Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another Essential Fantasy List

Since Jeff VanderMeer's list wasn't quite what I thought it was at first (mostly because I didn't read his introduction closely), I decided to do a list of my own. And I finally had time to rummage around and scribble notes for it tonight.

The rules:
  • It started out at 25 books, but grew slightly to thirty.
  • I stuck to books that were at least ten years old, to have some semblance of critical distance on them. Some of the specific titles are newer than that, but the works themselves are older. I also only started in the early 20th century, since books older than that are essentially from different traditions.
  • This is a list for readers; these books may be of interest to burgeoning (or mature) fantasy writers, but I can't swear to it. Reading all of these books will make one pretty well-read in fantasy, and give a good basis to move forward from.
  • I also decided to keep it to one book per writer, for simplicity's sake. Many of these writers will reward further reading, at least for some readers.
  • In some cases, I chose a writer's best-known book; in other cases, I picked the book I loved personally the most. All are meant to be understandable without having read other books by the author. Some choices are more idiosyncratic than others.
  • I only chose books that I have read and enjoyed myself, which may explain some possible omissions.
  • And I stuck to people who were writing in basically the same, explicitly genre, tradition (though this doesn't apply as clearly to the earliest writers) -- this meant that I left out literary writers, and specifically didn't include Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale.
  • The list is in alphabetical order by author.

Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place
Michael Bishop, Brittle Innings
James Blish, Black Easter
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Jonathan Carroll, Bones of the Moon
John Crowley, Little, Big
L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt, The Complete Compleat Enchanter
Charles de Lint, The Little Country
Harlan Ellison, Deathbird Stories
Mary Gentle, Rats and Gargoyles
Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood
Robert E. Howard, The Bloody Crown of Conan
Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
Fritz Leiber, The Swords of Lankhmar
H.P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror and Others
George R.R. Martin, Fevre Dream
Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist
Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer
James Morrow, Towing Jehovah
Kim Newman, Anno Dracula
Meryvn Peake, Titus Groan
Rachel Pollack, Unquenchable Fire
Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard
Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
Michael Swanwick, The Iron Dragon's Daughter
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Jack Vance, The Dying Earth
Gene Wolfe, Peace
Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness


Martin LaBar said...

Good work. I haven't read all of these, but wonder if you would consider Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland & Through the Lookingglass? Also Watership Down by Richard Adams, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Martin: This was was slanted towards specifically genre fantasy from the last hundred years, which is why most of the things you mention weren't included: the Alice books are too old, Watership Down came from outside the genre (and might be a great book, but didn't really lead anywhere in the fantasy genre), and I think of that L'Engle series as being SF rather than fantasy.

I have to admit that I haven't read Forgotten Beasts of Eld -- though there's a copy on the shelf in my office, along with a lot of other stuff-- which is one reason that's not included.

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