Panel 7.1 World without Borders


Douglas Leatherland, Durham University, UK, “The Nomos of Fantasy: Natural and Artificial Boundaries in Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Le Guin’s Earthsea”

Like the subsequent fantasy worlds of authors such as Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, the fictional geography of Middle-earth is mapped with paradigmatic boundaries. To the north and east of Tolkien’s realms, there pervades the threat of uncivilized lands. Not only does Tolkien orientalise the space of the Other in his cartography, but also conveys a nostalgia for the old nomos of the earth, prior to the modern age of exploration and commerce, when, writes Carl Schmitt, ‘men as yet had no global concept of their planet and the great oceans of the world were inaccessible to human power’. This is as much a result of Tolkien’s medieval setting as a contemporary anxiety toward the emergence of globalization.

Ursula Le Guin’s archipelago of Earthsea, on the other hand, while it retains medieval, Tolkienian tropes, dispenses with land-based political boundaries altogether. Earthsea’s borders result from natural island formations. All conflicts and negotiations of space are contained within Earthsea as a whole. Although her world does not explicitly resemble the spherical form of our own, Le Guin advocates socio-political and ecological balance within a utopian vision of a world without borders, or at least those which are artificially constructed.

My paper will offer an overview of the wider political dimensions which underlie these diverging manifestations of natural and artificial spaces within a fictional world order. With particular focus on the cartography of Tolkien and Le Guin, I shall also be drawing upon a wide array of examples from fantasy fiction, spanning from Tolkien to the present. I also hope to open further the discussion as to what consciously or unconsciously attracts the author to the boundless space in the ‘high’ fantasy genre.  


Bionote: Douglas Leatherland is a first-year doctorate in the Department of English at Durham University. His research focuses on anthropomorphism in twentieth-century animal narrative. His other interests include both canonical and contemporary fantasy fiction, in particular the ecocritical, postcolonial, and posthuman approaches to the genre.


Catherine Spooner, Lancaster University, UK, “‘It’s just the travelling that’s such a drag’: Mobility, Tourism and Globalised Vampires in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) is a key example of globalised vampire cinema: a British-German co-production, with an American director, British and Australian lead actors, and shot on location in Detroit and Tangier. It dramatizes, moreover, the movement of vampires within a globalised world. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are permanently in exile, world-weary expatriates who punctuate a life of endlessly prolonged leisure with touristic encounters with urban landscapes. They are global citizens who use video messaging and social media to communicate between continents, and who travel by plane, car and foot between and through a series of diverse locations, but whose mobility is ultimately restricted by their need to remain close to a reliable blood-source.

This paper will explore the ways in which Jarmusch’s film reflects and expands on the vampire as a figure who travels, whether literally (Dracula’s journey to England) or figuratively (international reiterations of the vampire myth). It will argue that while the earliest Western vampire narratives trace travellers’ encounters with exotic vampire customs, this has now come full circle as vampires themselves exhibit touristic behaviour. In Jarmusch’s film, Adam’s epiphanic appreciation of a Lebanese singer stages an encounter with the exotic female other that reconfirms Orientalist models. The film therefore comments on the consumption of foreign landscapes and their inhabitants as a kind of vampiric practice.


Bionote: Catherine Spooner is a Senior Lecturer in English at Lancaster University and co-president of the International Gothic Association. She has published widely on Gothic in literature, film and popular culture, including the books Fashioning Gothic Bodies, Contemporary Gothic, The Routledge Companion to Gothic (with Emma McEvoy) and Monstrous Media/Spectral Subjects (with Fred Botting).


Chris Pak, Lancaster University, UK, “The Independent Entrepreneur and the Terraforming of Mars”

Science fiction (sf) has pioneered exploration into the practicalities, politics and ethics of space colonisation since H.G. Wells first imagined the Martian colonisation of Earth in his 1898 classic The War of the Worlds. While space colonisation is framed in the context of a Martian colonisation of space, writers such as Jack Williamson in his Seetee stories have considered the impact of the human colonisation of space and the mining of antimatter in the Kuiper Belt by entrepreneurs working outside of governmental institutions or sanction. This tradition continues in sf narratives of terraforming, in works such as Michael Allaby and James Lovelock’s 1984 The Greening of Mars, in which the colonisation of Mars is initiated by an individual able to marshal the resources and finances that would allow him to operate outside of the confines of institutions unable to assess or respond to the changes that increasing access to space might entail for their daily practice.

I explore the tradition of the entrepreneur who engages in the terraforming and colonisation of space. How does sf portray such entrepreneurs throughout the tradition of the terraforming narrative, and what are the moral and ecological implications of such an individual’s willingness to modify planets for human habitation? Works such as Jack Vance’s 1947 “I’ll Build Your Dream Castle”, Frederick Turner’s epic terraforming poem Genesis (1988) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed Mars trilogy (1992-1996) will be considered for the philosophical and (eco)political questions these works raise. How does sf portray the relationship between the individualist entrepreneur and the wider community or nation that they belong to? How do representations of the terraforming and colonisation of space reflect humankind’s stance toward nature when that nature is conceived of in cosmological terms as the whole of the universe?


Bionote: Editor of the Science Fiction Research Association's SFRA Review (, co-founder of Current Research in Speculative Fiction (CRSF; and a postdoctoral researcher on the Leverhulme funded project '"People", "Products", "Pests" and "Pets": The Discursive Representation of Animals' ( More information and links to articles can be found at