Forgotten Classic Fantasy

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Llama, Dec 22, 2001.

  1. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    Hello, it seems that although most people on the forum are readers of contemporary fantasy there may be a few like myself who also search out and enjoy old classic fantasy (by which I mean fantasy that's at least forty or fifty years old and preferably pre-Tolkien). It also seems like there are folks out there who might be interested in reading some of these works if only someone would tell them where to look. So I've now started this thread, where people can discuss their favorite classic authors and works and perhaps give recommendations to others. To keep discussion moving I will try to post a minireview of a work I like every couple of weeks or so, although people should obviously feel free to post whatever they want whenever they want.

    What authors am I talking about? Here's a sampling: Ashton Smith, Hope Hodgson, Eddison, Cabell, Merritt, Warner Munn, Blackwood, Chambers, Bramah, Moore, Dunsany, Crawford, MacDonald, Meredith, Beckford, Wandrei, etc, etc , etc. Have fun!
     
  2. Hobbit

    Hobbit Now.. A Seriously Likeable Administrator Staff Member

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    Have you looked at some of the (admittedly not too recent) threads round here, Llama? I think you'll find there's quite a few round here who read the 'old but good' stuff, now harder to get.

    Personal faves: Eddison, Ashton Smith, Hope Hodgson, Dunsany....

    Hobbit
     
  3. nicba

    nicba Lost in a large book

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    But most of the recomendation threads around here tends to be in the format of people spewing forth a lot of "favourite author" names, which in itself is good enough if you happen to have the time and the interest to research each one further by yourself.

    I think the "minireview" approach suggested by Llama sounds really interesting to us more "causal" readers, who might get the incitament to look up a specific author or story if it sounds to our liking.

    And since most of these old stories are hard to come by in bookstores, and since they are usual old enough that their copyright has expired, it would be really nice to get a link if someone happends to know that it's online at a particulary website.
     
  4. SusF

    SusF Who me?

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    I have not heard of most of the authors mentioned above and would love to read a little elaboration on them. Maybe some book titles as well...

    Susan
     
  5. AuntiePam

    AuntiePam Cranky old broad

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    I just discovered Leo Perutz. I think he qualifies as a forgotten classic.

    Here's a url to a Weird Review story on him:
    http://www.violetbooks.com/REVIEWS/jas-perutz.html

    I just finished At Night Under The Stone Bridge. I was sort of expecting a "normal" story, but it was instead a series of vignettes about life in Prague in the 1600's, with a very magical element. Each chapter could be read on its own, like a fable, yet when I finished the book, it *did* stand on its own as one story.

    I really like Perutz, and I haven't had any trouble finding his stuff in affordable editions.
     
  6. Cygnus

    Cygnus Push the button Frank

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    I second the suggestion put forth by SusF. I'd like to hear more about these classic authors and what they have written. None of these names are familiar to me, but I'm always interested in reading more fantasy.
     
  7. Cadfael

    Cadfael Guest

    You are really asking a hard question when it comes to Clark Ashton Smith, this guy was on HELL of a prolific writer... his work must number in the hundreds... mostly short stories... he was also a hell of a writer!! Rather than try to tell you about him... look HERE

    I have 2 books of short stories by him The Lost Worlds of Clark Aston Smith, volume 1 & 2... they are amonst my most prized books... you may find them very hard to get hold of.

    ER Eddison is easier, his books are still to be found in the bookshops, I think this guy predated Tolkien. His most well know book is The Worm Oroborus, which is part of a series, I cannot remember them all, but one of the books is called A Fish Dinner In Memison. His writing style is very... er... 'poetic/classical'. Again... I can't do him justice... look HERE

    Maybe the 'Old Sage of Fantasy' can do a better job... hey Hobbit?

    [This message has been edited by dennizm (edited December 23, 2001).]
     
  8. mundanemies

    mundanemies New Member

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    Worm Ourobouros is actually not a part of any series by the man Eddison, though one of the main characters of the The Zimiamvian Books (Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison and The Mezentian Gate) also makes a brief appearance in Worm Ourobouros.

    Eddison is surprisingly easy to find at used book stores and at reasonable prices (about $3/4) too. There are new re-prints of both Worm and Mistresses by Millennium Fantasy Masterworks (if I remember the publisher and the serie-name correctly) and I'd reckon that they will re-print the other two in due time.

    Old fantasy classics are often a bit pricey, especially if you want hard covers, but there are still some really nice surprises left if one keeps searching the second hand book shops. I only recently did some relatively cheap findings at NYC (Eddison and Dunsany). But it takes a trip to a used book store. You really can't find these books at your local B&N, Borders or Waterstones, not to mention W.H. Smith's or Suomalainen. All you Swedes, go to SF-Bokhandeln och fråga bara!

    There's also the very worthy publishing house Wildside Press, who have re-printed some forgotten classics just recently (there's another thread somewhere, me reckon's), like Ernst Bramah, William Morris et al.
     
