A Comparison of Silmarillion Sections across Sites and Time

The conversation here and on my tumblr lately has focused on comments and the history of commenting in the Tolkien fandom. (See this conversation with Simaethae on Tumblr for discussion of how commenting has changed in the past twelve years.) I’ve also been thinking a lot about commenting data and how it is best to collect and interpret this data.

In the course of doing the latter, I’ve begun posting again to FanFiction.net, mostly to have access to the very specific statistics they collect about comments. I heard from a few people, when I wrote on my journal about trying this, that they were considering posting again to FanFiction.net because they believed they might get some comments on their work there, whereas they were not receiving many comments on AO3. (I had stopped posting at FanFiction.net when the administration refused to take any action against bullying, especially against teenage authors.)

This made me wonder: Do authors get more comments on FanFiction.net than elsewhere? Is there something of the older fandom culture there? One of my theories about why feedback has decreased in the Silmarillion fanfic community is that, ten years ago, there was a wide perception that people wrote fanfic in order to improve as writers, and we tended to perceive ourselves as all helping each other toward that goal. FanFiction.net still expresses that philosophy, once near-universal in the Tolkien fanfic community, in their Story Guidelines that are available when posting a new story to the site:

3. Respect the reviewers. Not all reviews will strictly praise the work. If someone rightfully criticizes a portion of the writing, take it as a compliment that the reviewer has opted to spend his/her valuable time to help improve your writing.

4. Everyone here is an aspiring writer. Respect your fellow members and lend a helping a hand when they need it. Like many things, the path to becoming a better writer is often a two way street.

The idea that we are all writing because we are aspiring toward writing excellence seems far less prevalent today than it once was, and I wondered if this was behind the drop in commenting in recent years.

So I decided to take a look to see if there is a difference in commenting across the Silmarillion sections of multiple sites. I looked at An Archive of Our Own (AO3), FanFiction.net (FFN), Many Paths to Tread (MPTT), and the Silmarillion Writers’ Guild (SWG). All of these sites make it possible to filter out only the Silmarillion stories.

The methodology I used:

  1. I started with stories posted two weeks ago, beginning on December 10, and worked back from there. There’s a good reason why a story posted in the last 48 hours wouldn’t have many (or any!) comments: People just haven’t had a chance to read and react to it yet! Going back two weeks made my data more fair toward sites like AO3 that have a large number of stories being posted per day.
  2. I looked only at one-chapter stories in the Silmarillion section.
  3. I looked only at stories written in English.
  4. I listed the number of comments and clicks beginning on December 10 and worked back from there, until I had collected data from ten stories on each site. On AO3, I counted only top-level comments since comment replies count toward the comment count reported on the story stats. FFN, unfortunately, does not make click data public, so that data is missing.

Here is the data chart:

Comparison of Silmarillion Sections on Four Archives

Some observations:

  • On all sites except MPTT–which had dismally low comment rates in its Silmarillion section–you can expect to get about the same number of comments: one, maybe two, per single-chapter story.
  • You are more likely to get more than two comments on AO3 and FFN.
  • You are most likely to hear from at least one reader on the SWG: Only 10% of the stories I looked at had no comments. That number was 20% on AO3 and 30% on FFN.
  • Reading rates, however, were much more variable. Surprisingly, your story is going to get the most readers on MPTT*–however, you’ll hardly ever hear from them. I expected higher click counts on AO3, which is by far the busiest Silmarillion section online right now. However, it doesn’t seem like the high number of users necessarily translates into a lot of traffic on individual stories, perhaps because there are enough stories being posted there that readers can afford to be particular. Click counts were lower than I expected on the SWG (although I have suspected they were falling for a while now, I was still startled by how low they actually are), but even with relatively few readers, you’re likely to hear something on your story.
  • Comment-to-click ratios were the highest on the SWG, where one reader out of thirty-nine comments. On AO3, one reader out of sixty-four comments.

*See my discussion with bunn in the comments below about this. We conclude that most of those clicks are likely bot-generated.

I wish I had click data for FFN, but even without it, it doesn’t seem like a Silmarillion author is going to do much better there than on AO3 or the SWG.

Overall, I think this data also presents a pretty glum picture of commenting in the Silmarillion fanfic community right now. If you post a Silmarillion story today, in two weeks, you might hear from one, maybe two, readers. Obviously, some authors have much higher rates of feedback–but at the same time, there are authors who hear nothing, or almost nothing, on their work.

On this post about commenting, I suggested that many readers might lack the confidence and skills to write comments that they feel are meaningful to authors. The discussion around this idea was really good, and I won’t say much more on it here, but what did arise during that discussion that changed my thinking somewhat is the difference between small, intimate archives and large, generalized archives and quality of relationships most users form there. I think the data does bear this out, keeping in mind that it is a very limited sample. (I should start doing this regularly to see if these trends hold.) The SWG, based on click data alone, is the smallest of the three sites for which click data is available. My own experience as the owner of that site is that it tends to be a more intimate setting, and most people who participate there tend to be acquainted with each other (and, in some cases, have deep, years-long friendships). And you’re more likely to hear from a reader there than on AO3 and especially MPTT, which seem to have more people willing to read a Silmarillion story but less likely to speak to an author about it.

In conclusion, it seems to me that, if we aspire to raise rates of commenting in the Silmarillion community, it might require a couple of approaches. First is to increase the resources and systems available to help readers develop the skills to write comments. But I think that increasing the intimacy in the community will also help. Talking with some friends–most of them SWG users–in response to my complaint that Tumblr is the primary place where discussions of The Silmarillion occur (and Tumblr is universally regarded as terrible for discussions), many were interested in having the ability to discuss Tolkien in a location off of Tumblr. As I ponder the direction for the SWG site redesign, this is definitely at the forefront of my mind.

And one final footnote about commenting in earlier eras of fandom history: I am perusing old Metafandom posts for a paper I’m researching, and I encountered numerous posts bemoaning the lack of comments and making the same pleas that I hear today about the need for readers to do their part in supporting the work of authors they enjoy. Metafandom was a multifandom community that collected links to discussions in fandom. It was not heavily used by the Tolkienfic community. But it reminds me that dissatisfaction with the amount of comments one receives is certainly not a new complaint.

However, I do think the situation has worsened. I looked back at the Silmarillion section on FFN for 29 November 2004. Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine only saved the first page, so I could not follow  the methodology of going two weeks back and looking at the data for the ten single-chapter stories posted on or before that date. Instead, I looked at the ten oldest single-chapter stories on that page, which were all posted two weeks or before November 29. The median number of reviews was two.

By the next snapshot I was able to find for 20 February 2009, activity in the Silmarillion section has slowed to where I could follow the methodology using just the first page of stories; the median number of comments is still two. Same for 3 March 2009: The median is two for the ten oldest stories on the first page.

By 9 October 2013, however–in the heart of the Hobbit film trilogy and with activity clearly picked up in the Silmarillion section of FFN–the median number of comments is down to one per story, following the methodology where all stories had been posted for at least two weeks. Same by 20 September 2015. I’m not sure what happened around that time, but it seems the narrowest I’ve been able to pinpoint a drop in commenting so far: right around the release of the Hobbit trilogy. The easiest explanation is that an increase in activity in a fanfic community does not translate into increased commenting, which could also support my explanation that more intimate communities bring about more commenting. However, I’m open to other theories in the comments.

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25 Responses to “A Comparison of Silmarillion Sections across Sites and Time”

  1. Independence1776 says:

    I don’t have any theories, but I think it’s interesting– and depressing– data. (So says the woman who has opened this post multiple times since you published it and thus would have skewed the hit count. :P)

    • Dawn says:

      It is pretty depressing to put hours/days/weeks into a story with the expectation that maybe two people will say something about it, even as dozens read it.

  2. Spiced Wine says:

    The easiest explanation is that an increase in activity in a fanfic community does not translate into increased commenting, which could also support my explanation that more intimate communities bring about more commenting. However, I’m open to other theories in the comments.

    There was so much going on on Tumblr at that time, but it mostly went on on Tumblr. Not all of course, there began to be some big Thranduil-centric fics posted at that time, if I remember rightly, that was within the Hobbit, LOTR fandom. There’s a lot going on now within the Silm fandom on Tumblr, but it’s pretty much staying there.

    I do wonder a little if is the big Black Hole here, so much goes in, not much comes out. There’s a kind of instant gratification that goes on there, if you write a post someone likes, but it’s all in ‘house’ and on Tumblr. It’s all ‘froth’, and takes very little commitment to add to a ‘cracky’ post that makes people laugh, that people join in with. It’s like being in a group of people and chatting about the Silmarillion, (which I’d loved to have done when I read it) whereas going to read a story, then getting ‘serious’ (assuming it’s a serious story) is something done alone and that requires a change of mental gear. I understand this. The Silmarillion made me want to talk about it, but since no-one read it, I couldn’t, then, later when people in my family read LOTR, I could talk with them and I used to joke about serious things because it was my way of coping. This is what I am seeing on Tumblr. But it’s more a social thing. Some of these people do write fic, of course, and some comment, but their ‘feels’ seem to be expressed more through Tumblr posts than reviewing fanfic.

    In fact about 90% of my reviewers on AO3 come from Tumblr-ites, whereas on Faerie it’s the ‘old school’ the reviewers I knew on LOTRFF.com, so I am not saying these people don’t or won’t review, but I wonder if Tumblr is a factor. (I’d say my fic, or the current on is Silm-fic, just because most of the characters are from the Silm) and it’s posted under The Silmarillion etc.

    I also think it’s true that if people interact with you online, they’re more likely to comment on your fic, which is why smaller and more friendly communities ‘nurture’ fanfic better. (Just my opinion). But it also seems as if people want a place like Tumblr to just throw out all their current enthusiasm/feels/crack/meta etc, which archives don’t cater for at the moment.

    • Dawn says:

      I do wonder a little if is the big Black Hole here, so much goes in, not much comes out. There’s a kind of instant gratification that goes on there

      I think the format of Tumblr is challenging in a number of ways and this is a pretty apt summary of why! There’s an ephemerality there that didn’t exist on the journals, mailing lists, forums, or archives, where you could hold a complex conversation among multiple people that spanned days or even weeks, and if you wanted to look back at that discussion even years down the road, it was generally pretty easy to find. Whereas, as a fandom historian, I detest Tumblr because unless you grab a link right away (and assuming the person doesn’t change their username or delete their account, which seems to happen with greater regularity than it did on LJ), the post becomes all but lost. I’ve spent the last several days conducting historical research on Yahoo! Groups and LiveJournal. Ten years from now, when fandom historians want to know what was being discussed, that kind of research just won’t be possible on Tumblr as it stands now, at least without third-party tools. That’s a dreadful loss to me, to throw all that discussion and history into the Web equivalent of a black hole.

      I like Tumblr for many things–art and shorter fanworks that thrive on being viral and quick “chatty” reactions–but it is terrible for discussion, and we really need to actively push from moving away from Tumblr as the primary place for fandom discussion. We can do–and deserve–a lot better than that.

      I also think it’s true that if people interact with you online, they’re more likely to comment on your fic, which is why smaller and more friendly communities ‘nurture’ fanfic better.

      I agree. In reading many old discussion threads from ten years ago in Y!G and LJ, I was struck by how much very personal socialization occurred. There was the usual fannish squee, but there was also a lot of personal sharing that happened between the lines of fannish discussion. 26% of the posts to the SWG’s Y!G in 2007 were of this nature! People sharing what was going on in their lives or reaching out to thank, commiserate with, or congratulate each other. And rereading these conversations, it occurred to me that I saw these people as people first and had an interest in them, not just their contributions, knowledge, stories, and whatnot. When they did post a story, it felt both more compelling and easier to comment because the person, even if not a friend, was someone I knew.

      • Spiced Wine says:

        I like Tumblr for many things–art and shorter fanworks that thrive on being viral and quick “chatty” reactions–but it is terrible for discussion, and we really need to actively push from moving away from Tumblr as the primary place for fandom discussion. We can do–and deserve–a lot better than that.

        People do want more than that, I think, and I believe this is across all fandoms, although I follow mainly Tolkien-fans. You can so often see that people want something more personal in their ‘Reblog if you want to know your followers better,’ or ‘Reblog if one of your followers can come to your Ask box and talk to you.’ It’s ok, as you say for quick-flash things, but people are aware of its flaws.

