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

Event registration can be found here
The Programme can be found here
Paper Speaker Bios can be found here.
Workshops and Roundtables 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 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *