GIFCon 2024: Conjuring Creatures and Worlds – Programme

Event registration can be found here.
Speaker abstract and bios can be found here.
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions 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

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

15:45 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

14:45Ane 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

14:45 Frankie Bradley, “Love and Monsters: Viewing Monster Romance Through a Queer Lens” 
15:05
 Brynnah Runyan, “Alienation of A-Spec Identities: Sexuality, Romantic Love, and What it Means to Be Human” 
15:25 Mercury Natis, “Letting the Beastly Beast Go: Navigating compulsory heterosexuality through King Pellinore and the Questing Beast in The Once and Future King” 

15:45 Discussion

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 Rebecca Gault, “(Re)Creating Marginalised Identity in the Omegaverse” 
10:10 Kristine Larsen, ““Even those who are different can survive”: Dragons, Speciesism, and Procreation in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher and its Adaptations” 

10:30 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

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 Daniel Jordan, “Roll for profit: Exploring capitalist realism in fantasy video games” 

18:15 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

19:00 – Later: Hang out in the Discord  

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

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Discord

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 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

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Discord

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

Workshops

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.

Bio:
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.

Bio:
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.

Bio:
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.

Roundtables

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.

Description:
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.

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

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Discord

Panelists in alphabetical order (by first name):

Alice Langley

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
“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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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”.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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?

Bio:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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.

Daniel Jordan

Abstract:
Roll for profit: Exploring capitalist realism in fantasy video games

Mark Fisher (2009) encapsulates his theory of capitalist realism in the phrase ‘[it is] easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’. His book seeks to pin down the ideological malaise that has cloaked the world since the fall of the Soviet Union; the feeling that capitalism has conquered the political imagination and all that is left to argue is who is best place to administer the capitalist state. Looking at our literature, fantasy has imagined the end of the world numerous times – and the birth of many new ones. Though, as Fisher contends, it still struggles to think outside of a world dominated by capitalist social relations.
Recreating modern power dynamics in fantasy is nothing new. Just as Helen Young (2015) asserts the difficulty of excising modern race relations from fantasy literature, capitalism has become so ingrained in our societies that it is mirrored in fiction without a second thought. Through an exploration of fantasy video games, including The Elder Scrolls and World of Warcraft, this paper will discuss how games efface the ideological nature of capitalism – and reinforce it as the natural status quo.
First, the paper will discuss how the mechanics of role-playing games put particular focus on neoliberal accumulation and numerical progression (Van Doorn, 2014). Second, while the games in question take great inspiration from real pre-capitalist history, they merely take these eras as an aesthetic ignoring any underlying ideology and theology. This ignores the specific social relations of each era and culture – reducing them all to a society that looks remarkably like our own. These two forces combine to assert the ‘affective regime’ of neoliberal capitalism and reinforce its ‘cultural hegemony’.

Bio:
Dan (he/him) is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Glasgow, based in the Urban Studies department. His current work looks at labour movements and trade unionism in the Scottish video game industry. While his primary research interests are in labour studies and the sociology of work, he is a lifelong gamer who is fascinated by the study of games as an artform – and their political ramifications.

David Muiños García

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
(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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
‘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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
“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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
‘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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
‘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)

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
“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.”

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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 are working towards their PhD candidacy. Their primary focus is on queer resonances in interwar fantasy, in the pre-identity politics age of ambiguity and disruption. 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

Abstract:
“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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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”.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
(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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
(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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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?

Bio:
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

Abstract:
“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’.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
“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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
Zoe Wible is a PhD student in Film at the University of Kent. Her research interests include science-fiction and cognitive film theory. Following her master’s dissertation on the reception of androids in contemporary television show Westworld, she is now researching the relationship between 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. The provisional title for her thesis is: “Monster schemas and folk biology: A cognitive approach to science fiction characters in contemporary cinema”.

Zvonimir Prtenjača

Abstract:
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.

Bio:
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.

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 GIFCon@glasgow.ac.uk. 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 

GIFCon 2023 Workshops and Roundtables

Event registration can be found here
The Programme can be found here.
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here.
Workshops and Roundtables can be found here.

Workshop registration opens on May 3 at noon BST. 

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

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Workshops

“Solo Roleplaying Games: History and How To” with Anna Blackwell

This workshop will introduce participants to the concept of solo roleplaying games, how they differ from traditional roleplaying games, and notable examples from the sub-culture and its evolution over the past few years. It will delve into the process of creating a solo RPG and work with attendees to brainstorm potential game concepts and ideas for further personal development as well as discuss how to self-publish an RPG zine.

Bio:
Anna Blackwell is the founder of Blackwell Games, a tabletop games publisher primarily focused on solo roleplaying games with such popular releases as DELVE: A Solo Map Drawing Game, Apothecaria, it’s spin-off Apawthecaria, and the upcoming For Small Creatures Such As We.

She also writes reviews and articles for Tabletop Gaming Magazine, Wyrd Science Magazine, Senet Magazine, among many others.

Workshop Details:
Takes place on Thursday 11 May from 11:15 to 12:30 BST
Registration is first come, first served and can be found here.


“Writing Hybrid Genres” with Dr Oliver Langmead 

Join SFF author Oliver Langmead for a creative writing workshop exploring work that crosses genre boundaries. Participants will identify their favourite genre elements in fantasy and beyond, and receive prompts that will help them to combine those elements in their writing, with a view to creating their very own cross-genre fictions. We will discuss some accomplished examples of hybrid genre work, before embarking on a creative exploration ourselves. What are some of your favourite cross-genre works? If you could combine any genre with fantasy to create something new, what would you pick?

Bio:
Oliver K. Langmead is a Scottish author and poet. His most recent novels are Glitterati and Birds of Paradise, and his long-form poem, Dark Star, was one of the Guardian’s Best Books of 2015. He has a Doctorate in Fine Art from the University of Glasgow, and works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. In late 2018 he was the writer in residence at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne.

Workshop Details:
Takes place on Thursday 11 May from 11:15 to 12:30 BST
Registration is first come, first served and can be found here.


“Boundless Empathy: Exploring Non-Anthropocentric Writing” with Michael Deerwater 

Disrupting the boundaries between character and world, and between subject and object, can help us imagine a life more closely entwined with the more-than-human.

A growing body of work from writers such as N.K. Jemisin, Laura Jean McKay and Jeff Vandermeer is already deconstructing anthropocentric storytelling by challenging the idea of character as an (anthropic) individual acting upon an external environment to generate change. This workshop will explore the work of these authors through writing exercises designed to encourage playful ways to transcend anthropocentric, individualistic writing, and imagine alternative ways of living.

Bio:
Michael Deerwater (he/they) is working on a Creative Writing doctorate at the University of Glasgow. His work explores post-anthropocene futures in genres of the fantastic and has been published in Surveillance & Society and presented at the IAFA’s Once and Future Fantasies conference. He is an organiser and chair of the interdisciplinary Bio-Lit Talks and is actively involved in youth work with Volunteer Glasgow and Glasgow City Council. Socials are @MrDeerwater.

Workshop Details:
Takes place on Thursday 11 May from 11:15 to 12:30 BST
Registration is first come, first served and can be found here.


“‘The tale is the map that is the territory’: Exploring national identity and the fantastic unknown through the Hunterian Collection” with Siobhan Mulligan and Isabel Ferrari 

In this workshop, participants will explore boundary-making and the fantastic in the construction of national identity. Beginning with a brief discussion of Jorge Luis Borges’ “On Exactitude in Science” as referenced in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, participants will be guided through three writing exercises. Each exercise uses an object from the Hunterian Collection as a prompt: a distance slab from the Antonine wall; Roullet’s 17th century print “Bellerophon Slaying the Chimaera”; and a world map designed for the Qing Emperor Kangxi in 1674. Through these objects, we will investigate the blurry boundaries between myth- and map-making in fantasy worldbuilding.

Bios:
Isabel Ferrari (she/her) graduated in 2021 from the University of Glasgow with a Joint Honours Degree in English and Comparative Literature. She completed an MLitt in Fantasy Literature in 2022 at the same institution. Her research interests include modern fantasy literature, transmedia fantasy, and mythology and folklore in fantasy. Her creative writing includes short and long fiction, mostly in the fantasy, romance and sci-fi genres.

Siobhan Mulligan (she/her) is a DFA candidate at the University of Glasgow, researching urban fantasy and representations of the southern U.S. For upcoming workshops, poems, and other publications, get quarterly updates at tinyletter.com/siobhanmull

Workshop Details:
Takes place on Friday 12 May from 13:45 to 15:00 BST
Registration is first come, first served and can be found here.


“Academic Yassification: From Essay to Article, Navigating Student Publishing” with Gabriel Elvery 

We write essays. They get graded. We pretend to read the feedback… they are never seen again! To save your work from languishing on a hard drive, student journal, Mapping the Impossible has devised a workshop to guide you through the mysterious process of academic publishing. Join us to learn how to give your essay the glow-up it deserves and help find it a forever home in an academic journal (preferably ours 😈).  

This workshop is suitable for students new to academic publishing. Some minimal preparation is required; you will receive an information pack prior to the event. 

Bio:
Gabe is a genderfluid, neurodivergent LKAS funded PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow. Prior to their PhD, they graduated top for their Fantasy MLitt and PGCE, after obtaining a First Class Degree in English Literature from the University of Warwick. Gabe is an experienced writer and editor: they were co-deputy editor for Press Start, worked for the academic writing department at Glasgow (including their student journal [X]position) and have been published at multiple outlets including The British Fantasy Society Journal, Games and Culture, First Person Scholar and Springer. To see their work, visit their website.   

Workshop Details:
Takes place on Friday 12 May from 13:45 to 15:00 BST
Registration is first come, first served and can be found here.


Roundtable Participants

Researching Boundaries and Margins 

Takes place on Wednesday 10 May from 10:00 to 11:00 BST

Chair: Grace A.T. Worm is a 3rd year PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow researching Tamora Pierce and the boundaries of class, gender, adulthood, medievalism, and heroism. She is also Senior Editor for Mapping the Impossible, Headquarters Officer for the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, and the Events Coordinator for GIFCon.
Deputy Chair: Alexis Evans

Bettina Juszak is a second-year PhD student in the Humanities department at York University, Toronto. She has degrees in fantasy literature from the University of Glasgow and in linguistics from the University of Cambridge. Her interdisciplinary thesis research concerns the connective and affective dimensions of magical music in contemporary fantasy literature and mythological influences thereon, but she is also interested in translation, intermediality, and fan studies. She is an editor for Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research and is currently in the process of publishing her second speculative fiction short story.

Dion Dobrzynski is a third-year PhD student funded by the Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship Programme, run by the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) at the University of Birmingham. His project explores forest ecology in the fantasy fiction of William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin. Running immersive ‘reading walks’ and interactive workshops in collaboration with Ruskin Land in the Wyre Forest, Dion has been using fantasy forests to stimulate cognitive, affective, and ethical engagements with a real forest environment.

Mariana Rios Maldonado (she/her) completed her undergraduate degree at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico and her masters at Berlin’s Freie Universität. Her research focuses on the influence of Germanic culture in contemporary literature, Germanophonic fantastic literature, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary production. Mariana is currently a PhD candidate in at the University of Glasgow researching ethics and Otherness in Tolkien’s Middle-earth Narratives, funded by Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology and its National Foundation for Fine Arts and Literature. She is the Equality and Diversity Officer for the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.

Parinita Shetty is a part-time public library assistant, part-time postdoctoral researcher and sometimes children’s book writer. She completed her M.Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies at the University of Glasgow in 2017 and her PhD in Education at the University of Leeds in 2022. She launched a PhD research/fan podcast called Marginally Fannish to explore intersectionality and public pedagogy in SFF fan podcasts. She is passionate about co-creating knowledge, including diverse voices in academic spaces, and finding ways to make academic research accessible to non-academic audiences. 

The roundtable can be watched here.


Tabletop Role Playing Games 

Takes place on Friday 12 May from 13:45 to 15:00 BST

Chair: Emma French is a PhD Student and member of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on how Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) consolidates our notions of fantasy, while enabling players to critically challenge and subvert established genre conventions. She is acting Social Media Officer for Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, and a Senior Editor at Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research.

Dr Andy Tytler has over a decade of writing and editing experience and has facilitated writing workshops around the world. He holds a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Glasgow, and his speculative fiction has appeared in Archive of the Odd, The Colored Lens, Electric Spec, Triangulation: Habitats, and elsewhere. @NotTheAeronaut, andytytler.com

Misha Grifka Wander is a PhD candidate, writer, and games designer. Their academic work focuses on video game studies, comics studies, and speculative fiction studies, using a ecocritical and queer lens. His creative work focuses on queer experience, speculative futures, and the environment, themes he explores through comics, poetry, and prose. 

Beatrix (Bea) Livesey-Stephens (she/her) is an MPhil student at Abertay University, where she studies the use of safety tools and the performance of romance and sexuality in TTRPGs. She will never shut up about how Caro Asercion’s I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic revolutionises worldbuilding.  

GIFCon 2023 Boundaries and Margins Speaker Bios and Abstracts

Event registration can be found here
The Programme can be found here.
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here.
Workshops and Roundtables can be found here.

Workshop registration opens on May 3 at noon BST. 

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

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Panelists in alphabetical order (by first name):

Aicha Daoudi

Abstract:
Trickster Witches: The Manifestation of the Archaic Trickster Energy in Female Characters of the American Fantasy Genre

The archetype of the trickster has long been linked to boundary crossing and liminality. In recent decades, there have been numerous studies concerning the gender of the figure, and the female trickster rose to the surface. Some of these significant studies include those of Marilyn Jurich, Lori Landay, Maria Tatar, and Ricki Stefanie Tannen. They identify numerous female tricksters such as Scheherazade (One Thousand and One Nights), Cat Woman (Batman), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City). These scholars focused their research on genres like folklore, as well as realistic romance, comedy, dystopia, and thrillers, but they neglected Fantasy. In fact, this neglection could account for two of these scholars’ statements: That supernatural and magical characters, specifically witches, could not be possible tricksters (Jurich 49) and that the archaic feature of the trickster; buffoonery, has disappeared in post-modern times leaving only tricksters as culture heroes (Tannen 133)*. However, what if we inspect Fantasy for supernatural tricksters? This present paper aims to do just that. It examines three American series: Charmed, Supernatural, and Witches of East End demonstrating how trickster energies can manifest in witches like Phoebe Halliwell, Rowena MacLeod, and Wendy Beauchamp. It also demonstrates how fantastical dramas can provide a medium for these characters to exhibit the archaic duality of cultural heroism and buffoonery. It starts by addressing the characters’ liminality in moral behavior. It moves to tackle how they transcend and transgress creative tendencies being verbal and magical, and, finally, it concludes with an examination of the duality and how the three witches demonstrate an archaic image of the archetype.

*The scholar Michael Carroll agrees with Tannen that buffoonery disappears in post-modern tricksters (male or female).

Bio:
Aicha Daoudi is a Ph.D. student at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Academically, she focuses her research on genre studies and psychoanalytic criticism. She previously worked on the effects of roleplay in video games, the monomyth, as well as themes of female repression and mental illness. She is currently working on the overlap of the trope of the witch with archaic archetypal energies in American television series of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Her research interests include popular culture, American fiction, Fantasy, archetypes, witchcraft, and the supernatural.

Alvin Emmanuel Alagao

Abstract:
A Filipino Gamer Gets Lost in the Universe of Saga Frontier in 1998 and 2021: An Autoethnography

SaGa Frontier is a science fantasy Japanese role-playing game developed by Square Enix (then Squaresoft) that was originally released for the PlayStation in 1997. While SaGa Frontier proved popular in Japan and even got a rerelease in the mid-2000s as part of Square’s Ultimate Hits label, it only ended up being a cult classic in North America.

A number of factors could be said to have contributed to the disparity between the popularity of Saga Frontier in North America and the popularity of the game in Japan. The non-linear character of game and its arcane mechanics may have turned off American gamers, for one. Such a difference should not come as a surprise since different groups of people “read” works differently. Indeed, a study by Brückner et. al. (2019) found that there were significant differences in the ways Japanese and German gamers received JRPGs. For one, the study found that in the case of Trails of Cold Steel, German gamers had positive view of its plot while Japanese gamers “frequently criticize the story of ToCS as being repetitive and stereotypical, with characters that lack depth and appear to be unnecessary to the story” (p. 226).

