Significant Fantasy (was Kurtz and George R. R. Martin)

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 28 23:51:35 EDT 2002


--- Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at Proffitt.com> wrote:
> 
> That's what I was getting at in the other post.  So,
> what are the
> significant original works post-Tolkien?  

Lin Carter in "Imaginary worlds", his background book
for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which was the
first attempt to cash in on the popularity of Tolkien
following the paperback publication of LOTR in the
mid-'60s listed as three best post Tolkien fantasy
books to date (1973) as Joy Chant's "Red moon, black
mountain", Peter Beagle's "the Last unicorn" and John
Bellair's "The face in the frost". Two of these were
published in the Ballantine range, but they'd both had
prior publications. Kurtz was their first original.
Most of the rest of the series was made up of
pre-Tolkien works (authors publihsed were Fletcher
Pratt, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, James Branch
Cabell, George Macdonald, Hannes Bok, L Sprague
deCamp, Hope Mirrless, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton
Smith, George Meredith, Evangalene Walton [reprints
first - then two originals], Poul Anderson, William
Beckford, CK Chesterton, H Rider Haggard, F Marion
Crawford, Ernest Bramah, Arthur Machen, William Hope
Hodgeson, david Lindsay, Mervyn Peake,  CJ Cutcliffe
Hyne and ER Eddison) Many of these would be forgotton
if not for this series.
Probably the next significant book to appear was Terry
Brooks, "Sword of Shanarra" (note - I said
significant, not good), it showed that the Tolkien
formula could be repeated with a new bestseller. From
this point of view it is perhaps the single most
significant post-Tolkien work of fantasy. (not a
pleasant thought).
Next came Donaldson's "Thomas Covenant" books, which
was the first work to confound the expectations of
readers used to noble and heroic heroes.
Since then fantasy has again taken off of directions,
which is where it was before the mid'60s. However it
took JRRT to make it popular.
Other authors I would add to the above would include
Lloyd Alexander, Robert E Howard (pre-Tolkien of
course but with mass popluarity coming in the late
'60s), Ursula LeGuin, John Crowley, Mark Helperin, CS
Lewis, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Guy Gavriel Kay, and
of course DWJ.
In the 1960s Chinese statesman Chou En Lai was asked
by a journalist what he thought the major effects of
the French revolution were. His reply was "It's too
early to tell yet", so in the "too early to tell yet"
category I'd put JK Rawlings and George RR Martin. 
Then there are fantasy traditions outside the "fantasy
mainstream" like Kafka, and the South American "magic
realists".
Another book I have Tymn, Zahorski and Boyer "Fantasy
Literature" (1979) also as useful core-collection list
of fantasy, which I may post later, if I have time.
For fantasy reference books the best by far is John
Clute and John Grant "The encyclopedia of Fantasy"
(1997). This book is over 1000 pages of small print
(and no pictures). It has some ommissions but it is
generally excellent. DWJ was one of the contributors,
the article on her was by Neil Gaiman and John Clute
and concludes with "at her best, DWJ has a suppleness,
wit and storytelling ability that make her the equal
of any living fantasy writer"

Jon Noble  


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