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  1. #1
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Seeds of Fantasy

    I'm doing some digging.

    Tolkein-mania jumpstarted fan interest and helped lead to the formal formation of genre fantasy. But before that, the groundwork was already being well-laid by genre authors working in sf and publishing a variety of fantasy stories. In particular, the fifties, sixties and early seventies were a fertile time for fantasy stories. Things like the Gray Mouser, Conan, Moorcock's Eldric, Andre Norton's Witch World, not only have iconic status in their own right, but planted the seeds for the fantasy genre to develop.

    So I'm asking for people to talk about those early fantasy titles -- not classic writers like H.P. Lovecraft or C.S. Lewis, but the genre authors who were introducing sf fans to fantasy as well. I know some of these titles and writers will have been discussed in the forum before, but I thought this thread might give a coherent picture of that pre-genre period. (If I'm exactly repeating a thread, let me know and I'll merge it.)

    Let's stick to mostly adult fiction and set the cut-off point at 1977. The titles or stories don't have to be epic fantasy, just fantasy.

  2. #2
    I know that you have asked us to limit ourselves to adult books but I can't help mentioning Susan Cooper, specifically the Dark is Rising sequence which a lot of adults seem to enjoy. She started them in the early seventies, so they (barely) make the cut-off point. (strangely enough I can recall the names of more young-adult author writing fantasy/retellings of classic fiction then adult ones [David Almond, Alan Garner], most of which are British)

    Jake Vance was a prolific writer during that period (though most of his works were publicised as science fantasy it seems, which fits perfectly); T. H. White also wrote his famous Future King books in the 40's, Gormanghast was written on the turn of the sixth decade.

    I suppose we are talking about books which either saw a measure of financial success and/or developed cult following. This rules authors like Ernest Bramah (light, pseudo-historical, comical fantasy) and Hope Mirrlees (pretty much standard fantasy) out.

    There wasn't much epic fantasy being written before 1977 though. Certainly not epic-fantasy as we understand it today. Most of the stories were more in the sword-and-sorcery mode (Fritz Leiber, Robert Howard, Tarzan) and or relied on some sf trappings. (Vance - though he did write the Lyonesse trilogy which can be identified as epic-fantasy, I suppose) Alternate takes on historical fiction also seemed very common, with authors like White, Steven R. Lawhead and Mary Stewart (Crystal Cave, Hollow Hills, Last Enchantment) writing some of the most critically acclaimed and popular takes on the Arthurian Legend.

    (I have purposely refrained from mentioning classical British authors ala Peter Dunsnay, William Morris, William Hope Hodgson - since I don't think that they were the biggest proponents behind jump-starting mainstream public interest in fantasy, nor am I am sure that there was an actual publishing genre called 'fantasy' at that point-of-time)

  3. #3
    Registered User magze's Avatar
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    Hey Kat, don't know how relevant these are but I've got some Brian Lumley that seem to be from the early to mid 70's, they are The Burrowers Beneath,The Transition of Titus Crow and the Clock of Dreams,long time since I read them so can't really remember much apart from the clock and the land of dreams.

  4. #4
    Goblin Princess Teresa Edgerton's Avatar
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    Well, there were the Harold Shea books by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp, and Pratt's The Blue Star and The Well of the Unicorn . Also numerous titles by Thomas Burnett Swann.

    If we include what you might call metaphysical fantasy, then Charles Williams The Greater Trumps, War in Heaven, etc., and Roger Lancelyn Green, From the World's End.

    edit: Oh, and Silverlock by John Meyers Meyers.

  5. #5
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Okay, KatG, books that I read that seemed to be pace setters at the time I read them, all before 1977, in alphabetical order:
    Anthony, Piers - A Spell for Chameleon
    Beagle, Peter - The Last Unicorn
    Bradbury, Ray - Something Wicked This Way Comes
    Bradley, Marion Zimmer - Actually, I never read Bradley but I know she is a giant in the field.
    Brooks, Terry - The Sword of Shannara
    DeCamp, L. Sprague - The Incomplete Enchanter
    Donaldson, Stephen R. - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
    Goldman, William - The Princess Bride
    Hancock, Neil - The Circle of Light
    Kurtz, Katherine - Deryni Rising
    LeGuin, Ursula K. - Earthsea Series
    Lieber, Fritz - Two Sought Adventure (just wanted you to know that I read him)
    McKillip, Patricia A. - The Hed Series
    Moorcock, Michael - Another one I could never read but definitely a major contributor
    Myers, John Meyers - Silverlock

    I'm certain Hobbitt can improve the list but these are what I remember reading.
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; May 21st, 2005 at 03:20 PM.

  6. #6
    Registered User magze's Avatar
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    Wasn't Gormeghast pre 1977?

  7. #7
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Gormenghast was written just after WW2, if I remember rightly, so about the same vintage as the LOTR. It strikes me as a bit sui generis: I'm not sure that Peake's trilogy would have had a lot of influence on early popular genre-making. Maybe now, with Mieville citing Peake as a major inspiration.

    In 1977 I was still at school! I'm pretty certain the Covenant series came out a little later, maybe early 80s? Or maybe that was just here. I didn't strike Terry Brooks until around then, but his books annoyed me intensely, Tolkien purist that I was.

    Do the Dune books count as fantasy or SF? Wouldn't they have been fairly formative? Or are they post '77? (Pardon my ignorance)

    Yay, Beleg, another David Almond fan! I think the man is brilliant!

  8. #8
    Estranged Earth Michael2000's Avatar
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    I think Dune counts as sci-fi. But what about Roger Zelazny? When did Chronicles of Amber come out?

