Bree & Beyond:
Exploring the Fantasy Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and His Fellow Travelers
July 30 - August 2, 1999
Bree & Beyond:
Exploring the Fantasy Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and His Fellow Travelers
- October 1999
- Lee Speth: Simmerillion: Warm Memories
- September 1999
- August 1999 (from TheOneRing.net)
Warm Memories of BreeMoot 4 / Mythcon XXX
by Lee Speth(This report originally appeared in Mythprint 36:10 in October 1999.)
The fell rumors out of the North proved true. The fiery blasts of the dragon's breath had scorched the air about the town of the Lake-dwellers. OK, it wasn't actually called Dale. Mythcon this year was at the Archbishop Cousins Center, down Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, located, if I read the signs aright, in a suburb called St. Francis. But the searing dragon's breath was real enough. Fortunately, we who attend these cons are a robust lot. We came, we bore with the heat, we conferred, we donned costumes, we processed, we bought and sold, we were solemn and silly by turns, we fluorished. And the heat tapered off.
This year Mythcon XXX was combined with BreeMoot 4, the occasional gathering of Beyond Bree's subscribers. Breefolk were prominent in the leadership of the event and so Milwaukee seemed an obvious site; Bree is an anagram for beer, as I judge Tolkien knew quite well.
On Thursday night, a number of us early arrivals, along with the BreeMoot/Mythcon staff, were to beer-bountiful Mader's, a noted Rhineland outpost in Milwaukee, where we had a banquet room and three tables forming a square with one open side. My Speth forbears came out of Bavaria, but I've never liked beer, so I couldn't fully exploit the occasion. At dinner I sat between Dr. Bill Sarjeant from Canada and former Mythprint editor David Bratman and felt clean-shaven. A rollicking time was had by all, then it was back to the heat of the Cousins Center, some mystification about the room key (eventually located), and sitting up late in the con office, conversing and watching a couple of the mini-Mythies, Claire Lenander and Tristan Hunnewell, attack a computer game with that focused energy shared by children, fanatics and Amway representatives.
Heat aside, the Cousins Center was an admirable site. All activity was in one building, and that building was, it seemed, ours for the weekend. At the usual Mythcon campus we share, if not with other conferences at least with summer students. But aside from some resident retired priests (spoken of, but never seen) and the kitchen/cafeteria staff, the sizeable building was pretty much our plaything. It is elegant without being oppressively solemn, and has a number of displays, if one is curious, touching the history of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. OK, the food. Not varied, not that good, sometimes not enough. But against that one can set the large handy field, just right for late-night Golfimbul. And Lake Michigan, to whose storied shores I wandered one still morning before breakfast, crossing the highway and tramping through a shiny green, gnat-infested park. Looking north, one could make out the Milwaukee skyline where the lake shore curved. And gazing out across the blue expanse of the lake to the horizon, with the trees at my back and the bugs all about me, I felt like a seventeenth century French voyageur, with a disposable camera.
It was a smallish turnout, especially in contrast to Lewiscon last year. But small has its distinct benefits. About a hundred attended, the Guests of Honor were long familiar to the Society, no one from outside interfered. There was casual and intimate feel to this conference, even though a certain number -- Breefolk, I suspect -- weren't known to me. The Duke of Numenor returned (but the King still didn't). Pat Tressel -- hadn't seen her for a while. Darrell Martin.
The most important new face, no doubt, was that of Dr. Ted Sherman. Nominated sight unseen, on the strength of his application and resume, to take over Mythlore next year, get it back on schedule and revive its subscriber base, the gentleman from Tennessee slipped quietly into the con, but was soon enough gathering handshakes and ovations.
In the dealer's room --
Me to P.C. Hodgell: I remember you from Minneapolis in '93; you were committing excesses with us late at night.
Ms. Hodgell: Golly, let me think; it's been so long since I committed an excess ...