While Square did not intentionally target a Filipino audience for SaGa Frontier, I was able to play its US release in 1998 and its remastered version in 2021. How did I, a Filipino gamer living in the Philippiness—a non-addressee—receive the game? Using an autoethnographic approach, this paper will take a critical look into my own experience of getting lost in the universe of Saga Frontier. By writing this paper, I hope that I can shed more light on how fantasy JRPGs generate different responses as they traverse cultural boundaries.

Bio:
Alvin Emmanuel G. Alagao is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman’s MA Art Studies (Art History) program. He currently teaches at the Department of Humanities, University of the Philippines Los Baños. His current research interests include the history of Philippine painting and its aesthetics, art and technology, and reception study/history/theory. He has been playing video games since he was five years old (maybe even younger) and would also like to do more research in game studies. You can reach him at agalagao@up.edu.ph.

Amber Hancock

Abstract:
Rejected and Searching for Home: An Exploration of Doorways and Queer Representation in Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway

My paper will explore the themes of rejection, home and queerness as represented within Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway through her allegorical use of doors to other worlds. ‘Doors’ and ‘doorways’ is a common trope in both fantasy literature and children’s/young adult literature. From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, these doorways are often associated with identity formation with a focus on that transitional period between adolescence and adulthood. Every Heart a Doorway, however, considers the aftermath of a traditional portal fantasy by emphasizing the tragedy of finding ‘home’ on the other side of a doorway only to lose it again. Indeed, having returned from a different world irrevocably changed, each character at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children embodies the struggle of living an identity when surrounded by misunderstanding and rejection. Through their choices in clothing, food and bedroom, the teenagers of the novel exemplify what Georg Simmel described those who ‘at any moment … separate the connected and connect the separate.’ The poignancy of the author’s approach to questions of doorways and home is further highlighted through the novel’s queer representation; of its five main characters, three are explicitly queer and centers often-underrepresented identities within that spectrum, including asexual and transgendered individuals. Thus, examining this novel through a queer lens, I will discuss the significance of the novel’s connected tropes of doorways and home through an examination of its diverse character representation, how the narrative defines the concept of home and the isolating dangers of being unable to find the way home.

Bio:
Amber Hancock is originally from Chino, California, and received her BA and MA in English from California State University Fullerton in 2008 and 2014 respectively. She recently earned her PhD at Bangor University in North Wales, which explored different kinds of border representation across prose genres within Late Modern/Contemporary Welsh and Scottish-based, English-language literature.
Twitter: Dr Amber Hancock@amadaun777

Amy Richmond

Abstract:
The Living (and Loving) Dead: The Erotic Rejection of Death in Critical Role: Campaign 3

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is no stranger to transgressing death. From death mechanics and saving throws, revivification spells, undead creatures, and more, the fascination with defying or reversing death is central to many players enjoyment of the game. Never is this more obvious than in the live-play D&D stream Critical Role (2015-Present) where character entanglements with death form recurring plot arcs throughout the three campaigns streamed on Twitch.com. The current campaign, Critical Role: Campaign Three, follows the adventuring party The Bell’s Hells as they grapple with political troubles and corruptions. In this group, actress Marisha Ray plays the character of Laudna, a dead woman brought back to life by the – also dead – necromancer who killed her, Delilah Briarwood. Both characters are defined by their conscious/unconscious rejections of the final bodily boundary – death. This paper aims to perform an autopsy on the dead women and the fan reactions to them, exploring the eroticism of the relationship between them and the fan eroticisation of Laudna in particular. The relationship between Laudna and Imogen Temult, played by actress Laura Bailey, has been a fan favourite, with the pairing amassing 800+ hits on fanfiction site Archive Of Our Own. This paper will use a combination of critical engagement with the live-stream and improvisation by Ray, Bailey, and Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and fanart and engagement on social media, supplemented with gender and queer body politics theory. It will argue that the fan engagement aids in the transgression of death, placing the dead female body as an object of queer erotic potential, not sexualizing it under the male gaze, but rather under a queer female gaze.

Bio:
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 Exclamat!on Conference and is on the journal board as Social Media Officer and Copyeditor for Mapping the Impossible.

Ane B. Ruiz-Lejarcegui

Abstract:
Embracing Hybrid Identities in Silvia Moreno-García’s The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

Silvia Moreno-García’s The Daughter of Doctor Moreau (2022) offers a feminist re-imagining of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), focusing on the antagonist’s daughter, Carlota Moreau. Although both novels involve a ruthless Doctor who has managed to manufacture half-human, half-animal creatures, Wells’ takes place in a remote island, away from repercussions, while Moreno-García’s is set against the backdrop of the Caste War of Yucatán, in late nineteenth century Mexico. This paper aims to show that Moreno-García’s use of real Mexican history and elements of its cultural identity, far from serving as mere background against which to tell Wells’ story, becomes an opportunity to approach alterity and transgression from an intersectional perspective. The hybrid identity—highly mediated in the original novel by its white, male, bourgeois focaliser—is offered its own voice in the 2022 re-imagining by having the titular daughter be a hybrid herself. Thus, I argue that hybridity becomes a metaphor for all forms of exploitation endured by marginalised communities: that of women under men, slaves under owners, people of colour under white people, and an overarching capitalism that makes commodities out of them all. In order to illustrate this, I will first look at the importance of naming as a process to establish the hybrids’ identity and its interrelatedness with the Maya language and culture, through a comparison of each novel’s depiction and mediation of alterity. Secondly, I will examine Carlota’s journey of self-discovery through the lens of what Latina feminist author Mariana Ortega has designated as the ‘multiplicitous selfhood’. Lastly, I will ponder on how The Daughter of Doctor Moreau converges Wells’ original dissolution of binary oppositions with an optimistic approach towards marginalised identities that not only breaks such hierarchies but also embraces—cultural, linguistic, racial—hybridity.

Bio:
Ane Belen Ruiz Lejarcegui is a PhD student from the University of the Basque Country, Spain, where she has been granted a scholarship by the Basque Government to carry out her thesis on hybrid identities, power asymmetries and othering in science fictional narrative discourse. She has done extensive research on H.G. Wells’ early works for her BA and MA dissertations, and her interests include Gothic fiction, Monster Studies, Critical Posthumanism and Cultural Studies.

Anika Klose

Abstract:
“My Colours Are Mine” – New Shades of Detective Fiction in Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s Catching Teller Crow

The traditional detective story follows a well-established pattern: a crime, an investigation, and the restoration of order. Genre rules regarding plot and solution first laid out by Van Dine establish a Great Detective who uses scientific methods and rationality to end a previous abnormal state while also restoring a sense of justice. Taking the colonial origins of the detective story into account, the reinstated order is largely influenced by a Eurocentric viewpoint. The alleged superiority of European values leads to the othering non-European characters, who are in turn presented as suspects or culprits.

Instead of perpetuating European methods and empiricism in the detective story, Catching Teller Crow by Aboriginal Australian authors Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina defy the genre tradition. With three Aboriginal dead girls at the centre of the investigation, the speculative YA novel challenges the traditional depiction of the Great Detective by foregrounding “intra- and intergenerational relationships between women rooted in indigenous epistemologies” (Mattila and Burger 20). In this paper, I will explore how the narrative’s combination of prose and poetry as well as the non-Western approaches to closure and reconciliation offer powerful resistance to the social order fostered by the traditional detective story. Addressing Australia’s history of colonisation and the Stolen Generations through a magical realist lens subverts and dismantles the established colonial order, consequently turning Catching Teller Crow into a feminist postcolonial rewriting (20, 26). Contesting Van Dine’s rules for detective fiction, the novel’s supernatural detective, witness, and murderer defy the boundaries of not only detective fiction but also the borders between life and death as the natural order is not restored but re-established.

Bio:
Anika Klose is a German postgraduate student of Fantasy MLitt at the University of Glasgow. She completed her BA in Media and Culture Science at the Heinrich-Heine-University of Dusseldorf. As an illustrator and student assistant, she was part of the project “Charting the Australian Fantastic”. Moreover, she published blog posts and lectured on Australian Speculative Fiction. In 2022, she has spoken at GiFCon and the Once and Future Fantasies Conference. Her research interests include fantasy costumes, queer monsters, and bodily disassociation.

Anushmita Mohanty

Abstract:
On Why We Read Fantasy: Affective Responses as Generic Boundaries

Fantasy, like most genres, is difficult to define or delineate, as the varieties of texts that employ the fantastic across time and space often have little in common. BBC’s Merlin, Syed Haider Bakhsh’s Qissa-e Hatim Tai, Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha, Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West all share elements of the fantastic. As a more disparate set of texts could barely exist, in what ways can the generic boundaries of fantasy be defined? In this paper, I will explore how the affective responses of the audience can be used to understand the unifying features of the fantasy genre. What emotional needs, I ask, does fantasy fulfill, why have readers turned to fantasy for these emotional experiences, and how do these emotions diverge and converge across contexts? If genre can be viewed as a pact between the reader and the audience, this pact that can help understand the boundaries of fantasy. My methodology aligns with Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance, which uses reader responses to analyse the romance genre. In this paper, I shall examine the strategies, tropes, and rhetoric used by writers of the fantasy texts mentioned above, as well as elements of marketing and presentation that fulfill specific audience expectations. I shall also draw upon audience responses through book review and online discussion posts in conjunction with affect theories to answer the question of what audiences look for in fantasy. Both audience disappointment and satisfaction, I shall argue, have influenced the evolution of fantasy. Finally, drawing on Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s The Dark Fantastic, I shall also analyse the implications of marginalization in fantasy to ask how underrepresented or problematically depicted audiences negotiate affective responses to fantasy fiction, and the ways in which are they excluded from the generic pact between audience and writers of fantasy.

Bio:
Anushmita Mohanty is from Ahmedabad, India, and is currently a PhD candidate in Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She previously graduated with a Masters in World Literatures from the University of Oxford, and has a BA in English from Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. Her research has been published in the Oxford Research in English Journal, and the Contemporary Literature Review of India. She previously worked as an Assistant Editor for Studies in History, SAGE. Her research interests include education and literature, fantasy fiction, children’s literature, and book history.

Caighlan Smith

Abstract:
A Hero’s Morality Play: Epic Fantasy Heroes and Morality Mechanics in Video Games

In considering Epic Fantasy, Tolkien inevitably comes to mind, alongside other more modern popular works such as Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. But what happens when the narrative tropes represented by such Epic Fantasy stories are channeled through the medium of video games? How does the story and the consumer’s reaction to the story change when the consumer is required to step into the shoes – or take up the sword – of the Epic hero themselves? In this presentation, I seek to analyze the ludonarrative operations (how gameplay and narrative work together to create the gaming experience) of several Epic Fantasy games which employ either explicitly or by implication morality mechanics through player in-game choice, such as the Fable series (2004-2010), the Dragon Age series (2009-2004), and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). I expose how allowing the player moral choice within such narratives might enhance player engagement to the narrative they are personalizing, but at the risk of disengaging players from the ethical implications of the choices they have made. To engage in morality mechanics through Epic Fantasy video games complicates player ethical involvement as (1) the fantastical setting places moral scenarios a step away from “reality” and (2) the player’s assumption of the hero role in these games often goes unchanged despite player actions; a player can lie, cheat, steal, murder, and still narratively retain the role of heroic savior in the main plot. This paper therefore seeks to investigate how the video game consumer’s moral playing of the hero – as opposed to the literature or film-consumer’s moral judgement of the hero – can change perhaps not the overarching glory of the Epic Fantasy hero plot but, and perhaps more insidiously, the day-to-day living as a hero in a virtual fantasy world.

Bio:
Caighlan Smith is a PhD student with the English Department of Memorial University of Newfoundland, holding a B.A. (Hons.) in English from Memorial University and an MLitt (with Distinction) in Fantasy from the University of Glasgow. Her current research interests include power dynamics, gender, monstrosity, fantasy, and hero narratives in video games.

Cameron Bourquein

Abstract:
How Do You Solve a Problem Like “Mairon”?: Exploring How Sauron’s Most Marginal Name Recasts the Lord of the Rings

“[N]othing is evil in the beginning, even Sauron was not so.” These words from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings express a theological axiom and hint at a character arc for its hidden and eponymous villain—an arc we are never shown, even in the wider corpus of Tolkien’s Legendarium. Unlike Morgoth (the Luciferian “beginner of discord”) who appeared within the opening chapter of The Silmarillion as the unfallen “Melkor,” the unfallen pre-Sauron remained hidden and nameless—until 2007. With the publication of the 17th volume of the Tolkien linguistic journal Parma Eldalamberon, we learned that Sauron had once been “Mairon” (The Admirable).

This name exists only in one place, a figurative and literal margin: a single footnote to a metatextual project inside a niche linguistic journal which had, until very recently, remained out of print. Yet within fandom this marginal note has generated a metaphorical “Great Wave” of transformative works and renewed interest in Sauron as a character. What gives this bit of marginalia such potency in fandom? What can be gleaned from this name amid the dozens of other names and epithets applied to Sauron both in The Lord of the Rings and across the Legendarium? How does “Mairon” compare to the names of Sauron’s maia foils Melyanna, Curumo, and Olórin? What might “Mairon” suggest about the telos of its owner? And what can we make of Tolkien’s statement that Sauron “continued to call himself “Mairon” […] until after the fall of Numenor?”

In the spirit of Croft’s and Broadwell’s work on onomastics in Tolkien as well as the Tolkien fandom history work of Dawn Walls-Thumma, I will explore these questions with regard to how they help shape a potential “capsule story” for the Lord of the Rings, himself.

Bio:
Cameron Bourquein (she/her) is an independent scholar who received her BA from Anderson University in 2006 (Theatre Studies, Graphic Design, Information Systems). Her undergraduate thesis integrated her love of sculpture, set design, acting, and the photography of Josef Sudek into a one-woman show examining the intersection of external space and internal narrative. A lover of Tolkien since the mid 90s, Cameron is currently focused on researching Sauron and his intersections with the metaphysics of Middle-earth. She will be presenting this April at the Popular Culture Association’s 2023 National Conference and this August at The Mythopoeic Society’s Midsummer Seminar.

Canchen Cao

Abstract:
What the “Other” Uncovers: The Periphery of the Medieval Fantasy World and Universe

When contemplating the wonders of the universe, human beings tend to respond imaginatively to phenomena that seem to be poised between fantasy and reality. Monsters have been considered as creatures characterised by “otherness” in various cultures across the fantastic world, as can be observed in medieval writings on distant races and marvellous lands. Considerable scholarly attention has been paid to monsters and the ideology of monstrosity in the Middle Ages; however, relatively little effort has been made to perform cross-cultural examination of monstrous races in the global context of medieval fantasy. This paper will explore how people in the global Middle Ages represented their wonderment at “monstrous races” from the 11th century to the early modern period.

In conversation with scholarship on religious conflict and cultural dissemination in the Middle Ages, the paper will investigate the narratives of monstrous figures in a range of sources, from medieval Christian world maps, mappae mundi, to Arabic and Chinese manuscripts on geography. It will offer insights into how medieval people interconnectedly expressed contemporary social, theological and ideological concerns about “the Other”, both “real” monsters and people who were perceived as monstrous beings. A historical analysis of religious conflict in the Middle Ages will be provided to explain why medieval Christians perceived the Monsters, the Muslims and the Orientals as “the Other”, and how they transformed this conception of otherness into a cartographical form. Meanwhile, this paper will examine how non-European cultures shaped fantastic depictions of the “the Other” to discover compelling interconnections between historical records of monstrous races in liminal spaces and margins.

Bio:
Canchen Cao is a postgraduate student in Medieval History, who holds a first-class honours degree in English Literature and History of Art from University of Glasgow. Her academic interest mainly focuses on exploring the interconnection between medieval geography and monstrous creatures from a global interdisciplinary perspective, seeking to uncover how medieval historical records formulated people’s understanding of the human body and monstrous races. She has already presented her research at several international academic conferences, extensively on monster study, medical science and cross-cultural investigation of cartography in the Middle Ages.