  9. #9
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Covenant was published by Holt in 1977.
    Zelasny's Nine Princes in Amber was published by Doubleday in 1970. I read that but not the entire series. My memory told me it was more SF than fantasy, which may explain why those who know me well don't bet on my memory.

  10. #10
    Estranged Earth Michael2000's Avatar
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    I read the Chronicles of Amber all the way through to the Courts of Chaos and I'd say it was more like fantasy than sci-fi. Create a world by creating a pattern? Then all the children of Oberon had to "walk the pattern." Once they were in the center (if they made it), they could instantly go to any of the "shadows" of Amber. There does seem to be theme in their that reminds me of the "many worlds" theory in science, but it still reads more like a fantasy.

    I wouldn't bet on my memory, either.

    I reread the series again about a year ago, so it's a little more fresh. I just want to know what happens after Corwin creates his own pattern!
    Last edited by Michael2000; May 22nd, 2005 at 03:21 PM.

  11. #11
    I think it should be noted that I find many authors that I enjoy today draw influence from non-genre writers.


    Gormenghast was written just after WW2, if I remember rightly, so about the same vintage as the LOTR. It strikes me as a bit sui generis: I'm not sure that Peake's trilogy would have had a lot of influence on early popular genre-making. Maybe now, with Mieville citing Peake as a major inspiration.
    I don't if I agree with that at all, Peake's cited as a major influence by Michael Moorcock and most of the New Wave authors who influenced a bulk of the current writers I like at least. I agree that he probably didn't influence popular genre-making which is a shame, the genre would be vastly improved IMHO.

    There are a lot of great one already mentioned like De Camp, Pratt, Leiber, TS White, however the more one thinks about it IMHO Moorcock and JG Ballards impact of The New Wave was huge even credited by Sterling and Gibson as the influence to Cyber Punk. Also M. John Harrison who is just a god wrote his earlier Viriconium novels before 1977, and is regarded as a huge influence by many new fantasy authors from Mieville, Swainston, Bishop, VanderMeer etc.

    I also think you have to look at the works of Gene Wolfe that were written at the time (most of which was shorts).

    CL Moore is an under appreciated Sword/Sorcery writer as well

    Gabreil Garica Marquez is a heavy influence on magic realism as is Borges, Italo Calvino.

    I think Jack Finney has to get soem credit for popularizing Time travel stories.

    Ursula Legion
    Poul Anderson (Broken Sword and 3 Hearts and 3 Lions among others, he was very prolific)
    Jack Vance (Lyonesse and Dying Earth)

    I htink I may have got off topic slightly anyways soem of those names should qualify, some don't. IMHO Moorcock has proven to loom the largest from that era.

  12. #12
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Okay, this is great, but let me clarify a little. If Brook's Shanara is being brought up, then I set the cut-off point too late probably . Let's move it back down to a conservative 1974. I do not want titles like White's Once and Future King or Gormanghast or the magic realists. These are classical fantasies but not genre works done by sf genre authors. What I'm looking for are the writers who were published by sf presses and magazines under the umbrella of sf before Tolkein's paperback editions of LOTR created the crest of the wave that became the official adult fantasy genre. I'm talking about the wave-builders, who were certainly influenced by non-genre writing, but were themselves considered genre sf authors. Therefore, their titles may have been labelled sf, but don't worry about whether it is or isn't right now.

    The reason I'm booting the children's authors is not because they aren't great or weren't of interest to adult readers. I'm putting them off to the side temporarily because the children's fantasy sub-genre has existed as long as children's fiction as a market has existed. It was already a well-established sub-genre long in advance of the adult fantasy genre. But if you think a particular children's work was very important, like Cooper, feel free to mention it.

    I am not looking only for authors who were extremely successful or developed a cult following. I want anyone who was doing fantasy in the sf genre, even if it was one book that didn't do that well. The only qualification is that they were being published by sf genre presses or magazines, not mainstream publishers, or at least were being published for a genre fan audience. I guess I was being too coy about that.

    Feel free not only to list titles, but to talk about them as well.
    Last edited by KatG; May 22nd, 2005 at 01:22 PM.

  13. #13
    Lord Deceiver estranghero's Avatar
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    What about James Branch Cabell, ER Eddison, Karl Wagner, and Philip Jose Farmer?

  14. #14
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    There's an old, almost dead topic about these older fantasies: Forgotten Classic Fantasy, but discussing the older stuff and how it built the foundation for the genre is always a good thing.

    In particular, a novel I truly enjoy is The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany. The writing is lyrical and beautiful. I had trouble with Dunsany's Charwoman's Shadow but Elfland is simply wonderful. Many writers, Neil Gaiman included, have cited the strong influence of this novel on their work and on the genre itself.

    In my interview with Greg Keyes, he mentions Spenser's The Fairy Queen as an older influence.

    Recently, Black Gate Magazine has been reprinting the old pulpy Fantasy classic Tumithak. I think there were only three stories published, I think in the old magazine Astounding by writer Charles Tanner, and BG has reprinted all three. Worth checking out

  15. #15
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by estranghero
    What about James Branch Cabell, ER Eddison, Karl Wagner, and Philip Jose Farmer?
    What about them? Titles, details please. Philip is known for sf, what did he write that you see as more fantasy?

    Spenser's Fairie Queen -- not in the running. Lord Dusany -- not in the running. They're non-genre influences but not genre wave-builders. Thanks for the old thread link, Fitz. I'll check it out.

    Again, if you guys want to talk a little about any of these novels or stories as well as list them, that's great.

    Zelaney's Amber books were brought out as sf and have remained considered sf because Zelaney gave them a pseudo-sf set-up. But certainly worth considering in the overall history.

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