Lasting memories (in no particular order):
Douglas Anderson's infectious delight in being probably the only living person to have read The Flying Cows of Biloxi;
Ted Nasmith's slide show of his accomplished Tolkien illustrations, some seen before, some new to us, parading in rich detail on the meeting room screen;
Gary Hunnewell's Tolkien Collectors Anonymous meeting ("I'm Bruce and I'm a Tolkien collector." "Hi, Bruce.") that spiralled out of control as more and more addicts shambled up to testify, with Gary looking increasingly bemused;
The concrete tunnels beneath the Center where we went Golfimbowling. Bowling in a real alley! And I kept thinking of the crap-shooting sequence in Guys and Dolls;
The photos, displayed at one panel, of Birmingham Oratory where Tolkien and his brother spent their youth, doubly meaningful to those of us who own shelves of Tolkien and Newman;
Playing Sauron as a vampire in this year's Not-Ready-for-Mythcon production, and wondering if Berni Phillips was really going to stake me;
Being part of the kazoo band for the Golfimbul medal ceremony. This was a consolation position, alas, since I had failed to defend my last year's distance medal. This time I had to watch other people get the medals, in a spirit of sportsmanship and camaderie. People like Leonard, Rauscher, Long (undeserving scum! some people get everything handed to them! dumb luck!) Hostetter (a linguist! gimme a break!) Farrell (hmmm -- she's editing this -- better be careful!) ...;
Lynn Maudlin using Anne Osborn as a prompter for Lynn's own song lyrics, and Anne forgetting;
David Bratman's talk on Tolkien's false starts in composing The Lord of the Rings, a topic remarkably suited to David's voice and delivery;
Eric Rauscher in a tux; The photo presentation, which just squeaked in on Monday, of next year's picturesque Mythcon site in Hawaii.When the last song was sung and the last goodbye said, a nomber of us found ourselves crossing paths in Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport. Upstairs from check-in, Jane Bigelow of Colorado sat snacking and reading. I saw Ellie Farrell in a baggage check line and Paula Di Sante scurrying by. And I ended up sharing a quickie lunch with Bruce and Marcy Leonard, Arden Smith and Carl Hostetter. I savor these prolongations. But at last I had to shoulder my carry-on and make my solitary way to my particular flight gate. Till next year.
Mordor with Mosquitos
by Berni PhillipsHell is a little slice of Milwaukee. Flying in from San Francisco, my stalwart companion, Edith, fretted about the weather reports she'd been hearing about Milwaukee. It'll be fine, I kept telling her. I was wrong. Walking out of the airport was like walking into an oven.
Quickly ferried by air-conditioned car to the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center, we checked in and got our room keys then went back out again into that inferno to meet up with the other mythopoeic early birds for a German dinner at a restaurant downtown. When we left that restaurant much later, it was still stiflingly hot outside. Not a good sign.
Unable to sleep in the oppressively hot room that night, my husband and I elected to get a hotel room until the unusual weather had passed. This was not easy as there was an air show that weekend in Oshkosh, 80 miles away, which mysteriously was filling up the Milwaukee hotel rooms. We got what was apparently the last hotel room in Milwaukee. This proved to be wise as, to quote from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The temperature peaked at 99 in Milwaukee, but just after 1 p.m. a record high dew point of 82 created a heat index of 119, a level considered dangerous to human health." Yes, we were in Mordor.
As bad as the Cousins facility was, Mythcon at least was confined to one building. If we had had to travel from building to building (sleeping rooms, program rooms, and cafeteria) in that heat, it probably would have been worse. Kudos to the committee for re-arranging the program at the last minute to fit all items into the few air-conditioned rooms. The food was not good, but we expect that at a Mythcon. It provides a bonding experience. Although I still suspect that they only make one cup of coffee and dilute it
to fill the whole large container. The three guests of honor, Gary and Sylvia Hunnewell and Doug Anderson, were lively and gave amusing and informative speeches. I can't tell you how relieved I was to find that Sylvia had only put that belly-button-exposing Arwen in her art show to show how she had matured in her knowledge of Tolkien! And Gary's and Doug's speeches revealed them to be the types of teenagers we had all suspected they'd been. (Although I will confess to having been shocked at Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in which he admitted that he had stolen Tolkien's books from the library!)
The programming and papers were good. Ted Nasmith treated us to another slide show of his art, showing earlier sketches and alternative designs of some of his beautiful work. The masquerade was of high quality featuring (among others), Marion Van Loo as Queen Agatha of Ham, David Bratman as Rupert Giles of Ham (Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference for you non-TV watchers), Mary Jo Kapsalis as a beautiful character whose name I've forgotten, Deborah Jones as a refugee from Arnor resplendent in her purple on-the-road chic, and many others.
