Registration for workshops is now open for GIFCon attendees!
Workshops have limited availability so you must sign up in order to attend. The two workshops that GIFCon are offering this year happen concurrently on Day 2 Thursday April 28th from 11:10-12:25.
After you have registered for your workshop, an email will be sent with instructions. Registration links for the workshops are included in the programme in the conference packet but you will not receive Zoom links to join them unless registered.
Unlike the panels, the workshops will not be recorded so we ask you only register for a workshop you can attend live to allow for the spaces to be filled with active participants. Spaces are limited, so please make sure you sign up for only one workshop. Hope to see you there!
We are pleased to offer the following workshops this year:
Small Tools, Small Games, Small Memories
Up to 15 can participate in this workshop – sign up here.
When video games are discussed both in and outside of academia, one much-prevailing narrative that surfaces in conversation is that developing interactive pieces is almost always a huge undertaking requiring sizable teams of developers with decades of expertise and knowledge.
This is not all there is to video game development and video game making, however. “Small tools” such as Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy and Chris Klimas’ Twine make it possible to create impactful narrative-focused games that invite makers with little to no familiarity with game development practices to the table.
This workshop is open to those who are interested in making narrative games, but are less or not at all familiar with industry-standard technology to start. Using either Bitsy or Twine, participants of the workshop will focus on finding ways to tell an interactive story centred around a memory. They will be introduced to each tool and the simplest ways to use them, and will be invited to create their own game during the workshop which they can finish or polish afterwards. Finished pieces can then be published and displayed in an itch.io collection and the GIFCon website.
Fruzsina Pittner is a designer, writer and illustrator completing her PhD at Dundee University. Her concept art and illustrations have featured in a number of game projects, and she has worked on a number of original digital comics and short stories, as well as collaborative write-ups of research projects, and delivering public-facing and industry talks and workshops. She has a passion not only for powerful storytelling aiding social change, but for accessibility: of information, tools, stories, services and people.
Publishing Your Papers: Taking Your Student Essays and Conference Papers to the Next Level
20-25 people can participate in this workshop – sign up here.
University of Glasgow published academic Gabriel Elvery leads a workshop guiding you through the mysterious process of academic publishing – helping you to give your essays and papers the glow-up they deserve, in anticipation of finding them homes in journals or books. Gabriel is joined by the Editor in Chief of the UofG’s own student journal for fantasy, who will be available to answer questions, and tempt you to submit!
This workshop is suitable for students who are new to academic publishing.
Please bring an abstract of a paper you would like to receive feedback on and edit for publication.
Gabriel Elveryis an LKAS PhD funded researcher at the University of Glasgow. They joined Glasgow to complete their Fantasy MLitt, and prior to that completed their Undergrad Degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies at The University of Warwick. Their current research project is focused on theorising applied player-reception theory for the Digital Fantastic in video games and considering the uses of this theory as a teaching tool. They are a co-organiser of the Game Studies at Glasgow reading group, Vice Editor of Press Start Journal and a member of the Games and Gaming Lab at The University of Glasgow.
Oliver Langmead is the Editor in Chief of Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research. He is a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow, where he is researching terraforming and ecological philosophy, and in late 2018 he was the writer in residence at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne. Oliver is the author of Glitterati, published May 2022, and Birds of Paradise, out now, and his long-form poem, Dark Star, featured in the Guardian’s Best Books of 2015.
Our Fantasy and Puppetry event celebrated the art of puppets and puppeteers in bringing fantasy and the fantastic to life, on stage, on screen and on the page. If you missed it, you can watch all sessions below. You will also find here a reading list of texts mentioned during these sessions!
Fantasy and Puppetry (Film): Brian and Wendy Froud, interviewed by Terri Windling:
Bringing Fantasy Creatures to Life : William Todd-Jones, interviewed by Terri Windling:
Bringing Fantasy Creatures to Life (Theatre): Howard Gayton:
Panel on Puppets and Puppetry in Fantasy Narratives:
Puppet-related fiction recommended by the panelists
The two lists below were collated from the Zoom comments during all of the Fantasy and Puppetry sessions. Recommendations are listed in alphabetical order and are copied directly from the comments of attendees.
Join us on 26 May 2022 at 5pm BST (on campus and online!) for a public lecture by Dr Lars Schmeink, Leverhulme Professor of German Studies, University of Leeds, on “Changing the Voices of Science Fiction: The Progressive Fantastic in Germany”. The lecture will take place in Room 253 (Seminar Room 1 – Yudowitz), at Wolfson Medical School but will also be broadcast via Zoom webinar. Book your free tickets here.
German science fiction has traditionally been a conservative genre, its main authors to this day mostly white, cis, hetero males of middle age. Until recently, diversity of genders, non-heteronormative sexuality, race or varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or representations of other marginalized groups (age, (dis)ability, etc.) has been sorely missing. But there has been a concerted effort by a younger, more diverse group of writers to change the approach to fantastic literature as a whole. Under the umbrella of the “progressive fantastic”, they have called for the inclusion of other identities in speculative fiction, the strengthening of own-voices, and a keen-eyed reexamination of traditions and structures in fantastic texts. In this talk, Dr Schmeink will present the key features of this “progressive fantastic” by looking at exemplary texts of recent German SF production: Judith and Christian Vogts groundbreaking work in writing in a non-heteronormative language and presenting intersectionally diverse communities in Wasteland (2019) and Ace in Space (2020); James Sullivan’s investigation of belonging and self-positioning via Afrofuturist estrangement in Die Stadt der Symbionten (2019), Lena Richter’s subtle emphasis on (dis)abled and neurodivergent characters in her short stories “Feuer” (2020) and “3,78 Lifepoints” (2021), and Theresa Hannig’s reinvigoration of the hopeful narrative strategies of utopia as a genre in Pantopia (2022).
Dr Lars Schmeink is currently Leverhulme Professor of German Studies at the University of Leeds, visiting from his position as Research Fellow at the Europa-Universität Flensburg, where he just applied for funding for a larger research project on science fiction as a form of science communication. Before coming to Leeds, he concluded his work as principal investigator of the federally funded „Science Fiction“ subproject for the „FutureWork“ network, an interdisciplinary research group working on the development of work and society. In 2010, he inaugurated the first German academic organization dealing with research into the fantastic, the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung, and served as its president for ten years. He is the author of Biopunk Dystopias (2016), and the co-editor of Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (2018), The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (2020), Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture (2022) and New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (2022).
We are so excited to welcome our three keynotes for GIFCon 2022 Fantasy Across Media who represent a wide range of knowledge on fantasy in other medias. Here you will find each keynote’s bios and a short list of suggested readings to get to know these stars a little better before they take the stage at GIFCon to dazzle and amaze us.
Marjorie Liu is a former attorney and novelist, and is the New York Times bestselling author of the Monstress series, illustrated by Sana Takeda. She has also written for Marvel Comics, including Black Widow, X-23, and Astonishing X-Men. Marjorie teaches comic book writing at MIT, and divides her time between Boston, Massachusetts, and Tokyo, Japan.
Cáel M. Keegan is the Fulbright Canada Distinguished Research Chair of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University and Associate Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Grand Valley State University. He is author of Lana and Lilly Wachowski: Sensing Transgender (University of Illinois Press, 2018) and co-editor of Somatechnics 8.1 on trans cinematic bodies and the JCMS In Focus dossier, “Transing Cinema and Media Studies.” His writing has also appeared in Genders, Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Mediekultur,TheJournal of Homosexuality, The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Film Quarterly, and FLOW. Currently, he serves as Special Editor for Arts and Culture at Transgender Studies Quarterly.
Matthew Sangster is Senior Lecturer in Romantic Studies, Fantasy and Cultural History at the University of Glasgow. His first monograph, Living as an Author in the Romantic Period, was published in 2021, and he has three edited collections due out this year: Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900 and Remediating the 1820s (both co-edited with Jon Mee) and David Bowie and the Legacies of Romanticism. He is a founding member of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, has served on the Executive of the British Association for Romantic Studies for over a decade, co-edits the open access journal Romanticism on the Net and is one of the founding editors of the new Bloomsbury Academic Perspectives on Fantasy series (with Brian Attebery and Dimitra Fimi). In the field of Fantasy, he has published essays on Mervyn Peake, China Miéville and the power of imaginary cities; he is currently writing an introductory book on Fantasy with a focus on alterity, iteration, traditions and communities. He developed and teaches the Fantasy Across Media course for Glasgow’s Fantasy MLitt, and supervises a range of really exciting doctoral projects in the field. In 2011, he co-curated the British Library exhibition The Worlds of Mervyn Peake with Zoë Wilcox; he is currently working with the British Library on a further Fantasy project.
Our Roundtable Research Across Media takes place 10:00 – 11:00 BST on Day 1: Wednesday April 27 2022 on Zoom with the link sent via Eventbrite. A roundtable of researchers discusses the experiences, challenges, and joys of researching fantasy in media beyond literature.
Chair: Dr Matthew Sangster
Marita Arvaniti is a Greek PhD student at the University of Glasgow, investigating the representations of theatre in contemporary Faery Fantasy literature. She holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. Marita is a member of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, and the Administrative Assistant for the Once and Future Fantasies Conference. She is currently working as an archivist with Company of Wolves, a Glasgow based laboratory theatre company, and directs fantasy plays with the amateur theatre group Puck’s Players.
Marita’s paper “Finding the Cyclolotogorgocircilarizo: Folklore and identity in the fantasy plays of Xenia Kalogeropoulou” can be heard at GIFCon 2022 on the Fantasies of Nation panel on Wednesday 27 April from 14:50 – 16:05 BST.
Parinita Shetty has worked with young people and children’s books in India in various ways. She completed her M.Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies from the University of Glasgow in 2017. She is currently a final-year doctoral researcher in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. She launched a PhD podcast called Marginally Fannish to research intersectionality and public pedagogy in fan podcasts. She and her co-participants explored some of their favourite science fiction and fantasy media to co-create intersectional knowledge about differently marginalised and privileged experiences. She should currently be writing but is probably watching Avatar The Last Airbender.
Katarina O’Dette is a Film and Television Studies PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham whose research centres on fantasy television, genre studies, and media industry studies. She received a BFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California and an MLitt in Fantasy from the University of Glasgow. She serves as a general editor on Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research. Her research can be found in Fantastika Journal, Slayage, A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Extrapolation.
Katarina’s paper “It’s Not Fantasy, It’s HBO: Filtering Genre through Channel Brands” can be heard at GIFCon 2022 on the Modes of Fantasy Production panel on Thursday 28 April from 9:30 – 10:45 BST.
Emma French is a SGSAH-funded PhD student at the University of Glasgow, researching how Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) consolidates our notions of fantasy, while enabling players to subvert established genre conventions. Her work addresses D&D’s treatment of race, gender, and sexual orientation; and looks at how players are using the game to address and repair the problematic legacies present within fantasy genre-culture. She graduated from Oriel College, University of Oxford, in 2015, and from the University of Glasgow with an MLitt in Fantasy in 2019.
Emma’s paper “‘This Was Supposed to be the Evil Game!’ – Playful and Critical Subversion in D&D and Dimension 20’s Escape from the Bloodkeep” can be heard at GIFCon 2022 on the Playing the Game panel on Wednesday 27 April from 11:25 – 12:40 BST.
In this blog post, we share recommendations for fantasy works that have been neglected, overlooked, or forgotten. We hope to inspire you to pick up one of these books or stories! The recommendations here were shared in one of the bi-weekly meetings for our fantasy PhD students.
Dear reader, I know exactly what you’re thinking! Ursula K Le Guin in a blog post on overlooked fantasy works?
Yet her final fantasy trilogy, Annals of the Western Shore (2004-2007) is curiously ignored. These three novels, Gifts (2004), Voices (2006), and Powers (2007) are set in a fantasy world where both the fantastic and the protagonists are marginalised, side-lined within their own worlds. Despite each novel in the series being award winning, and despite Le Guin’s place at the heart of the fantasy canon, there is almost a complete paucity of scholarship on the series. I suspect this has something to do with their Young Adult categorisation, but maybe also to do with the time in which she wrote and published these novels. After her Earthsea novels (1968-2001) revolutionised fantasy, and the Hainish Cycle (1966-2002) asked bold new questions of science fiction, her work turned inward. After interrogating the patriarchal assumptions of the genre, she turned the critical lens on herself, to stunning effect. Always Coming Home (1985) and the later Earthsea works (2001) re-envisioned her own understanding of fantasy storytelling.
Her mid-2000s writing is rather unexamined in contrast. For me, though, the Annals trilogy suggests a calm settling of her work. All the richness and balance of her writing is still here, but in this Third Age of Le Guin, there is a settled quality to the texts: a certainty and trust in the simplicity of her sentences, and the assuredness of her characterisations. They may not have revolutionised the genre, but these three final fantasy works are ultimately amongst the most moving and readable of Le Guin’s oeuvre. A beautiful conclusion to a wonderful career, but not a complacent ending: typically of Le Guin, these are still urgent and fiery texts at their heart.
Of the three novels, I’ll highlight the concluding one, Powers, which focuses on Gavir, a young man escaping slavery in the city state of Etra. Along with her final novel, Lavinia, this text finds Le Guin delving further back for the inspiration for her setting. In this case, early Roman history provides the rich soil for a novel about how history is written and revolutions are born. This final novel, I would suggest, is the novel for today: a book about re-examining the past whilst urgently facing the future, about migration, postcolonial identity, and a personal exodus in a time of crisis. Pick these books up: you won’t be disappointed!
Tatterdemalion, by Sylvia V Linsteadt & Rima Staines
Recommendation by Lynn R S Genevieve
Tatterdemalion is a piece of speculative fiction but written in a folk-tale manner. The author Sylvia Linsteadt was inspired by the artwork of Rima Staines, who describes her paintings as ‘Waymarkers to the Otherworlds because I am fascinated by the shamanic process inherent in creating art’. What is specifically different about the writer’s process here is that the illustrations came first; Linsteadt used the pictures Staines had already produced to craft a story – and did so extremely successfully. The title Tatterdemalion is evocative of both the process of piecing together the book from scraps and one of the main characters, the ragamuffin Poppy.
There is a helpful ‘Time Line’ rather than a standard index setting out the order of events, but conversely, the story is told in a reverse fashion. A series of ‘Constellations’ are interspersed with other named story chapters. This adds to the patchwork effect of the storytelling, marrying up the disparate paintings with what could be a disjointed narrative if it weren’t for the sign posting. It is an unashamedly feminine perspective, the work of two women, involving intuition, dreams and magic.
I particularly appreciated the style of prose. The mix of an old-world lyricism within a – at first glance – dystopian future is unsettling whilst inviting a familiar warmth of round the fire fairy-tales. There is a deliberate wildness capturing the old Northern European tropes that inhabit much of Staines’ work and placed in (the more familiar to Linsteadt) California. The narrative deliberately sets out to create a future world that has been ‘uncivilised’, recognising the value of the indigenous and the marginal.
I cannot end before introducing a central character, the strange, wheeled creature that came from a painting, called Lyoobov:
‘He came on perfect wheels of skin and wood and bone; he was a leathery-skinned, ancient, trunked beast, rolling the way no orderly thing, no neat instrument of civilization, should roll.’
The impossibility of this being adds to the originality and wonder of this book and I appreciated the thread of imagination reflecting reality, a mirroring of themes held in stories, so important to humanity. The symbolism of this is held in a book within a book within a book; Lyoobov holds one, Poppy tells the tale from one, and you hold one in your own hands when you pick up Tatterdemalion.
I would recommend further exploration of Rima Staines’ work which is far ranging; married to the notable poet, Tom Hirons (Sometimes a Wild God), they have collaborated with Terrie Windling, Jay Griffiths, and Martin Shaw, amongst others.
Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw, by S.F. Said
For my neglected gem, I chose Varjak Paw by S.F. Said. This was partly because I think it’s a uniquely strange, wonderfully gothic children’s book, with a beautiful and haunting illustration style. I feel it has long gone underappreciated, ever since I first read it, aged 11. But now, reflecting back on it as a fantasy scholar, I also think the book is an excellent example of Todorov’s concept of fantastic hesitation.
This duology of books follows a purebred pedigree cat, Varjak Paw, who must leave the safety of his home when it is threatened, and travel into the city looking for a way to save his family. While exploring the urban landscape, Varjak also travels to a fantastical version of Mesopotamia in his dreams. There, he learns ‘the Way’ from his ancestor Jalal: a series of ancient martial arts techniques for cats (for Mesopotamian blue cats, specifically!) In a feline hero’s journey, Varjak embarks on a quest to learn how to defend himself, facing off against monstrously frightening cars, befriending dogs, and attempting to defeat the strange, ghostlike cat, Sally Bones, who rules the city.
The story opens up many uncertainties where fantastic interpretations can reside. We never know if Varjak is truly speaking to Jalal in his dreams. Nor do we know if the abilities of ‘the Way’ are supernatural, or simply a learned set of martial art skills, but they do seem to affect the world as if with magic. Antagonists like the Gentleman and Sally Bones also dwell in the liminal space between the mundane and the supernatural, seemingly possessing preternatural abilities. As a child, I really enjoyed how so few of these ambiguities were explained away, and now I understand that this contributes to the strange, unsettling and fantastic quality of the story.
