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CfP 2022: Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

We are delighted to introduce you to the contributors to our seventh CfP, Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy & Science Fiction!

Our Award Winning series, welcomes essays from academics, independent researchers, fans and creative writers, appealing to both the casual reader and a more research-oriented one. We consider this cross-disciplinary collaboration a strength, and the beginning of many more journeys.

Here they are, our 'Followers', in alphabetical order, with their respective contributions:

(Top row, left to right)

Eugen Bacon (Australia) Presenting the paper:

“Toxic religion in utopian and cultural worlds”

Eugen, MA, MSc, PhD is an African Australian author of several novels and fiction collections. She’s a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist, and was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’. Her creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. Her books in 2022: Mage of Fools (novel), Chasing Whispers (collection) and An Earnest Blackness (essays). Visit her website at and Twitter at @EugenBacon

Steph P. Bianchini (Italy) Presenting the paper:

"An Agnostic's Prayer. Egyptian gods in the speculative fiction of Roger Zelazny"

An Italian academic based in the UK. Steph is an Associate Professor and a member of the Royal Historical Society and worked over the last ten years on projects in social sciences, international relations, and humanities. They blog about sciences, speculative fiction, and history at and edit the ezine "Frozen Wavelets" ( of speculative flash fiction and poetry.

As a fiction writer, Steph is a member of SFWA and HWA, writing under the byline Russell Hemmell. Their short stories and poetry have appeared in 100+ publications, including Aurealis, Cast of Wonders, Departure Mirror, Flame Tree Press, The Grievous Angel, and others.

Kevin Cooney (USA) Presenting the paper:

“The Sacred and Profane: UFO Religions and Alien Messiahs in Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama

An expert in human ecology and graduate of Harvard University, Kevin Cooney is an independent scholar, freelance writer, and ecocritic. His interest in environmental issues and associated subjects embedded in uncanny and estrangement stories of horror and science fiction propels his work and analysis. His previous work, features in BSFA Award Winning Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Giovanni Carmine Costabile (Italy) Presenting the paper:

This is my story: Girardian Theory and the Christian Subtext of Final Fantasy X

(MPhil) Italian independent scholar, translator, writer, teacher. He presents at conferences in Italy and abroad and has published in several international academic journals and volumes dedicated to the Middle Ages, Medievalism, and Tolkien. He is the author of a monograph on Tolkien in Italian ("Oltre le Mura del Mondo", 2018), of a commentary in English on Tolkien's essay On Fairy-stories ("The Road to Fair Elfland", 2022), and conducted authorized research in the Tolkien Archive in Oxford. He translated more than ten volumes both from Italian into English and from English into Italian. He is the Editor of Phronesis Publishers's 'Silmarilli' series of Tolkien criticism, and a writer for the 'Fellowship & Fairydust' foundation and magazine from Maryland. For Phronesis he is also the author of the high fantasy trilogy "Cronache di Arlen".

Catherine A. Coundjeris (USA) Presenting the paper:

“A Christian Fellowship: Inklings’ Perspectives on Religion, Myth, and the Word”

She holds an M.F.A. from Emerson College and a M.A. in Children’s Literature from Simmons College. A former elementary school teacher, she has also taught writing at both Emerson College and Urban College in Boston. Catherine’s poetry is published in literary magazines, including The Dawntreader, Paper Dragons, Kaleidoscope,Jalmurra, Cholla Needles, Bewildering Stories, The Raven Review, Open Door Magazine, Stone Hill Journal,Honeyguide, Zephyr Review, Phare, Blue Bird Word, Life and Legends, and Jonah Magazine. She also has stories published in Proem, Quail Bell, and KeepThings on Instagram. She has recently published an essay, “Éowyn as Light Bearer,” in an anthology from Luna Press called Not the Fellowship Dragon’s Welcome. Currently she is working on a fantasy epic. Catherine is passionate about adult literacy and ESL learning and volunteers with her local Literacy Council. An avid reader she enjoys listening to music, watching movies, gardening, and swimming.

(Bottom row, left to right)

Mark Kirkbride (England) Presenting the paper:

“Heaven, Hell, and Virtual Reality”

Academic at Middlesex University, teaching the Working as a Writer module. He also teaches as a Creative Workshop Tutor for the University for the Creative Arts and as an Arts Facilitator at OPEN Ealing Arts Centre. He is currently doing a PhD at Brunel University London.