  3. bunn says:

    Unless you have details of how MPTT calculates ‘clicks’ compared to other archives, it may (I’m afraid) be a meaningless figure. I have a professional interest in website analytics (I have been working with them since 1996 and my tiny business is a Google partner agency). It’s extremely common for me to encounter a website where the owners are using an old-fashioned server logfile analysis method to count ‘hits’ and wondering why none of their ‘visitors’ engage.

    As soon as you employ a more modern analytics approach (for example the industry standard Google Analytics), or even look at the full data that older logfile reporting software digests to create human-readable reports, it often becomes apparent that many ‘visitors’ are not real people at all : they are automated bot software trawling for email addresses, search engine spiders, looking for code vulnerabilities…. Most modern analytics software has some method for stripping out such automated visits from the data, but systems used for this can vary a lot.

    To compare data in this way meaningfully, you really do need some sort of definition for clicks/visits/page requests unless you are sure that each archive is using the same approach to the data in reporting. (I am often horrified, though no longer surprised, that marketing departments even for fairly large enterprises often have no real understanding how their data is being generated, they just look at the reports and take them at face value…) My unsubstantiated suspicion is that whatever MPTT is using to calculate the figures may be more generous in its ‘what is a human click’ calculation than other software, and that might explain those figures!

    The comments figure is likely to be far more accurate, since people tend to be much more careful about spam comments than robot page requests, and I see you’ve concentrated on that, which makes sense.

    Re: the comments thing, I wonder if it is worth mentioning another possible skewing factor: since comments are reinforcing, people may tend to be more likely to post on the archives where they get more response? A self-reinforcing trend.

    Personally, I get by far the majority of feedback on Ao3, for some reason, and therefore, that’s where I tend to post first and most. I have 31 Silmarillion stories on Ao3, but only 7 on SWG, because I found that people who commented on SWG had already read the stories on Ao3 or were people I knew from LJ, and were crossposting comments, which was kind, but seemed a bit pointless. I have 20 on FFN, because the readers on FFN seem to be different people who don’t seem to go on Ao3 or SWG, so from time to time if someone leaves an FFN review, I have a fit of enthusiasm and copy my Ao3 stuff over there.

    But I don’t write for SWG or FFN the way I write for Ao3, knowing that I have subscribers there who will want to read my stuff, where strangers will leave comments asking questions, and where I can leave an author’s note with a question or a request for prompts and be fairly sure of getting a response. I sometimes write specifically for someone on Tumblr or Ao3 who has said they are interested in a topic or character, whereas on other archives, it’s much more : here is my fic, read or not as you will!

    • Dawn says:

      MPTT and SWG both use the eFiction software. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about how the click stats are calculated using that software; it’s becoming horribly outdated, and given what was always on its (one) developer’s plate, I’d be very surprised if she was able to take the time to put that kind of work into this one small part of the software.

      The SWG numbers seem reasonable to me, though. Is there a reason why two sites–same software, same host, built by the same person (me! :D)–might be trawled at different rates?

      I can attest that both the SWG and MPTT are free of spam reviews, having been a moderator on both sites until just a couple of months ago (and still on the SWG, obviously! :)) Members on both sites will report a spammer in a heartbeat, and both sites have since implemented systems to screen registrations to prevent bot/spammer registrations and so don’t get comment spam at all anymore.

      since comments are reinforcing, people may tend to be more likely to post on the archives where they get more response? A self-reinforcing trend.

      I think that’s definitely true. I know I’ve stopped posting on archives where I wasn’t getting any response. It was nothing against the archive! It was just clear that my work wasn’t a great fit for what their readers wanted to see, and since I’m always short on time, it just wasn’t worth the effort.

      Even now, I put my effort into the SWG first because I can generally expect about six comments on a story there, then AO3, where I usually get a handful of comments. I stopped posting to MPTT, even when I was still working there, because I rarely heard anything at all from readers. I get the opposite effect from you: People who will comment on the SWG and then crosspost comments to AO3! :) Interesting how people seem to respond foremost in the place that they perceive as the author’s fandom home!

      whereas on other archives, it’s much more : here is my fic, read or not as you will!

      That’s something, as I begin work on rebuilding the SWG using new software, that I want to change there. I want to make it easier to have conversations with people. I love AO3’s threaded comments, for example. eFiction makes that kind of interaction almost impossible (I have SWG stories with three comments from the same person because that’s the only way we can have a conversation in the comments!), so you’re right, and it’s something I’d like to see change.