“The Woman in Red” and “Unmasked”, by Muriel Campbell Dyar
Many think of Victorian fiction as stale, outdated, and often riddled with harmful ideology. However, this is certainly not true of all nineteenth-century literature, and there are some brilliant works which are sadly overlooked despite their quality, originality, and surprisingly pertinence in the twenty-first century. My favourite case in point: Muriel Campbell Dyar’s ‘The Woman in Red’ (1899) and its sequel ‘Unmasked’ (1900), both published in The Black Cat magazine. These two stories are not only excellent works of dark fantasy but, when read together, they also raise important issues concerning men’s attitudes towards women and accountability for their behaviour. Yet, despite Dyar’s talent and the popularity of the first story amongst contemporary readers, the two tales are little known today. Were it not for the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series – set up specifically to recover and share great yet neglected short stories – then I may never have had the pleasure of coming across her work.
The first of Dyar’s pair, ‘The Woman in Red’, features an enchanting, masked woman who enraptures the men around her after suddenly arriving at Monte Carlo with no name and only an old woman for company. With no clues as to her identity but plentiful rumours about her wealth and beauty, it’s not long before the men begin to speculate about who she might be. However, tragedy ensues after one gentleman succeeds in peering behind the mask. A year after this story’s publication, and after high demand for a sequel that ventured deeper into the Woman in Red’s secret, ‘Unmasked’ was published and proudly advertised at the top of the issue as ‘“The Woman in Red” – Unmasked!’. ‘Unmasked’ is equally well-written and reveals an excellently chilling twist that makes the reader question their previous understanding of the events in the first story, and makes a rather poignant remark on men’s mistreatment of women, one that still resonates to this day.
Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem (1915) is a story about the fluctuating lines between reality and superstition, reason and madness, and the frail construction of what we call the self. Using Prague’s streets and alleyways, with their history steeped in folklore and magic, Meyrink tells the stories of the forgotten souls of the Jewish ghetto, whose beliefs and suffering share the stage with legendary creatures such as Golems and Doppelgängers. At its core, the text poses the following questions: if you realized that in this world there is a force superior to you, to your strength and imagination, a force that steers your life in mysterious, even mystical ways, what would you do? Would you feel comforted in the knowledge that every aspect of your life has led you to this moment? Or would you cower in fear, paranoia, for there is a chance that this force is not simply indifferent or benign, but indeed antagonistic to human desires and purposes, and that resistance is futile? Beyond the plot of the novel, Meyrink’s narrative has endured a fantastic history of its own: from being the author’s most renowned novel and a celebrated piece of Germanophonic fantastic fiction at the beginning of the 20th century, The Golem was later banned by the National Socialists and burned due to the narrative’s apparently “harmful worldview”. But the text survived, and its words have inspired scholars and writers of the likes of Gershom Scholem and Jorge Luis Borges. Although obscure and in some corners of the world still unknown or forgotten, The Golem remains a seminal text in the history of European fantastic literature.
Sofia Samatar’s first novel, A Stranger in Olondria (2013), deservedly won numerous plaudits, including the World Fantasy Award. Her second, The Winged Histories, is, in my view, even better. It’s gorgeously written, deeply human and packs incredible richness into its relatively short span. One way of describing it would be as the story of a war, but that isn’t really accurate. Instead, it’s the story of aspects of conflict and its consequences that usually get left out of conventional histories and military epics. It’s told in the voices of four women – a soldier, a scholar, a singer and socialite – reaching back to their roots before the war, winding around the rebellion itself and exploring some of what happens in the aftermath. This makes for an allusive and elliptical narrative, but never a needlessly cryptic one. It’s a book about empathy, and the power of story, and the strength and limits of love. It reworks many of the pleasures of more traditional fantasies (it includes convincing political manipulations, deep histories, cryptic writings and rich romance), but it does so in ways that make these pleasures new, bringing home how differently such things can hit when we hear of them from diverse and self-aware storytellers, rather than from the avatars of a Manichean conflict. It’s intense and sad and keening and wondrous. You should read it as soon as you can.
Katharine Briggs was best known as a folklorist, President of the Folklore Society (1969-1972) and author of many books on folk beliefs about, and literary uses of, fairies. Her work includes key studies on folklore and fairies still very much cited today, including The Anatomy of Puck (1959), The Fairies in Tradition and Literature (1967), the 4-volume Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language (1970-1971) and A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures (1976), among many others. Hobberdy Dick is only one of only two novels for children she ever wrote, and is – for me – a perfect example of a neglected children’s fantasy that really does demand more attention.
The titular Hobberdy Dick is a hob, or hobgoblin, or brownie, a fairy creature tied to a domestic space, usually benevolent if treated well, though playing minor pranks (especially when disrespected), isn’t beyond such a being’s sphere of activities. Dick belongs to a house which is in transition at the very opening of the novel. Our setting is a country house in 1652, just after the English Civil War and the establishment of Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan regime. As the novel begins, the old, royalist family, fallen on hard times, is leaving, and a new, Puritan family are moving in. We have, therefore, a moment of tension between the well-to-do family’s Puritan attitude towards the supernatural (seen as unholy superstitions) and the (still very much living) folklore beliefs of their servants and workers, who know (as does the reader) that fairy creatures, witches, and, yes, hobs too, exist, and should be treated cautiously. The fact that the story is told from Hobberdy Dick’s point of view establishes the supernatural as true, and reveals an entire parallel world of spirits, ghosts, and witchcraft.
What makes this novel special is its combination of historical fiction (well-researched), Briggs’ extensive knowledge of folklore traditions (used very effectively to advance the plot), and, ultimately, the point of view of a fairy being, who plots and schemes to bring about the best result possible for its beloved home, and the human beings he favours. There’s a bit of an unexpected twist at the end, and a very moving conclusion, but I’ll let you discover this for yourselves. I think this little novel is a perfect example of rich folklore scholarship explored via creative practice, something I would love to see more of.
Creative workshops have been a feature of GIFCon since the very start and this year is going to be no different! You will find the workshop abstracts below, followed by the organizer’s bios. The Eventbrite links for registration will be shared to conference attendees closer to the date. All workshops take place on Thursday, April 29th from 11:00 to 12:15.
There are, however, some important things to note about this year’s event. Unlike the panels, the workshops will not be recorded for asynchronous watching so we ask you not to register if you cannot make the time, to allow for the spaces to be filled with active participants. Spaces are limited and we expect the tickets to go reasonably quickly. With that in mind, please only register for one workshop: they all take place at the same time and while we have no doubt that some of you can triple-monitor attend all three, we believe it will be better to focus your creative energy on one.
Well, Colour Me Brown! – A Creative and Critical Workshop on Writing Spec-Fic
The Workshop will bring together issues and questions that plague the non-white, anglophone, writer of speculative fiction, with creative ideas for addressing and resolving them in our thinking and writing. The 75 minutes will be divided into 5 parts.
Part 1 Issues and Questions: A brief overview i) Language and translations ii) Local and ‘world’ mythology iii) Audience iv) Race and representation
Part 2 Language and translations: keeping it local but making it accessible
Part 3 Local and ‘world’ mythology: how to level the playing field without ghettoizing
Part 4 Audience: to whom are you writing and who is reading you?
Part 5 Race and representation: how decolonized are we really?
For a maximum of 20 participants; group work and discussions, as well as actual writing and sharing should be possible. Participants could bring along unfinished work that they would like to work on in the workshop, but this is not necessary.
Giti Chandra is currently Senior Researcher with the United Nations University in Reykjavik, and has been Associate Professor, Dept of English, at Stephen’s College, Delhi. Apart from published short stories and poetry, she is the author of The Book of Guardians Trilogy: The Fang of Summoning (Hachette: 2010), and The Bones of Stars (Hachette: 2013), and the third “The Eye of the Archer” due out in April, 2020. Sadly, nobody cares about her first book, a groundbreaking academic work on violence, but the second one is going to be a bestseller. Giti writes poetry in April, paints on Wednesdays, has a PhD from Rutgers, and feels that people would do well do learn that a cello is not an oversized violin. She lives in Reykjavik with books, a husband, two kids, a dog, and a cat.
Alienation and homecoming – writing in English as a non-dominant language
This workshop is intended primarily for multilingual writers (particularly those for whom English is their non-dominant and/or not their first language) and/or non-Western English speakers, but everyone interested in the topic is encouraged to join.
The aim of the workshop is to construct a framework for non-standard English as a unique means of writing and storytelling derived from personal linguistic experience. We will discuss how speaking other languages can influence and complement writing in English. We will cover prose rhythm across languages, dialects, code-switching and code-mixing as well as cultural phenomena. The workshop will foster an inclusive atmosphere where we can become better writers and more compassionate readers.
The workshop can accommodate up to 10 participants.
Karolina Fedyk writes speculative fiction and poetry about lost histories, found families, and futures born out of resistance and resilience. Their work has been published in Fireside Fiction and Strange Horizons, among other venues, and they’re a Viable Paradise alum. Their debut novel, Skrzydła, was published in Poland last year by SQN Imaginatio. They enjoy knitting, LARP, and looking for owls and kestrels.
Small Tools, Small Games, Small Memories : A GAME Making WORKSHOP
When video games are discussed both in and outside of academia, one much-prevailing narrative that surfaces in conversation is that developing interactive pieces is almost always a huge undertaking requiring sizable teams of developers with decades of expertise and knowledge. This is certainly true to a certain subset of video game development—triple A (AAA) video game studios often employ teams made up of upwards of 1000 people, all of whom work in highly specialised fields to bring video games that sit at the height of technological achievement to the market.
This is not all there is to video game development and video game making, however. Over the years, more and more tools began to emerge that make it possible for non-experts to create interactive experiences that, while often limited in scope, are certainly not limited in their capability to enable the making of imaginative interactive pieces. “Small tools” such as Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy, which places its focus on low graphics exploration-based narrative games, and Chris Klimas’ Twine that centers choice-based text adventures;make it possible to create impactful narrative-focused games that invite makers with little to no familiarity with game development practices to the table.
This workshop is open to those who are interested in making narrative games, but are less or not at all familiar with the industry standard technology to start. Using either Bitsy or Twine, participants of the workshop will focus on finding ways to tell an interactive story centered around a memory. They will be introduced to each tool and the simplest ways to use them, and will be invited to create their own game during the workshop which they can finish or polish afterward. Finished pieces can then be published and displayed in an itch.io collection and the GIFCon website.
Participant number: 15.
Mode of delivery: Zoom or Discord are both fine, and I’ll be available for questions afterwards via email, discord and twitter.
Pre-requisites & accessibility: Both proposed game making tools are browser-based and low impact, no high-end PC specs necessary.
Fruzsina Pittner is a video game artist, digital illustrator and current PhD candidate at the University of Dundee. She is a member of BIOME Collective, a multicultural co-working and game development group, as well as the Scottish Centre for Global History; and her research projects bring together illustration, digital comics, computer games and afrocentric speculative literature to investigate the relationships between storytelling, interaction and social change.
Working on GIFCon2021 was an exercise in balance. Joy and frustration mingled together as we tried to take advantage of our present difficulties to create a conference that would be more accessible and welcoming to scholars based outside of the UK, while at the same time maintaining some sense of a work/life balance for our committee of (mainly) PGR volunteers.
One of our biggest sources of joy was (re)discovering the work of our amazing creative keynotes: Xia Jia, and Amal El-Mohtar, and we wanted to share some of that joy with you all in preparation for our event. So, without further ado, we’re happy to offer a small reading list, featuring some of our favourite works of those authors, available online. Think of it as a wine tasting for your brain!
We’re looking forward to welcoming you to GIFCon 2021 on April 28th, 29th, and 30th. Register now on our Eventbrite here and feel free to peruse the programme which is available here.
Adam tends to the garden. He works among the flowers where the bees dance. Around his ankles, and up his legs, and across his shoulders coils the snake, its tongue flickering in his ear…
Oliver K. Langmead, Birds of Paradise
Behind Oliver’s face is another garden, of the zoom background variety, filled to the brim with blooming digital flowers. I am thankful for that part of the online book launch experience, at least. A real garden would make my allergies act up and that would have been embarrassing. Oliver is wearing a pink velvet suit jacket, a shirt with no collar and – allegedly – matching pink velvet trousers. Rob Maslen and Colin Herd, equally dressed up although neither of them dared to go down the velvet path, have joined him. The event starts, as is traditional, with a reading.
Unlike Rob Maslen, and unlike Oliver’s MLitt cohort, the Phoenixes, I’d never heard him read any of Birds of Paradise before today, separated as we were by a zoom connection and pretty much all of Glasgow. However, prior to reading my ARC of this book (thank you Netgalley, I promise the five stars is an honest rating and not just because I know the author), my only experiences with Langmeadian writing were live readings: a sparkle of his next novel, Glitterati, at a Fantasy Reading Party at the Dram Bar in Woodlands Road, a verse or two of his epic poem Calypso in a PhD cohort meeting back when we were still able to exist in the same room with each other. Birds of Paradise surprised me with its emotion, and by its ability to evoke emotions in me. There was a scene in Birds of Paradise that made me cry and I will freely admit that I did not expect Oliver Langmead to ever make me cry.
That is not a criticism of his other writing in any way. But my opinion of it has previously been very influenced by Oliver’s live readings, infused with chaotic, high voltage energy and the slight delight in pretentiousness that he and I share (although he wears it better than me, the bastard). Birds of Paradise is very like and yet completely unlike anything I was expecting. It is a quiet book, meditative and slow-paced, and even its moments of extravagant beauty or unflinching violence (both of which can be found within its pages) were alike cushioned by the hushed tones of Adam’s voice, his heavy-shadowed presence in every single one of Oliver’s words.
Adam, as I’m sure I will not be the last to say, is a character in the tradition of Neil Gaiman’s Shadow, from American Gods. Closed off both from himself and the reader, unreliable in a way that is sombre rather than mischievous, a gentle giant carrying the world on his shoulders. I think the comparison with Gaiman’s Shadow leaves Langmead the winner. His Adam is real and relatable in a way that Shadow isn’t always, and his journey is less flashy but runs deeper. Hearing Oliver read the prologue and first few pages of his book’s first chapter was completely at odds with what I remembered from the other times I’ve heard him read. Rather than manic and energetic he was quiet, almost still, his voice steady. I have to imagine that everyone experienced this the same way I did, in a quiet room, listening to a description of the world’s first gardener.
After the reading Rob and Oliver discussed not only Birds of Paradise, but also Oliver’s previous and upcoming works: Dark Star and Metronome, his two published books, as well as his upcoming Glitterati and his PhD poem Calypso. But Adam kept creeping into the conversations like a vine, and Oliver discussed the seeds of his creation (a short story about a soldier wandering the desert rather than Eden’s clay and the breath of God) and what drew him to the character (“I like characters who are very rich and who give me a lot to work with and there’s nothing richer than a long life… Adam is interesting because he’s human”). Birds of Paradise seems to be a look into Oliver’s creative process in general, as he is constantly “trying to find fragments of Eden in the most unexpected places” as Rob put it, and Oliver agreed. He’s writing best, he claimed, when he’s miserable, finding in that emotion the need to make something beautiful, something gorgeous.
I’ve somehow gone on for almost 800 words without really talking about the event as a whole. Like most of the Creative Conversations I’ve been to it was delightful. It gave Oliver the space he needed to talk about his work in his own words, as well as Rob Maslen, who clearly loves Oliver’s work, to be his conversation partner. Other than the book itself, the two talked about the Fantasy MLitt programme, the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, the University of Glasgow, and the creative process in general. In better times, this conversation would be taking place in the chapel, and I would not be sitting in my comfortable armchair but instead somewhere near the back, craning my neck to look. Despite how comfortable my room is now, I miss the live experience. Hopefully we’ll be back next year to talk about Glitterati. I look forward to being able to see everyone’s trousers then. Until then, you can watch the event for yourselves here.
Marita Arvaniti, MLitt Fantasy graduate, PhD student at the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow
PS. In a question I very generously asked, Oliver denied basing the character of Magpie on an idealised vision of himself (albeit with worse teeth). I am still not convinced.
Anonymous – Salman Rushdie and The Eastern “Fantasy” Tradition
This paper seeks to foreground Salman Rushdie’s special relationship with Dastan-e Amir Hamza and the Hamzanama within his “Eastern literary ancestors”. During an interview about his novel Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015), Rushdie told the The New Yorker’s Deborah Triesman that he “wanted to write a modern wonder tale” like the Hamzanama or Arabian Nights and that he “felt a strong urge to swing to the other end of the literary spectrum and make up something wildly surreal.”
Hailed as “the Iliad and Odyssey of medieval Persia”, Hamzanama or The Adventures of Amir Hamza-Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction is an ahistorical and areligious narrative built around the life and times of Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad who lived in Arabia (566–625 C.E.). The first historical references to stories venerating Hamza date back to the times of the Prophet. However, through centuries of being narrated in the Indo-Persian oral storytelling genre known as dastan, history and fact have been distorted by—and perhaps subsumed into—the fantastical. Here is an uncanny world of the “strangely familiar” for the Muslim believers: a world of magic, peris, devs, jinn and talismans.
Rushdie’s characters and stories continuously cross over from the dastan tradition into his works of fiction complete with their intact histories. The reason this connection has not been studied is because Rushdie is held in “intellectual and political quarantine”1 in the geographical regions familiar with the fantasy narrative that he ‘plagiarises’ with aplomb. This paper seeks to study this space that connects Rushdie’s stories with his “Eastern literary ancestors”.
