Boundaries and Margins in Fantasy
The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is pleased to announce a call for papers for Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCon) 2023 (to be held online on 10-12 May 2023) with the theme of ‘Boundaries and Margins’.
Brian Attebery famously argued in Strategies of Fantasy that fantasy can be conceptualised as a ‘fuzzy set,’ with the edges of the genre mainly understood through the lens of what is placed at its centre. Given the subjectivity inherent to this definition, notions of boundaries (or lack there-of) have been a key concern to academic and critical discourse on fantasy and the fantastic, as well as a preoccupation of fictional texts, with fantastical occurrences often being germinated in liminal spaces and margins. As Rosemary Jackson claims in Fantasy: A Literature of Subversion, “The dismissal of the fantastic to the margins of literary culture is in itself an ideologically significant gesture, one which is not dissimilar to culture’s silencing of unreason.” However, while fantasy fandom has historically perceived itself as being on the margins, the genre and its presumed canon privileges a narrow selection of voices and texts, pushing alternate perspectives to the edges of the fuzzy set. Despite the conception of fantasy as the literature of the impossible, the delimitation of margins and boundaries can undermine the potential offered by multiplicity, eliding certain works and creative practitioners from genre, subcultural fan communities, and academic research.
Boundaries and their transgression have often been seen as inherent to textual encounters with fantasy. This thematic concern with the perceived limits of consensus reality arguably makes it uniquely suited for representing the lived experience of those marginalised by such definitions of realism. Examining the borders of both reality and the genre are central to contemporary fantasy studies, from negotiating the fantastical geographies of works such as Lud-in-the-Mist, Doctor Who, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to contested borders of genre in Gideon the Ninth, Star Wars, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. The genre is increasingly acknowledging the perspective of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised creative practitioners, such as in the works of Nalo Hopkinson, Guillermo del Torro, NK Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Nghi Vho. Fantasy’s academic discourse is becoming less concerned with establishing a canonical ‘centre’ and more with examining those margins, as seen in the work of Sami Schalk, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Rukmini Pande, and Maria Sachiko Cecire. Marginality is the space where fantasy happens.
How do academics, creative practitioners, and fans create, enforce, or challenge boundaries in the production, distribution, and reception of fantasy texts? Fantasy and the fantastic have myriad capabilities for challenging hegemony, but how can that capacity be fully utilised?
GIFCon 2023 is a three-day virtual conference that seeks to examine boundaries and margins within fantasy, be they textual, linguistic, geographical, embodied, or imposed. We welcome proposals for papers relating to this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether 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 also invite ideas for creative workshops for those interested in exploring how the creative processes of fantastic storytelling and worldbuilding can engage with boundaries and margins from a practice-based perspective.
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 6th 2023 at midnight GMT.
We also ask for workshop descriptions for 75-minute creative workshops. Please submit a 100-word description and a 100-word bionote via this form by January 6th 2023 at midnight GMT.
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Fantasy texts and media by creative practitioners from marginalised backgrounds
- The mediation of marginality and marginalised identities in fantasy and fantasy worldbuilding
- Liminality, threshold-crossing, and physical or intangible borders in fantasy
- Boundaries or lack thereof between fantasy media (including but not limited to literature, film, television, theatre, oral traditions, comic books, video and tabletop games, new media, virtual reality, theme parks, podcasts, scripts, visual arts)
- Characters and creatures on the margins
- Texts and practices beyond the Anglophone and Anglocentric fantastic
- Boundaries of bodies, gender, sexuality, and romantic attraction in fantasy
- Boundaries of race and ethnicity in fantasy
- Representations of class in fantasy media, and its role in shaping fandom, creative practice, and academic research
- Transgressions of boundaries
- Boundaries between fantasy and reality or realism
- Intertextuality, metatextuality, and marginalia in fantasy
- Regional genres and traditions of fantasy
- Hybridity in genre and form, problems of classification and definition in fantasy and the fantastic
- Boundaries in magic systems
- Interdisciplinarity and cross-disciplinarity
- Fandom as marginalised community, and fans’ own practices of enforcing boundaries, e.g. gatekeeping
- Fantasy creation, fandom, and academic research as cult practices
- The role of marketing and promotional materials in shaping boundaries and margins
- Awards and notions of legitimacy as boundaries
- Fantasy, the fantastic, folklore and myth in national and regional contexts
- Worldbuilding and fictional boundaries
- Boundaries and margins on fantasy in the academy
- Negotiation of boundaries placed by cultural industries and governments
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