He is the author of The Plot Against Heaven, Game Changers of the Apocalypse and Satan’s Fan Club, originally published by Omnium Gatherum and in the process of being republished by Crossroad Press. Game Changers of the Apocalypse was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards 2019. His short stories can be found in Under the Bed, Sci Phi Journal, Disclaimer Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Titanic Terastructures and The Last Horizon. His poetry has appeared in the Big Issue, the Morning Star, the Daily Mirror, Neon Literary Magazine, the London Reader, The Climate Matters Anthology 2020 (Culture Matters/Riptide Journal), Sein und Werden and Horror Writers Association chapbooks. He was longlisted in the SaveAs Writers’ International Writing Competition 2021 and the AUB International Poetry Prize 2021, and shortlisted in the AONB Landscape category of the Ginkgo Prize 2021.

Mark is a member of the British Fantasy Society, the British Science Fiction Association, the Horror Writers Association and Clockhouse London Writers. He has been published in the British Science Fiction Association’s magazine Focus and in Inspire – Exciting Ways of Teaching Creative Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London (2020).

Cheryl Morgan (Wales) Presenting the paper:

“Darling, You’re Just Divine! Queer Gods in science fiction and fantasy”

Writer, editor, publisher and critic. She owns Wizard's Tower Press and has written for a variety of outlets including Locus, The SFWA Bulletin, SFX, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Holdfast Magazine and SF Signal. She is, to her knowledge, the first openly transgender person to have won a Hugo Award.

In addition to her science fiction interests she lectures widely on transgender history.

Ivano Sassanelli (Italy) Presenting the paper:

“Who Is Eru?: Literary, ethical and theological reflections about God and Religion in Tolkien’s Middle-earth”

Adjunct Professor of Canon Law at the Apulian Theological Faculty of Bari. He was awered Bachelor’s Degree in Theology at the Apulian Theological Faculty of Bari (2010), Licence in Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas of Rome (2013), Doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontificial Lateran University of Rome (2015), Master Degree in Law at the LUM University of Casamassima-Bari (2017) and now is Ph.D. student in Bioethics at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum of Rome. He is Co-director of the series “Diritto canonico, comparazione giuridica e multiculturalità” at the Cacucci Editor of Bari. In the Tolkien’s context he studies the relationship between ethics, religion, communication and fantastic literature and is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Exhibition “The Tree of Tales”. He has published several scientific articles and essays that have appeared in academic series and journals and four monographs, including: Tolkien e il vangelo di Gollum (Cacucci, Bari 2020). He is also the Co-editor of the book: «Vive in fondo alle cose la freschezza più cara». Percorsi umani, letterari e filosofici nella Terra di Mezzo di Tolkien (Aracne, Roma 2021).

Barbara Stevenson (Scotland) Presenting the paper:

"Aestheticism versus Christianity in the Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde"

Scottish author living in Orkney. She is a retired veterinary surgeon and has an Honours degree in German. She has a fascination for folk tales and Gothic horror movies. The fairy tales of Oscar Wilde enchanted her from a young age. She lives in a cottage near the sea, is currently studying for a diploma in herbal healing and fosters kittens for a cat charity on the island, but she is adamant that she is not a witch.

Elyse Welles (USA) Presenting the paper:

"Neo-Pagans & the Ainur Pantheon"

She studied abroad at Oxford University specializing in Tolkien studies, and was chosen as Millersville University’s Outstanding English Major in 2017. Her poetry and nonfiction articles have been published in Sunflower Journal, Metaphysical Times, and Yellow Arrow Journal, among others. Her debut novel, "Witch on the Juniata River", is forthcoming from Running Wild Press. She also cohosts the Magick Kitchen Podcast and runs her spiritual travel company, Seeking Numina. Elyse shares her time between Greece and Pennsylvania, traveling often to spiritual places - from natural wonders to ancient temples. Read her works at, and follow Elyse’s travels on Instagram and Facebook, @seekingnumina.

You will get a chance to learn more about their individual articles in the run up to release. The book will be released in August 2023.

Until then, stay safe!

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