“ALL OF HER MADE PART OF […] THE WOOD”: CONSUMPTION, TRANSFORMATION, AND THE LIMITS OF SUBVERSION IN NAOMI NOVIK’S UPROOTED
Dragons, hedge-witches, dashing princes, and a menacing forest: Naomi Novik’s Nebula-winning novel Uprooted (2015) draws on many traditional Slavic and Franco-Germanic fairy-tale patterns, archetypes, and tropes. Continuing the adaptation work of many female writers before her, Novik places women at the heart of her novel, offering its female figures – protagonist Agnieszka, village girl Kasia, scandalous queen Hanna, and the monstrous Wood-queen – roles and powers beyond those which their fairy-tale ancestors could possess. Crucially, Novik attempts to destabilise the dynamics of consumption intrinsic to fairy-tale, in which women are objectified, made passive, and consumed by male gazes and desires.
Drawing on the work of folklorists like Cristina Bacchilega and Marcia R. Lieberman, alongside (eco)feminist theory and popular culture scholarship, this article considers the efficacy of Novik’s intervention into these physical, sexual, and figurative consumptive patterns. I assert that through moments of rupture, regeneration, and transformation, Uprooted attempts to break free from the gendered restraints of the fairy-tale model. This transformation is often intrinsically connected to nature: the sentient Wood, Uprooted’s antagonist, is both a corrupting and empowering force, giving Kasia, for example, superhuman strength whilst Othering her from society. Using the scholarship of J. Halberstam, Val Plumwood, and Elizabeth Parker, among others, I thus consider whether naturalisation – a transformative mode typically used to delegitimise and disenfranchise women’s agency and sexuality – and the embracing of dangerous natural forces allow Novik’s women to subvert archetypal fairytale stereotypes. Ultimately, however, Uprooted’s interventions into fairy- and folk-tale are not entirely progressive or successful. The novel’s male characters perpetuate damaging stereotypes and consumptive behaviours, including attempted sexual assault; many of its women are punished for expressing their sexuality, ultimately remaining bound to oppressive heteronormativity and male desires. Even after gaining magical or monstrous power, Novik’s women cannot fully escape objectification or consumption.
“WHITE IS NOT MY COLOUR”: PENNY DREADFUL, THE POSTCOLONIAL, AND THE CHANGING GOTHIC HEROINE
Although much has been written about the traditional Gothic heroine in the seminal Gothic novels, there remains a need to discuss the changing role of female characters in contemporary Gothic televisual texts because these characters often operate outside some of the literary Gothic parameters. The nature of the Gothic genre requires a sacrifice of the female characters, and even Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) as a contemporary Gothic text is not immune to this embedded constraint. This article illustrates both how the conventions of Gothic fiction require the sacrifice of female characters, and how Penny Dreadful, though it presents as a modern, postcolonial series, can still be ultimately discussed as a conservative text. Ultimately, the powerful character of Vanessa Ives does not survive the narrative of Penny Dreadful because she is a transgressive female character in a Gothic structure. Vanessa is not a Female Gothic Heroine in the tradition of Ann Radcliffe, nor is she a Matthew Lewis-like damsel-in-distress from the Male Gothic tradition. Vanessa, through her independent choices, subverts the Gothic heroine, and at the same time, the Gothic, as presented in John Logan’s Penny Dreadful, destabilises colonial attitudes.
CONSCRIPTS FROM BIRTH: WAR AND SOLDIERY IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE
Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe (hereafter referred to as 40k) is one of the biggest and most well-established Science Fiction universes in circulation today. While it has been critically underrepresented to date, this paper seeks to assert the relevance and value of 40k for analysis, and explore some of the real-world implications of the themes the universe explores.
Of particular focus in this paper, is the role of the super-soldier Space Marines, and the historical context of the 40k universe, the Horus Heresy. During this time, the Warmaster Horus fell to Chaos, taking many of his brother-Primarchs with him. These events sparked a galaxy-wide civil war between those loyal to the Emperor, and those loyal to Horus. While the individual Space Marines themselves tended to stay loyal to their Primarchs, the whole Heresy reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of military ethics. Given that the Space Marines are trained and indoctrinated the obey orders without question, how much choice did they really have in betraying the Emperor? Was it even a choice at all?
This paper will explore these questions and many more, alongside their real-life implications including the Nuremberg trials and the My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War (1968). This paper will also explore the use of emergency powers used to justify the suspension of law, and the creation of zones or spaces of exception as described by philosopher Giorgio Agamben. In a modern-day world of black ops, drone strikes, and the never-ending ‘war on terror,’ Games Workshop’s 40k universe has never been so relevant. To adjust a phrase synonymous with 40k: “In the grim darkness of the future-present, there is only war.”
PREPPING FOR THE LATOURIAN APOCALYPSE, FROM DOOMSDAY PREPPERS TO BROKEN EARTH
Derek J. Thiess
Amidst the defiance of public health officials’ stay-at-home orders by various churches all over the world in order to “lay hands on the sick,” Bruno Latour’s invectives against the cold, distance of science and in favour of the “close and present” in religion takes on new meaning. Latourian philosophy has seen a great increase in critical attention from the Science Fiction/Fantasy community in recent years and enjoys immense popularity across academic fields. In this article, however, I trace a more distinctly religious, apocalyptic strain of Latourian thought through close analysis of his monographs. This analysis occurs in a comparison of Latour’s philosophy, so often seeming to prepare for an immanent scientific disaster, to the first season of the National Geographic television series, Doomsday Preppers (2012). In this comparison one finds that Latour and the prepping community alike display a nearly utopian impulse toward the kairotic time of disaster, one with important implications for the study of the fantastic.
I argue that this apocalypticism drifts between the fictional representations of the fantastic and its criticism, largely through leaving unquestioned the inherent religiosity of sources such as Latour. Thus, I also examine N. K. Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth trilogy. Although rightly praised for its diversity of representation, I highlight in this series the common culture of its prepping communities as well as its reliance on Christian mythology and equally anti-academic, anti-science narrative. In this translation back into fiction, I suggest the fields that engage with the fantastic should engage more critically with the kinds of religious apocalypticism found in both apocalyptic fictions and in philosophical/critical sources.
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A Review of Roarings from Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood (2019) by Michael Wheatley
A Review of Women’s Weird 2. More Strange Stories by Women, 1891-1937 (2020) by Steen Ledet Christiansen
A Review of Weird Woods: Tales from the Haunted Forests of Britain (2020) by Stuart Spear
A Review of Readymade Bodhisattva (2019) by Lauren Nixon
A Review of Shazam! (2019) by Zvonimir Prtenjača
A Review of Nothing is Everything (2018) by Oliver Rendle
A Review of Ghost of Tsushima (2020) by Charlotte Gislam
A Review of Fantasy Fictions from the Bengal Renaissance: Abanindranath Tagore’s The Make-Believe Prince and Gaganendranath Tagore’s Toddy-Cat the Bold (2018) by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay
A Review of Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood (2019) by Trae Toler