The Luminary Postgraduate Magazine Lancaster University

Locating FantastikaGender Cover

Issue 7: Summer 2016

ISSN 2056-9238 (online)

“Fantastika” – a term appropriated from a range of Slavonic languages by John Clute – embraces the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but can also include alternative histories, gothic, steampunk, young adult dystopian fiction, or any other radically imaginative narrative space. This issue features extended articles from the 2nd Annual Fantastika Conference: Locating Fantastika, held July 2015 at Lancaster University. The conference explored all areas of space, setting, and locations, either in the fictional world of fantastika or in fantastical networks with the real world.

Read online by following the links below or download the full issue as a PDF.

Introduction to "Locating Fantastika"

Ruth Heholt, Falmouth University. Read>>

Resident Evil & Doorways: An Exploration of Transitional Spaces in Visual Culture

Hannah Boaden, University of Edinburgh

Doorways have consistently been used as a structural device in visual culture. A strong correlation lies between doorways and the unknown potential of the space beyond the doorway. Particularly relevant to this correlation is the prospective emotional responses which arise as a consequence of the unknown. The production of Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002) as a development from the popular video game culminates in one of the most iconic action horror films in cinema. Beginning as a tool to disguise loading screens in the game, doors and doorways are transformed into a narrative device in the film. The film explores the theme of confinement and intrusion, with doors providing a crucial reference for transition between boundaries. These are also intrinsic in the cinematography and editing structure of the film in order to maximise emotional engagement of the audience. Doors are essential in wielding emotive power within the film, indicating the presence of concealed elements that may only be revealed by committing to the transition from one space to another. It is in consideration of these indeterminable factors that the spectator experiences trepidation. Not all doorways are met with such anxiety, and thus the significant component to recognise is that the new space threatens to alter the protagonist’s current reality in a way that cannot yet be fully conceived. Resident Evil exemplifies this lack of control, establishing every scene with a doorway that could save, harm, deceive, surrender or resist at will, and therefore providing pivotal moments in the narrative. Perceiving the film in this way allows for a greater understanding of how our experience of space may evoke such emotions of dread and anxiety when no threat is yet apparent. This is important to regard before contemplating further complications from technological influences on our ability to observe environments. Read>>

“I didn't say it. Milton said it. And he was blind”: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Paradise Lost

Thomas Tyrrell, Cardiff University

With his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) John Milton envisioned a dramatic universe that combined Christian theology with early modern science, and which had at its heart a vivid and strangely sympathetic antihero in the person of Satan. The influence of his writing on the novels of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman is well-known, but his influence on the comic book has been relatively neglected. Accordingly, this article traces the introduction of Miltonic motifs and references into the DC Universe, arguing that Milton’s episode of the War in Heaven had already anticipated the Manichean narrative of the classic comic book. Beginning with Alan Moore’s “Footsteps” in Secret Origins #10 and analysing in detail Neil Gaiman’s character of Lucifer in The Sandman: Season of Mists, before concluding with a survey of their later successors, I examine the process of incorporating Milton’s universe into the already extensive mythological framework of the DC Universe, following the line of influence from its high point in the nineties up to its present day nadir. By re-examining the seductive charisma of Satan and the arbitrary righteousness of God, Moore and Gaiman investigate the place of the human in the immortal drama, and whether it remains in any sense possible to justify the ways of God to man. Their work represents a sizeable contribution to Milton’s place in contemporary culture as well as to the tapestry of legendary, alternate-historical, science-fictional, fantastical, original and derivate material that constitutes the DC Universe. Read>>

“The other garden”: Palimpsestic and Abject Faerie Spaces and Species in J. M. Barrie’s and Arthur Rackham’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”

Rachel Fox, Lancaster University

This article examines heterotopic faerie spaces as they are constructed within the texts of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, paying especial attention to Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for each text. I argue that heterotopic faerie spaces are composites, built out of the palimpsestic and abject characteristics evident in the narrative and material components of these works. With an emphasis on how written and visual renditions of faerie spaces and species are constructed within the texts’ narrative, this article makes direct reference to a specific material copy of Kensington Gardens: an illustrated Edition-de-Luxe small quarto first edition, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1910. The article begins with an exploration of the construction of “the other garden” as that which constitutes faerie in Kensington Gardens, drawing from Michel Foucault’s definitions of heterotopia in his essay “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias”. I then go on to consider the dangers which are associated with trespassing into this faerie space, and explore the threat posed by the equally desired and monstrous faerie species’ that reside in “the other garden”, a haunted and spectral location, both materially and narratively. Read>>