1 Warner, Marina. Stranger Magic: Charmed States & The Arabian Nights. Penguin Random House, 2011.
Viviane Bergue – Léa Silhol’s Seppenko Monogatari: Creating a Japanese Fantasy through a French Perspective
Although Celtic and Norse myth remain the major sources of inspiration for Western Fantasy, Japanese culture and folklore appear as another tank from which Fantasy writers may draw characters, alternative worlds and fascinating plots.
Hence, in her most recent narrative sequence, Seppenko Monogatari (Hanami Sonata, Gridlock Coda vol.1 and 2, Masshiro Ni), French writer Léa Silhol leaves the shores of Celtic folklore, that generally infuses her fiction, to take her readers into Japan. In doing so, she expresses her fascination for Japan and Eastern Asia both in the stories and in the discourse surrounding the books.
However her Japanese Fantasy, though particularly documented regarding Japanese traditions, society and folklore, is not free from Western clichés, namely the vision of the Japanese civilization as constantly oscillating between tradition and modernity. In her fiction, Japan becomes the epicentre of a virtual phenomenon, the rising of the Grid, a cybernetics universe in the deep Web, which some people can enter for real, while the country still counts characters who stick to the old ways of bushido and a tremendous sense of duty.
In this alternative present, the Izôkage family operates as a bridge between past and present: in each generation, its members, who are the descendants of the poet Seppen, have to face the threat of a yuki onna, a winter spirit whose love was rejected by their ancestor long ago. Connected to tradition and folklore, the Izôkages are also deeply involved in modern-day Japan, as with Fuyue, who is better known in the Grid as the mysterious hacker Neko.
This paper aims at analysing how Léa Silhol creates a Japanese Fantasy that is both documented and typical of Western views on Japan and Eastern Asia. It will examine the Seppenko Monogatari world building and its place in Léa Silhol’s fiction.
Viviane Bergue holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Université de Toulouse 2 (France). Her PhD research work focused on the centrality of the quest motif in Fantasy fiction. She published a revised version of her dissertation in 2015 under the title La Fantasy, mythopoétique de la quête. She is the founder and editor of the biannual journal Fantasy Art and Studies. As an independent scholar, she has published papers on Urban Fantasy, time in Fantasy fiction, and the works of Léa Silhol.
Sara González Bernárdez – Fantasy and the Ideological Stance: Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver
Fantasy has long been considered a marginalised genre, generally underappreciated as an object of serious academic study; one might argue that such a marginal position would make the genre particularly suitable for the expression of equally marginal identities. Interestingly, however, the most canonical works of the genre (touched by the ever-present influence of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work) are often marked by the persistence of the hegemonic, white, male, heterosexual subject, accompanied by considerable Western-centric inspirations for their worldbuilding and fictional folklores.
Nonetheless, contemporary fantasies seem to be straying away from this influence, using non-white, non-Western cultures as a source of inspiration for their fantasy worlds – and, perhaps more importantly, as a subtle critique to the above-mentioned tendencies. This paper would like to focus on Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver (2019) as an example of this. Though Novik is an author of American origin, her fantasies are heavily influenced by her Lithuanian-Polish ascendency; Spinning Silver, her second standalone novel, can be considered a conscious deviation from the traditional, Western canon by expressing an implicit, yet obvious ideological stance.
Therefore, the objective of this paper is to provide an examination of the novel’s commentary on gender and religion-based discriminations, focusing on Novik’s use of Eastern European folklore and her direct inclusion of Judaism within the fantasy world of the novel. This analysis shall hopefully show how approaching fantasy from this point of view serves to create more inclusive and agential representations of otherness, as well as open new possibilities for the exploration and critique of power relations within and through the fantasy genre.
Ms. Sara González Bernárdez is an English Philology graduate at the University of Santiago de Compostela, where she is currently undertaking a PhD in English Studies. She is now set to remain at the University of Glasgow for a research stay of three months under the supervision of Dr Dimitra Fimi. Her thesis project deals with fantasy and the possibilities which it affords for the representation of marginalised identities, focusing especially on the case of women as an example. She has recently had been published on the ESSE Messenger and the Spanish journal Brumal: Research Journal on the Fantastic.
Anindita Bhattacharya – The Hungry Child: The Postcolonial ‘Fantastic’ in Irish and Bangla Children’s Literature
Louis Vax in L’art et la littérature fantastique states that fantastic finds its moment when the imaginary rends apart the real, establishing the real as a “monstrous parody” and subverting the normative. Authors of Anglophone and vernacular literature have often used the fantastic narrative to address issues of colonisation, trauma, diaspora etc. This paper will look at certain constructions of the ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ and the role of the ‘fantastic’ and the supernatural apparatus in propitiating these constructions vis-à-vis food or the lack of it in colonial fiction of Ireland and India (Bengal) in Padraic Colum’s adaptation of the ‘the king of Ireland’s son’s myth (1916) and Upendrakishore Roychowdhury’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1915). In Padraic Colum’s version of the Irish myth the image of a barren, stony, and crop-less Ireland is invoked again and again. The narrator tells us if the Enchanter of Black Backland is disobeyed by the people of Ireland, the soils of the land won’t produce any crops and the cattle any milk. In the wake of the Irish famine and its devastating aftermath on the Irish people, this retelling assumes a heightened significance. The story of Goopy and Bagha is an adaptation of an old village folklore about two simpletons, a singer and a drummer, and their supernatural encounter. In this story Goopy and Bagha, with the help of the supernatural agency, avert a war between two powerful kingdoms by offering food to the esurient king’s oppressed and starving subjects. It is a story that was written at a time when colonial India was struggling to supply men and resources to fight Britain’s wars and there was widespread scarcity of food and means to livelihood. This paper also analyses the role of the ‘fantastic’ in the production of a national literature that sometimes panders to and sometimes subverts the Anglican metanarrative.
Anindita Bhattacharya is a doctoral fellow at the Department of English at Dublin City University. She is a recipient of the Ireland India Institute fellowship, 2017-2021. She is interested in children’s literature, young adult fiction, comparative literature, and post-colonial studies. Her articles have been published in various academic journals and books. She is an avid reader, a blogger, and a supporter of diversity and inclusivity in Anglophone and vernacular children’s literature. Victoria Bovalino – “Nothing is dead here”: Variations of life and the ecoWeird in Catherynne Valente’s Deathless (2011). This paper examines Catherynne Valente’s novel, Deathless (2011), through the dual perspectives of the ecoWeird and Russian naturalism. Retelling the Russian folk tale of Koschei the Deathless, the novella follows Marya Morevna as she transforms from a precocious youth to the Tsarevna of Life. Integral to this change is Marya’s integration into Buyan, the Country of Life. Blurring the boundaries between life and death, nature and culture, and the natural and the unnatural, Buyan weirds traditional conceptions of landscape as passive and inert.
In Buyan, everything is living: “the houses and halls … patched together from the skins of many exotic and familiar beasts” (2011: 88); “fountains spurted hot, scarlet blood into glass pools” (2011: 88). Refusing “to accept the Natural as ultimate or identical with reality” (Tabas, 2015: 4), Valente’s work enters the domain of weird fiction. Buyan echoes the natural world of human and nonhuman biology, yet subverts it by fashioning these into non-sentient objects considered testament to anthropocentric progress (i.e. architecture). In doing so, she draws attention to the false dichotomy drawn between humans and their surrounding environments, where we are surrounded by life and death on a daily basis, yet remain able to distance ourselves from it.
Employing Timothy Morton’s theory of dark ecology alongside close reading of Valente’s original text, this paper thus intends to explore Deathless through the lens of Weird fiction. Through the language of the grotesque, the Country of Life becomes not only alive, but hyper-sentient. As such, Buyan mirrors the version of living embodied by Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and reveals a deeper sense of Russian naturalistic thought.
Victoria Bovalino is a creative writing and practice-based PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research focuses on young adult fantasy literature inspired by Russian folklore. Tori has previously edited fiction for Profane Journal, Typehouse Magazine, and The Shanghai Literary Review. She has also briefly worked with Autumn House Press (Pittsburgh), Enitharmon Press (London), and Hikari Press (London). Her creative and critical work has appeared in ANGLES Literary Magazine and The Coal Hill Review, among others. Nicole Brandon – Baby Yoda is Native: how Indigenous Peoples of North America are making meaning out of Star WarsThere is something not only special, but radically and specifically effective about how Star Wars is adopted and articulated by Indigenous fans and creators in North America. To encounter a creative work incorporating Star Wars into those art forms, cultural settings or spiritual practices is more than novel or interesting – it is an illuminating and affecting example of how a work of fantasy can be tasked to support the real-lives of marginalized, maligned and oppressed peoples.
You can use Star Wars metaphors or motifs to kind of reel people in to educate them, to let them see what’s happening, or see what happened before, say, in history, — Ryan Singer, Navajo artist.
This paper aims to briefly introduce an overview of this phenomenon taking place throughout the Star Wars franchise (1977 – onwards), and then go into greater depth with a case study of ‘Native Baby Yoda’, the most well-documented and recent example arising from the character of The Child, season one of The Mandalorian (2019). The case study will use of original and published interviews, digital ethnography and field research.
Having contextualized Native Baby Yoda, the paper will then utilize Stanley Fish et al’s Reader Response theory – in particular the concept of Interpretative Communities – to explore how Native Baby Yoda is an example of the ‘reading’ of Star Wars enabling a specific articulation of multiple elements of Indigenous identity. The paper intends to show the effectiveness of this action in showcasing not only the specific qualities of these Star Wars fan cultures, but how these fan cultures impact upon Indigenous and non-Indigenous fans of Star Wars by centering and cherishing Indigenous experiences and culture in acts of generosity, fun and pride.
Nicole Brandon is a PhD researcher in English Literature at the University of Dundee. Her PhD is titled ‘What We Dream Comes to Fruition: Diversity, Artificial Intelligence, and Science Fiction’ and explores how AI is depicted in science fiction around the world and the impact this has on the creation and reception of AI in reality. She has degrees in Anthropology (University of Durham), Scots Law and Creative Writing (Edinburgh Napier University). Her anthropology dissertation was based upon her field work with Indigenous Peoples in Western Canada. Her twitter is @puretemerity. Chloé Germaine Buckley – Magical Thinking, Speculative Entanglements: Animism in Fantastika Literature Despite it being dubbed “crazy” and “esoteric”, Western philosophers and scientists are coming around to the doctrine of panpsychism. Panpsychism is a set of theories that posit consciousness or experience as intrinsic to all matter. Of course, such a view of reality has long been held by animist societies across the globe. This paper brings western proponents of panpsychism (e.g. Strawson, Goff) into dialogue with decolonial anthropology from the global south that values animist ontologies (e.g. Viveiros de Castro, Kohn). I promote this dialogue through a reading of contemporary Fantastika literature. Harry Garuba’s (2012) work on animism as vital for decolonising thought has recently been brought into literary studies and ecocriticism (Duncan, 2018). Building on this, I read animist insights through two contemporary Fantastika novels – Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch (2011) and Melvin Burgess’s The Lost Witch (2018). The former synthesizes Yoruba, Igbo and other African mythologies, while the latter locates witchcraft in a British folkloric tradition. Both texts endorse an animist world-view or ontology. Witchcraft in Fantastika also inherits a long-standing connection between ‘woman’ and ‘nature’, one that all too often evokes pernicious dualisms (nature/culture or human/animal) – the Great Divides (Latour). Okorafor and Burgess figure the witch in ways that trouble such dualisms, and which echo efforts by so-called ‘new animists’, ‘new materialists’ and ‘eco-feminists’ to address human and other-than-human animals’ embeddedness in materiality. Witches are thus a ‘wild category’ (Haraway, 2016) that refuse anthropocentric concepts of nature. Such ethical and ecological concerns are neglected in theorisations of pan-psychism, so part of the work of this paper is to make the case that western philosophers must heed the imaginative and theoretical work happening outside their typically closed sphere. Fantastika is one important site for this work. These texts point to ontoethical propositions and possibilities, working away at the Great Divides to imagine a different ecology to that in which the Western imaginary currently remains bound.
Chloé Germaine Buckley is a Senior Lecturer Manchester Metropolitan University and member of the Centre for Gothic Studies and the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies. She has published widely on gothic, horror and fantasy, including the monograph Twenty-First-Century Children’s Gothic (EUP, 2017). She’s an expert peer reviewer for several journals, including Fantastika. She is working on a second book titled The Dark Matter of Children’s “Fantastika” Literature: Speculative Entanglements for Bloomsbury.
www.chloegermainebuckley.com | @gothlit_chloe Bettina Burger – “I will give you a story” – Oral Storytelling and Black Leopard Red Wolf’s Multivocal Fantasy Quest On the blurb of Marlon James’ Black Leopard Red Wolf, Neil Gaiman says that the novel – the first in a trilogy – is “as well realized as anything Tolkien made”, and The Spectator entitles its review on the novel “Tolkien in Africa”. Indeed, James’ plot includes a fellowship and a quest as well as the “stepped journey” W.A. Senior identifies as a “structuring characteristic of quest fantasy. Yet James himself reminds readers in an interview with The Guardian that not every writer has the same reference points and that writers from outside the western world may only have access to “whatever cheap crap got dumped on the third world” and that there is more X-Men than Elves in Black Leopard Red Wolf.
The author’s word, however, is not needed to see that Black Leopard Red Wolf is more than just an African adaptation of a well-known fantasy formula. It may refer to the classics in some ways – containing a quest, following the well-known fantasy publication format of a trilogy – but it does so in a unique form that does not follow any preconceived notions of what a fantasy novel should look like.
In this paper, I will analyse the novel’s narrative form and explore how the use of oral storytelling markers destabilises the very form ‘fantasy novel’ and highlights a multiplicity of voices and narrative levels that goes beyond the polysemous narrative threads that some quest fantasies display, albeit neatly separated into different chapters.
Bettina Burger completed her B.A. degree in English Studies and History at Heidelberg University in 2012. In 2013, she graduated with an MSc degree in the course “Literature and Society: Enlightenment, Romanticism and Victorian Literature” from the University of Edinburgh and her thesis focused on 19th-century children’s literature and morality. She also gained an M.A. at Bonn University in 2016, where she researched the representation of women in fantasy literature. Currently, Bettina Burger teaches Anglophone Literatures at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, where she is also working on a fantasy literature PhD thesis. Her research interests are varied and include postcolonial and global literature, fantasy literature and science fiction, and Scottish literature. Andrew M. Butler – ‘Green-Clad Semi-Darkness’: Fantasizing the Art of Nikolai AstrupFarah Mendlesohn offers a taxonomy of four kinds of fantasy in her analysis in Rhetorics of Fantasy, with passing references to painting. Many of her examples are British or American and these texts can be read as constructing an ideological mythology for their respective nationalities. I wish to extend her analysis to a visual artist who is non-anglophone, whose work also offers a sense of a national identity. Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928), a near-contemporary of the more famous Edvard Munch, stands halfway through the two-hundred-year history of Norwegian painting that is by turns sublime, uncanny, realist, symbolist, fantastical and abstract.
Astrup took as his primary subject his surroundings in Jølster – landscapes, mountains, gardens, festivals and interiors around him – simultaneously producing quasi-realist representations and fantastical or uncanny invocations of trolls, snow queens and deceased friends. His work oscillates between Mendlesohn’s modes of intrusive and immersive fantasy, juxtaposing fairy tale and Christian imagery into his present-day surroundings. His studied naiveté offers animorphic landscapes which are immersive through their use of pagan history, Christian iconography and Norse mythology and intrusive through their invocation of mysticism, ungodliness and raw hedonism.
In the process he melds pagan and Christian values in the ideological and aesthetic construction of a version of Norwegian national identity that Dag Thorkildsen identifies as based on based on national history, the Constitution, nature, the national industries (agriculture, mining, fishery, forestry) and folklore” and art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon characterises as “Hardness, sharpness, clarity … Pride tempered by a sense of living at the margins, anxiety, loneliness, melancholy […] an absolute determination to endure, come what may”.
Dr Andrew M. Butler is the author of books on Philip K. Dick, Cyberpunk, Film Studies, Postmodernism, Terry Pratchett and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He is also the author of Solar Flares: Science Fiction in the 1970s and coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, among other anthologies. He is managing editor of Extrapolation and teaches media and film studies at Canterbury Christ Church University. He is the Chair of Judges for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. In his spare time he collects shiny trousers. Catherine Butler – “I’m Going to Become a Witch Here!”: Britain as a Place of Magical Education in Japanese Fantasy Britain and Japan have long had a mutual fascination, fuelled by some apparent similarities (both are island nations, both share obsessions with tea, queues, gardening, politeness, etc.), as well as some startling differences. Fantasy has been a mode of understanding by which each has understood the other. In Gulliver’s Travels, Japan (then barred to foreigners) was the only real country among the fantastic destinations visited by Lemuel Gulliver; while British visitors to Meiji-era Japan repeatedly had recourse to Through the Looking Glass to describe its “reversed” reflection of their own experience. For their part, the Japanese have often viewed Britain through the prism of its fantasy works, especially those written for children – from Alice and Peter Rabbit to Harry Potter.
