Theme and CFP
Fantasy at the Crossroads: Intersections, Identities, and Liminality
What is Fantasy? This is a question that the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Fantasy has explored throughout its first year. While this may seem an unanswerable question, for many of us, fantasy is where reality and the impossible meet. Fantasy inspires a sprawling collection of worlds that stem from a myriad of identities, experiences, and influences. From traditional epics to genre-melding, fantasy branches out into every style imaginable. Cross-sections of genre and identity create cracks in traditional forms, opening in-between spaces from which bloom new ideas and stories.
With a focus on intersections (academic and creative writing; film, art, and games) we aim for GIFCon’s inaugural event to be a crossroads at which these communities can meet and come into conversation.
Examples of intersections in fantasy can be found in:
- Julie Bertagna’s Exodus trilogy, which explores environmentalism within the context of fantasy and science fiction.
- Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s Children of the Drought series, which focuses on subversions of race and gender.
- China Miéville’s The City and the City, which fuses the detective novel with the fantastic.
- Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, which uses fairy tale inspirations to create a magical realist setting and narrative.
- Netflix’s Stranger Things, which melds horror with Dungeons and Dragons via a coming-of-age science fiction story.
- The Elder Scrolls video game series, which intersects narrative, music, and visual arts.
- Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series, which combines science fiction and fantasy to explore unique, genre-melded world-building.
We ask for 300-word abstracts for 20 minute papers, presentations and/or creative/experimental projects. The organisers welcome the submission of proposals for creative papers and performances. These may include, but are not limited to, short film screenings; photographic essays; computer game analyses; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement. All media and forms are welcome.
We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers. We will offer workshops in creative writing for those interested in exploring the creative process.
Suggested topics include:
- Intersections between cultures, genres, identities (gender, race, sexuality, sexual identity, neurodiversity, disability, faith and religion, and subversions of representation).
- Liminal Spaces: the bringing together of ‘real’ and ‘fairy’ or ‘magical’ spaces, as in folklore, fairy tales, myths, magical realism, or ‘third’ spaces in urban fantastic; genre-melding, as in weird fiction or “postcolonial gothic”.
- Transitions from one medium to another: adaptations of literature from and to graphic novels, film, TV, radio, etc.
- Responses to disaster/looking to the future: dystopia and the choices/events that lead to that future situation; and how communities pick up after devastation.
- Tensions between the individual’s and the community’s journey; the application of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth in contemporary fantastical works.
- Reading and engaging in fantasy as a community activity, whether academic study, book groups, fandoms, collaborative storytelling via role-playing games, etc.
- Crossovers and divides between fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative fiction.
- Where fantasy meets pedagogy in young adult fiction.
- Medieval, high or traditional fantasy in a technocratic age.
- Fantastical elements in graphic novels and comic books.
- Works that exist outside of typical genre or thematic boxes.
Please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography (both in DOC or RTF format) to the GIFCon e-mail address by Monday 19th December 2016.
Lacking Lutherania in Fantasy Fiction
When faith breaks into the realm of fantasy, as it is wont to do, the usual suspects do not include Martin Luther or his Reformation entourage. For unexplored reasons, crafters of fantasy literature seem to prefer to draw inspiration from Jesuit missionaries, Dante’s divine comedy, Anglican schoolchildren, Buddhist monks, or radical Christian fundamentalists. Why this curious absence of Lutheran elements in the fantasy canon? When one thinks of Luther’s insistence on the holy scriptures, and the resistance to images and icons privileged by the Catholic Church, this exclusion starts to make sense, for a fantasy universe without iconic and awe-inspiring architecture, figures, and backdrops would be empty indeed. Perhaps the endless rewriting of this history renders the Reformation useless as inspiration for fantasy writers. How could one elaborate the already semi-fabricated moments of the story, now settled in the mainstream, such as Luther nailing the 95 theses to the cathedral door? One clever incorporation of Luther into a drama that flirts heavily with fantasy can be found in Goethe’s Faust. This talk will outline how Goethe, whom A.S. Byatt deems the most inaccessible of all German writers to modern readers, manipulates the mythical figure of Luther into his character Faust and his time-travelling escapades. Several science fiction authors have woven the Faust story into their novels (i.e. Philip K. Dick’s Galactic Pot-Healer); while none of these authors blatantly refer to Luther or his following reformers, the remainder of the talk will be devoted to an analysis of how certain elements such as language games in Dick’s novel echo certain of Luther’s preoccupations. The presenter will hopefully kindle creative conversation as to how a writer could adroitly conjure dark elements of “Lutherania” (free will and transubstantiation, to name a few) within a fantastic universe.
Sonja Andersen is pursuing her doctoral degree in German Literature at Princeton University. Her research focuses on early Modern writing and reading trends in the European and global context, and her dissertation explores exchanges of media within an erudite circle in the 17th century. Fascinated by communication problems within and between religious sects, she is eager to bridge her lifelong passion for fantasy and science fiction with her analysis of strange materials of the media revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is currently conducting archival research abroad on a Donald and Mary Hyde Fellowship. You can reach Sonja via email.
“She was getting so well used to queer things happening”: Victorian Fantasy and the Alice books
The Victorian literary world was populated with the fantastic: from the fairylands of George MacDonald’s stories, to the goblins of Christina Rossetti’s famous poem Goblin Market; from the watery magical space of Kingsley’s The Water-Babies to the fantastic and marvellous elements present in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
It is even possible to state that “the Victorians helped to fully develop the term “fantasy” as we now define it” (Harding). It is in fact with the Victorian writers that the fantastic began to be shaped as a juxtaposition of ordinary and extraordinary, an alternative reality with blurred lines with our own. Prickett defines this tendency as “the internalization of fantasy”, which made possible for the Victorians to elaborate a new fictional language where the fantastic is inextricably linked with the “real” mental phenomena of dreams, nightmare and madness.
In this paper, after an initial part on the new meaning the word “fantasy” acquired in the Victorian age, I will focus on one specific example, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, and the peculiarity of their fantastic worlds. On the one hand the Alice books work as a perfect example of the Victorian approach to the fantastic: both Wonderland and the Looking-Glass land are Alice’s dreams, an exploration of the most irrational elements of her mind; and both of them present a mixture of unnatural features and realistic ones (first of all the narration is filtered through Alice’s perspective, the viewpoint of a perfectly realistic Victorian little girl). On the other hand I would also like to point out how specific characteristics of the fantastic in the Alices represent a completely innovative fictional approach. In particular, the unique mélange of genres that the Carrollian universes create, where fantasy develops into pseudo scientific speculations, existential meditations, grotesque comedy and inner quest for identity.
I am a 3rd year PhD Student in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. My project research, under the supervision of Professor Richard Walsh, is a cognitive narratology’s approach to the Alice books. This means an application of the new branch of narrative analysis connected to cognitive sciences at the study of Lewis Carroll’s narrative masterpieces. My main literary interests are connected to the Victorian period. You can reach me on Twitter @Yvonne_deGalais or via email.
Tabletop Fantasy Miniatures Games and Secondary World Infrastructures
This paper asserts the importance of secondary world infrastructures in tabletop fantasy miniatures games. Defined by Mark J. P. Wolf (2012), these infrastructures are world-building tools like maps, timelines, etc. They exemplify what historian Michael Saler chronicles as the rise of “fantasy realms presented in a realist mode, cohesively structured, empirically detailed, and logically based, often accompanied by scholarly apparatus such as footnotes, glossaries, appendices, maps, and tables.”  Via Wolf and Saler, I outline secondary world infrastructures in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar (Game Workshop, UK) and Warmachine/Hordes (Privateer Press, USA). My analysis includes campaign setting books, miniature models, accessories, ancillary fiction and magazines, and rules.
Extending Wolf and Saler, my paper also demonstrates how Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warmachine/Hordes foreground the process of creating secondary world infrastructure via DIY guidance. In this sense, tabletop fantasy games are instructional material about fantasy (painting guides, parameters for making bespoke armies, etc.). As per Saler, they become a didactic instance of a “public sphere of the imagination” in which the game worlds and associated infrastructures literally prompt revision by the players.  As per Wolf, they are “participatory worlds” with settings and rules designed to encourage – in fact teach — player alteration. 
My paper thus unboxes a paradoxical intersection within tabletop fantasy miniatures games. The Games Workshop and Privateer Press value proposition is to sell both fulsome, canonical lore and DIY aids that enable players to revise an encyclopedic fantasy setting. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warmachine/Hordes establish a liminal definition of “game,” bundling transmedia components that together exceed boundary categories like “toy”, “rules”, and “narrative”.
- Michael T. Saler, As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Pre-History of Virtual Reality (Oxford University Press, 2012), page 25.
- Mark J. P. Wolf, Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation (Routledge, 2012), page 281.
- Ibid., pages 17–18.
Neal Baker is Library Director at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, USA, where he also teaches. He covers SF/fantasy for the MLA International Bibliography. His paper is part of a research agenda tracing media characterized by the intersection of a dense fantasy world with extensive DIY material. The paper builds on Routledge book chapters that analyse LEGO Middle-Earth sets (2014) and Dungeons & Dragons (2016). Still zany at age 47, his next, early career research will hypothesize shared psychomotor propensities and genomic overlap among contestants of The Great British Bake Off and ace Warhammer hobbyists. His CV pulsates at http://library.earlham.edu/facilitiesandservices/staffdirectory and you can reach him via email.
Mapping the Middle: Navigating Between the Old and New in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Cartography
From the now famous map of The West of Middle-Earth After the Third Age to the intriguing diagrams of his sub-created cosmos in the Ambarkanta, J.R.R. Tolkien’s cartography was prolific. This paper will situate Tolkien’s cartography in a liminal space between medieval traditions of mapmaking and more modern and contemporary practices, arguing that he borrowed from both traditions in order to emulate various cultural and ideological concepts through his maps.
Critical responses to the relationship between medieval cartography and Tolkien’s own endeavours have been divided. Some critics have drawn parallels between the two practices; Karen Wynn Fonstad claims that “Tolkien was envisioning a world much as our medieval cartographers viewed our own…” (ix), while Jason Fischer’s detailed comparative study of the Hereford mappa mundi and Middle-Earth’s maps demonstrates numerous stylistic and conceptual similarities between the two. On the other hand, Alice Campbell maintains that “Tolkien’s maps do not have an authentic medieval style, despite their ‘archaic air’” (405), arguing that only superficial similarities can be established. I intend to show how both schools of thought can coexist, by demonstrating how Tolkien drew on and intermingled medieval and modern mapmaking practices to create his own unique cartography. In examining the techniques and properties which Tolkien deliberately replicated or abandoned – such as his adherence to the pictorial nature of medieval maps and their tendency to inscribe ideological concepts, mixed with modern cartography’s observance of scale and accuracy – I will determine which cartographic practices Tolkien prioritized, and how they contribute to a wider understanding of Middle-Earth geographical and cultural character, and the liminal space it occupies between the medieval and the modern, between the fantastic and the real.
Campbell, Alice. ‘Maps’. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York; Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Fischer, Jason. ‘Sourcing Tolkien’s “Circles of the World”: Speculations on the Heimskringla, the Latin Vulgate Bible, and the Hereford Mappa Mundi’. Middle-Earth and Beyond: Essays on the World of J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed. Janka Kaščáková. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. Print.
Fonstad, Karen Wynn. The Atlas of Middle-Earth. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994. Print.
Anahit Behrooz is a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, by way of Oxford and St Andrews. Her research explores cartographic practices in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. When not in Middle-Earth, Anahit is interested in depictions of the monstrous and supernatural in literature and art, from marginalia to Marvel and everything in between. She can be found on Twitter @lifeinfantasia or via email.
Gods Rebooted: Liminality in the Neil Gaiman Multiverse and the Expansion of the Superhero Canon
In American Gods (2001), Neil Gaiman conceives of America as a liminal space where deities, mythic figures, and folk heroes of all cultures interact. Gaiman’s success in bringing together such varied spheres is in part due to his wide knowledge of literary as well as historical, religious and folkloric traditions. However, it may also owe more to his work in comics than to his experience with non-pictorial texts.
The creation of a liminal canonical space can also be found in the Sandman (1989-96, 2009, 2013-15) comics, where Gaiman reboots the classic DC Comics character. Instead the usual technique of writing a new character in the same superhero suit, Gaiman expands on the reboot concept by creating a new mythic fantasy character, Dream. By adding an over-arching pantheon of related characters, as well as the realm of Dreaming, Gaiman creates a liminal space where he can both situate his work within the DC universe and explore different folkloric and mythic traditions, while avoiding the pitfalls of bringing together such diverse and potentially incompatible cultural motifs. Furthermore, by including references to poetry, literature, history, and music, and by carefully selecting a stylistically diverse range of artists to work with, Gaiman also expands the scope of the Sandman canon to include elements outside the usual spheres of either comics or fantastic literature.
In my paper, I will consider the continuities between this evolved superhero reboot technique and that employed by Gaiman in American Gods. I will show how, by situating his work in this canonically liminal space, his expanded universe is able to provide multiple touchstones for readers not just of comic books but of all cultural backgrounds. At the same time, it serves as a rich playground for writers and artists, as evidenced by the Sandman spin-offs and Gaiman’s own Anansi Boys, and the American Gods short story sequels. This may explain the success not only of other Gaiman works such as Black Orchid and Neverwhere, but of recent comic book and literary reboots on the big screen.
Ruth Booth is a Fantasy MLitt student at the University of Glasgow. As Ruth EJ Booth, she is a BSFA Award-winning author and poet in the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy genres. A member of the celebrated Glasgow SF Writers Circle, she is a columnist for Scottish Science Fiction journal Shoreline of Infinity. Her journalism credits also include The Independent and Kerrang! magazine. She holds an MSc in History of Science, Technology and Medicine from the University of Manchester. Her research interests include the fantastic psychogeography of Glasgow, the works of Neil Gaiman, and Gender and Mental Illness in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
‘Mother of Dragons’: The Dragon as Psychoanalytic Symbol for the Great Mother
Dragons are an influential beast in mythology, literature and film in both the West and the East. It is interesting therefore to investigate the symbolism of the devouring mother that can be seen within them. Fire provides warmth and nourishment but also has the potential to be destructive. Psychoanalysis explores how as the mother is comforting and safe man fears the inversion of the ideal maternal in the vagina dentata. A danger to men and children alike, the vagina is a symbol of pleasure and birth but in its nightmarish form it is the castrator and devourer of children. Using Erich Neumann and Jungian theory surrounding the Terrible Mother, vagina dentata and The Hero’s journey, I will highlight the ways in which the dragon quest portrays heroic masculinity versus evil femininity paying close attention to the role of the dragon mouth. Although the dragon possesses masculine qualities, it should not be confused with the father figure as Neumann states ‘Fear of the dragon does not correspond to the fear of the father, but to something far more elemental, namely the male’s fear of the female in general…To the hero, the clutching Earth Mother appears as a dragon to be overcome. In the first part of the dragon fight she twines herself about the son and seeks to hold him fast as an embryo, by preventing him from being born or by making him the eternal babe in arms and mother’s darling.’ Slaying the dragon is synonymous to ‘pulling the teeth’ from the vagina dentata and the evil feminine threat is vanquished. In this paper I will draw examples from Game of Thrones, The Hobbit and Skyrim’s dragons and how reflect the primordial fear of the Terrible Mother.
I am a postgraduate student at University of Hertfordshire, currently developing a dissertation project on the myth of vagina dentata exploring how femininity and evil are manifested in folklore and literature. My interests lie particularly with Renaissance and Gothic literature and psychoanalysis. I have presented papers at ‘Promises of Monster’ – University of Stavanger, Reimagining the Gothic – Sheffield University, The International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Transylvania – University of South Wales, Slayage Con – The Whedon Studies Association – Kingston University and Temporal Discombobulations – University of Surrey all in 2016. I also won a research award for innovative research for my paper at Reimagining the Gothic. You can reach me on Twitter @daisy2205 or via email.
