2020 marks 100 years since the publication of A Voyage to Arcturus, a science fiction (or perhaps science fantasy) novel by Scottish author David Lindsay. We will celebrate the centenary of this Scottish cult classic on 19 November, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm via Zoom webinar.
Join the conversation as Lindsay specialists and enthusiasts celebrate the novel and its major influence on key fantasy authors of our time, including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman. A Voyage to Arcturus takes its protagonist from an observatory in Scotland to a new world across space, and explores philosophical and spiritual questions while creating a fully-fledged imaginary planet.
We will be joined by:
Douglas A. Anderson, a Lindsay and Tolkien scholar, who has worked extensively with Lindsay’s manuscripts and is currently preparing a new edition of A Voyage to Arcturus. He blogs at: http://tolkienandfantasy.blogspot.com/.
Nina Allan, award-winning speculative fiction author, whose recent novel The Rift won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the Red Tentacle Award for Best Novel and references A Voyage to Arcturus.
Professor Robert Davis, Professor of Religious and Cultural Education, who has written extensively on speculative fiction and has corresponded with Philip Pullman on A Voyage to Arcturus.
This event is presented by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic via the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow as part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, taking place 12–22 November. For further information please see beinghumanfestival.org.
First of all, here are the two images most readers will know: the iconic cover of the Ballantine edition of A Voyage to Arcturus (third printing, 1973) and Dorothea Breby’s bespoke illustration for Radio Times, published on 22 June 1956, two days before the radio serialization of the novel begun.
By kind permission, we are delighted to share this spectacular illustration of Maskull and Oceaxe riding the shrowk, a favourite scene for illustrators (the Ballantine 1973 cover depicts the same scene), by Joel Fletcher:
Fletcher has really captured very well Lindsay’s vivid description of colour. The shrowks are described in this way:
They were not birds, but creatures with long, snakelike bodies, and ten reptilian legs apiece, terminating in fins which acted as wings. The bodies were of bright blue, the legs and fins were yellow. They were flying, without haste, but in a somewhat ominous fashion, straight toward them. [Maskull] could make out a long, thin spike projecting from each of the heads.
(David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus, Chapter 9: Oceaxe)
Artist Nicolas Geffroy has completed a number of illustrations for A Voyage to Arcturus (you can find the entire series here) and we are delighted to share two of them:
Starkness Observatory, somewhere “on the north-east coast of Scotland” (Chapter 2: In the Street), from where Maskull, Nightspore, and Krag set off for Arcturus:
And Leehallfae and Maskull in Threal:
Last but certainly not least, this illustration pictures the startled Maskull as he awakes on Tormance and finds out that he has grown “fleshy protuberances” on his forehead and neck, and, perhaps more memorably, a “breve”, a tentacle which has budded “from the region of his heart” which is described “as long as his arm, but thin, like whipcord, and soft and flexible” . Later on Joiwind tells him that “by means of it we read one another’s thoughts” (Chapter 6: Joiwind). This illustration is by Monica Burns, a comic artist from Scotland, and was first published in issue 3 of Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity:
Join us on 28th October 2020 at 5pm via Zoom webinar for a thoroughly spooky lecture on the folklore and traditions of Halloween and associated festivals, such as Día de los Muertos, with world-renowned folklorist, author, and broadcaster Dr Juliette Wood, followed by Q&A.
It’s already been almost two weeks since the launch event for the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, and we’re still receiving so many messages welcoming this new development at the University of Glasgow, and reactions in mainstream and social media. We are listing links to press reports on the Centre further below, but we’d like to share with all of our members and followers a wonderful report from the launch event by our PhD student Grace Worm. Grace is working on the YA fantasy novels of Tamora Pierce, and is in the second year of the PhD. She tweets at https://twitter.com/dressandsword.
On good days as a research student, it feels exciting to know that you’re contributing to something new within your field. But then days go by in front of a computer, working on the same introduction sentence for four hours, and no matter how helpful your supervisors are, it can feel like you’re all alone in a race to an impossible feat of writing.
This last year was my first as a research student. I came in so excited – seeking opportunities all over campus to discuss and evolve my research and status as an emerging scholar. Then of course COVID and lockdown happened, which left me feeling alone and questioning why my research on gender and social equality in fantasy worlds was important in a global climate of panic, fear, and a growing distrust in science and research—how could my seemingly esoteric research be meaningful now?
This last week, I attended the UofG’s launch for the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic and for the first time in months, I felt that I and my research were important. At the event, I got to listen to authors Dr Brian Attebery, Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner, and our own professors Dr Dimitra Fimi, Dr Matthew Sangster, Dr Rhys Williams, Dr Robert Maslen, Dr Laura Martin, Dr Maureen Farrell, and Dr Matthew Barr discussing fantasy and our university on the forefront of something that has never been done before.
In my research field and the general public, these people are legends, celebrities, people who built the building blocks of the research we’re all following now and they were talking about my university, my research, and a new age for Fantasy studies at the University of Glasgow.
In online fan communities unrelated to the university, I saw people posting about the event beforehand with captions like “Don’t you wish you were in Glasgow now?” or “A real-life place for magic” and I felt a bubbling sense of excitement and pride that we were changing the future of my field forever.
The event was for the University of Glasgow to become the first dedicated centre for fantasy studies throughout the world but it was also a declaration that we will not stop or slow down, no matter how separated we may be.
In the event chat, academics and fans alike posted where they were attending from – all over the UK and US, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia etc. If this had happened in a world without COVID, how many people could have travelled to attend the event? Would it have been recorded or published? Now it was an event for anyone who was dedicated to the fantastic.
Before lockdown, I would have been happy my university was leading the world, but now, as I watched these people discuss the future of fantasy through a Zoom call, it filled me with hope and a sense of comradery, as we, the unshown audience, shared our outfits on twitter, told others where we joined from, and asked questions from distinguished speakers.
We were together, despite everything, and in these uncertain times. We were full of life, ideas, and hope for a future we were making happen. We were celebrating Glasgow becoming the leader in fantasy studies, but now we were also leaders in how to navigate meaningful.
Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic – Video and Media reactions
Our launch event was recorded and is available to watch via our YouTube channel:
We are delighted to launch the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow with a lecture by acclaimed fantasy author Ellen Kushner, and a discussion panel on fantasy with Terri Windling, Professor Brian Attebery, and Dr Robert Maslen.
Join us on Wednesday 16th September, at 18:00 via Zoom webinar. Tickets are free. Please book your ticket to receive the Zoom link on the day of the event and have the opportunity to take part in the Q&A with our speakers.
Acclaimed fantasy author Ellen Kushner will speak about her creative practice and her engagement with Scottish folklore via her retelling of Thomas the Rhymer in her eponymous award-winning novel, and will answer questions from attendees.
Her talk will be followed by a discussion panel on the affordances and futures of fantasy, featuring: