LitCrit critique though. A lot of fun in fact.
Just so you know, at the end of her article Gina promised to do “Tolkien from the Marxist point of view.” Bet that would have been a hoot too.
How did people respond to Gina’s article? I quote from two letters of comment in LIGHTHOUSE #13. The first from Harlan Ellison. It is vintage Harlan:
“The Gina Clarke piece was presumptuous, fatuous, and a classic example of arguing from distortion. Gina Clarke – if she was serious, and I find it difficult to believe she could have been – might do well to have her cortex tapped.”
Gina, of course, was not serious. Harlan apparently found it hard to tell, in part probably because the 60s witnessed an explosion of sercon zines and fans some of whom WERE entirely too serious for their own good. Apparently tricksters masquerading as sercon were even worse in his view, as witness further comment in his LoC:
“But then, fans of a certain specie, I have always found, are more chauvinistic examples of the kind of infra-hip posture you find in the hangers-on at in-group coffee houses… The kind who have their own anthracite-eyed chicks in attendance, who give you that salamander stare when you walk in, who make you feel you have blown your cool even before you open your mouth and blow it on your own. They are the japerfen, the ones who think it is the ultimate in hipness to put a large group on, and then at the last minute reveal it was all a shuck. This has seemed to me, on the contrary, a hideous conceit on their part, a sneering attitude, one couched firmly in disrespect and disdain for those they are honking. If the Clarke piece was such a shuck, I find it in bad taste. And I’ve never been particularly killed by the Tolkien stuff, either, so you can’t really say I’m arguing out of love of The Master.”
“Japerfen.” I like that. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have caught on in common fanspeak.
I believe Harlan is wrong in applying this to Gina, but as a description of the type he is attacking it is brilliant. I have known several such in my fannish career and have always found them annoying. I guess what Harlen and I agree on is that we don’t like phonies, especially condescending phonies.
Granted, I might be one myself, but how the Ghu would I know? I just carry on regardless.
And finally, the not-quite-so-famous-as-Harlan Banks Mebane of Chevy Chase, Maryland, writes:
“Gina Clarke’s amusing article is an apt parody of the sort of thing that would result if the veddy lit’ry journals ever get their hands on Tolkien. Or maybe they have already, I wouldn’t know – I swore off them years ago. Gina’s piece reminds me of THE POOH PERPLEX, the best hatchet job I’ve seen done on the way-out critics.”
Then, regarding the symbolism within LOTR, Banks threatens to write “an exhaustive monograph analyzing the matter simultaneously from the Jungian and Heglian viewpoints, as re-interpreted by Sartre.”
Words fail me. Good thing too, I’ve reached the end of this article.
Illo #1 – Hannes Bok
Illo #2 – Cynthia Goldstone
Illo #3 – ?
Illo #4 – Jack Gaughan
BY THE WAY:
You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines
You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project
You can find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive
And check out my brand new website devoted to my OBIR Magazine, which is entirely devoted to reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Found at OBIR Magazine