Philophantast: A Speculative Fiction and Philosophy Conference CFP

A free hybrid conference for postgraduate students and early career researchers to be held on June 05 and 06 2024 at the University of Glasgow, supported by Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.

Deadline for Submissions: April 19 2024

Contact Email: philophantast@gmail.com

Call for Papers:
Speculative fiction and media encompass multiple genres and modes that, like philosophy, make us question the possible and impossible. Speculative creations provide tools to delve into philosophical questions, such as exploring the nature of identity and approaching the ineffable, in addition to speaking truth to power and empowering marginalised voices. This hybrid conference on speculative media and philosophy, sponsored by the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, seeks to showcase how speculative fiction and media can create and express philosophical insights. Speculative media has the capacity to incentivise scholars, critics, creators, and wider audiences to embrace and reflect on philosophical perspectives beyond the academic context, thus bridging the interdisciplinary gap between philosophy and the media we create, consume, study, and enjoy. Rather than considering philosophy as the abstract, systematic analysis of existence, knowledge, and reason with little to no correlation with our everyday lives, we wish to highlight the proximity of philosophy in praxis and theory through speculative media.

We invite submissions focusing on any genre or subgenre of speculative fiction, including but not limited to afrofuturism, alternate history, fantasy, the fantastic, horror, the gothic, utopia, dystopia, and science fiction. We also encourage submissions that focus on media such as film, games, comics and graphic novels, music, theatre, and television, as well as literature. Likewise, we welcome proposals from all philosophical perspectives and branches. For example, papers may address continental, analytical and indigenous philosophies and philosophical traditions; queer, non-western, post-colonial or anticolonial philosophical theory; branches such as aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and political philosophy; as well as ontological, phenomenological, and theological insights on or developed by speculative media.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers from postgraduate students and early career scholars. We also welcome panels and roundtables with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 4 presenters, and proposals for workshops. Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

• The analysis of speculative literature and media through philosophical lenses
• Speculative literature and media acting as thought experiments for philosophical ideas
• Imagination and philosophy
• Speculative philosophy and speculative literature and media
• Philosophical discourses developed by speculative literature and media
• Speculative fiction as an inclusive philosophical practice

Previous examples of studies that encompass both speculative media and philosophy include Marxist thought in Fantastika, imagining alternative worlds in speculative fiction, Neoplatonic thought in J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary production, studies on the abject in horror writing and cinema, and the fictionalisation of philosophers in literature and games.

Please submit an abstract (around 300 words), a short bio (maximum 150 words), and state if you wish to present in person or online to philophantast@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Abstract Submission’ by April 19 2024. Only applications from graduate students and early career researchers will be considered for this conference. We are particularly keen to highlight the contributions of underrepresented voices within speculative media and/or philosophy at this conference, and will prioritise contributions that demonstrate in abstract and/or bio that they align with this goal. If you have any questions, please contact the committee at philophantast@gmail.com

Realms of Imagination Launch Event

Thursday December 14th, 6pm-7:30pm

Join the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic as we celebrate the launch of Realms of Imagination: Essays from the Wide Worlds of Fantasy, recently released by British Library Publishing as a companion volume to the Fantasy: Realms of Imagination exhibition.  This highly-illustrated book contains twenty essays providing a wide range of perspectives on Fantasy, its forms and its communities.  Collection editors Tanya Kirk and Matthew Sangster will be in conversation with essay authors Cristina Bacchilega, Dimitra Fimi, Sofia Samatar and Ann VanderMeer.

Cristina Bacchilega is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa and co-edits Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies. Her books include Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies (1997), Legendary Hawai‘i and the Politics of Place (2006), Fairy Tales Transformed?: 21st-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (2013) and several co-edited anthologies. Her current projects are collaborations, one on the fantastic in the Pacific, the other on justice in contemporary fairy tales.

