Exploring Cyberpunk Culture


Jack in to the matrix for a cyberpunk book launch! Join Glasgow University’s Dr Anna McFarlane via Zoom webinar at 6PM (BST) on 16th September 2021 to celebrate the launch of Cyberpunk Culture and Psychology: Seeing Through the Mirrorshades.  The book explores the work of William Gibson and the influence of cyberpunk science fiction. Anna will introduce her book, including her concept of gestalt literary criticism. She will then be joined by academic and broadcaster Dr Sarah Dillon for a conversation about the book and the journey from PhD thesis to monograph. Finally, Anna will be joined by Dr Graham J. Murphy (Seneca College) and Dr Lars Schmeink (Europa Universität Flensburg), her co-editors on The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (2020) to talk about how the book fits in to existing cyberpunk research, and the future of cyberpunk scholarship. 

Click here to book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

CFP: Dissenting Beliefs: Heresy and Heterodoxy in Fantasy

Online Conference to be held on 11 December 2021, supported by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow.

Deadline for Submissions: 7th September 2021

Organising Committee:

Dr Taylor Driggers
Lucinda Holdsworth
Meg MacDonald
Luise Rössel

Contact Email: Dissenting.Beliefs@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DissentCon/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DissentCon/

Keynote

Alana M. Vincent is the Professor of Jewish Philosophy, Religion and Imagination at the University of Chester. Her published work engages a wide range of topics relating to religion, memory, and cultural imaginaries, from commemorations of mass killing to the afterlives of biblical texts. She has published several monographs, including Culture, Communion and Recovery: Tolkienian Fairy-Story and Inter-Religious Exchange (2014), and is currently researching the way that popular narratives, such as comic books and superhero movies, shape public perceptions of post-genocide reconciliation. Born in Canada, she currently resides in Liverpool with her partner and two cats.

Call for Papers

Religious fantasy, for a great many readers, is synonymous with Christian fantasy; more specifically, it is understood as literature overtly reproducing biblical narratives within a fantasy world, such as C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Concurrently, fantasy texts engaging with theology through non-allegorical means that challenge mainstream Christian doctrine are all too often dismissed as disingenuous, offensive or deliberately antagonistic. While this is sometimes the case, such a narrow view of religious fantasy excludes all but the least innovative texts from the genre and leaves little room for authors of other faiths. Furthermore, the dominance of texts affirming orthodoxy in religious fantasy discourse threatens to blind us to another side of belief: that radical, sometimes even heretical, literary reconfigurations of religion can also be acts of devotion.

If religious fantasy is instead allowed to encompass heterodoxy and heresy, theological subversions and expressions of misotheism, then the affordances of religious fantasy expand far beyond the didacticism popularly attributed to it. Understood in these terms, religious fantasy can be used: to affirm one’s identity and spiritual worth in opposition to official doctrines which may deny it, as a tool of protest against unjust systems of power, to explore complex spiritual responses to historical instances of religious complicity in atrocities, or to express lived spiritual experiences which do not conform to orthodox teachings.

This online conference, supported by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow, aims to explore the wide ranging affordances of heterodoxy and heresy in fantasy texts across a wide range of faiths. We welcome 20-minute papers from postgraduate students and early career researchers working in any area of fantasy or theology. These papers might address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Queer, feminist and womanist theology in fantasy
  • Non-Western, post-colonial or anti-colonial heresies and fantasy
  • Misotheism, ‘New’ Atheism and Death of God theology in fantasy
  • Fantasy and interreligious dialogue
  • The affordances of fantasy in theologies of protest
  • New Media’s interactions with fantasy and theology, and how this might differ from traditional media

Please submit a 300 word abstract and a short bio (maximum 150 words) to Dissenting.Beliefs@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Abstract Submission’ by 31st August. Only applications from graduate students and early career researchers will be considered for this conference. We are particularly keen to highlight the contributions of underrepresented authors within the fantasy genre at this conference, therefore we will also not be accepting submissions on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling or Philip Pullman.