This paper will discuss two such works: the anime franchise Little Witch Academia (Yoh Yoshinari, 2013-17), and the manga The Ancient Magus’s Bride (Kore Yamazaki, 2014-present). In both, the protagonist is a Japanese teenager who comes to Britain in order to be inducted into magic – one as a witch at Luna Nova Academy, the other as the apprentice of non-human mage named Elias Ainsworth. Both frame Britain as a place of deep magical traditions, and both do so by drawing on British fantasy and school literature (notably Harry Potter and Enid Blyton) and folklore. Both also engage with the geography of Britain, portraying fantasy versions of specific British locations. Glastonbury – aka ‘Blytonbury’ – is the setting of Little Witch Academia; and the Cotswolds of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, although in neither case are these places named. The occidentalist gaze that Japan’s fantasists direct to Britain is enlightening both in itself and as a study to set against portrayals of the ‘exotic’ in British fantasy.
Catherine Butler is Reader in English Literature at Cardiff University. Her academic books include Four British Fantasists (Scarecrow/ChLA, 2006), Reading History in Children’s Books (with Hallie O’Donovan; Palgrave, 2012) and Literary Studies Deconstructed (2018). She has also co-edited several academic collections, including Modern Children’s Literature (with Kimberley Reynolds, 2014) and essay collections on Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman. She is also the author of six fantasy novels for children and teenagers. Catherine is Editor-in-Chief of Children’s Literature in Education. Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso – Tracing the Genealogy of African Speculative Fiction Outside the Western Gaze Many critics discuss African SF as coming from the same genealogy to the Western SF in which the only uniqueness of African SF to the Western SF is the alterity. Take, for instance, Matthew Omelsky (2014:38) analysing of two African SF texts. He writes :
“As related as Kahiu and Okogu’s works may be to European and American speculative fiction, however, they are clearly African texts…. They recycle many of the existing tropes and conventions of Euro-American SF and insert them into distinctly African cultural geographies”
This Omelsky’s method of reading is grounded in the postcolonial theory of ‘writing back’ in which the emergence of African SF can only be accounted for by the need ‘to fuck with’ colonial narrative to use Nalo Hopkinson (2004:9) words. In this sense, the Euro-American text is the master template in which African SF is built upon. But Africa SF has a different genealogy that goes back to African orality (Ogundele 2002, Quayson 2009, Ryman 2017) in what Nnedi Okorafor calls Organic fantasy (2009).
What I will do in this paper is to trace this genealogy of African SF and the ethics of eco-democratic socialism of ujamaa that underpins it. I will highlight how colonial institutions from the 1950s curated an African literature that suppressed this genealogy and foregrounded the current tradition of analysis in which the role of African SF is to be the alterity of the West.
Hopkinson, N (2004) So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, Arsenal Pulp Press
Omelsky, M. (2014) “After the End Times”: Postcrisis African Science Fiction. Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 1(1), pp 33–49 Cambridge University Press
Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso is a Ph.D. candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research focuses on the impact of postcolonial theory on the evolution of Africa Speculative Fiction. A collection of his short stories, Haunted Grave and Other Stories was published by Parallel Universe Publications. Gina Cole – Wayfinding Pasifikafuturism: An Indigenous Science Fantasy Vision of the Ocean in Space Few Māori or Pasifika authors take up the challenge of writing science fantasy space stories. In researching the reasons for this absence, the work of Afrofuturist scholars and writers is instructive. They have paved the way in mapping alternative cultural cartographies that use technoscientific storytelling to imagine new futures in the afterlife of slavery and the deliberate colonial attempt at erasure. Afrofuturism has inspired Indigenous scholars and authors to interrogate the effects of colonialism and neocolonialism in their production of futuristic stories, science fiction, science fantasy, and academic discourse. Accompanying these developments is a growing network of Indigenous fictive kin with similar analyses of the effects of colonialism on their cultures.
How can science fantasy supply a lens through which to examine the histories and ancestral knowledge of Māori and Pasifika peoples adversely impacted by colonialism? Māori and Pasifika peoples are not currently represented in any meaningful way in the science fantasy genre. To be excluded from such a huge arena of cultural production is another form of colonial erasure. Critical and creative production of Pasifikafuturist theory and story is remedying this exclusion and erasure.
This paper discusses the development of “Pasifikafuturism”, a theoretical construct inspired by Afrofuturism and its Indigenous fictive kin, situating Māori and Pasifika science fantasy in the afterlife of colonisation. Pasifikafuturism challenges the inherent colonialism of the science fantasy genre and its norm of the white, male, heteronormative, cisgender point of view.
This paper looks to Māori and Pasifika culture, our past, our cultural practices, our Indigenous science, and specifically our ancestral navigational knowledge of wayfinding across the vast Pacific Ocean entity, as providing us with an imaginative metaphor for finding our way in the present and envisioning transformative future pathways in our writing.
Gina Cole(from Aotearoa, New Zealand) is of Fijian, Scottish, and Welsh descent. Her collection, Black Ice Matter won Best First Book of Fiction at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She has a forthcoming SFF novel, Na Viro. She has participated in Auckland Writers Festival, Same Same But Different LGBTQI Writers Festival, and CoNZealand 2020. She holds an LLB(Hons), a masters in jurisprudence, and a masters in creative writing from Auckland University. She is an Honorary Fellow in Writing at Iowa University and completed a PhD in creative writing from Massey University in 2020 researching Indigenous science fantasy.
Pronouns: She/Her Sarah Courtis – Performing Diversity: myths and fantasies in musical theatreMuch like fantasy, musical theatre is an anglocentric artform which struggles to tell diverse stories, despite the potential it has to cross boundaries and borders. However, musical theatre is at its heart an immigrant artform and has slowly been embracing marginalised voices to ‘tell the story’ and create performances by and for ethnic minorities. Multi-lingual texts such as The Band’s Visit and Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish and imaginative historical reinventions such as Hamilton are proof that critical and creative success in this field are possible.
In this paper I will discuss the intersection between fantasy and musical theatre, examining the physical representation of marginalised audiences through casting choices, musical styles and the stories being told. From The Wiz, to Once on This Island, to Hadestown, musicals which attempt to create safe spaces and tell diverse stories using myth and fantasy do exist. However, they risk pandering too much to anglocentric audiences, by retelling and reappropriating stories such as The Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid and Greek mythology they are already familiar with, rather than risking a story which would be considered ‘new’ to a white-dominated space. I will examine and problematise these choices and consider how the progress being made can continue to push boundaries.
Dr Sarah Courtis is an early career researcher in theatre and drama at Murdoch University. Her thesis 2084: A Study of the Lyric in Musical Theatre examined contemporary musical theatre adaptations with a focus on lyric theory and audience reception. Her other academic interests include Tolkien studies, Shakespeare, mental health in academia and Learning and Teaching. Madalena Daleziou – “This Land Doesn’t Die […] It Lives on Like This. Like a Fairytale”: Topography, Identity and Recovery through the Fantastic in Elias Venezis’ Aeolian Earth. In Elias Venezis’ 1943 historical novel, Aeolian Earth (Αιολική Γη), Asia Minor–as it was before the forcible expulsion of its Greek populations in the early 1920s–is represented through literary devices that stretch reality, bordering towards magic(al) realism as discussed by Maggie Ann Bowers. While Aeolian Earth is not a fantasy novel as such, the child narrator encounters the fantastic at a metatextual level through stories by or about other characters, most of which fall under the speculative umbrella, from creation myths and demotic songs to retold fairytales. As Cadbury observes, many of these stories are associated with exile, foreshadowing the Greek populations’ tragic relocation and allowing for the fantastic to be retrospectively interpreted as an attempt to recover the lost homeland (27). Moreover, throughout the narrative, Greece is both lovingly mythologised by locals and exoticized by others as a mythical land, a fact highlighted when a Scottish character experiences it by reading classical texts.
Partly using concepts from J. R. R. Tolkien’s essay, On Fairy Stories, this paper considers manifestations of the fantastic in Aeolian Earth, taking into account the national identities and geopolitical conditions that created them. By analysing the novel’s metatextual fantastic tales as fairy stories, I will examine the extent to which these Greek tales function as recovery, escape, or consolation–and for whom.
Bowers, Maggie Ann. Magic(al) Realism. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Cadbury, Alison. “Against Return: Genre and Politics in Elias Venezis’ Aeolian Earth.” A Semiannual Scholarly Review Leyed to the Greek Experience of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, vol. 27, 1992, pp. 27-39.
Madalena Daleziou (she/her) earned her BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Athens. She then studied the Fantasy Mlitt at the University of Glasgow. Her dissertation focused on wolf and human encounters in contemporary fantasy. Other research interests include children’s and YA fantasy, body politics in manga and anime, and dystopian literature. She is currently editing her neo-Victorian fantasy novel. She can most often be found in a bookshop or behind a keyboard, writing stories with too many ghosts. E. Dawson Varughese – ‘Linguistic Oscillation’ or ‘how language harnesses the ability to shape which reality is seen’ in Tashan Mehta’s The Liar’s Weave (2017) This paper explores the idea of movement, namely oscillation, in Tashan Mehta’s English language novel, The Liar’s Weave (2017). I trace the oscillation of language as movement between familiar terms and invented terms. Although written in English, Hindi, Marathi, and Parsi/Zoroastrian terms are used generously throughout the novel as well as Sanskrit or Sanskrit-inspired terms, the latter being Mehta’s own linguistic inventions. I explore how Zahan Merchant, the novel’s protagonist with his unique ability to verbally lie new realities into existence moves between the real and unreal, the known and the unknown, as well as act as an agent of free will within a system that precludes such agency. It is through creative and newly formed words/terms that the novel explores how language harnesses the ability to shape which reality is seen. With Zahan’s lies, supposedly a mere locutionary act, the world is changed. Crucial to the idea that language shapes what we “see” (what we perceive to be “true”) is the fact that Zahan, the one who tells the lie, cannot “see” (in terms of his sight/ vision) the reality that results from his lie. As an extension of this idea, specifically that language in Mehta’s novel shapes what we “see”, I suggest that Mehta’s use of code-switching and the ambiguity around the meaning of some of her invented terms (due to issues of transliteration) unsettles established “ideas of Indianness”. Indeed, the speculative register of The Liar’s Weave (2017) allows for the destabilising of a cultural-religious hegemony out of which narratives of difference and eclectic ideas of Indianness are produced.
E. Dawson Varughese’s research explores literary responses to post-millennial New India, in doing so her work engages with the various experiences of living in urban India and evolving ideas of ‘Indianness’. In 2016 Genre Fiction of New India: post-millennial receptions of ‘weird’ narratives was published by Routledge and in 2018 Palgrave published Visuality and Identity in post-millennial Indian graphic narratives. She is currently extending her work on Indian speculative fiction and its intersections with precarity, urban living and ideas of Indianness as a monograph for Bloomsbury.
An independent scholar, she divides her time between the UK and India. She is a Senior Fellow at Manipal Centre for Humanities, Manipal, India where she works part of the year. See her work at beyondthepostcolonial.com. Namrata Dey Roy – Confronting the Other: Voice and Language in Meg Vandermerwe’s The Woman of the Stone Sea. Written in English and translated in Afrikaans as Die Vrou van die Klippesee, Meg Vandermerwe’s The Woman of the Stone Sea (2019) narrates a magic realistic story about the consequences of an encounter between a fisherman named Hendrik and a visvrou (mermaid). The amalgamation of magic and realism of this gripping narrative forces the readers to respond logically while stimulating a “willing suspension of disbelief” for the fantastic narrative. Reinterpreting the western literary trope of the mermaid and the fisherman against the backdrop of South Africa, Vandermerwe explores different dimensions of otherness and in doing so, challenges the Anglocentric presumptions about the other. Rather than flatly adopting the western concept of the mermaid, popularised by Stories like Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” and different media representation, Vandermerwe combines it with the “water people myths” of the South African amaXhosa and Karoo communities. However, the narrative stops being just a modern interpretation of the western myth of the mermaid and the fisherman, as the writer focusses on the deep-rooted problems of South Africa by exploiting and reinterpreting the myth. This novel does not overtly define or construct the other. Rather, the gradual unfolding of the difference between the self and not-the-self, human and non-human problematises the other. The magic realistic rendition of the story enables the author to enhance the tension surrounding the discourse of the other and the othering process. Discussing the complex process of othering in this text, this essay argues that the confrontation with the other in this fantastical narrative opens up crucial postcolonial issues surrounding silence, voice and above all language.
Namrata Dey Roy is a doctoral candidate of English Literature at the English department of Georgia State University, USA. Her research interest is postcolonial literature and theories, with a focus on South African Anglophone writers. She works as a teaching assistant and writing studio consultant at GSU. She completed her bachelor’s degree (English Honors) from Presidency College, Calcutta and Masters from Calcutta University, India. She completed her M.Phil from Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta. She has presented papers at several national and international conferences (SAMLA, BCPS) and has publications online and offline. Atli Dungal – The Anglocentric Protagonist: Cultural Tourists in Fantasy Literature David Eddings’s The Malloreon, Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times, and Jim Butcher’s Princeps’ Fury all feature Anglocentric protagonists whose journey across their respective continents—as well as through their respective storylines—into non-Anglocentric territories. While all three protagonists come into contact with previously unknown societies and cultures in these travels, the narrative continually presents the non-Anglocentric as exotic or foreign through the narrative voice of, or focalization through, the characters firmly anchored in the Anglocentric.
While fantasy literature can be incredibly diverse in presenting various cultures and its indigenous species through a number of methods, the most obvious of which is defamiliarization when explained through the eyes of the narrator. This paper will explore, compare, and contrast the abovementioned narratives in which the protagonists are fixed in their Anglocentric perspective throughout their journeys, where they experience the non-Anglocentric, or must endure cultures other than their own, which they find exotic, strange or, in the worst cases, thoroughly beneath their notice. While there are many reasons to do so, two issues that will be of particular interest is hyperbole to humorous effect, and moreover, exoticization of the non-Anglocentric or marginalized culture.
Through analysis of the protagonists’ actions when they come into contact with these other cultures, a deeper understanding of the meaning and importance of representation in popular literature becomes apparent. While discourse on matters of representation for marginalized cultures has increased and diversity in fantasy literature has changed greatly over time, there is still room for improvement, but what happens when online presences actively campaign against what they refer to as ‘affirmative action’ which they claim to be distorting the genre and debasing its worth?
Atli Dungal is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Iceland, where he also teaches courses on fantasy literature. He holds an MA in Literature, Culture and Media from Lund University and a BA in English from the University of Iceland. His current project is a comparative effort that combines unnatural narrative theory with the theory of the fantastic, applied to the representative works in the genres of high and urban fantasy. His research interests are wide and varied, but he constantly faces the daily risk of whiplash injury when someone mentions Sir Terry Pratchett or Jim Butcher. Dennin Ellis – Sláine, the Postcolonial Barbarian Sláine, first published in the seminal British comics anthology 2000 AD in 1983, tells the story of the titular character, a mashup of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Cú Chulainn, the legendary Irish hero of the Táin bó Cúailnge. His tales, which adhere to many of the tropes of ‘sword and sorcery’ style fantasy, take place in a mythical Ireland full of warring tribes, demons, and evil wizards.
As with most characters of his stripe, Sláine functions as a rather basic power fantasy – his only consistent goals are to defend his land, crush his enemies and sleep with every woman who catches his eye. As such, he follows the tradition of earlier ‘barbarian’ figures who’ve been used as thinly-veiled icons of nationalist furor – the lone man who, by strength alone, is able to vanquish the enemies of the people.
What makes the figure of Sláine different than other such characters is the ability to read his adventures through a postcolonial frame – here is an Irish hero, defending Ireland from not just supernatural evils but from Romans, the English, and other real-world ‘enemies’ of Ireland’s antiquity. However, that Sláine is battling against the forces of imperialism (and therefore, battling for ‘good’) is almost secondary to his love of fighting for its own sake. He vanquishes his enemies not only because it’s ‘right’ but because he can. But Sláine’s commentary goes deeper; his greatest ability is the dreaded ‘warp-spasm’ which expands and distorts his entire body into a gargantuan, nearly-invincible form that lusts for murder and is barely able to discern friend from foe (rendered grotesquely by artists such as Simon Bisley) – the ‘hero’ is strongest when he is actually the monster.
Here is the power fantasy ‘warped’ upside-down and inside-out, being sold to 2000 AD‘s primarily Anglophone audience who’ve been weaned on honorable, chivalrous heroes like King Arthur and Perseus, the ‘heroes’ who embody those traits venerated by Western Civilization. The ‘barbarian’ hero is their reflection – a loosing of the shackles of civilization and a liberation through primitivity. Sláine, then, is a reflection of a reflection. Despite being the protagonist, even creator Pat Mills would likely be hard-pressed to call the violent, lustful, power-hungry Sláine a ‘hero.’ As his adventures continue, his primal propensity for violence is exposed as horrific and freakish, his savagery explicitly made ignoble and the ‘game’ of imperialism he repeatedly finds himself caught up in is exposed for what it was (is?) – the powerful crushing the weak because they can. A postcolonial reading of Sláine interrogates a specific form of power fantasy and asks difficult questions about who we exalt as ‘heroes’ – such a figure can be hero to one people and villain to another. What binds these heroes, then, is the trail of bodies left in their wake – the literal and symbolic violence enacted along their way to becoming ‘legends.’
