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  1. #1
    There can be only one! Niels's Avatar
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    Books about fantasy

    Right off the bat, I used the search option, but it yielded no results - at least for me


    Anywho, I am looking for books about fantasy. Specifically, works that deal with the different subgenres such as high fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy and so on. Basically works that describes the genre as a whole but also in detail.

    Any recommendations would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Quagaar Warrior
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    here's a couple suggestions more or less on topic that i've read in the past year and found thought provoking:

    Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy by Michael Moorcock (Monkeybrain Books, 2004)

    Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)

    obviously the Moorcock book directs itself toward Epic Fantasy (here that translates into 'Swords and Sorcery') though it covers a lot of other ground too. these are basically collected essays of Moorcock musing on the subject. food for thought but by no means an exhaustive study or survey of the field.

    the Mendlesohn book is a whole other kettle of fish. more of an academic effort as you might imagine from the publisher, she presents and investigates a new 'taxonomy' of fantasy: Portal-Quest Fantasy, Immersive Fantasy, Intrusion Fantasy, and Liminal Fantasy. it has been argued that her classifications are arbitrary and overly limiting but i found it very interesting nevertheless. she goes to considerable lengths to investigate and muse on her subject matter and i found the whole effort very enlightening albeit a bit dry and ploddingly methodical at times.

    i might also suggest having a noodle through The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by Clute and Grant if you get a chance. obviously not a directed study of Fantasy like the others but if you've got the time to browse and flip back and forth through the cross-referenced entries there is a lot of really worthwhile stuff in there. be warned though, it is a monster: 1100-ish large-format pages weighing in at about 8 or 9 pounds.

  3. #3
    "The Tough Guide to Fantasyland" by Diana Wynne Jones.

    Heh.

    Okay, not specifically what you're asking for, but it's definitely about fantasy.

  4. #4
    Registered User ben1xy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by barfly View Post

    Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)
    I liked another book by this author - A Short History of Fantasy


  5. #5
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Try these.

    There are a few books and essays that I, at least, would consider mandatory reading:

    The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin
    "On Fairy Stories" by J.R.R. Tolkien
    "The Fantastic Imagination" by George MacDonald
    "The Decay of Lying" by Oscar Wilde

    Not listed above but also relevant and insightful are two short stories by Tolkien, Smith of Wootton Major (arguably a novella) and "Leaf By Niggle", which each deal with the relationship between a fantasy author and his material, and another of his essays, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics."

    Another book, not included in the list above but of inestimable value, is the now-famed Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell; that book, hard to sum up concisely, deals with myth, the human psyche, and more.

    Finally, a bit more esoteric but excellent is an oddity, Beyond Life, by James Branch Cabell, which is nominally a novel in dialogue but is actually an essay on fiction in general and fantasy in particular.

    Of the Tolkien works, all but the Beowulf essay, plus other things, can be had in the book Poems and Stories, a Tolkien collection. The MacDonald essay is collected in several places: one is in MacDonald's essay collection A Dish of Orts (2nd edition only, but that's all you'd be likely to find these days) and also the 1984 Avon/Discus paperback anthology Fantasists on Fantasy, itself a book one can scarcely over-praise. The Wilde should be in most any collection of Wilde's essays--or, better, just get the Collins edition (accept no substitutes) of his complete collected works.

  6. #6
    never mind
    Last edited by heretics fork; August 19th, 2010 at 08:52 AM. Reason: loss of context

  7. #7
    I second,

    The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin
    "On Fairy Stories" by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Fantasists on Fantasy ed. by Boyer and Zahorsky (if you can find their collections, their thoughts on fantasy in the introductions to the books and to the stories/writers are quite interesting)
    The Encyclopedia of Fantasy ed. by Clute and Grant

    I'd also add the chapter on fantasy from E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel. (Which Beagle glancingly comments on in ...)

    More recently, The Secret History of Fantasy, a collection of stories edited by Peter Beagle, doesn't seem quite as subversive as I was hoping, but besides his own introduction, he includes an interesting essay by Le Guin and, by David Hartwell, a concise and, as far as I can see, accurate short history of the development of the commercial genre of fantasy. (Actually, I've been wondering what KatG would say about Hartwell's essay -- really, a revised, updated chapter from his book, Age of Wonders -- if she's read it.)

    Randy M.
    Last edited by Randy M.; August 19th, 2010 at 08:08 AM.

  8. #8
    immer noch dabei Ntschotschi's Avatar
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    I can recommend a very interesting book by
    Tom Shippey "Tolkien -Author of the Century".
    It focuses on Tolkien but also tries to give a new perspective on fantastic literature in the 20th Century as a whole.

  9. #9
    Quagaar Warrior
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    re: The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin

    seems there are several editions of this. can anyone offer insights into what the differences are, if any of significance? thx.

  10. #10
    Damn fool idealist DailyRich's Avatar
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    It's a little dated, but Lin Carter's Imaginary Worlds is a pretty good overview of fantasy up through the early 70s, touching on a lot of examples that don't get a lot of play today.

  11. #11
    I own the wonderful The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, which has a foreword by Terry Pratchett. It's pretty much what it says on the tin. A comprehensive (and illustrated) guide to fantasy, from the origins of myth right through to Gygax and the LOTR films.

  12. #12
    For the OP, the books mentioned above should more than suffice, so I don't feel that I need to add to the list. However, this is pretty interesting:

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post

    More recently, The Secret History of Fantasy, a collection of stories edited by Peter Beagle, doesn't seem quite as subversive as I was hoping, but besides his own introduction, he includes an interesting essay by Le Guin and, by David Hartwell, a concise and, as far as I can see, accurate short history of the development of the commercial genre of fantasy. (Actually, I've been wondering what KatG would say about Hartwell's essay -- really, a revised, updated chapter from his book, Age of Wonders -- if she's read it.)

    Randy M.
    I skimmed through this at the bookstore the the other day (I have Hartwells excellent Age of Wonders, but it's the first edition, not the second ed. with the original version of the essay). Anyhow, Hartwell's essay is plenty, plenty subversive. It's inclusion should more than make up for the tameness of the anthology (which should perhaps be more correctly titled "Some Interesting Fantasy Short Stories By Fairly Modern Authors").

    Hartwell lays out an interesting and compelling premise: the contours of modern fantasy are the product of marketeers who are indifferent to, and perhaps antipathic to, the literary niceties and/or the sui generis qualities that had hitherto inhered in quality fantasy.

    This path to works "in the tradition of" tobogganed downward with Lester del Rey, who acquired Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara for Ballantine (subsequently published under the Del Ray imprint). This, the same Ballantine Books, who should be also be forever revered for their earlier work in publishing Tolkein, Eddison, Peake and a few others in the 1960s, and later, under the keen editorial eye of Lin Carter, for their "Ballantine Adult Fantasy series" (1969-1974) featuring Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, William Morris, William Hope Hodgson, Clarke Ashton Smith, Ernest Bramah, and others (ah - what memories!!), should also be eternally damned for their role in the degradation of fantasy literature.

    Yes, this hack author and later editor, Lester del Rey, who felt that genre needs must be be insular and that interested academics should "get out of my Ghetto" was the man most responsible for the largely derivative state of fantasy today (or joyous best seller ascent, depending on your perspective).

    So yes, Hartwell's understated but emphatic calling-out of del Ray can certainly be viewed as subversive. It's all the more interesting as it comes from such a pillar of the community.

  13. #13
    Some of these books talk about the fantasy genres themselves...but are any of them guides to books you many want to read? I would prefer something newish...to include recent books.

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