Philophantast: A Speculative Fiction and Philosophy Conference – Registration and Programme


A free hybrid conference for postgraduate students and early career researchers to be held on June 05 and 06 2024 at the University of Glasgow, supported by Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.

Registration is now open! To register, please complete the form found here.

If you have any questions about registration please email us at

Programme (All times in British Summer Time – GMT+1)

08:30 – 08:55: Informal Registration, Tea & Coffee
08:55 – 09:00 Opening Remarks

09:00 – 10:10 Panel 1

Giovanni Carmine Constabile (Friedrich Schiller University Jena) – The Beloved and Lúthien Tinúviel: Erotic Epiphany in Lévinas and Tolkien – Online

Hongliang Zhou (Changsha University of Science and Technology) – Happily Ever After: The Portrayals of Love and Sex in Chinese Zaju Theater under Kublai Khan’s Mongolian Rule – Online

Sophie Hylands (Sheffield Hallam University) – ‘Everyone has agreed on the need for a big change’: Imagining the Revolutionary ‘Event’ in 1930s Speculative Fiction – Online

10:10 – 10:20 Break

10:20 – 11:30 Panel 2

Taylor Driggers (University of Glasgow) – “All people are glyphs”: Queer Kinship and the Ethics of Reading in Laurie J. Marks’s “Elemental Logic” Novels – In-person

Rebecca Bachmann (Justus-Liebig-University Gießen) – Good for her. Feminist horror movies between empowerment and revenge fantasies – Online

Valentin Via (Rovira i Virgili University) – Exploring Post Apocalyptic, Queer, and Viscosity Aesthetics in the Filmography of Bertrand Mandico – Online

11:30 – 11:35 Break

11:35 – 12:45 Panel 3

Sagar Rao (Princeton University) – The Rasa of Roleplaying: Indian Aesthetic Theory and the Fantasy Roleplaying Game – In-person

Anna Maria Ronewicz (University of Szczecin) – Queering Heterotopias Through the Voices of an Archivist and a Museum Guide: Liminality in Contemporary Audio-Drama – Online

Saundarya (University of Delhi) – Representing the Other: Injustice and Indirect Agencies in Devanoora Mahadeva’s Kusumabale – Online

12:45 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 14:30 Keynote: Katharine Jenkins (University of Glasgow) – Blade Runner 2049 and Feminist Philosophy – In-person

14:30 – 14:35 Break

14:35 – 15:45 Panel 4

Argha Basu (Indian Institute of Technology Patna) and Priyanka Tripathi (Indian Institute of Technology Patna) – Narratological Formation of Discursive Subjectivities and Surfacing of Feminist Ontology in Select Indian Dystopian Fictions – Online

Sam Tegtmeyer (University of Glasgow) – The Curiosity Shop: “Discworld” and the Aesthetics of Fantasy – In-person

Edmund Ankomah (Illinois State University) – Interrogating a Fanonian Xenoracio-pathology in Black speculative fictions – Online

15:45 – 15:50 Break

15:50 – 17:00 Panel 5

William Taylor (University of Glasgow) – Alien Grammar: Using Speculative Fiction to Produce the ‘Disorganism’ in David Roden’s Snuff Memories – In-person

Gabriel Philpson (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo) – Perspectivation and (cosmo)technical (imaginative) temporalities: the Angenommen script book as the culmination of the Flusserian Writing – Online

Maria Torres Romero (University of Málaga) – Towards a Posthumanist Philosophy of Technology in Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me – Online

17:00 – 17:10 Break

17:10 – 18:00 Panel 6

Maha Farooq (Islamabad Model College for Girls I-8/4) – Speculative World Building in K-Pop: Sub-creation in Ateez’ Discography – Online

Chen Chen (University of British Columbia) – Desire At the Edge of Existence: Affect and “Weapon Fetishism” in Liu Cixin’s Ball Lightning and The Three-Body Problem Trilogy – Online

08:45 – 09:00 Tea & Coffee

09:00 – 10:00 Keynote: Henry Bartholomew (Zi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University) – Dark Ontologies: Speculative Realism and the Gothic – Online

10:00 – 10:10 Break

10:10 – 11:20 Panel 7

Gunnar Lundberg (University of Minnesota) – Guano as a Gimmick: Applying Capitalist Form and Aesthetic Judgment to the Land – In-person

Sarah Snyder (University of Minnesota) – The Eco-erotic Speculative in The Blazing World of Margaret Cavendish – Online

Mayank Jha (Indian Institute of Technology) – You form a line to formalize the former lies – Online

11:20 – 11:25 Break

11:25 – 12:35 Panel 8

Saya Kanemoto (University of Leeds) – How not to be a prisoner of scissors: Ende and Bataille on the right kind of life – Online

Olivia Ho (University College London) – ‘A third thing, a heartish city’: Dialectical tension in China Miéville’s doubled cities – In-person

Smyrna Sharon S (Christ University) – A Study of the concept of Utopia in Vandana Singh’s short stories – Online

12:35 – 13:15 Lunch

13:15 -14:25 Panel 9

Ruchira Mandal (Lady Brabourne College) – Ideal Order in the World: Justice and Being on the Disc – Online

Nilo Sanchez (University of São Paulo) – Speculative Fiction as a Platform for Advocacy in Social Movements – Online

Katarina Dulude (University of Glasgow) – The Longing of the Silent People: Exploring Types of Nostalgia and Their Connection to Fantasy in Lud-in-the-Mist – In-person

14:25 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 15:40 Panel 10

Stephen Pollicott (University of Lincoln) – Contrary to Descartes: The New
Weird and the Existential Other
– In-person

Devika Yadav (Jawaharlal Nehru University) – Death, Death Everywhere! A
Study of Post-Death in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Agustina
Bazterrica’s Tender is the Flesh
– Online

Megan Boothby (Memorial University of Newfoundland) – “How have the
monsters learned to speak?”: Phenomenology, Consciousness, and
Communication in Ray Nayler’s The Mountain in the Sea
– Online

15:40 – 15:50 Break

15:50 – 17:00 Panel 11

Guillaume Andrieux (University of Glasgow) – Harmful Fictions – In-person

Wan Ziqian (Central China Normal University) – Speculative Fiction as Counterfactual Analysis – Online

Kerry Shanahan (Cambridge University) – ‘The True View About All People’: Watching Science Fiction and Rethinking the Debate on Personal Identity – Online

17:00 – 17:05 Break

17:05 – 18:15 Panel 12

Ashton Hoene (Indiana University Bloomington) and Matthew A. Hoffman (Indiana University Bloomington) – “Doctor…Who, Exactly?” – What Doctor Who Can Teach Us About Personal Identity – Online

Felipe Zárate Guerrero (University of Durham) – Truth in Fiction: Canon, Fanon, and Noncanon in Massive Serialized Collaborative Fictions – In-person

Cristina Diamant (Octocon; London Science Fiction Research Community) – Myles, Martian Away with the Fairies! Postcolonial Satire and Speculative Philosophy in Myles na gCopaleen’s Cruiskeen Lawn column (1940-1966) – Online

18:15 – 18:30 Closing Remarks

GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Programme

Event registration can be found here including tickets for Workshops and the Networking Event.
Speaker abstract and bios can be found here.
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here
Workshops and Roundtable information can be found here

This document is updated as needed. All times listed are BST, British Summer Time.

Zoom Links are sent to registered attendees only by Eventbrite emails during GIFCon.


9:45 – 10:00: Platform Wide Welcome / Opening words and explanation of the mechanics with Will Tattersdill  

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break ☕

Panel 1
11:15 – 12:30 

Panel 1A
Intertextual Conjurations 
Chair: Emma French 
Deputy Chair: Olivia Cacciatore 

11:15 Vaibhav Dwivedi, “Of Faceless Monsters and Secret Terrors: Analysing the Hybrid Anatomy of Slenderman” 
11:35 Elliott Greene, “(Re)Writing Reality: Authorial Power and Narration as Conjuration in Alan Wake 2” 
11:55 Maria Damkjær, “Conjuring worlds through book culture” 
12:15: Discussion

Panel 1B
Shifting Legends 
Chair: Sam Tegetmeyer
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor 

11:15 Grace Rhyne, “Charlotte Riddell: Literary Banshee” 
11:35 Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad, “When Nature Speaks: Fictional A.I. as Folkloric Creatures of the Technological Age” 
11:55 Anisha Das, “Legends of the land: Assam’s mythical creatures and their ecological resonance.” 

12:15: Discussion

Panel 1C
Monster Myths   
Chair: Dulmi Wickremasinghe
Deputy Chair: Karla Calvillo-Salinas

11:15 Zainab Wahab, “Monsters of Greed and Guilt: Examining Mythical Monsters as Symbols of Oppression in Tumbbad and Ghoul” 
11:35 Hannah Mimiec, “‘The Screaming Horrors’: Animal Advocacy and Eldritch Horror in Watership Down” 
11:55 Corinne Matthews, “Conjuring Consent: Magic, Power, and Patriarchy in Young Adult Fantasy”  

12:15: Discussion

12:30-13:30 Lunch Break 🍽️

13:30-14:30: Keynote: Emily Selove

Chair: Matthew Sangster
Deputy Chair: Orla Davey

14:30 – 14:45 Coffee Break ☕

Panel 2 
14:45 – 16:00

Panel 2A
The Imperial and the Gothic
Chair: Georgina Gale  
Deputy Chair: Chris Lynch Becherer

14:45 Hannah Frances Roux, ““Not the Real Orient but a Fantasy”: C.S. Lewis’s Calormen and Edith Sitwell’s Modernist Orientalism.” 
15:05 Manon Hakem-Lemaire, “The Fantasy of Alterity in Richard Marsh’s Imperial Gothic Novel The Beetle (1897)” 

15:25 Discussion
Panel 2B
Constructed Disability
Chair: Grace A.T. Worm 
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor 

14:45 Emilie Morscheck, “Reimagining Disability in YA Fantasy: Exploring Harper and Rhen in ‘A Curse So Dark and Lonely’” 
15:05 Madeline Wahl, “Who Can Speak Characters Into Existence?: Stuttering, Fluency, and Conjuring Characters in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart” 
15:25 Şevval Tufan, “Liminal Worlds, Marginalised Beings and Disabled Bodies in Ihsan Oktay Anar’s “The Atlas of Misty Continents” and “Amat”” 

15:45 Discussion
Panel 2C
The Non-Human
Chair: Will Tattersdill 
Deputy Chair: Diana Rotar

14:45 Ane B. Ruiz-Lejarcegui, ”Enacting the Nonhuman: A.I. Consciousness and Text-Reader Interaction in Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit” 
15:05 Scarlett Butchers, ““This was a place of wonders once”: David Rudkin’s Magical Landscapes” 
15:25 Nick Stember, “Desert Solitaire: Tales of the Strange, Fantastic, and Immortal in Nie Jun’s Seekers of the Aweto” 

15:45 Discussion
Panel 2D
Monstrous Sexuality
Chair: Dulmi Wickremasinghe 
Deputy Chair: Robbin Dowling

 Brynnah Runyan, “Alienation of A-Spec Identities: Sexuality, Romantic Love, and What it Means to Be Human” 
15:05 Mercury Natis, “Letting the Beastly Beast Go: Navigating compulsory heterosexuality through King Pellinore and the Questing Beast in The Once and Future King” 

15:25 Discussion

16:15-17:00 Research Spotlight with Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad in the Discord

Panel 3  
9:30 – 10:45 

Panel 3A   Female Horrors  
Chair: Hollie Willis
Deputy Chair: Hollyn Middleton

9:30Caroline Hannum, “Girls Against Gods: Divinity as the Female Hero’s Antagonist, a Metaphor for Patriarchal Control” 
9:50 Xiana Vázquez Bouzó, “Representations of the Alien Enemy in the Post-Anthropocene: Two Case Studies of Filmic Depictions of Otherness through Gender (Under the Skin) and Animality (Nope)” 
10:10 Amy Richmond, ““It makes us feel a little like God”: Conjuring Delusions and Creation in Mona Awad’s Bunny” 

10:30 Discussion
Panel 3B Marginalized Multimedia
Chair: Emma French 
Deputy Chair: Maidah Rihan 

9:30 Catherine Hall, “Dwarvish Point of View?: Neo-Khuzdul, Fanfiction, and the Construction of an Alternative Middle-earth” 
9:50 Kristine Larsen, ““Even those who are different can survive”: Dragons, Speciesism, and Procreation in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher and its Adaptations” 

10:10 Discussion
Panel 3C Science Cycles  
Chair: Will Tattersdill 
Deputy Chair: Diana Rotar 

9:30 Rebecca Lloyd, “Reuse, recycle: Terry Pratchett’s Igors and the monstrous remade body.” 
9:50 Vincent Pritchard, “The Conjuring Trinary: Systems of Summoning” 
10:10 Dr. Bettina Charlotte Burger, “Their Primitive Superstition vs. Our Scientific and Enlightened Magic – Magic Systems in T.L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series” 

10:30 Discussion

10:45 – 11:15Coffee Break ☕

12:30-13:30 Lunch Break 🍽️

13:30 – 14:30: Keynote: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Chair: Dimitra Fimi
Deputy Chair: Will Sherwood  

14:30 – 14:45 Coffee Break  ☕

Panel 5  
14:45 – 16:00

Panel 5A  Monster Girls
Chair: Hollie Willis 
Deputy Chair: Hollyn Middleton
14:45 Inês Vaz, “Monster Girls Turning Darkness to Light: Subversive Uses of Monstrosity in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Nimona” 
15:05 Tara West, “Made a Villian: ND Stevenson’s Nimona and a Lesson in Difference” 
15:25 David Muiños Garcia, “Motherless: Absent, Spectral, and Monstrous Motherhood in Video Games” 

15:45 Discussion
Panel 5B Representations and Symbols in Film 
Chair: Sam Tegtmeyer 
Deputy Chair: Robbin Dowling

14:45 Zoe Wible, “A Link Between the Historical Evolution of  Creature Design in Fantastic Film and Fine-Grained Representation of Non-Human  Experience?” 
15:05 Barbora Kaplánková, “Children of Miyazaki: Travellers into the Unseen” 
15:25 Tam Moules, “Holly Berries Like Drops of Blood: Conjuring the Green Knight as Monster in Prose and Film” 

15:45 Discussion
Panel 5C Conjuring Identity
Chair: Grace A.T. Worm 
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor 

14:45 Michael Quinn, ““The stolen future cannot be given back to me”: Exploring personal identity through Paragon in Robin Hobb’s ‘Realm of the Elderlings’” 
15:05 Siravich Khurat, “Shoukan: The Summoners who conjure the other Half of their Souls” 
15:25 Supriya Baijal, “Magical Realms of Morality and Mystery: Reimagining Reality in ‘The Adventures of Amir Hamza’ and ‘Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie’” 

15:45 Discussion

16:15-17:00 Research Spotlight with Michael Quinn in the Discord

12:30 – 13:30: Keynote: Zen Cho

Chair: Will Tattersdill
Deputy Chair: Orla Davey

13:30- 13:45 Coffee Break ☕

Panel 6  
13:45 – 15:00 

Panel 6A Interrogating Television  
Chair: Will Sherwood 
Deputy Chair:  Catherine Hall

 13:45 Zvonimir Prtenjača, “X-Men’s White Gaze: Conjuring an Apocalypse of Superheroines of Colour” 
14:05 Dulmi Wickremasinghe, “An LOTR world “for everyone”? Discussing Amazon’s interventions in Tolkien’s representation of Elvish gender aesthetics”
14:25 C. T. Power, “House of the Dragon: Gender, Race and the Persistent Past” 

14:45 Discussion
Panel 6B   Conjuring Utopia
Chair: Emma French 
Deputy Chair: Rebecca Solomon

13:45 Astrid Roesen Abildgaard, “Conjuring a World of Women – And a Solution to our Climate Struggles? Human-nature relationships in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Herland”” 
14:05 Rachel Harrison, “From Her Mind to Herland: The Women Conjuring Gynotopia” 
14:25 Meg Horridge, “Conjuring Utopia: How Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed Builds an Imperfect World” 

14:45 Discussion
Panel 6C Re-Writing History 
Chair: Georgina Gale  
Deputy Chair: Karla Calvillo-Salinas

13:45 Hollie Willis, “’The Locals Bite Back’: A Defence of the Tuunbaq and the Use of Fantasy in ‘The Terror’” 
14:05 Gao Weiming, “Conjuring Historical Figures and Alternative History Narratives: A Study of the Japanese Fantasy Franchise Fate” 
14:25 Rebecca Pearce, “”All in a Day’s Work for a Hero”: Once Upon a Time and the Fantastical Byronic Hero-Villain Cycle” 

14:45 Discussion

16:00 – 16:15 Coffee Break ☕

Panel 8  
17:15 – 18:30 

Panel 8A Experiencing Change in Fantasy
Chair: Hollie Willis  
Deputy Chair: Robbin Dowling

17:15 Fiona Reid, “Humans and robots: neuroqueer identity exploration through Dungeons and Dragons” 

17:35 Anna Milon and Tom Emanuel, “Conjured Presence: Spiritual Experiences in Fantasy Spaces” 

17:55 Discussion
Panel 8B The Other Other
Chair: Will Sherwood 
Deputy Chair: Karla Calvillo-Salinas 

17:15 Iria Seijas-Pérez, “Analysing the Witch Figure in Irish YA Fiction: Deirdre Sullivan’s Perfectly Preventable Deaths (2019) and Sarah Maria Griffin’s Other Words for Smoke (2019)” 
17:35 Nathaniel Harrington, “Teachd Chonain: Celticism, settler colonialism, and the fantasy barbarian” 
17:55 Olivia Scarr, “(Un)homely Cultivations: the botanical Other as the ‘Monstrous Feminine’ in Short Fiction of the Fin de Siècle” 

18:15 Discussion
Panel 8C Body Transformation
Chair: Dulmi Wickremasinghe 
Deputy Chair: Olivia Cacciatore 

17:15 Alice Langley, “Transformation as conjuration: the power of the post-menopausal woman.” 
17:35 Ning Lee, “Age’s Mischief: Writing Ageing into the Fantastika in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant” 
17:55 Rachel Cairns, “Fat in the Forgotten Realms: Fat embodiment, monstrosity and the non-normative body in participatory fantasy storytelling” 

18:15 Discussion

18:45-19:30 Research Spotlight with Anna Milon and Tom Emanuel in the Discord 

Philophantast: A Speculative Fiction and Philosophy Conference CFP

A free hybrid conference for postgraduate students and early career researchers to be held on June 05 and 06 2024 at the University of Glasgow, supported by Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.

Deadline for Submissions: April 19 2024

Contact Email:

Call for Papers:
Speculative fiction and media encompass multiple genres and modes that, like philosophy, make us question the possible and impossible. Speculative creations provide tools to delve into philosophical questions, such as exploring the nature of identity and approaching the ineffable, in addition to speaking truth to power and empowering marginalised voices. This hybrid conference on speculative media and philosophy, sponsored by the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, seeks to showcase how speculative fiction and media can create and express philosophical insights. Speculative media has the capacity to incentivise scholars, critics, creators, and wider audiences to embrace and reflect on philosophical perspectives beyond the academic context, thus bridging the interdisciplinary gap between philosophy and the media we create, consume, study, and enjoy. Rather than considering philosophy as the abstract, systematic analysis of existence, knowledge, and reason with little to no correlation with our everyday lives, we wish to highlight the proximity of philosophy in praxis and theory through speculative media.