“Strange Ceremonies”: Creating Imaginative Spaces in Bizarre Magick

Nik Taylor, University of Huddersfield

The Great God Pan (Raven, 1974) is a performance magic piece aimed at transporting the imagination of an audience out of the magician’s study (where the piece is set) and into fictional realms of fantasy and horror.  This type of work is known as Bizarre Magick and is an underground form of performance magic. Many of the pieces in this genre borrow from popular horror fictions and seek to locate Fantastika in everyday physical locations through the creation of a charged sense of space where illusion is played as real. This article examines how these effects, through storytelling, intricate props, and often complex methods, allow practitioners to draw heavily on fictionalised histories of science fiction, horror and the supernatural to create site-specific “strange ceremonies” (Burger, 1991). These experiential theatrical pieces allow the magician (better described as the mage or sorcerer) to act as a facilitator guiding the guests/audience into imaginative spaces where fantastic fictions are made real.  This article explores a number of these performance magic experiments and draws on the notion of the “paraxial” (Mangan, 2007) to examine how the performer relocates themselves and their audience in a performative grey area situated between illusion and reality. Read>>

“The Kind of Woman Who Talked to Basilisks”: Travelling Light Through Naomi Mitchison’s Landscape of the Imaginary 

Nick Hubble, Brunel University London

This article argues that Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light (1952) was the result of a long and protracted struggle to find a space in which to live and write outside of the patriarchal order. It begins by introducing the novella and then discussing Amal El-Mohtar’s recent account of the effect that reading it in her early 20s had on her. In particular, El-Mohtar speculates on the difference it would have made to her if she had read Travel Light at age seven rather than The Hobbit. Following a brief consideration of the links between Mitchison and Tolkien, the article outlines Mitchison’s various attempts to express an unconstrained female agency in the following novels: The Conquered (1923), The Corn King and the Spring Queen (1931), We Have Been Warned (1935), The Blood of the Martyrs (1939), and The Bull Calves (1947). Her non-fiction work The Moral Basis of Politics (1938) and her wartime diary for Mass-Observation are also discussed. The second half of the article argues that as a result of this struggle, Mitchison eventually found a position to write a female agency that would be true to itself by creating an alternative version of the Oedipus story in Travel Light, in which the protagonist is a woman. Threatened with abandonment on a mountainside at birth, Halla is rescued by her nurse and brought up in the wild by bears and dragons before being encouraged by Odin to “travel light”. Analysis demonstrates how Mitchison subverts the standard model of the “full fantasy story”, as outlined by John Clute, to enable Halla to break the Oedipal circle of patriarchy and remain free in the pre-symbolic landscape of the imaginary. Read>>

“A Tourist Guide to Besźel and Ul Qoma”: Unseeing and the Re-interpretation of Psychogeography in China Miéville’s The City and the City

Rob O'Connor, York St John University

Urban environments feature heavily in the work of China Miéville, inspiring his world creation in a fundamental manner. The landscape of the city becomes a central character in its own right, constantly shifting and changing into new forms. Miéville takes the imagery of the city and plays with it, fusing the imaginative traits of genre fictions with the everyday to produce his own brand of urbanism that uses the fantastical as a lens with which to examine our own contemporary society. Miéville's exercise here could easily be interpreted as an act of psychogeography, what Merlin Coverley defines as “the point at which psychology and geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioural impact of place” (Coverley, 2010). Out of all of Miéville’s novel The City and the City (2009) most successfully demonstrates the fluidity of urban landscapes; introducing a topologically-challenging representation of the city. We witness the effect that the physical intertwining of these urban environments has upon the inhabitants. The central premise of Miéville’s novel – “Unseeing” - plays a significant role within the narrative, encouraging critical thought regarding our own connection with urban landscapes. The concept of policed borders also engages the reader with political considerations and subtexts due to contemporary and historical conflicts involving land disputes and imperialistic motives. By analysing The City and the City closely, this paper will demonstrate how Miéville is using psychogeographical techniques as an intrinsic part of his world-building methodology within the novel and how this approach encourages the reader to consider their own socio-political engagement with contemporary urban landscapes. Read>>

The Dialectics of Documents: The Case of the Real and the Fantastic

Vladimir Rizov, University of York

Documentary photography deals with the visual imagination of social issues. I intend to demonstrate that documentary photography as a practice consists of both seen and unseen dimensions. In order to do so, I will utilise Walter Benjamin’s dialectics of seeing and his concept of the dialectical image. To illustrate this theoretical work, I will draw on the photographic work of Charles Marville (1813-1879) and Eugéne Atget (1857-1927). In particular, the historical Haussmann’s urban restructuring of Paris which Marville documents will be contrasted with that of Benjamin’s dream image. In so doing, the paper will demonstrate how the practice of framing in documentary photography not only captures a particular historical moment, but also is liable to reveal the underlying ambiguity in the depiction. I will analyse the empty urban landscapes of Atget and Marville in the changing Paris of late 18th and early 19th century as examples of the hidden aspects of a given historical moment. This demonstration will provide further insight into the nature of the document and the photographic – how they are constituted through time and practice, as well as how an image, although documentary, can be made to tell stories beyond the visible. Read>>

A note on the contributors:

Ruth Heholt is a senior lecturer in English at Falmouth University. Her research concentrates on the supernatural, crime and sensation fiction. Her recent work has focussed on the Gothic, masculinity and haunted landscapes. She has edited a collection with Niamh Downing entitled: Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment (forthcoming, Rowman Littlefield, November 2016). She is editor of a new e-journal, Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural: She has recently published a scholarly edition of Catherine Crowe's 1847 novel The Story of Lilly Dawson, (Victorian Secrets Press, 2015) and is working on an edited collection entitled Gothic Britain with Professor William Hughes.

Hannah Boaden graduated in 2015 from Lancaster University with a first-class degree in (BA) Fine Art and is due to commence an MPhil in Art at the University of Edinburgh. Her study interests include: transitional structures, visual culture, temporal perceptions of spaces, and understanding human experience through the arts.

Thomas Tyrrell is writing a thesis called ‘Remapping Milton: Spaces of Influence’ at Cardiff University, but spent a considerable portion of 2015-6 on visiting fellowships at Chawton House Library, Hampshire and The Huntington Library, Pasadena. He usually writes about eighteenth-century poetry, but writing about graphic novels was very enjoyable, and he might do more of it in future.

Rachel Fox is a postgraduate student in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She completed a BA (Hons) in English Literature and a MA in Contemporary Literary Studies at Lancaster in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Her doctoral research is focused on postcolonial feminist theory and writing, and deals with works across multiple mediums, including written, visual, and hybrid forms.

Nik Taylor is a is Subject Leader for Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Huddersfield.  He is co-editor of The Journal of Performance Magic and coordinator of the Magic Research Group. As Mystery Entertainer, he specialises in Bizarre Magick, Sideshow, Séance and Divination.  He also co-curates Mr Punch's Cabinet of Curiosities a dark museum of weird and haunted artefacts the regularly exhibits across the country. He recently advised on Proper Job Theatre Company’s Nosferatu, the Thackray Medical Museum’s The Magic of Medicine exhibition and performed as part YMEDACA at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and The British Society of Mystery Entertainers.

Nick Hubble is a Reader in English at Brunel University London. They are the author of Mass Observation and Everyday Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and the co-editor of The Science Fiction Handbook (Bloomsbury, 2013). They have reviewed SFF for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Strange Horizons, Foundation and Vector.

Rob O'Connor is researching his PhD thesis at York St John University on the depiction of real and metaphorical landscapes in the work of China Miéville. His other research interests include genre studies and creative writing. He also teaches literature and creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of York and as a visiting lecturer at York St. John University.

Vladimir Rizov is a doctoral researcher in sociology at the University of York, United Kingdom. His research is on the practice of documentary photography, its history and its relation to the city; a key place in his research interests occupies the work of Walter Benjamin. Currently, his research focuses on the work Eugéne Atget and the Haussmannisation of Paris.


Front Cover art: “Homage to Pratchett’s Lancre Witches” by Sam Robinson
Editors of this Special Edition: Charul (Chuckie) Palmer - Patel and Chloé Alexandra Germaine Buckley
We would also like to thank our peer reviewers for their kind consideration and efforts with this issue

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ISSN 2056-9238