The Society Comes up for Awards!

Reposted from the Society blog:

A report from notes that the 2016 World Fantasy Award nominees have been announced. The Tales after Tolkien Society is one such nominee; represented by founder and President Helen Young, the Society is up for a Special Award- Nonprofessional (by which I guess is meant that the Society does not produce fantasy, but studies is). The announcement is here:, and it is good news for the Society, indeed!

Thanks to Helen Young for calling this to attention!

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Kalamazoo 2017: Beginnings

As noted in a 14 May 2016 post to the Society blog, “Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: Introduction and Meeting,” the Society determined to ask for two sessions in the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies: a roundtable session on unconventional medievalisms and a traditional paper session on medievalism in children’s and young adult literature, particularly the works of JK Rowling. In an email, Helen Young, who submitted the appropriate paperwork to the Congress requesting those sessions, notes that one of them was approved: the traditional paper session.

A formal call for papers will be issued after the formal announcement comes from the Congress, but a preliminary version can be offered, deriving from the materials presented to the Congress in proposing the session. To wit:

Growing Up Medieval: The Middle Ages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature
The generation that “grew up” with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are now young scholars going into doctoral training and embarking on academic careers. The proposed session of papers explores the visions and versions of the Middle Ages that, like Rowling’s, can serve to spark interest in an era where students are increasingly unlikely to encounter the medieval period through their elementary and high school years. What kinds of medievalist texts are written for children and young people? How are decidedly adult Middle Ages-influenced texts like Game of Thrones impacting them? What ideas about the Middle Ages are taught to young people through popular fiction? The session will welcome papers that engage in theoretically grounded readings of individual texts or authors’ oeuvres. The session builds on significant foundational work in this area, notably Clare Bradford’s The Middle Ages in Children’s Literature (Palgrave, 2015), and chapters by Society members in The Middle Ages in Popular Culture (Cambria, 2015).

The idea is that having a preliminary version will help people get started on drafting abstracts; we’ll have submission information when the formal CFP arrives in the coming months. And, as last time, we hope to post abstracts of the accepted papers to this webspace as a means to help document what the Society is doing–and news of it is always welcome!

This information is cross-posted to the Society blog.

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Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: A Session of Ice and Fire

At 1330 EDT on Saturday, 14 May 2016, the Tales after Tolkien Society sponsored several talks in A Session of Ice and Fire: Medievalism in the Game of Thrones Franchise. Three excellent papers were presented to a full audience (of which thirty members signed up for inclusion in the Society). Abstracts for each appear below, listed with a brief blurb about the author and organized by order of presentation.

Alexandra Garner

Alexandra Garner holds master’s degrees in both medieval studies and popular culture. In Fall 2016, she begins work on a doctorate in English at the University of Oregon. Her ongoing work traces medievalism in popular culture. Describing her paper, “Forging and Reforging Valyrian Steel: The Role of Arthurian Sword Motifs in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire,” she writes

George R.R. Martin himself has characterized Valyrian steel as “a fantasy metal, which means it has magical characteristics, and magic plays a role in its forging.” While Valyrian steel weapons often have a mystical aura about them in the series, both on page and screen, they are marvels not only magical, but literary. The Valyrian steel weapons that are crucial to the narrative as has thus far been revealed all carry a genealogical relevance to Arthurian swords and their properties.

This presentation delves into a few weapons—especially swords—from Martin’s series and its HBO adaptation Game of Thrones that are reflections or deviations of Arthurian swords and sword motifs. In particular, I discuss Ice, the greatsword held by Ned Stark until his death, at which point Tywin Lannister has it re-forged into the longsword Oathkeeper and the shortsword Widow’s Wail, given to Jaime Lannister (and then Brienne of Tarth) and Joffrey Baratheon, respectively. Additionally, the Mormont house sword called Longclaw, repurposed and given to Jon Snow, bears some significance when compared to Arthurian swords.

