Fantasy and the Fantastic!
By Grace Worm
On good days as a research student, it feels exciting to know that you’re contributing to something new within your field. But then days go by in front of a computer, working on the same introduction sentence for four hours, and no matter how helpful your supervisors are, it can feel like you’re all alone in a race to an impossible feat of writing.
This last year was my first as a research student. I came in so excited - seeking opportunities all over campus to discuss and evolve my research and status as an emerging scholar. Then of course COVID and lockdown happened, which left me feeling alone and questioning why my research on gender and social equality in fantasy worlds was important in a global climate of panic, fear, and a growing distrust in science and research—how could my seemingly esoteric research be meaningful now?
This last week, I attended the UofG’s launch for the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic and for the first time in months, I felt that I and my research were important. At the event, I got to listen to authors Dr Brian Attebery, Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner, and our own professors Dr Dimitra Fimi, Dr Matthew Sangster, Dr Rhys Williams, Dr Robert Maslen, Dr Laura Martin, Dr Maureen Farrell, and Dr Matthew Barr discussing fantasy and our university on the forefront of something that has never been done before.
In my research field and the general public, these people are legends, celebrities, people who built the building blocks of the research we’re all following now and they were talking about my university, my research, and a new age for Fantasy studies at the University of Glasgow.
In online fan communities unrelated to the university, I saw people posting about the event beforehand with captions like “Don’t you wish you were in Glasgow now?” or “A real-life place for magic” and I felt a bubbling sense of excitement and pride that we were changing the future of my field forever.
The event was for the University of Glasgow to become the first dedicated centre for fantasy studies throughout the world but it was also a declaration that we will not stop or slow down, no matter how separated we may be.
In the event chat, academics and fans alike posted where they were attending from - all over the UK and US, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia etc. If this had happened in a world without COVID, how many people could have travelled to attend the event? Would it have been recorded or published? Now it was an event for anyone who was dedicated to the fantastic.
Before lockdown, I would have been happy my university was leading the world, but now, as I watched these people discuss the future of fantasy through a Zoom call, it filled me with hope and a sense of comradery, as we, the unshown audience, shared our outfits on twitter, told others where we joined from, and asked questions from distinguished speakers.
We were together, despite everything, and in these uncertain times. We were full of life, ideas, and hope for a future we were making happen. We were celebrating Glasgow becoming the leader in fantasy studies, but now we were also leaders in how to navigate meaningful.
First published: 25 September 2020