Dimitra Fimi is Professor of Fantasy and Children’s Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. Both her monographs – Tolkien, Race and Cultural History (2008) and Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy (2017) – won Mythopoeic Scholarship Awards; in 2021, she received the Outstanding Contribution to Tolkien Studies Award from the Tolkien Society. She co-edits the Perspectives on Fantasy book series (Bloomsbury) with Brian Attebery and Matthew Sangster.

Tanya Kirk is Lead Curator of Printed Heritage Collections 1601-1900 at the British Library, and is the lead curator for the major exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination (2023-24). She previously co-curated several other literary exhibitions at the Library, including Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (2014) and Out of This World: Science Fiction (2011). She has edited five volumes of classic ghost stories drawn from the British Library’s collections, most recently Haunters at the Hearth: Eerie Tales for Christmas Nights (2022).

Sofia Samatar’s first novel, A Stranger in Olondria (2013), won the 2014 William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She also received the 2014 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her novel The Winged Histories (2016) completed the Olondria duology, and was followed by Tender: Stories (2017), Monster Portraits (with the artist Del Samatar; 2018) and The White Mosque: A Memoir (2022). She lives in Virginia and teaches at James Madison University.

Matthew Sangster is Professor of Romantic Studies, Fantasy and Cultural History and Co- Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow.  His most recent book, An Introduction to Fantasy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023.  His essays on Fantasy include work on Mervyn Peake, China Miéville and imaginary cities.  His other books include Living as an Author in the Romantic Period (2021), Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900 (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2022) and Remediating the 1820s (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2023).  He co-curated (with Zoë Wilcox) the British Library’s 2011 exhibition The Worlds of Mervyn Peake and is external curator for Fantasy: Realms of Imagination (2023-24).

Ann VanderMeer is the founder of the award-winning Buzzcity Press. She was the editor-in-chief for Weird Tales (the oldest Fantasy magazine in the world) for five years, during which she was nominated three times for the Hugo Award, winning once. She has won the British Fantasy Award, the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. Anthologies she has edited or co-edited include Best American Fantasy (2007 and 2008), The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases (2011), The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories (2011), The Time Traveller’s Almanac (2013), Sisters of the Revolution (2015), The Big Book of Science Fiction (2016), Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology (2019), The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019), AVATARS INC. (2020) and The Big Book of Modern Fantasy (2020). She currently works as an acquiring editor at Tor.com. Ann lives with her husband Jeff and their cat Neo in Tallahassee, Florida.

You can get your free ticket via this Eventbrite page.

Framing Fantasy: Brian Attebery and Matthew Sangster discuss the affordances of Fantasy

To celebrate the publication of Matthew Sangster’s An Introduction to Fantasy (Cambridge University Press, 2023) and Brian Attebery’s Fantasy: How it Works (Oxford University Press, 2022) receiving the 2023 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies, Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic invites you to an online conversation between the two authors, exploring how we can make compelling cases for Fantasy’s particular qualities and values. The discussion will take place via Zoom webinar on Thursday 5 October 2023, and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Matthew Sangster is Professor of Romantic Studies, Fantasy and Cultural History and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. His new book, An Introduction to Fantasy, explores why Fantasy matters in the context of its unique affordances, its disparate pasts and its extraordinary current flourishing. His essays on Fantasy include work on Mervyn Peake, China Miéville and imaginary cities. His previous books include Living as an Author in the Romantic Period (2021), Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900 (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2022) and Remediating the 1820s (co-edited with Jon Mee, 2023). He co-curated (with Zoë Wilcox) the British Library’s 2011 exhibition The Worlds of Mervyn Peake and is external curator for the upcoming exhibition Fantasy: Realms of the Imagination (2023-4).

Brian Attebery is Emeritus Professor of English and Philosophy at Idaho State University. He won the World Fantasy Award for his editing of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts and has been honoured by both the Science Fiction Research Association and the Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for his scholarly work. During his time as Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Fantasy at the University of Glasgow, he helped launch the Perspectives on Fantasy book series from Bloomsbury Academic Press, which he edits along with Dimitra Fimi and Matthew Sangster. His Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Fantasy: How It Works (2022) is his third, following previous awards for Strategies of Fantasy (1992) and Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth (2013).

Get your free ticket here!

CFP: Tolkien sessions at ICMS Kalamazoo 2024

Image courtesy of the British Library, Shelfmark: Harley 3244

The Call for Papers for the 59th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA (May 9-11, 2024) is now open. Proposals of papers and contributions to roundtables are due Sept. 15, 2022. The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow, is sponsoring the following session: 

Here Be Dragons: Tolkien at the Medieval Margins

Modality: Virtual

Boundaries, margins and marginality are expanding areas of research in contemporary fantasy studies, in which Tolkien’s work is still central. Tolkien’s medievalist fantasy is particularly ripe for a reconsideration from the perspective of the edges rather than the centre: from negotiating the borders of fantastical geographies, to contested borders of genre within the legendarium, to acknowledging the perspective of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised readers, fans, and scholars. This session will continue the conversation which started at the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic’s 2023 international conference on boundaries and margins in fantasy.

Tolkien’s medievalist fantasy shows a keen interest in boundaries and margins: from negotiating fantastical geographies and their borders, to examining liminal characters in-between political/racial/cultural boundaries, even challenging borders of traditional genres within the legendarium (fairy-tale, romance, epic, science fantasy, etc.). At the same time, contemporary fantasy and Tolkien scholarship is at last opening up towards the experiences and perspectives of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised readers, fans, and scholars.

We invite paper proposals that seek to examine boundaries and margins in Tolkien’s legendarium, be they textual, linguistic, geographical, embodied, or imposed. 

All proposals must be made through the Congress’s Confex system. Please carefully follow the instructions on the Congress’s Call for Papers.

Deadline: Friday 15 September 2023

CFP: Tolkien sessions at IMC Leeds 2024

CFP: Leeds 2024 IMC Tolkien Sessions 

Paper abstracts are currently being sought for the following Tolkien sessions for the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, 1-4 July 2024.  The special thematic strand of this conference will be ‘Crisis’.  See more here.

We are very pleased that the 2024 IMC Tolkien Sessions will again be sponsored by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow.

Paper submissions are being sought for the following sessions:  

Tolkien’s Medieval Sub-creation in Crisis 

This session will examine different concepts of crisis in Tolkien studies. Papers may explore the types of crises Tolkien himself created in the body of his legendarium by his revising of several keys stories and legends at different times in his lifelong work.  Papers can address the significance of these narratives and their revisions in Tolkien’s shifting ideas about the world and cultures he was inventing. Papers may also explore adaptations of Tolkien works and how they create crises in our evolving understanding of the canon of Tolkien’s work and its reception.  

Bodily Crises in Tolkien’s Medievalism 

Papers in this session can explore crises/concerns of gender and bodily difference in Tolkien’s works including sexuality and disability.  Indicative areas to be examined include the role of bodies under physical duress, punishment, injury from battle or war, as well as bodies in transformation including prosthetics, spiritual transformation (good or evil) and how bodies and body transformation from Tolkien’s works are depicted in illustrations and in films and other media.  

Racial Medievalism in Tolkien Studies – A Session Celebrating the Works of Professor Dimitra Fimi, founder of Tolkien at Leeds

Papers in this session may respond to, critique and develop key ideas regarding Tolkien’s representations of race that were first explored in Professor Dimitra Fimi’s ground-breaking 2008 book Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits, which won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies in 2010. Fimi’s evolving body of work has brought to light neglected aspects of Tolkien’s creativity and world-building, including the centrality of the Elves, the role of linguistic invention, and the relationships between race and material culture in Middle-earth This session invites papers that explore Tolkien’s contexts, racial representations and world-building through engaging with and building upon the approaches Professor Fimi has set out in her academic work.

Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches

This continuing Tolkien at Leeds session will accommodate wider topics and new approaches to Tolkien’s medievalism, ranging from source studies and theoretical readings to comparative studies of Tolkien’s works and Middle-earth studies.  

Crises in Researching Tolkien: A Round Table 

The Annual Tolkien at Leeds roundtable will explore the current crises facing Tolkien teachers, academics and researchers in Tolkien and Middle-earth studies.  Topics can include the various adaptions of Tolkien’s works that will continue to grow with new media deals, differing thoughts on treatment of Tolkien’s race, culture and sexuality in his works and the desire of scholars to see, analyse and contextualise more of Tolkien’s remaining unpublished papers.   

  • Please submit a paper contribution title and abstract by 31 August 2023 to  Dr. Andrew Higgins (asthiggins@me.com
  • Length of abstracts: 150 words (max!)  
  • Papers will be 15-20 minutes long (3 paper sessions will be preferred) 
  • With your abstract, please include name and details of contributor (affiliation, address, and preferred e-mail address)

CFF April 2023 Newsletter and Announcements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can follow the Network on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy International Summer School – June 2023

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

Registration is open now until 14 April 2023. 

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

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

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

Tolkien and Fantasy sessions at ICMS Kalamazoo 2023

The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Univ. of Glasgow is sponsoring two sessions at the 58th InternationalCongress on Medieval Studies, to be held in a hybrid format (virtual and face-to-face sessions), May 11–13, 2023:


British Library, Royal 19 D I f. 65: Saracens and Christians


Friday, May 12, 2023, 1:30pm EDT (i.e., New York Time) #255     

Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race (A Roundtable)  (Virtual) 

Sponsor: Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Univ. of Glasgow 
Presider: Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow Organizer: Mariana Rios Maldonado, Univ. of Glasgow 
A roundtable discussion with Robin Anne Reid, Independent Scholar; Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow; Mercury Natis, Signum Univ.; Toni DiNardo, Univ. of North Carolina–Chapel Hill; and Lars Olaf Johnson, Cornell Univ. 
Respondent: Mariana Rios Maldonado


Ursula K. Le Guin
Photo by Eileen Gunn

Saturday, May 13, 2023, 10:00am EDT (i.e., New York Time) #328     

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Marvelous Medievalism  (F2F, Schneider Hall Room 1120)

Sponsor: Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Univ. of Glasgow Presider: Larry Swain, Signum Univ. Organizer: Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow 

  • “Guilt within the walls”: Imprisoned Characters in Le Guin’s Short Stories– Lily T. Tun, Texas A&M Univ. 
  • “She too is a patterner”: Arachnids in Earthsea and “Buffalo Gals”– Kristine A. Swank 
  • World-Building and Language Invention: The Kesh Language of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Always Coming Home– Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar

Additionally, Luke Shelton, University of Glasgow, is presiding over the following session:

Friday, May 12, 2023, 10:00am EDT (i.e., New York Time) #204     

Virtual Religion along the Tolkienian Fantasy Tradition: New Medievalist Narratives  (Virtual) 

Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society Presider: Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow Organizer: Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar 

  • Do You Even Pray Though? Examining the Worship of the Great Mother Goddess in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe– Rachel Sikorski, Independent Scholar 
  • Playing with Medieval(ist?) Religion in Forum-Based Play-by-Post Roleplaying Games: A Case Study– Geoffrey B. Elliott

When it Changed: Women in SF/F Since 1972 Recap

The following report was written by 3rd year PhD student Emma French who contributed to running the conference. Emma’s research is focused on the intertextualities between literary fantasy and the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). She can be found on twitter @ohlookdragons.

The keynotes from this conference can be viewed here:

When it Changed Conference Recap

By Emma French

The 2nd-4th December 2022 saw the hosting of ‘When It Changed: Women in SF/F since 1972’, an online conference organised collaboratively by the Science Fiction Foundation, the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, and the Games and Gaming Lab at the University of Glasgow. This conference marked the 50th anniversary of Joanna Russ’ landmark short story, and celebrated contributions to the genre by women and people from other marginalised backgrounds that are indebted to her legacy. Paul March-Russel and Kate Heffner pulled together a wonderful conference filled to the brim with papers from international fans, scholars, and fiction writers. My academic work on an area of contemporary fantasy that is grappling with its own legacies of sexism and racism. This conference was a nice and welcome reminder of SF/F’s long history of creative practitioners, academics, and fans who have also come up against similar issues, grappled with them through their beautiful creative work, and made real and tangible changes to the field that are still felt today. As both Lisa Yaszek and Cheryl Morgan noted in their keynote speeches, while it can feel very isolating to be in a period of backlash marked by 2009’s Race Fail, 2013-2017’s Sad Puppies, and current transphobia within UK genre fiction today, even just a brief look back at history can show that these periods of feminist growth and resultant backlash have always happened. And when they do, those leading the backlash are nearly always in the minority, and eventually overcome. With 2022 feeling like a very hostile place, this affirmation of a slow bend towards an inclusive genre full of diverse voices and creative potential was much needed! 

The conference was filled with wonderful and inspiring papers and panels, focusing on the history of Russ’ contributions and the work of her contemporaries; current work within Science Fiction and Fantasy that grapple with the same issues they faced; as well as certain topics very particular to our current moment in 2022. In particular, a major thematic focus on maternity, the female body, and reproductive rights emerged, in the wake of Roe vs. Wade. There were also several papers discussing trans and genderqueer representations, presenting an inclusive definition of womanhood. ‘Panel 5: Vandana Singh’ and ‘Panel 7: The View from Brazil’ spotlighted non-white perspectives on the genre and its major canonical works, alongside many papers discussing whiteness within SF/F and its associated fan communities, addressing a previously elided or evaded discussion of race within the field. 

‘When It Changed’ also hosted three excellent keynotes from Professor Lisa Yaszek, Hugo-award winning critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan, and Professor Joy Sanchez-Taylor. Yaszek’s talk, ‘A Brief History of Gender and Genre in the SF Anthology’, traced the history of feminist debate and thought in Science Fiction from 17th-century author Margaret Cavendish to the present day. In her conclusion she noted that, while there are occasional periods of backlash and ‘steps back’, ‘yet we continue to thrive’. Morgan’s keynote focused on measurable data, discussing the diversity present within the Hugo Awards finalists and winners, as well as the structural inequalities in the collation and curation of Science Fiction and Fantasy and its history that can result in women’s writing being suppressed. While this data seemed to present a positive trend towards more focus on women and those from other marginalised identities, Morgan ended on an interesting and important counterargument, that an industry becoming ‘women’s work’ can often indicate that it is becoming undervalued, ‘and so, the struggle goes on’. 

In contrast, Sanchez-Taylor’s talk focused less on the SF/F’s historical trends and instead on the history of a single case study: the female figure of the ‘witch’ or ‘bruja’ in fantasy and science fiction. Sanchez-Taylor highlighted innumerable works of contemporary fantasy that have begun to revise this trope, including Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, and Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost. 

However, Sanchez-Taylor also closed her talk with a call to action and activism within academia itself, advocating for the support of the work and publications of female scholars, particularly women of colour and caretakers. 

All three keynotes, and many of the panels, ultimately served to remind me that if we wish to continue to uphold the cause of feminism within academia, fan communities, and genre publishing, it is nothing less than a collaborative effort. We must all be mindful to promote and elevate works by women, queer voices, and people of colour, either by citing them in our research or teaching them in our classes and curriculum. We must celebrate the awesome, original, and honestly just fun stories that such a diversity of perspectives produces, and be mindful of how we can use our own power and privileges to help others.

Announcing the Wat Dryhope Award

The cover of A History Maker (1994),
by Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray’s novella A History Maker (1994) is set in a Scotland of the future which understands human history, past and future, in terms of the domestic household. The global economy has been transformed by the invention of a universally available green energy source, the powerplant stalk: a column of light that extends from the ground to the clouds, requiring no input or maintenance except what is provided by the local ecosphere, and capable of converting all available material into whatever a household needs, from books and minerals to china dolls. As a result, societies have rearranged themselves into small domestic units organised around individual powerplant stalks, each unit directed by a group of matriarchal ‘aunts’ whose ‘gossip’ helps them resolve every crisis faced by their community.