We invite submissions focusing on any genre or subgenre of speculative fiction, including but not limited to afrofuturism, alternate history, fantasy, the fantastic, horror, the gothic, utopia, dystopia, and science fiction. We also encourage submissions that focus on media such as film, games, comics and graphic novels, music, theatre, and television, as well as literature. Likewise, we welcome proposals from all philosophical perspectives and branches. For example, papers may address continental, analytical and indigenous philosophies and philosophical traditions; queer, non-western, post-colonial or anticolonial philosophical theory; branches such as aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and political philosophy; as well as ontological, phenomenological, and theological insights on or developed by speculative media.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers from postgraduate students and early career scholars. We also welcome panels and roundtables with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 4 presenters, and proposals for workshops. Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

• The analysis of speculative literature and media through philosophical lenses
• Speculative literature and media acting as thought experiments for philosophical ideas
• Imagination and philosophy
• Speculative philosophy and speculative literature and media
• Philosophical discourses developed by speculative literature and media
• Speculative fiction as an inclusive philosophical practice

Previous examples of studies that encompass both speculative media and philosophy include Marxist thought in Fantastika, imagining alternative worlds in speculative fiction, Neoplatonic thought in J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary production, studies on the abject in horror writing and cinema, and the fictionalisation of philosophers in literature and games.

Please submit an abstract (around 300 words), a short bio (maximum 150 words), and state if you wish to present in person or online to with the subject line ‘Abstract Submission’ by April 19 2024. Only applications from graduate students and early career researchers will be considered for this conference. We are particularly keen to highlight the contributions of underrepresented voices within speculative media and/or philosophy at this conference, and will prioritise contributions that demonstrate in abstract and/or bio that they align with this goal. If you have any questions, please contact the committee at

GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Keynote Bios and Reading Suggestions

Event registration including registration for Workshops and The Networking Event can be found here
The Programme can be found here
Paper Speaker Bios can be found here.
Workshops and Roundtables information can be found here

This document is updated as needed. All times listed are BST, British Summer Time


Please find below our keynote speakers for this year’s GIFCon and a committee-created suggested reading list.

professor Emily Selove

Title: “Translation as Conjuration: Conversations with a 13th-Century Sorcerer”

Wednesday May 15, 13:30 – 14:30

Emily Selove (PhD 2012, UCLA) is an associate professor in Medieval Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Exeter. She is also the convener of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Magic and Esotericism. Her most recent publication is a short monograph for the Cambridge Elements Series: The Donkey King: Asinine Symbology in Ancient and Medieval Magic. She was the PI of a Leverhulme-funded research project, “A Sorcerer’s Handbook,” (2019-2022) which will create an edition and translation of Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s (d. 1229) magic handbook, Kitāb al-Shāmil wa-baḥr al-kāmil (The Book of the Complete). Her early research focused on the figure of the uninvited guest (or “party-crasher”) in medieval Arabic literature, and especially on the 11th-century work Ḥikāyat Abī l-Qāsim. Her translation of another 11th-century book of party-crashing is titled Selections from the Art of Party-Crashing in Medieval Iraq.  She also co-authored a textbook to introduce beginning students to the city of medieval Baghdad, Baghdad at the Centre of a World: 8th-13th Century,  and has created a collection of cartoons titled  Popeye and Curly: 120 Days in Medieval Baghdad to accompany this textbook.

Suggested Reading List
by committee member Grace Worm:

  • Explore Professor Selove’s 13th century sorcerer on her blog here. There are amazing visuals and interesting research as well a collection of her publications and presentations.
  • Her 2020 article “Magic as Poetry, Poetry as Magic: A Fragment of Arabic Spells” is available on Muse if you have access through an institution! This article weaves discussions of magic, poetry, language, theology, and translations.
  • Professor Selove’s book Baghdad at the Centre of a World, 8th-13th Century: An Introductory Textbook is a fascinating exploration of historic cultural productions happening in Baghdad during this time and the significant impact these productions had on the formation of Europe.
  • And Professor Selove’s newest published novel The Donkey King: Asinine Symbology in Ancient and Medieval Magic (Elements in Magic), besides having an amazing title, this book is an extremely interesting examination of methods for contacting jinn in 13th century Arabic grimoires. She interrogates symbols of donkeys in summoning jinn (hence the title) and makes connections between history, cultural, magic, demons, theology, the occult, humor, literature, and artistic symbols in fascinating ways.

dr C. J. Cooke

Title: “Writing Creatures and Worlds”

Thursday May 16, 15:00- 16:00

C. J. Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, is an award-winning poet and novelist published in 23 languages. Her works is often categorised as feminist gothic with fantasy and supernatural elements, and two TV adaptations of her books are currently in development, with a third novel being developed as a feature film. Cooke is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her most recent book is A Haunting in the Arctic, which was an Indigo Best Book of 2023.

Suggested Reading List
by committee member Will Sherwood:

  • C.J. Cooke’s critically-acclaimed Gothic novels are a excellent starting point. Although each novel is self-contained, I would highly recommend reading them in publication order as it allows you to follow how Cooke’s thoughts evolve on the interactions between the genre, motherhood and femininity, and trauma. Each book also includes an ‘Author’s Note’ at the end where Cooke reflects on the book’s inspiration, writing process, and themes. Start with The Nesting before moving onto The Lighthouse Witches, The Ghost Woods, and finish with A Haunting in the Arctic.
  • Recently, Cooke was interviewed by Quills & Chills (link here) where she discussed her earliest writing memories, what brought her to the Gothic genre, and what attracted her about the themes that connect her four Gothic novels.
  • Before publishing her novels and poetry, Cooke established an influential position in the Film studies, exploring the portrayal and adaptation of Shakespeare on Film and the critical value of Film Sequels.
  • Besides her Gothic novels, Cooke has also published four novels and three poetry collections. We Have To Leave The Earth is a poetry collection split into three parts. Its interlocking concerns with the environment, family, and identity are harnessed to explore the virtues and flaws of human activity and how our actions find their consequences in the people and landscape around us.

Zen Cho

Title: “Worlds inside Worlds, or, Conjuring Pasts”

Friday May 17, 12:30 – 13:30

Zen Cho writes fantasy and romance. Her newest novel, The Friend Zone Experiment, is a contemporary romance set among London’s East and Southeast Asian community. Zen is a winner of the Hugo, Crawford and British Fantasy Awards and the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize, as well as a finalist for the World Fantasy, Ignyte, Lambda, Locus and Astounding Awards. She was born and raised in Malaysia, resides in the UK, and lives in a notional space between the two.

Suggested Reading List
by committee member Georgina Gale:

  • Zen Cho reflects on her stories, career and the publishing world in her blog posts here. Her posts range from candid thoughts on the challenges of writing a novel, to discussing her experiences as a POC writing fantasy.
  • One of Cho’s most recent novels, Black Water Sister, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award in 2022. Jessamyn Teoh is a jobless, broke, closeted lesbian moving back to Malaysia with her family. But she soon finds herself pulled into a world of gods, spirits, and family secrets after hearing the voice of her grandmother’s ghost.
  • If you prefer shorter fiction, read Cho’s ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again’, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2019. This fantastic story centres on an imugi repeatedly striving to defy the laws of heaven and become a dragon.
  • Already enjoyed all Cho’s own works? Why not try Kelly Link’s The Book of Love. Cho describes this novel as “Pure enchantment—a tale of love, death, magic and teenagers being teenagers, rich with fairy strangeness and told in sentences like jewels strung on a chain”.
  • Another novel praised by Cho, Sue Lynn Tan’s Daughter of the Moon Goddess is inspired by the myth of Chang’e, the moon goddess. “A stirring romantic fantasy set in a richly realised world inspired by Chinese mythology” (to cite Cho), it is a reimagining of one of the most famous Chinese Gods.

GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Workshop and Roundtable Speaker Bios

Event registration including registration for Workshops can be found here
The Programme can be found here.  
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here
Paper Speaker Bios can be found here.

This document is updated as needed. All times listed are BST, British Summer Time


Please find the bios for speakers appearing in Workshops and Roundtables during GIFCon 2024.


All workshops run concurrently on Thursday May 16 from 11:15 – 12:30 BST

Epics and Emporiums – A Cozy Storytelling Game

Frankie Bradley

This cozy storytelling game has players collaboratively constructing a fantasy town, filling it with unique characters. Players, embodying shopkeepers, experience daily life in a quiet town on the verge of excitement. Each shop is unique, selling anything imaginable. Together, players shape characters, map the town, and choose an upcoming event—fair, pilgrimage, or natural disaster! Writing from their shopkeeper’s perspective, players imagine a day in town until it’s time to pass their story for someone else to take control. This workshop nurtures creativity and collaboration, providing writers a chance to have fun in a low-stakes narrative.

Frankie Bradley is a PhD researcher in the School of Arts & Humanities at Ulster University. They are currently working on projects involving decolonization in speculative fiction and exploring how identities are impacted by imperialist culture norms. With over a decade’s experience in the book industry, they have a variety of skills and are always willing to pick up new ones.

Creating World Connected Characters

Lily M. Frenette

In the essay “Beyond the Human,” So & Pinar Sinopoulos-Lloyd write that “[r]elationships between entities inform and create who we are, and we orient ourselves in the cosmos and in our local places by relating to others.” Fantasy worlds are filled with wonders of nature beyond anything in our reality: sentient rivers, animals who grant magical favors, trees that can travel. It can be a struggle to write characters who feel truly connected with these alien settings. Using theories on queer and ecological identities, we will craft characters whose connection to the natural world helps ground them in fantastical places.

Lily M. Frenette grew up in Minnesota, raised by the woods and waters. They write from the intersection of nature, magic, art, and community. Lily has an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. She founded Alba Writing Club and lives with her cat familiar, Outlaw. Find them on Instagram @journalingirl.

Conjuring Politics: World-making as Pedagogy in the Social Sciences

Maha Rafi Atal

Fantasy enables us to transpose, and therefore reimagine, political dynamics in our real world. This is not only because fantastic creatures “function as recognizable stand-ins” for real ones, but also because real-world political groupings are themselves “imagined communities” based on collective world-making. This workshop explores world-making as a tool of political pedagogy, including role-play re-imaginings of international summits, games that simulate the workings of capitalism, and assessments in which students film, sing or otherwise create political fantasies of their own. Facilitators will present evidence from their own teaching, before leading participants in designing new world-making pedagogy of their own.

Maha Rafi Atal is a Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, and a scholar of corporate power, and draws on fictional imaginings of the corporation–political economy’s own fantastical monster–in her work. She teaches courses on the popular culture and the global economy. In her teaching, she uses role-play simulations of real-world events and exercises in which students create fictional worlds of their own to explore political ideas. She will facilitate this workshop alongside colleagues in Politics who also use world-making as a pedagogic tool to teach contemporary social science, including Alister Wedderburn, Michael Toomey and Jonathan Parker.


Opening Roundtable

Wednesday May 15, 10:00 – 11:00 BST

Researchers discuss their research in the context of this year’s GIFCon theme “Conjuring Creatures and Worlds”.

From the Call for Papers:  
How do academics, creative practitioners, and fans conjure (and understand the conjuration of) fantasy, creatures and worlds? Fantasy and the fantastic have the capability to conjure the ephemeral and the horrific, the indefinable and the real, the Other and ourselves, but how do we understand these creations? And how do these encounters with creatures, magic, and worlds conform or challenge our understanding of the fantastic?  

Roundtable Participants:

Chris Lynch Becherer is in his final year as a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, studying worldbuilding in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. He was the co-founder of the inaugural GIFCON, all the way back in 2017, and co-runs Puck’s Players, a fantasy theatre group! In 2021 he achieved an Associate Fellowship of Recognising Excellence in Teaching. Look out for his chapter on maps in Bloomsbury’s upcoming book on Power and Society in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Michelle Anya Anjirbag is an affiliated researcher at the University of Antwerp where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Constructing Age for Young Readers project. Her research interests include adaptation, fairy tales and folklore, Disney, magical libraries, the intersection of literature, media, and culture, representations of gender and age, and cross-period approaches to narrative transmission across cultures and societies. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and edited collections, and she serves on several editoral and advisory boards. She currently teaches a course on the intersections between fantasy media and sociological questions for international study abroad students in London.

Dr Madeline Potter is an early career teaching and research fellow in 19th-century literature at the University of Edinburgh. Her work explores the intersections between Gothic literature and theology, with a focus on monstrosity. Her first academic monograph, Theological Monsters: Religion and Irish Gothic is forthcoming with University of Wales Press.

Conjuring Creatures (and Worlds) in YA Fantastika

Friday May 17, 15:00 – 16:00

Researchers discuss Conjuring Creatures (and Worlds) in Young Adult Fantastika.

Young Adult fantastika is particularly rife with conjurations of fantastic creatures and, necessarily, the worlds they inhabit. This roundtable invites the participants to join a conversation exploring the ways in which YA as a genre uses the conjuring of creatures to explore otherness, sexuality, identity, culture, family, ethics, morality, and history across media, with a particular focus on literature.

Roundtable Participants:

Alkisti Kallinikou is a PhD researcher at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing. Her current work investigates identity and otherness in children’s and young adult fantasy literature. She is also a writer and essayist and leads workshops on children’s literature and creative writing.

Jeddie Bristow As both an academic and a high school teacher, Jeddie Bristow is uniquely positioned to study her two specialty areas: Young Adult literature, and Arthurian literature. She is particularly interested in the intersection between old stories being retold in new ways for contemporary students, and how the values of today’s teenagers affect how culture and literature changes. She has an MA from Missouri State University, and has taught high school English for 4 years.

Dr Leah Phillips is a Senior Lecturer at Plymouth Marjon University, where she leads the English programmes, including the MA in Literature for Children and Young Adults. Her research interests focus on YA fiction’s impact on its readers, especially girls, as evidenced by her recent monograph, Female Heroes in Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. Her current research project aims to redefine the concept of ‘normal’ adolescence. As the founding President of the YA Studies Association, Leah champions interdisciplinary collaboration and inclusivity in YA literature; she brings these values to her service on the International Journal of Young Adult Literature’s Editorial Board.

Shiqing Zhang is a PhD student in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University, UK. Her research focuses on the evolution of writing styles found in Le Guin’s children’s and YA fiction, as well as her fanfiction and other contributions to fantasy fiction writing.

GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Paper Speaker Bios

Event registration can be found here
The Programme can be found here.  
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here.
Workshops and Roundtables information can be found here
Workshop registration opens on May 6.

This document is updated as needed. All times listed are BST, British Summer Time


Panelists in alphabetical order (by first name):

Alice Langley

Transformation as conjuration: the power of the post-menopausal woman.

This paper applies a new framework to my research surrounding women who turn to stone: by using the lens of maiden/mother/crone, I distinguish between three women’s reasons and methods of conjuration, transforming themselves and creating a stone replacement.
The three texts I am interrogating are Lucy Woods’ short story “Countless Stones,” Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and another short story, “The Stone Woman,” by A. S. Byatt. Rita, from Woods’ piece, undergoes a resigned and pragmatic transformation to standing stone on a Cornish clifftop. Considered a modern maiden (single, childless, unmarried), Rita’s slip into stone is quiet and unassuming.
Hermione conjures a stone statue as her replacement in The Winter’s Tale to demonstrate her grief at the loss of her children and resistance to her husband’s false accusations of adultery. I argue that Hermione’s death, evidenced by her character’s appearance as a ghost, and reincarnation, represent the symbolic death and reincarnation of women’s transition to motherhood and newly altered state.
Ines in A. S. Byatt’s short story represents the ‘crone’ element of the tripartite; here considered to be a post-menopausal woman (as fitting neither other category), Ines’ transformation is richly empowered – she travels to Iceland, ‘a primal chaos of ice, stone silt, black sand, gold mud’ (Byatt), to complete her corporeal transformation.
I argue that, by comparing these women and their forms of transformation, we can see a spectrum of empowerment – from Rita’s slow, sad petrification, to Ines’ joyous and free merge with the Icelandic landscape. The figure most closely synonymous with the maiden lacks confidence and agency, whereas Ines’ transformation is redolent with it. The contemporary reclaiming of mature womanhood in books like Hags by Victoria Smith to Hagitude by Sharon Blackie, will be used to reinforce the argument that the post-menopausal woman conjures her own power.

Alice is a doctoral researcher in the Fantasy and Creative Writing departments at the University of Glasgow. She is in the process of editing her first novel as part of her PhD, which uses magical realism to examine the physical manifestation of grief for people who have experienced miscarriage. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals, and she has given papers at UK and international conferences. Her writing includes work for theatre and a computer game which is currently in production. She works as a freelance editor and can be found on Instagram @alicelangleywriter.

Amy Richmond

“It makes us feel a little like God”: Conjuring Delusions and Creation in Mona Awad’s Bunny

“We were just these innocent girls in the night trying to make something beautiful. We nearly died. We very nearly did, didn’t we?” Mona Awad’s critically acclaimed 2019 horror Bunny encapsulates the psychological breakdown of scholarship student Samantha and her obsession with a group of her peers called the Bunnies. The book carefully depicts Samantha’s descent into madness and the collective delusions of the girls, in a literarily conscious blurring of fantasy and reality. On reading, it is deliberately unclear what Samantha has imagined and what she has experienced – dead/alive friends, heads exploding, the Frankenstein-building of boys, combining of identities, and bunny hunting. As a satirical critique of academia, it is inherently interested in intertextuality – with references to Frankenstein, Beowulf, and the creation of ideas. This paper seeks to interrogate how Bunny explores the concept of creation looking at three main angles. Firstly, it will explore the intertextual allusions throughout the novel and how it explores literary creation in Samantha’s creative writing workshops. This will lead into a critique of the Frankenstein acts in the novel – the explicit acts of asexual but eroticised creation that Samantha and the Bunnies enact in the Smut Salon as they build erotic male bodies. And finally it will then discuss the destructive deconstruction of what is created as Samantha descends into a madness and is unable to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy. In its discussions of Bunny, this paper aims to explore the differences between delusion and fantasy, and question to what extent reality is of importance in discussing Bunny.

Amy Richmond (she/they) is an early-career academic who holds an MA(hons) in English from the University of Aberdeen and an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. Specialising in contemporary fantastic fiction, their research interests include spatial theory, queer theory, Young Adult fiction, and body politics. She has presented at GIFCon, Exclamat!on Conference, and serves on the Editorial Board of Mapping the Impossible and currently works as a Journals Commissioning Editor at Emerald Publishing.