Being weapons crucial to survival in Westeros and in the medieval period, swords feature prominently in the literature of both. Depictions of Valyrian steel swords, their owners, and the contexts in which they feature in the series reveal their deviance from and adherence to medieval sword motifs. I analyze the aforementioned examples and juxtapose these with Arthurian swords like Excalibur to argue that Martin’s Valyrian steel relies on and adapts these motifs and characteristics in particular ways for the series.

Carol Jamison

Carol Jamison, an eminent professor of medieval literature and linguistics at Armstrong State University, has taught and written on Martin, as well as on Gower, Rowling, and fabliaux, among many others. She is currently at work on a book on Martin’s chivalric codes. In the abstract of her paper, “Peaceweaving in Westeros,” she remarks

The female characters in A Song of Ice and Fire echo the freoβuwebbe, or peace weavers, of Anglo-Saxon literature who are married off in attempts to form political alliances. The peace weaver could become, in the best of situations, a sort of diplomat, participating actively in the politics of her husband’s kingdom. However, in a society that values warfare, especially one in which a game of thrones is underway, marrying off women as a means to gain power or ensure peace could turn out badly. Martin’s peace weaving exchanges are pervasive and numerous, and they vividly evoke the various situations of literary peace weavers in such works as Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon elegies “The Wife’s Lament” and “Wulf.” Like their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, peace weavers in Westeros have a number of possible responses to marital exchanges. While some are victimized by the exchanges, others find power within the system, either asserting their influence as mothers and diplomats in their new husbands’ homes, or exerting power as queens. My presentation explores several of the peace exchanges in Martin’s novels that illustrate the variety of possibilities that could occur when women (and men and children) are used to forge alliances. I emphasize Sansa Stark, who echoes the passive peace weavers of the Anglo-Saxon elegies, and Cersei Lannister, who causes destruction rather than using her status as queen to wield positive political power.

Shiloh Carroll

Shiloh Carroll, working at the Tennessee State University Writing Center, is working on a book on Martin’s medievalisms in A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation. Of her paper, “Dragons, Alliances, Power, and Gold: Disruptor Beam’s Game of Thrones Ascent,” she notes

This paper examines the structure, mechanics, and medievalism of Game of Thrones Ascent, the social media flash game based on HBO’s Game of Thrones. An examination of video game theory reveals that Ascent suffers from many of the problems usually seen in social media games, particularly Skinner box mechanics and micro-transactions. Likewise, the game also uses neomedieval trappings to enhance engagement and keep players involved with their Skinner-box mechanics and paying for neomedievally-themed gear and other perks. However, Ascent does provide some psychological satisfaction through meeting the player’s need for mastery, autonomy, and social relevance.

This post re-presents information from the Society blog, here.

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Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2016: Introduction and Meeting

As the current Society webpage notes (here), the Society emerges from paper sessions hosted at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it tends to privilege that conference. In keeping with the regard for the Congress, as well as §5.1 of the Society constitution, the Society Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at approximately 6pm EDT on 13 May 2016 in Kalamazoo, proximal to the Congress itself. Attending were Luke Baugher, Shiloh Carroll, Alex Garner, Jim Hard, Carol Jamison, Jewell Morow, and Kris Swank; Geoffrey B. Elliott presided. As announced on 19 April 2016, the stated agenda for the meeting included what sessions to propose for the 2017 Congress and what efforts should be made to expand Society activities to other conferences; some other new business also followed. Reports of each appear below.

Proposed Sessions for the 2017 Congress

The AGM suggested that the Society propose two sessions for the 2017 Congress. The first is something of an ongoing project, a roundtable session on Unconventional Medievalisms. Information about earlier attempts to offer such a session can be found here and here; it is expected that the session to be proposed will be of similar sort. The second session is a traditional paper session meant to treat medievalism in young adult and children’s literatures, emphasizing but not restricting itself to the works of JK Rowling. CFPs are expected to emerge after session proposals are made to the Congress; it is hoped that they will be approved.

Expansion to Other Conferences

The idea of expanding Society presence outside the International Congress on Medieval Studies and the International Medieval Congress at Leeds remains one the Society wishes to pursue. To that end, Kris Swank will be proposing a Society session at the 2017 Southwest Popular Culture/American Culture Association conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Shiloh Carroll will attempt to propose one at the upcoming Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association in the South conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

New Business

Two items of new business were discussed. One was informal and wholly welcome; the Society welcomed new members Luke Baugher and Jim Hart.

The other was more formally conducted. Kris Swank resigned her position as Social Media Officer for the Society. Upon her announced resignation, a call for nominations/volunteers to succeed her was offered. Discussion ensued, and Luke Baugher was acclaimed as the Social Media Officer for the Society, with a term to extend from the end of the 2016 meeting to the 2019 meeting, following the three-year term expressed in §4.2 of the Society Constitution.

This report also appears on the Society blog.

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About the 2016 Annual General Meeting

Per §5.1 of the Society Constitution, an Annual General Meeting of the Tales after Tolkien Society will be held during the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Because the Congress has not allotted the Society a time and location for the meeting during the regular schedule, it has been arranged to take place off-site at a local restaurant. (Response to a similar occurrence in 2015 was positive, encouraging repetition.) This post therefore serves as the formal announcement that the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Tales after Tolkien Society will take place at 6pm (local time) on Friday, 13 May 2016, at Zooroona Mediterranean Grill (1701 West Main Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA 49006). Two items are already on the agenda: discussion of what session/s to propose for the 2017 Congress and whether efforts to arrange sessions at other conferences should continue (and, if so, in what form). Others may be added in advance of the meeting; email details to with the subject line “TaT AGM Agenda.”

This announcement is also posted to the Society blog.

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Thoughts about Society Proceedings

It has been some time since the blog has updated; Society members seem to be busy people, which makes sense. Still, I apologize for not doing my part to get materials posted here; I shall continue to try to improve for the future. Contributions from others remain decidedly welcome; please email with “Tales after Tolkien Society” in the subject line, and we’ll confer.

For the moment, though, there is some news to report:

Good News

The 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies is coming, and the Society has a panel. Your attendance will be appreciated at it; having more people in the room helps us to keep having such panels in the future, and we may, in time, be able to get another publication out of it. In light of the upcoming Congress, there is a member survey, here: Please fill it out and let us know your opinions; we always want to hear from you!

Bad News

Less pleasantly, the attempt to have a Tales after Tolkien Society special session at the 2016 South Central Modern Language Association conference in Dallas, Texas, has faltered. Not enough responses to the call for papers came in to construct the hoped-for “Unconventional Medievalisms” panel. We will likely try again for another conference; if you have ideas of where we can go, let us know.

Call for News

As ever, the Society is happy to publicize member interests and accolades. Let us know what’s going on with you; please email with “Tales after Tolkien Society” in the subject line, and we’ll see about getting things posted.

This is posted to the Society blog, as well.

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About the Society Blog and Website

Thanks to the efforts of Carol Robinson, the Society has a WordPress site in place of its old website (the news is a bit dated, I know). As many will be aware, WordPress is at its core a platform for blogging, and the thought occurs that consolidating this blog into the website might be worth doing. Since I administer the blog (if perhaps poorly), I thought it appropriate that I would poll the Society membership for thoughts on whether or not to do so. A survey asking after opinions is linked below and will remain open through the end of the year. Results will guide what happens with the Society’s online presence moving forward.

Thank you for your advice and support. Please continue to send in submissions; I will be happy to post them, wherever they may need to go.

-Geoffrey B. Elliott
Vice-President (USA), Tales after Tolkien Society

The Poll:

A copy of this announcement appears on the Society blog, as well.

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As noted in the report on the 2015 meeting of the Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Society voted to propose a session for the 2016 South Central Modern Language Association (SCMLA) conference, to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA, on 3-5 November 2016. Those who attended the 2015 iteration of the conference, just concluded in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, were given a form to propose special sessions at the 2016 conference, in which 30-word descriptions and contact information for session organizers is requested. In accord with the Society’s (thwarted) desire to see an “Unconventional Medievalisms” panel at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies and the aforementioned decision to pursue a panel at the 2016 SCMLA conference, the following text is being sent to SCMLA officers for inclusion in forthcoming newsletters:

The medieval appears in historical, fantastic, and speculative fiction–and other places seldom investigated. The less-investigated is the focus of the proposed panel. More information appears at and

The “More information” is this:

That the medieval appears in historical, fantastic, and speculative fiction is a commonplace–and sensibly so. Historical fiction that situates itself in the centuries between the fall of Western Rome and the emergence of the traditional Renaissance will necessarily work with the medieval. Fantastic fiction, following Tolkien and the more recent Martin, also makes much of the medieval, deploying its tropes to various purposes but in effect making medievalism a convention of the genre. Something similar happens in much speculative fiction, if less often. But the medieval also appears in other places–in a variety of contemporary musical genres, in amusement parks, in other fictional genres than the commonplace, in body modifications, and elsewhere. For a special session at the 2016 South Central Modern Language Association conference–3-5 November 2016 in Dallas, Texas, USA–the Tales after Tolkien Society requests abstracts (100-300 words) of papers looking at how the medieval manifests in one unconventional place or another. Please send them to Geoffrey B. Elliott, Tales after Tolkien Society Vice-President (USA), at before 1 February 2016.

This text also appears on the Society blog.

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Calls for Proposals

  1. There is still time to submit to our TAT panel at Kalamazoo next year: Ä Session of Ice and Fire: Medievalism in the Game of Thrones franchise.” Just send me an email to this address or by the 15th September.
  2. Another Kalamazoo CFP “Knights errant and private dicks” on medievalism and crime fiction is here I believe there is still some space in this one.
  3. Leeds IMC next year. Is there any interest in a TAT panel? The dates are 4-7th July, so if you are going to another conference in the UK at about that time it could make a good double. Please let me know ASAP (by this Friday, 11th Sept) if you might be interested and I put together a panel. An abstract isn’t needed at this stage, but a title or few sentences of your possible topic would be helpful.
  4. Our Tales After Tolkien blog always welcomes posts!
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Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones

Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones  9781604978964front
Ed. Helen Young

Introduction (Helen Young)
Part I: The Afterlives of Middle-earth
Chapter 1: Low-Culture Receptions of Tolkien’s High Fantasy: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want…” (Chris Bishop)
Chapter 2: Tolkien After Tolkien: Medieval and Medievalist Intertexts in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (Margarita Carretero-González)
Part II: Dirt and Grit
Chapter 3: Rewriting the Fantasy Archetype: George R. R. Martin, Neomedievalist Fantasy, and the Quest for Realism (Shiloh Carroll)
Chapter 4: Grim and Grimdark (Gillian Polack)
Chapter 5: Our minds are in the gutter, but some of us are watching Starz…: Sex, Violence and Dirty Medievalism (Andrew Elliott)
Part III: Science Fiction Medievalisms
Chapter 6: Empire and After: Science Fiction’s Medievalism in the Golden Age and Beyond (Donald Riggs)
Chapter 7: Sword and Science: Science Fiction Interpretations of Medieval Arthurian Literature and Legend in Stargate SG-1 (Steven Gil)
Part IV: Expanding the Medieval
Chapter 8: The Arabian Nights in Twenty-First Century Fantasy Fiction and Film (Kris Swank)
Chapter 9: Moving Beyond Tolkien’s Medievalism Through Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies (Geoffrey B. Elliott)

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