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GIFCon 2020

Call for Papers 2023

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.

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 


GIFCon Submission Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in GIFCon!

Regarding the content of your submission we have compiled some advice about abstract writing, based on past experience and common good practices. We hope you will find it useful.

Regarding the format of your submission please follow these guidelines:

  • The submission should be a single editable file in English, in doc, docx, rtf, odt or txt format. It should contain your submission title, abstract text and a bionote, in that order.
  • The abstract must be at most 300 words long. Every word counts towards the limit, including title and references (if any).
  • The bionote should be 100 words long and should make clear what your first name, family name and title are.
  • The abstract must have a title – it’s surprising how many people forget to include one! The title of your abstract should be at most 120 characters long.
  • The filename must be FirstName.Surname, for example Hermione.Granger.rtf
  • In case of multiple authors, make it clear who the first is. Include all bionotes in the same file and name it after the first author.
  • If your document is in doc, docx, rtf or odt format, the title must be in bold 16pt and the text body must be in 12pt. The font must be Arial, Helvetica or FreeSans.
  • Your submission must be a file attachment. Do not send links to files stored online and do not write it within the email body.
  • Spellcheck the document, preferably using UK spelling.

If you do not follow these guidelines your submission may be rejected without notice.

Advice: Submitting to GIFCon

Committees for conferences and symposia often read many, many abstracts before they decide which ones to eventually accept. To get through submissions quickly, committee members often look for a few key signs to determine whether a paper can be easily rejected, or whether it’s worth putting aside for further consideration.

So, we at GIFCon thought we’d share with you what we look for when we read an abstract for our event, as well as some useful tips for submission.

Please note that this isn’t intended as a cast iron guide for submitting to all events, though some of these tips will be useful wherever you’re sending your abstract. Nor is this intended as a guide to creating an abstract from scratch, though we’ve also included some helpful links on writing an abstract at the end of this guide.

In summary, we’re looking for four key things in your abstract:

1) Fit to the Theme
2) A Clear and Concise Argument
3) Fit to the Timeslot
4) Your Ability to Complete the Paper

1) Fit to the Theme

When you’re sorting through a large volume of abstracts for a symposium, the easiest way to narrow down your choices is to reject those papers that don’t fit the theme of your event. Therefore, the first thing we’re looking for in your abstract is a reference to the call for papers. How does your paper fit in with the conference theme?

Make this context obvious early in the abstract. Pop a key word from the CfP in your title, if that’s suitable. If the committee have to go hunting for the paper’s relevance, you’re making it harder for them to accept your abstract. Don’t spend the entire abstract explaining the paper’s relevance at the expense of your argument. At the same time, don’t assume it’s enough to simply throw in random keywords from the CfP to make your paper relevant. Explain how your proposed paper fits in to the conference theme in a sentence or two, then move on.

If you’re finding it difficult to fit your paper into the theme of a symposium or conference, it might be worth considering whether your paper is right for that event. In 2018, we received several papers that were fascinating, and appeared to break new ground in their fields. However, the abstracts had absolutely no reference to ‘Escaping Escapism in Fantasy and the Fantastic’, and did not appear to fit into the conference theme more broadly. As a result, we had to reject them.

2) A Clear, Concise Argument

When a committee is reading a large volume of abstracts, they also need to determine quickly what your paper aims to do. This includes where it sits in the field, why you’re exploring this aspect of your topic, which text/s you’re looking at, and what you hope to illuminate by doing so. Therefore, while it is crucial the paper fits the call, it’s also important that your abstract itself has a clear argument, written concisely within the word limit.

There’s another reason for making your abstract as clear as possible. While a committee will include experts in areas related to the theme of the symposium or conference, it’s unlikely their expertise covers the whole of the field. Especially if your paper covers an esoteric niche within your subject, a clear and concise argument will help the committee to grasp what you’re intending to do in your paper.

Therefore, tailor your abstract appropriately, and make sure it flows from beginning to end. Don’t assume the committee will connect the dots between any points that you make – ensure that they follow on from each other. Assume general knowledge of the field, but avoid jargon that’s not commonly found in the subject at large. If you absolutely must use niche terms, make sure they are clearly defined.

Whatever you do, don’t follow Calvin’s advice!

A note on Titles and Keywords: While wit and wordplay are often found in titles, make sure yours briefly sums up the key terms of your paper without going over two lines. For examples, see our resource links at the end. Also, if you include key words at the end of your abstract, make sure they’re relevant to the abstract submitted. Don’t use them to add additional areas to your paper.

If you’d like further guidance on putting together an abstract, you can find some useful resources at the end of this post.

3) Fit to the Timeslot

We’re also looking for papers that are presentable within a 20-minute timeslot. Some papers we received proposed ideas that sounded too difficult to explore in the time allowed. One rule of thumb is to imagine 20 minutes as roughly 2000 spoken words. What can you fit into that?

If you’re concerned that your idea, or choice of text doesn’t work, don’t be tempted to hedge by listing too many texts or lots of ideas. If you say you’re going to analyse a text, we’ll expect you to analyse that text. If we feel you’ve listed too many texts to analyse in 20 minutes, we’re unlikely to accept your paper. Instead, bear in mind that all papers are expected to change a little before a conference – provided that your main topic or key text is the same as what you’ve been accepted to present on.

4) Your Ability to Complete the Paper

Remember, your abstract will be presented anonymously to the committee. They can only judge your final paper by what they have in front of them. Poor grammar and misspellings are warning signs to conference organisers. Misspelling the names of key scholars or authors – even missing out a co-author altogether – are big red flags. Like a badly-constructed argument, they not only indicate your paper may not be presentable by the time of the conference, but that you may be unable to speak knowledgeably on the topic for 20 minutes.

