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The Secret History of Fantasy
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The Secret History of Fantasy

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  265 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Step right up and buy your ticket to the impossible marvels of the Barnum Museum. Take a highly caffeinated ride through the Empire of Ice Cream. If you dare, hunt feral archetypes deep within a haunted English forest. Or conquer the New World with a band of geographically-challenged Norsemen.

Tired of the same old fantasy? Here are the stories you've never imagined possibl
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Paperback, First Edition, 379 pages
Published September 15th 2010 by Tachyon Publications (first published July 22nd 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,431)
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Carol.
Amazing fantasy stories that break the stereotype of what "fantasy" is. Contains an interesting discussion of the topic by Ursula Le Guin, which provided me with insight on the development of the "fantasy" field and subsequent dividing of genre fiction. Enjoyed "Ancestor Money" by Maureen McHugh. Admired the cleverness of Gregory Maguire's "Scarecrow," yet another take on the "Wizard of Oz" with some existential philosophy. Patricia McKillip was vaguely haunting in "Lady of the Skulls." I admire ...more
Linda Robinson
Peter Beagle's introduction tells us that once upon a time all literature was fantasy. Ancient peoples sitting around the campfire had to explain what made the sun come up, and before nodding off, everyone probably joined in praying for it to do the same tomorrow. There was fantasy, and then there was literature and literary critics, and academia, and thus genrefication. Fantasy writing was consigned to children's literature. I was surprised to discover in the essay by David Hartwell at the back ...more
Mike
This is another anthology I picked up on the recommendation of Charlie Jane Anders.

Up to the Michael Swanwick story, I found all these stories at least vaguely familiar, which suggests I've read this collection before (at least that far). I may have stopped after the Swanwick because I disliked it. Although not every story in this volume was to my taste - something that's unlikely to happen unless I edit an anthology myself - there were still some fine ones.

The basic premise of the Secret Histor
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Claudia Piña
Siempre me ha gustado mucho el género fantastico, pero como todo mundo, suelo encontrar que en esa sección de la librería hay muchos libros con portadas de vikingos musculosos y/o doncellas con delgados vestidos y orejas puntiagudas junto a un lago en medio del bosque a la luz de la luna.

Sin embargo, hay mas en la fantasía que ese tipo de libros. Como este. Aquí, Peter S. Beagle reunió varias historias de fantasía que están del otro lado del género. Que no necesitan elfos ni espadas para ser fa
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Laurence Burke
This anthology of short stories, edited by Peter S. Beagle (best known as the author of "The Last Unicorn"), includes the introductory essay by Beagle and concluding essays buy Ursula K. Le Guin and David G. Hartwell that address the historical development of genre fiction - and especially the fantasy genre - and that development's role in narrowing the expectations of the average reader about what kind of story gets labeled "fantasy." All three, to varying extents, rail against the publisher-dr ...more
Nicholas Ozment
One of the best reprint short story collections I have read. Introductory material by the exemplary editor (and fabulous writer) Peter S. Beagle and essays by Ursual K. Le Guin and David Hartwell provide persuasive defenses of fantasy's place in serious literature (and specifically fantasy that is not of the commodified Tolkien-imitation quest variety), but the real proof comes from the stories themselves.

"The Barnum Museum" by Steven Millhauser really spells out why we love fantasy; why we rea
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A.E. Marling
I met Peter Beagle on his illustrious screening tour of the Last Unicorn, and I bought this book on a whim. The quality and variety of stories delighted me. The Lady of Skulls by Patricia A. McKillip told of a woman trapped in a cursed tower. Snow, Glass, Apples is the darkest story I've read by Neil Gaiman and the best. It retells the story of Snow White from the evil stepmother's point of view.
Amy
Every story in this collection had something of value, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading each one.

My favorites, for their wit, wonder, and vividness, were:

1. Scarecrow, by Gregory Maguire - how the scarecrow got hooked up with dorothy

2. The Barnum Museum, by Steven Millhauser - where the museum is the protagonist

3. Snow, Glass, Apples, by Neil Gaiman - a dark retelling of Snow White

4. 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss, by Kij Johnson - a magical tale of mysterious wonder and moving on

...and LeGuin's ess
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Peggy
Although I understand the frustration of writers tired of being marginalized, it's difficult to talk about without sounding whiny. Ursula LeGuin manages; Beagle, not so much. But none of that takes away from the fact that this is a stellar anthology whose lineup of participating authors should open a few eyes regarding “fantasy literature.” Particular favorites include Steven Millhauser's “The Barnum Museum,” “The Empire of Ice Cream” by Jeffrey Ford, Octavia E. Butler's “The Book of Martha,” an ...more
Adam
I've been looking for non-formulaic fantasy works semi-systematically for a year or so now, and this seemed like a promising avenue to scout the field. I've enjoyed stuff by Peter Beagle, Neil Gaiman, Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, and Susanna Clarke quite a bit, so I hoped to find some comparable writers in this anthology.

