Colliding Worlds

Date: Thursday 3 December and Saturday 5 December
Location: Ynd workshop, level 1, 15-17 Marion Square, Wellington City
Times: 6-9 pm on Thursday; 10-4 on Saturday
Spaces Remaining: 4

The collision of fantasy and literary fiction has been a hot button topic in criticism of late. Many contemporary critics seem intent on policing the boundaries between the genres, or with drawing up a hierarchy whose unassailed pole position is occupied by realist literary fiction. However, as Neil Gaiman argues: ‘I think the rules are crumbling and I think the barriers are breaking.… sometimes, if you’re actually going to write realistic fiction, you’re going to have to include fantasy.’ To engage as a writer with the diverse range of contemporary human belief and experience, Gaiman contends, it’s quite possible you’ll need to write ‘in terms of something that would be recognisable as either magical realism or, possibly, fantasy.’

Rather than starting at the endpoint of classification and bookshop boundaries, this workshop will approach the genre argument from the perspective of craft and the experience of writing. How might we pull together the real with the surreal, or the unreal, or indeed with the fantastic, the mythic, the magic, and the supernatural? What does it feel like when your literary genres collide? What are the motivations for these different insurgencies? Are there specific challenges in writing fiction that has a foot in the literary camp, but which strives to explore and explode our perceived real, or to tap into the energies of myth? What happens when our expectations for realism are derailed or destabilised by genre tropes, or by a sudden injection of the fantastic?

We’ll look at different literary works that draw on both real and fantasy worlds and we’ll examine the various techniques authors use to enact these collisions. Suggestions for reading might include Elizabeth Knox’s real-world horror story Wake, the subtle magic realism of The Bone People, the intricate parallel fairy world of John Crowley’s Little, Big, or the humanist science fiction of Michel Faber. There will be no prescribed texts, but students will be asked to bring along one or two reading examples that they wish to discuss and explore. Then, through our own writing, we’ll play with the readerly expectations that attend literary realism, fantasy and other genres. We’ll question the ways in which these expectations shape a writer’s craft as well as their experience of writing, and we’ll work through some of the possible challenges and uncertainties of fiction that strives to do justice to both the real and to the fantastic.



AnnaSmaill colourAnna Smaill was born in Auckland in 1979. She began learning the violin at the age of seven and entered the performance music programme at Canterbury University at 17, though ultimately changed her degree to pursue writing. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Auckland and an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Her first book of poetry, “The Violinist in Spring,” was published by Victoria University Press in 2005, and was listed as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the New Zealand Listener. She and her husband, novelist Carl Shuker, lived in Tokyo for two years before moving to the United Kingdom where she completed a PhD at University College London. From 2009 to 2012, she was a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire. “The Chimes,” is her debut novel. It was recognised as a Bookseller Best Debut of 2015 and by the Huffington Post as ‘One to Watch’, and was long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2015. She is currently working on her second novel.