Ane B. Ruiz- Lejarcegui

Enacting the Nonhuman: A.I. Consciousness and Text-Reader Interaction in Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit

From human-made artificial intelligence to extraterrestrial entities with distributed hive minds, representations of nonhuman Others have long proliferated in speculative fiction. Depicting the wholly alien or that which requires reconfiguring any preconceived notions or boundaries, however, is not an easy feat, which is why authors strive to find a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar, so as not to entirely alienate the reader. In this paper, I argue that SF centred on nonhuman sentience may help defamiliarise human consciousness and reconceptualise hegemonic and anthropocentric binary systems of meaning (and oppression), thus endorsing posthumanist sensibilities. For this, I follow Caracciolo’s explanation of the text-reader interaction and non-materialist definition of consciousness, understanding it not as an object which can be linguistically depicted, but experienced by the reader, as an active and embodied enactment (2012).
As case study, I analyse the conscious awakening (Matthews, 2023) of the A.I. protagonist in Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit (2016), Sidra, a Lovelace-model spaceship A.I. now installed in an illegal anthropomorphic ‘body kit.’ Through Sidra’s character, Chambers portrays the interplay between the known and the indescribable in which the fantastic thrives: a familiar embodiment, in this case, a human body, inhabited by an unfamiliar consciousness used to different sensory and communication systems. To understand how she achieves this, I look at narrative stylistics, such as deliberate omissions to prompt reader interaction and the decentring of anthropocentric meaning-making, following Sidra’s exploration of her own identity, her confrontation of self-image issues, feelings of dysphoria and dissociation, and her final attainment of agency and self-acceptance. Thus, since experiential sharing between reader and character seems to entail perspective-taking and empathy (Caracciolo, 2020), I contend that examples such as Sidra’s allow us to enact and be open to different, equally valid non-anthropocentric alternatives to experiencing existence.

Ane B. Ruiz-Lejarcegui is a PhD candidate at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in Spain and a predoctoral researcher in the research group REWEST: Research in Western American Literature and Culture. She has been granted a scholarship by the Basque Government to carry out her thesis on hybrid identities, power asymmetries and othering in contemporary science fictional narrative discourse. She has also done extensive research on H.G. Wells’ early works for her BA and MA dissertations, and her current interests include Posthumanism, Space Opera, Contemporary American Fiction, Hybridity, Cognitive Narratology and Cultural Studies.

Anisha Das

Legends of the land: Assam’s mythical creatures and their ecological resonance.

Assam, a state nestled in the northeastern part of India, stands as a repository of cultural diversity and vibrant oral traditions. The legends and myths have evolved into stories that shape the collective consciousness of the community. Folklore of Assam is full of tales of mythical creatures woven into the region’s identity, both in folktales and urban legends, often assigned specific spaces where they reside, rule, or haunt. Among these tales, two intriguing mythical entities, the Bamboo Ghost which is said to haunt the bamboo groves, and Jalnarayan, a spirit linked with the element of water hold significant cultural and symbolic value.
Despite their ethereal nature, they seemed to be bound by an invisible tether to their designated spaces, their existence is linked to the very essence of the element of nature with which they are associated. This confinement underscores their intrinsic connection to the land, implying a symbiotic relationship between the mythical realm, the physical landscape, and the oral history of Assam. Behind their formidable façade these creatures, often lurking in the shadows, seem to mask the true intent of their protective nature. Their dichotomy as both assailants and guardians sheds light on the complex relationship between the people of the land and their environment.
This paper aims to explore the multifaceted roles played by these mythical creatures, examining their existence in oral and urban legends as both menacing entities and protectors, while also drawing parallels to the social, historical, and ecological struggles of the communities. By examining these entities within the context of cultural continuity, this paper seeks to shed light on the intricate relationship between folklore and community narratives.

A native of Assam, Anisha Das holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and Film Studies. Her master’s dissertation explored the intertextuality of fairy tales, with a particular focus on Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. For her dissertation on film studies, she investigated Indian animation films with anthropomorphic characters.
She has transitioned into the role of creative strategist in digital advertising, serving for the past three years. Her academic journey and professional experience position her at the intersection of literature, film, and digital media.

Anna Milon & Tom Emanuel

Conjured Presence: Spiritual Experiences in Fantasy Spaces

Going back to Huizinga (1938), play theorists have recognized the similarity between games and rituals as activities inscribed within a magic circle that imbues actions, words, and states of consciousness with significance “apart from” their everyday meaning (cf. Wagner 2012). Within these magic circles, player-participants may have meaningful spiritual experiences and encounter what they understand to be genuine spiritual presences (Laycock 2015). This raises a question: what is the nature of such experiences and encounters when they take place in magic circles which have been conjured for ostensibly non-spiritual purposes, such as fan rituals or live-action roleplaying (LARP) games?

Enyaliȅ (Quenya: remembrance) is a fan gathering which takes place at J.R.R. Tolkien’s grave in Oxford on or around the 2 September anniversary of his death. Featuring readings from his writings, the laying of commemorative wreaths, and ritual song, Enyaliȅ reproduces Cherry’s (2010) fourfold structure of Christian worship. Whereas Christian liturgy facilitates encounter with the Christian God, however, Enyaliȅ is explicitly nonreligious. Tolkien is honored but not worshiped, and the story-world invoked is understood as fiction not gospel per se.

Conversely, magical rituals performed at Curious Pastimes LARP are diegetically religious, framed as encounters with various divine powers, but do not reproduce any sacred rite of the primary world. Performed by approximately two to a dozen people, such rituals can be observed by any number of LARPers, and include features of various world belief systems from Christianity to modern paganism that their participants find evocative.

Despite their differences, we propose both Enyaliȅ and rituals at Curious Pastimes can facilitate meaningful spiritual experiences in their participants that transcend beyond the frame of either fan community or role-playing game. It is our aim to explore the nature and role of such experiences in fantasy spaces of fandom and LARP.

Dr. Anna Milon is a longstanding GIFCon lurker who should really have done a PhD at Glasgow, but was seduced by the south coast and Exeter instead. Her thesis on the pagan Horned God as an environmental figure in fantasy fiction includes a case study of Live Action Role-Play storytelling alongside more conventional narratives. She is currently looking for ways to study the overlap between role-play and alternative spiritual movements in more detail. Anna lives in Hampshire with her paladin fiancé, a medium-sized child, and an orange cat.

The Rev. Tom Emanuel is a Congregationalist minister and PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow. His research explores the reception of The Lord of the Rings among nonreligious fans and is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) doctoral partnership with the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH). His work on Tolkien and theology has appeared in publications such as Mythlore, Mallorn, and The Journal of Tolkien Research. Tom lives in Glasgow with his spouse and two elven-fair children whom he is already inducting into the ‘deplorable cultus’ of Tolkien fandom.

Astrid Roesen Abildgaard

Conjuring a World of Women – And a Solution to our Climate Struggles? Human-nature relationships in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland

In her lost-world fantasy Herland (1915), the American novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) conjures up a utopian world of the same name. It is a world without men, a world founded on miracle births and centred around motherhood, a world that is ideal for women. Much of the research on Herland has understandably focused on the ways it reflects Gilman’s proto-feminism or – in another vein – her interest in eugenics. However, in recent years, critics have turned to the role of the natural world in Gilman’s feminism. Building on this ecological turn in Gilman studies, this paper will explore the human-nature relationship depicted in Herland and contextualize it in terms of the environmental concerns of both early 20th-century America and the Anthropocene. I will argue that in the act of shaping a world around motherhood, Gilman also conjures up a world of ecological improvement and that Gilman presents us with a “good Anthropocene” where human influence on nature is omnipresent yet balanced. I will also show how, with this vision for nature, Gilman situates herself in a larger but largely forgotten tradition of utopian fiction written by American women in the 19th and early 20th century. And like these women, Gilman offers us a vision of modes of being with nature that – though fantastical – can be instructive today.

Astrid Roesen Abildgaard (she/her) completed her Masters degree in English and History at the University of Copenhagen in 2022 and has since worked as an upper secondary school teacher. Her interests lie in women’s history and women’s writing, preferably in combination. She hopes to expand her dissertation on American utopianism in a PhD project that seeks to recover and re-examine American women’s utopian fiction from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Barbora Kaplánková

Children of Miyazaki: Travellers into the Unseen

Hayao Miyazaki can be safely considered among the most important creators of children’s fantasy movies of the last few decades. His work is characterized by complex explorations of family, growing up and the world as seen through the eyes of a child. It is not, however, only a matter of depicting naivety or innocence – Miyazaki endows his child characters specifically with the power to access the layers of reality unavailable to adults. The main focus of this paper is a comparative analysis of how the children in Miyazaki’s films interact with the alternative worlds and their many forms of the unseen drawn from animism and shintoism, and oscillating between the fantastic and the mythological/mystical. These interactions bring complexity into Miyazaki‘s portrayal of children – they are faced with serious issues and obstacles, many of which just happen to exist beyond the scope of adult perception. In this paper I focus specifically on the child protagonists of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Ponyo, and the cooperation of stylistic elements and dialogue in conveying their specific experiences. My main goal is to characterize these children’s experiences of the films’ respective unique versions of the unseen (new levels of reality, magic, creatures, deities) through analysis of selected scenes, and in the end describe how those contribute to the overall manner in which Miyazaki presents us a child’s view of the world, both “ours” and “other”.

Barbora Kaplánková (1994) is a student of the PhD programme Theory and History of Theatre, Film, Radio and Television at Palacký University in Olomouc, Czechia. In her dissertation she focuses on depiction of masculinity and femininity in contemporary fantasy film franchises. She is interested in fantasy and animation, and her currently developing interest is the Czechoslovak fairy tale film. She teaches classes on animation theory and on fantasy as a genre, and published chapters on animation in Metamorphoses of Imagination: The Feature Films of Jan Švankmajer (2020, ed. Luboš Ptáček) and Czech Cinema: Situation in 2018 (2020, ed. Petr Bilík).

Dr. Bettina Charlotte Burger

Their Primitive Superstition vs. Our Scientific and Enlightened Magic – Magic Systems in T. L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series

‘Magic system’ is the term for the collective rules and limitations of magic in a fantasy text, which may be well defined and quasi-scientific or vague and mysterious. According to Christopher Mahon on clarkesworld, “[m]aking magic into a kind of science, similar to modern views on thermodynamics or astronomy, risks creating a kind of causal closure that causes each fantasy world to turn into a mirror-image of our world, complete with historical and philosophical parallels to the Age of Enlightenment and its aftermath” (n.p.).
T. L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series fully leans into the “historical and philosophical parallels to the Age of Enlightenment” (n.p.) feared by Mahon and uses them to great effect.
The Edinburgh Nights series juxtaposes a hard magic system, based on the very principles of the Scottish Enlightenment – part of a magic library is literally named after David Hume – with the protagonist’s ‘traditional’ knowledge, taught by her Zimbabwean grandmother. Ropa uses music to communicate with ghosts and ghouls, a talent that is looked down upon by the established magic users of her world. It is a ghost’s plea for help, however, that leads her right into the centre of Scottish magic, the Library of the Dead, where she is introduced to the ‘enlightened and scientific’ magic of the establishment as well as to more prejudices towards her own magic. Ropa is enamoured with the more structured magic she now has access to, but Huchu takes great care to show that the Enlightenment type of magic (and science) is by no means without flaw. It is ultimately always Ropa’s talents that save the day.
In presenting the two magic systems side by side, Huchu manages to criticise Enlightenment thought that disparages more traditional ways of knowing without dismissing the scientific method completely, thus creating a nuanced Zimbabwean-Scottish magic system.

Bettina Charlotte Burger is a lecturer at the Heinrich-Heine University of Dusseldorf in the field of English Studies. Their dissertation argues that fantasy literature ought to be considered as world literature in its scope and that world literary readings of individual examples of world fantasy are highly productive as well as necessary. They have co-edited a collection on Nonhuman Agencies in The Twenty-First-Century Anglophone Novel and have published several articles in the field of speculative fiction. Currently, they are working for a project that intends to establish an Australian Studies Online Masters Programme.

Brynnah Runyan

Alienation of A-Spec Identities: Sexuality, Romantic Love, and What it Means to Be Human

Within the LGBTQ+ community, nonhuman characters frequently serve as symbolic representations of diverse identities, notably asexuality (ace) and aromantic (aro) identities (Rowan Ellis, “The Problem with…). This trend, prominent in fantasy and science fiction, is exemplified by Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data, primarily expressing asexual and aromantic traits due to his nonhuman and artificial nature, once referenced an “intimate” connection with Tasha Yar, significantly influencing perceptions of his humanity (“Measure of a Man”).
This paper delves into asexuality and aromanticism within nonhuman characters in sci-fi and fantasy realms. Asexuality, denoting the absence of sexual attraction (ace), and aromanticism, signifying the absence of romantic attraction (aro), depict identities often defined by what they lack, residing in a space of non-identity. These identities are frequently depicted as “other” in media portrayals. While showcasing these identities in nonhuman characters aims to provide visibility, it also runs the risk of alienating individuals within their community and species.
The study explores compulsory sexuality, media portrayal, and the intricacies of these identities, aiming to address why alloromanticism and allosexuality (the presence of romantic and sexual attraction) are consistently linked to essential humanity. Its goal is to illustrate how nonhuman ace/aro characters challenge this narrative, questioning the use of the absence of sexual or romantic attraction to define non-humanity.

Brynnah Runyan (she/her) is a Master’s student in her final year at the University of Colorado Denver. Her primary areas of study are popular literature, adventure novels, and revenge narratives, all displayed in her undergraduate honors thesis “‘Wait and Hope’: Faith, Hope, and Redemption in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.” Though she’s taken some time away from creative writing, Brynnah also published a sci-fi work, Henryk. Brynnah lives with her nesting partner John-Michael and her dog Stanley. She loves to take in the fresh mountain air when she hasn’t sequestered herself inside to research her current hyperfixation.

Caroline Hannum

Girls Against Gods: Divinity as the Female Hero’s Antagonist, a Metaphor for Patriarchal Control

The contemporary fantasy novels The Poppy War, City of Dusk, and Kingdom of Ash all written by women authors since 2017, feature complicated and morally gray female protagonists who struggle against God or Gods. This paper will argue that these novels deploy divinity as a metaphor for patriarchal control, allowing their protagonist to assert their own will against a supposedly absolute power. Authors R.F Kuang, Tara Sim, and Sarah J. Maas use fantasy’s ability of conjuration to create worlds in which magic is derived from beings of seemingly unlimited power. Living in these realities, each hero must come to terms with the fact that her power, even as it provides a sense of authority and control, is not her own, and in fact limits her autonomy. The plots and authorship of the three novels involve women of diverse and varied backgrounds negotiating their vexed relationship to patriarchal power.
In 2022 Taylor Driggers proposed a theory of the relationship between fantasy and religion in his book, Queering Faith in Fantasy Literature; he argued for fantasy’s ability to articulate queer and feminist spiritualities and theological imaginaries that challenge the power structures of Western theology. This analysis will extend Driggers’ claims for the subversive capacities of contemporary fantasy, arguing that they contest patriarchy as well as theology. It develops a feminist account of the relationships between female heroes and her god(s), and situates that account in relation to the work of scholars including Janine Jobling and Douglass E. Cowan, among others.
Overall, this analysis seeks to contribute to a larger conversation in how fantasy can be used as a space in which women can deconstruct and demarginalize their identities in a patriarchal system. It asks the question: in a genre in which anything can be conjured, why did these women create worlds in which their heroes are not autonomous but beholden to a power outside of themselves?

Caroline Hannum is a second-year MA student in the English Department at Georgetown University. Her research focuses on contemporary fantasy novels authored by women.

Catherine Hall

Abstract: Dwarvish Point of View?: Neo-Khuzdul, Fanfiction, and the Construction of an Alternative Middle-earth

In “A Secret Vice,” Tolkien argues that language and mythology are “coeval and congenital” and that “language construction will breed a mythology” (“A Secret Vice” 2016: 24). Khuzdul, the secret language of the Dwarves, is much less developed than the tongues of the Elves; only a few fragments of Khuzdul are found in Tolkien’s writings, and the Neo-Khuzdul constructed by David Salo for Peter Jackson’s adaptations is also limited. Dwarves are also a marginalized and othered group in Middle-earth, and, founding their interpretations on statements of characters biased against Dwarves, Peter Jackson’s adaptations and some critical literature recreate the biases against them.
In response, many fanworks challenge misconceptions of Tolkien’s Dwarves. One important fan-created resource on Tolkien’s Dwarves, recognized as an authoritative source within the Tolkien fandom, is The Dwarrow Scholar’s Neo-Khuzdul Library. This resource, often cited by fanfiction authors, contains dictionaries, translation tools, and, significantly, articles on Dwarvish culture and history, illustrating the interconnectedness of language and mythology underlined by Tolkien. This paper will explore the uses of The Dwarrow Scholar’s Neo-Khuzdul in a diverse range of fanworks in comparison with the use of the language in Tolkien’s writings and Peter Jackson’s adaptations—on which a large body of fanfiction is based—and suggest that this fan-constructed language conjures an alternative portrait of Middle-earth from the previously marginalized perspective of Dwarves. Moreover, the incomplete portrait of the race in Tolkien’s writings leaves room for interpretation, and The Dwarrow Scholar’s dictionary aids and encourages fans to explore alternative modes of identity and being through Dwarves, conjuring a more inclusive and diverse portrait of Middle-earth. We see, then, how the construction of an invented language, even if used within an already existing secondary world, can create an alternative mythology.

Catherine Hall earned her BA in English Literature at McGill University in 2022 and is currently completing an MLitt in Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow. She has been an executive editor for the student-run, online Science Fiction and Fantasy review ImaginAtlas since 2020, and some of her work has been published in Mythlore. Her research interests include Old English heroic poetry, Tolkien’s medieval sources, Dwarves, monstrosity, and fan culture.

C. T. Power

House of the Dragon: Gender, Race and the Persistent Past

This paper proposes to analyse HBO’s House of the Dragon (2022-), the prequel to Game of Thrones (2011-2019), to highlight a significant trend in a broader corpus of contemporary televisual fantasy representations which produce, circulate and reproduce contradictory ideologies and images of gender and race. Focusing on an immersive, medievalist, fantasy world, this paper recognises long-held racial, gender-based and white-dominated prejudices within the genre. Fantasy often reaches into the past for its narratives and aesthetics and medievalism is but one aspect of this. Medievalism and the pasts’ prominence within the genre and how this has shaped certain generic conventions and aesthetics is key in understanding why images and aesthetics of a non-modern era are so widely recurrent. Adaptations are a product of their time and conditions as “we cannot isolate a text from its historical contexts of production and consumption” (Mittell 7). As a site for analysis then, House of the Dragon, can reveal cultural tensions surrounding inequality, representation, and visibility.
Through a close analysis of the character Queen Alicent Hightower, this paper seeks to draw out the discourses about gender and whiteness circulating in this fantasy world. The particular medievalism GoT and now House of the Dragon produces plays a part in “framing of the Middle Ages as white space” in fantasy screen culture (Downes and Young, 221). Through maintaining generic expectations of medievalist fantasy worlds, problematic framings of race and gender arise, for example, consistent imaginings of royalty, upper classes and those in positions of power as predominantly white and male. Whiteness and “medievalist nostalgia” coalesce in this series to prioritise white bodies, while non-white bodies are repeatedly displaced or marginalised. Examining how race and gender are used to construct alternative iterations of society in televisual fantasy offers an opportunity to understand our culture.

Chloe is a third year PhD candidate in University College Dublin, who’s research focuses on the interdisciplinary fields of fantasy in television and literature, offering an inter-sectional analysis of the representation of gender, race and sexuality in the contemporary genre. Her project, The Progressive Fantastic: Race, Gender, Sexuality and the Evolution of Transmedia Fantasy 2010-2021, combines analysis of fantasy novels with television adaptations, exploring the emergence of fantasy TV and the inter-medial impact of the genre’s new prominence in the market. Aside from a lifelong obsession with fantasy she is also interested in film, hiking and her dog.