This event will take place online on 11th December 2021 and will be made accessible to the public via both zoom and the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic’s YouTube channel.

From Spare Oom to War Drobe: A report from our Journey to Narnia with Katherine Langrish

Thank you to so many of you who joined us for our journey to Narnia with Katherine Langrish last week! We are delighted to share a report on this event by School of Education PhD student Anita Lawrence. Anita tweets at @lawrea.

Sometimes when we are engrossed in the study of literature, especially that written for children, it’s easy to forget who the target audience is. Sometimes we need to step back from the application of reading theories, from the search for authorial intent and read a book again through the eyes of our childhood selves. And that’s exactly what the children’s author, Katherine Langrish has done with her evocative new book, From Spare Oom to War Drobe. Her journey through Narnia as an adult reader in conversation with her nine year old self was the topic of her talk for the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic – a journey along with which the international audience was whisked away at breathtaking speed as we revisited the books which have had such a profound impact on children’s reading, and children’s literature over the last 70 years.

Katherine described how her book came about following a series of blogs on fantasy, fairytales and folklore (steelthistles.blogspot.com) when, upon sharing the Narnian Chronicles with her own children, she found they weren’t as keen on them as she remembered herself being. Harry Potter, it seems, had taken over from the world of Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. In order to try and find out why, Katherine revisited the books to see how they had changed when reading with an adult eye. What did she remember of them from her childhood, and what new revelations would they hold for the grown up reader?

Exposure to Narnia evokes strong memories in many readers – Katherine spoke of the tangible recall of “bristly armchairs” when reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My memory of my first encounter with Narnia is listening to my mum reading it aloud to me – the books lend themselves to reading aloud beautifully and I know exactly where I was sitting and how it felt during those precious read-aloud times. I’ve read the books aloud to countless classes since then, even holding whole school story sessions to read The Magician’s Nephew to children aged 4 to 11 and I hope they remember not only the story but also the visceral sensations of the hall floor, and the swoosh of local traffic and the smells coming from the canteen as we shared the magic of the book together. Because the thing about Narnia is that we desperately want it to be real. For the nine year old Katherine, there was no option for it not to be real. “You’re meant to feel that way,” explained her mum, when the young reader expressed her belief that Narnia had to exist.

The books are explored not in order of their publication, but according to their ‘internal chronology’. Katherine explained how this approach helped to create a coherent approach. It isn’t without its problems, however, as she explained – Lewis’s eclectic take on events leaves gaps which the adult reader on revisiting can see clearly, where events and characters don’t always relate to the subsequent back story. But reading them in order of how the story unfolds made narrative sense.

Katherine talked about Lewis’s distinctive voice, explaining how his voice remains the same regardless of his audience, be they child, literary critic or Christian apologist. She suggested that he read with a child’s directness and that this influenced the way in which he wrote – was he an ardent reader of children’s books as an adult, she mused? – and compared his directness of approach to that of the medieval writer. Medieval literature, she suggested, has the same candour. It can be subtle and nuanced, but at its heart, it aims to tell a story with colour. Narnia is like that, she said.

The specialness of Narnia as a place was apparent throughout Katherine’s talk. She described the sense of longing for Narnia which forms a thread through all the books, even though the reader knows little of the history of the land at all. Lewis provides glimpses of a great and long history but little in the way of detail. And when Narnia is restored, the children are sent away leaving the land as something almost too slippery to grasp. Narnia remains on the edge of our understanding and experience; a place to be visited and to be desired, but, perhaps, not to be known. And that brings us to Aslan. The terrifying, beautiful, all-knowing, all-seeing lion who frightens us with his roars and his fearsome power, and yet into whose mane every reader wants to snuggle as Lucy and Susan did before his sacrifice at the Stone Table. Katherine talked about how Aslan’s character changes throughout the Chronicles – the lion incarnate in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe; remote in The Horse and His Boy; his late appearance in Prince Caspian as a faith character; his manifestation as the incarnation of the Holy Spirit in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; as remote, good but absent lawgiver and redeemer in The Silver Chair; and finally, in The Last Battle appearing only at the very end on the Day of Judgement. Katherine explained how she wished she could have spent more time exploring the changing character of Aslan in her book. But would the nine year old Katherine have seen Aslan changing? Perhaps not. Perhaps for a child, Aslan will always be the soft, protective, frightening but just creature that you want to hold and stroke and feel. Perhaps for the grown up, Aslan is necessarily more remote.