Dennin Ellis is a PhD Student at the Ohio State University. He received his Master’s at the State University at New York, Albany. His research interests include popular culture, narrative theory and postcolonial studies, with an emphasis on film, music and graphic narrative. His recent publications include papers on Aboriginal characters in Marvel Comics and the specter of communism in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Rebecca Elton – A History of French Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Literature, 19th Century to Present Globally, Anglophone titles such as The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) dominate the most well known fantasy texts. This dominance is equally evident in the children’s and young adult fantasy subgenres, which have become particularly pervasive over the past century, from The Hobbit (1937) to the Harry Potter series (1997-2007), and even to teen fantasy and supernatural fiction such as the Twilight saga (2005-2008). Yet this Anglophone dominance is incompatible with a multicultural Western society that increasingly prioritises diversity. It is vital in this case to increase one’s knowledge about fiction beyond the limits of well-established Anglophone texts. This is particularly important in children’s and teen fiction specifically; books read throughout youth can shape the learning of young people hugely, and a diversified reading experience might aid children’s understanding of other cultures.
French children’s fantasy fiction, though bursting with a range of rich and exciting texts from Tistou les Pouces verts (1957) and Contes de la Rue Broca (1967) to Tobie Lolness (2006-2007) and Oksa Pollock (2007-), is little appreciated besides such classics as Le petit Prince (1943), including in literary criticism. This presentation will thus explore the history of French children’s fantasy since the 1800s and draw attention to gaps in current research. Whilst hoping to decentre the Anglophone, it will also use the dominance of English-language texts as a means of understanding the unique appeal of French children’s fantasy and its marked differences from Anglophone traditions, including a discussion of major themes. It hopes to draw attention to the often forgotten ways in which French texts have inspired English fantasy writers, and will discuss the influence of major events in France, such as May 1968, upon the development of French children’s fantasy.
Rebecca Elton is a final year PhD student in modern languages at the University of Leeds. Her thesis examines portrayals of masculinity in British and French children’s fiction from the 1940s-70s in light of events such as World War Two and feminist movements that were changing perceptions of masculinity at the time. Her interests include genre, popular culture, gender and comparative study, and she fiercely loves studying other cultures and languages. During her Masters, she completed a comparative study of renowned fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-) and French historical series Les rois maudits (1955-77). Emma French – ‘A black-clad halfling steps into a shadow’: The in-built Orientalism of the Dungeons and Dragons Monk class, and its revision within actual-play media Within Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) 5th Edition, the Monk character class appropriates and exoticises ‘Eastern’ culture, as defined by an indiscriminate, Western lens. Mechanically structured around spiritual ‘ki’ and a set of flavoured ‘Monastic traditions’ that echo Orientalist stereotypes – from the ‘ninja/shadowdancer’ ‘Way of Shadows’ to the Avatar: the Last Airbender inspired ‘Way of the Four Elements’ – this playstyle amalgamates Western-authored representations of the East, and multiple real-world cultures, to form a homogenously ‘Asian’ secondary world culture.
This paper will examine the ludic mechanics which encode an Orientalist worldview onto the Monk class, continuing the critical work of scholars such as Aaron Trammel and Antero Garcia to interrogate D&D’s fictional (re)construction of a blinkered Anglocentric, Anglonormative worldview. The encyclopedic structure of D&D’s official handbooks ‘display[s] both appreciation and authority toward the Orient’ and ‘encourage[s] players to develop a similar disposition’. This reproduces real-world Orientalism, as identified by Edward Said: ‘a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.’
Furthermore, this paper will then explore professional players’ negotiation and deconstruction of these problematic tropes in podcasts and livestreams documenting real-time D&D gameplay, using the Monk characters Beauregard Lionheart from Critical Role (played by Marisha Ray), Sofia Lee from The Unsleeping City (played by Emily Axford), and Sawyeh Noor from Venture Maidens (played by Naseem Etemad). It will ask whether culturally sensitive play and players’ compensatory imaginations can do anything to recover the Monk from its problematic Orientalist origins.
Emma French is a SGSAH-funded PhD student at the University of Glasgow, examining how Dungeons and Dragons has been used to both cement and subvert notions of fantasy. She graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with a First and the University of Glasgow’s MLitt Fantasy Literature programme in 2019 with Distinction. Her current player characters include a sorcerer trying her best in Barovia, and a dark academia wizard who uses the prestidigitation cantrip as self-care. She can be found on Twitter at @howlsmovinglib. Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad – To English and Back Again: Preserving Complexities of Fantastic Creatures on the Journey Between LanguagesThis paper will look at the benefits of not changing the names of supernatural creatures when translating works of Fantasy or folklore, while also acknowledging the various reasons why this is often done and will likely continue. As we work further to include non-Anglophone traditions, it is important to be aware of issues of translation and how this may have impacted our perceptions of the works and concepts we analyse. Names of supernatural creatures can be particularly difficult to translate, often being entirely new or culture-specific, and thereby have no equivalent in the target language. Rather than forcing the reader through the process of understanding a complex and unfamiliar concept, translators often give descriptive names (“Giants”) or the name of a similar creature from the anglophone tradition (“elf”, “goblin”). By examining the example of the Jötnar from Norse mythology – typically translated as “Giants” – we can see some of the potential issues of translating names of supernatural creatures. The descriptions and behaviours of the Jötnar in the Eddas are often contradictory, so there are many potential interpretations of them. Only consistently cast as an antagonistic group, they may be an early incarnation of trolls, an umbrella term for supernatural creatures, or perhaps not so different from the “gods” at all; some stories reveal they cannot always see the difference. The common English translation, “Giants”, chooses only a single interpretation, while the modern Norwegian translation retains the essentially meaningless word “Jotun”, forcing the reader simply to read the works and devise their own conception of the word. In their attempt to help a foreign reader, translators can easily rob a creature or concept of its complexity.
Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad is a recent graduate of the MLitt in Fantasy at the University of Glasgow. She has a BA in English Language & Linguistics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which included engaging in courses on Translation and Sociolinguistics. With a life-long interest in science fiction, fantasy and history, she has always balanced her own nation’s culture with that of the anglophone world and has taught academic writing in both traditions side-by-side at her previous university, and is particularly interested in the ways that traditions merge and interact with each other. Leidy Gonzalez – Archetypes of the Frontier and Non-western Voices, Magic Realism in the Amazonian Forest In this paper we argue that Magic Realism offers a window for non-western philosophies and cosmologies to reach wider audiences, with the added plus that it allows the western mind to go beyond the exoticism and orientalism in which these other mentalities are usually capsuled. At the same time, it encourages the redefinition of fiction at the hands of indigenous communities.
This paper will start by briefly exploring the western understanding of the frontier as liminal space, to accomplish this it will look into the 2016 film The Embrace of the Serpent, lauded by its approach to the indigenous beliefs of the communities living in the Colombian and Peruvian Amazon, and noting how the archetypical western frontier manifests itself throughout the story. It will be argued then, that the film fails to both understand the Amazon on its own terms and give voice to the cosmology of the indigenous groups, by relaying heavily in these western archetypes and turning the spiritual journey at its core into just another version of western concerns.
In contrast, the Netflix series Green Frontier (2019), another story set deep in the Amazon forest, through a murder mystery and considerable doses of magic realism allows for the Amazon to show itself and the uniqueness of its social complexities while transgressing and mutating the afore mentioned archetypes and creating a space for diverse ways of understanding the world to play side by side and in the end interact with one another.
Finally, it will be acknowledged that even though a notable contrast is evident in both stories there is much space to grow and for indigenous people to find and explore the opportunities given by fantasy and magic realism.
Leidy Laura Gonzalez Bojaca (she/her) is a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen working on Ogham and Pictish Symbol inscribed Stones in Early Medieval Scotland and Ireland with the support of the Leverhulme Trust. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the National University of Colombia with a dissertation on contemporary fantasy, analysing the worlds of Game of Thrones (HBO) and A Song of Ice and Fire. Her main interests surround the areas of religion, mythology and fantasy studies; as well as an ever present inquiry into Western understanding of its own past. Elliott Greene – Haruki Murakami and the Dangers of the Canon in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the WorldMurakami’s highly symbolic novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, plays with fantasy tropes and ideas of transformation and identity. It also raises questions concerning the classic, anglophone, fantasy canon. Reference to Tolkien feature alongside the central theme of unstable identities, Murakami presents a warning to his readers about the influence an author can have on their minds, and the dangers of focusing too closely on the Anglophone canon.
The novel blends two worlds, one real and one a dream, until the line between them becomes untenable. The narrator of the ’real’ sections finds himself at the center of a conspiracy involving experimental brain surgery. He is the only subject to survive the process and now must find a way to prevent his own death. This process involves the manipulation of his ‘core consciousness’ and the conflict between his own identity and the manipulated ‘story’ the Professor has placed in the narrator’s mind. This conflict is played out symbolically in the ‘dream’ sections of the novel.
Through an analysis of the symbolism used throughout the novel, I will show how Murakami makes a subtle criticism of exclusive reading of fantasy. Ultimately, the novel highlights the influence that all media can have on the creation of our identities when consumed without thought, and particularly when we focus too closely on a specifically anglophone view of the canon.
Elliott Greene is a first year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. He focuses on modern reinterpretations of classic fantasy tropes with particular emphasis on contemporary epic fantasy. Lizanne Henderson – Fantastic Bears and Where to Find Them: Ways of Seeing Polar Bears in Fantasy Films, Fiction and Folklore Arguably the most iconic symbol of the north, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), features in a number of folktales across the northern regions, from the American and Canadian Arctic, to Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia. Among the best known are such stories as ‘Audun and the Bear’, ‘The Polar Bear Son’, and ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’. Across a wide range of cultures and time periods, numerous themes and motifs emerge from these bear tales, such as origin stories and creation tales; family ties and community bonds; success or failure at hunting; interspecies communication and talking animals; shapeshifting, shamanism and connections with the supernatural world. In more recent times, literary, visual art and film interpretations of polar bears have often retained the magical motifs, such as the character of Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørne polar bear king befriended by Lyra in Phillip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials (1995-2000), which was adapted as a feature film, The Golden Compass (2007) and BBC TV series His Dark Materials (2019). Popular television shows, such as Lost (2004-2010), Fortitude (2015-2018), and Game of Thrones (2011-2019) play on the bear as a figure of fear and horror. Artists have also been drawn to polar bear themes, imbued with a touch of the magical, such as the Golden Age folktale illustrations of Theodor Kittelsen, Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac, or the contemporary sculptural works of Paola Pivi whose neon-coloured, feathered bears (National Gallery, Melbourne) have been described as recalling fables and fairytales. This paper will examine the intercultural ‘ways of seeing’ polar bears as expressed in traditional northern folktales and modern day fantasy representations in order to discern the place polar bears hold in the human imagination and perceptions of the natural world.
Dr Lizanne Henderson is Senior Lecturer in History, Tourism and Animal Studies (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow). She works primarily on supernatural belief traditions, the witch-hunts, Scottish emigration and exploration, Arctic Studies, wildlife tourism, and human-animal studies. Her most recent monograph is Witchcraft and Folk Belief in the Age of Enlightenment: Scotland, 1670-1740 (2016), is currently preparing her next book (Super)natural Animals in the Age of the Stewarts (forthcoming), and working on a multi-disciplinary project called Picturing Polar Bears: Past and Present Semiotic and Iconic Perceptions of Ursus maritimus. Lars Johnson – Adapting Fantasies for the Stage: Colour Conscious Casting in Frozen and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child In an age where media companies are rapturously capitalizing on the commercial value inherent in bringing fantasy stories to the screen and stage, discussions of actors’ races often emerge. This is particularly true when audiences believe an actor’s race fails to align with the character descriptions provided in the adaptation’s source material. In this paper, I explore this phenomenon by examining two pieces of theater—the musical Frozen and the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—which feature characters portrayed by actors whose races are not ordinarily perceived as canonical based upon their respective inspirations. In executing this project, I intend to illuminate how practices of colour conscious casting (a term used in place of ‘colour blind casting’) work to decolonize Anglocentric fantasy media by opening up space for people of colour in retellings of these popular contemporary tales. To contextualize the existing conversations around racially provocative casting in theater that Frozen and Cursed Child are connected to, I shall also briefly discuss the scholarship pertaining to race in the blockbuster musical Hamilton. Namely, I shall consider the varying implications of casting people of colour in historical versus fantastical roles that are traditionally deemed white. I shall also investigate how heeding those implications can intersect with or contradict the various suspensions of disbelief which theatrical pieces demand of their audience. Ultimately, this paper aims to elucidate how colour consciousness contributes to the provision of opportunity for actors of colour in a largely white industry while also loosening the colonial grasp of Anglonormativity on mainstream fantasy narratives by granting non-white characters agency and visibility within them.
Lars Johnson is a PhD student at Cornell University. He received an MLitt in fantasy at the University of Glasgow and completed his BS in biology and English literature at the University of Michigan. Lars’s previous research has explored queerness, spirituality, and neomedievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire. His current scholarship focuses on the threads of gender and sexuality that link medieval epics and epic fantasies. Shelby Judge – From White Men to White Feminism: Adaptations of Greek Myths
Historically, the knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology in its original ancient languages was a social marker; such learning was reserved for upperclass white men in public education. The Anglicisation of such – in translation and adaptation – was an act of colonisation and female erasure. This stance has been expounded by Emily Wilson, who rejects her label as the first woman to translate the Odyssey on the grounds that it is blatantly Anglocentric (since non-Anglophone women have previously translated the ancient epic) and a continued erasure of women’s unpaid and unrecognised labour in translation as students, colleagues, and wives of lorded male translators. Wilson also highlights the generations of men that inserted additional misogyny, racism, and homophobia in their translations.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, we can trace attempts to diversify, decolonise, and feminise myths in literary adaptations, research, and pedagogy. My PhD is focussed on contemporary feminist adaptations of Greek myths, particularly considering how female authors use ancient myths to engage with modern feminist discourses. Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, and Madeline Miller must surely lay flowers at the graves of women authors who came before: Adrienne Rich, H.D., and Sylvia Plath, for instance.
This paper will trace the traditions of mythic adaptation from white men to its current problem of white feminism.1 One example of such prevalent privilege is in Atwood’s The Penelopiad, in which Penelope’s class privilege somewhat detracts from her intended characterisation as pitiable. Yet, there is a marked movement towards intersectionality in feminist adaptations of myths, evident in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, an Islamisation of Oedipus, and Ali Smith’s Boy Meets Girl, a queer Scots retelling of Iphis and Ianthe.
Shelby Judge is a second year English Literature PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her thesis topic is “Exploring contemporary women writers’ adaptation of myth for feminist purposes”. In this thesis, Shelby is researching what impact contemporary adaptations of Greek myth can have upon the feminist movement. Shelby’s overarching research interests are in feminist and queer theory and contemporary British and American women’s fiction.
Shelby also runs a PhD-related blog: TheShelbiad.blogspot.com Bettina Juszak – Transformative Fandom and Diversity – Representing Latin American Culture and Language in Star Wars For those readers and viewers left disappointed by the representation of predominantly normative characters (white, straight, able-bodied) and white western cultures in their source material, transformative fandom offers an outlet to create space for more diverse representation. It is in the name – fandom allows for the transformation of canon content to suit the needs of an individual or a group.
Star Wars is a huge – and hugely popular – agglomeration of films, books, comics and TV shows, depicting a large variety of fantastical cultures. However, it is left to the fans to draw parallels to real world cultures that go beyond the vision of the predominantly white and US American creators of the source content.
In this paper I will focus on the fan-coding of characters such as Poe Dameron, Cassian Andor and Bail Organa as belonging to Latin American culture and the extension of this concept to entire planets in the Star Wars universe, including Alderaan and Yavin IV. Fan creations range from picking up on small hints within the canon and extending the concept further, to making up completely new aspects of world-building to better represent their chosen field of diversity. Drawing on current research into the ‘fandom phenomenon’, I will discuss the methods with which fans perpetuate such alterations to the canon – fanfiction, discussions on social media, fanart, etc. – and examine the positive impact fan-driven diversity can have on the representation of minorities and other languages in the ‘white English’ playing field of the source material. Lastly, I will argue for the importance of fandom-driven diversity in inspiring a new generation of content creators and pushing the establishment towards acceptance of a broader range of voices.
Bettina Juszak studied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge and finished a Masters in Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow in 2017. Her research included such topics as accent usage in science fiction films and the intersection between music and magic in fantasy texts. She presented a paper on Terry Pratchett’s use of fantasy world-building to tell stories socially-relevant at Gifcon in 2018. Originally from Germany, Bettina is currently working in Harrogate and biding her time in order to return to university for a PhD. Aroosa Kanwal – “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?”: Mardaani Mitris and Pakistani Speculative Fiction This paper discusses the ways in which Pakistani feminist speculative fiction offers alternative modes of sexual and social organisation against the backdrop of misogyny, human rights violation, structures of oppression, including exploitative patriarchal system, religious fundamentalism and deleterious association between nationalism and feminist ideology. Using Bina Shah’s Before She Sleeps and Sadia Khatri’s “The City of Mitr”, this paper explores both progressive and subversive potential of Pakistani feminist speculative fiction in radically reimagining gendered Muslim world. I argue that by taking the readers on fantastic voyages of dystopias and utopias, these narratives rebut and challenge androcentric culture, characterised by traditionally feminine virtues and hierarchal social institutions. The paper not only foregrounds Pakistani writers’ speculations about sex, gender roles and family structure in future galactic empires but also shows the way the women protagonists in the fiction subvert the equations of power. Taking inspiration from Lila Abu-Lughod’s famous rhetoric of “Do Muslim women need saving” against the backdrop of disturbing forms of violence suffered by women in the Muslim world, I argue that Pakistani feminist speculative writing refute the assumption that Muslim women are someone in need of saving. By recreating an imaginative geography which enables Pakistani women to move out of restrictive spaces, these speculative narratives “generate fantasies of the possibility of autonomy and freedom from such violence” (Abu-Lughod 1995, 107), thereby, reorienting mainstream western imagination of women’s plight and rights in the Muslim world. Informed by Shreerekha Pillai Subramanian’s notion of “feminist masculinism” (2018, 139), this paper destabilises commonly held assumptions about gender through “identifying persisting traces of alternative gender regimes” (Sinha 2012, 362).
