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

Event registration 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.

Workshop registration opens on May 6.

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

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

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.

Leah Phillips bio coming soon!

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.

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