Isegoria, the best source of fascinating stuff you never knew you needed to know on the internet, has been reposting articles on the classics of fantasy. They’re remarkable stuff. Of all the fantasy classics discussed, I’ve only read a couple, and hadn’t even heard of most of them. Shame.
Tolkien scholar John Rateliff wrote a number of pieces on the Classics of Fantasy for the publishing arm of Wizards of the Coast, the company that produces Dungeons & Dragons and its associated novels. Those essays have disappeared from the WotC site, but the Wayback Machine has come to the rescue.
The ones I’ve heard of:
- Watership Down
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
- A Wizard of Earthsea (and read, fantastic) Interestingly, Rateliff says don’t read the last few books. Lucky for me, I hadn’t.
- Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser (and read, at least some of)
- Bridge of Birds (read, loved)
The ones I’d never heard of:
- The Face in the Frost
- The Night Land
- Book of the Three Dragons
- The Worm Ouroboros
- A Voyage to Arcturus
- M. R. James’ Collected Ghost Stories
- The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
- The Well at the World’s End
Add that to the Dunsany I need still to read – The King of Elfland’s Daughter is still sitting on my shelf – and that runs to rather a lot. A good chunk of these books are in the public domain. I downloaded The Night Land from Gutenberg and started reading last night; it’s a mind-blower.
Of interest, and along the same lines, Boing Boing just recently posted something about “Radium Age” sf. Joshua Glenn coined the term to describe the works written between the Scientific Romance age of Verne, Poe and Wells and the soi disant “Golden Age” inaugurated by the editorial efforts of John W. Campbell at Astounding. Links to more good books there.
Read “Silverlock” ASAP. It is a very unique (for its time) and clever novel – sort of the proto-Fantasy Satire as we know it today.