Charlie Schroeder and Roxanne Tuckman

Abstract:
Grotesque Bodies and Surreal Planes: Transgressing the Boundaries of the Weird through Video Game Glitches

Video games are unique in their propensity to break–no matter how streamlined a virtual world is, the intended experience engineered by a developer will, inevitably, shatter. A player might find themselves glitching out of the intended boundaries of their virtual world and into a place unknown even to developers, filled with half-rendered horrors and surreal images. Or, they might find that objects and characters begin to behave and move in ways that defy the laws of physics. This paper will explore how these unintended effects invoke the Weird, as defined by Mark Fisher in The Weird and the Eerie: “that which lies beyond standard perception, cognition, and experience” (2017). Though this paper will argue that all glitches are inherently Weird, player response to these unexpected events can vary greatly; a glitch in a video game may be grotesque, warping the human form beyond recognition. It may be sublime as imagined by Immanuel Kant, unveiling a surreal plane of overwhelming power and beauty. It may even be absurd, attested to by the various humorous videos on YouTube devoted to video game glitches. This paper will use examples of such glitches from well-known titles like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series, Behavior Interactive’s Dead by Daylight, and various realistic military shooters.

Bio:
Charlie Schroeder (he/they) received their Master of Letter’s in Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow. Their research interests include video games, Tolkien studies, queer & transgender theory, and postcolonial theory.

Roxanne Tuckman (she/her) is a graduate student in the English MA program at California State University Northridge. Her research interests include Gender & Women studies, Queer theory, and the Horror genre.

Chengcheng You

Abstract:
Outlandish Representations: Crossing Boundaries of Species and Genres in Young Adult Liminal Fantasy

If the Anthropocene “resists literary fiction”, as Amitav Ghosh claims, due to the unrepresentability of the increasing uncanniness of quotidian experience, young adult liminal fantasy may emerge as an alternative mode of fiction formally suited to this task. The genre is often characterized by carefully nuanced sensibilities at the subtle borderline between adolescence and adulthood, the familiar and the unfamiliar, the natural and the unnatural to conjure up the banality of the impossible encounter. Representative of such liminality, fantastic creatures are byproducts of complex interactions and literary mediations of the adult authors drawing close to ever-new aesthetic and ethical norms for young adult readers. Within the Anthropocene context, new creatural beings come one after another along with a trend of genre blending on the literary scene. Drawn on the Deleuzian conceptual resources, this study hypothesises a typology of “outlandish creatures” and investigates how the representation of these creatures is canvassed for a capacity to hybridise genre expectations and draw out post-anthropocentric implications that appease current concerns for environmental ethics. The selected narratives, Sonya Hartnett’s The Midnight Zoo (2011), Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls (2011) and Shaun Tan’s Tales from the Inner City (2018), are closely read with a focus on the affect of child-animal encounter, the mixture of magic realism and ecoGothic, and the zoomorphic imagination each evokes. The study concludes with the ethical-aesthetic complexity of YA liminal fantasy in crossing boundaries between species and genres in the Anthropocene.

Bio:
YOU Chengcheng is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Macau. Her work has been published in, among others, Children’s Literature in Education, Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, The Lion and the Unicorn, International Research in Children’s Literature and English Studies. Her latest book is Poetics and Ethics of Anthropomorphism: Children, Animals, and Poetry, coauthored with Christopher Kelen (Routledge, 2021). Her publications also include book chapters in the anthologies: Debatable Lands: New Directions in Children’s Gothic (2017), and Posthumanism in Fantastic Fiction (2018) and Representing Childhood and Atrocity (2022).

Cristina Espejo

Abstract:
Fairy tales and Fantasy: Expanding Boundaries and Subverting Expectations

Despite the well-known escapist qualities of fantasy literature and fairy tales, the societies and worlds they depict are often based on the real societies and societal norms under which they were written. This means that beyond the dragons, unicorns and wizards, the patriarchal structures that have dominated the social discourses for centuries are often a very prevalent issue in the genre, even in our current time. In this paper, I aim to examine and discuss the boundaries of the fantastic and fairy-tale genres through two different novels, Howl’s Moving Castle (1986), by Diana Wynne Jones, and Stardust (1999), by Neil Gaiman. I will analyze whether these works break apart from conventions usually present in these genres and whether they can be used as examples of subversive narratives. In specific, I will focus on gender roles and the representation of patriarchal structures, two topics that continue to be a point of contention for works in these genres. Are recent fantastical works really breaking the boundaries of female agency and representation and these traditional, patriarchal structures, or does the basic structure continue to be the same with only the added awareness and recognition of the problem? I argue that by including fairy-tale elements and tropes it later subverts, Howl’s Moving Castle stands perfectly between the fairy-tale and fantasy genres, creating a unique story that breaks with the traditional moulds of both; whereas Stardust, despite being a more recent work, offers a more traditional and conservative view of the same story. With this, I hope to prove that the fairy tale is a genre that can keep pushing the boundaries of fantasy, but that it is important to differentiate between the content that truly upends the genre’s roots and the more performative ways of raising awareness of current issues.

Bio:
Cristina Espejo is a first-year PhD student at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She has a keen interest in fantasy literature, specifically fairy-tale narratives and how they influence fantastic works. She has been working on this topic ever since she finished her English Studies degree, continuing to develop it through her master’s thesis “The New Fairy Tale: Subverting Genre and Characterization in Diana Wynne-Jones Howl’s Moving Castle and its Film Adaptation”. She is currently working on the subversive tendencies of the fairy tale in fantasy novels of the last half of the 20th century.

Declan Roberts

Abstract:
Blurred Battle Lines: Analyzing Energy Analogues in Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn

This paper is a case study for a larger argument I have been making throughout my academic career by blurring the lines between popular and academic theoretical discourse. Therefore, this paper uses a popular fantasy narrative, Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn, to explain the concept of a hyperobject and how hyperobjects can help us understand the looming environmental catastrophes of the twenty-first century. To accomplish these goals this paper begins with a brief overview of Legendborn’s plot, followed by a similarly brief summary of the theoretics of hyperobjects. The summary of hyperobjects is followed by examining the similarities between the contemporary world’s energy systems and the magical energy systems utilized in Legendborn. Specifically, this section focuses on how the different uses of that energy system between the Root practitioners and the Legendborn highlight the varying energy systems within contemporary western society. Progressing onwards, the paper then examines the blurred boundary between the individualistic magic of the Legendborn and the communal magic of the Root practitioners as analogous to the current alternative energy debates in western society. Lastly, this paper concludes with an explanation of the other fantasy narratives which could ameliorate understandings of energy humanities concepts. By blurring the boundaries between fantasy and other scholarly genres, as well as the boundary between academic and popular scholarship, this paper showcases the arbitrary nature of the placement of the boundaries.

Bio:
Hello, my name is Declan Roberts, and I am a Ph.D. student at Memorial University. I am focused on finding ways to relate ecocritical and energy humanities concepts through popular YA fantasy narratives. Furthermore, I aim to highlight how popular narratives can contribute to a societal understanding of various energy and environmental concepts contributing to our current climate crisis. My other scholarly interests are examining the concept of work and labour and the changes to these concepts throughout literary epochs.

Despoina Tantsiopoulou

Abstract:
Opposing School of Thought: Marginalization and the Campus in R.F. Kuang’s “Babel”

In Rebecca F. Kuang’s 2022 novel “Babel,” boundaries are almost tactile. The Royal Institute for Translation sits in the heart of Oxford, which is the heart of England, which is, finally, the centre of the entire world. Set in the early 19th century, it recounts the story of a young Cantonese boy named Robin, brutally severed from his family and brought to the centre of centres to aid the colonisers through the act of translation. He and his friends, the rest of the “Babblers” who also come from the periphery into the centre, are denied assimilation or even acknowledgement of anything but their necessity. The school, the place where they were supposed to finally find their equals and the subject of their childhood hopes for a sense of belonging shall never truly accept them as anything more than means to an end. I will try to show that “Babel” is a contemplation about the role of education in the continuation of building walls instead of bridges among peoples and institutions. The protagonists’ subalternity, the term used by Spivak in her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak,” has been inserted into the centre through cultural interpretation, but it has yet to be completely rid of, which is ultimately the goal according to the theorist. Despite their translation-focused education, their existence goes untranslatable, their bodies become their “texts” through which they attempt speech. The transformative power of the campus is not only seen in the way silver bars produced in and by it bend reality, but also in how it makes centres out of peripheries, provided they remain within its premises. The moment of their exit, though, they reassume their otherness, and when they come back boundaries, proven precarious, are bound to be destroyed.

Bio:
I have a BA from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens on English Language and Literature with a specialization on Literature and Culture. I hold an MA from the same department, titled “The Greek Element in Anglophone Literature,” with a dissertation on modern rewritings of Euripides’s “Bacchae.” This year I started my PhD in the English Language and Literature department of the University of Athens, where I research the role of the university and boarding school campus in fantasy fiction. I live in Athens and I am a volunteer teacher at the Open School for Migrants in Piraeus.

Dr Dimitra Nikolaidou

Abstract:
Centering on the Margins: The Evolution of Fantasy Tabletop Roe-Playing Games

Since their inception, fantasy Tabletop Role-Playing Games (TRPGs) had to contest with accusations of deliberate marginalization of women, minorities and indigenous populations. Initially a niche hobby addressed at a narrow demographic, TRPGS evaded criticism up to a point as their origins in pulp fantasy literature rendered them beneath the notice of critics; however, shifts in the perception of fantasy facilitated by online discourse as well as the increased popularity of gaming among adults recently brought these issues to the forefront. Established game designers responded to criticism in different ways; some made incremental changes, others upended established narratives while new designers revitalized the genre by adopting entirely different approaches in accordance to new mores. Given the well-established and reciprocative relationship between fantasy literature and fantasy TRPGs, and the increased impact of gaming in Western culture, this evolution is of importance far beyond the gaming community.

The proposed paper aims to a) examine the ways in which women, minorities, subaltern cultures and LGBTQ+ people have been either marginalized or symbolically annihilated in TRPGs and b) chart the evolution away from marginalization and into inclusion through a decades-long process of conflict and negotiation. To achieve these aims, the paper utilizes a combined framework of narrative and cultural studies, mainly focusing on the Dungeons and Dragons and World of Darkness as case studies but also including illustrative examples from Legend of the Five Rings, Vaesen and Call of Cthulhu. The conclusions suggest that, due to their unique format, fantasy TRPGs are quick to respond to shifting sociocultural mores and evolve accordingly though not without encountering resistance; the process is also bound to influence not only fantasy literature but also Western culture in general.

Keywords: TRPGs, Fantasy Literature, Intersectionality, Narrative, Culture

Bio:
Dimitra Nikolaidou holds a PhD from the University of Aristotle, Thessaloniki. Her work has been presented in numerous conferences and workshops. Her papers have been published by Bloomsbury and are scheduled to be published by Palgrave Macmillan and MIT Press, among others. She’s the co-founder of the Tales of the Wyrd Speculative Fiction Workshop. She is additionally a published author of speculative fiction.

Eilidh Harrower

Abstract:
“You kids have fun” – ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ and ‘Scream’ as Reflections of Changing Generational Fears

This paper will compare Scream (1996) and Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) as reflections of the Millennial generation and Generation Z, discussing how their differences show the changing fears of the two generations, and how audience reactions to Bodies Bodies Bodies reflects the societal view of Generation Z as a whole.

Scream (1996) is a defining horror film for the Millennial generation, as it rejuvenated the horror genre, bringing back the slasher film and thrilling audiences. Across the Millennial generation, there has been various waves of horror, ranging from extreme gore to psychological thriller. However, it is theorised that a new wave of generational horror is beginning to appear. The arrival of ‘Gen-Z’ horror creates an interesting comparison of two generations, showing the boundaries between them and how different their fears are.

Alice Bucknell, in her article ‘How modern horror cinema is galvanising Generation Z’, explains “Gen Z horror is not so much concerned with terror, violence and trauma point blank as it is with the forces of consumption culture that surround it.” (2017) In many ways, Bodies Bodies Bodies follows very similar tropes to that of classic horror films of Millennial audiences, but places them in a new context with influence from Generation Z culture, often with a comedic undertone. With references to TikTok, astrology, and in-depth discussions of mental health and trauma, the movie is reflection of how Millennials view the younger generation.

By comparing Scream and Bodies Bodies Bodies, this paper moves to show how the horror genre is shifting focus, and beginning to depict fears and worries of the new generation of viewers, with polarising reactions from audience members either enjoying the new wave of horror, or believing it to be just as superficial as Gen-Z is seen to be.

Bio:
Eilidh Harrower graduated from the University of Glasgow, achieving Distinction in her MLitt English Literature degree. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, theatre and literature, transmedial studies, horror, witchcraft and paganism, creative writing and experimental forms of literature. She hopes to examine some of these interests even further as a PhD candidate in the future. Eilidh had the honour of presenting at the Dissenting Beliefs conference in December 2021, and Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCon) in April 2022, and Once and Future Fantasies in July 2022, all held and organised by the University of Glasgow.

Esther Edelmann

Abstract:
Fantastic Underdevelopment in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Devil’s Elixirs and Reinaldo Arenas’ Hallucinations

The literary fantastic has often been analysed as a symptomatic expression of the return of the repressed (Jackson 1981) or reduced to a structural reader function (Todorov 1973). More recently, it has also been read as the superstructural expression of the fluctuations and tensions of capital (McNally, 2011). What said psychoanalytical, structuralist, and Marxist approaches have in common is that they describe the fantastic as an “unconscious,” or “passive” function of an underlying structure, be it a psychic, semiotic, or basal economic one.

This paper, in contrast, recasts the literary fantastic as a deliberate, that is, conscious response to modernity. Postulating that the genre seeks to make palpable the “phantom-like objectivity” of bourgeois society, I argue, more concretely, that the fantastic emerges as a form of “critical anti-realism” in response to regional discourses about political and economic under/development. As Andre Gunder Frank (1979) and Samir Amin (2011) contend, “marginal” world regions only begin to underdevelop as a result of their integration into a single world market. As such, underdevelopment is literally the creation of modernity, and, hence, the product of capital’s spatial hierarchization into core and peripheral economies. The fantastic, as I will contend, emerges as the aesthetic expression of the coincidence of residual marginal and dominant emergent elements, and, in so doing, actively comments on the dialectics of under/development. My paper sets out to describe this correlation between the fantastic and the notion of dependent accumulation by producing a comparison between E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Devil’s Elixirs and Reinaldo Arenas’ Hallucinations. Both novels emerge in the context of arising nation-states (Germany and Cuba) and depict the social transitions from (colonial) feudalism to bourgeois society. As such, they directly address the question of politico-economic integration and development.

Bio:
Esther Edelmann is an early-career scholar, who successfully defended her dissertation Inverted Worlds and Belated Baroques, last year at Leiden University. Her dissertation focuses on neo-baroque and fantastic elements in Latin American and German literature and philosophy. She teaches at the Departments for “International Studies” and “Literature, Film, and Media Studies” at Leiden University. Before graduating from Leiden, she spent a few years as visiting Graduate Student in the Department for German and Romance and Literatures at The Johns Hopkins University. Currently, she is preparing her dissertation manuscript for publication in Brill’s “Literary Modernism Book Series.”

Eugenia Biavati

Abstract:
Resisting narrative patterns: the transgressive power of Terry Pratchett’s parody

Parody only works if the audience knows what is being parodied in the first place. In other words, parody can only work if there are already expectations of how the narrative will go. So, when a dragon attacks the city of Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Guards! Guards!’ both the readers and characters await the hero who will come forth to save the day, recognisable as such by a crown-shaped birthmark and the heroic sword he is carrying. Pratchett introduces such a hero, and then has the dragon incinerate him on the spot and proclaim itself king instead.

Pratchett sets up the scene according to conventional standardised narrative patterns, before disrupting them through parody. He draws attention to our expectations, challenges our assumptions, and questions the boundaries that regulate the centre of the genre and gatekeep its margins. He first uses the transgressive power of parody to highlight and subvert, then he offers an alternative, turning the attention of the readers towards other narratives, other heroes.

