Image by Margherita Barrera.
Since a child, Sarz had a deep connection to the Lord of the Rings books. After the movie version came out in 2003, that connection went several layers deeper.
Outro song: By Your Side, Sade cover by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.PLAYLIST
Artist – Song – Album
Syrinx – Ibistix – Tumblers From the Vault Ulfur – White Mountain – White Mountain
X.Y.R. – Middle of Nowhere – Music from the Fourth World 1983-2017
Susuma Yokota – Hagoromo – Susuma
Helado Negro – Young, Latin and Proud (December Mix) inst. – Private Energy Expanded
Eduard Artemiev – Track 5 – Stalker
Suzanne Kraft – Never Heated – Talk From Home
Julia Holter – Marienbad Live – Ekstasis Expanded
Syrinx – Chant For Your Dragon King – Tumblers From the Vault
Conrad Schnnitzler – 10/1975 – Filmmusik
Jan Jelinek – Vibraphonspulen – Komischer Pitch
Suzanne Kraft – Zé – What You Get For Being Young
Suzanne Kraft – Never Heated – Talk From Home
Suzanne Kraft – Zé – What You Get For Being Young
Ulfur – Evoke Ewok – White Mountain
Sarz Maxwell – Psychiatrist, Writer
“After I escaped from Boromir, I saw a vision further begin. I saw the Eye, and it almost saw me.” His voice trailed off and his right hand wandered to his breast, seeking that which was gone forever. Catching himself, he pinned the mutilated hand under his head again and resumed. “I had just wits enough to pull the ring off before the Eye found me, and I fell from the stone. As I lay there gasping, Aragorn found me. Just then, he further continued, Aragorn saw that Sting was glowing. He sent me flying down the hill, while he held off a whole company of Orcs himself.
I ran down the hill, tripping and stumbling, and took cover behind a tree as dozens of huge Orcs pounded by. Then I heard a whisper. It was Merry and Pippin; they were hiding in a tiny cave, and they called me to join them, to hide with them, to be safe. Frodo’s face twisted with the pain of the moment, feeling it again. I just shook my head, and Merry… Merry understood.”
* * *
Fan fiction gets a bad rep. People think that fan fiction is rewriting Tolkien. That’s not what it is at all. In fan fiction you take the characters and you tell the story that Tolkien didn’t have time to tell. For instance, when they’re at Rivendell, we know some of what Frodo does – he’s recovering from the attack – but what did Merry and Pippin do? Did they make friends with some elves? Did they wander around in the woods? Did they have picnics? What did they do? So you write stories about that.
There’s fan fiction and fan fiction, but the fan fiction I wrote – you stayed within the canon. You didn’t deviate from the basic story of the Lord of the Rings, but you told the other story.
I’ve never had a lot of friends, but I’ve never been lonely because I’ve always had books. I don’t remember not knowing how to read. The characters in books are intensely real to me, sometimes more real than the people I see in three-dimensional life. I’m trying to be careful with the word “real” here, because it does get dicey.
First, I was terrified to go. I hate seeing movies of books that I’ve loved; they’re always a disappointment. But I remember just when I knew everything would be alright, when they’re on mount Caradhras and it’s snowing terribly, and Legolas, the elf walks by and he’s walking on top of the snow, that Peter Jackson (the director) was able to remember that sort of detail, that elves walk on top of the snow, they don’t sink… That comforted me.
Boy, it was too soon to let my guard down, because it was right after that, after they’d been through the mines of Moria and they’re at the bridge of Khazad-dûm, and the Balrog appears. Gandalf confronts him on the bridge and crashes his staff down to shatter the bridge under the Balrog. But the end of the Balrog sweep catches Gandalf’s ankle and pulls him into the abyss as well.
Frodo starts running over the remnant of the bridge and he screams “Nooooo…!”, this long, drawn-out scream of such horror and pain that something just ripped inside of me. Cognitively I knew that Frodo and I were alike, but it wasn’t until I had this sensory experience of his agony of loss that that opened up my own losses. I suddenly knew with all of me what terror and grief and loss – what they really are. I knew to the core of my being that it was bottomless.