In exploring Lewis’s inspiration, Katherine spoke about his childhood in Ireland and the Irish imagery and scenery that comes through in the stories. There are clear influences from numerous classic texts, not least of which include Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the stories of St. Brendan. His Irish roots are reflected through the storytelling, and the sense of longing which is apparent throughout the Chronicles. But there are well-documented problems with the books – the racist undertones and the accusation that his stories are sexist amongst them. Katherine refuted the latter, describing feisty girls who hold their own just as much as the boys, and suggesting that writers envisaged their readers as either boys or girls and that the reader mentally shifted gender in the reading and read as a boy or a girl accordingly. The mental gymnastics of the child reader, accepting and internalising worlds and stories and realities which, as boring, rational adults we sometimes struggle with, are celebrated and, I would suggest, yearned for, in Katherine’s work.

The many questions from participants about influences, television and film adaptations, maps, food and imagery (there’s a whole blog to be written on the architectural aspect of the books with their passageways, attics, labyrinths and doorways!) showed just how ingrained the Chronicles of Narnia are in our rememberings of childhood readings of fantasy. As adults, we still yearn to explore all those aspects of Narnia which entranced us as children. Perhaps, suggested Katherine, writers for children are particularly skilled at preserving the child within? And whilst she acknowledged that we don’t get more than a fraction of the story on first reading of Narnia, somehow Lewis has managed to create a world which enables us as adults to return to its Chronicles and find new things which resonate not only with our adult selves but the child we preserve within. In wrapping up the session, Katherine suggested she would find it easy to go on talking about Narnia into the night. I suspect many of the audience would have willingly continued with her.

It’s impossible to put into a short blog the entire world of Narnia. Katherine has made an exceptional job of re-exploring that world in her book. What would the child Katherine make of the book, asked one audience member? She would definitely disagree with some bits, admitted Katherine! And therein lies Narnia’s, and Lewis’s power. We come at the books and the world of Narnia in multiple different ways as we grow older, as experiences change us and our view of our world. For my children, aspiring to be Harry Potter has coloured and influenced their world view – I’m sure my youngest still expects a letter to arrive from Hogwarts at any moment apologising for the delay in summoning him to school. For my children, being magical like Harry has been something to aspire to, to yearn for throughout their childhoods. For me, growing up with Narnia, it was the very fact that Lucy and her siblings were so utterly normal that made me want to be with them. Magical things happened to them – and so maybe they could happen to me as well. It’s been many years, but I remain hopeful. As Katherine explained, Lewis built on the Platonic view that, if you desire and believe in something enough, it must exist. And with that in mind, I’m off to explore the back of the wardrobe in the attic.

Anita Lawrence

If you missed this event, you can catch up with the video recording here:

More information about the book here.

You can access Katherine Langrish’s website here.

To join the Centre’s mailing list to receive newsletters about our events, activities, and opportunities, please click here.

From Spare Oom to War Drobe: A Journey to Narnia with Katherine Langrish

Join us for a journey to Narnia! In her just-published book From Spare Oom to War Drobe: Travels in Narnia with my Nine-Year-Old Self, celebrated children’s and young adult fantasy author Katherine Langrish has revisited her childhood reading of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series to explore what enchanted her in the books as a young reader, and ask whether they still have the power to do so. Hand in hand with her nine year-old self, Katherine traces many paths through Lewis’s thick forest of allusions not only to Christianity, but to Plato, fairy tales, myths, legends, medieval romances, renaissance poetry and indeed to other children’s books. She juxtaposes two very different ways of reading the Narnia stories: the adult, informed, rational way and the passionate childish way.