Wherefore Art Thou Chocobo: Final Fantasy, Literary Influence, and the Invention of the JRPG
The Final Fantasy video game series (1987-) is among the most popular and longstanding of its kind, and has been since the release of Final Fantasy in Japan in 1987. Its entries are frequently heralded as genre-defining, and it has become routine to imagine the series as the cornerstone in the development of the Japanese Role Playing Game in the 1990s. Accurate though this portrait may be, attention is rarely paid to that which influenced the Square employees who worked on the first game to begin with. In fact, their inspiration can be tracked to sometimes surprising places: contemporaneous American RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, J. R. R. Tolkien, classical mythology, and even epic poetry. Whether these stimuli are obvious or more subtle in the game itself, Final Fantasy, like all other works that are alleged to have ‘created’ a genre, is the amalgamation of an array of different media before it. This paper offers an initial reflection on these different types of influence on a game and form whose intergenric sophistication is woefully undervalued by the academy. It will place a particular emphasis on the literary origins of Final Fantasy, and try to untangle the processes of genric intersection and adaptation at play in the game. The paper is in three parts, beginning with an outline of the game’s development and the story behind its inception. I shall then illustrate the game’s influences in turn, pointing to examples from the game itself. Finally, I shall pose some wider questions as to Final Fantasy’s place in the history of fantastical video games and ‘fantasy’ more broadly.
Bradley graduated from the University of York with a BA in English in 2015 and is currently studying an MSc in United States Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is particularly interested in nineteenth-century authorship, politics, and American epic poetry. Bradley is from Romford, Essex, and in his free time enjoys politics, video games, and cooking.
The Cautionary Wendigo in Charles Brockden Brown
This paper examines Charles Brockden Brown’s (1771-1810) treatment of the mythological character of the Wendigo in his late eighteenth-century gothic novels. The Wendigo is a cautionary figure from Native American Algonquian folklore. They are typically humans who have been transformed into super-strong, cannibalistic human-monster hybrids with hearts of ice. They relentlessly hunt others in their desire for human blood. As various critics have observed, tales of the Wendigo were prevalent during times of famine as a warning to all within Algonquian society that greed would prove detrimental to the individual as well as the community as a whole. 
Living in Pennsylvania, Brown would have encountered such stories from the Algonquian Delaware Indians whom he fictionalised in Edgar Huntly (1799). Indeed, appropriated Wendigo tales in white culture have been observed by Danette Di Marco, who claims that “In non-native tales, the Wendigo often emerges during times of imperial assertion, since imperialism relies upon an uncompromising path toward domination and its negative impact on people and their environments.”  Although Brown never directly alludes to the figure there are many instances of characters engaging in Wendigo-like behaviour throughout his fiction.
In Brown’s novels, both villains and protagonists demonstrate many of the characteristics of Wendigoism, including sudden bouts of super-human strength and resilience. They also treat other humans (frequently their own friends and family) as prey, relentlessly attempting to hunt them down. While they do not resort to literal cannibalism, they demonstrate the dangers of insatiable greed in white American society of the time. By examining Brown’s adaptation of Native American mythology, this paper argues that we can come to a deeper understanding of Brown’s work as cautionary tales on the dangers of American imperialism.
- Carolyn Podruchny, “Werewolves and Windigos: Narratives of Cannibal Monsters in French-Canadian Voyageur Oral Tradition,” Ethnohistory 51.4 (2004), 683; Carter Meland, “It Consumes What It Forgets,” Sudden Storm: A Wendigo Reader (Fiddleblack 2015), 56.
- Danette Di Marco, “Going Wendigo: The Emergence of the Iconic Monster in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Antonia Bird’s Ravenous,” College Literature 38.4 (Fall 2011), 135.
Sarah Cullen is currently a PhD candidate of American Literature in Trinity College Dublin under the supervision of Professor Stephen Matterson. Her research area is night studies in nineteenth-century literature. She is a graduate of University College Dublin, receiving a B.A. in Drama and English in 2012 and an M.A. in American Literature in 2013. She is the recipient of several awards including the Mary Colum Award and the UCD Postgraduate Scholarship. She also won the Irish Association for American Studies 2013 WTM Riches Essay Prize and was recently awarded funding for conference travel from the Trinity Trust Travel Committee. You can reach her on Twitter @sfdcullen or via email.
Faith in Feathered Floozies: the Fantastical Desert Harlots of Angela Carter
The novels of Angela Carter are populated by women who inhabit an uneasy, tortured space between realism and myth, always exceeding the generic categories into which others attempt to place them. Nights at the Circus (1984) and The Passion of New Eve (1977) both chronicle transformative (and in New Eve’s case, trans-formative) encounters with the women who reside at this fantastical crossroads between essence and artifice, fact and fiction, uncanny and marvellous. Nights at the Circus follows journalist Jack Walser as his initial, fruitless quest to debunk the winged trapeze artist Fevvers thrusts him into a world of playful subversion and parodic flights of fancy, eventually leading both him and Fevvers into the Arctic wilderness where identity breaks down. Meanwhile, in New Eve, the chauvinist Evelyn finds in the apocalyptic desert of the American west an underground realm of manufactured magic, where a plastic surgery-created goddess seeks to transform him into a second Eve and a Hollywood starlet embodies an endless parade of sorrowful characters.
Simultaneously prophetic and profane, held in religious reverence even as they transgress almost every boundary of gender and sexual expression, Carter’s fantastical women bear a striking resemblance to the desert harlots of early Christian folklore as reimagined by Grace Jantzen. For Jantzen, the desert is a subversive space where ‘the woman, usually linked with the demonic […] become[s] a channel of the divine’. This presentation will demonstrate that the fantastical desert spaces in Carter’s fiction become sites where the category of ‘woman’ is both broadened and complicated and easy essentialisms are frustrated at every turn. The various mythic and religious appropriations, permutations, and transformations endured by her feminine figures are not easily separated from the demonic powers of patriarchy, but they also may herald a liberating divine revelation in the midst of their unreality.
Taylor Driggers is a PhD researcher in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. His current research focuses on how fantasy texts provide a narrative ground on which women and LGBTQ+ people can contend with and even reclaim religious traditions that have historically marginalized, silenced, or abused them. Taylor is also an avid tea-drinker, a blogger, an occasional poet, and, when it strikes his fancy, a woodland creature composed of light and the leaf-strewn earth. Taylor’s work has been published in the Journal of Inklings Studies and the upcoming volume The Inklings and King Arthur from Apocryphile Press. You can reach Taylor on Twitter @TaylorWDriggers, read his blog or send him an email.
Contempt for the Player-Hero in Fantasy Video Games: A Marxist Reading of Dark Souls
Fantasy video games often invite the player to control an avatar whose heroic proportions are effortlessly Herculean. The game world is designed for an expected consumer experience: to play as a lowly, amateur adventurer; to develop the hero through a gradual accumulation of skills, weapons and armour; to fulfil the hero’s unique destiny of saving the world. This familiar structural pattern fulfils a fantasy of logical, rational progress that we are conditioned to seek under the mechanisms of modern capitalist society. What also characterises these fantasy video games is the self-important positioning of the player-hero within the game world. The clichéd trope of ‘the chosen one’ which dominated much mainstream fantasy fiction also plagues many of the fantasy video games to which I am referring. It is perhaps the inevitable result of designing games which must satisfy consumer expectations of power and dominance, of player significance to the world in which they are participating. These design choices lead to predictable narratives which instil problematic assumptions about the player’s perceived significance in modern capitalist reality. Dark Souls, a fantasy video game which has more in common with horror than it does traditional fantasy, subverts all the player expectations detailed above. The game world of Dark Souls cares little for the supposed importance of the player-hero. Indeed there is no such allusion to the avatar’s importance, or what role the hero occupies. Conventional gameplay mechanics are tweaked to make the player-hero clumsy, vulnerable and weak for the duration of the game. The narrative is vague and fragmented as most of the information derives from item descriptions of scattered objects. The harsh and unsettling game world of Dark Souls acts as an aggressive reaction to the compliant and pandering game worlds of The Elder Scrolls series, the Fable series, the Final Fantasy franchise and so on, which by extension invites Dark Souls to be read as anti-capitalist.
