Piranesi9cYou have found your way to the blog run by me, Rob Maslen, co-founder and formerly co-director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. In it you’ll find material relating to a range of interests: fantasy fiction, fantasy-related events, poetry, anime movies, early modern literature and theatre, creative writing and more. Why, you may ask, have I called it The City of Lost Books? The title comes from a lost book about the Plain of a Thousand Cities, concerning which I may have more to say elsewhere. But it’s also named in recognition that fantasy books have been lost to the curriculum since the days when the fantastic got a bad name – somewhere around the time when Plato banished poets from his ideal Republic. It still had a bad name in the sixteenth century, when Sir Philip Sidney wrote his Apology or Defence of Poetry – a word he used to mean fiction, much of which was clearly (for him) fantastic, preoccupied with ‘making things either better than Nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in Nature, as the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclops, Chimeras, Furies, and such like: so as he goeth hand in hand with Nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely ranging only within the zodiac of his own wit’. Replace ‘his’ with ‘their’ and this is as good a definition of fantasy as you could wish to meet in the present day. Yet fantasy fiction has existed in an alternative dimension, a hidden library, for much of its existence; and the question of how long it has existed is as vexed as any question about a past that has not yet discovered how to write itself. All we know for certain is that the hidden library has grown to huge dimensions, almost as large as the stupendous edifice in Jorge Luis Borges’s short story ‘The Library of Babel’. It’s more of a city, now. And it’s time to wander in and see what books we can recover from it.

Rob Maslen
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
University of Glasgow

21 thoughts on “About”

  1. Glad to have found your blog and looking forward to exploring your posts. Your point about how fantasy has been looked down on for so long is well made — I suppose the utilitarian philosophy has always held sway by arguing that the requirements of the body must take precedence over the life of the imagination, despite much evidence to the contrary.

    1. Thanks Chris! And I really like the look of yours – I look forward to wandering through its calm groves in my quiet moments!

  2. Can’t think how I found your web site – I was researching Sylvia Townsend Warner for my MA but I have bookmarked it for the future.

  3. A great enterprise – as a lifelong sharer of fantasy with the convener, I am delighted at its success. The authors you explore are all favorites, and I am myself exploring some of Nicola Barker’s work, kind of -on-the-edge of fantasy. Wonderful, Rob!

  4. Fabulous post about Peake, Rob, and your ‘synchronicity’ in finding the painting by Leslie Hurry. I was especially taken by Peake’s reflections on the gift of tradition and how to speak within it as an individual.

    1. Thanks a lot Laura! Yes, his introduction to The Drawings of Mervyn Peake is a really important resource and it’s a shame it’s not more readily available.

  5. Are you by chance descended from the maslen’s who owned the old farm in Wiltshire england? I’ve been scouring the internet looking for relatives from there… We were moonrakers apparently in the old days lol just curious, I don’t see maslen’s very often here in America.

    1. My branch of the Maslens came from the West Country originally – the Bristol area in Somersetshire, which is right next door to Wiltshire. They ran a chain of bakeries, and my Dad thought the name was a trade name: maslin flour is a mixture of wheat and rye (it’s maybe derived from the French word mélange or mixture). My brother inherited the family desk, which still had flour in the drawers! I reckon we’re all related, though. So greetings, cousin!

  6. Hi Rob,
    I came across your site searching for information on a lovely wood print by William Morris, “The Wood Beyond the World.” I would love to be able to use it for the cover of a poetry book I have written. The problem is that I don’t know if it is the public domain. I hope to catch up on more of your work. Allegra

    1. Dear Allegra,

      Apologies for the delay in getting back to you! I’m quite sure the image is in the public domain, but you might be best contacting the British Library, who have an impressive store of images in the public domain including this one; they’ll be able to advise you as to the situation.

      I’d love to know more about your poetry book!

      All best wishes,


  7. Hi Robert, your online talk on fantasy with Hacettepe University was such a delight to listen to. When i was a student in there -i graduated about a year ago- i kept asking my professors why the hell we didn’t have fantasy course 🙂 And your talk was like a nice compensation for all of that. Hope to see you do more stuff like that in the future. Take care.

    1. It was a privilege to talk to faculty and students at Hacettepe last week, and I particularly enjoyed the searching questions. I hope to write up a version of the talk as a blogpost one day soon. In the meantime, warm thanks for your warm words!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *