JFA 32.2 (2021)
Introduction: Awards and Prospects
Last month I was surprised and delighted to receive a World Fantasy Award on behalf of the Journal. Here are the remarks I sent to editor Gordon Van Gelder to be read at the Award Ceremony:
I’ve always thought that fans and academics are natural allies, but I never expected to have an academic journal considered for a World Fantasy Award. The nomination was in my name, but the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts is really a collective effort. Credit goes to the IAFA, which sponsors the Journal, to my editorial predecessors, and especially to the team of volunteer workers who have made the Journal into a meeting place for people who are deeply curious about the fantastic in all its forms—what John Clute calls Fantastika. That includes not only the people on the masthead—Associate Editors, Managing Editor Chrissie Mains, and my various Editorial Assistants over the years—but every contributor, everyone who has heard an interesting paper at a conference and suggested to its author that JFA might be a place to publish it, everyone who has served as a peer reviewer, and everyone whose advice I have sought over the last sixteen years. My thanks on their behalf for this recognition from another group who shares our passion.
In this issue of the Journal we look back at another award associated with our sponsoring organization. I asked Gary K. Wolfe, who has administered the William L. Crawford Award since its creation in 1985, to write a history of the Award and its amazingly significant run of winners. Gary was Guest Scholar at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in 1998, and here he fills in as a sort of honorary guest for the Conference that didn’t happen: the Covid-canceled 2020 meeting. Gary’s essay, for which we also solicited introductory remarks from Conference Chair Emeritus Donald Morse, doubles as a history of the kind of fantasy that keeps many of us in the field: adventurous, unpredictable, and profoundly engaging.
We are also taking this opportunity to look ahead with the first-ever round-robin symposium on the future of studies of fantasy and the fantastic. That section of the issue has its own introduction, so I will say no more here except that readers will be pleased and intrigued at the directions our contributors see in store.
The issue is rounded out with three articles that look both back and ahead. We lead off with Kristina Grgić’s examination of one of the twentieth century’s great fantasists, Angela Carter. Grgić pairs Carter’s novel The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman with a book less well-known to Anglophone readers, Evening Act, by Croatian writer Pavao Pavličić. Both writers exploited the capacity of the fantastic to interrogate our constructions of reality through metafictional play. As Postmodernism, as a literary movement and critical lens, begins to recede into the past, it is high time to start figuring out how to incorporate its insights and achievements into the post-postmodern present. The concerns of Postmodernism have not gone away: we are immersed in hyperreality, surrounded by simulacra. One take-away from Grgić’s analysis is that we need works like these more than ever: what used to be Postmodern and experimental is now the water we swim in, the air we breathe.
Kelly Budruweit also pairs up classic writers, though of more recent vintage, and also uses theory of “post”ness. Looking at China Miéville and Kelly Link’s gloriously disorienting fiction, often classed as examples of the New Weird, Budruweit applies a reading strategy that Rita Felski designates as “postcritical,” meaning that the reader has been through the wringer of extreme (and Postmodern) skepticism and come out the other side with, as Budruweit says, “more trusting, affirmative modes of engagement.” The monstrous beings that inhabit Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and those that Link’s fiction presents in the guise of more ordinary entities such as boyfriends simultaneously attract and repel us. They ask us to engage with monsters as neighbors and loved ones: one might say, as the New Normal, which is the Old Weird. This engagement is both emotional and cognitive, which further link’s Budruweit’s analysis with Grgić’s.
Finally, Audrey Taylor and Stefan Ekman take a look at a fantasy convention—one common enough to have been skewered by Diana Wynne Jones in her Tough Guide to Fantasyland—that simultaneously looks back to traditional wisdom and ahead to the challenges of a quest narrative. Taylor, author of a recent and much-needed book on Patricia McKillip, and Ekman, whose study of fantasy maps has become a critical standard, here investigate the meaning and function of “world-intrinsic epigraphs,” meaning quotes whose reliability and antiquity are well-known to those inside a fantasy world but must be taken on faith by readers because the texts they quote from are imaginary. In realist fiction, epigraphs and maps would be classed under Gérard Genette’s term “paratext”: things that surround the text and guide our response to it. In fantasy, both represent the start of our journey out of the known universe. They are part of the world-building and, according to Taylor and Ekman, part of a particular form of world-building that they describe as “critical.” In such world-building, they say, “the fictional world is constructed as a composite, by relating the mainly sequential presentation of the world in text and images to a more holistic perspective.” By doing so, “The world is also placed in a critical context of genre conventions and theoretical discourses.” This puts such fabricated epigraphs into the same metafictional, reality-testing category as the monsters of Link and Miéville or the postmodern disruptions of Pavličić and Carter—and that brings them out of the secondary world’s past and into our futures as we read and ponder.
Introduction to the Symposium: The Future of Fantasy Studies
It has been the practice of this Journal since its founding to publish Guest of Honor speeches from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, along with exemplary papers by graduate students and international scholars (winners of the David G. Hartwell, Walter James Miller, and Jamie Bishop Awards), interviews with attending writers, and articles based on papers presented at the Conference. Because the 2020 Conference was canceled by a pandemic, we don’t have a Conference-based issue to present. Instead, we have taken the opportunity to ask Associate Editors, Editorial Board members, and friends of the Journal to contemplate what might lie ahead in the study of fantasy and the fantastic. This symposium brings together their various summaries of the state of the field and their ponderings about what they expect, or hope, to see emerging on the pages of this Journal and other venues for scholarship.
I thought it was high time to initiate such a symposium for a number of reasons, including the loss of a year’s Conference-based conversations and upcoming changes to the Journal masthead as I step down as Editor after sixteen years in the position. Another reason is a widespread sense that fantasy has not kept up with its sister genre science fiction with regard to theoretical exploration—see, for instance, Patrick Moran’s 2019 book The Canons of Fantasy: Lands of High Adventure, in which he notes the time lag between the publication of Clute and Nicholls’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979, expanded and revised 1993) and Clute and Grant’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), and explains that “the full emergence of fantasy as a genre took place later than science fiction” and that the latter has been “generally deemed more worthy of serious attention and proper academic treatment” (10 n. 11). Finally, the symposium reflects an awareness that fantasy and related forms are undergoing vast and heartening changes. In particular, movements such as Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurism have generated a host of wonderful, challenging fictions and brought in new audiences, while new technologies of storytelling have emerged to challenge the supremacy of print. We need ways to comprehend and appreciate this richness.
For all these reasons, I put out a call for short essays discussing what contributors see as the most useful, promising, and interesting theoretical approaches or areas of investigation for fantasy and the literature of the fantastic, and proposing a direction where they would like to see the study of fantasy head next. The call explained that what we mean by theory is simply a mechanism for generating questions beyond the obvious. Since some of the invitees are creative writers, I also asked, “If you are a writer of fiction, what would you like scholars to pay attention to?” As might be expected, each respondent took a different tack, depending on interests and expertise. My thanks to Farah Mendlesohn for doing the initial curating and editorial work on these pieces. Some are speculative, others descriptive, and still others deliberately provocative. Several take an interesting turn from scholarship to the nature and future of fantastic literature itself. We have left the statements pretty much as submitted to try to duplicate the sort of open-ended conversation that takes place at ICFA.
As we prepare this symposium for print, some of what the participants have predicted is already coming to pass. New lines of scholarly publications are being established, including the first monograph series devoted to fantasy studies, Bloomsbury Academic’s line of Perspectives on Fantasy, with series editors Dimitra Fimi, Matthew Sangster, and me. Students are more interested than ever in exploring nonrealistic modes of narrative—although a general retrenchment within academia and what seems to me to be a concerted attack on the humanities threaten to quash that enthusiasm. Perhaps this symposium will serve as a rallying cry in the fight for our field and its potential for pinpointing injustices, opening up conversations, and fostering greater understanding of ourselves through our stories.
Introduction: Awards and Prospects
The Crawford Award and Contemporary Fantasy
Gary K. Wolfe
Symposium: The Future of Fantasy Studies
Cristina Bacchilega, Alison Baker, Jalondra A. Davis, Andrea Hairston, Karen L. Hellekson, Joy Sanchez-Taylor, David Sandner, Taryne Jade Taylor, Derek J. Thiess, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Dennis Wilson Wise
Simulacral Worlds in Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman and Pavao Pavličić’s Evening Act
The Value of Fantasy in the Monstrous: China Miéville and Kelly Link’s Weird Integrations of Critique and Affirmation
Between World and Narrative: Fictional Epigraphs and Critical World-Building
Stefan Ekman and Audrey Isabel Taylor
Sam George and Bill Hughes’s In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Children
Rev. by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez
Igno Cornils’s Beyond Tomorrow: German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Rev. by Rachel Cordasco
James Arthur Anderson’s Excavating Stephen King: A Darwinist
Hermeneutic Study of the Fiction
Rev. by Nicole C. Dittmer
Lydia Zeldenrust’s The Mélusine Romance in Medieval Europe: Translation, Circulation, and Material Contexts
Rev. by Melissa Ridley Elmes
William O. Gardner’s The Metabolist Imagination: Visions of the City in Postwar Japanese Architecture and Science Fiction
Rev. by Peter Faziani
Dawn Stobbart’s Videogames and Horror: From Amnesia to Zombies, Run!
Rev. by Elliot Mason
Emily Alder’s Weird Fiction and Science at the Fin de Siècle
Rev. by Timothy S. Murphy
Alexia Kannas’s Giallo! Genre, Modernity, and Detection in Italian Horror Cinema
Rev. by Sabrina Negri
Stacy Abbott and Lorna Jowett’s Global TV Horror
Rev. by Kendall R. Phillips
Eddie Falvey, Joe Hickinbottom, and Jonathan Wroot’s New Blood: Critical Approaches to Contemporary Horror
Rev. by Carol Senf
Mike Ashley’s Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1981–1990
Rev. by Ishita Singh
James Uden’s Spectres of Antiquity: Classical Literature and the Gothic, 1740–1830
Rev. by Eloïse Sureau
Kristin Noone and Emily Lavin Leverett’s Terry Pratchett’s Ethical Worlds: Essays on Identity and Narrative in Discworld and Beyond
Rev. by Caroline Webb