      • bunn says:

        “Is there a reason why two sites–same software, same host, built by the same person (me! :D)–might be trawled at different rates?”

        You’d expect them to be close on that basis (as long as you’re sure you chose the same options when setting up the tracking tools? 😉 ) But there are many possible reasons for a difference, particularly on such a small number of clicks anyway. A slightly different navigation structure, different homepage content, different content weighting in general (‘Tolkien’ is likely to be a more traffic-atttracting keyword than ‘Silmarillion’ I would guess). Slight differences to template. Crossposting : if MPTT is more linked from social media for example. You’d need to drill down into the numbers to get a better idea, and if the software is custom-built, it might not be capturing the amount of detail needed for a proper comparison anyway.

        That’s just what I meant about the spam reviews: the software that made those will still be prowling around the website looking for ways in, and probably registering guest ‘clicks’ as it does it. Usually spam prevention is done at the form submission stage, so unless you are identifying and filtering out the spam bots from clicks as well as comments, you get an automatic disparity between ‘apparent visits’ and ‘apparent comments’ because you can see the comments are fake easily and Do Things to fix them, but it’s really really common not to even register that not all ‘apparent visits’ are real people.

        • Dawn says:

          There are no options for tracking tools in eFiction, so I’m confident about that! 😀

          The main difference I can see is that MPTT is entirely an eFiction site, i.e., eFiction is installed in the root directory. On the SWG, it is installed in a subdirectory, so one does not go directly to the archive via the homepage. No eFiction content is linked on the homepage; on MPTT, the most recent stories are listed on every page on the site, including the homepage. (Ten of them, I think.) I would presume that would make it easier for a bot that accesses the homepage to trawl the stories on that list … and since MPTT is not a very busy site, those stories could feasibly stay there for weeks.

          In every other way, the SWG is the more likely site to be trawled: more linked in to social media and the site that is better known and more talked about outside its group of core users. And while I don’t know for sure, higher in search engine rankings too, I’d assume.

          That helps solve a mystery, then. :) Thank you! I expect many of those clicks ARE bots; MPTT never had a huge Silmarillion interest–it was founded by a bunch of Hobbits, for Eru’s sake! :D–which is why my work never did all that well there, I assumed. I was trying to imagine this sudden, massive, silent Silmarillion audience! 😀 I even thought that because the site uses warning pages that those might be generating extra hits, but nothing I did could create more than one click registered per story visit.

          the software that made those will still be prowling around the website looking for ways in

          Yep, we still get the occasional attempt by a spammer to register on the SWG, but since a human now reviews all accounts before unlocking them, then they don’t get it. On account of spam registrations, MPTT no longer has self-registration; you have to email the mods to have an account registered for you. But of course they are still there.

          • bunn says:

            For more accurate data, you might want to consider installing Google Analytics on SWG – it’s free, and you just have to paste a tag into the html template. I appreciate that you may not wish to share traffic data with Google long-term, but perhaps a three-month test period to accumulate data for analysis might be worth it, since you are clearly interested in a data analysis approach. You could set the submitted review page url as an analytics goal and collect a good deal of data about which types of visitors are most likely to submit it. GA is reasonably good on elimination of bots, though I wish they were more transparent about exactly how they do it.

            Unfortunately since GA bought the market-leading analytics product years ago and made it available FOC, there are few other services so comprehensive and none I am aware of that are free. I would not recommend trying to code something like that from scratch, the learning curve to get useable data would be pretty extreme, and though there are freeware logfile programs, they are pretty old-fashioned and certainly when I used to use them, you often had to go combing through the raw data afterwards to ensure that the reports were producing data that was meaningful.

          • Dawn says:

            That’s a really interesting approach–thank you! I had started setting up GA for the SWG some years ago, but like many things in my life, got busy and never picked it up again.

            I don’t have a particular problem with Google (beyond my general distrust of large institutions ;)) or with them collecting my site data, so that’s probably a good solution.

            Thanks again for talking this all through with me–I really appreciate your sharing your expertise! ^_^

  4. Potential_reviewer says:

    Sorry for a bit of offtopic here – but can you recommend some readable complete Tolkien fanfiction? I tried searching some time ago but found solely unreadable tripe, uncompleted and abandoned promising stories and low-quality porn.

    Can you recommend any good complete story?

    • Dawn says:

      Absolutely! If you’re looking for genfic, try Many Paths to Tread or Stories of Arda. If you’re interested in Silmarillion fanfic, I’ll recommend my website, the Silmarillion Writers’ Guild. If you are looking to avoid adult-rated stuff, you should be able to tell by the ratings, warnings, and tags on AO3; here are the LotR, Hobbit, and Silmarillion sections.

      All of these sites include both ratings and warnings, as well as labeling what stories are complete, so you should be able to find finished genfic. On SWG, MPTT, and AO3, try clicking too on character names and other tags that interest you if you want to narrow your search further.

      Good luck.

      • Potential_reviewer says:

        Can you recommend some specific stories? I already tried trawling through AO3 with effects that I mentioned (I am not sure whatever I am too picky or whatever I searched poorly, so I would be really happy to get some specific recommendation).

        • Spiced Wine says:

          It really depends on what kind of stories you’re looking for?

          • Potential_reviewer says:

            I think that I am pretty open, except my requirement that stories are complete and quite good. So, can you recommend what you enjoyed (for example link to your favourites/stories on one of sites like AO3 would be quite welcomed, as long as spamfilter will allow this)

            To expand on “quite good” – complete (probably main limitation), without bashing, with readable grammar, plot is interesting and characters are believable, characters are not dumb without a reason just to advance plot, without extreme silliness (“Silmarillion High School AU” level of silliness).

            It may follow style, topics, themes and events of canon and fill between what was written by Tolkien or be a continuation.

            I am also open to deep AU or completely different approaches.

            It also may be something different – going by genre categories on fanfiction.net I think that I would be open to all types of stories* (though I expect that some have no fics written at all, especially after discarding unfinished ones of extremely low quality).

            It may be something that Tolkien would probably dislike, as long as it is well written (so it includes stories that run on completely different themes and excludes everything going “lol, Tolkien was dumb”)

            Length for me is irrelevant – it may be tiny oneshot, it may be monster with length in millions of words or anything in between.

            I have no problem with drastic/upsetting/adult themes descriptions, but I would not consider stories to be better just because there is more gore/sex in it.

            *for reference – it is General, Drama, Romance, Humor, Crime, Action, Mystery, Spiritual, Supernatural, Suspense, Horror, Friendship, Family, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy, Sci-Fi, Western (I would expect that nobody made Sci-Fi or Western story that is still good Tolkien fanfiction, but if it exists I would still happily read it)

        • Dawn says:

          I can, but asking, “Can you rec a Tolkien story?” without knowing more about what you’re willing to read is like saying, “Can you recommend a book?”–well sure, but if you like hard sci-fi and I rec Harlequin romance, that is not likely to please! :)

          Since I see from your reply to SW that you’re not terribly particular, I can also be more specific.

          I should say that I read 99.9% Silmarillion. If you’re looking for LotR or Hobbit, I’m not going to be much help beyond recommending authors who write beautiful Silmfic and whom I assume write good LotRfic as well.

          Here is my favorites list on the SWG. (You have to scroll past my profile and all my swag–sorry!) Here is my fic rec tag on DW.

          Here is an incomplete list of authors I love who write Silmfic: Oshun, Pandemonium_213, Darth Fingon, Himring, Robinka, Grundy, Lyra, Elleth, IgnobleBard, Keiliss, Kenaz, Tehta, and Ithilwen. You can find all of them on the SWG, but many of them post elsewhere as well. Quite a few of them write LotR stories as well as Silmarillion.

          If you’re on SWG or MPTT, check out the Top Tens page; these are the top ten favorite authors, stories, series, etc across the site. Both sites have been around long enough and have enough members that to make one of these lists is an accomplishment. Here is the Top Tens on SWG and MPTT.

          If there is an author you like on either of those sites, click on that person’s name and you can find a link to their favorites list below their profile. If you like someone’s fiction, their recs are probably going to be a good place to go from there. ^_^

          Stories of Arda is a refereed site. It’s not personally to my taste–too obsessed with “canon compliance”–but many fine authors I know post there, and if you’re absolutely wanting to avoid “badfic,” you probably won’t find much there since an author has to apply and be approved before joining. (At the same time, at least one of my favorite authors was turned away, so again, they do aim for a particular type of canonicity that can exclude some wonderful stories and writers a little more willing to color outside the lines a little.)

          I don’t know what categories you were reading on AO3 with such dismal success, but most Silmfic is pretty good. If you like Silmfic and haven’t checked the Silmarillion section there, you may want to. (Same for Fanfiction.net.) For LotR and Hobbit, sticking with the Tolkien-only archives will probably bring you more success.

          On all of these sites, stories are liked as Complete or WiPs, so it should be relatively easy to avoid stumbling into the Graveyard of Unfinished Tolkienfic. :)

          ETA … I read your reply to SW about not expecting but being willing to read Tolkien-based sci-fi … Pandemonium_213 writes absolutely, amazing science fiction based on Tolkien. She’s a PhD biochemist and among the smartest people I know; her stories seamlessly weave science into Middle-earth in a way very much akin to magical realism. Her work embraces Tolkien’s concept of “scientifiction.” Here is her author page on the SWG.

          • Spiced Wine says:

            I absolutely second Dawn’s recycling of Pandemonium_213’s work. The author’s I’d recc tend to be like Dawn, like Pandê and others (like Oshun) to be experienced writers anyhow, who write fanfic because they like writing it, but are professional writers in their own fields. Silm-fic does tend to attract people like that. All Pandë’s work is on SWG, I am not sure if it is on AO3, or not in its entirety.

        • Independence1776 says:

          I have some recs for you, though some of them are authors more than specific stories.

          I second Spiced_Wine’s rec for AMC; it can also be read on SWG.

          A great place to start for a more-or-less chronological journey though the Silmarillion is SWG’s Silmarillion 40 event. It’s a multi-creator collection of fic, art, and poetry celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Silm’s publication.

          SurgicalSteel is a good author for medical hurt/comfort; she was a surgeon so the medical stuff is accurate. Silm-focused fics and LotR-focused fics

          I’ll rec pretty much anything by Pandemonium_213.

          Different people’s rec lists from the Back to Middle-earth Month community.

          My favorites page on SWG has some of my favorite fics in the fandom. All but one of the stories there are complete.

          I have a fic rec tag on my Dreamwidth, though it’s not all Tolkien fic.

          Though this isn’t a direct link to a story, which I know is what you’re looking for, a good place to browse is the MEFA fanfic awards. The site basically functions as a giant rec list for stories written during or before 2011 that people thought were worth reading. It is organized in various ways (time periods, genres, etc.) so it’s fairly simple to find something to your taste.

          I hope this at least gives you a place to start.

    • Spiced Wine says:

      Found my list. I checked it a while back, as some had been removed, so although it is dated to several years back, it should still be current.

      My LJ is friends only, but this list is public. The ratings are on the stories. This was from a time people were sending me reccs, so they range from General to Adult.

      https://spiced-wine.livejournal.com/296325.html

    • Spiced Wine says:

      Also this, from Faerie. Anyone can recc any story (not necessarily on-site, there are plenty that are posted on other archives)

      http://faerie-archive.com/browse.php?type=recommendations&offset=0

    • TheLionInMyBed says:

      Some fic authors who are grammatical, have complete fics to their names and are (rightly) popular on tumblr and AO3 include emilyenrose, Sath, liveoakwithmoss, simaetha, arrogantemu, Cynewulf, Gogollescent, Anna_Wing and thegreatpumpkin, and their own lists of bookmarks will give you other recs (excuse me for not fiddling with the html)

      (I’m for the most part just recommending personal friends but that’s just a guarantee they’re good people as well as excellent writers)

  5. Spiced Wine says:

    Well, the stories I am currently following are series and not finished, but Dawn’s ‘Another Man’s Cage’ is a Silmarillion fanfic classic, although I expect she was too modest to recc herself :) That is on AO3 and a finished story.

    I did make a list of people’s favourites a few years ago and am trying to find it. But here’s the link for Dawn’s story.

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/3832198/chapters/8548381

    • Dawn says:

      Aww, thank you! You know me! ^_^ Although I did recommend the Top Tens page on the SWG, and AMC is on that. 😉

      • Spiced Wine says:

        I did see that, but since Potential Reviewer mentioned AO3, I thought they might want to read it there as you don’t need to create an account to review. :)

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