Dr Rob O'Connor
Lecturer in Creative Writing
I studied English Literature and Language, graduating from the University College of Ripon and York St. John in 1999. I then spent ten years in the book retail industry, focusing upon event management. In 2010, I became a literature and creative writing tutor in the lifelong learning sector as well as undertaking an MA in Literature at York St. John University.
For my PhD I explored the depiction of landscapes in the work of China Miéville, both real and conceptual, and how Miéville uses the motif of the monster to deliver social commentary. In January 2020 I joined the creative writing department, after being a visiting lecturer for five years. I have also been a member of the York Literature Festival committee since 2010.
My principal role is as lead tutor for the MA in Publishing and I teach on all of the modules associated with that programme. I am also currently module director for the second year undergraduate module Working with Words: Publishing and Performance, overseeing the students' work on the Beyond the Walls Creative Writing anthology and Student Showcase event.
I also regularly teach on the modules Genre and Audience (MA Creative Writing), Writing Fiction, Scriptwriting and Writing Genres. In the past I have taught on the creative writing modules Introduction to Creative Writing, Forms of Narrative and Writing to Order.
I also supervise third year and MA creative writing projects, particular those focused around my research interests of publishing and genre fictions, especially science fiction, fantasy, weird fiction and body horror.
My PhD research was on the work of British science fiction and fantasy author China Miéville, focusing upon the use of monsters and conceptual landscapes as a means of social commentary. The thesis is split into two distinct sections: an evaluation of Miéville's work within the conceptual landscapes of genre fiction, urban environments and socio-political landscapes; and then a bestiary depicting Miéville's monstrous creations and exploring how they are physical manifestations of these three conceptual landscapes.
As part of my PhD development I have presented at a number of conferences, not only on Miéville but also other aspects of genre fiction, literature and creative writing. My research interests have expanded to include contemporary literary theories (such as posthumanism and psychogeography) and contemporary interpretations of genre resulting in the blurring and challenging of genre boundaries.
I am also interested in research around the creative industries and publishing, especially how creative industries can be used in a pedagogical capacity. I am also interested in publishing as an academic subject and the links between the professional industry and critical and theoretical perspectives.
I am keen to work with students on projects focused on my interest in genre fiction, especially science fiction, fantasy, weird fiction and horror. I am also interested in research projects focused on all aspects of the contemporary publishing industry.
My progression to creative writing teaching has been through a creative industries route. I have had extensive experience of event management in the publishing industry and this developed into a desire to teach creative writing in the higher education sector.
It is always important to me to highlight the role creative writing can play in a variety of professional practices, including enterprise. It is my aim to encourage students to try writing in genres or forms they have never even considered before and have a greater understanding of creative writing as a professional and vocational pathway.
I have also been a member of the board for the York Literature Festival since 2010. The festival aims to showcase the spoken word throughout the city of York and has continued to grow since its beginnings in 2007.
I have also been involved with multiple creative writing projects. I have been part of the editorial team for Dreamcatcher a nationwide creative writing magazine as well as being on the selection committee for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award for the short story category. I have also been on the editorial team for the York St John University Beyond the Walls Anthology which showcases the work of creative writing students. I have also judged creative writing competitions on two occasions and led panel discussions and interviews at various events.
Publications and conferences
2022: "A Tentacular Teratology: The Abcanny Monstrous". Fantastika Journal. Forthcoming.
2021: "China Miéville." In Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature [website]. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. New York: Oxford University Press.
September 2019: ‘“More Human than Humans”: Replicants, Memories and Posthuman Identity in Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049’, in Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy), Open Court Publishing.
August 2016: ‘“A Tourist Guide to Beszel and Ul Qoma”: Unseeing, the Brutality of Borders and the Re-interpretation of Psychogeography in China Mieville’s The City and the City’, The Luminary, Issue 7: Summer 2016 [Electronic Journal], Lancaster University.
January 2016: ‘"A Novel in Every Genre:" China Mieville and the Problems of Genre Classification in the Twenty-First Century’, Vector No. 282, Winter 2015/2016 [Print] British Science Fiction Association.
August 2019, ‘A (New) Weird Teratology: The tentacular monster as abcanny body in the work of China Miéville’, Embodying Fantastika Conference, Lancaster University.
May 2017, 'Ted Chiang and the Deferred Effect: 'Afterwardsness' in the Science Fiction Worlds of “Exhalation” and “Story of Your Life”', Speculative Futures Conference, York St John University.
March 2017, '"The Fantastical Flâneur:" Social Commentary in China Miéville’s Map of New Crobuzon', International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts, Orlando, Florida.
August 2016, ‘Weird Pictures, Monster Mansions and Time Pockets: Gothic Obscurities and Temporal Displacement in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’, Temporal Discombobulations conference, University of Surrey, 22nd - 24th August 2016.
July 2016, ‘Walking the Streets with a Sloth on Your Back: Notions of 'Otherness' in the Urban Landscapes of Lauren Beukes' Zoo City and Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon’, Global Fantastika conference, Lancaster University, 4-5th July 2016.
June 2016, ‘"The History of All Hitherto-Existing Societies is the History of Monsters:" The Bestiary and the Depiction of Monsters as Social Commentary’, Current Research in Speculative Fiction (CRSF) conference, University of Liverpool, 27th June 2016.
June 2015 ‘“Write what you know or write what you imagine?” Creative writing as a tool for contemporary social commentary’, Creative Writing in the World conference, York St John University, 12th June 2015.
October 2021: "Storm", short story, Over Yonder: An Anthology, Greenteeth Press.
February 2021: "Flicker", short story, Horrifying Tales, Greenteeth Press.
February 2019: “Going Home”, short story, Science Fiction for Survival: An Anthology for Mars [print], Valley Press.
October 2017: “The Beekeeper”, short story, The Pollination Project Anthology [print], York St John University.
October 2016: “Dawning”, short story, Threads [online], University of Brighton.
November to December 2014: short story judging panel, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.
September 2010 – March 2020: Creative Writing and Literature tutor for the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of York.