Fathers of fantasy

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by satisverborum20, Aug 14, 2003.

  1. satisverborum20

    satisverborum20 New Member

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    Everybody says that Tolkien is the grandfather of fantasy. So I wonder, where are the rest. Who is the mother, grandmother, father of fantasy?:confused:
     
  2. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Well, let's see. There's Joan Aiken, Ursula LeGuin, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Vondra McIntyre, C.J. Cherryh, Rosemary Edgehill and Patricia McKillip. Terry Brooks would have to get his props as the first star of the post-Tolkein wave. Peter S. Beagle and the guy who wrote the Gray Mouser stories whose name I'm blanked out on. Roger Zelany maybe, and Ray Bradbury. Stephen King and Anne Rice obviously made a large cultural impact on the horror side of things, and Jane Yolen made YA fantasy get a lot of attention. Maybe Piers Anthony, since his fantasy series led the charge for the NYTimes bestseller list.
     
  3. Twelve

    Twelve www.netjak.com

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    What about Homer, Milton, Spencer, and the unknown poet of Beowulf as the great-great-GREAT grandfathers of fantasy? (Ah, that's how I get into trouble.)

    12
     
  4. Garibaldi

    Garibaldi Lunatic Fringe

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    I'd go back even farther to Roman, Greek or much farther back to Babylonian mythology. The Epic of Gilgamesh for instance.
     
  5. Obtuse

    Obtuse ‪Ominous, I'm In Us

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    For that matter 12, what about Sir Thomas Malory and Chretien de Troyes, 2 of the many who wrote of King Arthur?
     
  6. StoneBurner

    StoneBurner Registered User

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    Why not take it back to the old testament?
     
  7. Twelve

    Twelve www.netjak.com

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    Stoneburner, now that's how you get into trouble!!:D

    12
     
  8. bigbry

    bigbry New Member

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    Noone mentioned Robert E Howard (Conan) and I believe it's Fritz Leiber for the Grey Mouser.........
     
  9. jfclark

    jfclark Registered User

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    I always think it's more useful (and interesting) to chart the history of the fantasy novel, as opposed to any other form of fantastic writing. To me, discussions of ancient religious and mythological texts as the ancestors of contemporary fantasy are pretty unhelpful; it's generally futile to attempt to compare epic poetry to the modern novel.

    Some scholars trace the beginnings of the fantasy novel to the Gothic novel craze that began in the late 18th century and culminated in its greatest exponent, Shelley's Frankenstein. A few would say it goes back earlier to the period of Gulliver's Travels and other Augustan satires. Many like to think of novelists such as George Macdonald and William Morris, who were late-Victorian novelists, as establishing many of the templates of 20th century quasi-medieval fantasy. These forms were only strengthened by Lord Dunsany, whose magical prose and deep sense of the powers of fantastic writing set the stage for Tolkien and his contemporaries, like C.S. Lewis and E.R. Eddison. While the Tolkien crowd was busy in England, Fritz Leiber and Robert Howard were busy in America forging the structures of sword-and-sorcery character-based fantasy.

    These novelists, above all others, are credited with the growth and development of the modern fantasy novel, with The Lord of the Rings as its most significant example.
     
  10. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Well yeah, if you're going all the way back, then you have to go back to the prehistoric cave paintings and the first manifestations of religion, but the question was, who were the early influential fantasy writers around the same time and just after Tolkein -- the grandmothers, mothers and fathers. Tolkein's books were published post WWI but the reason he's called the grandfather of modern fantasy is that the popularity of his work in the late sixties and seventies jump-started the modern fantasy genre. The science fiction publishers were already publishing some fantasy works, primarily by sf writers who were dabbling in fantasy and horror. The success of the Tolkein books, particularly in the United States, led the sf publishers to start putting out larger quantities of fantasy under a fantasy label. By the 1980's, modern fantasy was established and popular.

    So who were the pioneers in the sixties and seventies? They weren't re-inventing the wheel obviously, but they did sort of start a new movement, where fantasy was organized and marketed as a specific genre, rather than simply adrift in the sea of general fiction. Of course, that was what happened in adult fiction. In children's fiction, they've been publishing fantasy as a definite sub-genre since the 1900's or earlier and never stopped.