Using both Attebery’s ‘fuzzy sets’ and Prototype Theory I argue that parody is essential to the fantasy genre. It can help it flourish by turning away from the centre and looking at marginal narratives instead. It tackles issues of story-making as well as representation and diversity, challenging what is too-often perceived as the standard and therefore the true and only form fantasy can take.

Parody is a liminal force, it depends on the centre of the genre in order to work but takes the narrative spotlight away from it. Terry Pratchett’s parody operates on that ‘consensus fantasy universe’ and its transgressive force sweeps the entire genre by showing, questioning, and ultimately breaking its boundaries and expanding its margins.

Bio:
I am doing my PhD at King’s College London with a project on Parody in Medievalist Fantasy. Before this I had just as much fun doing an MA in Medieval Studies, with a dissertation on the medieval in the Marvel Universe, and a BA in Foreign Languages and Literature, which in turn ended with a dissertation on why fantasy dragons started talking. I was asked once why we should read fantasy and decided to make a career out of explaining why. In my spare time I can be found talking about Lancelot to any unsuspecting passerby.

Fergus Attlee and James Lowder

Abstract:
Fantastic Interdisciplinarity: Two Human Geographers on Makoto Shinkai’s Voices of a Distant Star and Your Name.

The last several decades has seen the field of Human geography develop a notable interest in both film (Cresswell and Dixon, 2002) and, to a lesser extent, speculative fiction (Kitchen and Kneale, 2001). Despite this, engagements with fantasy remain on the periphery of the discipline and work on fantasy film is especially rare. By foregrounding work at the margins of Human geography, this paper draws attention to the specific ways that the fantastic can be utilised across disciplines to provide valuable interdisciplinary insights. This is done through two case studies concerning the animated films of Japanese director Makoto Shinkai. The first engagement examines Voices of a Distant Star (2002), a short film about two teenage friends, a boy and a girl, who are separated after one of them is sent into space to fight an alien threat. By examining the figure of the mobile phone, used by the characters to communicate across distance, this analysis unpacks the place of technology in the film, highlighting its emotional resonances and transcendental capabilities. The second engagement relates to Your Name (2016), a romantic fantasy film featuring two high school students, a girl from the countryside and a boy from Tokyo, who mysteriously start to swap bodies and must eventually undo the catastrophic impact of a comet. By foregrounding the film’s portrayal of the comet, this analysis examines how Your Name entangles human life with the inhuman rhythms of the Earth and broader cosmos. Alongside their own arguments, both engagements also emphasise shared themes, including the important role of love and connection in Shinkai’s work. Overall, through the work of two Human geographers, this paper highlights the value of fantasy across disciplines, articulating arguments around the place of technology and the inhuman in the films of Makoto Shinkai.

Bio:
James is an interdisciplinary PhD student at the University of Glasgow in the department of Geography and Earth Science. His current work considers the textual analysis of film, the embodied experiences of stargazing and the tracing of falling meteorites.

Fergus is an interdisciplinary PhD student in Geographical and Earth Science at the University of Glasgow. His current research is investigating issues of privacy and consent in relation to geolocational technologies, which are increasingly prevalent across all aspects of life.

Fiona Reid

Abstract:
Beyond the Table and Into the Dungeon: How Neurodivergent and Queer People Explore Identity Through TTRPGs

For most of history, media in all forms has often taken a very heteronormative and neurotypical viewpoint, and in many instances, this is still the case today. Due to this, people who are queer and/or neurodivergent, may struggle to find representation within forms of media such as video games, television, and cinema. Tabletop Roleplaying Games (TTRPGs) provide players with an immersive experience unlike one that more traditional media could provide. Players can control characters’ choices, narratives, and storylines and have influence on themes being touched upon. How do queer and neurodivergent people operate, when they are provided with a fantasy setting in which they themselves set the boundaries and limits they explore?

Many individuals that are part of these marginalised groups find themselves excluded from society for how they act or identify. When given a safe setting in which they can explore this freely, I hypothesise that new opportunities for exploring their identities will arise. It may be that this is through character creation, in-game role play, or through navigating the game more generally. For example, this could mean a queer person exploring their identity by creating a queer character, or an autistic person finding comfort in having the guidelines of TTRPG core rulebooks to help explore who they are through roleplay. All throughout, they are navigating the boundaries that the game sets for them, as well as those they set for themselves.

This paper will discuss the ways in which queer and neurodivergent people develop and explore their own identities through engagement with TTRPGs, with a specific focus on Dungeons and Dragons. Through engagement with methods such as gameplay analysis and group interviews, it explores questions about the relationship between gameplay and identity, particularly in relation to marginalised communities.

Bio:
Fiona Reid is a postgraduate student, currently undertaking a Master by Research in Psychology at Abertay University. 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. Having completed an undergraduate degree in Public Sociology studying women with ADHD through photovoice, she is now expanding her research to reflect her interest in games, fantasy, and roleplay.

Francesca Bihet

Abstract:
On the Borders of Fairyland: Science and the Supernatural in Andrew Lang’s That Very Mab and The Chronicles of Pantouflia

Scottish anthropologist and journalist Andrew Lang is best known as editor of the popular Coloured Fairy Book series (1889-1913). However, his fictional works have received less attention, even though they reflect his sometimes contentious opinions regarding the study of magic and folklore. The satire That Very Mab (1885), published with the poet May Kendall, follows exiled fairy queen Mab’s tour of nineteenth-century English society, which is now hostile to the fairy folk’s old ways. The volume explores the boundaries between science and supernatural. In one incident, Mab is captured by a scientist, treated like a butterfly specimen, and categorised. When his son starts worshiping the fairy, the scientist proclaims to have discovered the origin of religion. This is a moment of self-satire for anthropologist Lang, who previously published Custom and Myth (1884). Reflecting the common folkloric theme of fairies forever retreating, Mab flees to safety in the Admiralty Islands, just outside the realms of the British Empire.

Similarly, Lang’s Pantouflia stories address issues traversing the borders of fairy tales and rational enlightenment thinking. Prince Prigio (1889), Prince Ricardo (1893), and the Tales of a Fairy Court (1907) burlesque the courtly fairy tale. Prigio begins with the traditional theme of fairies presiding over a royal Christening, with one fairy cursing Prigio to be too clever. Prigio grows up too rational to believe in fairy magic, even though it surrounds him. However, eventually converted to fairy belief, Prigio raises his son Ricardo on an excess of fairy magic. Conversely, Ricardo merely uses fairy gifts like machines to complete his quests, losing all gallantry in the process. Like Victorian consumerist devices, magic fairy gifts are rendered as tools to complete tasks. In these texts Lang reflects on the fairies’ cultural position and demotion to the nursery in the face of nineteenth-century modernity.

Bio:
Francesca Bihet is an independent scholar who completed her PhD at the University of Chichester in 2020. Her thesis Folklore and Fairies: the History of Fairies in the Folklore Society from 1878 to 1945 explored the changes in the academic treatment of fairies by Folklore Society members over this period and how far these reflect wider folkloric and cultural trends. Among other articles, she has published the chapters ‘Pouques and the Faiteaux: The Channel Islands’, in Magical Folk (2018), and ‘Death and the Fairy: Hidden Gardens and the Haunting of Childhood’, in EcoGothic Gardens in the Long Nineteenth Century (2020).

Hannah Mimiec

Abstract:
Won’t Somebody Think of the Children! Liminal Fantasy and Biopower in Hope Mirrlees’s ‘Lud-In-The-Mist’

As a liminal fantasy, Lud-in-the-Mist plays with the boundary between text and reader. The reader is required to take an active role in constructing and interpreting the fantastic elements of the text. This happens when they are able to recognise the existence of Fairyland and its fruit, while the characters refuse to acknowledge it.

This paper explores the ways in which concepts of liminal fantasy and biopower can be used in concert, through textual analysis of Lud-in-the-Mist. Biopower is concerned with human beings existing as a species that can be made the ‘object of a political strategy’(1). In this system human beings are viewed as something closer to machines that can be acted upon to produce desired outputs. The society of Dorimare is deeply concerned with the bodies of its citizens. The main conflict of the novel arises from the proliferation of ‘fairy fruit’ and its invasion into the children of Lud. The consumption of fairy fruit and disappearance into fairyland represents a transgression of the political strategy of Lud when it takes the children away from their schools. This threat to society is not rectified through the senators and law men of Lud, who serve as a source of humour. Peace is only restored when the disciplinary institutions of the schools, senate, and language of Lud are transgressed and the population is reconciled with their fairy heritage.

Reading Lud-In-The-Mist, and other liminal fantasies, through the lens of biopower opens up potentially new readings of the ways in which state infrastructure and disciplinary institutions can control the boundaries between domination and freedom within fantasy works. As well as the possibilities for their transgression.

(1)Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1977-78 ed. by Michel Senellart trans. by Graham Burchell (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillian 2007 [1977-78]) p. 1

Bio:
Hannah Mimiec is a Masters student on the University of Glasgow’s Fantasy MLitt program. They previously completed a degree in Scots Law and English Literature at Glasgow. Their research interests lie within the interaction between fantasy and economics, specifically political economy and feminist theories of work, as well as with the mechanics of tabletop roleplaying games. Hannah is the MLitt liaison on this year’s GIFCon committee and is currently playing far too much D&D and Cyberpunk Red in their spare time.

Isabelle Hanshue

Abstract:
From Prisoner to King: Entrapment and Escape Through the Fantastic in Susanna Clarke’s Novels

Susanna Clarke’s novels, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Piranesi, depict the exploitation of marginalized people through magical systems and imprisoned in a fantastical ‘Other World.’ This paper explores the ways in which Clarke’s marginalized characters, specifically Stephen Black and Piranesi, in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Piranesi subvert power structures and free themselves from their captors as expressed in the liminal fantasy realms in which they reside. Both characters experience an involuntary thresh-hold crossing into another world and are exploited by captors learned in magic for the sake of power or knowledge. However, both Stephen and Piranesi are able to free themselves and transgress the systems they were marginalized by through the knowledge and/or power they gain from the fantasy worlds they have been imprisoned in. This paper will draw upon Farah Mendelsohn’s definitions of portal and liminal fantasies to explore how the fantasy worlds in these two novels are used by characters to both support exploitative systems and to transgress against them.

Bio:
Isabelle Hanshue (she/her) is an Mlitt student studying Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include Gothic Literature, Romantic Literature, media studies, and Medievalism. She is currently planning a research project focusing upon marginalized identities and the history of vampires in media. In her free time, she enjoys reading Neil Gaiman and Mary Shelley novels and watching horror films. She also enjoys learning languages and is currently learning Romanian.

Jamie MacGregor

Abstract:
Now with more blood, guts, and gore!: Horror Cinema in the Wake of Covid-19

Horror is a genre that has always been in conversation with the society that it is created in, and is often directly influenced by it. With this in mind, I would like to question how the global Covid-19 pandemic has impacted horror already, and what changes we may see going forward.

Since its inception, the horror genre has been questioning and transgressing boundaries in order to provoke a reaction from the audience. It is this breaking of boundaries, along with the often taboo subject matter that the horror genre deals with, that has resulted in the genre being subject to moral panic and censorship. Horror gives audiences a controlled environment in which to experience fear and other extreme emotions without any real life consequences.

In an article for Fangoria, Zoe Rose Smith notes that 2022 saw a considerable rise in the popularity of movies labelled ‘extreme horror’ — a sub-genre of horror that refers to movies that include an excessive use of violence and sexual content. These types of movies are generally considered too ‘extreme’ for mainstream audiences, often resulting in them having a small release and being harder to locate. Aaron Michael Kerner (2016) identifies a similar demand for extreme horror that emerged in the wake of 9/11 with the rise of the ‘torture-porn’ sub-genre. He argues that the war on terror and collective trauma experienced by Americans was instrumental in the development of the genre. As reality itself becomes more horrific, horror films are forced to become more extreme and push more boundaries to provoke their audience. By comparing Terrifier (2016) to Terrifier 2 (2022), and Hellraiser (1987) to the 2022 remake, I will argue that we are already seeing mainstream horror movies become more extreme as a result of the global trauma of Covid-19.

Bio:
Jamie MacGregor (they/them) completed their MLitt in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Their Masters dissertation was about Creative Destruction and Transness in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal (2013-2015), and they hope to continue this research in a PhD focusing on transness and the horror genre. Jamie has varied research interests depending on when you ask them, but they are primarily interested in the horror genre across media, queer and trans theory, fan studies, gothic studies, the uncanny, medical humanities, and the overlap of philosophy and media. They can currently be found stressing about PhD applications and cuddling their dog.

Katarina Dulude

Abstract:
To Refuse What Has Been Refused to You: Depictions of the Undercommons in the Future Imaginaries of Arcane and Babel

Both released within the past year, the novel Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang and the television series Arcane share many commonalities despite possessing very different premises. Namely, they depict societies that are revolutionized by fantastical energy advancements through forms of magic. These technologies benefit the very wealthy but are created at the expense of those on the margins of society. While the boundaries in these texts are largely social, in the case of Arcane, there is visual depiction through the wealthy of Piltover living on the ‘topside’ of the bridge, while the city’s poor inhabitants live in the polluted ‘Undercity.’

The texts feature themes of the undercommons as described by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney. The Hermes Society of Babel and the Firelights of Arcane function as secret groups that choose intentionally to live on the margins, outside of the boundaries drawn by the ruling elite, the British Empire and Piltover respectively. In doing so, they are able to enact social change and transgress upon society’s boundaries by rejecting being a part of them at all.

Through comparative analysis, this paper explores the similarities and differences between these two fictional depictions of the undercommons and how they demonstrate a need for social change based in our present, existing as much as future imaginaries as they do fantastical tales. Though The Undercommons was published nearly a decade ago, its relevance persists; Timothy Lyle, for example, noted the urgency to join the undercommons in a CLA Journal article in 2021. This renewed urgency and along with the surging popularity of texts like Babel and Arcane demonstrate the ways in which fantasy reflects our current sociopolitical state and demonstrates the need for change.

Bio:
Katarina Dulude is a current Fantasy MLitt student at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in modern fantasy and animation, eco-criticism and queer ecologies, feminist studies, Marxism, and popular culture. She has three previous publications including her undergraduate thesis “Mad Men, Troubled Mothers, and Scarred Children: Representations of Parent-Child Trauma in Mad Men” and two other articles both published by Johns Hopkins University. She also enjoys acting and photography, adores cats, speaks three languages, and has an undying obsession with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Lizao Hu

Abstract:
Fantasy as crossover carnival: Transgressing boundaries in Aaron Becker’s wordless picturebook trilogy

Putting child characters at the centre, fantasy for children in various forms allows experimentation with children’s position in the world and navigation of space between childhood and adulthood. Situating adult characters in child-initiated adventures, fantasy for dual readership extends the intergenerational interactions and offers possibilities of reconstructing adult-child relations. Drawn from Nikolajeva’s (2010) application of carnival theory to children’s literature and Beckett’s (2017) conceptualization of crossover picturebooks, this article takes fantasy as crossover carnival and investigates how fantasy may empower ordinary children or/and adults in Aaron Becker’s trilogy, enclosing wordless picturebooks “Journey” (2013), “Quest” (2014), and “Return” (2016). With reference to Painter et al.’s (2012) strategies of reading visuals, it incorporates the analysis of compositional meanings of fantasy worldbuilding, ideational meanings of character representations, and particularly interpersonal meanings of power realisation. The selected wordless narratives demonstrate fantasy’s empowerment of marginalised children and fantasy’s liberation of the adult who is fully occupied by work through threshold-crossing to a magical realm, obtaining heroic traits, and possessing magical agency. Such empowerment and liberation could only be achieved under certain conditions and for a limited time, as fantasy worldbuilding retains the real order of the world, and characters’ physical dislocation to the real world is temporary. This study further illustrates the perception that fantasy is not as opposed to realism. The healing power of crossover fantasy to cross-generational relations is inherently permanent and can transgress the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

Bio:
Lizao Hu holds an MEd in Children’s Literature and Literacies offered by the University of Glasgow. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Literary Studies (English) at the University of Macau. She is interested in inquiring about ecological, multicultural, and power issues in children’s literature as well as multimodality in children’s picturebooks.