The men of the future amuse themselves by staging wargames between local communities, fought with real weapons and involving a sometimes spectacular body count. The book’s protagonist, Wat Dryhope, acquires cult status among the spectators of these wargames thanks to his part in winning a victory for his clan against all odds. As a result, he finds himself drawn into a worldwide plot to overthrow the matriarchy by destroying the powerplants that supply its households. Wat represents, in fact, the intrusion of history into a world that sees itself as having left history behind; history, here, being largely the product of dissatisfied men seeking to gain power by violence over as many households as they can, often because of some personal resentment caused by their upbringing. Only the matriarchs and their gossip can prevent this utopia of the future from lapsing back into its historical state of continuous warfare.

The intrusion of history into a settled world is also, for Gray, the realisation of story. Hailed as a hero, Wat stands in danger of coming to embody the desire of certain men and women to transfer their fantasies wholesale from the space of storytelling into the public and private spheres, with consequences as disastrous as you might expect if you like to read action adventures or indulge in extravagant fantasies. Mark Twain, among others, shared this awareness of the disastrous effects of confusing the real and the fantastic, ascribing the American Civil War to the passion of Southern Gentlemen for reading the romances of Sir Walter Scott, and for imposing the terms of those romances unchanged on their unfortunate nation. Gray’s world of the future, set in the Scottish landscape quite close to Scott’s home in Abbotsford, involves instead a constant interplay between fantasy and reality, and so invites us to consider how best to achieve a healthy relationship between the two. Gray politicizes fantasy, in other words, and encourages his thinking readers to do the same.

Alasdair Gray
Image Courtesy The Alasdair Gray Archive

Wat Dryhope is not simply an embodiment of toxic masculinity or imperialist self-delusion. He also represents a resistance to complacency: dreams and fantasies as stimulants to reflection, invention, needful transformation. His disruption of the matriarchy leads it to needful self-reformation, giving new creative functions to the men who had formerly been wasting their lives in pointless combat. And he ends his life as a wandering Gangrel: one of those travellers whose philosophy of constant movement and debate challenges the self-satisfaction of the settlements they refuse to settle in. His first name recalls both ‘Walter’, invoking the internationally acclaimed and notoriously conservative writer of romances, and Wat Tyler, the leader of the fourteenth-century peasant’s revolt whose life was an inspiration to the socialist writer-artist William Morris. His second name summons up both the old word wanhope – despair, depression, despondency – and the conviction that the green shoots of hope can spring from the driest of grounds (‘For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease’; ‘Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live’). Like most of us, and like the fantasy genre, he is a thing of contrasts.

The Wat Dryhope Award is intended to reward thought on fantasy. To this end it is presented annually to the best-performing student in the MLitt English Literature: Fantasy at the University of Glasgow. The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic thanks the Estate of Alasdair Gray for giving us permission to name the award after one of his quirkiest and most unsettling protagonists.

Call for Papers: GIFCon 2023 Boundaries and Margins

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Boundaries and Margins in Fantasy 

The Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is pleased to announce a call for papers for Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCon) 2023 (to be held online on 10-12 May 2023) with the theme of ‘Boundaries and Margins’

Brian Attebery famously argued in Strategies of Fantasy that fantasy can be conceptualised as a ‘fuzzy set,’ with the edges of the genre mainly understood through the lens of what is placed at its centre. Given the subjectivity inherent to this definition, notions of boundaries (or lack there-of) have been a key concern to academic and critical discourse on fantasy and the fantastic, as well as a preoccupation of fictional texts, with fantastical occurrences often being germinated in liminal spaces and margins. As Rosemary Jackson claims in Fantasy: A Literature of Subversion, “The dismissal of the fantastic to the margins of literary culture is in itself an ideologically significant gesture, one which is not dissimilar to culture’s silencing of unreason.” However, while fantasy fandom has historically perceived itself as being on the margins, the genre and its presumed canon privileges a narrow selection of voices and texts, pushing alternate perspectives to the edges of the fuzzy set. Despite the conception of fantasy as the literature of the impossible, the delimitation of margins and boundaries can undermine the potential offered by multiplicity, eliding certain works and creative practitioners from genre, subcultural fan communities, and academic research. 