    When I was trying to think of who some of the earliest modern writers were, I was surprised to see that most of the names I could think of were women. But then I realized it wasn't all that surprising. A number of the "founding mothers" of modern fantasy also write science fiction. Certainly Le Guin is better known for her science fiction. And it may have been that sf women were more willing and more interested in trying out fantasy stories than sf men. Or it could be that there are just founding fathers I haven't heard of or have forgotten. One problem is that a lot of the early fantasy that was published in original paperbacks has not been kept in print and seems to have pretty much disappeared.

    And then there's horror. Not every horror book has fantastical elements, but most of them do and horror was publishing as a separate genre much earlier than modern fantasy. Horror was very big in the seventies, with King leading the way. So do you discount the fantastical horror writers of the sixties and seventies as separate, or do you view them as part of fantasy or a near cousin who makes an impact on the young modern fantasy genre?
     
  11. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Fritz Leiber was the name I was trying to remember, but he started writing his stuff earlier on, you say?
     
  12. jfclark

    jfclark Registered User

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    Sorry, mea culpa: Leiber didn't really catch on until the late 1950's, in other words a few years after The Lord of the Rings was published.
     
  13. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    You should DEFINITELY check out this topic:
    http://www.sffworld.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=243

    A lot of Pre-Tolkien books and authors are discussed.

    Tolkien may be more like "Everyone's Favorite Uncle" of fantasy, while he is the standard for the Big Fat Fantasies, and a giant in his own right, there are a lot of authors who were churning out great fantastic literature before LOTR.
     
  14. Calandra

    Calandra et in arcadia ego

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    L. Frank Baum who wrote the Oz books back in the early 1900's. For anyone who doesn't know, besides the Wizard of Oz (arguably the worst of the books) there is a whole series of books that take place in the weird and wonderful land of Oz. While they probably qualify as children's books, they are really great, and I enjoyed rereading a couple of them as an adult.
     
  15. Drewids

    Drewids Registered User

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    Lets see...

    C.S. Lewis in the 1950's, but today it would be labeled "Urban Fantasy", though it was written mostly for children.

    Roger Zelazny in the early 70's

    Terry Brooks in the late 70's

    Eddings and Fiest in the early 80's

    So, whether you like or dislike these authors, they are the ones who set the genre where it is now. When you include Tolkien, these are the ones who brought in the readers of fantasy, so the likes of Jordan, Goodkind and Martin could become successful.
     
  16. whyndamearle

    whyndamearle Banned

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    Tolkien post WW1?

    I believe the first publication of his work occured in 1958. That would be 12 years after WW2!

    Not to be mean or anything. I am a stickler for details as you all know!
     
  17. kegasaurus

    kegasaurus I smell BBQ

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    Tolkien also wrote the hobbit dude.
     
  18. Nimea

    Nimea Leisure time optimizer

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    whyndamearle,
    The Hobbit was published 1937. And Tolkien himself fought in WWI . . .
    Hope that helps.
     
  19. kegasaurus

    kegasaurus I smell BBQ

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    Also 1958 is post WWI
     
  20. Julian

    Julian Inter spem metumque iacto

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    This is the best answer. However, I would add Mervyn Peake, T.H. White and James Branch Cabel to the equation. That makes the list of forebears something like:

    1. George MacDonald
    2. William Morris
    3. Lord Dunsany
    4. James Branch Cabel
    5. E.R. Eddison
    5. C.S. Lewis
    6. Mervyn Peake
    7. T.H. White

    I'm not including Leiber or Howard. And whilst KatG is right in mentioning women authors, all that came later. And yes, Lewis, White and Peake could be considered contemparies of Tolkien, rather than forebears. But that's chronologically, not in terms of the development of the fantasy genre.

    Having said this, nothing - absolutely nothing - really preceded The Lord Of The Rings. The fact that Tolkien was able to produce this seminal work remains a mystery. To say that it is awe inspiring is to say Winston Churchill was a good leader. It's sort of a given.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2003