Aroosa Kanwal is Assistant Professor in English Studies at the International Islamic University. She is the author of The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing (Routledge, 2019) and Rethinking Identities in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction: Beyond 9/11 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015). Her monograph received the KLF-Coca-Cola award for the best non-fiction book of the year 2015.
Her articles and book chapters have appeared in Journal of Gender Studies, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Journal of International Women’s Studies, and Journal of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, and in edited collections Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora (Routledge, 2014), Consciousness, Theatre and Literature and the Arts (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012). Meriem Rayen Lamara – Behind Gilded Walls: Tales of wonder and Fantasy, the Gothic, and Islamic Mythology in Contemporary Literature The discussion of the importance of diversity in literature has been on-going for decades. In light of recent political discussions regarding race and religion, in particular, there is, now more than ever, an urgent need for diversity in representation not only in literature but in all cultural mediums. Influenced by what has now come to be known as the ‘#OwnVoices’ movement which encourages authors to craft stories that reflect the ever-changing reality of many of us today, and following the rising focus on Muslim communities and Muslim culture, a number of Muslim authors took up the challenge to represent characters and stories that resonate with Muslim readers, as well as non-Muslim readers who are willing to read beyond deeply-rooted stereotypes.
In this paper, I consider the work of contemporary Muslim authors such as S. A. Chakraborty, Ausma Zehanat Khan, and Zeynab Joukhadar whose vivid imagery and writing open a gate to Islamic mythology and Middle Eastern folklore and invites for an exciting exploration into the sinister and mystical world of the Jinn, complex politics, and supernatural cities. I begin by outlining a brief history of Islamic literature, focusing particularly and specifically on tales of the supernatural that exhibit elements and concepts of the Gothic, notably concepts of Otherness and the uncanny. I then explore how contemporary Muslim authors draw on a rich Islamic literary tradition to create tales reminiscent of Scheherazade’s tales of wonder in The One Thousand and One Nights.
Meriem Rayen Lamara is a PhD candidate at The University of Northampton. Her PhD thesis looks at the supernatural Gothic in Young Adult literature. Her adjacent research interests lie in comparative literature, transnational Gothic, children’s literature, dark fantasy, supernatural folklore and fairy tales. Sammarko Lightbourne – Authenticity Versus Inclusion: When People of Colour are Besieged by Adaptational Outrage Recently, the genre of Fantasy has achieved unparalleled popularity due especially to successful adaptations of literature to film, television, and streaming services. Despite this translation, the genre’s landscape remains predominantly white. When eurocentric texts are adapted and black or brown actors are cast in significant roles, adaptational outrage is a frequent response in white viewers. Recently, Netflix’s The Witcher, faced backlash for the casting of Indian actress, Anya Chalotra, as Yennefer of Vengelberg, and Mimi Ndiweni, as Fringilla Vigo, two powerful mages important to the story. Additionally, there were several minor characters also portrayed by actors of colour. Even before the series launched, sentiments expressed on mass social media platforms, like YouTube, lambasted the show for being unnecessarily diverse as compared to its source text.
Based on the series by Polish Fantasy author, Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher follows the story of a brooding monster hunter caught in the web of destiny as he strives to protect his young ward and the world around him descends into a war of the races. Interestingly, the race war portrayed in the novels has nothing to do with skin colour and all to do with species (elves, dwarves, humans). Yet the response from many white viewers are as intense as a battlefield in the world of The Witcher.
This paper seeks to explore the source of rejection of black and brown casted actors by white viewers in adaptations of eurocentric Fantasy. I will investigate why major characters of colour are met with resistance when inconsequential characters such as the servants Missandei or Grey Worm from Game of Thrones are not. Is it truly a matter of authenticity or disdain for having to include people that traditional Fantasy never made room for?
Sammarko Lightbourne received his BA in English Studies at The College of The Bahamas in 2014. He worked as a communications associate, a concierge, and now finds himself in the world of radio. He is a lover of the Bahamian oral tradition and is a thalassophile. He is currently completing the final year of his MFA in Creative Writing at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, where his novel focuses on memories as commodities in a futuristic Caribbean resettled by the descendants of climate change refugees. You can reach him on Instagram at @sammarkothescribe. Ildikó Limpár – Undead Culture in the East: Hungarian Zombies and Vampires Negotiating the National Past Western culture’s undead renaissance has a spectacular effect on European culture and it has brought about its nation-specific variations in Hungary. The paper focuses on the use of the living dead in Hungarian narratives whose monster characters are politically charged. I examine why the undead are used to recreate a fictional national past and what differences in the negotiating strategies the uses of zombies and vampires reveal.
First the strategy of Olivér Csepella’s 2017 comic book entitled The West + Zombies (in which West references a prominent literary journal in Hungary between 1908 and 1941) is shown to attack the enforced Hungarian attitude towards the canonical literary heritage. The comic book, which came to being thanks to community fundraising, familiarizes parts of the canonical and completes it not only with the fantastic but also with the noncanonical but historical, demonstrating the nature of a long debate about Hungary’s educational system and presenting the paradoxical relation between contemporary Hungarian society and its devouring past that manifests as a zombie horde in the narrative.
In contrast to this example, vampires appear in narratives where the historical past is less connected to Hungarian pride. These works have a strategy of coming to terms with national traumas by creating alternatives to historical accuracy. Such a strategy may be seen in a 2019 Hungarian comedy, Comerade Draculich, in which monsterizing the monstrous past paradoxically aims at coming with the traumatic past by turning it into comedy and making it “consumable” by introducing the monster that consumes. In both narratives the monster reveals Hungarian’s paradoxical attitude to their national past and thus familiarizes and stabilizes what is about to be lost to the national collective by means of otherizing it.
Ildikó Limpár, Senior Lecturer of English, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, holds a Ph.D. in English and an MA in Egyptology and works in the field of Monster Studies. Her monograph entitled The Truths of Monsters: Coming of Age with Fantastic Media was published by McFarland this spring (2021) and focuses on the use of monsters as literary tools addressing life challenges in coming-of-age fantasy and science fiction. She edited an anthology of essays entitled Displacing the Anxieties of Our World: Spaces of the Imagination (published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2017) and an anthology of essays in Monster Studies written in Hungarian (published by Athenaeum in 2021). Lyu Guangzhao – Fall of the Last Utopia: Critical Utopias in Hao Jingfang’s Vagabonds as the Representation of China’s Post-socialist Transition As one of the most representative writers of the Chinese SF New Wave (termed by Song Mingwei), Hao Jingfang is well-known for winning the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novelettes with a short story “Fold Beijing” interrogating the increasing social stratification in the contemporary China. But meanwhile, she has also examined, through her outstanding utopian imaginations and worldbuilding, different possibilities that China might take during its post-socialist transitions in two of her earlier novels Wandering with Maearth (2011) and Return to Charon (2012)—they were combined and translated as Vagabonds by Ken Liu (the translator of Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem), published in 2020.
In line with the famous dichotomy between Urras and Anarres in Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Hao Jingfang has also set up two opposing worlds, that is a) the libertarian Earth following the neoliberal rules in favour of market competitions and individualistic pursuit for capital and b) the egalitarian Martian Republic built upon scarcity and under the supervision of a central archive system. In the latter society, the Martians are grouped in numerous “ateliers” (the realistic reflection of the “work units” or “danwei” in China). They are the main provider of social welfare and protection, which, therefore, form the basics of social stability.
However, neither of the two societies are “perfect” enough to be called a true utopia and among each of them, they are internal challenges proposed by people who seek for reforms. These people would view the other world as the negation to their own, yet again only to find themselves trapped in an unending cycle of “negating to negation”. I would argue that it is the ambiguity identified in such a cycle that represents China’s post-socialist quest for the new order since the 1990s.
LYU Guangzhao (He/Him) is currently a PhD student in Comparative Literature at University College London (UCL). His research project is a comparative study of the British SF Boom and the Chinese SF New Wave, focusing on the relation between the two SF movements and the broader socio-cultural transformations in the post-Thatcher Britain and the post-socialist China. He is the co-founder of London Chinese SF Group (LCSFG), co-director of London SF Research Community (LSFRC), and was recently awarded the “Support a New Scholar” grant (2021-2022) by Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA). His latest essay was published on SFRC Review in September 2020. Lan Ma – ‘Self’ or ‘the Other’: The Imagination about Dystopian Society in the Eastern and Western YA Literature
Since the beginning of 21st century, a range of fictions for young adults (YA) which display dystopian issues have emerged in both Western and Eastern countries. In many English dystopian YA literature, there is a typical kind of story shown that the adolescents’ revolution destroys totalitarian or blocked ‘fake-perfect’ society. However, meanwhile, it should not be neglected that contemporary Japanese and Chinese dystopian YA fictions also have given some explorations on the various issues to those critical and complex ‘utopian’ or ‘dystopian’ futures of human’s society. In these works, it is not as easy as equating optimism to ‘freedom’ and negativism to ‘despotism’ which is done in most Western stories.
In this paper, the concepts of ‘Self’ and ‘the Other’ will be given firstly, while some examples from the Western and Eastern texts will be shown as supports for further detailed analysis.
‘Self’ only refers to the author’s own cultural position which he or she is familiar with, while ‘the Other’ refers to every strange thing outside the author’s ‘Self’. In this paper, the main reason caused the differences between Eastern and Western dystopian YA literature would be considered as the difference of the author’s start point of imagination on ‘Self’ or ‘the Other’. For example, in most Chinese dystopian YA literature, from the narrative structures to the design of characters and world, it is possible to see traces of influences from Western literature. However, the authors’ imaginations are mostly inspired by the present circumstances in which they are living, and the issues with which they are concerned. In contrast, Western and Japanese writers’ imaginations about highly-censored dystopian societies are mostly based on the gaze to ‘the other’ and history. This difference of start point leads to the differences of the designs of characters, social background, solutions to social problems shown in those Western and Eastern stories. Particularly, it probably can explain some paradoxical points appeared on the designs of characters in the Western dystopian YA literature.
Lan Ma is a PhD student at the School of Education in the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on the representation of discourse and power in Japanese, Chinese and English dystopian YA literature. She received a BA in Sociology from the University of Fudan in China, and a MA in Children’s Literature and Literacies from the University of Glasgow. Before coming to the UK, she worked as an editor of children’s and YA literature for several years in China. Raman Malik – Not A Mere Fantasy: Indian Mythology as a Microcosm of Today’s Real Issues The grand Indian epic, Mahabharta, presents the history of seven generations of a family in 950 BCE. It narrates not only a war between good and evil, not only the establishment of justice, not only the beginning of the present era of ‘kaliyuga’, but also numerous issues that mirror the problems of 2020 AD. However, Anglo-centrism is taking Indian students away from the knowledge of their past and its relation to the present. In trying his very best to maintain the rich Indian heritage in fantasy books for coming generations, I analyse Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, published in 1989, which satirically uses the Mahabharta and presents the events of Indian Independence Movement, and paints a collage of all the issues which are still persistent after 30 years of writing the novel. The novel highlights issues such as women’s subjugation, lust for territorial dominance, spreading false information for personal gains leading to arson and riots, harmful adult desires creating bad influence on children, privatization of education, and many more.
Indian mythology is representative of the world history but, as a result of massive Anglo-centric productions in all forms of media, it has witnessed a decrease in its study over the years, leaving today’s generations with a blind spot in the knowledge of their history. This gap not only subdues the relevance and representation of our culture, but also negates any chances of allowing it to be taught or made aware of. Therefore, I intend to present, how, the Indian usage of fantasy, not only tries to keep its history alive, but also educates us to not turn a blind eye to the problems in our society.
Raman Malik is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, working on ‘Subdued and Misrepresented Child Voices in British Fantasy Literature from 18th century to 20th century.’ He completed his M.Phil. English with first division from Amity University in 2018, with a dissertation on -‘The Representation of Magical Realism in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.’ His interests lie in studying all forms of fantasy literature that includes fairy tales, science fiction, mystery and supernatural fantasy. His hobbies include reading, and playing football. He recently finished reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and has begun Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft. Ruchira Mandal – Subverting the Hero Myth: Metanarratives in Samit Basu’s Gameworld Trilogy
An essential element of the fantasy narrative (as of all tales) is the heroic quest that Joseph Campbell calls “the nuclear unit of the monomyth.” Depending upon scale, the hero achieves a microcosmic or macrocosmic victory, thereby saving the world. This vision of the world is thus centred on a conflict between two sets of values, one of which must prevail over the other.
In his fantasy trilogy set in the fictional Gameworld, Samit Basu Indianizes the Western epic fantasy structure to question this very notion of superiority. In doing so, he also dismantles the very myth of the hero as indigenous stories are subverted within the frame of the subverted anglocentric fantasy narrative. In a world where heroes are constructed by politicians and history constantly re-interpreted to undermine reader expectations, Basu blurs the lines between good and bad, monsters and heroes, thereby challenging what Hourihan calls “the fundamental dualisms that have shaped Western thought and values.” This paper examines how Basu redefines not only the discourse of Western superiority but also the Brahmanical hegemony within the Indian narrative to dismantle ingrained cultural dualisms and cast new light on the hero tale.
Basu, Samit. The Manticore’s Secret. Penguin: New Delhi, 2005.
—. The Simoqin Prophecies. Penguin: New Delhi, 2004.
—. The Unwaba Revelations. Penguin: New Delhi, 2007.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Bollingen Series XVII. Third Edition. Mumbai: YogiImpressions, 2008.
Hourihan, Margery. Deconstructing the Hero: Literary Theory and Children’s Literature. London: Routledge, 1997.
Ruchira Mandal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Lady Brabourne College, Kolkata. She has recently submitted her doctoral thesis on Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan novels at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her research interests include fantasy, fairytales and popular culture. She is also a poet and has been published in the anthology, A Letter, A Poem, A Home alongside Rudy Francisco and Sarah Kay among others. She did her M.Phil from Jadavpur University and masters from the University of Calcutta. Daniel Martin – The Ancient Magic of China’s Tomb Raiders: History, Modernity, and Nationalism in Chinese Fantasy Blockbusters
In recent years, the economic significance of fantasy cinema in Mainland China has become a subject of much industry scrutiny. In 2016, Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid attained record-breaking box-office returns and global attention, while the animation Nezha: Birth of the Demon Child (2019) has become one of the most successful non-English-language films in the world. Drawing on mythology, magical creatures and historical adventure tropes, China’s fantasy films combine proven audience appeal with sophisticated propagandist techniques.
This paper will analyse two recent fantasy blockbusters from China: Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe (2015) and Mojin: The Lost Legend (2015), both based on the influential internet novel Ghost Blows Out the Light (2006). These films, like all of China’s state-sanctioned media, conform to requirements that they are in some way “educational” or “culturally or politically uplifting” and include revealing depictions of nationalist sentiment.
Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, set in 1979, combines overt fantasy elements (the discovery of magical creatures and ancient artifacts) with a realistic depiction of the People’s Liberation Army, and features a sometimes-subversive streak of black humour. Mojin: The Lost Legend, meanwhile, performed even better at the domestic box-office (becoming the highest-earning Chinese IMAX film of all time on its release), and deploys fantasy elements is the service of not just visual spectacle, but also to comment patriotically on the apparent virtues of life in China. The themes of the film center on the contrasts between the rational world and the magical world; between history and modernity; and between China and the USA. This paper therefore offers analysis of these two films in order to explore the increasingly prominent ways Chinese filmmakers use fantasy to express problematic ideas about national history and political ideology.
Dr. Daniel Martin is Associate Professor of Film Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). His recent research concerns fantasy traditions in films from South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. He is the author of Extreme Asia: The Rise of Cult Cinema from the Far East (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), co-editor of Korean Horror Cinema (EUP, 2013) and Hong Kong Horror Cinema (EUP, 2018), and has published articles in Cinema Journal, Journal of Film and Video, Journal of Popular Culture, Continuum, Asian Cinema, and Journal of Korean Studies. Mario-Paul Martínez, Fran Mateu – Mythology, history and religion in the Spanish fantasy video game: Cursed Castilla EX and Blasphemous.
A yōkai awaits us at the gates of the next level. The Elf warrior, threatens us with his sword. And Zeus, lord of Olympus, has just a few seconds left to pulverise us with his lightning… Many video games resort to tradition and fantasy mythology to develop their game. Most, indeed, allow themselves to be influenced by a mythological imagery that popular culture has absorbed, mainly from the commonplaces of Nordic storytelling, classical antiquity, Japanese folklore, and English-Anglo-American tradition. However, rarely do video games surprise us with a more “exotic” legendary (compendium of legends) where, for example, there would be room for the fables of other ethnic groups such as the Inuit, the Jaguar people, or the Saharawi, among the diversity of cases outside the cultural norm.
