Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Now, for the Fantasy Canon

Of course, one can't just look at the sf side of the aisle: thanks to Neth Space, there's also the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks list. Same rules as the sf list: Bold means I've read it, Italics means I own it but haven't read it yet, and Strikethrough means that I'm not planning on reading it and I'm fully comfortable skipping it.

1 - The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1: Shadow and Claw - Gene Wolfe
2 - Time and the Gods - Lord Dunsany
3 - The Worm Ouroboros - E.R. Eddison
4 - Tales of the Dying Earth - Jack Vance
5 - Little, Big - John Crowley
6 - The Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny
7 - Viriconium - M. John Harrison
8 - The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle - Robert E. Howard
9 - The Land of Laughs - Jonathan Carroll
10 - The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea - L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt

11 - Lud-in-the-Mist - Hope Mirrlees
12 - The Book of the New Sun, Volume 2: Sword and Citadel - Gene Wolfe
13 - Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin
14 - Beauty - Sheri S. Tepper
15 - The King of Elfland's Daughter - Lord Dunsany
16 - The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon - Robert E. Howard
17 - Elric - Michael Moorcock
18 - The First Book of Lankhmar - Fritz Leiber
19 - Riddle-Master - Patricia A. McKillip
20 - Time and Again - Jack Finney

21 - Mistress of Mistresses - E.R. Eddison
22 - Gloriana or the Unfulfill'd Queen - Michael Moorcock
23 - The Well of the Unicorn - Fletcher Pratt
24 - The Second Book of Lankhmar - Fritz Leiber
25 - Voice of Our Shadow - Jonathan Carroll
26 - The Emperor of Dreams - Clark Ashton Smith
27 - Lyonesse I: Suldrun's Garden - Jack Vance
28 - Peace - Gene Wolfe
29 - The Dragon Waiting - John M. Ford
30 - Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe - Michael Moorcock

31 - Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams - C.L. Moore
32 - The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson
33 - The House on the Borderland and Other Novels - William Hope Hodgson
34 - The Drawing of the Dark - Tim Powers
35 - Lyonesse II and III: The Green Pearl and Madouc - Jack Vance
36 - The History of Runestaff - Michael Moorcock
37 - A Voyage to Arcturus - David Lindsay
38 - Darker Than You Think - Jack Williamson
39 - The Mabinogion - Evangeline Walton
40 - Three Hearts & Three Lions - Poul Anderson

41 - Grendel - John Gardner
42 - The Iron Dragon's Daughter - Michael Swanwick
43 - WAS - Geoff Ryman
44 - Song of Kali - Dan Simmons
45 - Replay - Ken Grimwood
46 - Sea Kings of Mars and Other Worldly Stories - Leigh Brackett
47 - The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers
48 - The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip
49 - Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
50 - The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales - Rudyard Kipling

Unsurprisingly, I've read a lower percentage of the fantasy (16%) than the sf (39%). I also disagree with a higher selection of their choices. Although, usually it's because I'm planning on reading different things from the same authors--I've got almost no quibble with their choice of important authors there. Arguments welcome in the comments!


Tim Walters said...

The Well of the Unicorn is both outstanding and a huge influence on modern fantasy--in fact it seems more modern than Tolkien, even though it was published before LOTR. And despite the title, there are no unicorns in it...

Lyonesse is one of Jack Vance's best.

Three Hearts & Three Lions isn't as good as The Broken Sword, but it's pretty good, and it's quite different.

Karen Burnham said...

I'm not surprised that pre-Tolkein fantasy feels more modern than Tolkein--I felt the same way about early George MacDonald and most of Lord Dunsany. I'll give "The Well of the Unicorn" a look.

However, it seems to me that in terms of influence I can get the most-bang-for-my-Jack-Vance-buck by sticking with "Tales of the Dying Earth." At a certain point I just have to limit the list. Otherwise I'll be in my 70's not having gotten to the 1970's.

Although I'll note that after talking with Gary K. Wolfe recently, I'm putting Dan Simmons "Song of Kali" back on the list. These lists keep getting longer, not shorter! ;-)

Tim Walters said...

Yes, Dying Earth first, definitely.

Let's see if I can help make your list a little shorter...

Despite having recently recorded a song based on it, I would have to say that The Compleat Enchanter hasn't aged all that well, and is definitely inferior to Well of the Unicorn.

Riddle-Master seemed to me like a bunch of running around the landscape to no particular purpose. Cities In Flight hasn't aged all that well either. The Centauri Device is a long way from being Harrison's best. I haven't read Grass, but the Tepper book I did read was a snoozefest.

There, some straws for you to grasp at. :)