Frodo and I have the same birthday, September 22nd, so I always felt particularly close to Frodo. I very much empathized with his position as the reluctant hero, the person who does what you’ve gotta do because it’s gotta be done; not because he’s a hero, but because he’s the only one who can do it. And I also felt that when he was a captive of the Orcs in the tower of Cirith Ungol, I felt myself that he was probably molested by them, so we had this other bond.
I know now that I was abused, molested by the babysitters that took care of me and my sisters and a group of other children.
So you didn’t remember that for a large part of your life?
Right, it wasn’t until after I got into recovery from alcohol; when I did that, as part of my recovery I got into treatment with an incredible psychiatrist, and it was while I was seeing him in group therapy that I started having flashbacks and dreams and then memories of things that happened.
I think I saw the first movie like 30-40 times. As 7 o’clock approached every night, I’d find myself hopping in the car and running up to the theater and watching it again. And I’d drive in my car and listened to the soundtrack and I’d cry and I’d scream…
What else is happening in your life? What starts to happen as a result of this?
I needed to talk about it. I would try to talk to other people – “Have you seen Lord of the Rings?” “Yeah, good movie.” I’d say “But what does it mean – he loses Gandalf, and Gandalf was like a foster father to Frodo. He was an orphan, you know…? And he was the one who made the decision to go into the mines, where they lost Gandalf. What does that mean?” I wanted to talk about it all. So I went online and I started getting on there and chatting with other people who knew Lord of the Rings inside-and-out the way I did. It was the first time since I was a kid that I had this wider circle of friends.
* * *
“The piercing shriek ripped Sam from slumber, and he lunged from the bed. Frodo was pressed against the wall, wild with terror. With another keening wail, he skidded across the room, frantic gaze dancing everywhere. His pale flesh gleamed in the moonlight through the window, and his eyes glittered dangerously. Sam was rooted to spot in horror; he barely registered the door being flung open and Aragorn hurdling through it, Andúril flaming in his hand. Just behind him was Gandalf.
Taking in the situation at a glance, the wizard closed the door and advanced slowly into the room. All three stood frozen, staring aghast at the wraith-like figure of Frodo, whose lips were drawn back in a rectus of terror and fury.
“Sam”, said the wizard. “Move forward toward him very slowly.”
Sam took a step forward, then another. Frodo’s eyes darted about the room in panic, but when they rested on him, recognition flared. Just behind it, however, was rage. “Get back! Get back!” Frodo hissed, his voice low and savage. “You left me to them! You took it and you left me to the Orcs, and now you can just stay away from me!” Sam stopped short. His heart shattered, and he could neither speak, nor move. Frodo’s eyes blazed as they moved to Aragorn. With a feral snarl, he locked at the armed men. Andúril rang on the stone floor as Aragorn dropped it to catch the ring bearer up in his arms, cradling him to his breast.
Frodo fought and kept shrieking. With a berserk wrench, he broke Aragorn’s grasp and tumbled to the floor. His eyes changed again, and he looked up at the tall man. Whimpering, he drew apart Aragorn’s dressing gown to run his lips up the ranger’s thigh.”
* * *
Do you remember what the first slash story was that you read and what your reaction was to it?
I think it was a Frodo/Aragorn. I don’t remember the story distinctly, but my reaction was “Yes, of course!” It just seemed so right! Slash fan fiction is homoerotic fan fiction, and it’s called “slash”, because that’s the way you would write it: Kirk/Spock would be a story about a homoerotic adventure between Kirk and Spock.
Lord of the Rings is eminently slashable. You’ve got all of these male characters, there’s like a billion major male characters; there’s only one or two female.
They love each other, they sing songs to each other, they kiss each other… They’re all very slashable. I hadn’t read gay male fiction before, and I found this really sexy.
“Can you ever forgive me, Sam?” Sam’s lips trembled, but his voice was steady. “Can you forgive me, mister Frodo?” “Oh, Sam…”, whaled Frodo, and he launched himself at his beloved companion. They went down together in a flurry of Elven cloaks. “Frodo, oh, how I love you”, breezed Sam, clasping the slight form to his breast. He felt Frodo’s erection quiver against his body and he smiled languidly.
Sam poured a puddle of oil into his palm and anointed Frodo with it liberally. Frodo almost went over the edge at the feel of Sam’s oil wet palm, but then Sam was shifting under him, wedging a bolster to support his hips, bringing his legs up to bury himself for Frodo’s love.