Join Katherine and the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic co-directors Dr Robert Maslen and Dr Dimitra Fimi, on Thursday 17th June at 5pm BST via Zoom webinar. Rob and Dimitra will interview Katherine about the book and all things Narnia, before giving attendees the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with Katherine.

Click here to book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

More information about the book here.

You can access Katherine Langrish’s website here.

To join the Centre’s mailing list to receive newsletters about our events, activities, and opportunities, please click here.

Tolkien Reading Day – Reading from The Silmarillion

To celebrate this year’s Tolkien Reading Day theme of ‘Hope and Courage’, the Tolkien Society and the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow are excited to release the second of three extracts from Tolkien’s writings. In this extract, which comes from The Silmarillion, Lúthien dares to enchant Morgoth himself. Accompanying the extract are a collection of readings in a diverse range of languages that have been lovingly created by members of the Society and Centre.

We are grateful to the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins for permission to share this extract and videos. The videos will remain live until just after the end of Tolkien Reading Day (25th March 2021). We are also immensely grateful to our amazing volunteers: Tolkien Society members, as well as students and staff from the Centre, who took the time to record our chosen extracts in French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese! Keep an eye on this blog for the extract from The Lord of the Rings tomorrow (Wednesday 24th), and you can also check yesterday’s extract and readings from The Hobbit here.

On Tolkien Reading Day itself (Thursday 25th March), don’t forget to join us and our special guests for one of our three live webinars, to share your own reading from Tolkien and discuss how his work inspires hope and courage! Here are the links to book:

Register for the Morning Session 

Register for the Midday Session 

Register for the Evening Session 

Meanwhile, the Society and the Centre will be posting about this extract on their social media profiles and you can join in by visiting the Society’s on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, or the Centre’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and share your reactions to the extracts using the hashtag #TolkienReadingDay2021.

The Silmarillion ‘Hope and Courage’ Extract and Readings

Download and read the extract from The Silmarillion here:

Silmarillion Extract (Word document)

Silmarillion Extract (PDF document)

[These extracts are no longer available to download because the permission from the Tolkien Estate has now expired]

Below are the readings that you can watch and listen to at your own pleasure.

[These video recordings are no longer available to watch because the permission from the Tolkien Estate has now expired]

Tolkien Reading Day – Reading from The Hobbit

To celebrate this year’s Tolkien Reading Day theme of ‘Hope and Courage’, the Tolkien Society and the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow are excited to release the first of three extracts from Tolkien’s writings. This extract comes from The Hobbit and follows Bilbo Baggins as he musters his courage to enter Smaug’s lair alone. Accompanying the extract are a collection of readings in a diverse range of languages that have been lovingly created by members of the Society and Centre.

We are grateful to the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins for permission to share this extract and videos. The videos will remain live until just after the end of Tolkien Reading Day (25th March 2021). We are also immensely grateful to our amazing volunteers: Tolkien Society members, as well as students and staff from the Centre, who took the time to record our chosen extracts in French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese! Keep an eye on this blog for extracts from The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd) and the day after (Wednesday 24th).

On Tolkien Reading Day itself (25th March), don’t forget to join us and our special guests for one of our three live webinars, to share your own reading from Tolkien and discuss how his work inspires hope and courage! Here are the links to book:

Register for the Morning Session 

Register for the Midday Session 

Register for the Evening Session 

Meanwhile, the Society and the Centre will be posting about this extract on their social media profiles and you can join in by visiting the Society’s on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, or the Centre’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and share your reactions to the extracts using the hashtag #TolkienReadingDay2021.

The Hobbit ‘Hope and Courage’ Extract and Readings

Download and read the extract from The Hobbit here:

Hobbit Extract (Word document)

Hobbit Extract (PDF document)

[These extracts are no longer available to download because the permission from the Tolkien Estate has now expired]

Below are the readings that you can watch and listen to at your own pleasure.

[These video recordings are no longer available to watch because the permission from the Tolkien Estate has now expired]

Tolkien Reading Day 2021 – Guest Speakers

We have enjoyed working with the Tolkien Society to co-host this year’s Tolkien Reading Day on 25th March 2021. Many thanks to everyone who has been engaging with our joint interactive social media campaign, and have been responding to the weekly prompts. If you want to catch up with all the action so far, search for hashtag #TolkienReadingDay2021.

As the actual day itself draws near, we’re proud to announce guest speakers for each of our live events on the 25th of March:

Scholar in Residence

Dr Dimitra Fimi, co-director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, author of Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), co-editor of A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, and twice winner of Tolkien Society awards for her work on Tolkien, will participate in all three events as Scholar in Residence. She is looking forward to interacting with everyone and celebrating Tolkien’s work!

Morning Meeting (book your place here)

We will be joined by Dr Anna Vaninskaya (University of Edinburgh), author of Fantasies of Time and Death: Dunsany, Eddison, Tolkien (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020); and Marcel Aubron-Bülles, independent scholar and author of The Tolkienist blog.

Afternoon Meeting (book your place here)

We look forward to welcoming Dr Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut University), who has written extensively about astronomy and science in Tolkien’s works; and James Tauber, who runs the Digital Tolkien Project.

Evening Meeting (book your place here)

In our last meeting of the day we will host Dr Andrew Higgins, co-editor of the extended edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice, and an expert on Tolkien’s invented languages; and Dr Una McCormack, New York Times bestselling author, broadcaster, academic.

Join us on the 25th of March and share your own favourite parts of Tolkien’s rich and multi-layered work and world! Here are the links to book again:

Register for the Morning Session 

Register for the Midday Session 

Register for the Evening Session 

Also, keep an eye on our blog – next week we will be releasing videos of Tolkien fans and scholars reading selected extracts that showcase hope and courage in Tolkien’s works in many different languages!

Tolkien Reading Day 2021

The University of Glasgow Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is very proud to announce that we have partnered with the Tolkien Society (TS) to host this year’s Tolkien Reading Day! 

Each year, Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March. The purpose of the event is to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages.  

The theme of this year’s Tolkien Reading Day is Hope and Courage. What will you be reading? 

We are working with the Tolkien Society to create engaging and interactive social media throughout March. Then, we will come together on the 25th of March, when the Centre will be hosting three Zoom meetings for readers around the world to share their favourite passages and react to the passages shared by others. 

Does this sound like fun? Do you want to be involved? Here are the best ways to join in the fun: 

Follow the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube and the Tolkien Society on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. Watch out for posts throughout the month! 

Share your stories, comments, and photos on any social media platform and use the hashtag #TolkienReadingDay2021. Most of all, we’d love to see videos of you reading! 

If you want to attend a Zoom session on March 25th, we have three opportunities. With sessions in the morning, midday, and evening (UK time), we hope that we can find a time that matches everyone’s time zone. Please use these Eventbrite links to register for your preferred session! (Please note that the times shown on the Eventbrite pages automatically sync to your time zone.) 