Louise Marchel

Abstract:
Revolution or Fantastic Dream? The Importance of William Morris’ ‘News from Nowhere’ in the Psychedelic Creative Landscape of 1960s London.

‘News From Nowhere’ is William Morris’ utopian vision of a future which expounds the social, political, creative, and aesthetic ideals of the nineteenth-century visionary. The tale tells of the time travel of William Guest with whom the reader journeys from 1890s Britain to a future approximation of London and a journey up the Thames. Guest witnesses a society revolutionised in the 1960s where a characteristic retrieval of a medieval aesthetic is enjoyed in a reforested landscape with relaxed social rules and the absence of any monetary currency.

Utilising visual and textual material from my recent PhD research (The Transcendental Aesthetic – Nineteenth Century Revivals in the 1960s) this paper will explore the distinct resonances between Morris’ text and events in the 1960s and the potential role of the novel as a catalyst in social and creative change. In reaction to the streamlined designs and consumerism of the early 1960s, key counter-cultural movements later in the decade simultaneously pushed new boundaries in social freedoms and behaviours whilst adopting older forms of representation and a sense of self-definition much akin to Morris’ vision. While designers such as Mary Quant and John Pearse adopted the designs of Morris for their clothing, creative collectives such as ‘Hapshash and the Coloured Coat’ and ‘The Fool’ (cf medieval designs for The Beatles’ Apple Boutique where payment was elective) adopted interdisciplinary creative practices where visual and lyrical imageries merged. As boundaries of fantasy and reality blurred in the wake of new psychedelic drugs, so too did many social / creative norms and the paper will explore the role of Morris and his c20th readers in creating a liminal space for transcendence and/or revolution, firstly in the imagined world of the text and secondly in inspiring influential artists, writers, and designers to attempt to realise something of Morris’ ideal.

Bio:
Louise Marchal is a visual artist and writer and is currently a practice-based PhD researcher at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Research for her biography of the sculptor Frances Darlington led her to re-evaluate the perception of romantic nineteenth-century imagery as received through its revivals in the late 1960s, and this informed her PhD topic which queries the articulation of psychedelic or meditative transcendence through such imageries. Louise graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1995 with an Honours degree in English Literature.

Luise Rössel

Abstract:
Crossing the lake – The land of the dead, resurrection, and Jesus in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (1995-2000) examines boundaries and margins in numerous ways. For example, protagonists Lyra and Will both move in the margins of their societies, while being confronted with the physical and mental boundaries between childhood and adulthood and the liminal space in-between, adolescence. Furthermore, the whole trilogy revolves around the crossings between countless parallel worlds, including a knife cutting through reality/dimensions.

One of the most unique and fascinating border-crossings in the trilogy, however, is Lyra and Will’s journey to the world of the dead. This late episode is rich with liminal and marginal spaces, as well as metaphorical and literal breaches of boundaries and borders: e.g. the suburbs of the dead, port of transit, and holding areas; personal Deaths hiding in the margins of vision; existential questions about “truth/reality” vs. “lies/fantasy” raised by the Harpies; the crossing of a lake to the land of the dead, including the painful disjunction of the bond between soul/dæmon and body/human.

It has been acknowledged that Lyra and Will function as Eve and Adam figures, through whom Pullman attempts to re-tell (and redeem) the Christian Fall myth (e.g. Tóth; Dickerson and O’Hara). The literature on the trilogy, however, stays remarkably silent on another biblical figure: Jesus Christ. Occasionally, his absence from the trilogy is proclaimed and Pat Pinsent even goes as far as attesting it “a Christ-shaped hole” (30). However, acknowledging the presence of a Jesus figure in the trilogy would give the story a whole new religious dimension.

Thus, this paper will examine Lyra and Will’s ultimate border-crossing to the land of the dead (and the following resurrection/s) in more detail and will argue that Lyra and Will together are Jesus-figure/s who die and walk between the worlds in order to redeem the dead and liberate their souls.

Bio:
Luise Rössel is a current PhD student in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. She is writing about fantasy literature from around the millennial change with religious elements, mostly from Revelation and Genesis. She obtained an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow (2019) and an MPhil in Children’s Literature from Trinity College, Dublin (2018). She did her BA degree in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature, as well as Philosophy, at the Ludwig-Maximilians- Universität, Munich.

M. Caroline McCaulay

Abstract:
“The Childbed is Our Battlefield”: Examining Depictions of Childbirth in Contemporary Fantasy

Pregnancy has often casually been called a “magical time” in women’s lives. However, fantasy media has frequently portrayed pregnancy and childbirth as a traumatic, and often deadly, experience for women. This vision of childbirth recently resurged in the public’s attention with the 2022 premiere episode of HBO’s House of Dragons, in which a highly reported upon scene involving a forced caesarean delivery ends in the death of the mother. As she tells her daughter, “The childbed is our battlefield.”

This paper takes a critical eye to birth scenes in fantasy media, specifically examining texts which are also regarded as empowering to its female identifying characters. The central question of the paper asks how fantasy’s often impossible depictions of birth might affect reader’s perceptions of the reality of childbirth. Are these scenes empowering or frightening? Can there be a definitive line between fantasy and reality in depictions of childbirth? When is a border between realism and fantasy crossed? Is the brutality of some fantastic birth scenes warranted, given the maternal mortality rate of women worldwide?

The texts examined include a fairy-led, magical birth scene in Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, the horrifying birth of the Minotaur in Madeline Miller’s Circe, and the multiple depictions of traumatic births in the HBO series House of the Dragon.

Bio:
M. Caroline McCaulay is a writer and scholar from Carmel, Indiana, USA. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) at Indiana University and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi. She frequently writes fiction about sisterhood, Hollywood, and mental health – but also about sorority girl werewolves and pregnant cows. Her creative work can be found in Boudin, the online home of The McNeese Review. Her scholarship focuses on depictions of motherhood and female empowerment in literature. Her scholarship has most recently been presented at the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University.

Madalena Daleziou

Abstract:
Threshold Crossing and Deconstructed Portals in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

In Rhetorics of Fantasy, Farah Mendlesohn defines portal fantasy as ‘a fantastic world entered through a portal’ and argues that in this type ‘the fantastic […] does not “leak.” Although individuals may cross both ways, the magic does not’ (xix). Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is an exception that blurs the boundaries between reality and the fantastic and features an intrusion in the form of the consciousness-consuming Spectres. A similar motif is present in Laini Taylor’s YA trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, whereby Karou, a human living in Prague, is raised by human-monster hybrids whose house is a portal between the human world and the fantastic Eretz. DoSaB displays portal-quest elements, with a relatively clueless Karou entering Eretz through a magical threshold. Yet, this trilogy is not a clear-cut example of portal fantasy either, as intrusions also feature prominently. While portals are integral plot points in both trilogies, their use requires sacrifices to save the universes connected by them.

This paper studies portals as thresholds in HDM and DoSaB to examine attitudes regarding maturity and personal responsibility in YA fantasy. The trilogies’ starting points both involve threshold-crossing yet move away from earlier children’s and YA fantasy traditions, with their clear entrance of an innocent main character into the fantastic and equally clear return to ‘nonfantastic normality’ as analysed by Catherine Butler. Instead, the main characters enter the portals later, after painful experiences, and the fantastic remains in their lives after forgoing portals, moving away from boundaries often encountered in earlier works. Moreover, the featured intrusions emphasize the cost of portals in both trilogies, revealing shifting attitudes permeating contemporary YA fantasy, with both trilogies granting their young main characters agency, recognising their ability to destroy, but also to mend their worlds.

Bio:
Madalena Daleziou obtained her undergraduate degree in English Literature from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She then studied the Fantasy MLitt at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include Children’s and YA fantasy, anime and manga, animals studies in fantasy, and dystopian literature. Madalena is a speculative fiction author whose short fiction and poetry has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Deadlands, and other venues. She is the Social Media Officer of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.

Madeleine Sinclair

Abstract:
Fantastical Subjectivity in Rana Dasgupta’s Twenty-First Century Folktales

This paper examines the politics of fantastic irrealism in selected short stories from Rana Dasgupta’s twenty-first century collection Tokyo Cancelled (2005), an “experiment in storytelling”, which revitalises the “old wisdom” of folktales in order to register both the “giant forces of modernity” and the “exquisite minutia of personal experience” in a hyperconnected world (Dasgupta 2006, 13-15). For Dasgupta, folkloric forms mediate in fantastical terms a world of irreal “transformations” linked directly to “global forces” (Dasgupta and Elborough 2006, 6). This paper focuses specifically on Dasgupta’s portrayal of fantastical subjectivities, showing how the contemporary folktales collected in Tokyo Cancelled attend to the reconfiguration of selfhood in an era of accelerated neoliberal globalisation. Applying a method of world literary comparativism, the paper presents close readings of folktales including “The Memory Editor”, “The Billionaire’s Sleep” and “The Recycler of Dreams”, examining Dasgupta’s folkloric depiction of the colonization of subjectivity by neoliberal contemporaneity. More broadly, the paper considers Dasgupta’s re-invigoration of archaic forms of folk orality as a tool for challenging hegemony in the contemporary world.

Works cited:

Dasgupta, Rana. 2006. “Writing Tokyo Cancelled.” In Tokyo Cancelled. London: Harper Perennial.

Dasgupta, Rana, and Travis Elborough. 2006. “Global Enchantment: Travis Elborough Talks to Rana Dasgupta.” In Tokyo Cancelled. London: Harper Perennial.

Bio:
Madeleine Sinclair is an English and Comparative Literature PhD student and Wolfson Scholar at University of Warwick, UK. Her thesis focuses on the interconnections between aesthetics, politics and ecology in the twenty-first century short story-cycle.

Madeline Wahl

Abstract:
Who Is Allowed To Cast Spells?: Stuttering, Fluency, And Spellcasting In The Harry Potter Series

Stuttering, as defined by The Stuttering Foundation, is “a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables.” In the Harry Potter series, witches and wizards cast spells predominantly by speaking words out loud. This paper will explore boundaries in magic systems, specifically the boundary between fluent and disfluent spellcasters in the Harry Potter series, and draw attention to what’s missing in current research. Through close reading and textual analysis of the Harry Potter texts, I will compare and contrast how fluent people speak spells to the stuttering of Professor Quirrell. Because Professor Quirrell impersonated having a stutter, he does not need to worry about disfluency when casting spells. But people who have speech impediments do not have that luxury. 

This paper will acknowledge that magic in the Harry Potter series can do many wondrous things, including regrowing bones. However, because Professor Quirrell was able to convincingly impersonate someone who stutters, this implies that speech impediments still exist in the Muggle world and the wizarding world. This shows that speech impediments have not been eliminated by magic. Thus, instead of looking for ways to eliminate speech impediments using magic, this paper will also focus on spellcasting accessibility and what that could look like in fantasy texts. Furthermore, this paper will then explore the difficulty of casting nonverbal spells in the Harry Potter series and deconstruct the negative stereotypes of stuttering in fantasy spellcasting contexts. Finally, it will be acknowledged that there is ample room for disability awareness and accessibility in children’s fantasy literature.

Bio:
Madeline Wahl is a postgraduate student pursuing an 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.

Maggie White

Abstract:
Challenging Energy Exuberance through Epic Fantasy: A Study of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy

This paper examines the embedded energy unconscious of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy, parsing the author’s tonal depictions of energy usage alongside Frederick Buell’s 2012 essay “A Short History of Oil Cultures: or The Marriage of Exuberance and Catastrophe”. Investigating areas of “catastrophic” and “exuberant” energy exertion in the text, this paper begins by outlining the dominant oil culture in America and questioning whether epic fantasy authors—even as they construct works of petrofiction—are truly able to escape the clutches of this hegemonic perception of energy in the U.S. Positioning catastrophe as inextricably linked to depictions of oppressed magical and non-magical bodies in this trilogy, this paper ultimately outlines how Jemisin subverts the dominant American oil unconscious. I demonstrate through close reading how she textually saddles exuberance to infrastructural access and agency as well as characterizes exuberance as an inadequate tool for repairing energy-based damage. With this popular work as a case study, this presentation suggests that epic fantasy is a fruitful avenue through which to refigure the contemporary energy crisis. In exploring Jemisin’s success in creating a work of radical petrofiction, this presentation also exemplifies vital energy humanities tools for interpreting energy themes in epic fantasy–particularly concerning Max Black’s “interaction view of metaphor” and the detection of exuberance and catastrophe in texts. Finally, this paper gestures toward a progressive and energy-aware texture emerging in contemporary American epic fantasy with the growth of BIPOC-created secondary worlds. Through her work of epic petro-fantasy, Jemisin simultaneously pushes against the classically exuberant characteristics of both epic fantasy and systemic perceptions of oil in the U.S., questioning the belief that carbon consumption is a productive force across racial and socio-economic lines. This paper is an adaptation of chapter two of my MLitt Fantasy dissertation from the University of Glasgow.

Bio:
Maggie White (she/her) received her undergraduate degree from Davidson College and holds an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include the energy humanities, speculative/fantastical fiction, Victorian fiction, improv and literature, posthumanism, and worldbuilding. Maggie’s core research aim is to further an understanding of speculative literature’s cultural impact, focusing largely on its role in transformative depictions of global energy dependencies and the climate crisis at large. Maggie currently lives in Mississippi with her partner, David, and her dog, Dolly.

Mark Hines

Abstract:
Stats and Soil: Race and Homeland in Fantastic Worlds

This work focuses on a persistent trope of racial worldbuilding in fantastic worlds. Nominally, such worlds operate on the premise that vastly different possibilities from our current world exist and are commonplace. However, in reality, such settings often traffic in pseudoscientific race “realism.” Built upon ahistorical notions of medieval cultures, in which nascent nation-states were racially and ethnically homogenous, racial segregation in fantastic worlds is a common and oft-neglected trope. From Middle Earth, to Skyrim, to the Forgotten Realms, fantasy settings tend to define a people by the land they occupy and the borders over which they control. Elves, Dwarves, Humans, and Orcs are associated with various topographies, blurring the line between land and people. Indeed, this trope often aligns with White supremacist ideologies which link race, place, homeland, culture, language , and civilization as synonymous and interlinked. Many worldbuilders of fantastic settings would have us believe that land and soil are deterministic and impermeable factors in the reproduction of race, language, and culture. Most contemporary audiences will associate this trope with Tolkien’s Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings, and I will briefly touch on its reproduction over time. However, in addition to the print and media in which fantasy races are correspondingly linked to the ecosystems in which they live, virtual and analog roleplaying games embolden and further the trope in a way that scholarship hasn’t fully appreciated. This work analyzes this narrative shorthand across various artforms before examining its unique permutation in analog gaming. Then, the trope of racial bioessentialism in nation or statecraft will be compared to the rhetoric of White nationalists, especially in the context of comparisons to medievalisms, accurate or not.

Bio:
Mark Hines is a PhD student in the University of Kentucky’ English Department. He is interested in the fantastic and the speculative in gaming, broadly. In particular, he examines how political and racist discourse from our world becomes shifted and blurred through representation in gaming. For speculative worlds that consistently ask “What is possible?,” he wonders why the representations of race, gender, and political dominance so often echo those of our own.

Mars Nicoli

Abstract:
The Sex of Angels: Nonbinary readings of otherworldly creatures in Supernatural (2005-2020) and Good Omens (2019-)

The “Sex of Angels”, or otherwise gendered understandings of otherworldly beings, is an age-old theological question. Fantasy media has interpreted and portrayed it in many ways, from the more traditional elucubrations of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (2000) to Janet’s catchphrase “Not a girl!” in The Good Place (2016-2020). In a society that is becoming increasingly more aware of gender variances beyond the binary, the nonbinary potential of these creatures has been praised for offering representation organically but also criticised for the innate othering that comes from presenting genderlessness as a non-human feature.

This paper explores nonbinary fans’ (re)interpretations of tv angels and demons to navigate their own gender identity and/or expression. Transformative online fandom spaces are socially engineered as private, thus providing a safe space for fans to express their own queer, gender-diverse identities through storytelling.