  9. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    Leo Perutz certainly qualifies as a forgotten classic. I think BY NIGHT..., MARQUIS OF BOLIBAR and LEONARDO'S JUDAS are all excellent, although my favorite remains MASTER OF THE DAY OF JUDGMENT a mystery with fantastical overtones and the first Perutz I read. I myself don't think he's so easy to find, although MASTER... should still be in print.
     
  10. AuntiePam

    AuntiePam Cranky old broad

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    I didn't think any of his stuff would be in print so I went right to the secondhand sites. I found three titles -- one paperback (Master) and two really nice mint hardcovers (Bolibar & Night) with Mylar covers. I think I spent less than $50 for all three.

    That's sort of a splurge for me, but since I quit smoking, I've been treating myself. [​IMG]
     
  11. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    So I thought I’d start by writing a miniprofile of my favorite author. CLARK ASHTON SMITH (1893-1961) is believed by many (including me!) to be this century’s greatest fantastic short story writer. An acclaimed poet in his youth, CAS later turned to the writing of fantasy, publishing a number of stories in the seminal pulp magazine Weird Tales along with his correspondents HP Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Unlike them, however, he is almost entirely out of print. Often classified as a neo-decadent, CAS’s stories are set in strange and hyperexotic locales of his own invention, such as the prehistoric Hyperborea or the far future Zothique. His descriptions are lush, even baroque, often employing archaisms or neologisms which add to the strangeness of the narrative. The subject matter is often grotesque and shot through with a sardonic sense of irony. CAS’s characters are rarely attractive and often come to a bad, if justified, end. His stories set in Zothique, the last continent on a future dying Earth where magic rules and necromancers battle over the few remaining spoils, are often considered his best works, if also his darkest, and are a clear influence on the creation of Vance’s own Dying Earth novels and of Harrison’s Viriconium. At his best CAS marries the dark beauty of the high decadent tradition with the action and suspense of the best pulp fiction.
     
  12. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    Where to find Clark Ashton Smith’s stories?

    1. If you want to read him for the first time, head on over to Boyd Pearson’s web site, www.eldritchdark.com, the home of all things Clark Ashtonian, and look under “Writings”. Recommendations: “Night in Malneant”, “Tale of Satampra Zeiros”, “Coming of the White Worm”, “Death of Malygris”, “Dark Eidolon”, “Chain of Aforgomon”, “The Seven Geases”, “The White Sybil”, “A Rendezvous in Averoigne”. Try to avoid his science fiction stories, which are dated and, with the exception of “City of the Singing Flame”, IMO not very good.

    2. Lin Carter edited four volumes of CAS stories for the paperback Ballantine Adult Fantasy collection in the 70s; they are “Zothique”, “Hyperborea”, “Xiccarph” and “Poseidonis”. They’re out of print but you can buy them used on Ebay or you can look for them on www.abebooks.com. They’re not particularly expensive.

    3. Necronomicon Press published a trade paperback volume of “Tales of Zothique” and one of “Tales of Hyperborea” a few years ago. It’s unclear whether they’re still in business but you can also often find these on ebay or on abebooks.

    4. Pocket Books published some paperback CAS anthologies in their Timescape line. I believe the titles are “City of the Singing Flame”, “Monster of the Prophecy” and “The Last Incantation”.

    5. CAS’s stories were first collected in the Arkham House anthologies OUT OF SPACE AND TIME, LOST WORLDS, GENIUS LOCI, ABOMINATIONS OF YONDO, TALES OF SCIENCE AND SORCERY and OTHER DIMENSIONS, which are lovely hardcovers but are now out of print and quite expensive. However, a good investment is the large Arkham House anthology A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE, which collects nearly the best of CAS (except for A Night in Malneant, an inexplicable omission) and which can be bought used on Ebay or abebooks for $50 or so. Highly recommended.

    6. The Arkham House anthologies were reprinted in hardcover by Neville Spearman in the UK and cost less, but are still somewhat expensive. They were also reprinted in paperback by Panther in the UK with the bonus of some very cool psychedelic covers. I suspect these are the books dennizm mentions above from his collection.

    7. You may want to avoid STRANGE SHADOWS, which you can order off Amazon, unless you’re a collector. It’s really for CAS completists.


    [This message has been edited by Llama (edited December 25, 2001).]
     
  13. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    And finally, a Clark Ashton Smith appetizer, the first two sentences from his story “The Tale of Satampra Zeiros”:

    “I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasures of Commoriom and be tempted thereby.”

    Those were the first two sentences of CAS I ever read, and after I’d done so I simply had to finish the story. Observe the inclusion of the teaser words “since I have no longer any other” in the first sentence, which are in the finest pulp tradition. You can’t rest until you find out what happened to that other hand!
     
  14. nicba

    nicba Lost in a large book

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    Thank you for your info on Clark Ashton Smith, Llama. I must admit never to have heard of him before.

    I read your minreview of his work and must say that I did not feel very compelled to read any further. Such dark tales are not usually to my liking.

    But your snippet did the trick. Like you said, I had to read the story and find out wath happened to the guy's hand. So I used the link which you provided and got to the short story. And Behold! I actually liked it [​IMG]

    Thanks again. And keep it coming.