Register for the Morning Session 

Register for the Midday Session 

Register for the Evening Session 

For more information about Tolkien Reading Day, you can visit the Tolkien Society Website

The Immanent Grove: Memorialising the achievements of the University of Glasgow’s Fantasy graduates

2020 was a year for reflection. In the course of her reflections, PhD student Lucy Holdsworth came up with the idea of memorialising the achievements of the University of Glasgow’s Fantasy graduates: students like herself who had taken the bold step of enrolling on the University’s MLitt in Fantasy, regardless of the puzzlement, amusement and even disapproval such a step might bring about. Since the foundation of the MLitt (formally the MLitt English Literature: Fantasy) in September 2015, many students from all over the world have joined the programme, united in their love of the mode or genre called Fantasy, a genre that permeates the creative arts in the twenty-first century but whose study is as yet in its infancy. Many of those students have gone on to work with Fantasy in other capacities, whether as PhD students, like Lucy, or as teachers, publishers, videogame professionals, novelists, entertainers and vocal advocates. Their passion is infectious, their imagination boundless, their thinking innovative and courageous. Their work and mutual support deserves some form of recognition.

How better to celebrate these graduates, Lucy thought, than with the gift of trees? Trees permeate Fantasy literature, from the walking trees and their tree-like shepherds, the Ents, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, to the trees that populate the slopes of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Mountain; from the village trees of the Douen in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber to the mysterious branch-like lettering that obsesses a young librarian in Patricia McKillip’s Alphabet of Thorn. Forests are everywhere in fairy tales, myths and chivalric romances, and have a tendency to fill our dreams. As Ursula K. Le Guin puts it, ‘We all have forests in our minds. Forests unexplored, unending. Each of us gets lost in the forest, every night, alone’. Fantasy pays tribute to these mental forests and explores their depths.

In the twenty-first century, forests also hold the key to the future. Without extensive reforestation it is hard to imagine a way to counter the destructive effects of human dominance of the planet. For all these reasons, Lucy found her thoughts turning to a project called Trees for Life, which aims to rewild the ancient Caledonian forest by planting saplings at remote sites in the Highlands of Scotland. Planting trees for the MLitt students seemed like the perfect way to salute their achievements and to celebrate the community they have formed. No one knows where each of the Trees for Life will be; we only know that each will make a small contribution to enriching a larger whole. In this way each tree is like a student of fantasy, each of whom makes a small but vital contribution to a new but rapidly expanding field of study with its roots in the past, just as the trees we plant in their honour have their roots in soil that has been enriched by ancient leaves and branches.

Lucy explained her thinking to her supervisor, Matt Sangster, one of the founding members of Glasgow’s recently-launched Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic. Matt at once set about the process of putting her vision into practice, consulting fellow members of the Centre and obtaining funding from a generous donor to plant the first set of trees. This blog post marks the launch of Lucy’s memorial, and will be followed by an informal launch event on 24 February.

We have named our widely-scattered Grove the Immanent Grove after a wood on the Island of Roke in Ursula Le Guin’s classic fantasy series, the Books of Earthsea. Many people think that this wood ‘moves about in a mystifying manner’; but in this they are mistaken, Le Guin informs us, ‘for the Grove does not move. Its roots are the roots of being. It is all the rest that moves’. May our wood, planted in the name of our graduates who are moving on, help to move the world on, too, in a better direction.

Rob Maslen, Co-Director, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow

There is always smoke rising from Glasgow these days.

My walk to university had always been a pleasant one—under the shade of young trees by the canal, down past a dim and mysterious grove, and on towards the west end. I knew where to look for foxes and deer, made friends with the squirrels, and even tempted a bird or two to say hello.

Pleasant, that is, until the grove vanished, broken stumps torn up and turned over, all trace of the vibrant ecosystem scraped away to make room for construction.

Not long after, I moved, this time to a flat surrounded by trees almost as tall as my building—old, majestic, strong. They have been torn down too; a carpark covers their grave.

While I understood the reason—people need homes, people need schools, and they have to go somewhere—still it felt like a betrayal, and unbidden, the voice of Treebeard began to echo in my mind: ‘there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!’

I don’t have any power over Glasgow’s dwindling green spaces, but what I do have is an imagination and a community of people who, like me, were raised on stories of the beauty and magic of forests, and so the seed (sorry) of an idea began to grow.