This analysis will be done through two case studies with a widely queer fanbase – Supernatural (2005 – 2020) and Good Omens (2019-).

As a fandom born of the mid-naughts but still rather popular due to the show’s longevity, Supernatural is the ideal starting point to understand how fandom sentiments around gender representation may have shifted through the years. For instance, looking at its role in the development of widespread fandom tropes around gender dynamics such as Omegaverse.

As a more recent example, Good Omens more openly challenges assumptions about gender and has a large community of trans fan. This fandom has produced work which deconstructs gender into individual signifiers that are mixed and matched to best represent the journey, experience and sensibility of the fan artist creating it.

This analysis looks at what trans fans have to say about the gender of otherworldly creatures, as well as considering what textual elements of these shows especially appeal to said fans.

Bio:
Mars Nicoli – pronouns he/him – is a PhD student in Media and GTA at Sheffield Hallam University researching transgender representation, viewership and authorship of horror. He is also interested in fan studies and specifically in fandom as a place of queer self-discovery. His Master’s thesis in Film looked at the degendering of pregnancy in Good Omens fanfiction. His work is committed to centring marginalised voices and talking with rather than about people: nothing about us without us.

Megan Stephens

Abstract:
The borders of power: Superheroes and disability

Disability and superheroes may appear at first glance to be antithetical. The figure of the superhero, which as Vincent M. Gaine argues is ‘ostensibly a power fantasy’ (7), is continually aligned with strength and dominance, the centrepiece of a genre which ‘takes vigorous and potent bodies as a given’ (Alaniz 11). However, there are in fact several superhero characters in contemporary film and television with disabilities or severe health conditions, and if this seems surprising it supports David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder’s assertion that cultural representations of disability are prolific but go largely unnoticed by audiences (225). Mitchell and Snyder introduce a framework of ‘narrative prosthesis’, arguing that many narratives rely on disability to differentiate a central character ‘from the anonymous background of the “norm”’ (222), but that after this initial interest has been sparked, disability is often overlooked or even subject to ‘an obliteration of the difference through a “cure”’ (227).

The “curing” of disability is often literalised in superhero narratives through the gaining of superpowers (for example in the case of Captain America). However, there are occasions where disability and superpowers are allowed to coexist, including Daredevil (who is visually impaired but whose other senses are supernaturally heightened) and Professor X (who is a wheelchair user with telekinetic powers). This paper will examine these cases, exploring how superpowers and disability interact in forming these characters’ identities. In particular, it will question whether these examples can be seen as a challenge to the standard ‘vigorous and potent bodies’ of the genre or whether the addition of superpowers includes those with disabilities within this category without challenging its right to be held as the norm.

Bio:
Megan Stephens (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, funded by the AHRC through the White Rose Consortium. She is researching death and grievability in contemporary fantastic film and television, exploring how the implicit cultural valuing of different types of characters is often betrayed at and confirmed by their moment of death. She is an Associate Editor at Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research.

Mercury Natis

Abstract:
“And its Folks are Queerer”: Queer Marginality and the Chosen Family Dynamics of the Bagginses of Bag-End

Since the 1960s, Queer has evolved from a vague, multivalent term denoting various degrees of strangeness to a signifier of the identity politics movement, in which the term has been reclaimed as a means towards demanding representation, rights and respect from the margins of heternormative society. To be Queer in the 21st century is to exist in a state of direct confrontation against the established norms of society, but the meaning of Queer has not changed, though it has narrowed and become popularized. Though the language to describe members of the LGBTQ+ community has evolved over time, to be Queer folk has always been, at its foundations, a process of being forced into the margins of society by cultural heternormativity. It is in this forced marginality that the concept of “Found Family” has become intrinsic to the Queer community. It is through “Found Family” that people who have become alienated from their biological families, and society at large, find joy, love, acceptance and companionship in a hostile and difficult world.

Though J.R.R. Tolkien may not have been intending to create such a dynamic in The Lord of the Rings, the Bagginses of Bag-End exemplify this “Found Family” dynamic. This paper will explore the features of both Bilbo and Frodo as folk in the margins of their community, which contribute to their home being considered “a queer place, and its folk are queerer”, and how this dynamic is applicable to the 20th-century queer experience. The paper will then consider why Tolkien wrote the Bagginses in this manner, and how the universal themes of Love and Fellowship may have resonated through “Found Family” to an English Catholic who lost much of his own biological family at a young age.

Bio:
Mercury Natis (they/them) is a student of Imaginative Literature at Signum University, focusing on Tolkien Studies and Queer Theory. They hold a previous MA in Museum Education and a BA in Art History. Their primary focus is on queer resonances in interwar fantasy, in the pre-identity politics age of ambiguity and disruption. They have previously presented at Oxonmoot on the similarities between Tolkien’s perspective on fantasy and Sontag’s essay on Camp, and are currently preparing a paper for publication on T.H. White’s The Once and Future King as a work of Camp art.

Nathaniel Harrington

Abstract:
“síneadh eile lenár dtraidisiún scéalaíochta”: Fantasy and “Celtic” tradition

In this paper, I explore the relationship between genre fantasy and the “traditional” literatures — both premodern and modern — of Celtic-language communities, which have for more than two hundred years been used (and misused) by writers of fantasy and related genres in dominant languges. Rather than approaching this question through an analysis of dominant-language texts, however, I want to approach it, instead, through modern Celtic-language literatures. I focus in this paper on Darach Ó Scolaí’s Táin Bó Cuailnge (2017) and Fionnlagh MacLeòid’s Gormshuil an Rìgh (2010). Ó Scolaí’s preface describes his work, a modern Irish-language version of the best-known medieval Gaelic narrative, as “síneadh eile lenár dtraidisiún scéalaíochta” [another extension of our narrative tradition] (2017, 7), and MacLeòid’s novel mimics both the form and style of a Scottish Gaelic oral narrative. My central questions are: can we read these texts as fantasy, and what does it mean for us to do so?

I consider two aspects of these texts in particular: their relation to “traditional” narrative forms (the medieval hero-tale, the modern oral folktale) and their relationship to modern literary forms (the novel, genre fantasy). How do these two texts situate themselves — formally, stylistically, paratextually, and contextually — in relation to the “Celtic” traditions they draw on? How, conversely, are they situated, whether intentionally or simply by virtue of being produced and read in the twenty-first century, in relation to the novel form, and to the fantasy genre in particular? What differentiates these texts from so-called “Celtic fantasy” in dominant languages? How might these texts — and other examples of the growing body of fantasy in the modern Celtic languages — enable us to think in new ways about dominant-language Celtic fantasy and its complex and often problematic relationship to Celtic-language communities in the present?

Bio:
Nathaniel Harrington received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Toronto. His dissertation looked at the representations of reading in and real-world reading practices for fantasy and science fiction in Scottish Gaelic and English. His current projects consider the relationship between language death and speculative fiction and the development of (quote-unquote) “Celtic fantasy”. His other interests include Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, contemporary denied-language poetics, Gaelic literary history, and meeting new cats.

Parvathy R.

Abstract:
The Cracks Within: Liminality and Hero-making in Fantasy

Farah Mendlesohn defines liminal fantasy “relies, after all on a knowingness” on the part of both the reader and the characters within the story (Mendlesohn 182). The ambiguity between our expectations of the real and the fantastical is where liminality lies, and where one can experience “what it’s like to have fallen into the crack” (Mendlesohn 183). The chasm of knowingness, or lack thereof, between the real world and the fantastical or between our expectations of genre tropes and narrative structures, all embody that “crack” where the fantastic is experienced.

In a slight departure Mendlesohn’s idea, Gaiman introduces Neverwhere (1996) as a story about “people who fall through the cracks” (Gaiman, iv). In doing so, Gaiman’s perspective shifts liminality away from a representation of the space between worlds to the ambiguity of identity and knowability within a character.

Here, I explore how “heroes” are formed of those who “fall through the cracks”. They are neither of one world nor the other, and embody that crack, chasm, or liminality within themselves. In Neverwhere Richard Mayhew feels like he belongs nowhere, either in his unexciting everyday life or as an outsider in London Below. In Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea, the antagonist, the Shadow, is an outward manifestation of the hollowness and not-knowing of the protagonist, Sparrowhawk, himself.

I argue that the gap in knowing, as it plays out within a character in a story, is itself a liminal space where the fantastic becomes possible. To support my argument, I will look at the characters of Richard Mayhew (from Neverwhere), Sparrowhawk (from A Wizard of Earthsea), Sam Vymes (from Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!), and Jonathan Strange (from Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) and explore the different ways each of these characters contain within themselves and embody a fantastical liminal space.

Bio:
I did my MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, on the non-anthropocentric rhetoric of popular fantasy in the 20th Century. I currently work as a freelance academic editor. My academic interests center around exploring how each instance of rhetoric shapes and questions the enclosing genre or archive, by focusing on fictionality. I also moonlight on Instagram as a dog mom, and part-time selfie enthusiast who maps cities on foot.

Rachel Milne

Abstract:
We’re All Mad Queer: Breaching the Boundaries of Sanity and Sex in Wonderland and Oz

Narratives of difference are immensely popular in children’s literature. The figure of the eternal child in Peter Pan; the talking animals of Narnia; Harry Potter’s whimsical world of witchcraft and wizardry, all involve two crucial elements. What is the use of a book, without alterity and wonder? When burying their nose into a book, one might hope to transcend the everyday, and instead embody various fantastic creatures. One might hope, then, to become something different.

Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ series and L. Frank Baum’s ‘Oz’ series have been read and loved for centuries by children and adults alike. Both have also seen numerous adaptations, from the literary, to musicals, to plays and films. As a result, both are boundary-breaching texts. These ‘external’ boundaries, of readership and medium, are also reflected within the texts themselves: alongside fluidity in language and narrative comes fluidity in representations of various categories of difference.

This paper examines the interconnections between madness and queerness in the ‘Alice’ and ‘Oz’ texts. Various sociological studies have illuminated the socially constructed nature of both sexuality and sanity, but few have examined the crossover between the two, especially in relation to literary representations. Children’s books, which routinely render real-world norms topsy-turvy, are a strong place to start. Counter to narratives of fear that inflect discourses around madness, sexuality, and childhood, Alice and Oz celebrate alterity of various kinds, equating madness and queerness with play and opposing dominant cultural perceptions of deviance. Through analyses of iconographies of madness; depictions of chronoanormativity and queer time; and readings of the formations of queer relationships to ‘others’ and to gender, this paper will consider how madness and queerness are represented and intertwined in these enduring fantasy texts.

Bio:
Rachel Milne is a Visiting Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. She holds a BA (Hons) in Media from Queen Margaret University, and an MLitt in Comparative Literature from the University of Glasgow. Her work primarily centres around representations of otherness in children’s literature and film, especially in relation to queerness, disability, and neurodivergence. Her writings on childhood and difference in literature and film have been published in peer-reviewed journals and blogs, and she has presented her work on Disney and disability, queerness in African cinema, childhood in Scottish film, and otherness in children’s literature, at various international conferences.

Rebecca Gault

Abstract:
A Conspiracy of Bodies: Negating Sexual Anthropocentrism

The tradition of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ narrative – one where a beautiful, often female, human falls for a truly monstrous figure, often a man – is one that has persisted in the cultural imagination ever since Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve wrote her original version in 1740, following in the tradition of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales. However, the cultural opinions on sex and sexuality have to come to fluctuate significantly over the following years. As fantasy erotica becomes an emergent subgenre within the field, sexual behaviour comes to the forefront. This paper will seek to explore the cultural implications of monster-human erotica and the practice of teratophilia in literature and media. The tracing of desire through the constructed monstrous body raises questions of what the body is and the wider cultural discourse around acceptable societal standards. By discussing monster media such as Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’, Marvel’s ‘Venom’, and China Miéville’s ‘Perdido Street Station’, this paper will utilise theories of anthropocentrism and sexuality studies to explore why exactly the monstrous, hybrid bodies of fantastic media trigger desire within the audience – and the radical potential of such an act.

Bio:
Rebecca Gault is an early-career academic from Glasgow, Scotland. She has a MA in English Literature from the University of Glasgow and a MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include monstrosity, gender and sexuality studies, the construction of the body, and modes of fantasy. She is currently the co-host of Out To Get You, a podcast examining horror media through the lens of marginalised experiences, and often writes about horror, fantasy, and comic books.

Sababa Monjur

Abstract:
“I Don’t Wanna Become a Demon”: Rethinking Binaries in Princess Mononoke and Okja

Fantasy can be effective as a mode of destabilizing and problematizing binary thinking (nature/culture, human/nonhuman, center/periphery for instance). Although separated by two decades, Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (1997) and Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (2017) pivot around the common theme of converting the nonhuman into marketable materials. This paper engages with the selected films in order to explore the material as well as metaphorical borders of the Anthropocene discourse that normalize and justify exploitation, instrumentalization and extraction of the nonhuman ones for the sole purpose of fueling the capitalist engine of so-called growth. Additionally, this paper thinks through and about extraction, thereby seeks to answer why and how the human/nonhuman binary is required for the biopolitical authorities to justify extraction and hyper-consumption of the nonhuman. Reading through an ecofeminist lens, the paper scrutinizes the techno-fixes proposed and practiced by the authority and argues for epistemological rethinking to conceive of alternative future(s) free of extractive hegemony that relies heavily on the human/nonhuman binary. To do so, the paper discusses: First, how do San in Princess Mononoke and Mija in Okja defy the binary by siding with the nonhuman and against the ‘demonic’ industrial forces as represented by Lady Eboshi and Lucy Mirando respectively. Second, how Lady Eboshi and Lucy Mirando’s absolute disregard for nonhuman agency is propelled not only by their goal of endless resource extraction but also their anthropocentric ideology that allows them to exploit and abuse the nonhumans as commodities. While the adults are entirely driven by techno-capitalist lust and are ignorant of the horrific outcome of such extractive practices, the children initiate epistemological rethinking by building kinship with the nonhuman to ensure a more inclusive and compassionate society where the humans can live harmoniously with their planetary partners.

Bio:
Sababa Monjur is currently enrolled as a doctoral student at Philipps University Marburg. She completed her MA in North American Studies from the same institute. Her research interest includes SF, popular culture, gender studies, environmental studies and ecofeminism. The latter area is the focus of her dissertation. She is the recipient of ICCS Graduate Scholarship 2022.

Saga Bokne

Abstract:
Settler Fairies: Postcolonial Implications of Fairies in America

In The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature, Brian Attebery notes that many of the European settlers in North America left their traditional supernatural stories behind when they emigrated. Apparently, the New World was not congenial to fairies and suchlike (20). In contemporary American fantasy, however, the continent is abundantly populated with fairy creatures of all shapes and sizes. Often, they are depicted as immigrants themselves, having crossed the mighty boundary of the Atlantic to colonize America alongside the human settlers who believed in them.

In my paper, I will discuss four novels which use the motif of fairies as European immigrants to America, analysing the implications of this motif from a postcolonial perspective. Firstly, I consider Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child. In these novels, fairy creatures of European descent are the only supernatural beings encountered; there is no indication of the existence of indigenous spirits. In this way, I argue, Bull’s and Donohue’s novels participate in the erasure of indigenous stories and perpetuate conceptions of pre-colonial America as an unclaimed wilderness.

Secondly, I turn to two novels where the fairies’ settler status is given thematic weight. In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, fairies such as piskies and leprechauns are depicted alongside a large variety of supernatural beings from multiple cultural contexts. The main story is repeatedly interrupted by interludes which describe the arrival of these beings in America at different points in history, thus emphasising America’s status as a cultural melting pot. Charles de Lint, in Widdershins, goes further still, depicting a long-standing and bitter conflict between colonising fairies and indigenous spirits. In Gaiman’s and de Lint’s novels, folkloric motifs are employed to tell stories which attempt to take into consideration the complex and tangled colonial history of America and all of its peoples.

Bio:
Saga Bokne is a PhD student in English literature at Karlstad University, Sweden. She is particularly interested in how folklore and mythology are reused and reinterpreted in contemporary fantasy. She is also very interested in the politics and ideology of fantasy. At Karlstad university, she teaches courses in children’s literature and academic writing, among other things. Her doctoral dissertation will be about the depictions and functions of fairies in post-Tolkienian fantasy literature.

