Dragon Con’s new High Fantasy track launched at 10AM Friday in L401–402 in the Marriott with “Namárië—Farewell Tolkien Track.” A passionate, devoted, and warm crowd joined Jim West, Grace Jackson, Rebecca Perry, and Kirsten Cairnes, senior staff member of TheOneRing.net (TORn) to look back at the Tolkien track and consider the possibilities moving forward. TORn has long been a force in the Tolkien Track. The fan website, born in 1999 out of the excitement over and fascination with Peter Jackson’s production of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, became a part of the track in 2001. TORn staffers have even led the track, and they have always seen it as a place for building friendships and connections. Its goal now, according to Cairns, is to ensure the continued presence of Tolkien at Dragon Con. That will now occur as part of an expanded High Fantasy Track. This new track seeks to work within the broader fantasy realm, incorporating literature and media as well as fantasy fandoms including Dungeons & Dragons, Sword & Sorcery, and Wizards, to name just a few.
The focus for much of the hour, however, was retrospective as panelists and members reflected upon the track’s influence and legacy. Organizers solicited more than 200 photos from participants in Tolkien Track events from previous Dragon Cons and merged them into a slide show of memories that made those in attendance smile, chuckle, laugh, and even shed a few tears. As the group reflected upon the last 17 years, they spoke of the relationships forged and shaped. Others found their passion in the track. Members emphasized the sense of family within the fandom, and more than one pointed out that through the fandom their circle of friends had grown, diversified, and become truly global. Others spoke of the power of the academic panels that have always been part of the Tolkien Track. As the lines blur between academia (Tolkien studies, medievalism etc.) and fandom, one member reflected that he always appreciated these sessions because they were conversations which by their end were “ours.” Still another member asked where else but a Monday Tolkien Track panel could one learn to walk like a Dwarf?
The Marriott rooms (L401-403), traditionally home of the Tolkien track, now include posters and banners reflecting new directions, including Game of Thrones and Robert Jordan. A Sunday (9/3) panel will ask, “Who is the American Tolkien?” This panel will offer members the opportunity to consider Tolkien’s continuing impact upon the genre and those who seek to master it. This is the road the High Fantasy Track is now on. Under the leadership of Jennifer Liang, with her extensive contacts in the field, the road indeed goes ever on, and we look forward to discovering what waits around the next corner.