Corinne Matthews

Conjuring Consent: Magic, Power, and Patriarchy in Young Adult Fantasy

Since #MeToo’s viral moment in 2017, there has been an increased public focus on both the prevalence of sexual assault and the importance of teaching young people about consent. However, while scholars like Roxanne Harde and Angela Hubler have drawn attention to sexual assault within young adult realist texts, their focus has largely been on rape and rape culture rather than consent. Similarly, while scholars like Ebony Elizabeth Thomas and Leah Phillips have underscored both the potential and limitations of young adult fantasy, critical attention has not yet been paid to how consent works within the genre. However, YA fantasy has long introduced readers to questions of consent and thus plays a key role in how it functions in larger sociocultural contexts. This presentation considers how a range of YA fantasy authors (Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Malinda Lo, etc.) use the magical systems of their fantasy worlds to teach young readers about how consent should—and shouldn’t—work. While some authors keep magical and sexual consent separate and others investigate the intersections of the two, many YA authors shed light on how consent can and should work through magical allegory, especially in the face of power differentials made even more stark by the magical systems in which their characters function. Spotlighting representative titles like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Cashore’s Graceling, I argue that through the imaginative world building and allegory allowed by genre fiction, these authors can escape the limitations of contemporary society, illuminate the underpinnings of larger systems of oppression, and imagine more just alternatives.

Corinne Matthews is a postdoctoral fellow in the University Writing Program at the University of Florida, where she earned a PhD in English in 2023. Her research interests include children’s and young adult literature, fantasy and speculative fiction, gender and sexuality studies, and comics and graphic novels. She also co-hosts the pop culture podcast Sex. Love. Literature.

David Muiños García

Motherless: Absent, Spectral, and Monstrous Motherhood in Video Games

The idea of mothers as protagonists has been widely explored in film and literature while video games have remained adamantly resistant to placing them at the center of the narrative. Yet, every single patriarchal trope about motherhood, pregnancy, and femininity keeps being repeated even in today’s video game fictions. Thus, we still see the same recurring patterns where mothers are confined to the role of nurturer unless they can provide character development for the hero, at which point they acquire one of three statuses: dead, spectral, or monstrous.
This paper takes a critical look at several video games where mothers are represented within the limits of such archetypes in favor of a male heroic protagonist, often a father represented as a positive example–a trend which has been sharply increasing in the last ten years in the video game industry. Prominent examples include video game sagas such as God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Dark Souls, and The Banner Saga. Motherhood has stayed not only underrepresented, but steadily misrepresented. Female fertility is implied to be abhorrent when not under male control; pregnancy is portrayed as a grotesque transformation of the human body, often becoming a crucial plot point in the horror genre; sexuality appears only through the lens of patriarchal pre-conceptions and unrealistic standards. Those aspects of female existence that do obtain representation are sorted into male-designed dehumanizing categories, such as those found in “pink games”.
What all these issues point towards is the lack of female perspective in the representation of female gender-specific issues in video games. Therefore, this paper will shed light into the representational patterns of motherhood and pregnancy followed by male-focused game development in lieu of better-informed perspectives on female experiences.

David Muiños García (he/him) earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Philology at the University of A Coruña, where he also earned a Master’s Degree in Advanced English Studies. He combines his research in cultural studies with his job as an English teacher. He earned a B.A. Hons in Combined Studies at the University of Worcester, UK. He also lived in the United States, where he taught Spanish at Ursinus College, Pennsylvania. He is currently working on his PhD thesis, in which he delves into representational patterns of pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood and fatherhood in video games.

Dulmi Wickremasinghe

An LOTR world “for everyone”? Discussing Amazon’s interventions in Tolkien’s representation of Elvish gender aesthetics

This paper examines Elvish gender representation and aesthetics in Amazon’s Rings of Power (ROP). It argues that Amazon negatively alters Tolkien’s ambivalent representation of Elvish genders and contradicts its own efforts to create a more inclusive LOTR universe. Instead, Amazon reinforces harmful, real-world gender binaries and erases already marginalized identities from fantasy, despite making other progressive decisions (like racially diverse casting).
First, the paper argues that Tolkien’s descriptions of the Elves’ biological sexes carry very strong, feminine aesthetics, such as ethereal beauty and long/beautiful hair. Thus, fanwork, and Peter Jackson’s LOTR and Hobbit films, represent male and female Elves with an aesthetic ambivalence that challenges readers’ understandings of real-world male/female binaries, and invite subversive readings of gender-fluidity in Tolkien’s Elves. The paper then demonstrates how Amazon mutes this ambivalence by representing its male Elvish characters with more rigid, 20th/21st-century gender conventions, such as short hair.
To do so, the paper uses cultural studies theory, textual close readings, and media analysis. Particularly, it uses Sean Nixon’s work on “new man” aesthetics, which discusses how media constructs gender, and borrows his terminology to discuss the differences between Tolkien and Amazon’s representation of the Elves. It will also use criticism of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography to discuss how feminine aesthetics in particular help create ambivalence, alongside scholars and viewers’ responses to Amazon’s aesthetic alterations.
This paper ultimately demonstrates that excluding Tolkien’s ambivalent feminine aesthetic limits the scope of ROP–especially because ROP offers no alternative, gender-diverse representations of its own. This limits viewers’ ability to interact with the conjured world, but also wrongfully suggests that LOTR is a hyper-masculine fantasy. Lastly, it perpetuates the harmful notion that gender diversity is absent in fantasy. Thus far, fans and scholars have overlooked these implications–a precedent this paper hopes to change.

Dulmi Wickremasinghe (she/her) is a Fantasy MLitt student at the University of Glasgow researching contemporary YA fantasy. Her other research interests have included skin whitening practices in literary and historical settings, and wish-fulfilment and social politics in the Middle English loathly lady tales. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching, learning to cook food from various cultures, and collecting books despite no longer having any space to store them.

Elliott Greene

(Re)Writing Reality: Authorial Power and Narration as Conjuration in Alan Wake 2

In Remedy Entertainment’s highly acclaimed 2023 video game, Alan Wake 2, the power of narration is central to both the plot and gameplay. Trapped in the mysterious Dark Place, troubled author, Alan Wake, must free himself by writing and rewriting a narrative of escape. The Dark Place allows Alan’s writing to change reality, both within the Dark Place and the ‘real world’. This ability for narrative to transform reality is actualised in the gameplay, merging the role of player and character, with the player testing combinations of scenes and plot elements to manifest solutions to various puzzles. Nevertheless, Alan’s efforts to escape are limited by the genre of the story, horror. Julio Cortázar’s short story “The Continuity of Parks” similarly merges the role of reader and character, relating a story in which a reader is so immersed in a tale of murder that he does not realise he has become the victim. Both of these texts question the extent of a reader and author’s power to shape narrative, while simultaneously offering a metanarrative perspective on the process of story crafting. However, while Cortázar’s short story implies the inevitable death of the reader-as-character, Alan Wake 2 offers the potential for liberation from passive immersion in a text, realised through multiple playthroughs. This paper argues that Alan Wake 2 offers a reimagining of Cortázar’s concept of the passive reader, proposed in his famous 1963 novel Hopscotch. Like Alan Wake 2, this novel allows multiple stories to arise from repeated readings in which the role of reader and author are merged. Alan Wake 2, as a video game, adds a further layer to the metanarrative merging of reader and author, allowing the player to actively participate in the revision of the story.

Elliott Greene is a Lecturer in Foundation Studies and early career researcher. He completed his PhD in English Literature at Edinburgh University in 2023. His thesis, (De)Constructed Binaries: Monologue and Dialogue in Contemporary Popular Fantasy, offered a narratological analysis of the way popular fantasy texts resolve the tension between binary oppositions. His most recent publications include an article in The Journal of Narrative Theory on N.K. Jemisin (2023), and a chapter in the recently published The Romantic Spirit in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien (2024).

Emilie Morscheck

Reimagining Disability in YA Fantasy: Exploring Harper and Rhen in ‘A Curse So Dark and Lonely’

This paper considers the construction and representation of dis(ability) in fantasy young adult novels, with a specific focus on the novel A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. It will explore how Kemmerer represents dis(ability) through the characters of Harper and Rhen, and will argue that Kemmerer’s use of a fantasy world achieves the subversion of roles for disabled characters and questions real world constructs of disability.
This aligns with Webb’s view on representation that “What seems to be true, right or accurate is, generally speaking, only true, right or accurate when it fits with a particular social, historical and personal perspective.”(2009, 7). The concept of ‘disability’ has an alternative interpretation in Kemmerer’s fantasy setting. The narrative arc of A Curse So Dark and Lonely provides a unique lens through which to examine the portrayal of disability through the inclusion of a main character with cerebral palsy, a young woman named Harper. Harper comes from a version of the real world, and Rhen, the cursed prince, lives in a fantasy world. Both are considered disabled in their original worlds, but not by each other. Where Harper doesn’t view her disability as an unconquerable obstacle, Rhen’s curse is central to the novel’s conflict.
This paper contributes to the ongoing discourse on representation in literature by unravelling the complexities of disability coding in fantasy young adult novels. Through a focused examination of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, it illuminates the potential of the fantasy genre to challenge and reshape traditional narratives surrounding disability, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and empathetic literary landscape.

Webb, J. (2009). Understanding Representation. SAGE Publications.

Emilie Morscheck, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Canberra, investigates the portrayal of autism in young adult fantasy literature. Shortlisted for the 2021 Text Prize and honoured as the inaugural recipient of the Steph Bowe Mentorship for her manuscript ‘These Cursed Waters,’ her academic pursuits intertwine her passion for writing and research. Emilie’s scholarly focus delves into the nuanced representation of autism, aiming to illuminate the intersections of identity and storytelling within the realm of young adult fantasy. Her academic journey embodies a commitment to exploring diverse narratives and advancing understanding of marginalised identities in literature.

Eva McLean

‘But the flower is made of shadow:’ The ecoGothic, the Ephemeral and the Fantastic within C.J. Cooke’s The Ghost Woods

C.J. Cooke writes that her novel The Ghost Woods is ‘first and foremost a gothic novel’ and this paper explores the text’s relationship with the ecoGothic. The dark forest conjured by C.J. Cooke is far from a mere a backdrop as it acts as an active participant in the narrative, blending the eerie with the ecological. Pearl Gorham arrives at Lichen Hall in 1965 – an opulent house in the middle of the woods shrouded in folklore of ghosts and fae. Pearl is one of many young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth and this paper will address the setting, mythical creatures, fae and growing ‘fungus that creeps up the walls’ that Pearl encounters. Cooke blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, creating a narrative space where the fantastical becomes a tool for reflecting on the complexities of human experiences. This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of gothic literature’s evolution, highlighting how The Ghost Woods adapts traditional motifs to comment on environmental and social issues pertinent to both its 1965 setting and the present day. This paper will draw on a range of fantasy theory and ecocritical theory as the ecoGothic and fantastical framing, serves as both an ode to gothic traditions and casts a critical lens on environmental concerns, particularly climate change, to illustrate how the gothic setting is employed to mirror contemporary anxieties about human and nature relationships.

Eva McLean completed her MLitt with distinction at the University of Glasgow focusing on ecocriticism, creative writing and visual art. Eva has presented at the University of Freiburg’s Culture at Play conference and at Once and Future Fantasies and GIFCon both hosted by the University of Glasgow. Her research interests are in the digital and environmental humanities. She earned her Global Citizen Award with the University of Mainz through an exchange programme on climate change. She volunteers with the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic and illustrations of hers are published on the university blog. Eva currently works at UofG.

Fiona Reid

Humans and robots: neuroqueer identity exploration through Dungeons and Dragons

Where we end, and a character begins can often be a fine, or even nonexistent line. In tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, we often find ourselves conjuring creatures and characters that reflect not only who we are, but who we want (or don’t want) to be. Neurodivergent and queer people, who often lack accurate media representation (e.g. Hadjiiouannou and Saadi, 2022, Nankervis, 2022) and who feel ostracized or pushed out from typical society find themselves reaching for a place they can escape, where they can be whoever they wish with no judgement or worry.
Tabletop roleplaying games can allow many of these individuals to find this escape, a cathartic space to explore their identities and create their own representation through conjuring their own characters. Within this, many neurodiverse and queer individuals find themselves reaching for one trope again and again. Robots, who are often seen as unfeeling and cold, too logical and lacking human features, seem to draw in these individuals, who are fascinated with their manner.
This paper discusses the lived experiences of neuroqueer individuals who use the creation and play of robots to explore and represent their marginalized identities through the conjured world of a Dungeons and Dragons setting. How the ability to create and play a genderless character devoid of inherent sexuality, who is free from the real-world expectations of how to behave in social situations, present your emotions, and act “human” provides neuroqueer people the opportunity to unmask and experiment with identity in a judgement free zone. Thus, allowing them to explore their own identities by engaging in and practicing social situations safely and with no real-world repercussion, as well as allowing them the chance to be themselves in a world hand-created for them to thrive, rather than simply survive.

Fiona Reid has completed a Master by Research in Psychology at Abertay University and an undergraduate degree in Public Sociology. Her main research interests explore neurodiversity, sexuality, and gender, often through the lens of nerd culture and with a passion for creative research methods. Her research is often interdisciplinary, engaging with disability studies, queer studies, ludology, and social studies. She is looking to expand her research to reflect her interest in neuroqueer studies, fiction, and roleplay.

Frankie Bradley

Love and Monsters: Viewing Monster Romance Through a Queer Lens

Monster Romance, while considered taboo in mainstream circles, has become a popular concept in the fantasy romance genre, with thousands of titles available that cater to every niche interest. Monsters flood the market with minotaurs (Mail Order Minotaur by Lilith Stone, Grab the Bull by the Horns by Sam Hall), ogres (Get In My Swamp by G. M. Fairy), and faeries of every court (Dark Fey by Cynthia A. Morgan, The Fallen-Fey Chronicles by S. L. Gavyn) just to name a few. While many of these romances are presented as heteronormative—a cisgender woman involved with a masculine presenting creature—there is an element of queerness in the pursuit of that which has been othered by society. Monsters have had a long history of queer coding, an act that utilizes queer stereotypes to signal a monster or villain as being inherently evil. However, the monster romance seeks to subvert the idea of the monstrous as unattractive or repulsive by embracing it as a potential romantic and sexual partner. By comparing paranormal, or monstrous, romances such as the Modern Tales of Faerie by Holly Black, Duskwalker Brides by Opal Reyne, and Dragonbait by Vivian Vande Velde, we can see what queer stereotypes are in use when characterizing the female heroines and their monstrous counterparts, how these narratives compare to openly queer narratives, and how effective these romances are as stand ins for queer identity.

Frankie Bradley is a PhD researcher in the School of Arts & Humanities at Ulster University. They are currently working on projects involving decolonization in speculative fiction and exploring how identities are impacted by imperialist culture norms. With over a decade’s experience in the book industry, they have a variety of skills and are always willing to pick up new ones.

Gao Weiming

Conjuring Historical Figures and Alternative History Narratives: A Study of the Japanese Fantasy Franchise Fate

The Japanese ACG (Anime, Comics and Games) subculture is now one of the most popular subcultures among the youth, reaching hundreds of millions of fans worldwide. Fantasy is one of the most enduring and enjoyed genres in Japanese ACG subculture. Under the theoretical framework of alternate history, I will examine how Japanese fantasy ACG works conjure and reinterpret real historical figures. I will analyse how different possibilities of world history are reimagined in these works and discuss the deconstruction and reconstruction of myths and history in contemporary popular cultures. Fate is an anime, manga, game, and novel franchise published by the Japanese ACG studio TYPE-MOON starting from 2004. In the fictional world in Fate, every 60 years, magicians selected by ‘the Holy Grail’ gather in the city of Fuyuki in Japan, where they conjure the ‘heroic spirits’ of historical figures, forge contracts with them, and fight each other for the Holy Grail. The historical figures conjured in the Fate franchise are often reinterpreted and are significantly different from their counterparts in real world history or mythologies. Thus, the Fate storylines recount alternative histories that are distinct from but also parodic of those of the real world. The works in the Fate franchise deconstruct the metanarratives and reconstruct the personalities of historical figures. This article will take different ACG works in the Fate franchise as examples to explore how fantasy ACG works can combine the conjuration of historical figures with gamified storytelling, allowing different historical figures from different cultural backgrounds to have cross-temporal communication. In such a manner, ACG works re-examine and discuss historical events and historical figures from diverse perspectives, and enriches the diversity of narrative possibilities of alternative history.

Keywords: Alternative History; Japanese Fantasy; ACG subculture

Gao Weiming is a postgraduate student in the Science Fiction Studies MA programme at University of Liverpool. He is also a member of the British Science Fiction Association. His main research interest is science fiction and fantasy in the era of globalisation, especially in ACG subcultres. His reviews for the American and Japanese Science Fiction ACG have been published as chapters in the books Introduction to Science Fiction and World Science Fiction Frontiers Annual 2021. He is also a research assistant at the China Science Fiction Research Center and co-edited the Chinese Academic SF Express 2022.

Grace Rhyne

Charlotte Riddell: Literary Banshee

This paper will delve into Charlotte Riddell’s use of banshees within two of her ghost stories, and how the banshee’s warning transcends the written word and transforms Riddell herself into a real banshee. In Riddell’s stories, “Hertford O’Donnell’s Warning” (1867) and “Conn Kilrea” (1899), the banshee haunts the titular characters and warns them of an imminent death, something “reserved solely for families of pure Gaelic blood” (Herbert Hore and David Mac Ritchie, 1895, pp.116). Hertford O’Donnell, and Conn Kilrea having both removed themselves from Ireland, and assimilated into British society, call forth the banshee through the death of their Irish culture. These banshees come with a two-fold warning, that of the impending death of a relative, and that of Irish culture. By introducing a spirit from Irish folklore into England, where O’Donnell and Kilrea had fully removed themselves from their homeland, Riddell not only complicates the idea of assimilation, but goes so far as to make it impossible for her characters to survive assimilation, as seen by the death of Kilrea’s brother. Victoria Margree argues that “Riddell’s usual narrative pattern is certainly unsettled by having brought the spectre of colonialism into its foreground,” but I argue this is Riddell’s intent (British Women’s Short Supernatural Fiction, pp. 61). It is through this use of the banshee in problematising assimilation that Riddell establishes herself as a banshee, depicting the dangers and deaths that come from abandoning one’s culture. By considering Riddell’s own relationship with assimilation—she was raised in Ireland, but moved to England as an adult—this banshee’s cry only becomes more significant, as she harnesses a folkloric mirror of herself to spread her warning of the impending death of Ireland, thus disrupting the traditional ghost story narrative, where the ghosts are purely spectres existing on the page.

Grace Rhyne (she/her) is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Warwick where she researches Victorian women’s ghost stories and the ways in which they discuss issues of mobility. Grace completed her MA at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, USA, where she wrote on Queer Temporalities and Victorian Vampires. Additionally, Grace is the founder and current President of Warwick University’s Gothic and Horror Society, and teaches seminars on Medieval and Early Modern Literature. She is the proud owner of eleven copies of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and is always on the hunt for more.

Hannah Frances Roux

“Not the Real Orient but a Fantasy”: C.S. Lewis’s Calormen and Edith Sitwell’s Modernist Orientalism.

