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For the character in Tolkien, see Galadriel

Name: Altariel
Alias(es): Una McCormack
Type: fan writer, pro writer, academic
Fandoms: Lord of the Rings, Blake's 7, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Lois McMaster Bujold & others
URL: LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, stories at
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Altariel is the pseudonym of British tie-in writer Una McCormack. As Altariel, she has written extensively in the Tolkien fandom; she founded the Henneth Annûn mailing list, and was a co-founder of the Henneth Annûn Story Archive. She and her co-writer Isabeau of Greenlea have written an extended series of interconnected stories set in Gondor.

Under the name Una McCormack, she wrote fanfiction based on Blake's 7 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.


More recently, McCormack has written several pro-novels in the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises and has scripted two Big Finish Blake's 7 audio-plays.


McCormack has written several academic articles on fandom. She organised the Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold conference in 2014.



In 2000, Altariel participated in a fandom project called Writers and Writing in which fans submitted their answers to a series of questions.

The very first fanfic I wrote was a ten page cartoon lovingly drawn into a tiny notebook when I was eight years old. It was a 'Blake's 7' story and it was - well, written by an eight year old. After that I went on and wrote a lot of B7 fanfic until the middle of last year, when I discovered another TV show and suddenly got hit with a different writing bug!

My first DS9 story is called 'Wastelands', and it was written in November 1999. It's very uneven and violates canon in pretty much the first paragraph (I hadn't seen most of the show), but there are sections of it that I like a great deal. It follows Garak's life from arriving on DS9 to a point just after WYLB, and it's very depressing: I'd been reading a lot of TS Eliot, and I used themes from 'The Waste Land' when I writing this story. I'm still fond of this story as it was my first attempt at writing a backstory for Garak, but you can definitely see that it's an exploratory piece and that I'm trying out ideas about a character that's new to me. I still think the ending packs a punch, though.

My most recent piece (March 2000) was a little story called 'The Fabric of our Lives', which explores the impact of Ziyal's death on Garak. It was my first attempt to write an internal monologue for Garak. I wrote it very quickly across two days and found that Garak writes himself very fluently, but really stretches my vocabulary to the limit!

How do they differ? 'Fabric' is a much more controlled piece and I think it shows that I'm more familiar and comfortable with the character - and the show! But 'Wastelands' is still something special for me: it's very flawed, but I think in taking on a new fandom and a new character, I really stretched my writing style and pushed myself. 'Wastelands' was the first time I thought properly about imagery, and the internal construction of my fiction. Its problems come from trying something new.

Why do I write? Because an empty page is a tragedy. It's like wanting to put footprints onto new snow: someone has to do it, and I want it to be me!

I write fanfic from frustration, from thinking things such as: that scene is too short, or a scene is missing, or Garak wasn't right in that episode, or what's Garak up to whilst these other things are going on... My writing process invariably starts with sketching out a quarrel: I almost always start with a situation in which two characters are arguing, and then extrapolate a backstory and a plot from that scenario. I love the drama that's inherent in such encounters.

What inspired me to write? I don't know if I was 'inspired' as such. I always wrote, pretty much from when I could string words together. By age 11 I was handing in 40 page epics for class assignments with themes like the apocalyptic battle between Good and Evil (too much 'Dr Who' rots the mind)! Then I went through a completely barren patch as a teenager, and didn't write again until my early twenties, when a whole crop of angsty B7 fanfic served a marvellously therapeutic function.

These days I use fanfiction to explore specific (usually political) issues, or as a means of responding to what I've been reading. I like to explore the interaction between the individual and the political environment in which they operate. I try to write stories which explore the personal ramifications of one's political actions, or which encapsulate a political dilemma on an individual scale. So a lot of my stories explore culpability, responsibility, the tension between idealism and realpolitik.

For example, I wrote a story called 'Shell Shock', which came from reading Wilfred Owen's poem 'Strange Meeting', and which explored the cause of Garak's claustrophobia. (I had an eerie experience after writing this story, when I discovered that the situation in which Garak finds himself directly paralleled the experience of Owen's which triggered the writing of the

poem.) The poem's themes are the cost of war on both the victor and the victim, at the level of both the society and the individual and the ways in which the societal and the individual level cannot be separated. These issues seemed appropriate for a story set during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. They crystallize the moral and intellectual dilemmas which I find most interesting.

Notable Fanworks


Academic Articles

  • 'Finding Ourselves in the (Un)Mapped Lands: Women's Reparative Readings of The Lord of the Rings' in: Perilous And Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien (Janet Brennan Croft & Leslie Donovan, eds) (2015) – studies LotR fanfiction