Boundaries and their transgression have often been seen as inherent to textual encounters with fantasy. This thematic concern with the perceived limits of consensus reality arguably makes it uniquely suited for representing the lived experience of those marginalised by such definitions of realism. Examining the borders of both reality and the genre are central to contemporary fantasy studies, from negotiating the fantastical geographies of works such as Lud-in-the-Mist, Doctor Who, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to contested borders of genre in Gideon the Ninth, Star Wars, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. The genre is increasingly acknowledging the perspective of racially, culturally, and ethnically marginalised creative practitioners, such as in the works of Nalo Hopkinson, Guillermo del Torro, NK Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Nghi Vho. Fantasy’s academic discourse is becoming less concerned with establishing a canonical ‘centre’ and more with examining those margins, as seen in the work of Sami Schalk, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Rukmini Pande, and Maria Sachiko Cecire. Marginality is the space where fantasy happens.  

How do academics, creative practitioners, and fans create, enforce, or challenge boundaries in the production, distribution, and reception of fantasy texts? Fantasy and the fantastic have myriad capabilities for challenging hegemony, but how can that capacity be fully utilised? 

GIFCon 2023 is a three-day virtual conference that seeks to examine boundaries and margins within fantasy, be they textual, linguistic, geographical, embodied, or imposed. We welcome proposals for papers relating to this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether within the academy or beyond it. We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers, and researchers whose work focuses on fantasy from the margins. We also invite ideas for creative workshops for those interested in exploring how the creative processes of fantastic storytelling and worldbuilding can engage with boundaries and margins  from a practice-based perspective.  

We ask for abstracts for 20-minute papers. See our Suggested Topics list below for further inspiration. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bionote via this form by January 6th 2023 at midnight GMT

We also ask for workshop descriptions for 75-minute creative workshops. Please submit a 100-word description and a 100-word bionote via this form by January 6th 2023 at midnight GMT

If you have any questions regarding our event or our CfP, please contact us at GIFCon@glasgow.ac.uk. Please also read through our Code of Conduct. We look forward to your submissions! 

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Fantasy texts and media by creative practitioners from marginalised backgrounds  
  • The mediation of marginality and marginalised identities in fantasy and fantasy worldbuilding 
  • Liminality, threshold-crossing, and physical or intangible borders in fantasy 
  • Boundaries or lack thereof between fantasy media (including but not limited to literature, film, television, theatre, oral traditions, comic books, video and tabletop games, new media, virtual reality, theme parks, podcasts, scripts, visual arts) 
  • Characters and creatures on the margins 
  • Texts and practices beyond the Anglophone and Anglocentric fantastic 
  • Boundaries of bodies, gender, sexuality, and romantic attraction in fantasy 
  • Boundaries of race and ethnicity in fantasy 
  • Representations of class in fantasy media, and its role in shaping fandom, creative practice, and academic research 
  • Transgressions of boundaries 
  • Boundaries between fantasy and reality or realism 
  • Intertextuality, metatextuality, and marginalia in fantasy 
  • Regional genres and traditions of fantasy 
  • Hybridity in genre and form, problems of classification and definition in fantasy and the fantastic 
  • Boundaries in magic systems 
  • Interdisciplinarity and cross-disciplinarity 
  • Fandom as marginalised community, and fans’ own practices of enforcing boundaries, e.g. gatekeeping 
  • Fantasy creation, fandom, and academic research as cult practices 
  • The role of marketing and promotional materials in shaping boundaries and margins 
  • Awards and notions of legitimacy as boundaries 
  • Fantasy, the fantastic, folklore and myth in national and regional contexts 
  • Worldbuilding and fictional boundaries 
  • Boundaries and margins on fantasy in the academy 
  • Negotiation of boundaries placed by cultural industries and governments 

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