Like most short story collections, this one was hit and miss. Nothing had quite the power or originality I was hoping for. A couple of them were executed with a sense of psyc
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Magdelanye
Well selected,for the most part excellently written,short stories by a variety of authors,both well known and obscure.

I especially enjoyed The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford, who observes

'that everyone, at a point somewhere below consciousness,experiences the coinciding of sensory association,yet in most cases it is filtered out and only a single sense is given predominence in one's waking world...'only
"one of the 5 portals through which reality invades us" p151

and The Edge of the World by
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Brenda
There were some good stories here, and some I just completely skipped over because they weren't interesting to me at all. Overall a pretty good collection of short fantasy stories. (Keep in mind I'm not really a fan of short stories)
Dawn Albright
One of the best anthologies I can ever remember reading. I had only read two of the stories before (OK,"Bears Discover Fire" has been reprinted so many times they really probably should have skipped that one, good as it is.) There is so much breadth and variety here, I think this demonstrates what the fantasy field is capable of more than anything else I have ever read.

I remember seeing Mythago Woods all over bookstores when it came out and for some reason I had assumed it was generic crap. Afte
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Alessandro Gazoia
Stupidamente pensavo che un libro intitolato The Secret History of Fantasy fosse un saggio o una raccolta di interventi critici e storici sul fantasy... Il sintagma "secret history" mi pareva una concessione all'immaginario del genere da non tenere troppo in conto (se è vero che non si può giudicare un libro dalla copertina o dal titolo, è anche vero che il titolo "la storia segreta di" spesso prelude a libri con poca storia e nessun segreto).
Questo volume è invece una raccolta di racconti (tecn
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Red
This is a very good collection of fantasy short stories. There are authors I've read (Stephen King, Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman), authors I've heard of (Ursula Le Guin, Aimee Bender), and authors I've never heard of (Steven Millhauser, Robert Holdstock, Kij Johnson).

I have to say, Peter Beagle won me over in his introduction when he told a story about Sword of Shannara. He was asked for a jacket quote, and he was only a few chapters in when he called up the person who'd asked him and told her, b
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Malrubius
Pretty good stuff. I wanted to give this four stars except most of the best stories I had already read elsewhere, which means, I think, that it's not very "secret," at least not to me. Anyhow, some standout stories: I haven't read much Steven King but his "Mrs Todd's Shortcut" (which I hadn't read before even though it was apparently written in 1984) was probably my favorite of the bunch. I have master's in literature, so I'm not supposed to read Steven King (sarc), but he sure knows how to crea ...more
Rita Varian
This is a strong batch. It's hard for me to pick a few favorites to describe; that would take brains & subtlety and I've just got anger so I'm going to bounce off Ursula LeGuin's critical essay near the end. It was first published in 2007. Now I don't know when term "Magical Realism" came into play, but you may have heard me mention how much I hate it (just the category; I tend to like the books that are assigned to it).

So in "The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists", LeGuin is arguing
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Alice
It's always tricky, rating anthologies. The stories always vary wildly in enjoyment level, tone, reread value, writing style, and a number of other factors. If I enjoyed one story on a five-star level, and another one on a two-star, do I average them out? Do I go with how I felt about most of the stories?

In the end, I'm trying to look at this as a whole, and I have to admit, Ursula LeGuin's essay at the end about how to look at fantasy and its role versus "literary" writing, goes a long way to t
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Liz
I truly enjoyed this collection of fantasy stories that Beagle out together, mostly because it stayed away from the "epic" or "sword and sorcery" sub-genre that seems to dominate the genre as a whole and serves as a stereotype for fantasy geeks.

Some of the stories I didn't care for as much, but there weren't any I completely hated, and some of them I loved.

The standouts:

"The Lady of Skulls" by Patricia McKillip: This story is as close the anthology gets to sword and sorcery. A fable-like tale o
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Becky
This is an impressive collection of fantasy short stories, most of them from the last two decades. I enjoyed most of them unreservedly. There are also two excellent essays at the back about the history of fantasy and its relationship to the literary canon.