In this sense, it is equally strange – almost an anomaly – that Hispanic video games include among their games a fantasy genre typical of their tradition or native mythology. What is usual are games that become accustomed to a historical event or to a literary tradition, which are less risky in contrast to peninsular folklore. Nevertheless, two platforms recently published by Spanish developers, Cursed Castilla EX (Locomalito, Abylight, 2016) and Blasphemous (Team17, 2019) have come to break this rule: their creations are full of symbols, narratives and settings that are nurtured from the traditional fantasy of the Spanish Medieval and Baroque periods. In addition, they are full of references to books of chivalry (Amadís de Gaula), medieval and baroque architecture (the Palacio de los Águila, the Mosque-Cathedral from Córdoba), or the religious imagery present in the paintings of Goya, Zurbarán or Ribera.
The main objectives of this text are to explain the approaches of these video games and in particular the findings and crosschecking between the mythological, historical and religious manifestations of Hispanic culture and these platforms.
Mario-Paul Martínez is a researcher, professor and coordinator of the Aesthetics and Art Theory Area of the Art Department at Miguel Hernández University. He is also coordinator of the Area of Historical, Artistic and Scientific Assets at the same University and is director of the Massiva Research Group that studies the interrelationship between audiovisual arts and mass culture. He teaches in the MUPIA master’s degree and the MUECA master’s degree in Cultural Studies and Visual Arts at the School of Fine Arts in Altea.
Fran Mateu is a researcher and professor in the area of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Art Department of Miguel Hernández University. Since his beginnings in teaching, he has taught subjects such as Theory and Technique of Editing and Montage, or Video Games and Virtual Environments. Previously, he graduated in Advertising and Public Relations, and obtained a degree in Cinematography, specializing in Film Direction. He is the co-director of the International Congress of Fantastic Genre, Audiovisuals and New Technologies, With Mario-Paul Martínez. Ivana Mijić Nemet – Between East and West: Influence of Anglocentrism and Slavic Folklore on Contemporary Serbian Fantasy for Children Serbian children’s literature has traditionally dominantly fallen into the genre of realism, with a strong political determination, thanks to the fact that throughout much of the twentieth century its purpose was to ideologically indoctrinate young readers. Fantasy literature was an exception, rather than a rule, and it mostly took the form of literary fairy tale. However, in the last two decades there was a significant change in Serbian production of literature for children ‒ the growing popularity of the fantasy genre, a rise in the number of published titles and an improved reception.
Contemporary Serbian children’s writers are exploring new possibilities of merging foreign and domestic literary traditions. On the one hand, they are mostly influenced by Anglophone works, but on the other they are integrating Serbian folklore motifs in attempt to create Slavic-mythology based type of fantasy. When folklore heritage reappears, it can take on a comical function in a contemporary urban context, as presented in Ivana Nešić’s Zelenbabini darovi (Greenmother’s Gifts, 2013) and Tajna nemuštog jezika (The Secret of the Animal Language, 2014), or horror function as in Uroš Petrović‘s Peti leptir (Fifth Butterfly, 2005) and Deca Bestragije (Children of Bestragija, 2013). Sometimes the authors even use modern Serbian poetry and its vegetative motifs as an inspiration for their own work (Selina Lovren in Malo zeleno drvo [Little Green Tree] 2019).
The unusual positioning of these novels in the frameworks of both Serbian and Anglophone tradition of the children’s fantasy novel is explored: the paper offers an overview and analysis of the fantasy element’s function in children’s novels, its influence on the novel’s structure as well as its heterogeneous origins.
Ivana Mijić Nemet is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad, Department for Serbian Literature. Since 2012 she is administrator of the journal for children’s literature, Detinjstvo, and since 2013 employed at the Preschool Teacher Training College in Novi Sad. Her main research interest is children’s fantasy literature, and her current research examines the poetic characteristics of the children’s fantasy novel in Serbian literature of the early 21st century. Anna Milon – Sexy Fox: female sexualisation in modern retellings of the East Asian were-fox folktale.
What constitutes sexual appeal? The image of the ideal sexy woman varies widely from one culture to another. Yet all too often when presented with an supernatural seductress in modern sci-fi and fantasy narratives, we envision a voluptuous femme fatale, a distinctly Western vision of female sexuality. This portrayal is all the more jarring when enforced upon a non-Western character, initially conceived with a very different type of sexual allure in mind.
The were-fox (Chinese 狐狸精, húli jīng; Korean 구미호, kumiho/gumiho; Japanese 狐, kitsune) is just such a character. Initially conceived of as a supernatural creature able to transform into a desirable woman in order to trick men or drain them of their life energy, the were-fox has been widely disseminated in both European and Asian writing. The traits that make the were-fox ‘sexy’ are dependent on the context within which the character is adopted. It is these traits that will be examined by this paper. To provide a broad, though not exhaustive overview, the paper will focus on four works of fiction, each from a different cultural context:
– the South Korean drama My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2010)
– the Japanese manga Nura: Rise of the Yokia Clan (2008 – 2012)
– the US-produced web-television anthology of animated shorts LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS (2019), specifically episode 8 Good Hunting – the novel The Sacred Book of the Werewolf (2004) by Russian author Victor Pelevin.
All four narratives reached an international audience, but were not necessarily written with an international consumer in mind. Thus, their portrayals of a character who is defined by sexuality vary significantly and provide a valuable insight into what sexual appeal in literature can look like beyond the Euro-centric femme fatale.
Miss Anna Milon is a PhD student at the University of Exeter working on the Horned God as environmental symbol in British fantasy. She has a long-standing interest in folklore and the folkloresque, and speaks Russian fluently. With a background in English and Medieval Literature from Royal Holloway, UoL, and the University of York respectively, Anna teaches in Liberal Arts concurrently with her studies. In her spare time, Anna helps out at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (sadly, not as the resident witch). Sandra Mondejar Revis – The Art of ‘Ma’ in the Fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki
My paper will look at how the animation of Hayao Miyazaki manipulates pacing, and focus primarily on the pauses and breaks from action. These pauses I identify as moments of ‘Ma’: the Japanese concept of gaps, silences, emptiness and intervals. According former director general of The Japan Foundation in New York, Mr. Isao Tsujimoto, ‘Ma’ is the ability to ‘enjoy the blankness’, a ‘notion reflected especially in Japanese culture’ (Tsujimoto 2011). It is used from traditional Noh Theatre to Japanese minimalist interior design to everyday conversation patterns, and Miyazaki identifies it within his own work, too. Referring to what interviewer Roger Ebert calls the ‘gratuitous motion’ of certain scenes, Miyazaki explains:
It’s called Ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally. [He claps his hands] The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. (Ebert 2002)
My paper aims to look at ‘Ma’ as a ‘breathing space’ and how it functions in creating a ‘wider dimension’ in the Fantastic world-building of Miyazaki’s films. Moreover, I aim to show how this is specific to Japanese animation. While the Anglocentric animation depends on narrative-driven actions, Miyazaki’s finds as much value in extra ‘gratuitous’ movements that characters are shown doing which emulates a tactility that truly brings his worlds to life. This is reflected in everything from character movements to music, framing, dialogue and scenery. I aim to show how these moments of ‘Ma’ that break from narrative-forming actions allow the viewers to buy into the world that Miyazaki builds, creating an immersive kind of realism specific to his Fantasy.
Sandra Mondejar Revis is a recent graduate of the Masters in Fantasy Literature at the University of Glasgow. Although the Fantastic has always remained her primary passion, she enjoys finding ways to apply it to her other interests. Sandra has a Joint Honours degree in Philosophy and English, and so is keen to point out the philosophic angles that Fantasy takes. Coming from a mixed cultural background herself, she is curious about the ways in which this shapes other Fantasies and Philosophies. Debaditya Mukhopadhyay – What Lies Beneath the Subversion: Tracing the Impact of Bulbbul’s Co-option of Dark Fantasy Elements
Apart from imitating the major tropes and sub-genres of the western canon of fantasy, of late, Bollywood fantasy films have started co-opting them as well. This presentation will explore the cultural significance of such developments using the film Bulbbul (2020) by Anvita Dutt Guptan as a case-study. Female desire is largely associated with corruption and monstrosity in typical commercial Bollywood films in general and Bollywood horror films in particular. Bulbbul marks a departure from such generic templates by foregrounding how patriarchy makes a monster out of its eponymous character, representative of female desire for intellectual as well as sexual freedom. Reading this subversive portrayal in the light of existing theorizations regarding dark fantasy, this paper will explain how the adoption of genre conventions associated with dark fantasy, namely a sympathetic portrayal of the monstrous entity and the sufferings that go into the making of such monsters, enable this film to subvert the generic portrayal of female desire in Bollywood films. Beginning with a brief overview of the aforementioned generic templates of Bollywood, the presentation will map and analyze Bulbbul’s departure from them by analyzing this film’s subversive scenes. Finally, the paper will conclude highlighting the presence of the above mentioned conventions of dark fantasy in these scenes.
Debaditya Mukhopadhyay is an Assistant Professor of English at Manikchak College, affiliated with the University of Gourbanga, India. His research articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals like Muse India, DUJES, etc. He has contributed chapters to collections published by Salem Press, McFarland, and Lexington Books. He also has forthcoming chapters in edited collections from Lehigh University Press and Peter Lang. He has presented his papers at Presidency University, Banaras Hindu University, etc. and has been invited to speak at the Symposium: Sholay at 45 (event postponed due to the Pandemic) organized by School of Media, B.C.U. (UK) Dipanwita Paul – Which Witch Are You?: The Influence of Anglocentric Witchcraft on the Bollywood Horror fantasy genre
The usage of the words “Witch”, “Witchcraft” and “Black Magic” in the Indian context of the Supernatural would be a dolorous attempt to contain and translate the elephantine and multifarious concepts of Tantra Vidya, Jadu Tona and the mythical creatures like Daakini, Yogini, Chudhail, Bishahi to the English language, rendering several gaps and pitfalls. However the Anglocentric idea of a “Witch” has consistently influenced and shaped the portrayal of Dayan or Chudhail in the post-independence Indian popular media, especially the Indian cinema. Several elements of the Anglocentric Witchcraft, for example, apostasy, capability of flight, casting of spell, churning of cauldrons, association with animals like the black cat, European symbolism, or even attires comprising gowns and cloaks have been imported in Bollywood horror fantasy movies like Veerana (1988), Makdee (2002) or Ek Thi Daayan (2013) or soap operas like Daayan (2018). Whereas caste and gender based violence and human rights violations related to witch-hunting, witch-trial and other such superstitions, remain a pressing social issue across India, Bollywood on the other hand has been constructing the figure of a Daayan with severe religious and socio-cultural ambiguity, which is distant and occassionally antagonistic to its ethno-cultural roots. This paper thus attempts to study the reasons behind such Anglocentric influence on the figure of Daayan in the Bollywood, its conception, journey, contradiction and metamorphosis through time and it’s implication and place in the socio-cultural-political landscape of India.
Dipanwita Paul is a Queer Feminist-Activist, and a student of Jadavpur University, Department of English. She is a member of Women Against Sexual Harassment, and Das Theke Das Hajar, both forums combating sexual harassment in workplace, and has been an active participant in the Feminist, Queer Rights, Caste-Based, and anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movements. Primrose – The Fantastic, Allegoresis and Historical Trauma in Mo Yan’s Dissident Works
My paper interrogates the literary mode of the fantastic in the traumatic representation of collective suffering of the rural subaltern across the span of the 20th century – starting from the Boxer Rebellion to the Post-Mao economy – in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips. I take as a starting point both the Anglocentric conception of trauma and fantasy, as mis-aligned literary modes with each other; Even what seems like an antirealist impulse – in the aporetic representation of traumatic events – bespeaks a representational impossibility, which is at the heart of it a paradoxically realist impulse, and at odds with fantasy’s own affinity with the escapist and the absurd. In the light of Mo Yan being a writer writing within the parameters of the repressive censorship regime of present-day China – I posit that the employment of fantastical tropes and elements, in tandem with the allegorical mode, configures a veiled political critique, as a way for Mo Yan to contour the silence around historically repressed memories. In so doing, I recuperate the subversive power of the fantastic in re-inscribing the mythical figure of the rural subaltern, alongside with their native religiosities and philosophical traditions, fantastical folklores, and oral tradition – which have been extirpated by the violent imposition of modernity in China. Following the lineaments of Rosemary Jackson’s insight that the fantastic mode recovers that which has been repressed, silenced and effaced by the cultural dominant, I interrogate the structural affinity between the fantastic and traumatic representation through their realist impulse in gesturing towards an absent social totality. The fantastic should thus be taken as an interpretative hermeneutic, through which the historically repressed memories of the past injustices enacted upon the peasants can be pulled back into visibility.
Primrose (full name) graduated from National University of Singapore in 2016 with a degree in English Literature and is currently pursuing her Master’s in the National University of Singapore. Her research interests are in the area of contemporary Chinese literature, cultural theory, postcolonial theory, and world literature. Her Master’s research project revolves around the study of contemporary Chinese novels to examine the aesthetic representation of China’s uneven and unequal modernity, and the compound of ecological abuse and social injustices in the context of Post-socialist China, as focalised through the abject dispossession endured by the rural subaltern. Paula Rivera Donoso – Three Possibilities For Latin American Fantasy: A Critical Proposal
Imaginative literature is not alien to Latin America’s literary tradition. However, the scholar world tends to focus only on four non-mimetic core genres: science fiction, the fantastic, horror, and magical realism. Fantasy literature written in Spanish and from Latin America, as in the trail of mythopoetic fiction, is scarcely studied—or even known at all.
One reason that could explain the predominance of those four core genres to the detriment of Fantasy is the thought that this literature cannot offer significant insights about Latin America’s current struggles, as the other types of non-mimetic fiction do. Fantasy literature, in the Latin American context, is often understood as a mere commercial and derivative genre, a shallow replica of the First World best-selling book model.
Against this, I sustain that present Latin American Fantasy exists as a non-homogenic and on-growing corpus that has already offered interesting works, worth inscribing in the long history of Fantasy as a literary form. To demonstrate a grasp of its richness, in this paper I will propose three possible aesthetic paths of this literature, that will show different and complex ways to engage with Latin America’s ethos trough literary imagination: Latin Americanism (in dialogue with indigenous traditions), Medievalism (in dialogue with European traditions), and expanded realism (in dialogue with Latin America sociopolitical problems). I will illustrate the way in which these paths express themselves through the analysis of three novels: Los días del venado (2000), by Argentinian author Liliana Bodoc; El fuego verde (2016), by Mexican author Verónica Murguía; and El tren marino (2015), by Chilean author Daniel Villalobos.
Bodoc, Liliana. Los días del Venado. La Saga de los Confines I. Norma, 2000.
Murguía, Verónica. El fuego verde. Ediciones SM, 2016.
Villalobos, Daniel. El tren marino. Laurel Editores, 2015.
Paula Rivera Donoso (Viña del Mar, Chile, 1987 / She, her). Master in Literature from Universidad de Chile. She also holds a diploma in Children’s and Young Adult Literature from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She is a Chilean author and independent researcher. She is currently interested in Hispano-American Fantasy works and their phylogenetical relationship with English-speaking canonical Fantasy. She is the co-founder of Vagalumbre (https://vagalumbre.com), a Spanish-written website dedicated to Fantasy literature. Shazia Sadaf – “Syncretic” Fantasy in Contemporary Pakistani Speculative Fiction
Nearly every fantasy is a mythic narrative based in a culture’s past or present beliefs, and when seen from within the “minority” (indigenous, other non-Western) perspective itself, a realistic one. It might only be seen as a fantasy by readers from outside that culture, so the “genre depends on who is reading” (Attebery, 176). Based on this paradox, Bechtel (2011) has suggested a new, more productive category of fantasy that he terms “syncretic fantasy” (5) that can extend the limited majoritarian understandings of reality into new directions. Syncretic fantasy combines the subjective non-majoritarian fantasies arising from indigenous storytelling or traditional mythologies with majoritarian Western “realities”. From this collision of multiple cultural viewpoints about real and imaginary, new configurations of what might be possible in the future can emerge.
This paper examines how Pakistani fantasy adds to the “syncretic” element by imagining worlds that connect religious beliefs and scientific possibilities in order to bridge the traditional and modern. As a case in point, Boy of Fire and Earth by Sami Shah has Djinns as characters, creatures that Muslims unquestioningly accept as occupants of a parallel dimension to humans. Shah thus creates a fantastical story with Djinns that is “impossible” but real because it is based in Quranic testimony; and “improbable” but true because a sci-fi universe of simultaneous alternative realities is supported by quantum physics research. I argue that if one of the constructive roles of speculative fiction is foresighting, then the influence of the present Us vs Them bias that informs our vision of humanity’s future must be dismantled. Recognition of alternative speculations from non-Western literary sources can potentially bridge the divide.
Attebery, Brian. “The Postcolonial Fantastic”. Stories About Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth, Oxford University Press, 2014, 169-185
Bechtel, Gregory. The Word for World Is Story: Towards a Cognitive Theory of (Canadian) Syncretic Fantasy. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1 Jan. 2011.
