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  • 1.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
    Utopia, Relationality and Ecology: Resurrecting the Natural in Battlestar Galactica2012In: Extrapolation, ISSN 0014-5483, Vol. 53, no 1, 61-81 p.Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The re-imagined television series Battlestar Galactica features few natural environments and Earth is only a half-conceived idea in the human characters’ minds for the bulk of the narrative. However, in this article I examine how the dream of Earth supports belief in an ideological boundary between humans and Cylons and, simultaneously, how affective relationships between humans and humanoid Cylons increasingly function to subvert the foundation of this boundary. Within the context of these conflicts, which I examine from an ecological perspective, I demonstrate how the discovery of a utopian Earth resurrects an ideological distinction between organic humans and “artificial” Cylons.

  • 2.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Modern Languages.
    Playing with the Mythos2007In: Electronic Book Review, ISSN 1553-1139Article, book review (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    A review of Kenneth Hite's essay "Narrative Structure and Creative Tension in Call of Cthulhu," which first appeared in Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007, MIT press).

  • 3.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
    Making Starbuck Monstrous: The Poetics of Othering in Battlestar Galactica2014In: Journal of Popular Culture, ISSN 0022-3840, E-ISSN 1540-5931, Vol. 47, no 4, 688-708 p.Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Of all the acts of becoming in the re-imagined television series Battlestar Galactica (BSG), Kara “Starbuck” Thrace’s transformation from human being to monstrous “thing” is the most surprising and unquestionable production of otherness. The series depicts the ongoing conflict between humanity and their enemies the Cylons, an artificially created race of robotic soldiers and ships, cyborg-like Hybrids and organic humanoids. After the straightforward “human vs. machine,” “us vs. them” ideological positioning in the miniseries, the narrative in the following four seasons increasingly questions simplistic, essentialist conceptions of identity, suggesting that such ideas are socially naïve and untenable. However, in contrast to many other characters whose changing identities are accepted, Starbuck’s transformation isolates her in unexpected ways. In this essay, I argue that Starbuck becomes a monster because of a shift in how she is perceived: the tough girl is re-envisioned as an incomprehensible, irrational other through the lens of enduring feminine stereotypes. Once perceived as monstrous, she functions as an agent of social disruption that allows BSG to move back toward the simplistic ideology of essential difference emphasized earlier in the series. Her transformation indicates that contemporary monstrosity does not reside within a being but is socially developed and applied in order to maintain the status quo.

  • 4.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
    The Developing Storyworld of H. P. Lovecraft2014In: Storyworlds across Media : Toward a Media-Conscious Narratology / [ed] Marie-Laure Ryan and Jan-Noël Thon, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014, 332-350 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This essay investigates the storyworld that has developed out of terror tropes presented the fiction of American Gothic writer H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). The 21st century Lovecraft storyworld is elicited by textual fiction, interactive fiction, short and feature-length films, fan art, comics, music, board games, role-playing games, computer games and interactive environments online, to name just a few examples. This transmedial foundation, which continues to grow, prompts several questions. What allure does the storyworld hold for both audiences and producers? How do works engage with its core elements in familiar yet media-specific ways? How has this developing storyworld contributed to 'pulp' writer Lovecraft’s apparent elevation into the American literary canon? In this essay I explore the poetics of the Lovecraft storyworld’s development, its transmedial adaptability and its cultural significance for both contemporary audiences and Lovecraft's legacy. 

  • 5.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
    Epistemological Rupture and the Gothic Sublime in Slouching Towards Bedlam2012In: Neo-Victorian Gothic: Horror, Violence and Degeneration in the Re-Imagined Nineteenth Century / [ed] Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012, 253-278 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter examines how Gothic effects of the sublime are generated by the incomprehensible phenomenon at the centre of an interactively produced steampunk narrative. Set in a re-imagined London in 1855, the interactive fiction Slouching Towards Bedlam explores links between Victorian and contemporary anxieties regarding the individually and socially transformative dangers of infection. The work reflects the Victorian zeal for classification both in the player’s role and the narrative produced via interaction. However, the classification failures that develop in this narrative point to a subversion of the Victorian epistemological framework and are further shown to constrict the player’s agency. These ruptures and constrictions enact the Gothic sublime in a manner that links the fears of the Victorian period to those of today.

  • 6.
    Leavenworth, Van
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
    The Gothic in contemporary interactive fictions2010Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    This study examines how themes, conventions and concepts in Gothic discourses are remediated or developed in selected works of contemporary interactive fiction. These works, which are wholly text-based and proceed via command line input from a player, include Nevermore, by Nate Cull (2000), Anchorhead, by Michael S. Gentry (1998), Madam Spider’s Web, by Sara Dee (2006) and Slouching Towards Bedlam, by Star C. Foster and Daniel Ravipinto (2003). The interactive fictions are examined using a media-specific, in-depth analytical approach.

    Gothic fiction explores the threats which profoundly challenge narrative subjects, and so may be described as concerned with epistemological, ideological and ontological boundaries. In the interactive fictions these boundaries are explored dually through the player’s traversal (that is, progress through a work) and the narrative(s) produced as a result of that traversal. The first three works in this study explore the vulnerabilities related to conceptions of human subjectivity. As an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” Nevermore, examined in chapter one, is a work in which self-reflexivity extends to the remediated use of the Gothic conventions of ‘the unspeakable’ and ‘live burial’ which function in Poe’s poem. In chapter two, postmodern indeterminacy, especially with regard to the tensions between spaces and subjective boundaries, is apparent in the means through which the trope of the labyrinth is redesigned in Anchorhead, a work loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft’s terror fiction. In the fragmented narratives produced via traversal of Madam Spider’s Web, considered in chapter three, the player character’s self-fragmentation, indicated by the poetics of the uncanny as well as of the Gothic-grotesque, illustrates a destabilized conception of the human subject which reveals a hidden monster within, both for the player character and the player. Finally, traversal of Slouching Towards Bedlam, analyzed in chapter four, produces a series of narratives which function in a postmodern, recursive fashion to implicate the player in the viral infection which threatens the decidedly posthuman player character. This viral entity is metaphorically linked to Bram Stoker’s vampire, Dracula. As it is the only work in the study to present a conception of posthuman subjectivity, Slouching Towards Bedlam more specifically aligns with the subgenre ‘cybergothic,’ and provides an illuminating contrast to the other three interactive fictions.

    In the order in which I examine them, these works exemplify a postmodern development of the Gothic which increasingly marries fictional indeterminacy to explicit formal effects, both during interaction and in the narratives produced.

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