Steven Harvie gained an MA (Hons) from the University of Glasgow and is now studying on the MLitt in Fantasy Literature at the same university. His interests lie with writers of the ‘Weird’, most notably China Miéville, M. John Harrison and Jeff Vandermeer. Amongst a variety of theoretical concerns, his approach to the fantastic primarily involves an engagement with Marxist thinking. Beyond the literary, Steven enjoys playing (and analysing!) fantasy video games, whether it’s the latest mainstream role-playing game or the more niche, understated indie game. His loyal companion is a pug called Bruce, but as a guard dog he has proven nothing but incompetent. You can read his blog, reach him on Twitter @steve2603 or via email.
A Wasteland or a Playground? Variations of the Post-Apocalyptic in Contemporary Fiction
Fantasies of post-apocalyptic experience find a home in ruined and wasted landscapes. These stories’ setting is typically characterised by destruction, abandonment, and decay. I contend that the fictional stylisation of such ruined landscapes results in markedly different relationships with the idea of apocalypse, and reveals clues about why this fantasy is so culturally persistent. Post-catastrophe landscapes have been portrayed as sites for self-realisation and even emotional gratification. They also emerge as wastelands, leaving only entropy and obliteration. Both possibilities reflect contemporary anxieties about future collapse.
These contrasting experiences can be seen by examining two versions of post-apocalyptic landscapes: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), which charts a journey through a bleak, deserted America; and a chapter of the video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) set in the ghost town Pripyat, Chernobyl.
The exact nature of the disaster in McCarthy’s novel is not narrated or made visible in the surroundings. Instead the ‘late world’, ‘barren, silent, godless’, is absent of detail, progressing towards increasing indistinction in ash. I argue here that effacement of setting restricts emotional reaction to despair. As a ‘void’, the geography of McCarthy’s apocalypse offers no sense of control over a historical narrative, and no imaginative redevelopment of space by the reader.
Call of Duty 4 contrasts to this melancholy wasteland. The game is set in 2011 and allows the player to rove through various war zones as both a British and American soldier. They must enter Pripyat to assassinate a terrorist in the quest for international stability. The city’s ruins are used to manipulate a player’s emotional responses to catastrophe, and rather than political collapse, the apocalyptic becomes a setting for (morally justified) military victory. Instead of making the current social threat of nuclear technology more palpable, the landscape is rendered to facilitate fantasies of Western dominance, transforming the ruins into a space of play.
Hattie Induni is a third year doctoral student at the University of Leeds, focusing on the significance of ruins in modern fiction, particularly those located in Ireland and wider Europe. Her thesis explores how imaginary landscapes are used to stage political and emotional interventions in narratives of national heritage. This investigates the way ruined spaces become monuments and vessels of memory, and are exploited by contemporary culture in order to articulate traumatic pasts or future anxieties. Hattie has a BA in English from the University of Cambridge and an MPhil in Irish Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. You can reach her on Twitter @hattieinduni or via email.
“Grant us eyes, grant us eyes! Plant eyes on our brains, to cleanse our beastly idiocy!” FromSoftware’s Bloodborne: cleverly subverting the traditional gothic narrative using FromSoftware’s Dark Souls video game series formula
Bloodborne, released in 2015, is renowned for both its fearsome difficulty and narrative obscurity. Other game developers largely choose to reveal the lore and story in their fantasy games (The Elder Scrolls series, the Dishonoured series, the Witcher series) through in-game collectable notes found in books and scraps of paper, and unavoidable interactions with NPC guides, all of which is designed to make the game’s narrative and backstory as clear as possible. You always know your place and purpose. FromSoftware, however, have developed a unique means of storytelling through their Demon Souls and Dark Souls games, which, I will argue, reached a pinnacle of elegance in 2015’s Bloodborne.
The “Soulsborne” narrative formula, as it has become to be known, relies heavily on a “show don’t tell” principle. In Bloodborne, the player’s role feels simple – you are a hunter in a gothic city, hunting the beasts that wander the streets. However, nothing is that simple, especially as the game progresses from gothic nightmare to cosmic horror. I will consider some of the game’s most interesting and unique storytelling techniques – namely, game mechanics, snippets of conversations gleaned from NPCs and bosses, the game’s singular written extracts as found on items, and the few very important choices that the player is allowed to make in an otherwise relatively linear progression. Following from this, I will ask the questions: does this render the game’s story too obscure for anybody but the most patient and diligent of players, or does this principle of making the player search for and interpret the story make it more rewarding? What have FromSoftware’s storytelling choices done for finding a new means of adapting the traditional gothic narrative? And in what ways do the game’s eventual Lovecraftian influences serve to enhance that narrative?
Oliver Langmead was born in Edinburgh and lives in Glasgow. He has an LLB in Law, and an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study with a distinction, and is currently working towards an MLitt in Fantasy. His first book, Dark Star, featured in the Guardian’s Best Books of 2015, and his second book, Metronome, was released in January 2017. His website is oliverlangmead.com and you can reach him via email.
Alternate Fantasy: When Fantasy meets Alternate History in the French-speaking World
Alternate History is usually considered a form of science-fiction, especially in the English-speaking world. In the French world however it is more often crossed with fantasy to provide the reader with stories that often call upon the tropes of historical novel but point them in new directions thanks to the intervention of fantastic elements such as dragons.
Xavier Mauméjean’s “Rosée de feu” (“Fiery Dew”) with its Japanese dragons intervening in WW2 or Pierre Pevel’s “Les lames du cardinal” (“The Cardinal’s Blades”) and his reimagining of Richelieu’s France with magic are but two examples of this growing trend.
More subtle are texts such as Jean-Philippe Jaworski’s “Les rois du monde” (“Kings of the World”) series which weave fantasy elements in a Celtic environment reusing elements from traditional mythology to create a world that ends up different from the historical one.
Likewise this fusion of genres is seen in urban fantasy novels such as Jeanne A. Debats’ “L’héritière” (“The heiress”) where the author rewrites the history of the development of Paris in the light of the conflicts between vampires’ coven and werewolf pack, among others.
The goal of the present paper shall thus be to identify what separates those novels from more traditional fantasy stories and alternate histories, but also to discern what may cause this specific meeting at the crossroad of those genres.
In particular we’ll build upon previous research on Alternate History in the French-speaking world to show that the traditional mistrust of French academics and literary actors toward SF coupled with the great popularity of Fantasy in the last two decades may have caused this reunion in ways that differ from the dynamics taking place in the English-speaking world.
With formal training in both Ancient History and ICT, and a job in the later domain, I study how the ancient world meets modern literature, especially in the SF and Fantasy genres. From there grew a secondary interest in how literature plays with History and especially in Alternate History. I’ve thus given various talks on the presence of the Classics in SFFF or Alternate History (Liverpool 2013, Tel Aviv 2014, Tacoma 2015, Liverpool 2015, 2016, Lancaster 2016, Guildford 2016), I’ve also published articles in the Spanish review Helice and have various papers currently submitted or in edition phase. You can visit my website or send me an email.
“It’s Dangerous to Go Alone”: The Fantastic in The Legend of Zelda
This paper is concerned primarily with a very basic question, namely: are video games worthy of academic discourse, and if so, why? In particular, I will be focusing on Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma’s The Legend of Zelda series. Once I have established why I think video games are worthy of critical engagement, I will address what I believe to be one of the most interesting aspects of the aforementioned series, namely its mythology. To do this, I will be making a lot of references to Joseph Campbell’s theories about myth, in particular those found in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and why I believe that ultimately, it is not a helpful model for the study of invented myths, such as can be found in fantasy.
The premise of The Legend of Zelda is a simple one, and one that will be familiar to readers of fantasy literature: a young boy, living a relatively simple life, finds himself pulled into an adventure. He is often accompanied, usually by a fairy, and the purpose of this companion is to act as both mouthpiece for the protagonist and advisor to the player. One of the most interesting innovations of The Legend of Zelda series, at least as far as video games are concerned, is the construction of an internal myth cycle. The name of the hero, Link, can be seen as a subtle reference to the fact that the hero of each game grows up being exposed to the myths of the other games in the series; for example, the Link of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is clothed in green on his tenth birthday, in honour of the Hero of Time, the protagonist of Ocarina of Time.
Ben Littlejohns is a current PGT student at the University of Glasgow, studying for an MLitt in Fantasy, a decision he made based on his passion for all things Tolkien. He did his undergraduate degree in the Study of Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester, where he completed such assignments as ‘Prophetic Narratives in Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Comparative Mythology in The Legend of Zelda’, and ‘An Examination of Good and Evil in Tolkien’s Legendarium’. He hopes to one day combine his love of speaking Elvish with his interest in learning about Religions in a doctorate. You can reach Ben via email.
The Rats in the Walls: Storytelling That Blurs History, Reality, and Fantasy
Two years ago, an anonymous figure in a white mask began appearing in Lower Manhattan, handing out cryptic messages and drawing occult diagrams in chalk. ‘Kilroy’, as the figure called himself, claimed to be the spokesperson for an enigmatic group called ‘THE RATS IN THE WALLS’, which was planning an apocalyptic event that would shake all of NYC. In reality, this was the beginning of a carefully planned, city-wide fictional narrative played out over two months and multiple mediums, including scavenger hunts, original video, and live performances. “The Rats in the Walls” project incorporated elements of New York history, graffiti culture, and the work of H.P. Lovecraft to create an innovative, meta-textual storytelling experience that turned Lovecraft’s signature obsession with cosmic horror and local history into a narrative that blurred the boundaries between fantasy, reality, and urban legend. My presentation would take the form of a faux-journalistic account of the history of the Rats in the Walls, beginning with Lovecraft’s Horror at Red Hook (which will be treated as history) and ending with the fictional apocalyptic event Kilroy and the Rats brought about in 2015. Along the way, the presentation will illustrate how the project incorporated elements of alternate reality games (ARGs), alternate history, worldbuilding, and metatextuality. The importance of live storytelling, the use of technology to create dynamic narratives, and the practical challenges and methods that come with allowing wide-scale audience participation will also be addressed.
Christopher Mahon is a writer, essayist, and the creator of the ‘Rats in the Walls’ project, which was named a finalist to be featured in the 2015 Twitter Fiction Festival. He earned his Bachelors’ degree in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. In addition to his academic essays in Clarkesworld Magazine, he has served as a sci-fi panelist at New York Comic-Con. In his spare time, he writes about ergodic literature, fantasy, and experimental storytelling on his blog, “The Occult Triangle Lab.” You can reach him on Twitter @deadmanmu or via email.
Ghosts, Witches and the Divine: Fantastical Narratives in African Video Art
The historic categorisation of the fantastic or magical realist lies predominantly with the geography and biography of the author/artist. Quests – which persist to this day – at reaching a definition are oftentimes preceded by the necessity, on the one hand, and drawback on the other, of generic classifications. This paper extends the slippages of genre classifications by discussing African video art as fantastical and not magical realist, supernatural or Afrofuturistic. This is influenced by the potential limitations of these classifications – Afrofuturism can be seen as an African American genre and magic realism is contestably attributed to South America. By classifying African artworks as either of those genres risks being read as imitations.
With that in mind, the paper explores the ways in which fantastical narratives – that is, narratives that exist outside the confines of institutionalised rationality – can be used as modes of colonial critique. The aesthetics and theories of African video art can function as post-colonial modes of articulating issues of self-representation and an employment of diverse knowledge systems. By unpacking the cinematic traits of video art, the paper deliberately opens up discussions of time, space and technology.
Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda’s videos will be read in relation to fantastical temporal critique and the voice. It will consider how black affection and love as well as the invisibility and simultaneous hypervisibility of the black body are portrayed (or not portrayed) in this fantastical, post-apocalyptic and futuristic narrative.
Additionally, Nigerian artist Zina Saro-Wiwa’s videos will be considered in relation to the role gender plays in determining access to which alternative realities and how. Saro-Wiwa draws on the representation of women in Nollywood films and their immediate affiliation with witchcraft, mania and the supernatural, thus interrogating whether non-technological accesses to other worlds are attributed to women while technological access is attributed to men.
Portia Malatjie is pursuing a PhD in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. She holds an MA in History of Art (2011) and a BA in Fine Arts (2008) from the University of the Witwatersrand. She lectured History of Art and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and has guest lectured at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University. She has published in international peer-reviewed journals and catalogues, including Third Text, and presented papers at international conferences. Malatjie was Head Curator of Brundyn+ Gallery and Director of the AVA Gallery. She has curated exhibitions featuring works by world-renowned artists. Malatjie was awarded a College Art Association Travel Grant in 2014 and again in 2017.
Mise en Abyme: Storytelling the Storyteller
“Mise en abyme”, a French term derived from heraldry, literally means “placement into the abyss” and often refers to a coat of arms placed at the centre of another coat of arms. In film, literature and science, it either points to infinite mirrorings between two reflective objects, or the concept of self-reference. In traditional storytelling, such as the 1001 Nights, it is known as “boxing”, or the “Russian Doll Technique”, when a story tells of a storyteller (Scheherazade, in the example), telling stories that may also refer to other storytellers.
Humanity has been telling stories since its own dawn; all stories have been told, time and time again, with all that refreshes them being a change in the way they are told and/or combined. There came a point when the nature of stories and storytelling themselves became the objects of the tale, in such grand examples as Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry and comic books such as Fables and Unwritten.
Roleplaying Games like Dungeons & Dragons created a new dimension in this process. First, they evolved from tabletop diversions into semi-conscious acts of cooperative storytelling, which in turn provided material for fantasy literature. The Game Master became a storyteller and then, at times, a writer, whereby they created new material for the game, repeating the process and enriching it for those that came after. At the next step of evolution, the games (such as Mage: The Ascension and Changeling: The Dreaming) drew on philosophy and traditional, grittier folktales – being themselves allegories of a dark and dangerous world – to promote a very important concept, integral to human nature: you are your story and that’s all you have, so make it a good one.
However, can a storyteller know the truth of his own story?
Andreas Michaelides is a translator, writer and oral storyteller. He has translated books between Greek, French and English, on subjects ranging from popular science, to history, young adult fiction and fantasy (including George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea Trilogy). To date, he has written four books (Tales from the Anvil of Songs and three novellas in The Addiction of Christian Ambrose series), a number of short detective stories and self-published comic books. He uses storytelling for a number of performances, as well as educational workshops combining science and literature. He is a founding member of both the Greek Crime Fiction Club and the House of Oral Tradition “Mythologion” and he can be reached via email.
Marissa Meyer’s Cinderella: between Cyborg, Fairy-tale Heroine, and Japanese Magical Girl
Marissa Meyer’s young adult quartet The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, 2012; Scarlet, 2013; Cress, 2014; Winter, 2015) rewrites and brings together four traditional Western fairy tales (namely ‘Cinderella’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Snow White’). In each book, Meyer introduces a new fairy-tale heroine into a dystopian future in which human beings cohabit with cyborgs and androids on Earth. Not only is there a deadly mysterious pandemic ravaging the planet, but the Earth is also on the break of a war with the Lunar, a race of humanoids with psychic powers, descendants of the first moon settlers.
Through her main character Cinder especially, Meyer explores ideas of otherness, ethnicity, and identity: the teenager is repeatedly treated as a second-class citizen and rejected as a monster, first because she is a cyborg, then because she is actually a Lunar, two categories which make her foreign, dangerous, and untrustworthy in the eyes of the society she evolves in. In her famous ‘Cyborg Manifesto’, Donna Haraway argues that by breaking dualisms, the cyborg is a challenge to the dominant antagonistic Western discourse—as linked with patriarchy and colonialism for instance. In an interview Meyer claimed that she aimed at bridging the gap between Eastern and Western by setting her story in a fictional ‘New-Beijing’, thus taking ‘Cinderella’ back to its origins—many folklorists believing that the tale can in fact be traced to ninth-century China. However, Meyer also most cleverly creates a cross-cultural adaptation by rewriting traditionally passive fairy-tale heroines through what started as a fan fiction of Naoko Takeuchi’s shōjo manga Sailor Moon (1991-97). This paper will therefore specifically examine how issues of gender, technology, and identity are linked with the representation of the female’s body through Meyer’s appropriation and mingling of cyborg, fairy-tale heroine, and ‘magical girl’ manga tropes.
Emeline Morin received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral work compares contemporary francophone and anglophone rewritings of fairy tales for adults. She has also published on Neil Gaiman’s rewritings of fairy tales, and is currently working on articles on the use of metamorphosis in French fairy-tale rewritings, and the representation of the female body in Matteo Garrone’s The Tale of Tales (2015). She is especially interested in fantasy and fairy tales as linked with the visceral, the body, gender studies, language, and adaptation. She teaches at the University of Southampton and is also a translator and a writer.
Marketplaces: Wonder, Danger, Consumption
Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, Diagon Alley in the Wizarding side of London, the Floating Market of Neverwhere, the Market beyond the Wall in Stardust, the goblin markets of the Changeling role-playing games, and modern-day marketplaces of fairy festivals and Renaissance faires: places of wonder, of danger. Places where you can buy the sound of a cat’s footfalls, clothes from another time, new eyes, glass flowers with spells on them, bottled dreams, wands, and magic rings. By their nature, these mythic marketplaces inhabit in-between places: spaces where humans and non-humans are able to congregate, sell and barter their wares, and interact when normally they might not be able to. These marketplaces are often encountered early in the journey of a protagonist as a way of introducing the fantastic into a story – the very nature of the market allows all types to mingle with purpose, and allows the protagonist, or the patron, to get a sense of what they might encounter beyond the borderland. It is a place to explore the fantastic while knowing that the mundane world is just over there: beyond the wall, over the river, beyond the Hedge, on the other side of the forest.
Despite their liminal space, these places are fully realized when and where they exist, no matter the duration. There are rules in the marketplaces, though they vary from setting to setting. The careful construction of these places in the real world – at fairy festivals and conventions – echoes the rules and blurred boundaries described in fiction, with the same suggested consequences (though children are never really poisoned, eaten, or otherwise punished for their curiosity). These marketplaces – real and in fiction – make an argument, incorporating the familiar and the fantastic so that we, the consumers, the audience, are willing to suspend our disbelief and embrace what the market has to offer. And don’t forget: there is always something that can come back with you, to your world, something magical that won’t fade in the mundane – a souvenir, a trophy, a good luck charm, a memory of the mythic, the legendary, the fantastic.
Georgia is completing her second year as a PhD student in the Rhetoric/Writing program at Virginia Tech and holds an MA and BA in medieval literature. Throughout her career, she has explored the fantasy genre through both literary critique and rhetorical analysis, focusing primarily on the works of Neil Gaiman. Her current research interests include the rhetorical construction of fantastic worlds and the blending of medieval and modern fantasies. She has spent the last ten years working at Renaissance and fairy festivals and can sometimes be spotted as a faun selling masks. She lives and works in Blacksburg, Virginia, with her rats Lumi and Tuuli. You can reach her via email.
Chasing Canon: Implications of the Multimedia Franchise Format on the Storyverse of Harry Potter
The notion of what is and what is not “canon” has become increasingly complicated lately due to the rising popularity of multimedia franchises. Canon normally refers to the texts that are considered to be officially part of a story and universe, usually in contrast to materials that are fan-made. However, when a storyverse expands from its original form into a new medium, the adaptation can lead to changes from the source material that are occasionally in direct opposition to one another, such as in the Harry Potter series. These changes cover a broad spectrum, from small facts about minor characters (Padma Patil is a Ravenclaw in the books, but a Gryffindor in the films) to fundamental rules about the wizarding world (in the books, nonverbal magic is rare and challenging, while in the films, it quickly becomes the standard way to cast spells).
Many fan communities deal with these conflicts by creating complex unofficial canon tier systems, where sources that are deemed more official (in this case, the books) have the highest status, while less official sources are true only when they do not conflict with the first tier. But with a multimedia franchise as large as Harry Potter, there is a large number of possible sources of potentially conflicting canon. J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world is currently created by thirteen books, nine films, sixteen video games, two plays, one official website, and four Wizarding World theme parks. The parks pose a unique challenge to canon because all employees are “in character” as wizards and witches; although they are specifically trained not to create conflicting content, they risk doing so every time they interact with guests.
Is this canon controversy solely of interest to fans and so-called scholar-fans? Does it have a place in academia? Differences in canon are often used in adaptation studies to analyse both the function and impact of such changes between the two mediums. But to what extent does it affect a scholarly analysis of The Order of the Phoenix if a Hollywood Butterbeer salesman claims that Harry was a Prefect? How much does it detract from the reading of any one text in a franchise if there are multiple competing sources?
Katarina O’Dette received her BFA in Writing for Screen and Television with a minor in Folklore and Popular Culture from the University of Southern California in 2014. She has enjoyed an illustrious career as a mildly successful Harry Potter blogger, a volunteer tutor with various Los Angeles non-profit education organizations, and—perhaps most impressively—a Food Stand Attendant at the Universal Studios Hollywood’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. She is currently obtaining her Master of Letters in Fantasy at the University of Glasgow.
The Snow Queen in Russian Fanfiction
The fairy tale The Snow Queen, 1844 by H. C. Andersen was initially translated into the Russian language in 1863. Up to this date, the story has become the meme (Dawkins, 1976) for Russian culture. There are five Russian film adaptations of The Snow Queen. Fairy tale is interpreted in different significant Russian novels and poems. It is beloved by many generations of Russian readers and viewers. The world-known Disney cartoon Frozen 2013 supported the popularity of this plot among younger people. Motives of the fairy tale are also widely used in the contemporary Russian participatory culture (Jenkins, 2009) — that is, in blogs, fanfiction, and posts in social media.
Fanfiction is usually written by authors-amateurs, and is published in the web-platforms. As secondary texts, fanfics are overtly connected to important for the popular culture cartoons, movies, TV-shows and literary works. In fanfiction authors often offer their own versions of the stories: they offer alternative endings, develop images of characters, create sequels and prequels. The distinctive feature of amateurish literature is its strong and uncovered connection to authors’ personal lives and personal experiences. For this reason fanfics also could be considered as readers’ comments. On the material of fanfics we can try to investigate: what is important for authors-readers in the program-text? What bothers them? What problems do they solve?
In the most popular website for Russian fanfiction ficbook.net, there are more than 700 texts devoted to different variants of The Snow Queen. By using qualitative and quantitative methods we will try to analyse these texts and answer several questions. What is the most popular interpretation of the fairytale by Russian fanfiction writers? What commercial variants of the fairytale are significant for them? How does this fairy tale truly exist in active and flexible Russian culture?
Tatjana Pilipoveca is a 3rd year PhD student in Semiotics and Culture studies at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her research topic is “Transmedia communication and participatory culture: canonical Europian fairy tales in Russian fanfiction” and her main interests are semiotics of culture, participatory culture and the canonical fairy tales in contemporary culture. You can reach Tatjana via email.
A Conduit to the Female Experience: Exploring the Intersection Between Horror, Surrealism and the Fairy Tale
‘With the exception of fairy tales, all supernatural stories are stories of fear’, asserted Peter Penzoldt in The Supernatural in Fiction. Yet how can the reader deny the horror of numerous fairy tales? There is the wolf who eats the innocent Little Red Riding Hood. There is the Ogress Queen Mother in The Sleeping Beauty who orders her cook to prepare her own grandchildren for dinner, and there are Cinderella’s stepsisters who cut off their own toes to fit into the prince’s slipper. Fear and horror, it seems, are right at home within the fairy tale.
In Gisèle Prassinos’ story ‘Water Drama’ a pretty girl finds herself living underwater and eventually engaged to a massive toad, who crushes her and gouges out her eye. The story, like many of Prassinos’, is written in a linear fairy-tale manner and draws upon common themes and images from fairy tales – the frog prince, for example. Yet it is decidedly gruesome. Prassinos is a surrealist writer, and she uses the elements of surrealism and horror to re-tell classic fairy tales. Numerous other writers, including Leonora Carrington and Angela Carter, draw upon horror and the surreal in much the same way. Their work begs the question: do fairy tales sit at the intersection between horror and surrealism?
As many surrealist writers were also visual artists, surrealist writing cannot be divorced from art. As such, I aim to explore the themes of horror and the fairy tale in surrealist art as well, such as the work of Lenor Fini and Dorothea Tanning.
By drawing upon the works of the authors and artists mentioned here among others, I will explore the questions: Why were women surrealists in particular drawn to fairy tales? How do they use images of children and animals to speak directly to the female experience, notably lacking in male surrealist work?
Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. After acquiring a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, she stuck around and is now writing a doctoral thesis that aims to uncover how fantasy fiction exposes social injustice while writing her own fantasy/surreal stories alongside her research. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous online and print anthologies, including Crooked Holster, SWAMP Magazine, and Toad Suck Review. Visit her website, send her an email or communicate via Twitter at @Angie_Spoto.
Where Mind Meets Magic: Visions in A Song of Ice and Fire
Throughout George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, various characters have experienced prophetic dreams and visions, which have been endlessly mined for meaning by fans of the series. Prophecy in fiction is, obviously, nothing new; what is more curious is the way Martin interweaves these visions with the memories of the people experiencing them, such that prophecy appears both based in and alongside such memories. What is occurring is, I want to suggest, a curious crossover between, in Jungian terms, the personal unconscious (repository of memories, impressions and so forth) and the collective unconscious (which here provides knowledge the individual could not possibly have access to) in a way which breaks down barriers of time and space. I want to examine examples including Daenerys’s climactic visions from A Clash of Kings and A Dance with Dragons, Bran’s series of visions from A Dance with Dragons and Theon and Jaime’s strange dreams from A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords respectively to see how each character’s history and outlook influences the genuinely magical visions to which they are each privy. If, as has often been observed, the general arc of ASoIaF is the invasion of high medieval political struggle by a supernatural force, on both an in-universe and narratological level, dreams and visions represent many characters’ most significant point of contact with the magical plot; yet these revelations come as much from within as from without, suggesting a focus on the subjective individual which is unusual, traditionally at least, for a work of so-called high fantasy.
Ciarán Treacy is a PhD student at the University of York, having previously studied at University College Dublin, researching Nick Cave’s use of the archetypal apocalyptic. He works mainly in the areas of popular music and popular culture more generally; he has written on Leonard Cohen, and recently presented a paper on David Bowie’s album Outside at the ‘Bowie’s Books’ conference at the University of Northampton. He is particularly interested in applying the key concepts of Jungian analytical psychology to “popular” texts of all kinds. You can reach him on Twitter @ciaran_treacy or via email.
Wednesday, 29th of March
9:00 – 9:30: Registration & Coffee (Chapel)
9:30 – 9:45: Opening and Welcome by Dr Rob Maslen (Chapel)
9:45 – 10:45: Julie Bertagna in discussion with Dr Maureen Farrell: Creating ‘4D’ futuristic fiction in the dynamic space where the real meets the realms of possibility and fantasy (Chapel)
11:00 – 12:15: Panel 1: Subversions in Videogames. Chair: Phil Harris (Chapel)
11:00: Steven Harvie: Contempt for the Player-Hero in Fantasy Video Games: A Marxist Reading of Dark Souls
11:25: Oliver Langmead: “Grant us eyes, grant us eyes! Plant eyes on our brains, to cleanse our beastly idiocy!” FromSoftware’s Bloodborne: cleverly subverting the traditional Gothic narrative using FromSoftware’s Dark Souls video game series formula
11:50: Hattie Induni: A Wasteland or a Playground? Variations of the Post-Apocalyptic in Contemporary Fiction
11:00 – 12:15: Panel 2: Liminal Spaces. Chair: Laura Becherer (Room 203, 10 University Gardens)
11:00: Georgia Natishan: Marketplaces: Wonder, Danger, Consumption
11:25: Katarina O’Dette: Chasing Canon: Implications of the Multimedia Franchise Format on the Storyverse of Harry Potter
11:50: Ruth Booth: Gods Rebooted: Liminality in the Neil Gaiman Multiverse and the Expansion of the Superhero Canon
12:15 – 13:15: Lunch (Chapel)
13:15 – 14:15: Phil Harris: Does the Monomyth Exist in a Multiplayer World? (Chapel)
14:15 – 14:35: Coffee Break (Chapel)
14:45– 16:00: Panel 3: Around the World in Fantasy. Chair: Andreas Michaelides (Chapel)
14:45: Pascal Lemaire: Alternate Fantasy: When Fantasy meets Alternate History in the French-speaking World
15:10: Portia Malatjie: Ghosts, Witches and the Divine: Fantastical Narratives in African Video Art
15:35: Tatjana Pilipoveca: The Snow Queen in Russian Fanfiction
14:45– 16:00: Panel 4: Fantastical Gender(s). Chair: Chris Lynch (Room 203, 10 University Gardens)
14:45: Taylor Driggers: Faith in Feathered Floozies: the Fantastical Desert Harlots of Angela Carter
15:10: Angie Spoto: A Conduit to the Female Experience: Exploring the Intersection Between Horror, Surrealism and the Fairy Tale
15:35: Daisy Butcher: ‘Here Be Dragons’: The Dragon as Psychoanalytic Symbol for the Great Mother
16:15 – 18:00: Workshop: Breathing Life into Worlds and Characters with Phil Harris (Chapel)
16:15 – 18:00: Workshop: Fairy Tale Retellings with Laura Becherer (Room 203, 10 University Gardens)
The conference dinner will take place at the Curler’s Rest on 256 Byres Road after 18:30.
Thursday, 30th of March
9:00 – 10:15: Workshop: Fantastic Beasts and How to Write Them with Cameo Marlatt (Room 202, 3 University Gardens)
9:00 – 10:15: Workshop: Creating a New World Without Exposition with Laura Becherer (Room 101, 4 University Gardens)
10:15 – 10:30: Coffee Break (Chapel)
10:30 – 11:15: Dr Rob Maslen: The Book as a Fantastic Object (Chapel)
11:15 – 12:15: Dr Stefan Ekman: Crossroads, Sidestreets, Subways: Three Approaches to Urban Fantasy (Chapel)
12:15 – 13:00: Lunch (Chapel)
13:15 – 14:30: Panel 5: Storytelling In Medias Res. Chair: Dr Stefan Ekman (Room 202, 3 University Gardens)
13:15: Neal Baker: Tabletop Fantasy Miniatures Games and Secondary World Infrastructures
13:40: Christopher Mahon: The Rats in the Walls: Storytelling That Blurs History, Reality, and Fantasy
14:05: Andreas Michaelides: Mise en Abyme: Storytelling the Storyteller
13:15 – 14:30: Panel 6: Big In Japan. Chair: Phil Harris (Room 101, 4 University Gardens)
13:15: Brad Copper: Wherefore Art Thou Chocobo: Final Fantasy, Literary Influence, and the Invention of the JRPG
13:40: Ben Littlejohns: “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone”: The Fantastic in The Legend of Zelda
14:05: Emeline Morin: Marissa Meyer’s Cinderella: Between Cyborg, Fairy-tale Heroine, and Japanese Magical Girl
14:30 – 14:45: Coffee Break (Room 202, 3 University Gardens)
14:50 – 16:05: Panel 7: Myth, Identity & Faith. Chair: Dr Rob Maslen (Room 202, 3 University Gardens)
14:50: Francesca Arnavas: “She was getting so well used to queer things happening”: Victorian Fantasy and the Alice books
15:15: Sarah Cullen: The Cautionary Wendigo in Charles Brockden Brown
15:40: Sonia Andersen: Lacking Lutherania in Fantasy Fiction
14:50 – 16:05: Panel 8: High Fantasy in the Age of Modernity. Chair: Dr Stefan Ekman (Room 101, 4 University Gardens)
14:50: Anahit Behrooz: Mapping the Middle: Navigating Between the Old and New in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Cartography
15:30: Ciarán Treacy: Where Mind Meets Magic: Visions in A Song of Ice and Fire
16:15 – 16:30 Closing by Dr Rob Maslen (Room 202, 3 University Gardens)
Julie will give a talk, titled: A Moment Leaning Out of Time* – creating ‘4D’ futuristic fiction in the dynamic space where the real meets the realms of possibility and fantasy
(*From ‘Eternal Moment’ by Sándor Weöres, translated by Edwin Morgan.)