Samantha Hammond

Abstract:
“To Win or Lose a Great Game”: Board Games, Seth Dickinson’s “Masquerade” Series, and Policing Fantasy’s Political Boundaries

Board game imagery is a common feature of fantasy literature, with the language of moves, countermoves, gambits, and endgames often used within fantasy texts to shape a reader’s understanding of political strategy and plays for power. This paper explores the role of such game-inflected imagery in delimiting the boundaries of the political change presented as legible, believable, or possible in the fantasy genre. I take as a case study Seth Dickinson’s “The Masquerade”, a fantasy series dense with board game imagery. Dickinson uses board games, with their associations of neat, schematised worlds and strategies, to invoke a specific model of political change: one where the world is figured as rational and rewritable, a board to be manipulated by a sufficiently clever player of the political game. However, as the series progresses, Dickinson invites the reader to interrogate the link between this game-inflected model of political change and the imperial ideology “The Masquerade” seeks to challenge. He does so by exploring the boundaries placed on action and agency by a game-inflected model of change: as one character points out, to beat a master at their own game, one is forced to play by their rules, accepting the possibility space of the board instead of reaching across the table to slit the other player’s throat. By tracing the shifting associations and logics of board game imagery in “The Masquerade”, I explore what it means that fantasy literature so often shapes the reader’s understanding of political change through imagery of rulesets, board edges, and boundaries on political action, uncovering the relationship between the board game and the fantasy genre’s oft-cited ability to envision alternative political structures.

Bio:
Samantha Hammond is a researcher interested in the intersections between literature and gaming, and in the role of space, systems thinking, and political change in both forms. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Class I Honours in English Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Writing, Editing, and Publishing from the University of Queensland. During her undergraduate studies, she presented at two symposia and was awarded several prizes, including the Steele Rudd Memorial Essay Prize for best essay in Australian literature. She is currently studying a Master of Theatre (Dramaturgy) at the University of Melbourne.

Suzanne R. Black

Abstract:
Canon(n)s in the Distance: Black Sails Fanfiction, Decolonial Gothic and the Negotiation of Canon

Fanfiction texts necessarily replicate canonical elements from the media texts they rewrite while changing some aspects of the characters, setting or plots. One criticism that is often aimed at fanfiction is that it tends to be conservative rather than progressive when dealing with racial issues (Lothian & Stanfill, 2021). I identify several works of fanfiction related to the television series Black Sails (2014-2017) – itself related to Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure novel Treasure Island (1883) – in which the boundaries of the Gothic genre of fantasy and their transgressions are used to reckon with race and racism.

Fanfiction’s tendency to minimise issues of race and racism emerge as genre interruptions in keeping with the Gothic tradition where “In seeing one time and its values cross into another, both periods are disturbed. The dispatching of unwanted ideas and attitudes into an imagined past does not guarantee they have been overcome” (Botting, 2013, p.3). The Decolonial Gothic, in particular, is an effective strategy for this as it can “mobilise supernatural figurations of threat and anxiety to grapple not with colonialism or its aftereffects, but with coloniality as the enduring alliance between Eurocentric master narratives of race, gender and nature, and capitalism as a set of economic/ecological relations that link regions and communities unequally together” (Duncan, 2022, p.319). I argue that Black Sails fanfiction cannot escape being haunted by its literary and historical forebears and these spectres often manifest as genre play.

Botting, Fred. Gothic. Routledge, 2013.

Duncan, Rebecca. ‘Decolonial Gothic: Beyond the Postcolonial in Gothic Studies’. Gothic Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, 2022, pp. 304–22.

Lothian, Alexis, and Mel Stanfill. ‘An Archive of Whose Own? White Feminism and Racial Justice in Fan Fiction’s Digital Infrastructure’. Transformative Works and Cultures, vol. 36, Sept. 2021.

Bio:
Suzanne R Black is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in English Literature, she combines humanities approaches with digital methods, and has worked across a range of projects involving data and the creative industries. Her research interests lie in digital literary culture and the development of data-led approaches to contemporary fiction and fanfiction. She has published work in Transformative Works and Cultures, FORUM, The American Reader, The Journal of Fandom Studies and Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture (forthcoming).

Tam Moules

Abstract:
Flower of Knights, Knight of Flowers: Transgression of Gendered Boundaries in Retellings of the Tale of Peredur

Peredur, or Perceval, has been a figure associated with the transgression of gendered boundaries since his early appearances in Monmouth and The Mabinogion. Peredur, Son of Efrawg, raised in seclusion by his mother, had trouble integrating into the masculine world of chivalry. His tale in The Mabinogion explores this through medieval Welsh understandings of masculinity, with traits such as facial hair and honour explicitly linked. His treatment of women, too, is outside the boundary of what is expected of him as a man and as a knight, and there is what can be interpreted as a queer homosocial relationship between Peredur and Gwalchmei (or Gawain), further transgressing the boundaries of hegemonic masculinity. More modern reinterpretations of the character, in Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur (2007) and Nicola Griffith’s Spear (2022), draw on these notes of gendered dissonance and cast the character as a trans woman in post-Roman Britain (Reeve) and as a butch woman who is ambivalent to gender (Griffith). I am particularly interested in examining how Reeve perhaps inadvertently sets up a dialogue between biologically essentialist views of gender and cultural views of gender. His Peredur, or Peri for short, is born a boy, raised as a girl, lives as a man among Arthur’s warband, then ends the novel living as a woman. Both Reeve and Griffith use what has historically been a mode of storytelling associated with masculinity and particularly chivalric masculinity to explore femininity and gender fluidity, and both use the fantastical in their stories as a lens through which to examine gendered boundaries.

This paper will argue that queerness and gendered transgression are threaded through even the earliest parts of the Arthurian canon, and will trace these roots into modern retellings to examine what they’ve grown into.

Bio:
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 they have previously presented papers at the 2019 Fantastika and Fabled Coast Conferences, Glasgow’s GifCon in 2018 and 2019, and Open Graves Open Minds 2021, as well as co-hosted writing workshops at the LSFRC’s Productive Futures conference and Cymera Festival.

Timothy Miller

Abstract:
Unicorn Variations: Continuity and Change in the Many Versions of The Last Unicorn

Over the past fifty years and more since its first publication, Peter S. Beagle’s 1968 novel The Last Unicorn has led a far from marginal life in fantasy, nestled firmly near the center of any conception of the genre as a “fuzzy set” despite its metafictional dimensions. If the novel most diverges from the Tolkienian model of fantasy in its use of both humor and metafiction, Beagle ultimately offers a theory of fantasy of his own via that very metafiction, and a theory of fantasy that arrives at many of the same conclusions as Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories” by other means. The novel’s many adaptations, abridgements, and even abortive early drafts have received far less attention, however, and lurked more furtively on the edges of fantasy and indeed Beagle’s own long career. This paper will therefore emphasize how these threads of metafiction and self-reflexive commentary on fantasy run through and become refracted across not only the 1982 animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn, but also the more recent graphic novel version; Beagle’s other unicorn stories (inside and outside the same universe); and the earlier fragmentary draft of the novel later published as “The Lost Version.” Across these variations on and responses to the original narrative, we find an emergent concern with change itself connected to the novel’s ruminations on the desire for immortality and the inability to change associated with its villainous figures.

Bio:
Timothy S. Miller teaches both medieval literature and modern speculative fiction as Assistant Professor of English at Florida Atlantic University, where he contributes to the department’s MA degree concentration in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Recent graduate course titles include “Theorizing the Fantastic” and “Artificial Intelligence in Literature and Film.” He has written on both later Middle English literature and various contemporary authors of fantasy and science fiction, and his book Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’: A Critical Companion will be published in March of 2023. His current major project explores representations of plants and modes of plant being in literature and culture.

Vaibhav Dwivedi

Abstract:
The Porous House: Investigating the House as a Space of the Fantastic in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

In Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (2002) the house is a significant element in the story which propels the narrative forward. In this paper, I seek to investigate the house as not just a space which hosts the fantastic element, but also as a fantastic entity in its own right. At the physical level, a house consists of a network of several thresholds – windows, doors and corridors. These boundaries act as reference points which provide a stable and coherent sense of reality. Our understanding of inside and outside, far and near depends on the inherent stability of these boundaries.

In Coraline however, these boundaries become strangely porous. The door-in-the-wall which opens up to a dark-hallway, the ever-changing primal tunnel, are some instances when the threshold becomes unreliable. When Coraline crosses the tunnel and enters the other-house, she finds herself in another room. She leaves an inside and emerges at ‘another’ inside. The spatial dichotomy of in/out becomes obsolete: since ‘inside’ does not exist anymore for her, ‘outside’ loses its meaning as well. This paper argues that the boundaries in the house do not just function as a border between the real and fantastic terrain, in face they themselves become the agent of transgression. And in doing so they threaten to make the objective reality unstable too.

Furthermore, if the self and space are interdependent entities, what happens to the former when it is deprived of objective boundaries. Does the distinction between the two collapse utterly? Coraline can interact with non-human entities in the other house. Does it suggest that the boundaries between the human and non-human have dissolved? How do we define the human then? Ultimately this paper through the work of select scholars investigates the house as an interstitial entity that defies any easy categorisation.

Bio:
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.

Xiuqi Huang

Abstract:
Boundary Between the Human and the Inhuman in Arthur C. Clarke’s and Liu Cixin’s Science Fiction

This paper will examine the boundary between the human and the inhuman in the science fiction novels by Arthur C. Clarke, a representative figure of Golden Age science fiction, and Liu Cixin, a prominent contemporary Chinese science fiction writer. The two authors are especially worth comparing because of Liu Cixin’s self-proclaimed admiration for and imitation of Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction. Both Clarke and Liu see humanity’s relocation from Earth to space as the catalyst for the fundamental transformation of the human into the inhuman, where humanity becomes equally, if not more alien than extraterrestrial intelligence. Clarke and Liu start from some common premises when dealing with this subject: they are both concerned with the theme of childhood, which establishes “the human” as a stage of civilisational childhood or adolescence to be outgrown when the human transforms into the inhuman; and they both believe in the inherent adaptability and malleability of human nature that makes the transformation into the inhuman possible. However, Clarke envisions human metamorphosis into the inhuman as evolutionary progress, whereas Liu depicts humans in space discarding their humanity as an inevitable sacrifice and moral degradation. This discrepancy in their characterisation of the inhuman is predicated on the fact that Clarke mainly treats “human” as a biological concept, in the sense that the transformation into the inhuman is characterised by liberation from human biological limitations, but Liu treats “human” as a moral concept and defines human nature by the moral values that the human race upholds. I will explore the social, historical, and literary factors that contribute to the discrepancies in Clarke’s and Liu’s understanding of the boundary between the human and the inhuman and the transgression of such boundary.

Bio:
Xiuqi Huang is a fourth-year PhD student in comparative literature at the University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on transhumanism, non-human sentience and extraterrestrial life in Chinese and Anglophone science fiction. She is keen on exploring the boundary between the human and the inhuman, in the hope of shedding more light on the ever changing perception of what it is to be human against the imagination of the inhuman.

Yimin Xu

Abstract:
Re/discovering Women in Chinese Taoist Myth: New Gods: Yang Jian

In this paper, I analyse New Gods: Yang Jian (2022), a Chinese animation film that retells Taoist myth in a post-Ragnarök-alike background. The film is adapted from The Investiture of the Gods (Fengshen Yanyi, 封神榜), a 16th-century Chinese novel that contains Taoist folklore, fantasy and myth. In this paper, I examine the relationship between the protagonist Yang Jian, a central deity member in Taoist myth, with his nephew Chen Xiang. Specifically, I focus on Yang’s gendered role as a maternal uncle to take care of and guild his nephew to rescue female family members whereas father characters in the Yang family are completely dismissed.

In doing so, I delineate the matriarchal familial relation of the Yang family in the film and how such a structure distinguishes from that of The Investiture of the Gods. Unlike the original story, the Yangs becomes one of the leading forces to build a matriarchal god order against the current patriarchal one, which explicates the fall of the deity in the film. By re-interpreting The Investiture of the Gods, the film production team tries to re-represent traditional myths with new gender relationships in the 21st century China.

Furthermore, I contextualise the film in the history of the film adaption of The Investiture of the Gods, beginning in 1999. By historicising the film, I argue the film director re/discovers ancient Chinese imagination of a celestial matriarchy buried in The Investiture of the Gods. More importantly, however, the film speaks for current film producers’ ambitions to go beyond Anglo-American fantasy-film paradigm and re-create a Chinese deity/superhero. Unlike their forerunners in the 1990s, the young generation of filmmakers intends to build a new superhero cinematic universe where the Chinese deity/superheroes, unlike those by Marvel and D.C Studios, are inherently anti-patriarchal.

Bio:
Yimin Xu is a Ph.D. student in the School of Humanities and Languages at University of New South Wales, Australia, supervised by A/Prof. Zheng Yi, Emeritus Professor Louise Edwards and Dr. Wang Ping. Her research interest is gender in Chinese science fiction, Chinese fantastical literature and modern Chinese popular culture. Her current PhD project focuses on the concept of Chinese modernity reflected from gender representations in contemporary Chinese fantastical literature. Moreover, she examines national memories of China’s semi-colonisation history in the late 19th century embedded in current Chinese fantastical literature writing.

GIFCon 2023 Keynotes and Reading Suggestions

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

Workshop registration opens on May 3 at noon BST. 

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

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Dr. Will Tattersdill

‘Breathe Deep, Seek Peace’: The Fantasy/Science Boundary, Especially As It Applies To Dinosaurs 

Will Tattersdill (he/him) is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Fantasy at Glasgow University, and the author of Science, Fiction, and the Fin-de-Siècle Periodical Press (Cambridge UP, 2016). He has taught and written on alternate history, museology, and animals in Star Trek, and is currently editing H. G. Wells for the Oxford World’s Classics series. His first children’s choose-your-own-adventure book (co-written with Sarah Crofton) will be published by Usborne this July. 

In the 181 years since they were formally named, dinosaurs have become almost synonymous with genre fiction. To find one in a text is to understand that text as sci fi, fantasy, horror; so-called realist literature stays well away from them. This is curious because dinosaurs are real – ideas extracted from the Earth, impossible without the methods and institutions of modern science. In this lecture, I’ll talk about how dinosaurs can be used to trouble the notion that fantasy always escapes, presenting the boundary between science and the imagination as pliable and generative rather than staunch and forbidding. My focal text with be Dinotopia, James Gurney’s iconic 1992 vision of a world where humans and dinosaurs live in harmony. 

Suggested Reading List

Nghi Vo

‘A Fantastic Conversation’

Nghi Vo became a writer because while there were alternatives, none of them suited her as well as a lifetime of endless research combined with simply making things up.  

She is the author of Siren Queen, The Chosen and the Beautiful, and The Singing Hills Cycle, including The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

Suggested Reading List (all authored by Nghi Vho!)

  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune (2020)
  • When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (2020)
  • Into the Riverlands (2022)
  • The Chosen and the Beautiful (2021)
  • Siren Queen (2022)

Dr. Sami Schalk

‘Reimagining Bodyminds and Liberation in Pandemic Times’

Dr. Sami Schalk (she/her) is an associate professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction (Duke 2018) and Black Disability Politics (Duke 2022). Dr. Schalk’s academic work focuses on race, disability, and gender in contemporary American literature and culture. She also writes for mainstream outlets, including a monthly column called “Pleasure Practices” in TONE Madison. Dr. Schalk identifies as a fat, Black, queer, disabled femme and a pleasure activist. 

Drawn from the book Bodyminds Reimagined, this talk will explore how science and speculative media can challenge our understandings of social issues and how these new understandings can expand our imaginative potential and be applied to real world work for social change. 

Suggested Reading List

GIFCon 2023 Boundaries and Margins Programme

Event registration can be found here
Keynotes and Reading Suggestions can be found here.
Abstracts and Speaker Bios can be found here
Workshops and Roundtables can be found here.

Workshop registration opens on May 3 at noon BST. 

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

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Tuesday 9 May 2023
18:00-18:45 Discord Welcome in our Discord
Day 1: Wednesday 10 May 2023 
9:30 – 10:00: Platform wide welcome / Opening words and explanation of the mechanics 
10:00 – 11:00: Roundtable: Researching Boundaries and Margins with Bettina Juszak, Dion Dobrzynski, Parinita Shetty, and Mariana Rios Maldonado
Chaired by Grace A.T. Worm with Deputy Chair Dimitra Fimi
11:25 – 12:40: Panel 1A         
Fantastic Liminalities         
Chair: Lucinda Holdsworth 
Deputy Chair: Madeline Wahl

11:25 Chengcheng You: Outlandish Representations: Crossing Boundaries of Species and Genres in Young Adult Liminal Fantasy  

 11:45 Parvathy R.: The Cracks Within: Liminality and Hero-making in Fantasy 

12:05 Vaibhav Dwivedi: The Porous House: Investigating the House as a Space of the Fantastic in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline 

12:25 Discussion 




11:25 – 12:40: Panel 1B      
Boundaries of Humanity  
Chair: Anna Milon
Deputy Chair: Frances Pearson 

11:25 Canchen Cao: What the “Other” Uncovers: The Periphery of the Medieval Fantasy World and Universe  

11:45 Hannah Mimiec: Won’t Somebody Think of the Children! Liminal Fantasy and Biopower in Hope Mirrlees’s ‘Lud-In-The-Mist’ 

12:05 Xiuqi Huang: Boundary Between the Human and the Inhuman in Arthur C. Clarke’s and Liu Cixin’s Science Fiction 

12:25 Discussion 
11:25 – 12:40: Panel 1C      
Dungeons & Dragons & Drawing New Boundaries 
Chair: Emma French
Deputy Chair: Anika Klose

11:25 Amy Richmond: The Living (and Loving) Dead: The Erotic Rejection of Death in Critical Role: Campaign 3  

11:45 Fiona Reid: Beyond the Table and Into the Dungeon: How Neurodivergent and Queer People Explore Identity Through TTRPGs 

12:05 Dr Dimitra Nikolaidou: Centering on the Margins: The Evolution of Fantasy Tabletop Role-Playing Games
 
12:25 Discussion 

12:40 – 13:10: Lunch 
13:30 – 14:30: Keynote: Dr Will Tattersdill, ‘Breathe Deep, Seek Peace’: The Fantasy/Science Boundary, Especially As It Applies To Dinosaurs
Chaired by Dimitra Fimi with Deputy Chair Madeline Wahl
14:30 – 14:50 Coffee Break 
14:50 – 16:05: Panel 2A      
Queering Fantasies 1
Chair: Taylor Driggers
Deputy Chair: Jiaxin Liu

14:50 Tam Moules: Flower of Knights, Knight of Flowers: Transgression of Gendered Boundaries in Retellings of the Tale of Peredur 

15:10 Mercury Natis: “And its Folks are Queerer”: Queer Marginality and the Found Family Dynamics of the Bagginses of Bag-End 

15:30 Mars Nicoli: The Sex of Angels: Nonbinary readings of otherworldly creatures in Supernatural (2005-2020) and Good Omens (2019-) 

15:50 Discussion  
14:50 – 16:05: Panel 2B      
Interrogating Fairy Tales and Folktales 
Chair: Anna Milon
Deputy Chair: Sarah Koki

14:50 Cristina Espejo: Fairy tales and Fantasy: Expanding Boundaries and Subverting Expectations 

15:10 Francesca Bihet: On the Borders of Fairyland: Science and the Supernatural in Andrew Lang’s That Very Mab and The Chronicles of Pantouflia 

15:30 Madeleine Sinclair: Fantastical Subjectivity in Rana Dasgupta’s Twenty-First Century Folktales
 
15:50 Discussion   

14:50 – 16:05: Panel 2C      
Crossing Thresholds 
Chair: Siobhan Mulligan
Deputy Chair: Annemarie Whitehurst

14:50 Madalena Daleziou: Threshold Crossing and Deconstructed Portals in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
 
15:10 Isabelle Hanshue: From Prisoner to King: Entrapment and Escape Through the Fantastic in Susanna Clarke’s Novels 

15:30 Luise Rössel: Crossing the lake – The land of the dead, resurrection, and Jesus in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials 

15:50 Discussion






   

Day 2: Thursday 11 May 2023 
9:30 – 10:45: Panel 3A  
The Political Fantastic 
Chair: Dimitra Fimi
Deputy Chair: Annemarie Whitehurst

9:30 Samantha Hammond: “To Win or Lose a Great Game”: Board Games, Seth Dickinson’s “Masquerade” Series, and Policing Fantasy’s Political Boundaries 

9:50 Louise Marchel: Revolution or Fantastic Dream? The Importance of William Morris’ ‘News from Nowhere’ in the Psychedelic Creative Landscape of 1960s London 

10:10 Esther Edelmann: Fantastic Underdevelopment in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Devil’s Elixirs and Reinaldo Arenas’ Hallucinations 

10:30 Discussion  
9:30 – 10:45: Panel 3B   
Rewriting Women in National Contexts 
Chair: Isabel Ferrari
Deputy Chair: Hannah Mimiec

9:30 Yimin Xu: Re/discovering Women in Chinese Taoist Myth: New Gods: Yang Jian 

9:50 Aicha Daoudi: Trickster Witches: The Manifestation of the Archaic Trickster Energy in Female Characters of the American Fantasy Genre. 

10:10 Ane B. Ruiz-Lejarcegui: Embracing Hybrid Identities in Silvia Moreno-García’s The Daughter of Doctor Moreau 

10:30 Discussion   
9:30 – 10:45: Panel 3C      
Crossover Audiences 
Chair: Tom Emanuel
Deputy Chair: Grace A.T. Worm

9:30 Lizao Hu: Fantasy as crossover carnival: Transgressing boundaries in Aaron Becker’s wordless picturebook trilogy 

9:50 Alvin Emmanuel Alagao: A Filipino Gamer Gets Lost in the Universe of Saga Frontier in 1998 and 2021: An Autoethnography 

10:10 James Lowder and Fergus Attlee: Fantastic Interdisciplinarity: Two Human Geographers on Makoto Shinkai’s Voices of a Distant Star and Your Name
 
10:30 Discussion  

10:45 – 11:15 Break 
11:15 – 12:30: Workshops 
4A: “Solo Roleplaying Games: History and How To” with Anna Blackwell 
Deputy Chair: Tam Moules

4B: “Writing Hybrid Genres” with Dr Oliver Langmead 
Deputy Chair: Laura Sanchez

4C: “Boundless Empathy: Exploring Non-Anthropocentric Writing” with Michael Deerwater 
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor
12:30 – 13:00 Lunch Break  
13:00 – 13:55: Panel 5A
Representing Hostile Worlds 
Chair: Isabel Ferrari
Deputy Chair: Sarah Koki

13:00 Katarina Dulude: To Refuse What Has Been Refused to You: Depictions of the Undercommons in the Future Imaginaries of Arcane and Babel 

13:20 Despoina Tantsiopoulou: Opposing School of Thought: Marginalization and the Campus in R.F. Kuang’s “Babel” 

13:40 Discussion








13:00 – 14:15: Panel 5B
Screening Fantastic Horrors  
Chair: Maria Arvaniti
Deputy Chair: Jiaxin Liu

13:00 Jamie MacGregor: Now with more blood, guts, and gore!: Horror Cinema in the Wake of Covid-19 

13:20 Eilidh Harrower: “You kids have fun” – ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ and ‘Scream’ as Reflections of Changing Generational Fears 

13:40 Rebecca Gault: A Conspiracy of Bodies: Negating Sexual Anthropocentrism

14:00 Discussion  
 
13:00 – 14:15: Panel 5C          
Renegotiating Fantastic Margins 
Chair: Siobhan Mulligan
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor

13:00 Suzanne Black: Canon(n)s in the Distance: Black Sails Fanfiction, Decolonial Gothic and the Negotiation of Canon 

13:20 Anika Klose: “My Colours Are Mine” – New Shades of Detective Fiction in Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s Catching Teller Crow   

13:40 Saga Bokne: Settler Fairies: Postcolonial Implications of Fairies in America 

14:00 Discussion
   
14:15 – 14:45: Break 
14:45 – 15:45: Keynote: Nghi Vo, A Fantastic Conversation
Chaired by Matthew Sangster with Deputy Chair Laura Sanchez

Day 3: Friday 12 May 2023 
12:30 – 13:30: Networking Event 
13:45 – 15:00: Workshops & Discussion Groups 
6A: “‘The tale is the map that is the territory’: Exploring national identity and the fantastic unknown through the Hunterian Collection” with Siobhan Mulligan and Isabel Ferrari 
Deputy Chair: Laura Sanchez

6B: “Academic Yassification: From Essay to Article, Navigating Student Publishing” with Gabriel Elvery 
Deputy Chair: Katarina O’Dette

6C: Tabletop Role Playing Games Roundtable with Andy Tytler, Misha Grifka, and Beatrix Livesey-Stephens
Chaired by Emma French
15:15 – 16:30: Panel 7A           
Gaming the Boundaries 
Chair: Rhys Pasternack
Deputy Chair: Maggie Naylor

15:15 Caighlan Smith: Colors of Compassion: Breaking Boundaries through Fantastical Empathy Play in Life is Strange: True Colors
 
15:35 Mark Hines: Stats and Soil: Race and Homeland in Fantastic Worlds 

15:55 Charlie Schroeder & Roxanne Tuckman: Grotesque Bodies and Surreal Planes: Transgressing the Boundaries of the Weird through Video Game Glitches  

16:15 Discussion 
15:15 – 16:10: Panel 7B     
Queering Boundaries 2
Chair: Maria Arvaniti
Deputy Chair: Anika Klose

15:15 Rachel Milne: We’re All Mad Queer: Breaching the Boundaries of Sanity and Sex in Wonderland and Oz 

15:35 Amber Hancock: Rejected and Searching for Home: An Exploration of Doorways and Queer Representation in Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway  

15:55 Discussion
15:15 – 16:10: Panel 7C     
Negotiating Genre 
Chair: Tom Emanuel
Deputy Chair: Hannah Mimiec

15:15 Nathaniel Harrington: “síneadh eile lenár dtraidisiún scéalaíochta”: Fantasy and “Celtic” tradition 

15:35 Anushmita Mohanty: On Why We Read Fantasy: Affective Responses as Generic Boundaries  

15:55 Discussion
16:30 – 17:00 Break 
17:00 – 18:00: Keynote: Dr Sami Schalk, Reimagining Bodyminds and Liberation in Pandemic Times 
Chaired by Taylor Driggers with Deputy Chair Jiaxin Liu
18:25 – 19:40: Panel 8A   
Embodied Fantasy 
Chair: Siobhan Mulligan
Deputy Chair: Annemarie Whitehurst

18:25 Megan Stephens: The borders of power: Superheroes and disability
  
18:45 M. Caroline McCaulay: “The Childbed is Our Battlefield”: Examining Depictions of Childbirth in Contemporary Fantasy  

19:05 Madeline Wahl: Who Is Allowed To Cast Spells?: Stuttering, Fluency, And Spellcasting In The Harry Potter Series 

19:25 Discussion 
18:25 – 19:40: Panel 8B      
Transgressing the Text  
Chair: Anna Milon
Deputy Chair: Hannah Mimiec

18:25 Cameron Bourquein:  How Do You Solve a Problem Like “Mairon”?: Exploring How Sauron’s Most Marginal Name Recasts the Lord of the Rings
 
18:45 Timothy Miller: Unicorn Variations: Continuity and Change in the Many Versions of The Last Unicorn 

19:05 Eugenia Biavati: Resisting narrative patterns: the transgressive power of Terry Pratchett’s parody 

19:25 Discussion  
18:25 – 19:40: Panel 8C   
Fantasies of Environmental Realities 
Chair: Grace A.T. Worm
Deputy Chair: Sarah Koki

18:25 Maggie White: Challenging Energy Exuberance through Epic Fantasy: A Study of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy 

18:45 Declan Roberts: Blurred Battle Lines: Analyzing Energy Analogues in Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn 

19:05 Sababa Monjur: “I Don’t Wanna Become a Demon”: Rethinking Binaries in Princess Mononoke and Okja 

19:25 Discussion  
20:00 – Later: Post-conference social [in person and on Zoom] 



CFF April 2023 Newsletter and Announcements

The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is pleased to announce that our blog here is back up after technical issues affecting University webpages. Welcome back!

Additionally, we have changed email newsletter providers. Please check your spam folders as the email may be mistakenly labeled spam. The email was sent on Monday April 3rd at 12:32pm BST. You can also find the contents of this email below.

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Welcome to the April 2023 Newsletter of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic! Please see below for our latest news and forthcoming events and opportunities: 

Future Voices of Scottish Science Fiction and Fantasy – 19 April 2023

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The last event of our AHRC-funded Research Network “Future Voices of Scottish Science Fiction and Fantasy” will take place in 19 April 2023. The Network privileges under-represented Scottish voices of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) working across different media (literature, gaming, film, art), with an emphasis on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities as well as practitioners with disabilities. In these dramatic times, we ask how creative practitioners imagine future worlds and respond to rapidly-changing global circumstances (e.g. the COVID-19 pandemic), concerns and anxieties (e.g. as expressed in the #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter movements) through SFF writing/art/creativity. Join us forour last event:

  • 19 April 2023, 6-7:30pm: Challenging the past (canon and history) in SFF narratives
    • Participants: Iain Clark, Amal El-Mohtar, Harry Josephine Giles, and T. L. Huchu
    • Book your free ticket here

In addition to these events the network is publishing commissioned academic responses, and holding online discussions on the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic Discord server which you can join here.

  • Watch our first event on Inclusive Worldbuilding in SFF across different media (October 12) here
  • Watch our second event on Representation of change and the future in SFF worlds and narratives (December 2022) here
  • Watch our third event on Representation of social issues in SFF worlds and narratives (March 2023) here

You can follow the Network on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Celebrating 70 years since J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sir Gawain lecture in Glasgow (1953-2023)

On 15 April 1953, Tolkien delivered the W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture, on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to an audience of 300 at the University of Glasgow. The essay was published posthumously, in 1983, in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Join us at Glasgow on Thursday 27 April 2023, 5-6:30pm, on-campus (Joseph Black Building) or online, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the lecture and its significance, Tolkien’s links to Glasgow, and the importance of the Sir Gawain text in Tolkien’s creativity. 

  • Professor Jeremy Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Lydia Zeldenrust, Lecturer in Middle English Literature, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Andoni Cossio, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow
  • Chair: Dr Dimitra Fimi, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic 

For those attending on-campus, there will be an opportunity to see a pop-up exhibition with documentation related to Tolkien’s appointment as the 1953 W.P. Ker Memorial Lecturer (including a hand-written letter by Tolkien), in collaboration with Archives & Special Collections, University of Glasgow.

To book your free ticket (on-campus or online) click here 

GIFCon 2023: Boundaries and Margins (10-12 May 2023) – registration open!

GIFCon (Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations) is the annual conference of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic. GIFCon 2023: Boundaries and Margins will take place online from 10-12 May 2023.

You can access the GIFCon website, which includes the themes and programmes of previous conferences, here. You can follow GIFCon on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Fantasy International Summer School – June 2023

Our Fantasy International Summer course, “Fantastic Texts and Where to Find Them: Approaching Fantasy Literature” will take place on-campus in June 2023. It will introduce students to fantasy and the fantastic, often defined as the “literature of the impossible”. Students will survey key texts across different media (e.g. by J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as cinematic and TV fantasy), while exploring critical approaches and recent theoretical debates. There is also the opportunity to have a go at writing fantasy as the course includes a creative writing workshop. 

Registration is open now until 14 April 2023. 

This is a Level 2 undergraduate course (15 credits). For further details on curriculum, dates, etc. please see here.

Stay in touch!
If you missed our previous events, you can catch up with recordings on our YouTube channel. A list of all our previous events can be found here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and join our Discord server (open to all fantasy scholars and enthusiasts worldwide!)