This paper begins with the claim that C.S. Lewis’s depiction of Calormen, in the Narnia Chronicles is undeniably “orientalist,” in the sense popularised by Edward Said (1978). Warwick Bell has recently argued that this is an uninteresting point: the use of “stock images” of the East in the construction of Calormen is, for him, a product of Lewis’s “time and place.” (232). Ball argues that Lewis was influenced by sources such as the Arabian Nights in ways that are more complicated than Said’s model suggests. (9-10). Yet he also writes that “Lewis’s ‘Orient’ was not the real Orient but a fantasy,” and belongs in a tradition of British writers fascinated by the “Romantic East.” (232-233). That Lewis’s imagined East was formed as much through his engagement with European literature as Middle Eastern seems undeniable. Shasta-Cor’s near sale into slavery echoes eighteenth-century anxieties over “white slavery” in the so-called Barbary coast; the monstrous Calormen god, Tash, suggests The Song of Roland’s Saracen religion more than real-world Islam.
My paper makes a case that one of these British sources for Lewis’s orientalism is Edith Sitwell’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” a poem Lewis read and re-read throughout the 1930s and 40s. Sitwell’s poem is filled with images of a “Romantic East” and her poetry constructs the East differently from Eliot and Pound’s – modern poets to whom Lewis reacted more negatively. Reading Lewis’s Calormen in as in the same tradition as this distinctly Sitwellian modernist orientalism does not absolve him from the accusation that he reproduces the orientalist imagination of his time – quite the opposite. It is true that Lewis’s orient is “not the real Orient but a fantasy.” (Ball, 232). Yet this is no unimportant fantasy. It comes to stand for Lewis and Sitwell’s most interesting aesthetic differences from their contemporaries.

Hannah Roux is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Sydney. Her thesis investigates C.S. Lewis’s engagements with the poetry and criticism of T.S. Eliot. Her broader interests are in the relation between the Inklings and their contemporaries in Anglo-American modernism, mid-twentieth century literature and criticism in Britain, fantasy and science fiction, and the intersections of religion and literature. She lives in the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney, where an obligatory half-finished fantasy novel gathers (metaphorical) dust in her (digital) desk-drawer.

Hannah Mimiec

‘The Screaming Horrors’: Animal Advocacy and Eldritch Horror in Watership Down

Richard Adams’ 1972 novel Watership Down is often read as a piece of animal advocacy literature, emphasising human and nonhuman continuity (e.g. Raglon and Scholtmeijer, 2007). This paper’s textual analysis will focus on Captain Holly’s account of the destruction of the Sandleford Warren, a pivotal moment in the novel, in which the danger of men to the rabbits is at its most harrowing. It will argue that Adams’ description of human activity in this scene has a lot in common with the style of writing often employed by the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen in their weird fiction. From the description of when the ‘air began to turn bad’ (Adams, 1972) to the ‘great silver, shining thing’ (Adams, 1972) that the men use to destroy the warren, the activities of men are always alien and horrifying to the rabbits and create the ‘atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread’ (Lovecraft, 1927) that is characteristic of the weird.
Reading this scene as both a piece of animal advocacy literature and as weird fiction then opens up an interesting tension in the novel’s portrayal of its animal characters. The rabbits of Watership Down are anthropomorphised in a number of ways; they have their own language, religion, and games. At the same time, Adams uses techniques common to the weird in order to defamiliarise human activity to the reader, and transforms what might be routine work in the countryside to an apocalyptic event that parallels the waking of Cthulhu. If the fear of humans are to the rabbits what the ‘racial-nightmare’ (Haraway, 2015) of Cthulhu is to Lovecraft, then this points to a radical decentering of the human within Watership Down and the need for animal advocacy texts to look beyond anthropocentric appeals to humans.

Hannah Mimiec is a part-time PhD student and part-time lecturer in law at the University of Dundee, currently researching narratives of policing in weird fiction. They hold an LLB and an MLitt from the University of Glasgow, where they were part of the 2022/23 Fantasy MLitt cohort. Specialising in cultural legal studies; their research interests include the intersection of law with weird and horror fiction, children’s literature, and tabletop games.

Hollie Willis

‘The Locals Bite Back’: A Defence of the Tuunbaq and the Use of Fantasy in The Terror

When assessing the success and/or failure of a historical film/tv adaptation, the prevailing factor is that of historical accuracy. This is the case in HistoryBuffs’ review of the 2018 AMC adaptation of Dan Simmons’ book The Terror, in which he rebukes the inclusion of the Tuunbaq, a monstrous spirit who hunts the crew of the Franklin Expedition. However, in my presentation I will come to the defence of the Tuunbaq, specifically how this supernatural creature helps to entrench an anti-colonial retrospective of the Franklin expedition and the role of the Inuit people involved. This will involve a critical analysis of how the Tuunbaq is depicted and used as a metaphor for indigenous agency in the TV show, the Inuit mythology surrounding it, and a brief comparison with the creature in the original Simmons text. I will contextualise my analysis using written sources from the true story of the Franklin Expedition and how Inuit people were perceived by the British, such as Charles Dickens’ racially stereotypical depiction of Inuit eyewitnesses in his response to John Rae’s evidence of cannibalism. Rather than the out-of-place ‘man-bear-pig’ described by HistoryBuffs, I argue that the Tuunbaq embodies an act of conjuration, both as a mythological spirit and as a fantasy storytelling device that aids our ability to deconstruct the past and the equally conjured nature of historical narratives. (223 words)

Hollie Willis is a second-year PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her thesis focuses on the representation of funerary rites in contemporary fantasy literature in the context of the death positivity movement. She has shared her early research at conferences such as the CRSF, Finncon, and the annual Tolkien Society seminar, and is involved in organising the 2024 GIFCon conference. Her research interests, aside from death, include cannibalism, 19th century arctic exploration, feminist gothic, and all things macabre.

Inês Vaz

Monster Girls Turning Darkness to Light: Subversive Uses of Monstrosity in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Nimona

Monsters, as well as the notions of good and evil they help establish, have always been a core element of any fantasy narrative, and are especially crucial in those works meant for children, as they serve as an introduction to said concepts. Much like the villain, the monster has long been associated with difference and otherness, incarnating all that is bad and evil, many times appearing in fantasy stories, merely for “placing yet another obstacle in the way of the hero’s quest.” (Clute and Grant 654) However, recent trends in storytelling for younger audiences have been trying to challenge some of these outdated notions of monstrosity and villainy, as well as the harmful ideals they help perpetuate, by placing traditional monsters in new contexts. In this sense, I want to look at two examples of contemporary fantasy animation distributed as kids’ content—She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-2020) and Nimona (2023)—and explore how these works (re)think and (re)present monstrous figures and the relationship they establish with typical indicators of otherness such as queerness, disability, ethnicity, or neurodivergence. Through an analysis of characters like Nimona, Ballister, Scorpia, Entrapta, Catra, Double Trouble, and others, I argue that in these works, the usage of monstrosity associated with certain qualities as an indication of innate evil and moral depravity is not only harshly criticized but utterly dismantled and masterfully subverted. By looking at the ways these characters that embody monstrous features are used in the narratives, I intend to show how in these works, traditional indicators of monstrosity are repurposed to showcase and expose difference in a positive light, transmitting the idea that being Other, does not necessarily make you bad, and that true evil lies in condemning and marginalizing someone simply because they are different.

Inês Vaz is a Portuguese PhD student and aspiring researcher who reconciles her personal interests with academic work, so she has an excuse to buy more books. In her PhD thesis she will deal with representations of hags and crones in works of fantasy animation of the last century, focusing primarily on notions of monstrosity and otherness in the show The Owl House (2020-2023). In previous research she has explored themes such as the monomyth, literature and other media, adaptation, animation, and children’s and YA fiction. Through her work she hopes to help further fantasy studies within Portuguese academia.

Iria Seijas-Pérez

Analysing the Witch Figure in Irish YA Fiction: Deirdre Sullivan’s Perfectly Preventable Deaths (2019) and Sarah Maria Griffin’s Other Words for Smoke (2019)

In Ireland, the history of witchcraft differs slightly from British, continental European, and North American mainstream histories on the perception, treatment, and persecution of witches. Accusations and prosecutions for witchcraft did not happen in Ireland until the mid-seventeenth century, and only a total of four witchcraft trials have been recorded in early modern Ireland (Sneddon 2012). Witches were certainly perceived as evil creatures; however, it was fairies that were more often blamed for fateful events and were consequently more feared. Regarding the label ‘witch’ more generally, this has been used by society to mark women as other, to portray them as dangerous, aggressive, and violent, and to control them (Ricks 2020). The term ‘witch’ referred almost exclusively to women, and accusations of witchcraft attacked women who transgressed patriarchal norms (Miller 2018). Nevertheless, nowadays the word ‘witch’ has been reclaimed, becoming a word of power that marks a refusal to comply with the norms and expectations of patriarchal society (Ricks 2020). The representation of witches in literature has varied through the years, from the crone to the hag to the teenage witch. Witches have been depicted as evil women or magic healers who have a special connection with nature, among other characterisations. In this paper, I particularly focus on the representation of witches in Irish YA fiction. I will look particularly at Deirdre Sullivan’s Perfectly Preventable Deaths (2019) and Sarah Maria Griffin’s Other Words for Smoke (2019), which Patricia Kennon has defined as “works of Irish YA ‘witcherature’” (137). My aim here is to analyse the depiction of witches and witchcraft that appear in these novels, in order to demonstrate how these are similar to or differ from traditional perceptions of the witch figure, and how the witch characters defy patriarchal norms in a variety of forms.

Iria Seijas-Pérez is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Vigo, under a predoctoral grant from the Galician Government (Xunta de Galicia). She is a member of Feminario: Feminisms and Resistances, within the established Research Group “BiFeGa: Literary and Cultural Studies, Translation and Interpretation” (Ref. ED431C-2020/04), and a member of the research project “Communitas/Immunitas: relational ontologies in Atlantic anglophone cultures of the 21st century” PID2022-136904NB-I00 MCIN/AEI. Her PhD thesis studies the representation of female LGBTQ+ adolescents in young adult literature written in English by Irish women. Her research interests include Irish literature and culture, LGBTQ+ and feminist studies, and young adult literature.

Kristine Larsen

“Even those who are different can survive”: Dragons, Speciesism, and Procreation in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher and its Adaptations

The rich multimedia Secondary World of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series includes short stories, novels, a Polish single-season tv series, and an ongoing Netflix series (with spinoffs). Sapkowski’s world openly embraces and subverts the literary sources upon which it draws, especially Polish folklore. This paper focuses on the short story “The Bounds of Reason” (adapted in the Polish and Netflix series), based on the Polish legend of the dragon of Wawel Hill. Here the Witcher (monster hunter) Geralt replaces the heroic dragon-slaying cobbler of the original tradition. However, Geralt will not harm dragons, which Sapkowski describes as “noble creatures” and “rational beings.” While Jonathan Evans explains that Old English and Old Norse tales “emphasize differences between the human and the monstrous”, Sapkowski’s tale does the opposite, blurring the standard lines between the monster and the hero, and between species, especially in the shapeshifting golden dragon Villentretenmerth. The dragon-hunters (mainly humans) are painted as the truly monstrous, while the members of ‘Othered’ groups (all mutants who suffer from infertility) – Witchers, Sorceresses, and Dragons – are more heroic. The world of the Witchers more broadly suffers under a hegemony of self-proclaimed human exceptionalism which has led to extreme speciesism (including genocide) against Elves, Dragons, and even the Witchers themselves. I argue that Sapkowski’s golden dragon acts as a mirror through which characters are forced to recognize their own potential for destruction, for as Geralt explains people “like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.” Sapkowski’s tale also explores larger themes of human destruction of the natural world, including the role of reduced procreation in dooming a species to extinction. But I argue that Sapkowski’s story is ultimately not without hope, for as the dragon explains, through empathy and compassion “Even those who are different can survive.”

Dr. Kristine Larsen has been an astronomy professor at Central Connecticut State University since 1989. Her teaching and research focus on the intersections between science and society, including sexism and science; science and popular culture (especially science in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien); and the history of science. She is the author of the books Stephen Hawking: A Biography, Cosmology 101, The Women Who Popularized Geology in the 19th Century, Particle Panic!, and most recently Science, Technology and Magic in The Witcher: A Medievalist Spin on Modern Monsters (McFarland & Company).

Madeline Wahl

Who Can Speak Characters Into Existence?: Stuttering, Fluency, and Conjuring Characters in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart

Stuttering, according to the National Institute of Health in the UK, is “is a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks.” In Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, main character Mo has the unique ability to have characters appear in real life when reading out loud from a book. This paper will explore conjuring characters in Funke’s story, specifically the difference between fluent reader Mo, nicknamed “Silvertongue,” and disfluent reader, Darius. When Mo reads characters out loud fluently, the characters appear in a perfect corporeal form. However, when Darius reads out loud, he stutters which allows for characters who appear in reality to have something wrong with them including disfigurement. Through close reading and contextual analysis of Inkheart, I will compare and contrast how Mo conjures characters versus how Darius conjures characters. I will look at not only how Darius and Mo conjure characters, but also in the perception of other characters on their conjuring skill. Mo is perceived to be eloquent and the expert conjurer, while Darius is viewed as useless because he has a speech impediment.
This paper will acknowledge that conjuring characters by speaking out loud is an incredible talent. However, Darius reading characters out has a direct result in characters being deformed. Thus, the fantasy world Funke constructed reinforces the stigma associated with stuttering that exists in the “real” world. This paper will also focus on accessible worldbuilding in a fantasy context. Finally, it will be acknowledged that peer perception of disability awareness is crucial especially in creating fictional fantasy worlds.

Madeline Wahl (she/her) recently completed her MLitt in Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Previously, she has held editorial positions at Reader’s Digest, HuffPost, and Golf Channel. She was a speaker at the Australian Speak Easy Association’s online 2020 conference and has previously written about stuttering for The Stuttering Foundation. She holds a BA in Advertising/Public Relations with a minor in Psychology and a minor in English-Writing from the University of Central Florida. She is working on her first novel in YA Fantasy and her first nonfiction book proposal on millennial caregiving.

Manon Hakem-Lemaire

The Fantasy of Alterity in Richard Marsh’s Imperial Gothic Novel The Beetle (1897)

Although it initially outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897) has been largely forgotten. The novel was out of print from 1960 to 2004, and a 1919 silent film adaptation is now considered lost. The creature here conjured is a gender-fluid, shape-shifting beetle-human come from Egypt to seek revenge on a Member of Parliament who killed a woman during the British protectorate of Egypt twenty years earlier, in the 1880s. The beetle infiltrates houses, mesmerises characters into acting on its behalf, assaults them, and kidnaps a British woman for sacrifice by the Cult of Isis. Encounters with the beetle – alternately referred to as “Mussulmanic”, “the Arab”, “the scarab” – are told in the rhetoric of counter-invasion of the nation, but also of the body, which reinforces the confusion about its sexual identity. In addition, the novel’s form rejects linearity and conventional storytelling through the use of four narrators whose accounts vary in genre, from what Patrick Brantlinger has termed the “imperial gothic” to near-theatrical comedy and a final section that borrows heavily from the detective genre, notwithstanding the final twist in the fantastic mode. In this paper, I propose to study the creature of the beetle as a perturbator of racial, social, and sexual norms in the imperial context of the fin de siècle. The creature’s travel from Egypt to Britain, its undefined ontology, and fluid sexuality, push against past and present definitions of fin-de-siècle imperialism and literary conventions. Flaubert’s ironical definition of an orientalist as “homme qui a beaucoup voyagé” (“a man who has travelled extensively”) appears particularly tongue-in-cheek in this context: an amateur, or even a scholar of “oriental” culture, need not have travelled to conjure up a fantasy of the Orient – Marsh had not – and the imaginary traveller’s gender need not have been defined.

Manon Hakem-Lemaire is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Since writing her MA thesis “Pragmatic Diversion: The Fantastic as Alternative Realism in Guy de Maupassant and Horacio Quiroga” (University of Saint Andrews and University of Guelph, 2017), she has continued to explore nineteenth-century “alternative” realisms in the context of travel writing, imperialism, and perceptions of alterity. While writing her dissertation, she teaches world literature at Baruch College and works as a fellow in Writing-Across-the-Curriculum pedagogy at Queensborough Community College.

Maria Damkjær

Conjuring worlds through book culture

A central element of world-building is the design of a material world. Books, which are handled, lost, found, read, or destroyed, are both a shorthand for a fantasy world’s material culture, but also a metafictional nod to the reality of the reader. Fantasy authors tend to like books, and expect their readers to also have positive feelings about books. But in many fantasy worlds, especially those inspired by medieval European history, books are invoked as scarcity objects, or worse, as forgotten and decaying. This paper asks how book culture within modern epic fantasy is used to conjure secondary worlds where knowledge is threatened. I will discuss a set of modern epic fantasy series, and ask: what do books represent? What other forms of record-keeping and knowledge preservation exist in the secondary world, and why? What are the limitations of different kinds of knowledge transfer, and how does that play into the narrative? Contemporary fantasy authors, I posit, are both fascinated by texts, and also troubled by their limited chance of survival over the very long periods that the genre tends to sketch. Deep time is hostile to book knowledge, and it is the loss of knowledge that poses the greatest challenges to fantasy realms so obsessed with the distant past. Contemporary fantasy is occupied by the assumption that knowledge must be sought where it is hidden; that book learning is marginalised and dismissed; that there is a scarcity of both books and knowledge more generally; but that the ‘hidden truth’ might not, in the end, be trustworthy. In short, transmission of information is threatened; and as several of these stories are also meditations on climate catastrophe — especially Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Jemisin’s The Broken Earth — these anxieties conjure a feeling of transience and threat.

Maria Damkjær is an Associate Professor (short-term) at the University of Copenhagen. She earned her PhD from King’s College London in 2013. Maria’s work focuses on material texts in the nineteenth century and questions of genre, narrative fiction, and the history of reading. Her forthcoming book, Fiction on the Page in Nineteenth Century Magazines, is about malleable storytelling in Victorian periodicals. From her starting point in Book History, she has branched out to be interested in reading and book culture within contemporary epic fantasy. (Last name pronunciation: ‘Dam-care’)

Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad

When Nature Speaks: Fictional A.I. as Folkloric Creatures of the Technological Age

Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the environments we surround ourselves with have changed considerably, and as forests make way for concrete jungles one may assume that the creatures once rumoured to live under every root and rock has left us – unless perhaps, we may have brought them back. In this presentation I will compare features of early fictional A.I. to figures such as faerie folk and mythological gods, suggesting that these figures appeal to a similar storytelling instinct to anthropomorphize our surrounding environment and structure our understanding of natural forces, creating an evolving archetype between them. But, as our organic environment is replaced with an artificial one, so in turn must its inhabitants change.
I will primarily use examples of A.I. narratives of the late 1960s, when a boom in early A.I. fiction spawned many of the most iconic and impactful narratives in the genre to this day.
• “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (1967) by Harlan Ellison
• “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (1969) by Brian Aldiss
2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), by Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick
I hypothesize that major unprecedented advancements of this time, such as the moon landing, enhanced an impression that the limits of technology may be unknowable or even unlimited, leading to a keen awareness of an incoming technological singularity and pushing speculative A.I. further towards the fantastic. If, in line with Clarke’s laws, any A.I. sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from the fantastic, it could take any form that old tales told, challenging a feeling of safety seen since the Age of Reason and reintroducing to realism what was previously dismissed, opening the door for both the wonders and horrors of fantasy.

Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MLitt in Fantasy Literature in 2020 and has since continued writing as an independent academic. Her work includes a contribution to the Mapping the Impossible journal, and recently a chapter contribution in Star Trek: Essays Exploring the Final Frontier, published with Vernon Press. She has a long-lasting interest in fictional representations of technology and works with using the theories and methods developed for fantastic literature to further understand the characteristics of science fiction. She is currently working towards a PhD on the topic of fictional representations of A.I.

Meg Horridge

Conjuring Utopia: How Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed Builds an Imperfect World

Utopian fiction appears to imply the presentation of a ‘perfect’ world, but when this is the case, the utopian novel can often feel more like a long-winded description of an imagined world than an embodied exploration of it. The utopia, rather than being a fantastical world created for the purpose of telling a story, thus instead becomes a thought experiment, conceived of abstractly rather than in full colour. As such, the utopia must inevitably be conjured in a way that facilitates conflict and change, which cannot occur in a truly perfect world.
Thus, more recent utopias have tended to introduce some imperfection to their fictional worlds—not merely points on which readers may not agree, but elements that are intentionally presented as the drawbacks or unfulfilled promises of the utopia. Do these imperfections contradict the promise of utopian fiction, or are they a necessary compromise to facilitate story? And with this in mind, how can utopian worlds be constructed in a way that retains their utopian character?
Considering these dilemmas, I will explore the ways in which Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed appears to combine utopian and dystopian conventions to create her “ambiguous utopia”. Despite its prominent flaws, Le Guin manages to maintain the sense that Anarres, the anarchist moon of the novel, may still be a utopia worth saving. By assessing the presentation of Anarres as flawed yet still aspirational, and the ways in which the novel attempts to convince the reader of this, I will illustrate how utopian worlds can be conjured in a way that acknowledges and utilises their necessary imperfections.

Meg Horridge (they/them) is a sci-fi and speculative fiction writer, currently working toward a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Their research and creative work explore the need for utopian fiction in an increasingly dystopian world, and how the genre may be innovated upon and updated to suit the twenty-first century.

Mercury Natis

Letting the Beastly Beast Go: Navigating compulsory heterosexuality through King Pellinore and the Questing Beast in The Once and Future King

In his Arthurian Epic The Once and Future King, T. H. White tackled complex adult issues and concerns through a sometimes thinly veiled guise of children’s fantasy. Compared to the inner workings of Guinevere and Lancelot’s emotional lives, the tale of King Pellinore and his adventures with the Questing Beast seem to be a childish aside, interspersed within the narrative. This paper will investigate how T. H. White, a semi-closeted and often morose homosexual, uses the Questing Beast and Pellinore’s relationship with Sir Grummore to question the compulsory heterosexuality that is required of boys when they become men. Through the mode of juvenile fantasy, sometimes in direct contrast to the rest of the text, White presents the Questing Beast (gendered female) as a requirement that Pellinore, a childish adult, struggles to pursue. He is pleasantly distracted from his quest by being a guest in Grummore’s home, with dialogue that barely disguises the intimacy of shared beds and homosocial spaces. Pellinore and Grummore’s juvenile homosociality is an antidote to the quest for the Beast. As the epic grows up, from The Sword in the Stone to The Queen of Air and Darkness, the metaphor of the Questing Beast as the compulsory heterosexual contract evolves into a metaphor for returning to childhood out of the bonds of real marriage, back into the innocence of homosocial bonds and juvenile adventure. The Questing Beast in The Sword and the Stone is a required burden that can be avoided through homosocial intimacy. The Questing Beast in The Queen of Air and Darkness then changes, as she inserts childlike frivolity and adventure through being a cheeky and seductive female playmate, more akin to T. H. White’s beloved dog Killie than a human woman, and fosters a return to homosocial play within an increasingly serious adult environment.

Mercury Natis (they/them) is a student of Imaginative Literature at Signum University with a focus on Tolkien Studies and Queer Theory. They hold a previous MA in Museum Education and a BA in Art History, and will soon be starting their PhD at Glasgow University. Their primary focus is on queer resonances in interwar fantasy, in the pre-identity politics age of ambiguity. While they are mainly a Tolkienist, they will always come back to T. H. White, who they believe belongs firmly in the queer literary canon as an icon of camp fantasy.

Michael Quinn

“The stolen future cannot be given back to me”: Exploring personal identity through Paragon in Robin Hobb’s ‘Realm of the Elderlings’

If fantasy provides a window onto cultural desires, the particularly consistent nature of epic fantasy worlds provide a fictional environment where identity formation can be systematically explored by the writer and experienced by the reader. Through her subversive approach to exploring the variable effects of trauma, ancestry and the unconscious on personal identity, Robin Hobb investigates how the dynamic nature of physical and metaphysical states of being impacts personal identity. In this context, I evaluate how Paragon, an anthropomorphic dragon(s) become ship, challenges our understandings of the fantastic.
Hobb’s writing represents a progressive development within post-Tolkien fantasy, adopting a significantly different approach to Tolkien’s imitators (Wetherill, 2015). Hobb’s inherently logical and immersive fantasy rejects archetypes, such as wizards, or subverts them; her depiction of dragons, similarly to Le Guin, ‘serve as loci for exploring ethical and ecological issues’ rather than fiery opponents who must be defeated (Sangster, 2023).
Hobb subverts fantasy tropes ‘to critically comment on the ideologies and practices of colonisation’ (Young, 2014), developing characters of psychological depth capable of authentic and complex relationships. The generational effects of post-colonialism on identity are explored through Paragon, an example of how our ‘many selves … stem from a history that is transcendent of individual intentionality’ (Radhakrishnan, 1991).
Hobb’s depiction of Paragon demonstrates how subversive fantasy can ‘transform the relations of the imaginary and the symbolic’ (Jackson, 1981), encouraging readers to question conservative ideologies of the self. For many readers, fantasy is a formative element of cultural socialisation, one which may have a significant impact on personality development, especially its imaginative component. Consequently, adopting this interdisciplinary approach to fantasy, given that its dream-like imagery represents unconscious ideas through metaphysical depictions of identity, can elicit important discourses on its potential to develop readers’ understanding of identity formation, specifically the depth component of identity.

I am currently undertaking a PhD project in the Philosophy of Education, focusing on the possibilities of teaching philosophical concepts through speculative fiction, at the University of Glasgow. My main interests are in fantasy literature, having completed a MLitt in Fantasy, and in exploring intersections between literature and philosophy as well as how they complement one another. I’ve taught English in high schools in Scotland, Spain and Australia and I’m currently enrolled in the Children’s Fantasy Literature course at Glasgow. I love almost all things fantasy, but mainly Robin Hobb, Ursula Le Guin, Arthurian literature, and, of course, Tolkien.

Nathaniel Harrington

Teachd Chonain: Celticism, settler colonialism, and the fantasy barbarian

In this paper, I offer a historicization of the figure of the barbarian in sword and sorcery and later genre fantasy, focusing on the entanglement of the barbarian with fantasy’s Celticism, the appropriation and (re)interpretation of Celtic-language cultures and literatures by dominant-language writers and artists. I begin by briefly tracing the influence of popular Celticism on the fantasy barbarian, from James Macpherson’s Ossian through Standish James O’Grady’s Cuculain trilogy to Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Bran Mak Morn and then to contemporary high fantasy, focusing on the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
I look especially at the relationship between the figure of the barbarian in Howard and Dungeons & Dragons and perceptions of “Celts” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racial thought and argue that even as the fantastic barbarian has drawn on a wider array of signifiers, it remains closely tied to racialist conceptions of the Celts but with an inverted valuation, recuperating the Celts into a colonial and white supremacist fantasy combining Celtic, Germanic, and Indigenous elements. In a contemporary context, I argue that the Celticist barbarian of modern fantasy serves as both a continuation of the nineteenth-century relegation of Celtic-language communities to the fringe of “civilization” and as a settler-colonial replacement fantasy where Celtic “barbarian” can replace the Indigenous population whose societies and religions, refracted through colonial anthropology, are displaced and projected from the colonized Other into fantasy’s constructed (now-white) heroic “Celt”.

Nathaniel Harrington has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Toronto; in 2023-2024 he is an assistant professor in the Department of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University. His current projects are a critical study of “Celtic fantasy” and an exploration of the relationships between linguistic marginalization and speculative fiction. His other interests include Scottish Gaelic folklore, the philosophy of Miguel de Unamuno, speculative reading practices, and meeting new cats.

Nick Stember

Desert Solitaire: Tales of the Strange, Fantastic, and Immortal in Nie Jun’s Seekers of the Aweto

In this paper I will be considering Chinese cartoonist Nie Jun’s ongoing manhua (comic book) series, Seekers of the Aweto (Tian Chong Cao). Launched in February 2022 with The Hunt Is On (Dadi de zhuilie), the first of three projected volumes, the series is set in a semi-mythical alternate universe. By opening with an artist painting on the wall of a cave in Dunhuang, an important site for Buddhist, Taoist, and other syncretic religious practices located on the Silk Road in today’s far western Gansu province, Nie suggests that the story about to be told will take place in the medieval period of 200 to 1000 CE. The tale which unfolds, however, is quickly revealed to be one in which magical spirits and demons roam the land, most important among them being the sacred Aweto, who protect and nourish life in the arid desert landscape of central Asia. In my reading of this comic, I show that in so doing, Nie draws both on the historical legacy of “tales of fantastic” (chuanqi) and “strange” (zhiguai) events, and also on the more contemporary tradition of xianxia or “immortal heroes.” Despite presenting a potential allegory for contemporary social tensions, I find that Seekers of the Aweto exists in uneasy tension with political engagement, reveling instead in the anarchic free play of image and text. In this amorphous “third space” of unreal phantasy, Nie is able to forge a world of ecological (im)possibilities that is only dimly described by procrustean readings of subversive (or indeed, authoritarian) intent. As such, the case is made that this is a text which ultimately embraces harmony with nature, and the reclusive “non-doing” of early Taoists such as Laozi and Zhuangzi.

Nick Stember (he/him) is a historian and translator of Chinese literature and popular culture. He recently defended his PhD dissertation on “pulp science” in early Reform-era (1976-1986) comic books in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge. Next year he will be joining the New East Asian Museum Tales project at the National Museum of Denmark as a postdoctoral researcher, where he will be exploring depictions of Taoist self-cultivation in popular culture.

Ning Lee

Age’s Mischief: Writing Ageing into the Fantastika in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, characters grapple with the haunting presence of the she-dragon, Querig. Believed to be all-powerful and treacherous by most humans, Querig is also the origin of a forgetfulness that spreads like a plague across the lands. However, by the end of the novel, it is revealed that Querig is, in fact, frail and dying, contrary to the widespread belief in her timelessness.
While The Buried Giant features no shortage of ageing characters, given that the protagonists are an elderly couple, the most striking representation of ageing emerges through the dragon—a fantastical creature. This paper aims to investigate how the prevalent theme of decline narratives, common in contemporary cultures, is reimagined within a fantasy setting and applied to fantastic creatures. By delving into the portrayal of ageing creatures and the depiction of intra-specific interactions, often asymmetrical and unethical, this research seeks not only to interrogate the dangers of decline narratives but also to emphasise how these narratives, when woven into fantastical realms, equate ageing with the non-human—blurring the lines between us and the fantastical.
This examination of the representation of ageing in the fantastical setting of The Buried Giant hopes to contribute to a broader understanding of the implications of decline narratives and their impact on our relationship between both ageing human and non-human entities. This exploration seeks to shed light on the ethical dimensions of such narratives, encouraging a reconsideration of how we perceive and portray ageing within the realms of fantasy literature.

Ning Lee is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, where she earned her master’s degree in Literature and Modernity: 1900 to the Present. For her master’s dissertation, she explored ethics and orphanhood in the works of Kazuo Ishiguro. She will start pursuing a doctoral degree at National Taiwan University this spring.
Ning’s engagement with Ishiguro’s works has been a transformative aspect of her academic journey, significantly shaping her research interests. Beyond her dedication to Ishiguro’s oeuvre, she is committed to examining the complexity of ageing and old age in contemporary society through the lens of literary and cultural productions.

Olivia Scarr

(Un)homely Cultivations: the botanical Other as the ‘Monstrous Feminine’ in Short Fiction of the Fin de Siècle

By the end of the 19th century, domestic horticulture was a well-established bourgeois pastime, with indoor cultivation of ‘exotic’ plant species made possible, firstly, by a proliferating industry of plant importation from England’s colonies, and, secondly, glazed glass cases which allowed for the protected transfer of plants. Victorians were confronted with strange plant species both on foreign territory and in the heart of their home, where the natural world was (re)created in glasshouses. Building on Homi Bhabha’s understanding of Freud’s unheimlich as capturing “the estranging sense of the relocation of the home and the world in an unhallowed place” (141), this paper focuses on Victorians’ conceptualisations of the botanical Other in relation to, and contention with, their novel surroundings; anti-mimetic fictions of the time created worlds very similar to the Victorian reader’s own, yet interspersed these with strange and fantastical elements, and in the late 19th century, analogous to other monsters of the era (i.e. Dracula), plants developed an appetite for (fictional) human beings. Putting to question the explicit feminisation and sexualisation of plant horror fiction, this paper highlights Victorians’ ambiguous engagement with their natural environment in short fictions of the period, i.e. Fred M. White’s ‘The Purple Terror’ (1898), H. G. Wells’ ‘The Flowering of the Strange Orchid’ (1894), Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Naval Treaty’ (1893) and ‘The Lost World’ (1912), probing beyond the various ‘faces’ of the monstrous feminine to investigate ideological struggles and material strategies of fin de siècle society contending with the vast expansion and simultaneous diminution of their known world.

Bhabha, Homi K. “The World and the Home”. Social Text 31/32. Third World and Post-colonial Issues (1992): 141-153.

Olivia Scarr (she/her) Born 1993 in Vienna and raised in Austria and South Africa, she studied Comparative Literature and History at the University of Vienna before graduating with a master’s degree in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures. Alongside her studies she tutored bachelor and master students of the English department (literature and cultural theory courses) while personally specialising in the field of (Victorian) materiality studies and medical and environmental humanities. She has worked in theatre (dramaturgy) and for designaustria, is an avid reader of fantasy and historical fiction, and dabbles in novel writing from time to time.

Rachel Cairns

Fat in the Forgotten Realms: Fat embodiment, monstrosity and the non-normative body in participatory fantasy storytelling

This paper will interrogate the potentiality for fat embodiment and occupation of the non-normative and monstrous body in participatory fantasy storytelling – namely, in digital and tabletop role-playing games. Fat studies scholars have established fatness as a discrediting characteristic that limits one’s access to the status of personhood (Farrell, 2023), or a readable text that offers a shorthand for laziness, lack of morality, and indulgence in excess (Murray, 2008). In short, fatness marks one as Other, and as existing in a monstrous or non-normative body. This paper will investigate participatory storytelling as a potentially radical site of fat liberation and exploration, utilising Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3, and Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition system as two linked but unique case studies. An important aspect that this paper will consider is fat embodiment, which fat scholar Kimberly Dark argues is central to achieving fat liberation (Dark, 2023). That is to say, it must be considered to what extent we are granted access to the inner worlds of fat characters. I will consider to what extent, through character creation and customisation, and play and choice, players are able to interact with and embody fatness. Some fat studies scholars consider that liberation can be found in embracing the monstrous status of the fat body – especially when considered in intersection with racial and genderqueer liberation (White, 2021; Owen, 2015). This paper will take special care considering how imagined racial difference and monstrous classification, central to the construction of Dungeons and Dragons (Carpenter, 2023), might complicate or reinforce racialised fatphobia. I will consider if either the digital or tabletop role-playing game format can be used to deconstruct the fat/person dialectic and the normative body, or if fatphobia is entrenched and reinforced by the systems that construct them.

Rachel Cairns (she/her) is a first-year PhD researcher at the University of Strathclyde. Her research focuses on fatness and monsters who eat in 19th-century fairy tales and monster fiction. Also at Strathclyde, Rachel received her BA Hons in English, Creative Writing and Journalism and MLitt with Distinction in Interdisciplinary English Studies. Rachel is a recipient of the Peggy Grant Prize and the Global Research Award. In 2019-2021, Rachel served as a Sabbatical Officer, where she rooted her work within liberation work, and received the Strathclyde Women in Leadership Network Committee’s Choice Champion Award.

Rachel Harrison

From Her Mind to Herland: The Women Conjuring Gynotopia

My paper focuses on the ‘conjured worlds’ of Gynotopia. This referring to the phenomenon of female Science Fiction authors creating countries, cities or entire planets inhabited by and designed solely around the needs of women. Through the emancipatory powers of the female mind, these worlds reimagine fundamental aspects of our existence. They invert gender roles to critique gendered hierarchies and spheres in society such as the scientific, religious, and political which women have historically been excluded from. These female authors conjure fictional worlds in which we witness an extreme inversion of the position of women in society, resulting in men becoming the ‘othered’ sex. Men become the victims, the subjugated, the reduced or simply the erased. This is explored through methods of psychological subjugation in Katharine Burdekin’s The End of This Day’s Business (1989). Other Gynotopias explore physical gender segregation such as the female-only worlds of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), Rokeya Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream (1905), and Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora (1890). Some dissolve notions of gender binary altogether such as Burdekin’s Proud Man (1934), and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). While men in these worlds are othered, seen as lesser or as a threatening, non-human presence, women are depicted as goddesses. They are often larger, stronger, less fragile creatures – Amazonian in nature, thriving in their unbridled existence. However, there is a darker side to the reimagined women of the Gynotopia. Often (in Anglophone Gynotopias) this ‘superwoman’ is depicted as inherently Aryan. Thus, unfortunately, the Gynotopias of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in particular fail in their feminism as they promote the pseudo-science of eugenics in their quest for perfection. I will explore the reasons for women conjuring these Gynotopias, outlining their characteristics and their lesser-discussed flaws using the case studies mentioned above.

My name is Rachel Harrison. I am in the third year of my PhD at the University of Dundee. My thesis title is ‘Reclaiming Gynotopia: Female Authored Ustopian Novels and Science Fiction’. My research interests include lesser recognised female SF authors who have made a large contribution to SF and utopian fiction. I also specialise in ‘Gynotopia’ or Feminist Utopian Fiction. I had a paper published in the SFRA Fall Issue 2022 titled ‘Exploring the Banishment and Reformation of Masculinity in Scientific Gynotopias’ in which I discuss what I identify as the 2 key models of Gynotopia and their approach to masculinity (Separatist and Integrational).

Rebecca Gault

(Re)Creating Marginalised Identity in the Omegaverse

Fan culture is the site of reinterpretation of popular media including, but not limited to, the practice of writing fanfiction. Within the culture of fanfiction is a proliferation of subgenres, one of which is that of the omegaverse. Omegaverse fanfiction constitutes an alternate universe wherein characters from media are written into a surrogate structure of gender; as alphas, betas, or omegas. By examining the trends within Omegaverse fanfiction in the context of fan studies and feminist theory, we can explore how these transformative texts intercede in conversations about sex and gender within the original texts. When we consider Omegaverse fanfictions as operating within the speculative mode, we can break sex and gender discourses down into building blocks with which fanfiction authors are free to rebuild a new structure with.
Within this speculative mode, however, we often see that marginalisation is recreated; omegas are often derided and looked down upon within the original conception of this gender structure while alphas are seen as desirable and betas as nothing out of sorts. In constructing this hierarchy, Omegaverse authors are given a lens through which they can examine the marginalisation of those marked as Other by their gender signifier. Throughout, this paper will aim to explore the alternate gender structure provided by the Omegaverse and the ways in which this can function as a form of ‘low theory’ – as established by Halberstam – with the possibility to explore different ways of thinking when it comes to sex and gender.

Rebecca Gault is an early-career academic from Glasgow, Scotland. She has a MA in English Literature and an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. Their research interests include monstrosity, gender and sexuality studies, LGBTQ+ studies, and modes of fantasy. With previous research on the sexual and gender politics of monstrosity in fantasy literature, she is an up-and-coming researcher and writer in fields of the fantastic. She is the co-host of Out To Get You, a queer horror podcast (@OutToGetYouPod on Instagram) featuring guests such as award-winning author Gretchen Felker-Martin. Rebecca can be found on BlueSky at @phoenixforce.

Rebecca Lloyd

Reuse, recycle: Terry Pratchett’s Igors and the monstrous remade body.

Margrit Shildrick (2002) argues that the indeterminacy of the monster body disturbs as it exposes assumptions about how we figure identity. Conflicting claims about the body as a guarantor of identity, challenging the security of distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘others’, are evident in representations of the Igors, minor but recurring humanoid characters in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett. Igors practice various surgeries and modifications both on themselves and others, thus literally embodying visually and philosophically competing discourses about bodies and forcing a reflection on whether identity and the body are self-evidently synonymous. The Discworld novels as fantasy literature incorporate elements not entirely possible in Roundworld, (our world), and the tribe of Igors have certain strange magical powers. But Discworld echoes and refracts Roundworld designations of monstrosity because responses to Igors, both of humour and terror, demonstrate Shildrick’s claim that monsters ‘are always too close for comfort’.
Devoted to science and medical practices situating the body as the passive recipient of the anatomo-clinical gaze, Igors conduct transplantations amongst themselves and for others, taking parts from the dead as prosthetics, repairing and making whole the living because they believe that to do otherwise is wasteful. If their actions in restoring bodies to completeness apparently reinscribe the social biases of ableism, Igors themselves, bearing scars and non-normative bodies as signifiers of skill and belonging, present an alternative view of normality. But they are also bio-artificers, crossbreeding species and artificially growing body parts, creating non-human and vegetable hybrids with often horrific results. This paper will explore how Pratchett challenges the reader on presumed certainties about the relationship of identity to the body, exposing anxieties as both nonsensical, through humour, and, yet, simultaneously terrifying, so that we must ask ourselves who makes monsters?

I am an independent researcher on Terry Pratchett, Gothic creatures, landscapes and humour: publications include ‘Dead Pets’ Society: Gothic Animal Bodies in the Films of Tim Burton’ in Tim Burton’s Bodies: Gothic, Animated, Corporeal and Creaturely (2021), and ‘The Human Within and the Animal Without? Rats and Mr Bunnsy in Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents’ in Gothic Animals (2020). My most recent publication is ‘Ghostly Objects and the Horrors of Ghastly Ancestors in the Ghost Stories of Louisa Baldwin’ in Women’s Writing, Vol. 29 (2), July 2022, with co-author Professor Ruth Heholt.

Rebecca Pearce

“All in a Day’s Work for a Hero”: Once Upon a Time and the Fantastical Byronic Hero-Villain Cycle

Peter Thorslev argues at the turn of the 19th century, gothic literature had created a ‘peculiar hybrid ‘hero-villain’ or ‘villainous hero’ (6). Lord Byron, inspired by these tales, created his ‘Byronic Hero’, a dark, brooding and mysterious figure, but most importantly ‘ensouled and humanized’ (8). Byronism is revived across two hundred years of fantasy fiction; in the figure of the vampire, werewolf and other supernatural beings. Created on the brink and between the boundary of both hero and villain, the popularity and continual reimagining of the Byronic Hero demonstrates how our perspectives on all three archetypes can change. The Byronic appeared first as a villain Vampyr in John Polidori’s novella, and two centuries later, recast as the hero in Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Where the villain is often ‘Othered’, the contemporary Byronic hero re-centers this evil as sympathetic, thereby subverting normative boundaries. This is clear in Disney’s reimagining of their classic villain catalogue into heroic stories: Maleficent (2014), Cruella (2021), but particularly exemplified in Once Upon a Time (2012-18), a fantasy show that synthesises multiple Disney properties. This popularised Byronic Hero-Villain is illustrated in Captain Hook, a classic fairytale character given great pathos in the narrative quest to recast him as a hero and love interest. Rumplestiltskin is an amalgamation of multiple fairytale villains, several non-human. He serves as Hook’s foil, reflecting both sides of the Byronic Hero-Villain coin. I argue that this repeated re-centering of what it means to be a hero and villain is a cycle. Using Once Upon a Time‘s villainous characters, I demonstrate our current cycle of villains turned heroes destabilises simple categories. Drawing upon both Byronic scholarship and fantasy research, this study aims to draw out the cyclical nature between the archetypal Byronic hero, fantasy villains, and re-embracing the ‘Other’.

Rebecca Pearce is a PhD Researcher at Brunel University London; her thesis is titled “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”: Feminist Revisions of Byronic Heroes in Contemporary Fantasy Television”, explores the popular archetype’s representation in modern television. Having previously studied her MA (Birkbeck, University of London) and BA (Brunel) in Film and TV, her interests are focused on the supernatural and intersection of pop culture & literature. She has written for Critical Studies in Television (CST) Online and recently published a book review in Revenant Journal: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural.

Scarlett Butchers

“This was a place of wonders once”: David Rudkin’s Magical Landscapes

‘“This was a place of wonders once”: David Rudkin’s Magical Landscapes’ examines the ways in which the fantastical elements in David Rudkin’s 2009 stage play Merlin Unchained, particularly examples of magic, seem to emanate from the natural landscapes within which the human characters live. Throughout this play, magic is deeply embedded within the fabric of the earth and this manifests both through creating a landscape that is in some way sentient while also allowing magical abilities to be passed from the earth to human characters, becoming a gift granted to those who forge true connections with nature. Using both an ecocritical and cultural materialist approach this paper will suggest that through examining the portrayal of magic in this play it is possible to gain a greater understanding of how the land was viewed at the time of the play’s conception. Therefore, this approach will also create a space to consider how this perception has changed in our current state of climate crisis. This paper will argue that the magic occurring throughout Merlin Unchained is directly shaped by the relationship between the natural landscape and the characters that live within it, becoming a dynamic force that manifests differently depending on the state of this connection.

Scarlett Butchers is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Lincoln exploring the relationship between people and the land in the work of dramatist David Rudkin. Her research interests include the impact of landscape on national identity, folk horror and sentient landscapes throughout art and literature. An overarching interest for Scarlett is the way the climate crisis haunts popular culture, appearing in different guises but remaining ever-present.

Şevval Tufan

Liminal Worlds, Marginalised Beings and Disabled Bodies in Ihsan Oktay Anar’s The Atlas of Misty Continents and Amat

Ihsan Oktay Anar, a renowned name in the world of Turkish Literature, takes his readers on a mesmerizing journey through the captivating worlds of his fantastical literary works. One of his most remarkable works is Puslu Kıtalar Atlası (translated as The Atlas of Misty Continents), where he expertly weaves postmodern elements into his writing. In this enthralling tale, time seems to have lost its grip and the characters appear detached from their surroundings. As the story reaches its conclusion, a surprising turn of events reveals that these characters, who have been constant companions throughout the narrative, are nothing but figments of a dream. Anar’s skilled storytelling transforms familiar places into mysterious and enigmatic realms, leaving readers spellbound. Anar’s masterful placement and portrayal of fantastical creatures in his works grant us profound glimpses into the intricate landscapes of his imaginative worlds. Within this surreal realm, certain characters, marked by their unique physical appearances and disabled bodies, face marginalization within the context of the story. Moreover, Anar skillfully incorporates culturally-inspired entities like vampires, ghouls, and karakoncolos, imbuing his fabricated universes with a distinct and intriguing dynamic. This study draws upon Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Theory” as its conceptual lens, exploring the intersection of disability studies and posthuman studies in the analysis of İhsan Oktay Anar’s Puslu Kıtalar Atlası and Amat. By closely examining the characters situated within these interwoven worlds, the research sheds light on their experiences of marginalization, their embodiment of minority identities, their disabilities, and how they are perceived as monstrous beings.

Şevval Tufan (she/her), completed her BA in English Language and Literature with a minor in Translation and Interpreting at Hacettepe University, Turkey in 2022. Currently, she is advancing her academic journey with an MA in American Culture and Literature at the same institution. Beyond her studies, Şevval works as a lecturer at Ankara Science University. Her research interests are ecofeminism, science fiction, fantastic studies, and video game studies.

Siravich Khurat

Shoukan: The Summoners who conjure the other Half of their Souls

Otherwise known as evocation, the act of summoning is one form of conjuration. Those wielding the art of calling upon another being are Summoners. With Japanese Fantasy as the scope, this paper has classified summoners into Singular Summoners who are bound to a partner and Compendium Summoners who are able to summon a selection of beings. For this paper, the interest lies in exploring the former under the framework of a partnership between a human and a ‘monster’ (the inhuman) to examine how the monster reflects the human as one-half of their soul, as explored in Digimon (Digital Monster) Media Mix series.
To elaborate, when a partnership is formed only between one human and their corresponding monster, we can observe the interaction between the two and how one influences the other. Quintessentially, the monster tends to embody an aspect of the human, whether ideal or hidden. The paper will analyse closely how such a partnership presents the duality of the Other and the Self and how the representation of monsters across iterations conforms and challenges expectations of their fantastical origins and respective narratives.
To that end, the analysis will apply theoretical discourse regarding monsters and their relationships to humans, including Cohen’s seven theses of monster (1996) and Zwan’s psychoanalysis into ‘monster’ (2022), to scrutinise two focal samples of singular partnership this paper has observed. One is an archetypal partnership that emerges through Digimon, Final Fantasy (a Japanese Role-Playing Game series), and Persona (a JPRG series). In parallel to this cross-series observation, the other is a partnership group in a single (JRPG) series: Kiseki/Trails. This dual scrutiny is expected to illuminate the Self-Other dynamic in Fantasy critically while concurrently revealing the creative approach to character design formed from such duality.

Siravich Khurat is a first-year PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, with affiliation to the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries’ School of Film, Media, and Communication, who holds an MLitt in Fantasy from the University of Glasgow. His interest lies in studying specific themes within the Fantasy genre across a range of compatible stories. He has a particular focus on Japanese narratives across media (Japanese Media Mix) and a keen interest in creative writing in English that integrates aspects of Japanese storytelling.

Supriya Baijal

Magical Realms of Morality and Mystery: Reimagining Reality in The Adventures of Amir Hamza and Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie

This paper aims to explore the conjured worlds and creatures in Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s translation of The Adventures of Amir Hamza and the translation of Śivadāsa’s Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie, emphasizing their role in reimagining fundamental aspects of existence. Both texts, deeply rooted in medieval Indo-Persian and Sanskrit epics, offer a rich tapestry of fantastical elements that challenge and redefine our perceptions of reality, morality, and identity.
In The Adventures of Amir Hamza, the translation unveils a world where the heroic, the magical, and the ethical intersect. This narrative conjures a realm where Amir Hamza, a legendary warrior, battles against not just physical adversaries but also engages with moral dilemmas, often against a backdrop of mystical creatures and fantastical settings. The paper will explore how these elements of fantasy serve to illuminate and question traditional notions of heroism, justice, and human emotion.
Similarly, Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie presents a series of magical tales woven with riddles and moral quandaries. The fantastical genie and the narrative’s setting in an otherworldly realm invite readers into a space where reality is constantly reimagined. Each tale, culminating in a challenge to King Vikramaditya, serves as a conduit for exploring deeper philosophical and ethical questions, effectively using the fantasy genre to probe the essence of dharma and leadership.
The study aims to demonstrate how these ancient narratives, through their fantastical creatures and conjured worlds, offer unique insights into the human condition. By examining how these texts use fantasy to delve into themes of morality, leadership, and identity, the paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of fantasy literature as a medium for exploring complex human experiences. The analysis will underscore the transformative power of fantasy in reimagining our perceptions of the known world, highlighting the enduring relevance and depth of these classic tales in contemporary discourse.

Dr Supriya Baijal has a PhD in Children’s Literature and Literary Theory from Dayal Bagh Educational Institute, Agra. She is currently at student at Trinity College Dublin where she is pursuing a MPhil in Digital Humanities. She has presented papers at several international conferences and has attend two summer schools in children’s literature at University of Antwerp.

Tam Moules

Holly Berries Like Drops of Blood: Conjuring the Green Knight as Monster in Prose and Film

“No monster tastes of death but once”, writes Jeffrey Jerome Cohen in Monster Culture (Seven Theses), but it’s debatable whether the Green Knight ever tastes death at all, in most versions of the tale. This paper proposes to read different incarnations of the Green Knight through the lens of monster theory, particularly in the monster’s role “as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment” (Cohen, 1996) and as an intermingled figure of both fear and desire. The “physically attractive, splendidly dressed” (Winny, 2001) Knight of the original poem already exhibits some of the monstrous tension between fear and desire that later writers have emphasised and explored.
Kat Howard’s short story ‘The Green Knight’s Wife’ (2016) is a subversion in which the Knight’s game, having continued into the modern era, is turned back on him by his long-suffering wife who is sick of her part in it. Her story Once, Future (2018) also features a Green Knight, but this one is a figure disembodied from his cultural moment, “a thing unique, sole and unexpected” (Howard, 2018) but one out of time, with no more role to play beyond his presence.
David Lowery’s 2021 film version of The Green Knight performs a separation of sorts between the Knight, figure of fear conjured up by Gawain’s mother, and Sir Bertilak, figure of desire. This separation is not complete, however, and is blurred by Gawain’s anxious fear of desire itself, and the film also complicates the original story’s kissing game by doubling Bertilak’s wife with Essel, Gawain’s forbidden love.
Through these texts, I plan to examine the ways in which these monstrous Knights find themselves drawn into the same actions time after time in different contexts, and how the structure of this centuries-old tale grows around them even when transplanted into new soil.

Tam Moules has an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Anglia Ruskin University. Their research is currently focused on queerness in Arthuriana, and outside of academia their creative practice is currently focused on photography.

Tara West

Made a Villian: ND Stevenson’s Nimona and a Lesson in Difference

ND Stevenson’s science fiction fantasy graphic novel Nimona (2015) and the film adaptation Nimona (2023) details the journey of Nimona – a shape-shifting, chaos-brewing villain-in-training – as she recruits Ballister Blackheart as her mentor. Together, the most sought-after villains attempt to dismantle the Institute, the ruling organization that maintains control through force. While several articles examine Nimona’s fluid identities, gender, and more generally heteronormative perspectives, this project shifts to focus on Ballister Blackheart. I posit that perceived as the main villain, Blackheart is a refreshing reimagination of a villain with a disability. Unlike more historical comics such as Mole Man, Donovan Caine, and Dr. Poison which José Alaniz catalogs, Blackheart is perceived as a villain by a world that refuses to see fault in the oppressive entity that is the Institution, however, he is not actually villainous. In fact, part of Blackheart’s “villainy” is his rigid morals, namely that he attempts to minimize damage to the environment and beings around him. Blackheart’s loss of his right arm during a routine joust physically and socially disables Blackheart’s aspirations to serve the Institute. Even in Stevenson’s fantasy world, being disabled limits one’s options because of society’s perception. Blackheart is fully capable of living independently, and the various enhancements to his cyborg arm enable him to be a successful hero, not a villain. This project is a close analysis of Blackheart as a disabled character and argues that he is made into a villain only through the lens of a society that continues to cling to its conventional beauty standards and ostracizes anyone who does not fit. Stevenson’s novel provides insight into how a world so focused on superficial control and privileging specific bodies can still be changed through the actions and words of beings that have been cast off and villainized by the world.

Tara West is a Ph.D. student from the Literature for Children and Young Adults program at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include examining portrayals of relationships that break and dismantle cisheteronormative assumptions and investigating representations of characters with disabilities in young adult speculative literature.

Vaibhav Dwivedi

Of Faceless Monsters and Secret Terrors: Analysing the Hybrid Anatomy of Slenderman

Slenderman is yet another mysterious creature in a long-standing tradition of urban-legends. However, at the heart of its fame lies a persistent riddle. As a monster that resides wholly on the internet, the truth about its fictive status is merely a click away. A puzzling question emerges – despite knowledge of such bogus origins, why did Slenderman still accumulate such widespread belief?
This paper seeks to analyse Slenderman’s ‘monstrosity’ by examining its hybrid existence. I will incorporate a three-pronged approach to understand this anomaly – at the level of the physical, behavioural and narrative.
Slenderman’s unusual physical traits – a humanoid presence accompanied by blank-face, its atypical psychological mannerisms – a sense of perpetual dread and inaction, portrays a creature that obfuscates the line between human and non-human. This paper argues that Slenderman’s horror emanates not from conventional markers of monstrosity but from the absence of what is deemed ‘normal’.
Furthermore, the focus will be on Slenderman’s literary corpus. The web-of-stories that comprises its oeuvre are an array-of-texts written by multiple authors. As a result Slenderman will be read as an ‘authorless’ creature that has been incessantly appropriated. This paper will investigate the entanglement of the linguistic and the monstrous through the figure of the creature. Ultimately through the work of select scholars, the paper attempts to understand Slenderman as a democratic creature that defies easy categorisation.
Slenderman is indeed a monster. But monsters rarely emerge out of a cultural void. They often contain within them the anxieties of the age. If Slenderman is truly the internet’s own monster, then one wonders – what does it tell us about our own beliefs? This paper seeks to look through the invisible cracks of the faceless monster and take a long hard look at its soul. One might be surprised by who – or what – lurks there.

Vaibhav Dwivedi is an Assistant Professor of English at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. His research interests include Cartography in Literature, Film Studies and Fantasy Literature. He’s also an independent photographer and filmmaker.

Vincent Pritchard

The Conjuring Trinary: Systems of Summoning

When speaking about conjuration as a specific subset of magic in media, it is largely represented in one of three general methods, with room for some variability in individual stories and worlds. These three “subschools” of conjuring account for the lion’s share of instances wherein a character uses magic to “summon” something, be it a creature, an item, or a person. Instances of a creature being plucked from its life and home to do the bidding of the conjurer sit next to the creation of items and people from whole cloth simply by the clever use of magic. In this article I propose to set down the three main methods of summoning, and analyse each of them with a lens toward the moral and ethical questions surrounding each of them, employing examples from Magic: the Gathering, Green Lantern, Percy Jackson, and more similar. I argue that, among the various types of magic that a magician might employ, conjuration requires a more complex and nuanced understanding of morality by the caster in order to be able to call themselves “just,” and that the ideas that govern conjuration are both creative and destructive depending on the intent of the user.

Vincent Pritchard is a Ph.D. candidate at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, where he got his Master’s degree in 2023 in the field of Anglophone Literature, Media, and Culture. His doctoral focus is on the links between identity formation and participatory culture in cyberpunk. Vincent is a circus acrobat and adrenaline junkie in his free time, and he lives with his wonderful partner and their dog in Frankfurt. If you look, you might find him talking about books on YouTube.