Gary Hunnewell and Bruce Leonard have formed a much-needed new organization, the Tolkien Collectors Anonymous, a collect-all-the-steps program. They presented various testimonials from mythies who sorely needed it, and Carl Hostetter revealed the new experimental cure: the Patch. (This was a book cover of Unfinished Tales attached to his bicep.) Our founder, Glen GoodKnight, was not present at this Mythcon. Having seen his dwelling, I should have enrolled him in this program in absentia. ("I have a whole wall filled with the same book," our hapless TCAers admitted.)
What Mythcon report is complete without a mention of the food sculpture at the banquet? (Or, what hath Sue Dawe wrought?) Food sculpture went on at two banquet tables this year. I worked on the minimalist "Leaf by Nibble," a leaf of vegetative matter next to a pizza crust. (Yes, I had pizza for the banquet, said the vegetarian. It wasn't our most elegant affair, I must admit. Although the Rauscher family appeared in enough elegance to compensate for the rest of us. They arrived fashionably late, Eric arrayed in a tuxedo, of all things, while his lovely wife, Bonnie, was elegant in a long black dress draped with a gold shawl, and 15-year-old Emily was a pre-Raphaelite beauty with her long blond curls falling over the exquisite blue taffeta and lace Jessica McClintock dress. But I digress.) At the somewhat rowdier table, a surprisingly restrained Lynn Maudlin was fashioning with keen intent a plate of what appeared to be garbage. She called it, "Beyond De-Bree." One of her dining companions, dapper David Emerson, submitted "King of Ham," a slice of ham crowned with a crescent of pineapple.
This year's Not-Ready-for-Mythcon Players presented "Uppity Warrior Women of Middle-earth," a series of vignettes penned by Galabrielle (Ellie Farrell). First was one about La Femme Yavanna (Mary Kay Kare), with a Carmen Miranda hat-wearing Yavanna protecting the trees with the fruits of her labor -- in a literal sense. Next was the adventure of Luthy, the Vampire Slayer (yours truly), wielding her silmaril-stake, Hîr Aeg. Last and best were the exploits of Xenawyn, Rohan princess (Arden Smith), whose chakram proves to be the One Ring. Putting fake breasts on Arden is always popular for some reason.
Golfimbul started out on the soccer field outside the dorm. This year we were playing with a mosquito handicap. The local insect life was all too eager to chow down on imported Californians and Coloradons, etc. Still, the game must go on. Our medalists for batting for accuracy, those who bat the orc head closest to the fuzzy pink bunny, were Ellie Farrell (gold medal), Jeff Long (silver), and Eric Rauscher (bronze). The next event is whacking the orc's head for distance. The gold went to Jeff Long, the silver to Bruce Leonard, and the bronze to Carl Hostetter. We then dashed inside (to escape the mosquitos: what do they eat when there is no conference going on?) for the final event, golfimbowling. Bruce Leonard located the perfect spot for this, the tornado shelter below the building: long, long sound proof concrete hallways. The winners for this event were Bruce Leonard (gold medal), Eric Rauscher (silver), and Jeff Long (bronze). A special "Golfimbul Linguist" award for worst performance went to Bonnie Rauscher, presented by last year's winner, her own daughter, Emily.
Another great Mythcon tradition is just staying up late chatting in the hospitality suite. This is a cozy custom when people really let their hair down. Bonnie Callahan let her ankle-length hair down, brush out its full-length to the admiring glances of the rest of us. When asked how long she'd been growing her hair, she replied, "Since 1962." "Your hair is older than I am!" blurted Carl Hostetter.
Still, not even mosquitos, bad food, and worse weather can make a bad Mythcon. This was overall a pretty good Mythcon, from my perspective. (I.e., I had fun.) And perhaps it helped prepare us for next year when we proceed to the Crack of Doom.
Reprinted from the September 1999 issue (36:9) of Mythprint.
by David BratmanIn one respect, Mythcon XXX reminded me of the 1994 Mythcon in Washington, D.C. The weather began terribly, but quickly improved to a state of Mythcon magic. In Washington it was the rain; in Milwaukee, it was the heat. We were baking away in our only partially air-conditioned building on Friday (and the early arrivals even more so on Thursday), but the committee worked valiantly to take advantage of what cooling capacity there was, and by Saturday evening there was nothing to bother us but the mosquitoes who wanted to play Golfimbul.
In another respect, Mythcon XXX was like Boulder in 1996: very small, but choice. This was the first time Mythcon had been combined with Bree Moot, a smaller conference with traditions of its own. What emerged was perhaps somewhere in between: perhaps a hundred members, quite a few of them new to Mythcons, of whom some were Bree Moot regulars and others were not. There was plenty of interesting programming, but the schedule was relaxed and not over packed. There were no stages: the main programming was all in one medium sized room.
