JFA 25.1 (2014)

Editor’s Introduction

“Introduction: Reinhabiting Fantasy”
Brian Attebery

It is a truism that literary texts are not inert objects but living, changing systems. Both the life and the capacity to change depend on readers—and a good thing too, or literary scholars would be out of work, since everything that could be said about a particular story would already have been said. Meaning is open-ended because it is a product of the reader’s interaction with the text, and there is no limit to the reader’s contributions.

In this issue of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, familiar fantasies are reread, reexamined, translated, and read through one another to produce new possibilities of significance. Each essay focuses on a different aspect of the reader-text interaction, and all enrich our understanding of the genre and of the social and cognitive power of narrative fantasy.

We lead off with Eric Reinders’s fascinating look at the transformation of Tolkien’s The Lords of the Rings into a Mandarin Chinese text. Reinders demonstrates how each decision made by a translator—what word to use for “elf,” which names to transliterate and which to re-analyze—contributes to the creation of a new story and imaginary world. Like all translations, the Chinese Lord of the Rings is both a new creation and a commentary on the original, one that I believe offers a number of new insights into Tolkien’s art.

Cassandra Bausman was the winner of the graduate student award at 2013 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts for her paper on China Miéville’s young adult fantasy Un Lun Dun. Expanded and revised, her essay explores the way Miéville uses the form of the heroic quest fantasy while undercutting its assumptions and critiquing its conventions. Miéville lovingly demolishes such commonplaces as the foretold (usually male) savior, the garrulous wizardly guide, and the deterministic meanings of prophecies and spells. In their place, he offers wit, inventiveness, and a story in which the ultimate goal is replaced by more scenic detours.

Like Reinders, Lily Glasner takes up one of the core examples of twenti-eth-century fantasy: C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series. Glasner’s political reading of Narnia responds to questions raised by Maria Nikolajeva, Colin Manlove, and others regarding issues of power and control raised by the text itself and by its use as a scene of contact or contestation between adult and child readers. Glasner finds that the politics of Narnia reflect both its origins during World War II and its grounding in Lewis’s understanding of Thomas Aquinas and medieval philosophy. Like Dante’s Divine Comedy, the saga of Narnia is both political and theological: its history and politics are inseparable from ideas of faith and redemption.

Jonathan Goodwin reads one of the exemplars of scientific romance, Olaf Stapledon, in terms of H. P. Lovecraft’s very different branch of the fantastic: cosmic horror. Stapledon’s novella The Flames is not typical of his output, but the Lovecraftian elements that creep in imply something usually not acknowledged in his fiction. The same perceptiveness that gives his characters such joy in discovery and communication can lead instead to a vision of a cold, cruel universe. It can even lead those characters to abandon empathy, to become party to the horrors they sense. The interaction of these two writerly world views shows us a Stapledon who is more self-critical and more complex than his usual critical portrayal and invites a more nuanced reading of his earlier, more optimistic work as well.

Finally, Joy Sanchez-Taylor reads Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as, among other things, a defense of fantasy as a response to history. Like its central character, the novel interprets the world—and particularly the violent and qrotesque history of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and its effects upon Dominican expatriates in the U.S. Sanchez-Taylor shows how fantasy, science fiction, and superhero comics give Yunior, in the novel, and Diaz, as its creator, “a medium for commenting on Dominican history that moves away from languages of violence and exploitation and, instead, focuses on a common language and metaphor to express the experiences of Dominicans and Dominican Americans.” Oscar Wao is, in some senses, another translation of Tolkien, this time into the urban, hybridized cultures and technologized conceptual systems of twenty-first century America. And once again, the source text is re-invigorated by the translation, and our range of interactions with the fantastic is made broader and deeper.


Introduction: Reinhabiting Fantasy
Brian Attebery

Reading Tolkien in Chinese
Eric Reinders

Convention Un-done: Un Lun Dun’s Unchosen Heroine and Narrative (Re)Vision
Cassandra Bausman

“But what does it all mean?”: Religious Reality as a Political Call in the Chronicles of Narnia
Lily Glasner

Telepathy and Cosmic Horror in Olaf Stapledon’s The Flames
Jonathan Goodwin

“I was a Ghetto Nerd Supreme”: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Latina/o Futurity in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Joy Sanchez-Taylor

Review Essay

St. Lovecraft
Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock


Gregory Basham and Eric Bronson’s The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You’ve Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, And Your Way
Rev. by Cassandra E. Bausman

Lars Schmeink and Astrid Böger’s Collision of Realities: Establishing Research on the Fantastic in Europe
Rev. by Bruce A. Beatie

Lars Schmeink and Astrid Böger’s Collision of Realities: Establishing Research on the Fantastic in Europe
Rev. by Gillian Polack

Christopher E. Bell’s Hermione Granger Saves the World: Essays on the Feminist Heroine of Hogwarts
Rev. by Christopher L. Caldwell

Paul Meehan’s Horror Noir: Where Cinema’s Dark Sisters Meet
Rev. by J. Robert Craig

Roger Luckhurst’s The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy
Rev. by Mark De Cicco

Monica Germanà’s Scottish Women’s Gothic and Fantastic Writing: Fiction since 1978
Rev. by Maura Heaphy

Jack Zipes’s The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre
Rev. by Jeana Jorgensen

Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal
Rev. by Orion Ussner Kidder

E. Wittkower’s Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits?
Rev. by Sándor Klapcsik

Sherryl Vint’s Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal
Rev. by Sha LaBare

Marc Steinberg’s Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan
Rev. by Hongmei Li

Andrew Smith’s The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History
Rev. by Rikk Mulligan

Enrique Gaspar’s The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey
Rev. by Pedro Ponce

David Seed’s Future Wars: The Anticipations and the Fears
Rev. by Justin Raymond

Angela Ndalianis’s The Horror Sensorium: Media and the Senses
Rev. by Joshua Richardson

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein’s Inception and Philosophy: Ideas to Die For
Rev. by Stephen C. Swanson

Elizabeth Leane’s Antarctica in Fiction: Imaginative Narratives of the Far South
Rev. by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock

Verlyn Flieger’s Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on Tolkien
Rev. by Corey J. Zwikstra