Shazia Sadaf (she/her) is an Instructor of Human Rights and Social Justice in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She holds a doctorate in Postcolonial Literature from Western University, Canada, as well as a previous PhD in English from the University of London and an MA in English Literature & Language from King’s College London, UK. Her articles have been published in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, South Asian History and Culture, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, and the European Journal of English Studies. She has also contributed chapters to the Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Literature (2018) and Violence in South Asia (Routledge 2019). Shazia is currently working on the manuscript of her book on human rights and Pakistani speculative fiction. Judith Schofield – Reading The Master and Margarita as Fantastic Literature: Rosemary Jackson’s Fantastic Subversion Outside of Anglocentric Contexts
Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a much-studied classic of Russian literature, often discussed in relation to its political, philosophical, and religious themes. However, very little critical attention has been paid to another major strand of the novel, its use of the fantastic and its place within the fantastic canon. Despite its witches, demons and talking cats, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature makes no mention of it and does not include it within their chronology of fantasy, beginning with Beowulf in 800 AD and ending with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Who Fears Death in 2010. I intend to demonstrate how The Master and Margarita performs the functions of a fantasy novel as described by Rosemary Jackson in Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. Jackson asserts that fantasy is a means of expressing ‘the unsaid and unseen of a culture’. However, the assumed culture for much of her theory is a ‘secularised culture produced by capitalism’, i.e. a westernised and Anglocentric conception of culture. I will demonstrate how her theory both functions and requires adaptation within the Soviet-Communist context of Russia in the 1930’s. In doing so, I hope to both situate Bulgakov within the genre of fantasy and suggest ways in which fantastic theory can shift its focus away from the Anglocentric.
In this 20-minute paper, I will break Jackson’s theory down into its component parts, apply them to Bulgakov’s novel, and highlight the main areas of coherence and discrepancy between them. I will also place the novel within its historical and social context in order to explain the reasons for these discrepancies, mainly in regard to their approach to the Marvellous, or the genuinely supernatural.
Bio: Judith Schofield(she/her) is a postgraduate student on the Fantasy Mlitt program within the University of Glasgow. Her undergraduate degree is in English Literature with Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. Her primary research areas are the Weird, Queerness within genre fiction, and genre intersections between Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror. She is currently working on a queer fantasy/horror novel and several short stories and poems. She is a Nighting-Owl, a hybrid of the Owl and Nightingale Fantasy Mlitt cohorts. Parinita Shetty – Marginally Fannish: Expressing and Accessing Intersectional Perspectives in Fan Podcasts
This paper investigates the ways in which fans use the fictional framework of their favourite media texts to raise awareness about intersectionality. It studies a selection of Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan podcasts featuring fans from groups which are under-represented or misrepresented in mainstream media and culture. The massive online fan communities of these globally popular texts attract fans from different cultures and countries.
Fans draw on their diverse personal, social, cultural, political, and ideological contexts to interpret and respond to the texts they read. Marginalised fans, whose lives are missing or stereotyped in popular culture, use fan podcasts to offer complex and nuanced perspectives. These spaces offer opportunities for intersectional conversations where fans use their favourite characters and worlds to navigate experiences which matter to them. Such conversations can raise awareness about issues which are otherwise erased in mainstream discourse.
Fan podcasts act as alternative media that allows marginalised cultures to present their own counternarratives which question taken-for-granted assumptions about them. Fans use these podcasts to challenge dominant representations and raise critical questions and reflections. Fan critiques about social justice issues function as consciousness-raising tools, allowing other fans to develop more nuanced interpretations of their favourite texts.
While mainstream fantasy media often reflects dominant perspectives, fan podcasts offer room for multiple and diverse lived experiences. Fans use the fictional framework to explore complex topics, wrestle with real-life limitations, explore real-world social, cultural and political issues, and voice their concerns and fears. This exposure to diverse perspectives and unfamiliar cultures they may not have otherwise encountered can allow fans from both marginalised and dominant cultures to think critically about the media they consume. It also has the potential to encourage reflection on the lives of others and promote understanding, respect and empathy for diverse experiences.
Parinita Shetty has worked with young people and children’s books in India in various ways – as an author, a bookseller in a children’s bookshop, a reading programme developer, and a coordinator of a children’s literature festival. She completed her M.Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies from the University of Glasgow in 2017. She is currently a second year PhD candidate at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include children’s literature, digital media, online fan communities, critical literacy, and intersectionality. She studies fan communities and identifies as a RavenPuff. She should currently be writing but is probably watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sarah Simpson – Fantastic Ambiguity in Amparo Dávila’s ‘Final de una lucha’
A multitude of examples of the fantastic short story are seen throughout Latin American literature. This seeming prevalence owes more than a little, however, to the historically vague definition of “the fantastic”. What is meant by this term has proven particularly difficult to define. This paper will engage with theorists of the fantastic writing from outside the Anglophone tradition, such as Jaime Alazraki and Jesús Rodero, alongside Anglophone critics, in particular Rosemary Jackson.
The paper examines the specific example of the story ‘Final de una lucha’ by Mexican author Amparo Dávila. Dávila’s work has often been classified as belonging to the fantastic, a categorisation that is due in large part to the ambiguity that permeates most of her stories. ‘Final de una lucha’ is no exception. Dávila employs a narrative voice that at first appears to give an unbiased account of events; however, over the course of the story the reader comes to doubt the ‘objectivity’ of this narrator, and indeed to question whether objective narration is even possible. Dávila plays with the inescapably subjective nature of the narrator as both perceiver and reporter of that which is perceived. The result is the co-existence of multiple interpretations of the text, none of which can be easily disregarded.
The ambiguity surrounding the narrative voice in this story lends the text a polysemy that is reflective of definitions of the fantastic given by theorists such as Alazraki and Jackson, who cite multiplicity of interpretation as being essential to this genre or mode. Thus, narrative ambiguity is seen to be intrinsically linked with the fantastic, the transgressive nature of which creates an environment in which the very concept of objective reality is called into question.
Sarah Simpson recently completed a Masters by Research in Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh and holds a BA in Spanish from the University of Oxford. Her Masters research centres around the short story in Latin America, particularly women authors whose work falls within the fantastic and related genres. She is also interested in gender and sexuality studies. In October 2021 she will begin a PhD at the University of Nottingham examining the constructed categorisation of so-called ‘lesbian literature’. Duncan Sneddon – Fantasy and science fiction in Gaelic: an emerging current in a minority language’s literature
Gaelic fiction publishing has seen remarkable growth over the last decade, and we can now clearly see the emergence of different fictional genres, including science fiction, fantasy, the whodunnit, and the political thriller. This paper will give a brief introduction to contemporary Gaelic fantasy and science fiction, a small but growing current in a language with a long and diverse literary tradition. The key issues will be: how Gaelic fantasy and science fiction copes with living in the shadow of the domination of English (all Gaelic speakers being bilingual with English, and Scotland being a country dominated by the English language), how this emerging genre relates to existing Gaelic literary and folkloric traditions, and the place Gaelic SFF has in the wider contemporary Gaelic literary world.
Dr Duncan Sneddon holds a PhD in Scottish History from the University of Edinburgh (2018) and taught in the Gaelic department at the University of Aberdeen from 2018 – 2019. He is currently teaching Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. He has published on different aspects of Gaelic folklore, literature and medieval ecclesiastical culture. Barbara Stevenson – Nordic and Pictish Influences in Orcadian Folklore and the Effects of Victorian Romanticising.
Humans have inhabited Orkney since the Mesolithic age. Trading in the islands during the Neolithic period was advanced, with evidence such as Irish flints being discovered. Before the Vikings arrived in the eighth century BCE there was a strong Pictish influence. The islands were annexed to Norway by Harold Hårfagre in 875BCE. In 1468 they were pledged to Scotland as a dowry and in 1472 became part of the Scottish crown by an Act of Parliament.
Cradled between the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea, it is unsurprising that the sea features heavily in Orkney’s folk heritage. Tales of the selkie seal folk have links to the merfolk of various cultures. The Fin people, with their home under the ocean in Finfolkaheem, share similarities with the huldrefolk of Norwegian mythology and the Pictish Feins. Tangies,shape-shifting water spirits in the Scottish Highlands, become demonic sea horses in Orcadian myths and the nuggle or noggelvi has Nordic roots, but is similar to the Pictish kelpie. In the depth of the ocean lurk the Nuckelavee, a uniquely Orcadian monster, and the Taren, who is responsible for winter storms. The Mither of the Sea guards humans and her subjugation of the Taren regulates the seasons.
This article considers how Norse and Pictish influences combined to give a distinct Orcadian folklore tradition. These stories were gathered and preserved by the Victorian folklore enthusiast Walter Traill Dennison, who set them down in the Scottish Antiquary Journal. The article asks whether his romanticising of the tales removed their true purpose, of serving as cautionary tales and explanations for natural phenomena passed through generations. It also looks at the role these mythologies have in establishing a dual Celtic and Nordic identity in modern Orkney.
Bio: I am a fantasy writer living in Orkney, where I developed a curiosity for the rich folklore. I am particularly interested in stories concerning animals and the sea. I mainly write fiction and have an anthology of fantasy stories coming out next year, but I have written non-fiction pieces, including an article for my professional magazine when I was a veterinary surgeon, short filler pieces for a Scottish magazine and I have had a paper published in the Luna Press Publishing volume ‘A Shadow Within’ (2019). I have submitted a paper for their next volume to be published in 2020. Ana Mafalda Telhada – Fantasy in Latin-America Imaginary Cities of Macondo and Comala
Throughout the last couple of centuries, European Colonizers’ chronicles and descriptions have been projecting an idea of an earthly paradise in the conquered lands of Latin-America, which ends up overlapping a fantastic topography with a pre-existing territory and its own reality.
On one side of this cultural shock, we have the beliefs of a pre-existing native culture and on the other the fantastic vocabulary and the values exported by a catholic Europe of the fifteenth century. The contrast between these two cultures resulted in the upcoming of the “New World” as an historical reality, in which fantasy represents one of the main sources of its identity development.
During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Gabriel García Márquez referred that a chronicle written by Antonio Pigafetta, who was a Florentine navigator upon his passage through American southern lands on the fifteenth Century “contained the seeds of our present-day novels, is by no means the most staggering account of our reality in that age.”
In this presentation, I intend to confirm the role and importance of fantastic narratives in the evolution of the Latin-American space’s collective memory. With this in mind, I will use places’ descriptions in Magical Realism Literature as a tool to analyze themes well-rooted in their sociocultural context, such as death, social violence and urbanistic organization.
In the conflict between the fantastic and the real, writers have found a narrative genre that seeks to give identity to the Latin America’s reality. The challenge of representing it has instigated the writing of imaginary cities, which served as themes for giving form to a society that sees magic and reality with the same measure of truth. Macondo and Comala, the cities created by Gabriel García Márquez and Juan Rulfo, respectively, will serve as study cases.
Bio: My name is Ana Mafalda Telhada. I recently finished my studies in Architecture, in University of Minho, Portugal. In 2017 I published my thesis which is entitled “Imaginary Places. A study about urban spaces in the fictional city of Macondo” and I have already participated in a couple of competitions about similar themes. I’m interested in exploring the urban space and architecture in narrative references and tales of Latin-America and European literature. Nowadays, I work as an architect in Guimarães, Portugal. Nazlı M. Ümit & Patrick Hart – The Phantoms of Karagöz: puppet-theatre fantasy as Ottoman Geisterspiel
In Proben: Der Volkslitteratur der Türkischen Stämme , Hungarian Turkologist Ignácz Kúnos suggests it is a mistake to describe Karagöz as a form of ‘shadow play’, because what the audience sees are not shadows but ‘phantoms’ represented by colourful puppets. Karagöz was primarily an imperial and urban practice, associated with palaces and coffeehouses, festivities and private gatherings, and many of its plots draw on details of Ottoman civic life, such as a law banning young women from sharing boats with non-Muslims (‘The Boat’), or the misunderstandings caused by illiterate scribes (‘The Public Scribe’). These quotidian components are interlaced with supernatural elements with folkloristic and mythological derivations, including witches, haunted trees and magic pots. This paper explores the seemingly seamless blending of the real and the fantastical that results, arguing for its distinctiveness from forms commonly found in Anglophone fantasy: none of Mendelsohn’s four modes (2008), for example, adequately describes it. It then asks to what extent the medium of puppet theatre might shape this distinctive relationship, taking Heinrich von Kleist’s essay ‘On the Marionette Theatre’ (1810) as a point of departure. This has often been read as driven by conflicting ideals of freedom and fears of determinism prompted by Enlightenment dreams of rational order. For Hans Urs von Balthasar (1988), Kleist chose the puppet theatre as the trope for his reflections because from a Kantian perspective, the apparently concrete world must seem a Geisterspiel, a spectral ‘play of ghosts’ or phantoms. We suggest that in the Karagöz plays’ fantastical fusion of quotidian urban life and the supernatural we find a liberatory obverse of Kleist’s struggle with Enlightenment, reflecting both the Ottoman Empire’s own distinctive relationship to Enlightenment thought, and Karagöz’s complex relation to urban high culture and to rural Anatolia.
Nazlı M. Ümit holds an MA from the Department of Drama at Exeter University, and received her PhD from the Institute of Turkology, Istanbul University, with a thesis on Turkish theatre historiography and European Orientalists. She practises Karagöz in professional performances and projects. She is currently Assistant Professor at Istanbul Kultur University, specialising in Turkish-Ottoman theatre, theatre historiography, and Karagöz. Her publications on theatre and Karagöz include Irish Theatre II: Lady Gregory (Mitos, 2012), Traditional Turkish Theatre: Karagöz Puppet Plays, ed. by Marvin Carlson and Nazlı M. Ümit (CUNY Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, 2019), and Hayal Yahut Karagöz’ün Son Perdesi ve Nev İcad Hayal Tiyatrosu (Libra, 2020).
Patrick Hart is Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature at Bilkent University in Ankara, and co-editor of the Journal of the Northern Renaissance. He has recently published on punctuation and poetic voice in the poetry of Drummond of Hawthornden, and on the fate of theatre under lockdown, and is currently writing a book on Baroque Petrarchism. He also works on Anglophone travel writing on Turkey, and is co-editor of Henrietta Liston’s Travels: The Turkish Journals, 1812-1820 (Edinburgh UP, 2020). Päivi Väätänen – Writing back to Anglocentrism: Genre and Stereotypes in Nnedi Okorafor’s “The Magical Negro”
“You need to stop reading all this stupidness,” tells the titular character his readers in Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “The Magical Negro” (2013 ) during his quest to wreak havoc on fantasy tropes and genre conventions that have not exactly been known for diversity and inclusiveness.
In order to transform the fantastic storyworld, the Magical Negro must leave behind his role as a subservient Hollywood caricature who is expected to die saving the white hero, Lance the Brave, from menacing black shadows. Lance sees the Magical Negro in terms of a racist stereotype: speaking a “strange dialect”, his hair “corrupted” and his skin a “horrible color” (13). However, instead of fighting that derogative representation, the Magical Negro is empowered by it. He rebels against his racist stock character fate, declaring that this is not “some kinda typical fantasy world from some kind of typical fantasy book” (13). He gets rid of Lance, becomes the main character, and leads the narrative from an Anglocentric high fantasy setting to an Afro Caribbean one by transforming into Baron Samedi, a voodoo Loa. In his new form, he strolls into the forest looking for “some hobbits, castles, dragons, princesses, and all that other sh*t” (13).
Using exaggerated stereotypes as her main deconstructive tool, Okorafor writes back to Anglocentric traditions of the fantastic genres by exploring and exposing racist conventions that equate blackness with evil, and condemn characters of colour to oblivion or minor, assisting roles. As her new main character directs his gaze “directly at you” (13) at the moment of emancipation, the narrative makes it clear that the responsibility of making the fantastic more diverse and more inclusive belongs to all of us.
Ms. Päivi Väätänen (MA) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and she is currently working on finishing her doctoral dissertation on African American science fiction. She has published on narrative ethics and the phenomena of Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism. Chengcheng You – Re-animating the Demon Child: Contemporary Appropriation and Inversion of a Chinese Fantasy Classic
The Chinese literary genre shen Mo xiao shuo (‘novels about gods and demons’), represented by the 17th-century classics Journey to the West and Creation of Gods (fengshen yanyi), marks a departure from the orthodox literature and the hegemonic Confucian social ethics that entails. Although Creation of Gods, the epic narrative of apotheosizing a plethora of gods, is not compiled as ‘canon’ in the official literary compendium, its popular appeal has persisted to date especially after its countless contemporary interpretations, retellings and adaptations. Among these gods that are now associated with those in the Daoist pantheon, Ne Zha, a 7-year-old anti-authoritarian figure who cuts his own flesh and bones and returns them to his parents, later deified as “Third Lotus Prince”, emerges from the investiture tale as an iconic figure for animated adaptation since the 1960s. What makes Ne Zha a unique fantasy figure for animated adaptation is his childness and the liminal status he occupies (between god and demon, life and death, faith and unbelief), and, despite the Indian origin, his powerful resistance to Chinese filial piety.
Taking the original story from Creation of Gods as a point of departure, this presentation summarizes Ne Zha’s character traits in the major adaptations over different periods and investigates how these productions recapture the potential of classical novel, in spite of its religious overtones, to evoke contemporary resonances and to open up space for cultural re-articulation. Ne Zha (2019), in particular, offers an alternative form of animation|fantasy adaptation by subverting the normative expectation or closures that the original literary text warrants. Drawing upon both adaptation studies and fantasy literature research, this study aims to draw out the implications of contemporary appropriation and inversion of the Chinese fantasy classic in reshaping Ne Zha.
Chengcheng You is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Macau. Her publications include recent articles published in Children’s Literature in Education, Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, and The Lion and the Unicorn, History of Education & Children’s Literature, and book chapters in Child Governance and Autonomy in Children’s Literature (2016) and New Directions in Children’s Gothic: Debatable Lands (2017). Her current research interests include children’s literature, environmental literature, and adaptation of Chinese classics.