Propping himself on both arms, Frodo savored the clinching embrace and the complete surrender on Sam’s face. Sam’s arms were around him in a bruising grip, and his legs were locked tight around Frodo’s waist, and the only thing in the world with Sam, his tight heat, his enveloping limbs, his willing mouth. Frodo screamed in Sam’s mouth as he came.”
In the third movie, Frodo was so hurt, he was so wounded by having been the ring bearer so long, that he has to leave; he has to go to the Grey Havens of the elves. He can’t stay in Middle Earth anymore, so he leaves… He leaves Sam. I was so immersed in this, and so distressed at the idea of Sam’s grief at losing Frodo that I couldn’t look at the cover of the book without bursting into tears; it was terrible. I was disabled. That’s when I discovered what’s called real person slash.
Real person slash tells slash fan fiction, only not with the characters, with the actors. That was perfect for me, because Frodo was gone. That’s canon, I can’t change that. But Elijah Wood was alive and well, and living in Los Angeles.[“I was given this ring when we commenced principle photography of all of the films. I’m a ring bearer, so they gave it to me. It’s an incredible thing to have.”]
Her screen name was LSR.[“- A good friend of yours, Elijah Wood, and your co-star in Lord of the Rings was here recently. He mentions you a lot. When I talk to him…
– We’re good buds.
– You guys made the movies together, and then you hang out now.
– Yeah, Elijah and I are very similar…”]
She and I joined a role-play group that was the real person, the actors role-playing. This woman joined as Dominic Monaghan.[“I don’t get seen as much as I’d like, because I’m in a different place and he’s in a different place…”]
I was originally asked to join the group to be somebody’s Elijah.[“- We play a lot of board games together, we play a lot of Scrabble together, we… What?!” [laughter] – Don’t question his manhood. It’s gonna get way worse now, because we’re getting involved in building a…”]
We would have sex online as the characters. I would be sitting at my computer doing whatever. I had a big desk, I kept a vibrator in the drawer, and I’d sometimes have a slideshow of photographs of Dom. At the top corner of my screen I would see “LSR has signed in.”
* * *
– Hi, love. What took you so long?
– I’m looking you up and down. Why do you have your clothes on?
– I was just chatting with the elf. He left when I said you and I were planning a little time alone.
– You’re not listening Elijah. I asked “Why are your clothes on?”
– You’re a rude fuck, you know?
– Are you sure you want to be difficult?
[I’m hardening my jaw] – Yeah, I think I do.
– I’m turning and walking from the room.
– Hey, Dom. Dom! Well, fuck it, then. I’m pointing the remote to turn on the Celtics game.
– I’m returning to the room carrying handcuffs. I quickly ratchet them onto your wrists.
– Hey, what the fuck?! Come on, Don… These hurt.
[my cock is twitching, thickening] – I look at you quickly, concerned, but your eyes are darkening with passion, not pain. Are you gonna stand up and walk on your own?
– Fuck you.
– Oh yeah, but not yet. I grasp the chain of the cuffs and yank you to your feet. Come on!
– Oh, fuck! Godammit, Dom! How about you just fuck me?
– Oh, I plan to, don’t worry. I pull my T-shirt slowly over my head and toss it away. I fondle my nipple ring in my fingers, gasping at the sensation when I twist it.
– My mouth is getting dry. Dom, come closer. Let me suck it. You know you like it when I suck your nipple ring.
– ‘Fraid not ‘Lijah I unfasten my jeans and kick them away. My cock is hard, weeping pre-cum. You should be naked. Unfortunately I can’t get the shirt over your hands bound, so…
– So take off the handcuffs.
– I fetch large scissors from the sideboard and cut away your T-shirt.
– Goddammit, you bastard! I liked that T-shirt. I got that at the Metallica concert.
– For what, 15 bucks? I pick up the shirt and hold it in front of you. You’ve gotta keep complaining, or I’m gonna have to gag you.
– You wouldn’t dare.
– I’d hate to cover up that gorgeous mouth. I pull your clothes and kiss you deeply, tongue-fucking your mouth.
– I’m melting into your kiss. God, you taste so good.
– I step back. Alright, let’s get you naked. I unfasten your jeans and strip them away.
– I crane my neck, but I can’t see what you’re doing. I hear the sound of your leather belt being pulled from your jeans and shudder, violently cock-jerking. Dom… Oh, god! Oh, fuck! Pain flares across my ass, burning through my body to my cocks, spreading there in pure heat. No words, only sound and sensation.
– Oh god, Elijah, I raise the belt once more then hesitate. Elijah, are you okay?
– I’m trembling. Don’t stop. Mindless with pain pleasure heat, my cock throbbing… Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me! Oh god, Don, please fuck me!
– Elijah, I throw the belt across the room, I squeeze lube onto my cock, I spread your ass cheeks and plunge inside. Oh god, your velvet heat!
– I scream again at the needed invasion, burning everywhere.
– Pumping hard in your ass, I reach around to pull your cock in rhythm with my thrusts.
– At your touch my cock explodes, my ass rippling and clinching on your hard cock. Buried in the heat of you, coming… Coming… Coming. You collapse in my arms.
– I’m falling, crumbling, but your arms are strong around me.
– I lower you with me to the carpet and gather you in my arms.
– I’m spent, complete. I’m nothing but yours… Yours…
– Aren’t they cute, lying there all curled up like kittens? I think they’re asleep already. I’m not surprised… I’m nearly unconscious myself. We didn’t hurt you, did we?
– You sure as fuck did hurt me, but that’s about the hottest thing I’ve ever known. Truly?
– I told you… Sex doesn’t work for me.
– I beg to differ.
– But that’s Elijah. Sex works for Elijah. The miracle is that he makes it work for me, too.
– So you’re okay with what Dom did?
– [laughing softly] Did we seem not to be okay?
– Love… [kisses you] – Thank god for these boys… They take me places I’ve never dreamed I could go.
– I love you.
– I love you… But you’d best get to bed, it’s after one there, right?
– Yeah. I’ll be a mess tomorrow.
* * *
I was churning out stories like mad at this time, and I remember driving to work… I was working way down in the South Side and I had just gotten off the drive and was on Stony Island. I’m bopping to the music and smiling, it’s a beautiful day, and I look over to the car next to me and the woman there smiles and puts her thumb up. I thought “She knows I’m happy, she can see I’m in love”, and I drive away, and it wasn’t until a couple of blocks later that I pulled over and said “Holy shit! I’m in love!”
And had you met her, had you talked to her on the phone, had you met her face-to-face?
No. No, the first time we met was in the airport, on the way to New Zealand together. There was a company doing Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand, a two-week trip.
Do you remember when you first saw her what did you do? Did you hug? Did you just kind of stare at each other? What was that moment like?
I’m standing there at the customs gate – you know what it’s like there at O’Hare – and she comes out and walks up to me. We hugged and then I kissed her. It took a while to get used to her, because both of us had been collecting pictures of the boys, those real boys that were out there in L.A. So it took a little while, because she didn’t look anything like Dominic Monaghan. She was shorter than me, which is backwards, because Dom is taller than Elijah.
So both of us took a while to get used to the idea that we were both women. She had never had a relationship with a woman before.
Was it hard to talk to her at first, in person?
Yeah. I remember she kept asking “Are you disappointed, are you disappointed?” and I kept saying no, and wishing she’d quit asking.
This was the first relationship that I’d had since I got sober, so this would be the first time that I had had sex without being drunk, so that was a pretty big deal. So yeah, that was awkward at first… But again, the boys helped us. There were all of these different personae that we had to mesh somehow; there were Elijah and Dom, and then there were these two real-life people, Sarz and her, and who all these people were and how they interacted physically and emotionally… So the boys helped us in bed, too. We would fantasize or speak in their voices there too, to increase our comfort level as part of our fantasy play.
I had bought some toys – bullet vibrators and a dildo, and we used those. That was when I realized that one reason sex had never worked for me was that I was using the wrong hole. I’d never had any feeling with vaginal sex, but anal sex is fabulous.
In my about mid twenties I eschewed sleeping with men and decided that I was a lesbian. I didn’t know what I was. I knew I wasn’t straight, whatever straight was. I was crooked in some way… [laughs] Definitely bent, but I didn’t know what shape I was bent into, and the options that were offered to me were straight or gay, so — okay, so I’m gay… Except I wasn’t a very good lesbian either. Women didn’t turn me on. Women’s bodies, I never found arousing.
Yeah, that does seem to be a problem.
Yeah, it’s hard to be a lesbian where you’re not turned on by women. And I was embarrassed because I still found men sexually arousing. Actually going to bed with them didn’t work, but looking at them, thinking about them when I fantasized – it was men and the idea of men that I found arousing.
So we were making love as two men. Sex had never worked for me before, and I finally found out why it never had. Not because I had been going to bed with the wrong people, but I had been going to bed AS the wrong people. Even when this woman and I would visit, even when we had sex physically together, we would at some level still be those characters, still be two men. It was really thrilling to find out that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me. I’d just been going about it from the wrong standpoint.
Was there any difference for you in how much you enjoyed it, between having sex with her online and (excuse me the expression) in real life?
Than physically? You know, online sex is terrific. You can do all sorts of contortions that my body is too old and fat to do now. You can get lazy about lube, you don’t have to worry about the extra arm, you don’t have a wet spot… Online sex has a lot to say for it, so in that way yeah, I kind of liked that better. But for cuddling, in-person is the only way to go.
We didn’t spend all that much time physically together – she lives in Europe – but we spent lots of time together on the computer, hours every day.
It’s hard to explain how engrossing and how real it was. Sometimes I would kind of get lost. It was layers within layers within layers of fantasy.
Did you ever worry about that? Because I can imagine someone saying like “Oh man, that doesn’t sound healthy…” Did you ever feel like it might not be healthy for you? Did you have any concerns at all like that?
I was concerned that I was spending so much time with it. I spent almost no time with non-Lord of the Rings friends at this time.
I went to work, I went to my therapy, but those were the only people that I saw in face-to-face physical contact. I remember we had started a role-play where we were in opposing street gangs in late 19th century London. Dom was Orlando’s lover and they were an opposing gang with me and my gang, and Dom and I fall in love, a Romeo and Juliet sort of thing.
At one point, Elijah is getting so depressed about his hopeless relationship with Dom in this other gang that I said “You know, you can’t do that”, and I realized that I was getting depressed myself, and I said “Okay, this game is over.”
When she and I would fight, sometimes we would consciously say “Okay, let’s let the boys talk about this.” And even if we were together on the same continent at the moment, we’d both go to computer stations and get online, and the boys would talk about whatever the issue was. Then we’d get back together. Because the boys were the part of our love that was purest and most immutable.
When I’m in love with someone, their faults are doable, but when I fall out of love, then all of the little misunderstandings, all of the not quite meshes seem so much more insurmountable, and I convince myself that this person really doesn’t know me, really doesn’t understand me, and I just don’t want to be around anymore… So I split.
That relationship is the only one that I really regret not hanging in there. I am understanding why people want someone else to grow old with. There isn’t a category for me in the personals ads. Something seeking something else… [laughs] There’s kind of an “Everything else” category.
Yeah, yeah… Yeah, pre-surgical trans man seeks other for inventive — I don’t know how I’d word it. The actual physical getting-the-sheets-dirty sex doesn’t matter enough to me to go through all of that.
You say you’re not that interested in sex, it’s not that important to you — you sure write a hell of a lot about it.
Yeah, I do.
So what’s that contradiction about?
I guess I shouldn’t say that I’m not that — I’m not that interested in my genitals getting physically in touch with someone else’s genitals, but I guess my sex life is sublimated into my writing.
I don’t write fan fiction anymore – that only lasted for a few years after the last movie – but I started about 3-4 years ago writing fiction.
Yeah. I guess we’d call it “gay romantica”, because it certainly is erotica, but it’s also romantic. You know, men are supposed to get really turned on by the idea of girl-on-girl sex, but what they get turned on by is not what lesbians do together. Men get turned on by two women having sex together the way men like to have sex.
I don’t know… Whatever that is. But it’s much more down and dirty, much less touching and cuddling, much more fucking in the end… Whatever. I don’t know. Who knows what men want…? But when I write gay romantica, I’m writing about male/male couples, but they have sex the way women like to have sex. There’s foreplay, there’s lots of cuddling, there’s words of love, and commitment… So it’s a different sort of thing. It’s quite imaginary… Except me. It’s very real to me.
Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Anne Ford, Producer
Jessi Carrier, Producer