    (Oh, btw. you might wan't to edit the link. There's a comma at the end of it which shouldn't be there. Took me awhile to notice it and delete it, so that I could see the site.)
     
  15. estranghero

    estranghero Lord Deceiver

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    Ah, do you guys mind elaborating on the names? I've heard of Lord Dunsany, ER Eddison, and James Branch Cabell but I'm not so sure about the rest...

    Ditto on the mini-reviews approach.

    Btw, nobody likes Mervyn Peake?
     
  16. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    Full names/initials: Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson, E.R. Eddison, James Branch Cabell, Abraham Merritt, H. Warner Munn, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Chambers, Ernest Bramah, Catherine L. Moore, Lord Dunsany, Francis Marion Crawford, George MacDonald, George Meredith, William Beckford, Donald Wandrei.

    The list obviously was not meant to be exhaustive, they were just a few names I came up with as examples. A few others, in hopes of jogging memories and maybe convincing enthusiasts out there to share a little bit about them: David Lindsay, E. Hoffman Price, David Keller, M.P. Shiel, William Morris, H. Rider Haggard, Seabury Quinn, Arthur Machen, Gustav Meyrink, David Garnett, Richard Garnett, Jack Snow, Max Beerbohm, Thorne Smith, Charles Finney, Henry Kuttner....

    I'm a committed Peake fan, I suspect there's probably quite a few other GORMENGHAST admirers out there. Hopefully the BBC series (which I only caught snippets of) will convince some people to read the books.

    Maybe someone wants to write a little bit about Gormenghast or about Eddison? I confess I think of Eddison, like William Morris, as an acquired taste I've never quite managed to acquire, so I won't personally be tackling that one....

    As most people probably know, Peake was as well known an illustrator as an author, if not more so. An Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass edition containing Peake's illustrations has recently been rereleased in the US and is well worth getting. IMO he was the best Alice illustrator after Tenniel.
     
  17. estranghero

    estranghero Lord Deceiver

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    Ahhh yessszz... more namessz to look for, more bookssz to read... [​IMG]

    I'm trying to get myself started on Gorghemgast myself now, ever since I ordered it coupla years ago from BOMC. The thing is, the book-- Peake's complete trilogy-- is huge, considering its only a trade paperback.

    Ditto with ER Eddison (which I borrowed from a friend) though unless I quit earning a living, I despair of ever getting around to reading. [​IMG]

    Uh-oh, got to get back to work...
     
  18. jbcohen

    jbcohen Wildrunner

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    Before I answer I need to know what the word clasic means in this sense. The word can have several definitions. To me the word means authors who have written novels that are widely excepted as one of the best fantasy litterature available. For example: Tolkine and Aaismov.

    To friends of mine the term refers to those authors who have written fantasy novels in the past but are dead now.

    Which is correct?
     
  19. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    I think both senses of "classic" can be correct. I think in this thread we are (or at least I am) trying to use the term to refer to excellent authors and works which because of their age and other factors may have been overlooked by many readers. Whether the author is living or dead doesn't really matter, although looking at my lists and given the age parameters I tried to set I don't believe anyone on them is still alive, though I could be wrong. Asimov and Tolkien are certainly sf/fantasy classics, but they are extremely well known and therefore would probably not not be the best subjects for this thread.
     
  20. Llama

    Llama Registered User

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    (I posted the following in two posts on the "Oriental World" thread about a week ago, but because I think it's on point I'm going to repost them here. I hope no one minds.)

    "Let me recommend, if I may, the fantasy stories of the British writer Ernest Bramah, who around the turn of the century created the character of Kai Lung, a storyteller living in a fantastic ancient China who's constantly getting into trouble (and out of it by telling his stories!). The Kai Lung books (KAI LUNG'S GOLDEN HOURS, THE WALLET OF KAI LUNG, KAI LUNG UNROLLS HIS MAT) contain some of the most beautiful whimsical fantasy ever written. The China they portray is by no mean historically accurate but rather a reflection of European fantasies of the time. John Connell wrote about Bramah, introducing one of his collections: "...he created his own China: a land of harsh sunlight or biting cold, of bare red-brown hills and deep gorges...a land where peasants—like mandarins and generals—spoke impeccable, if very involute, prose; a land where maidens were always as wily and determined as they were beautiful; and where, after due, humbly-phrased, persuasion, a village or an Emperor would listen enthralled to an elegant story adorned with its appropriate moral." Highly recommended."

    "Most Bramah titles are out of print, but KAI LUNG'S GOLDEN HOURS has actually been reprinted, I believe by Wildside Press, and should be available on Amazon.

    KAI LUNG'S GOLDEN HOURS and KAI LUNG UNROLLS HIS MAT were also reprinted in Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy paperback series in the '70s. They come up on Ebay from time to time and are usually fairly inexpensive. You can also look for them on www.abebooks.com, the network of used book dealers.

    THE WALLET OF KAI LUNG and KAI LUNG UNDER THE MULBERRY TREE are a little harder to find."