Fantasy is often dismissed as mere escapism, but Le Guin reminds us that ‘escape is the direction of freedom’. Freedom from tyranny, freedom from oppression, freedom from our own abuse of power—once we have imagined a world in which we are free from these things, we begin to see a path towards it. Fantasy is the first step of all activism, and as such, it has an incredible power to change the world for the better. The Centre has used this power to imagine and create a world in which academia and environmentalism can go hand in hand, but it is my hope that the Immanent Grove will act as a catalyst for wider action in this vein. Tolkien said of escapism that, ‘if we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and take as many people with us as we can.’ I look forward to escaping into a better world with you all and creating a future we can be proud of.

Lucinda Holdsworth, PhD student, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow

Because we wouldn’t want to plant trees for our graduates without their permission, we’ve begun the Grove by inviting our most recent graduating cohort, the Owls, who finished their degrees amidst the complexities of lockdown and pandemic. Their names and their messages can now be seen on the website that logs the Grove’s progress. Their trees will be planted in the Highlands in the spring.

We’re keen to expand the Grove to include all our MLitt Fantasy graduates who’d like to be included: Canaries, Phoenixes, Ravens and Merlins. If you’re a member of one of these cohorts and would like a tree added to the Grove in your name, please fill out this form to let us know how you’d like to be named and whether you’d like to add a message.

Please return the completed form to the Fantasy Centre e-mail address (arts-fantasy@glasgow.ac.uk), using ‘Immanent Grove’ in the subject line.

Moving forward, we’ll also be planting trees for the current MLitt cohort (the Nightingales) and for those who’ve yet to join us. We also look forward to adding our PhD students to the Grove as they successfully defend their theses.

Matt Sangster, Senior Lecturer and Core Team Member, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow

Join us on the 24th of February for an evening of magic and nature to celebrate the brilliance of our students and the wonderful work done by Lucy Holdsworth and Matt Sangster, who made this project possible. Let’s talk about trees, fantasy, and the Glasgow Fantasy program.

Click here to get your ticket.

A celebration of collaborative fantasy storytelling: a report and reading list from the Centre’s Fantasy and D&D event

It was great to see so many people from all over the world join us for a talk and discussion on Fantasy and D&D, co-organized by our Centre and the Games and Gaming Lab. Our main speaker, John D. Rateliff, has very kindly offered us his talk for publication on our blog, which you can read here.

We are also delighted to share a report on our event by our Fantasy MLitt student Hannah Burton, accompanied by a list of titles mentioned in the event compiled by our PhD student Grace Worm.

A report from the Centre’s Fantasy and D&D event, by Hannah Burton

Like many of you, I have travelled to the lands of Middle-earth, Azeroth or the Forgotten Realms. These worlds have allowed us to escape, create agency within our own world, or in the case of Dungeons and Dragons, become a part of a world created by collaborative storytelling. In a time dominated by isolation and computer screens, Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, has become a social outlet for many, lessening the feelings of separation and isolation with role-playing adventure parties. Sometimes you just need to escape reality, even for an hour, so you can live your dream of being a bard who makes beautiful music with a priceless lute.

During lockdown, the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, co-presented with the Games and Gaming Labs, held the event “D&D and Fantasy Fiction: Giants in the Oerth” to discuss the literary inspirations and history behind D&D. Discussions began with Grace A.T. Worm, a 2nd-year PhD student, engaging the audience as the ‘Dungeon Master’ for the evening to discuss how D&D gave role-playing games their continued success in popular culture. D&D is unique in its ability to create diverse worlds that players can create through what Worm described as “collective storytelling.” This collaboration is key in navigating the game as it concerns both the absorption of D&D’s vast world-building while also creating a place for players to develop teamwork through adventuring parties. D&D’s popularity in the past decade has also been affected by Critical Role and The Adventure Zone through their visual storytelling. Worm utilised this interactive aspect of the game in her discussion, giving the audience a chance to create their own characters via simplified character sheets provided in her presentation. This small ‘one-shot’ gave the audience a glimpse into the experience of playing D&D, and how it can spark one’s imagination by simply picking a character.

