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Author Topic: You folks will love this (Time's "100 Best Fantasy Books")  (Read 548 times)

Pat

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Re: You folks will love this (Time's "100 Best Fantasy Books")
« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2020, 03:48:09 PM »
Which is why some start with MacDonald's Lilith (1895) rather than Phantastes (1858). Or Morris' Wood Beyond the World (1894).

Of course, like most things--or at least cultural traditions--there is no clear starting point, or at least none that is widely agreed upon by scholars. Fantasy, as a literary tradition, was in many ways the child of Romanticism, which itself was a reactive movement to the rise of empiricism. Thus it makes sense that the genre exploded into form within the context of the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914).

There are also some significant benchmarks that signify different eras. Lord of the Rings (1954-55) is the most obvious one, as it influenced just about everything that came after--if only in terms of the shadow it cast, and its popularity--but I think you could find other texts that are "pins" in the map of fantasy tradition.
You missed Ruskin, but I think a wider point is that when it comes to a top 100 list, the precise location of the dividing line isn't important. Fantasy isn't defined by the foundational texts of the genre; the greatest works aren't the first. If a panel wants to add a borderline Victorian work or two, it won't significantly affect the list. The more important distinction is excluding everything from Gilgamesh to Arabian Nights. There are many of them worthy of consideration, but a list dominated by them is not what the audience is looking for in a list of fantasy books.

I'll also note that influence or "pinning" shouldn't be the primary metric by which a work is judged. You mentioned Eddison several times, and I think his The Worm Ourborous is one of the iconic examples. It's a spectacular piece of work, one of the few early epics that can be compared favorably with Middle-earth, but it had very little direct influence on the direction of the fantasy genre. A similar work in the sister genre of sf is A Canticle for Leibowitz, which also stands alone in inimitable majesty.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2020, 03:50:24 PM by Pat »

Mercurius

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Re: You folks will love this (Time's "100 Best Fantasy Books")
« Reply #31 on: October 24, 2020, 05:34:16 PM »
Which is why some start with MacDonald's Lilith (1895) rather than Phantastes (1858). Or Morris' Wood Beyond the World (1894).

Of course, like most things--or at least cultural traditions--there is no clear starting point, or at least none that is widely agreed upon by scholars. Fantasy, as a literary tradition, was in many ways the child of Romanticism, which itself was a reactive movement to the rise of empiricism. Thus it makes sense that the genre exploded into form within the context of the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914).

There are also some significant benchmarks that signify different eras. Lord of the Rings (1954-55) is the most obvious one, as it influenced just about everything that came after--if only in terms of the shadow it cast, and its popularity--but I think you could find other texts that are "pins" in the map of fantasy tradition.
You missed Ruskin, but I think a wider point is that when it comes to a top 100 list, the precise location of the dividing line isn't important. Fantasy isn't defined by the foundational texts of the genre; the greatest works aren't the first. If a panel wants to add a borderline Victorian work or two, it won't significantly affect the list. The more important distinction is excluding everything from Gilgamesh to Arabian Nights. There are many of them worthy of consideration, but a list dominated by them is not what the audience is looking for in a list of fantasy books.

I'll also note that influence or "pinning" shouldn't be the primary metric by which a work is judged. You mentioned Eddison several times, and I think his The Worm Ourborous is one of the iconic examples. It's a spectacular piece of work, one of the few early epics that can be compared favorably with Middle-earth, but it had very little direct influence on the direction of the fantasy genre. A similar work in the sister genre of sf is A Canticle for Leibowitz, which also stands alone in inimitable majesty.


Yes, good point (and I like the comparison to Canticle), although I still think it belongs on a top 100 list for a variety of reasons, perhaps as--along with the follow-up Zimiamvia trilogy--the first example of a big epic fantasy story told in multiple parts. For a top 100 list, I would emphasize influence in the genre first, but also consider secondary factors like cultural zeitgeist, quality, originality, etc -- all the factors that make something a "classic," which Ouroborus certainly is (I'll I've heard some say the later books are better...haven't read them).

Some of the recent books mentioned on the TIME list might end up as classic works and have a legitimate place on a future list. I read the Fifth Season and think it is arguably a top 100 book now, for a number of reasons. But the main think I dislike about the list--aside from the irritating wokeness of it--is that it doesn't seem to care about the fantasy tradition at all, about the story it tells about the history of fantastical ideas.

re: Ruskin. Yeah, his King of the Golden River predates Phantastes by a few years (1850) and is a candidate for the first "true" fantasy novel, but may also be considered a "proto-fantasy." Others I didn't mention: George Meredith, F Marion Crawford, and Charles Kingsley.