The Ayrshire born Julie Bertagna is the author of 12 novels since her debut, The Spark Gap, in 1996. Her work is specifically aimed at children and young adults, and her best known series is the Exodus trilogy. This has been hugely influential in the YA genre, particularly due to its focus on the danger of climate change and the importance of education.
Among many awards and nominations, the first novel in the series, Exodus, was shortlisted for the Whitbread award. She is a Mentor for Scottish Book Trust’s New and Young Writer Awards. She speaks in schools, libraries and at book festivals across the UK. Her website contains links to a number of blogs that she runs for her different book series.
Julie Bertagna graduated from the University of Glasgow with an Honours degree in English Language and Literature, and we look forward to welcoming her back to provide insight into a future world where fantasy, science fiction, and children’s literature meet. Her interest in using Glasgow as a setting, combined with the genre crossing of her work, makes her a perfect fit!
Dr Farrell will be in conversation with Julie Bertagna.
Dr Maureen Farrell
Dr Maureen Farrell is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education in the University of Glasgow. She was previously an English teacher before moving into Higher Education and teacher education in particular. She contributes to the language courses for both primary and secondary teachers in degree and Masters programmes at the university as well as being a key team member on the successful M Ed Children’s Literature and Literacy programme.
Maureen Farrell has a particular interest in Scottish children’s literature and has published work in this area: she is currently co-editing The International Companion to Scottish Children’s Literature.
Crossroads, Sidestreets, Subways: Three Approaches to Urban Fantasy
Urban fantasy is a form of fantastic literature that has been around for decades but has recently received a great deal of attention, from readers if not from scholars. Today, it is described and defined in so many ways by so many people that it is difficult to know what it is: urban fantasy comes across as a form of literature stuck at a crossroads and torn in different directions – and it is hard to predict which way it will end up going.
In his presentation, Stefan offers three possible perspectives from which urban fantasy can be examined, discussing its relation to other fantastic genres, its focuses on people and places that our society often ignores, and its juxtaposition of modernity, the past, and the fantastic.
Dr Stefan Ekman
Stefan Ekman has a PhD in English literature with a thesis on the function of environments in fantasy literature, and an MSc in Economics with a focus on development and environment. He works as Research Coordinator in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Swedish National Data Service and teaches fantasy at University of Gothenburg. His research is focused on fantasy literature, and his book Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings examines various functions of maps and environments in the genre. He currently pursues two projects, exploring social criticism in urban fantasy, and developing world-building as a critical tool for analysing fantasy texts through their settings. He is also a judo black belt, a keen RPGer, and fairly decent cook.
Does the Monomyth Exist in a Multiplayer World?
Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, often referred to as the Hero’s Journey, is a staple of much modern fiction and is used in popular franchises and smaller indie publications alike. But what happens when you try to apply the Hero’s Journey to the world of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, and what issues do narrative designers face?
Given the complexities of creating a branching narrative in an interactive MMO, the development and creation of these stories is far less linear than those experienced in books, films, TV series and single player games, with few exceptions. Narrative designers need to understand how to control this, stopping it spiralling out of control, as well as have a clear picture where the different heroes sit within the dialogue and the importance of involving the player/reader in the experience. Narrative designers have to consider the paths of multiple heroes whose stories intertwine with each other, as well as with that of the player/reader. They also must understand the nature of the constantly changing world, where the story never ends. Finally, they need to create something that is engaging to a player/reader base of many ages and levels, without alienating them.
Using examples from his own career, Phil will explain the vital nature of the relationship between the narrative designer/writer, the art, design, code and marketing teams of the studio and, of course, the player/reader: How the story is conveyed to the player/reader in practice and what type of feedback is worthy of note.
When all these elements come together, some of the results can be surprising or even staggering, shaping the real question: “Is the Monomyth dead in this context, or has it found a new form?”
Phil Harris is a Senior Narrative Designer at Bigpoint, working on DarkOrbit and Seafight, as well as a number of new products. Phil writes unique, functional canon for each game, providing quests based on the worlds he has created and integrating with art and design teams to realise the stories he is telling. Previous works include Celtic Heroes, in which he created a narrative storyline which led to a massive increase in player retention, and Distant Star: Revenant Fleet. Phil is friendly, outgoing, and often enjoys dazzling people with the glint off his bald head, a trick he uses to gain the upper hand in meetings.
Rob Maslen: The Book as Fantastic Object
Reading is an act of conjuration: through it we raise the dead and bring lost lands, non-existent people and new concepts into being. Fantasy can be understood as the purest celebration of the act of reading. Many fantastic narratives are particularly concerned with the interface between the world of the reader and the secondary worlds conjured up by the printed text. The mechanism that enables this interface is in many cases the physical book, and in this talk Rob will be considering a range of representations of the book as a fantastic object, which may help to explain the continuing appeal of fantasy in the twenty-first century.
Dr Rob Maslen
Dr Rob Maslen teaches at the University of Glasgow, where he is the creator and convener for the Fantasy MLitt. He blogs monthly at The City of Lost Books, which is worth checking regularly. Information on both the man and the course can be found here.
At the time of writing Dr Maslen is set to give the opening and closing addresses of the event.
Fairy Tale Retellings
by Laura Becherer
Learn how to take a tale as old as time and fashion it into something new. We will focus on how to subvert narratives and draw out simple stories with new details and a new spin. Everyone will have a chance to create their own new version of a classic tale.
Important note: There is a cap of 12 people in this workshop. Attendees will state whether they want to participate when they receive their badges on Wednesday morning.
World-building: Creating a New World Without Exposition
by Laura Becherer
World-building: Creating a New World Without Exposition. Discover how to create your own Middle-Earth or Diagon Alley in a short space of writing.
We will look at a few examples of effective world-building and attempt our own creations.
Important note: There is a cap of 12 people in this workshop. Attendees will state whether they want to participate when they receive their badges on Wednesday morning.
New Styles, Old Faces: Breathing Life into Worlds and Characters
by Phil Harris
Over the course of this workshop, Phil will explain the process of building an imaginary yet functional world and the ways to make it feel vibrant through the development of the characters and heroes who inhabit its landscape.
The workshop will include group activities, allowing the participants to develop their own, unique world and story together. It will mainly touch upon the following subjects:
- Building a functional imaginary world: Best practices and common pitfalls
- Your world coming to life: Breathing life where none existed before
- Make audience experiences memorable: The importance of characters
- Heroes: Who are they? What defines them? How they move and shake your world?
- Friends and enemies: The world as an amalgam of antithetical views
Fantastic Beasts and How to Write Them
By Cameo Marlatt
From Tolkien’s Ents to Rowling’s house-elves, fantasy literature is populated with fascinating nonhuman creatures. In this workshop, we will discuss examples of such creatures in works of fantasy literature, explore how they function within their magical worlds, and most importantly learn how to create our own unique creatures and characters.
The workshop will include group activities and individual writing exercises, during which participants will have the opportunity to invent and write about their own ‘fantastic beast.’