After this, Tolkien scholar, John D. Rateliff, began his talk about the movement of fantasy fiction to D&D into game-inspired fiction. Rateliff contends that fantasy has always been a part of D&D as seen in the original Dungeon Master’s guide in 1979, as its core structure is heavily affected by the works of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. A memorable moment from Rateliff’s paper was his statement that D&D is heavily influenced by fantasy literature because of how permeable the borders are between the two. For Rateliff, it is these permeable borders that develop the imagination of world-building of future games and players. The last part of Rateliff’s paper leaves viewers with early images of a signpost that features Gygax’s world, Greyhawk, and Middle-earth on the same post, proving that Gygax himself created D&D with fantasy worlds like Tolkien’s in mind.

The session then moved into the Q&A, moderated by 1st year PhD student, Emma French. Topics began with Rateliff’s first involvement in D&D, to the role of violence as a driving force in D&D. As D&D was originally a war game, Rateliff notes that the game has slowly moved away from this mentality. The questions then moved onto a more heated topic in the recent months: the changing attitudes of race and diversity within D&D. This movement, according to Rateliff, will have a tremendous impact on the future of both D&D and Fantasy literature. Another notable question for Rateliff was why fantasy has been the dominant force in RPGs. For Rateliff, this has to do with fantasy being united under Tolkien as he was such a dominating force on 20th-century Fantasy: “Tolkien is such a big light in the room that it dims other lights.” This continued with other topics such as Dunsany’s influence on Fantasy, editorial work for RPG publications, and if fantasy functions differently in a game setting. The entire Q&A session with Rateliff was diverse and displayed the audience’s wide interests in learning more about the connection between Fantasy literature and D&D. 

Overall, this event provided solace and fellowship both on and off-screen. I want to end this post with a final quote from John. D. Rateliff as I feel it expresses the overall tone of the talk: “D&D starts local and small and then the world gets bigger each time you explore it.” The exploration of worlds should not only be read through characters like Bilbo Baggins and his adventure into Middle-earth, it should also be shared in games like D&D through storytelling, especially during a time that seems more detached than ever.

A list of authors, texts, game books, and games mentioned during the Fantasy and D&D event, compiled by Grace Worm

Authors:

  • Johannes Cabal
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The History of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
  • Lord Dunsany
    • The Book of Wonder, The Charwoman’s Shadow, Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley, The Dreamer’s Tale, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, The Last Book of Wonder

Texts:

  • Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
  • Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation by Mark Wolf
  • The CRPG Book: A Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games By Felipe Pepe
  • Dave Areneson’s True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz
  • “Demonizing the Enemy, Literally: Tolkien, Orcs, and the Sense of the World Wars” by Robert T. Tally, Jr.
  • The Elusive Shift by Jon Peterson
    • History of RPGs and their relationship to wargames
  • The Gentleman’s Bastard series by Scott Lynch
  • H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos by Robert Price
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
  • A Land Fit for Heroes series by Richard K. Morgan
  • Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin (or Catherine Webb or Claire North)
  • Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Time and Space series by D.J. MacHale
  • The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • “Sturgeon’s Law” by James Gunn
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • White Wolf Magazine
  • Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

Official DnD Wizards of the Coast Books:

Games:

  • Age of Heroes
  • Angband
  • Ars Magica
  • Call of Cthulhu 
  • Dragon Warriors
  • The Dungeons of Moria
  • FATE
  • Fiasco
  • Legend of the Five Rings
  • Mage: the Ascension
  • Magic the Gathering
  • Rolemaster
  • Shadow of the Demon Lord
  • Shadowrun
  • Vampire: the Masquerade

If you missed this event, our YouTube recording is available here: