As promised in the last GROGPOD this is the first in a series of blog posts featuring samples from RPG zines from back in the day.
Long, long before he directed a cast of thousands of Lannister extras to their death, Graham Kinniburgh was a very young Tolkien enthusiast. He has provided some sample pages from his ‘zine for the GROGSQUAD to enjoy:
A short note on Tasarion – a Tolkien Fanzine
GROGPOD listeners will had a gateway author (or perhaps a game) that will have introduced them to world of geekdom. For a small group of friends in Greenock in the West of Scotland at the very dawn of the eighties, that author was the undisputed Lord of Fantasy Fiction himself – JRR Tolkien.
And having fallen on love with the world and works of Middle-Earth, it was perhaps only natural that we would seek out other like-minded souls in the wider world. Of course the internet wasn’t around back then, but an organisation calling itself ‘The Tolkien Society’ did advertise its existence in the back pages of some of the (many) Tolkien related paperbacks that we bought. Letters via snail-mail duly exchanged, and parental cheques dispatched and cashed, we were soon ‘officially’ ‘The Hobbiton Smial’ – ‘smials’ being the name for the various local clusters of Tolkien Society members dotted round the country. What’s more, we were soon in receipt of ‘Amon Hen’ – the Society newsletter, and ‘Mallorn’ its intimidatingly erudite ‘scholarly’ publication.
‘Amon Hen’ contained news of society meetings (aka ‘moots’) and events, articles, short fiction, poetry, artwork and other Tolkienish tid-bits and through its pages we learned that some of the other ‘smials’ were producing their own newsletters too. I’m not sure if we used the word ‘fanzine’ at the time, but that’s what they were and it was only natural, despite the fact that we were only 12 (!!) that we would want to have a stab it too.
Thus was born ‘Tasarion’ our humble little offering to go alongside those other more grown-up publications The production details are practically lost to memory but I do recall struggles with such archaic tech as be-ribboned manual typewriters, pritt-stikk, tipp-ex and ancient photocopiers (issue 2, now seemingly lost to history, was cranked out on something called a Gestetner – which I remember being as hideous to use as its name sounds tripping off the tongue). However, our surviving issues are in surprisingly good condition so we must have done something right and am pleased to notice that the quality of the issues did improve so that they did look a lot more like ‘Amon Hen’ etc by the end.
As for the content, well please bear in mind our age. While we may squirm a little (ok a lot) reading them back now, we do so also rather pleased and proud that we made the effort to give vent to our fledgling imaginations and creativity.
Tasarion lasted for a grand total of 6 issues. Like a young band just hitting its stride with some decent material beginning to sell, we ran into ‘creative differences’; as we hit our moody teens we decided to re-imagine ourselves – no longer the Society’s young ‘halflings’, we wanted to be the bad guys of Middle-Earth and, as inevitable as acne, we re-branded ourselves as ‘The Dark Crown’ (it is for you to decide, dear listener, whether the sight of certain young goth ladies dressed as leather- clad ‘Brides of Sauron’ at the Society’s Oxonmoot in ’82 had anything to do with that decision !).
In short, things other than fanzine production occupied our time – sadly I cannot report that it was the sex, drugs and black-magic infused rock & roll that we craved – but probably even MORE of an obscure little game we’d been playing called Dungeons & Dragons