Make sure you proofread your abstract – or get a colleague to look at it before submission. You’ll be grateful you did.

A Note on Submission Guidelines

These rules about ability to complete a paper don’t just apply to the quality of the abstract. Your ability to keep to the Submission Guidelines also tells us whether your final paper will keep to the timeslot and resemble the paper we accepted from you. For example, if your abstract is clearly much longer than the stated word count, your paper may be too long, hence this often results in an immediate rejection.

Additionally, pay close attention to any notes about the formats, US/UK spelling, or fonts accepted. This not only makes things easier for hard-working conference administrators, who may have to compile abstract documents from several different formats. It may also help you anticipate possible issues with the display of presentation files at the host institution.

Make sure you check the Submission Guidelines before hitting send. Check you have included a title, an abstract to the required word length, along with any requested biography or contact information, and that all files are in the requested file format.

Finally, if you have any questions about submitting your abstract to an event, please get in touch with the event organisers sooner rather than later.

What an Abstract is Not

We’ve talked a lot about what we’re looking for in an abstract. Here are some things that an abstract for a literary event is not:

An abstract is not an essay plan. We don’t need to know exactly what you’re doing at each point in the paper. Instead, an abstract is more like a summary of your intended paper, putting it in the context of both the conference theme and current research in your topic.

An abstract is not the plot of a text. Instead, focus on conveying how you intend to use the text to explore your ideas, touching on any specific aspects that support your argument.

An abstract is not your biography. We don’t need to know that your paper is from a PhD project – a lot of papers are. The one exception to this is a creative paper abstract, where we expect some reference to your creative piece.

An abstract is not just a way in to an event. Again, if your abstract is accepted, you receive an invitation to present your paper, and if you accept that invitation, we do expect you to present on the topic outlined in the abstract. Papers often change a little between abstract acceptance and paper completion, but a finished paper should always resemble the accepted abstract. If you are unsure if your final paper does this, contact the organisers as soon as possible.


If you’re looking for examples of symposium and conference abstracts, you can find the accepted abstracts for our 2017 event.

If you’d like some advice on how to start writing an abstract, here are some more resources you might find useful:

Dr Koster’s Short and Snappy Guide to how to write an abstract. This is a useful resource for Humanities students whatever kind of abstract you’re writing, especially the ‘Conference Abstract’ section.

ACPI’s Abstract Guidelines for Papers. While questions 6 and 9 will not apply to most literary symposium papers, the rest of the 12 questions are a great final check for your abstract.

Professor Koopman’s article on How to Write an Abstract. It is directed towards Science papers, but contains some useful points for humanities students under the ‘Motivation’ and ‘Other Considerations’ sections.

Travel and Accommodation

The event will take place at the main campus of the University of Glasgow.

How to get here

By plane

Glasgow International Airport is located approximately 8 miles from the University. From the airport take bus service 77 to the West End of Glasgow, which stops near the University. By black taxi the fare to the West End is approximately £20 and if you choose private hire the cost is approximately £12.

Glasgow Prestwick is located approximately 30 miles to the southwest of the city and there are bus and train connections to the city centre.

Alternatively, you can fly to Edinburgh Airport. You may then take a CityLink bus which directly connects the terminal with Buchanan Bus Station.

By train

Trains arrive regularly into Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street from Edinburgh (50 mins) and London (5 hours).

By car

The University’s postcode for maps and sat-navs is G12 8QQ. You may check Google Maps for an overview of the area.

Please note that car parking inside the campus is not allowed and parking in the surrounding West End area can be extremely difficult. If you plan to come by car it may be better to find accommodation which also offers some parking space.

The Subway

Glasgow operates a single subway line that runs in a circle. The University lies close to the Hillhead station at the West End while Buchanan and St Enoch stations are at the city centre. Ticket prices are shown here.


Black cabs are almost always available and you can pick one on the street as needed. You can also book by phone: 0141 4297070

Private hire is cheaper but not always immediately available, depending on how busy it is at the time. You can only book by phone: 0141 557 1110

Where to stay

The University of Glasgow is close to a number of hotels and guest rooms. Although we are not affiliated with any, you may want to check some of the following – listed in no particular order.

Belhaven Hotel: 15 Belhaven Terrace, G12 OTG. 0141 339 3222.

Heritage Hotel Glasgow: 4 Alfred Terrace, G12 8RF. 0141 339 6955.

Hilton Grosvenor: 1-10 Grosvenor Terrace, Great Western Road, G12 0TA. 0141 339 8811.

Lorne Hotel: 923 Sauchiehall Street, G3 7TQ. 0141 330 1555.

Amadeus Guesthouse Glasgow: 411 North Woodside Road, G20 6NN. 0141 339 8257.

The Clifton Hotel Glasgow: 26-27 Buckingham Terrace, G12 8ED. 0141 334 8080.

Kelvin Hotel: 15 Buckingham Terrace, G12 8EB. 0141 339 7143.

Albion Hotel: 405-407 North Woodside Road, G20 6NN. 0141 339 8620.

Lomond Hotel: 6 Buckingham Terrace, G12 8EB. 0141 339 2339.

Glasgow Youth Hostel (SYHA): 7-8 Park Terrace, G3 6BY. 0141 332 3004.

You can find accommodation further away, in which case you may want to stay near a subway station. Hillhead is the closest station to the University.

The international phone code for the United Kingdom is 0044, so to call Glasgow from outside the UK you should dial: 0044 141 xxxxxxx