2018 began with a failure: I was unable to make the deadline for my “Mapping Mordor” chapter in Walking Tree Publishers’ forthcoming book Tolkien and Literary Wordbuilding. The cancer was gone, but I had neither the stamina nor the focus for this project. My editors were very understanding, and I thank them profoundly for their patience and support.
I gave a paper about all of Tolkien’s maps that contain portions of Mordor at Tolkien in Vermont conference at UVM. (It was called “Mapping Mordor: Normalizing Tolkien’s maps as the first step in examining his worldbuilding method of construction-by-revision; or, Yet further confirmation (as if we needed it) that Tolkien had no master plan, did not ‘first make a map and make the narrative agree,’ and, in fact, never did produce a map that exactly portrays what’s described in The Lord of the Rings.”)
We hosted the “Mordorkians” here for the Tolkien in Vermont conference — colleagues and dear friends all met in 2010 in Dr. Marc Zender’s Tolkien As Translator class at Harvard.
I introduced the Tolkien Art Index at the Tolkien Seminar prior to the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
I met — or renewed acquaintances with — many Tolkienists at Kalamazoo.
I attended the International Medieval Congress in Leeds — my first! — and learned lots, especially at the Tolkien and at the Mappings paper sessions.
I worked for a week at the Bodleian Library at Oxford — mostly researching artwork for the Tolkien Art Index, staying with a delightful family about a mile south of the town center.
I was able to get together frequently in Oxford with various Tolkienist friends for suppers, a concert, and a trip to Tolkien’s grave.
I was able to go three times to the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition at the Bodleian Library. I spent a great deal of time in front of the “first map of The Lord of the Rings” and Tolkien’s map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor.
- I launched a Patreon site to help fund my work. Many heartfelt thanks to those who have contributed!
- I drove to Norfolk, Virginia, to attend the North American Cartographic Information Society annual meeting and conference, where I gratefully could stop pretending to be a cartographer and instead present a paper on Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth (watch it here on YouTube — but please forgive the PowerPoint glitches!)
I also travelled by car to Buffalo, Michigan, Ohio, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh alone and with family members to visit family and friends; celebrated the wedding of a dear old friend; helped our kids get settled in new phases of their lives in Providence and in western Massachusetts; attended a week-long session at a traditional music and dance camp; and celebrated 25 years of harmonious and happy marriage.
Not a bad year. Various follow-up appointments have thus far shown no sign of the return of 2017’s cancer — and I’m very happy to see its fallout gradually lessen. I have neither all of my stamina nor my focus back yet, but they’re improving. And, though the endless list of things-to-do is no shorter, at least it is no longer lengthening.