I didn't like the way that the book was packaged, with the tag line of "fantasy is back" - there has been a continuous tradition of thoughtful, well-written fantasy in the twentieth century; it's just been overlooked and then overshadowed by b
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John Orman
Supposedly the "secret" is that fantasy is back, better than ever.
Upon viewing the recent phenomena of books and movies about Star Wars, Superman, Batman, Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, and Harry Potter, I would agree!

This engaging compilation of cutting-edge, non-traditional fantasy includes works by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Octavia Butler, but also many other lesser-known but very talented authors.
Besides the stories, I really enjoyed the recent essays by David Hartwell, "The Makin
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Monica Davis
If you'd like to sample a variety of fantasy genre writings, this is the book for you; a collection of short stories by nineteen well-known authors in the fantasy genre. Some hits, some misses...a few incredible gems worthy of 5 stars; but I rated the book four stars based on the sum of all parts.

The standouts for me: The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company by Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi) is extraordinary; brilliantly crafted. Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn) insti
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laurenpie
Wonderful fantasy purists' anthology - No magic, melodrama or SciFi.

Loved it! A refreshing anthology of pure fantasy without magic, melodrama or SciFi.

Especially loved the sweet and wonder-inspiring "MRS. TODD'S SHORTCUT" by Stephen King, and the incredibly clever "SNOW, GLASS, APPLES" by Neil Gaiman.

Also sweet and wonderful were "BEARS DISCOVER FIRE" by Terry Bisson, "THE VITA AETERNA MIRROR COMPANY" by Yann Martel, and "THE BARNUM MUSEUM" by Steven Millhauser. T. C. Boyle was very entertaining
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Paper Droids
Edited by Peter S. Beagle, with short stories by some of your favourite fantasy authors!

The Secret History of Fantasy is an anthology of short stories by some of the best fantasy writers in the business, including Stephen King, Gregory Maguire, Yann Martel, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, and Beagle himself.

In his introduction, Beagle presents this anthology as a light in the dark, dull void that the fantasy genre has become. He references Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings numerous times, commen
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Muhammad Hosain Abdollahi Sabet
خیلی کم پیش میاد کل داستان‌های یه مجموعه‌ی ادبی(آنتولوژی) رو خونده باشم. این هم استثنا نیست. و در این مورد، همون تعدادی هم که خوندم، مال چند سال پیش بود. الان صرفاً حسم نسبت به داستان‌هایی که خوندم یادمه، بدون این که دقیقاً به خاطر بیارم داستان‌ها چی بودن.
Kinsey_m
It is always difficult to rate an anthology, and even more so in this case, as it contains excellent stories (the edge of the world, the empire of ice cream, ), interesting stories (26 monkeys also the abyss, the mythago wood, bears discover fire, super goat man), several average-unmemorable ones (even from authors who have written muuuuuuuuuuch better short stories) and even, in the case of Octavia Butler, a short story that I had to force myself to finish because it was grating on my nerves(I ...more
Amy
I did enjoy this collection, but it was a little uneven. Not every one was the most amazing. Only one story had R rated profanity.

The reason I gave this book the 4th star is because of the story by Stephen King, "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut." I don't normally like Stephen King, but this story was so good, it was a story I wish I could have written. It was so good it made me angry that since he could write such a good fantasy story, why does he waste his talent in the Horror genre? I was completely tra
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Bill
a great collection, edited by a wonderful thinker/writer.
David
There were some great short stories here. But I suspect I may end up most treasuring this book almost as much for the recommendations of other books in the preface. All of the books I recognized were good, and many even favorites --- Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King, of course, but also Bridge of Birds, Life of Pi, Beauty,Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and Wicked.
Nance Cedar
I don't normally enjoy short stories, but this collection is a wonderful world of strangeness from many of my favorite authors. Most find fantasic events or places in the modern world and, as good short stories should do, explore the depths of the characters who find themselves in strange and sometimes awful circumstances.
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Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American fantasist and author of novels, nonfiction, and screenplays. He is also a talented guitarist and folk singer. He wrote his first novel, A Fine and Private Place , when he was only 19 years old. Today he is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn, which routinely polls as one of the top ten fantasy novels of all time, and at least two of ...more
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“I want to say to the literature teacher who remains wilfully, even boastfully ignorant of a major element of contemporary fiction: you are incompetent to teach or judge your subject. Readers and students who do know the field, meanwhile, have every right to challenge your ignorant prejudice. Rise, undergraduates of the English departments! You have nothing to lose but your A on the midterm!” 3 likes
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