Xiana Vázquez Bouzó

Representations of the Alien Enemy in the Post-Anthropocene: Two Case Studies of Filmic Depictions of Otherness through Gender (Under the Skin) and Animality (Nope)

Ever since the Hollywood science fiction films of the 1950s, the alien body has consistently embodied its contemporary social anxieties and fears.
The tradition of hostile alien invasions within Hollywood cinema cannot be understood without looking at the history of US war propaganda against its long-standing political enemies: the Soviet Union, Japan and the Middle East. In this regard, we might think about films like The Thing from Another World (Nyby, 1951), The War of the Worlds (both Haskin’s 1953 and Spielberg’s 2005 versions), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956) or Independence Day (Emmerich, 1996). Whereas alien invaders and predators in the 70s and 80s were dominated by the Alien saga initiated by Ridley Scott in 1979, as well as the Predator saga started by John McTiernan in 1987, the 21st century has been witness to more sympathetic visions of alien invaders, as shown in successful productions like Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 film Arrival.
I am particularly interested in the ways in which human-eating and predating aliens have moved from Alien’s insectoid xenomorph or the scary creatures of Independence Day towards more complex creatures like those depicted in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013) or Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022). The two alien creatures from these films will be the main focus of this paper, especially looking at the ways in which gender, sexuality, disability and animality intersect in the representation of alienness and Otherness in their bodies. Through an antispeciesist, post-anthropocentric lens, I will look at how discourses that are critical of the species hierarchy have soaked contemporary fiction in which superior creatures (like aliens, but also vampires or nonhuman animal apex predators) hunt and consume human beings, and how the representation of such consumption is influenced by other analytical categories that question bodily normativity and its subsequent discriminations.

Xiana Vázquez Bouzó is a PhD candidate in English Studies at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She holds a BA in English Philology and two MAs in Gender Studies and Applied Philosophy, and she specializes in literature and film (especially horror and science fiction), Critical Animal Studies and Feminist Studies. She is currently working on the representation of human-eating monsters in 21st-century film from an antispeciesist perspective. In the last years, she has taken part in several international conferences and has published part of her work, sharing her research about monsters and Critical Animal Studies within popular culture.

Zainab Wahab

Monsters of Greed and Guilt: Examining Mythical Monsters as Symbols of Oppression in Tumbbad and Ghoul

Works of fantasy confront us with differences that challenge our self-perception and understanding of reality. Often symbolized by terrifying creatures, demons, and monsters, the portrayal of these differences invites us to reevaluate the power dynamics between diverse groups. In his seven theses, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen defines the monster’s body as a cultural body characterized by “difference made flesh” whose alterity “originate(s) Within”, thus creating a link between monsters and individuals who perceive them as such (Cohen 41). Using insights from Cohen’s analysis, this paper interprets the mythical monsters in the Indian Hindi film Tumbbad (2018) and Netflix miniseries Ghoul (2018) as manifestations of oppressive systems such as caste and Hindu majoritarianism in India. In Tumbbad, a demon God from Hindu mythology called Hastar epitomizes the insatiable greed of the upper caste society and the exploitation of women under Brahmanical patriarchy. While Tumbbad enables the critique of monstrous legacies, Ghoul presents a dystopian future where ghul, a demon from Arabic folklore, is summoned to avenge the institutional murder of a Muslim man by exposing and weaponizing the guilt of complicit individuals. As an embodiment of the oppressor’s guilt, ghul exposes the brutality of state-sanctioned violence and majoritarian politics. Building on Ashis Nandy’s conception of mythologization as a moralizing process, the paper delineates monsters as cultural products who anthropomorphize the oppressor’s greed, violence, and guilt, highlighting the threat posed by historically oppressive and prejudiced ideologies to democratic systems. Varying from the conventional interpretation of monsters as pathologized depictions of socio-cultural deviations, the paper identifies them as representations of the violence perpetuated by oppressive systems, thus unveiling the monster’s potential to question discriminatory traditions, challenge hegemonic regimes, and subvert the unjust order.

Zainab Wahab is a postgraduate student of English Literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research interests include the Aesthetics of Disgust, Body Horror, and Ecogothic. She writes poetry and enjoys reading about the architectural significance of historic buildings. Her preferred pronouns are She/Her.

Zoe Wible

A Link Between the Historical Evolution of Creature Design in Fantastic Film and Fine-Grained Representation of Non-Human Experience?

In the last decades, special effect technologies have enabled significant changes in creature design: from Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, to the performance capture of Andy Serkis as Golum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Regarding practical effects, there has been progress in materials and prosthesis-making, animatronics and puppetry. This evolution has been even more impressive in the field of digital effects, especially via computer generated images (CGI), motion and performance capture, and digital editing.
But as the technologies progress, has creature design changed? In this paper I argue that progress in special effects technologies increased the potential for a finer grained representation of non-human experience. In Narratology Beyond the Human, David Herman argues that there is a spectrum between coarse-grained and fine-grained ways to represent the experience of a character. Can we link the evolution of creature design, special effects, and the representation of the inner lives of imaginary creatures?
I will focus on two topics: the integration between the creature and its environment, and the use of movement as a representation of inner states (body language and expressivity). To support this analysis I will compare and contrast reptile and simian characters of various time periods, linking the body structure of the creature and special effect technologies of the time to overall expressivity. Examples will be taken from various Godzilla and King Kong films, as well as from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Zoe Wible did her PhD at the University of Kent. The title for her thesis is: “Fantastikaracters and folkbiology: A cognitive approach to imaginary creatures in fiction film”. Her research interests include Fantastika genres, cognitive media theory, imaginary creatures and storytelling conventions in visual narrative media. She also draws on recent developments in interactive media and forms of engagement, including video games and online fandom spaces.

Zvonimir Prtenjača

X-Men’s White Gaze: Conjuring an Apocalypse of Superheroines of Colour

Unlike their comic book counterparts which have, since at least the 1970s and with varying degrees of success, been stimulating discussions of the minorities Othered due to their racial and gender identities, the critically acclaimed and box office-smashing X-Men films produced throughout the past two decades have decidedly bypassed them. Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg, the director-screenwriter duo chiefly responsible for transposing the X-Men’s fantasy worlds from their source materials’ pages onto the silver screens, have conjured them up in live-action format under an objectifying White male gaze. This paper first briefly surveys how the X-Men film franchise utilizes this structure of dominance to centre its White male protagonists as agential lookers and proprietors of female characters of colour, the exoticized and domesticated looked-ats. It then engages in a close reading of Singer and Kinberg’s 2016 entry to the X-Men film series, X-Men: Apocalypse, in which the creators project their patriarchal desires towards African- and Asian-American women onto three superheroines, Storm, Jubilee, and Psylocke, and deliver them to the audiences through the eponymous antagonist’s and several White X-Men’s point of view. The component crucial to “maintaining” these women’s “intersecting oppressions,” argues the paper, are their gendered and racialized stereotypical renditions which Patricia Hill Collins calls “controlling images” (69). As Storm is ultimately contained within the image of the Magical Negress selflessly assisting the men around her, while Jubilee becomes their subservient and silent Lotus Blossom and Psylocke their hypersexualized and threatening Dragon Lady, the paper shows that X-Men: Apocalypse neither challenges these clichéd representations of African- and Asian-American women nor reflects their lived experiences through their mentioned cinematic surrogates. Rather, it sustains their depictions “as less human” and “more ‘natural’,” denying them “subjectivity” and fuelling off-screen “the political economy of domination” characteristic of “slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism” (Hill Collins 71).

Keywords: Black and Asian women, racial and gender stereotypes, superhero film, White gaze, X-Men: Apocalypse
Works Cited: Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Second Edition. Routledge, 2000.

Zvonimir Prtenjača (he/him/his) is a third-year PhD candidate and a teaching assistant with the Department of English at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, the Republic of Croatia), where he researches theories, politics, and practices of representation and difference in American popular culture. When he is not teaching English in his elementary school, he can be found either consuming excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages while annoying his girlfriend or watching and reading the newly released or published superhero film/TV show and comic book.

Realms of Imagination Launch Event

Thursday December 14th, 6pm-7:30pm

Join the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic as we celebrate the launch of Realms of Imagination: Essays from the Wide Worlds of Fantasy, recently released by British Library Publishing as a companion volume to the Fantasy: Realms of Imagination exhibition.  This highly-illustrated book contains twenty essays providing a wide range of perspectives on Fantasy, its forms and its communities.  Collection editors Tanya Kirk and Matthew Sangster will be in conversation with essay authors Cristina Bacchilega, Dimitra Fimi, Sofia Samatar and Ann VanderMeer.

Cristina Bacchilega is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa and co-edits Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies. Her books include Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies (1997), Legendary Hawai‘i and the Politics of Place (2006), Fairy Tales Transformed?: 21st-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (2013) and several co-edited anthologies. Her current projects are collaborations, one on the fantastic in the Pacific, the other on justice in contemporary fairy tales.

Dimitra Fimi is Professor of Fantasy and Children’s Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. Both her monographs – Tolkien, Race and Cultural History (2008) and Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy (2017) – won Mythopoeic Scholarship Awards; in 2021, she received the Outstanding Contribution to Tolkien Studies Award from the Tolkien Society. She co-edits the Perspectives on Fantasy book series (Bloomsbury) with Brian Attebery and Matthew Sangster.

Tanya Kirk is Lead Curator of Printed Heritage Collections 1601-1900 at the British Library, and is the lead curator for the major exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination (2023-24). She previously co-curated several other literary exhibitions at the Library, including Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (2014) and Out of This World: Science Fiction (2011). She has edited five volumes of classic ghost stories drawn from the British Library’s collections, most recently Haunters at the Hearth: Eerie Tales for Christmas Nights (2022).

Sofia Samatar’s first novel, A Stranger in Olondria (2013), won the 2014 William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She also received the 2014 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her novel The Winged Histories (2016) completed the Olondria duology, and was followed by Tender: Stories (2017), Monster Portraits (with the artist Del Samatar; 2018) and The White Mosque: A Memoir (2022). She lives in Virginia and teaches at James Madison University.

Matthew Sangster is Professor of Romantic Studies, Fantasy and Cultural History and Co- Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow.  His most recent book, An Introduction to Fantasy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023.  His essays on Fantasy include work on Mervyn Peake, China Miéville and imaginary cities.  His other books include Living as an Author in the Romantic Period (2021), Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900 (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2022) and Remediating the 1820s (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2023).  He co-curated (with Zoë Wilcox) the British Library’s 2011 exhibition The Worlds of Mervyn Peake and is external curator for Fantasy: Realms of Imagination (2023-24).

Ann VanderMeer is the founder of the award-winning Buzzcity Press. She was the editor-in-chief for Weird Tales (the oldest Fantasy magazine in the world) for five years, during which she was nominated three times for the Hugo Award, winning once. She has won the British Fantasy Award, the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. Anthologies she has edited or co-edited include Best American Fantasy (2007 and 2008), The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases (2011), The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories (2011), The Time Traveller’s Almanac (2013), Sisters of the Revolution (2015), The Big Book of Science Fiction (2016), Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology (2019), The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019), AVATARS INC. (2020) and The Big Book of Modern Fantasy (2020). She currently works as an acquiring editor at Ann lives with her husband Jeff and their cat Neo in Tallahassee, Florida.

You can get your free ticket via this Eventbrite page.

GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Call for Papers

Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow 

Submissions Closed

Event registration can be found here
The Programme can be found here

Conference date: 15th–17th May 2024 (hosted online) 
The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is pleased to announce a call for papers for Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCon) 2024, to be held online on 15–17 May, with the theme of ‘Conjuring Creatures and Worlds’. 

Fantasy is inherently an act of conjuration. When we create, dismantle, or engage with fantasy, we are conjuring magic: the impossible, the mysterious, the unknown, and the indefinable. Conjuring fantasy is an act of creation not necessarily defined by our existing modes of being or reality, yet it is always in conversation with our own world. Thus, when we enter fantastika, we necessarily enter a conjured world that invites us to reimagine fundamental aspects of our existence. One way it effects this is by encountering seemingly nonhuman creatures, through which we meet the magical, the uncanny, the monstrous, the Other, and perhaps most uncomfortably, ourselves. Brian Froud writes in Good Fairies Bad Faeries (1998) that “like any supernatural encounter, meeting a fairy—even one who is gentle and benign—is never a comfortable experience”. Samantha Langsdale and Elizabeth Coody argue in Monstrous Women in Comics that “the monster is difference made flesh”. The same is often true of the worlds these creatures exist in. Conjurations, then, are not wholly foreign; their components are knowable. Through fantasy we can conjure, and therefore communicate, with the necessarily mysterious, the otherwise ineffable. 

The act of conjuration is an ambivalent one, being both beyond and outside our own world yet inherently connected to it and therefore susceptible to the same limitations and preconceptions. In Race and Popular Fantasy Literature, Helen Young argues that “the logics of race and racial difference are so deeply ingrained in Western society that it is extremely difficult, often even for members of marginalised racial groups, to imagine worlds that do not have those structures.” Indeed, Fantastika has often been concerned with narratives where creatures “function as recognizable stand-ins for majorities and minorities and the inevitable conflicts that emerge between identity groups”. We are interested in explorations of marginalised identities, including creatures, systems of magic, and worlds concerned with (but not limited to) race, ethnicity, gender, queerness, class, and (dis)abilities. These conjured creatures and worlds offer an alternative viewpoint into other modes of identity and being. Additionally, the ways in which these fantasies are conjured is important. The medium through which the reader (in the broadest sense of the word) encounters and interacts with the fantasy affects its meaning.  

How do academics, creative practitioners, and fans conjure (and understand the conjuration of) fantasy, creatures and worlds? Fantasy and the fantastic have the capability to conjure the ephemeral and the horrific, the indefinable and the real, the Other and ourselves, but how do we understand these creations? And how do these encounters with creatures, magic, and worlds conform or challenge our understanding of the fantastic?  

GIFCon 2024 is a three-day virtual conference welcoming proposals for papers relating to this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether from within the academy or beyond it. We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers, and researchers whose work focuses on fantasy from the margins. We ask for abstracts for 20-minute papers. See our Suggested Topics list below for further inspiration. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bionote via this form by January 5th, 2024, at midnight GMT.  

We also ask for workshop descriptions for 75-minute creative workshops, for those interested in exploring the creative processes of conjuring these creatures and worlds into being from a practice-based perspective. Please submit a 100-word description and a 100-word bionote via this form by January 5th, 2024 at midnight GMT.  

If you have any questions regarding our event or our CfP, please contact us at Please also read through our Code of Conduct. We look forward to your submissions!  

Suggested Topics include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Fantasy texts and media by creative practitioners from marginalised backgrounds, and from beyond the anglophone and Anglocentric fantastic 
  • Creatures as corporeal and/or spiritual beings  
  • Worlds and magic as material or conceptual spaces, realms, or structures 
  • Multi-media representations of creatures, worlds, and creators 
  • Creating and recreating race, class, queerness, (dis)ability and other marginalised identities in fantasy  
  • Explorations and representations of the Other in fantastika 
  • Attraction to, repulsion or rejection of creatures and the nonhuman 
  • Depicting alienation, body dysphoria, body swapping and transformation in fantasy  
  • The anthropomorphising of objects and creatures 
  • Human and nonhuman binaries, hierarchies, and dynamics 
  • Conforming to and challenging conventional depictions of creatures e.g., mythic and supernatural traditions, folklore, fantastic tropes and iconic and archetypal characters  
  • Representations of fantastical creatures for example cryptids, fae, magical creatures, supernatural beings, the undead, humanoids, animals, hybrids, AI, extraterrestrials, demons, monsters, horrors, boogeymen 
  • Environments, alternate worlds, ecocriticism, posthumanism, the Anthropocene 
  • Conjuring futures and pasts 
  • Organic vs. artificial worlds, spaces and creatures 
  • Conjuring as a destructive or creative act 
  • Conjuring magic and magic systems 
  • How fandoms and scholars recreate, reinterpret, or conjure creatures, worlds and magic systems 

Framing Fantasy: Brian Attebery and Matthew Sangster discuss the affordances of Fantasy

To celebrate the publication of Matthew Sangster’s An Introduction to Fantasy (Cambridge University Press, 2023) and Brian Attebery’s Fantasy: How it Works (Oxford University Press, 2022) receiving the 2023 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies, Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic invites you to an online conversation between the two authors, exploring how we can make compelling cases for Fantasy’s particular qualities and values. The discussion will take place via Zoom webinar on Thursday 5 October 2023, and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Matthew Sangster is Professor of Romantic Studies, Fantasy and Cultural History and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. His new book, An Introduction to Fantasy, explores why Fantasy matters in the context of its unique affordances, its disparate pasts and its extraordinary current flourishing. His essays on Fantasy include work on Mervyn Peake, China Miéville and imaginary cities. His previous books include Living as an Author in the Romantic Period (2021), Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900 (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2022) and Remediating the 1820s (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2023). He co-curated (with Zoë Wilcox) the British Library’s 2011 exhibition The Worlds of Mervyn Peake and is external curator for the upcoming exhibition Fantasy: Realms of the Imagination (2023-4).

Brian Attebery is Emeritus Professor of English and Philosophy at Idaho State University. He won the World Fantasy Award for his editing of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts and has been honoured by both the Science Fiction Research Association and the Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for his scholarly work. During his time as Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Fantasy at the University of Glasgow, he helped launch the Perspectives on Fantasy book series from Bloomsbury Academic Press, which he edits along with Dimitra Fimi and Matthew Sangster. His Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Fantasy: How It Works (2022) is his third, following previous awards for Strategies of Fantasy (1992) and Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth (2013).

Get your free ticket here!

CFP: Tolkien sessions at ICMS Kalamazoo 2024

Image courtesy of the British Library, Shelfmark: Harley 3244

The Call for Papers for the 59th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA (May 9-11, 2024) is now open. Proposals of papers and contributions to roundtables are due Sept. 15, 2022. The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow, is sponsoring the following session: 

Here Be Dragons: Tolkien at the Medieval Margins

Modality: Virtual

Boundaries, margins and marginality are expanding areas of research in contemporary fantasy studies, in which Tolkien’s work is still central. Tolkien’s medievalist fantasy is particularly ripe for a reconsideration from the perspective of the edges rather than the centre: from negotiating the borders of fantastical geographies, to contested borders of genre within the legendarium, to acknowledging the perspective of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised readers, fans, and scholars. This session will continue the conversation which started at the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic’s 2023 international conference on boundaries and margins in fantasy.

Tolkien’s medievalist fantasy shows a keen interest in boundaries and margins: from negotiating fantastical geographies and their borders, to examining liminal characters in-between political/racial/cultural boundaries, even challenging borders of traditional genres within the legendarium (fairy-tale, romance, epic, science fantasy, etc.). At the same time, contemporary fantasy and Tolkien scholarship is at last opening up towards the experiences and perspectives of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised readers, fans, and scholars.

We invite paper proposals that seek to examine boundaries and margins in Tolkien’s legendarium, be they textual, linguistic, geographical, embodied, or imposed. 

All proposals must be made through the Congress’s Confex system. Please carefully follow the instructions on the Congress’s Call for Papers.

Deadline: Friday 15 September 2023