The Cousins Center was an interesting place to have a Mythcon. Throughout the weekend the large, rambling building was almost entirely deserted except for us and a few kitchen staff, and the doors were locked. (One could always leave the building, of course, and we had a pass-code to re-enter by a side door, but there was still an eerie feeling of being locked in by ourselves.) It was quite pleasant after the temperature cooled down. The food, as usual, functioned best as a mealtime conversation piece. The most notable consumable was the Mock Dragon's Tail, a frosted chocolate and yellow cake baked by Georgie Schnobrich and brought into the banquet by the knight Hildifons Took (alias Gary Hunnewell).
In keeping with the relaxed tone of the conference, all three of the Guests of Honor gave informal, entertaining speeches of personal reminiscence. Gary Hunnewell produced with a flourish the first-ever newspaper interview of him, from when he was a young Tolkien collector in 1978 aged 15. Sylvia Hunnewell presented us with copies of a set of postcard-sized prints of her new portraits of characters from Farmer Giles of Ham, and promised that, pending her imminent graduation from the role of mother of pre-school children, she will do more artwork in the future. Doug Anderson told of the friendships he's made with the families of authors whose books he's championed, in particular the children and grand-daughter of E.A. Wyke-Smith, author of The Marvellous Land of Snergs.
The serious programming came out quite nicely, what I was able to see of it. A panel of experts on Catholicism and Tolkien's life served up an interesting collection of talks on his religion. Another panel of a different sort of experts distinguished the mythopoeic from the non-mythopoeic in current supernatural TV shows. Ted Nasmith showed a fascinated audience some of the sketches and thinking behind his Silmarillion illustrations. The session generally considered best was one containing two talks on the theory of fairy stories: Verlyn Flieger on Tolkien's recognition of the reality of fantasy, and Fernando J. Soto on the logic of Lewis Carroll's nonsense. My own paper on the wrong turns and abandoned notions to be found in "The History of The Lord of the Rings" was well-received. But I was most impressed by a pair of distinctively lucid linguistic papers by the husband and wife team of David and Dorothea Salo. He discussed the resemblance in phonology and morphology of Quenya to Latin and Finnish; she analyzed naming patterns in Dunsany and Le Guin, finding the former untutored but evocative, and the latter learned as well as imaginative.
Other reports will, I expect, tell more of the Masquerade, the Not-Ready-for-Mythcon Players' production of "Uppity Warrior Women of Middle-earth," and the reading of Kenneth Morris's play The Archdruid, all of which I was involved with. I'll just mention that the quiet opening dialogue in the last, between Verlyn Flieger and Lynn Maudlin, was the most moving piece of drama at Mythcon in a long time, the more impressive for not having been rehearsed. Greg Rihn read Farmer Giles of Ham to us one evening: yes, all of it. This might seem tedious, but he read so well that it was quite captivating.
The dealer's room looked distinctly emptier at the end of the conference than at the beginning. The art show, in the same room, was small but had fine displays of the highlights of Sylvia Hunnewell, Ted Nasmith, and Paula DiSante. There was a high proportion of sartorial elegance at the banquet, notably the entrance of the Rauschers: Eric in a tux, Bonnie in a fine dress, and elder daughter Emily in something ravishing by Jessica McClintock out of the Bronte sisters.
There were some expeditions out, as well. Early arrivals had dinner together on Thursday at Milwaukee's top German restaurant, Mader's. Many of us got out to the Marquette University Archives, where Tolkien's papers lie. A fine exhibit of manuscripts, especially from Farmer Giles, had been set out, supplemented by the microfilms of Gary Hunnewell's fanzine collection, the five-foot shelf of Richard Blackwelder's binders of articles on Tolkien, and the infamous 1958 film treatment of The Lord of the Rings, which made arresting reading. Whatever Peter Jackson does to the books, it can't be this bad.
Thanks to Chuck Elston and his staff at the archives, and to the committee: Richard West, the chair; David Emerson and Janice Bogstad for programming; Matt Fisher and Ellie Farrell for publications; Greg Rihn, Jeff Long, Jo Ann Johnson, and David Lenander for all the exhausting behind-the-scenes work; and many others for their contributions.
Reprinted from the September 1999 issue (36:9) of Mythprint.