Thanks & Farewell, Glen GoodKnight
From the Los Angeles Times to many a blog, much has been written about Glen since his surprising and untimely death on November 3, 2010. I just finished the November 2010 issue of Mythprint, which is entirely a tribute to the Founder of our unique Mythopoeic Society. Often I found myself nodding in agreement as others commended him as the architect not only of its uniqueness but of its very existence. Although I wasn’t there at the beginning (and it was great to hear the stories of those who were) I was a relatively “early adopter” of the Society. Although this blog is less personal than ex officio, today I’m speaking as myself, not as Corresponding Secretary of the Mythopoeic Society. Many of my fellow Stewards have contributed their thoughts and reminiscences already; now it’s my turn.
To give you an idea of the kind of person I was in long-ago days of my youth (1967), I once went downtown with some of my hard-earned money to buy an Easter outfit. Of course, I had to stop by the big bookstore first…and what to my wondering eyes should appear but the shiny new LOTR boxed hardcover set published by Houghton Mifflin. That Easter outfit never had a chance. Little did I know that in that same year, thousands of miles away, a young man was coming up with an idea for a Society that would have a profound impact on my life.
One of the things I’ve often brooded upon is the way that the pivotal events of one’s life don’t seem pivotal at the time. Only in retrospect does one realize–with a frisson of fear, sometimes–how different one’s life would have been if that seemingly minor event hadn’t happened. I doubt Glen realized at the time he was creating an organization that would profoundly affect not just his own life, but lives of thousands of others throughout the world. My coming to California was one of those pivotal events for me–I came with the intention of staying a few months; maybe a couple of years if I got a job. That was in 1971. I did get a job, and less than a block from the library’s door was a comic book store. On lunch hours I’d sometimes go there to get comics that my brother wanted–he was a rabid collector who couldn’t find everything he wanted back East. On the way out one day I noticed a flyer for a Star Trek convention in Los Angeles called Equicon–that upcoming weekend. In a highly uncharacteristic example of spontaneity, my partner and I hopped a plane and went. In the dealer’s room was a table that lured me by a slide show of Tim Kirk’s Lord of the Rings paintings (his project for his MFA degree). Some outfit called The Mythopoeic Society. Sounded interesting. Had a local group called Khazad-dum not too far from us. Started going to meetings. Attended Mythcon IV in Santa Barbara. These were My People. Hooked for life.
I am forever grateful to Glen for visualizing the Mythopoeic Society as an organization that welcomed scholarship but didn’t see serious scholarship as incompatible with dressing up as an elf/hobbit/orc and carrying a banner (or moving a boat, or quaffing a proper 1420). Nor did he assume that the “appropriate” credentials were required for a person to produce valuable research on the work of the Inklings, or any of the related topics that have graced the pages of Mythlore and/or the podia of Mythcon. One of the most valuable characteristics of the Mythopoeic Society is the welcoming home it provides for independent scholars and students. As a toiler for many years in the Groves of Academe, I’m aware that it can be as dangerous as living in Fangorn. Those who transgress the borders of disciplines often do so at their peril. The Canon can be used to blast a promising career to smithereens. As a Librarian it was less dangerous to me that others–we are the Rangers in that forest–but it gave me the perspective to realize how unique and valuable a refuge the Mythopoeic Society offers.
Another aspect of Glen’s vision particularly dear to my heart was the combination of of literature with the visual and performing arts. One might even see the Society as his piece of interstitial art. Few have the talent and drive to make a career of the arts, but many have enough love for and talent in an art form that to have no place for it in one’s life is a constant ache. To have a place to share one’s art with others, to know that someone besides you finds it valuable–that is a great gift that Glen gave to many.
Glen did not just create an organization, he created a place: a place where people of vastly different religious and/or political beliefs could come together amicably to discuss mythopoeic literature and art; a place where one could find friends treasured for decades but seen only once a month or once a year; a place where one’s creative talents could be nurtured, could blossom and grow; a place in which one could be both scholarly and silly; a place whose existence can enrich one’s life from youth to age and maybe beyond.
So thanks, Glen. I owe you more than I can ever say. You brought me good friends, you gave me a creative outlet, you helped me get tenure, you revived my artistic soul. You gave me friends and memories that I’ll always treasure. Those Mythcons of my youth…the sound of harps and pennywhistles, the declaiming of the bards, the glow of velvet gowns and warmth of talk and laughter…you brought me the closest I’ve ever been to the Hall of Fire in the House of Elrond.
Farewell, Good Knight. May you see your swift sunrise.