Saturday 10 October 2020

Exploring Imaginary Worlds: Essays on Media, Structure and Subcreation

In the course of my scholarly and academic research and exploration there have been several books that I consider revelatory and have helped shaped the course of my own research and areas of interest   

In the field of Tolkien studies I would say these three books are: Dr. Verlyn Flieger's Splintered Light: Logos and Light in Tolkien's World (1983 revised 2002) Thomas A. Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth (1982 revised 2012)  and Dr. Dimitra Fimi's Tolkien, Race and Cultural History - From Fairies to Hobbits (2008) (and very lucky me Dimitra became my PhD supervisor and we went on to co-edit A Secret Vice Tolkien on Language Invention published by HarperCollins in 2016)

In the broader field of fantastic literature studies I would elect Farah Mendlesohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy (2014). Michael T. Saler's As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality (2012) and Professor Mark J.P. Wolf's Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Sub-Creation (2012).  

Since reading Professor Wolf's 2012 monograph I have been a great admirer of the work he has been doing to explore the world's behind fictional texts in their broadest sense (from narratives, films, television shows to video games and amusement parks). For me this opened up a whole next vista in looking at a text and added to my thinking in my primary Tolkien research and studies which tends to focus on how Tolkien used invented languages combined with myth-making to build his world of Middle-earth.    

Professor Wolf has also gone on to bring together scholars to explore the role of world-building.  This included the volume Revisiting Imaginary Worlds: A Sub-creation Studies Anthology published by Routledge in 2017 which included a brilliant chapter by Dr. Dimitra Fimi on The Past as an Imaginary World: The Case of Medievalism which compares and contrasts the medieval world-building of Thomas Chatterton, Umberto Eco and J.R.R. Tolkien.  I was very excited to review both the 2012 monograph and this volume for The Journal of Tolkien Research 

I first got to work with Professor Wolf when he asked Dimitra and I to contribute a chapter on 'Invented Languages' in the 2018 The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds.   It was around this time that I heard that he was planning another collected volume of exploring world-building in fictional texts and I jumped at the chance to be a part of this one.  

I decided to contribute to this new volume with a piece not on Tolkien or invented languages but around a story-world that I had grown up with and is a very important part of my life - the world ofDark Shadows.   Ever since I ran home from school to watch the last seasons of the original episodes on ABC TV in New York City and then re-watched the original 1245 episodes that started in 1966 (the same year Star Trek first appeared) again in re-runs, on MPI Videos and (to this day) on DVD's and Amazon Prime I have been fascinated by the gothic world of Dark Shadows.  I have been very lucky to have actually attended several Dark Shadows fan conventions in New York City and meet some of the original cast including Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins), Lara Parker (Angelique), David Selby (Quentin) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans/Josette) who to this day is involved with many Dark Shadows projects including the recent excellent recordings of the original Dark Shadows gothic novels by Marilyn Ross (I am up to number 16 Barnabas, Quentin and The Mummy's Curse) - I have explored some of the Marilyn Ross novels on past blog posts here 

Sympathetic Vampires (long before Angel and Edward), werewolves, witches, time travel, Lovecraftian leviathans, parallel time - this trans-medial story-world has it all and I wanted my chapter in this volume to be a scholarly exploration using those ideas and thoughts that I learned from Professor Wolf's excellent work to explore the gothic world-building of Dark Shadows.  It was an incredible exploration and along the way I discovered the vast and varied soup of gothic, horror, and weird stories that Dan Curtis and his team or writers dipped into to create the narratives of this world.  

This new volume has just been published and has some brilliant chapters - here is the table of contents - hope you enjoy mine and many others explorations of the world's beyond the texts we read, watch, experience and play in - and I am looking forward to more exploration! 


Scott Adams

Mark J. P. Wolf


The Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground by Ludvig Holberg: Subcreation and Social Criticism
Lars Konzack

‘A Little Bit of England Which I Have Myself Created’: Creating Barsetshire across Forms, Genres, Time, and Authors
Helen Conrad O’Briain

Mythopoetic Suspense, Eschatology and Misterium: World-Building Lessons from Dostoevsky
Lily Alexander

Building the Vorkosigan Universe
Edward James


Our World: World-Building in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town
Mark J. P. Wolf

"Suckled On Shadows": States of Decay in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Novels
Edward O’Hare

The Gothic World-Building of Dark Shadows
Andrew Higgins

Daventry and the Worlds of King’s Quest
Christopher Hanson


The Softer Side of Dune: The Impact of Social Sciences on World-Building
Kara Kennedy

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: Balance and Interconnectivity in the Fractured Worlds of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s The Death Gate Cycle
Jennifer Harwood-Smith

Welcome to the "Second-stage" Lynchverse – Twin Peaks: The Return and the Impossibility of Return Vs. Getting a Return
Matt Hills

The Fault in Our Star Trek: (Dis)Continuity Mapping, Textual Conservationism, and the Perils of Prequelization
William Proctor

Appendix: On Measuring and Comparing Imaginary Worlds
Mark J. P. Wolf


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