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Fantasy Star

Not even Eleanor Glewwe ’12’s parents knew how seriously she took a certain hobby until she casually mentioned how far she’d progressed in an novel-writing contest.

“I said, ‘There’s a chance I might have to go to Seattle,’” Glewwe remembers with a laugh.

Although she didn’t win that contest, she did secure a literary agent while at Swarthmore for her middle-grade fantasy novel Sparkers

The saga of an oppressive society ruled by magicians—and how one non-magical young woman fights back to incite a revolution—Sparkers was published during Glewwe’s second year as a linguistics doctoral student at UCLA to great acclaim, both for its artistic and social merit.

“I didn’t set out to create explicit comparisons in the novel, but it makes me humbled to hear readers draw parallels from apartheid in South Africa to the Ferguson protests to Soviet-controlled Romania,” she says. “Fantasy allows us to work through real-life issues in a secondary world and see things in a different, helpful perspective.”

For example, she was able to gain new insight into her scholarly field when conceptual artist Glenn Kaino asked her and a colleague for help with his alternate history project.

“He was doing an installation involving a crescent moon automaton that would sing ‘The Internationale,’ the famous socialist anthem, in a new kind of French spoken by the descendants of lunar colonists,” she says. 

The dialect she co-created turned out so well that Kaino also asked them to create a Martian English.

It’s all in a day’s work for Glewwe, whose second novel in the Sparkers universe, Wildings, came out in November. 

As she looks forward to life beyond grad school—and her first entrée into the job market—she’s approaching it with the same self-composure she uses to tackle any creative challenge, like her recent acquisition of a hammered dulcimer.

“I don’t know how to play it,” she says with a smile. “Yet."