What is Fantasy? How and why does it capture the imagination so easily?
The dictionary defines “fantasy” as “imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained.” Wikipedia defines “fantasy literature” as “the body of written works that employ the motifs, themes, and stylistic approaches expected in the fantasy genre.” But these definitions are vague and unspecified—they leave little concrete boundaries to pin down into one solid, “fantasy”-labelled box.
In many ways, this ambiguity is a bonus—fantasy is what we make of it. Fantasy is not just trolls and elves, it is but is not limited to Hermione’s spell work or Aslan’s country. Fantasy is that hint of magic—sometimes overpowering and overt, sometimes hidden and only a whisper—that turns a text into something not-quite-real. It is imagination itself. Fantasy exists in limitless forms and splinters off into every genre and storytelling method imaginable. It is Harry Potter, it is Lord of the Rings, it is Dungeons and Dragons, it is Angela Carter, it is mythology, it is the Grimm Brothers—it is all of these, and more. Fantasy’s scope for power and existence is as powerful and expansive as magic itself, and that is why we love it and want to share it with all of you.
As a genre, fantasy can trace its roots as far as the written word, yet even post-Tolkien it is still often maligned as mere genre fiction. The definitions and boundaries of what comprises Fantasy are as arguable today as any other genre, and it is as academically relevant – or perhaps more relevant – than traditional genres of Romantic, Victorian or Modernist literature.
The purpose of the Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCON) therefore, is something of a re-evaluation. Drawing both inspiration and personnel from Glasgow University’s very own Fantasy MLitt,created and helmed by the incomparable Dr Rob Maslen, GIFCON aims to provide a conversation space for students and academics to come together and discuss one of literature’s rising fields.
What is GIFCON?
The Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations is a meeting-place for academics, creative writers, and other fantasy-minded folks to come together and discuss fantastical works in an academic setting.
GIFCON is international in large part because we, its creators, are international: We are English, Scottish, Chinese, Greek, American, and Italian. Our committee’s representatives bring perspectives from multiple continents and cultures. We are theorists, writers, educators, gamers, scientists, and—above all—dreamers. We have come together at the University of Glasgow under the world’s first-ever MLitt in Fantasy Literature, designed by Dr Robert Maslen, and created an official space for the study of fantasy.
Now, we would like to invite you all to come to Glasgow—itself a fantastical city that has inspired the imaginations of writers from Alasdair Gray to Julie Bertagna—in order to enter into conversation with us and one another on any and every aspect of fantasy. We want to talk about books, films, games, art, and creative projects. We want to hear your stories and poems, listen to your presentations, and read your papers. We especially want you to take some time to explore the city. Get to know the university, visit the Curlers Rest or Òran Mór, be inspired by the River Kelvin as it flows through the West End. Read a book in the Botanical Gardens, admire the art in the Kelvingrove Art Museum, and have a takeaway coffee under a tree in Kelvingrove Park. Immerse yourself in the city, allow your imagination to take spark, and share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you.
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“Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.”