Old School Fantasy

This list contains fantasy books that are written in the classical mode. Books of this kind are typically written with a strong emphasis on its use of archaic terminology to achieve an ancient air. Also prominent in this particular genre are the use of quasi medieval kingdoms usually set in an imaginary or "secondary" world teeming with unique, but fictional peoples, cultures, flora, and fauna.
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4.13 avg rating — 40,267 ratings
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4.36 avg rating — 72 ratings
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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 750 ratings
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61 books · 24 voters · list created June 26th, 2012 by Kevis Hendrickson (votes) .
1 like · 
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Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Garham (new)

Garham No offense, but aren't peake and dunsany really the only old-school fantasy that appear on this list?


message 2: by Kevis (last edited Jul 08, 2012 06:26PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson No offense taken. I would suppose it depends on your definition of old school fantasy. If this list were exclusive to only the fantasy books written by the progenitors of the genre, perhaps you would be correct that only Peake or Dunsany would qualify. But since the term "fantasy" wasn't even a literary term used in reference to the genre until after the popularity of The Lord of the Rings in the 60’s, I find it very difficult to exclude books like The Chronicles of Narnia series from this list, especially since they appeared around the same time as Tolkien’s work starting with The Hobbit which was published in the late 1930’s. As such, I doubt I need to explain the merits of including Tolkien on this list.

In fact, we could expand this list to include pre-Dunsanian works of fantasy that would include historical epics such as The Eddas, Beowulf, and The Arthurian sagas, since they are even more fantastical than many of the books appearing on this list. But that wouldn't be technically accurate either. Others such as yourself may have differing opinions on the matter, but I'd prefer this list to catalog books based primarily on similarity of style, language, and prose rather than publication date. There aren't many, but there exists a few contemporary works of fantasy that I consider more worthy of being on this list than some of the books that I am sure will be added later.


message 3: by Garham (new)

Garham Interesting points. Obviously when we're discussing nebulous terms like "old-school" it's impossible to be entirely scientific or even systematic.

You are right to point out that there is an unwritten assumption underlying any discussion of books on a website like goodreads that when we talk about "old-school x", we're really talking about "oldschool x (modern fiction 19th century onwards). I don't have any problem with that, and yeah I think that it is pretty fair to begin the history of modern fantasy with Dunsany or so.

This is obviously just my opinion which isn't worth much, but if I myself were to pick a single most obvious event to demarcate "old-school" from "new school" fantasy I think I'd have to pick LotR as being the divider. I would pick this point because it is unquestionably the most influential work by a landslide since its date of publication, to the extent that other fantasy has been to a large extent unable to escape its' shadow. This is not really here nor there, but I think it helps to explain my position on the matter.

Hence yes, Narnia would be old school, as would Dunsany and Peake as mentioned. Others that I would add would be REH, A Merritt, possibly Burroughs, Norton's earlier witch world stuff, A couple of Poul Anderson books etc. However I'd probably be better served by shutting up and just creating my own list or contributing books to this one than talking about it, no?


message 4: by Garham (last edited Jul 09, 2012 08:14AM) (new)

Garham Oh yeah, I guess you're right that the Hobbit clearly qualifies as old-school fantasy also.

What about ER Eddison? I do not care for his work or world view, but I don't think that any list of Old-School fantasy would be complete without "the Worm Ourobourous".


message 5: by Kevis (last edited Jul 09, 2012 09:46AM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson Garham wrote: "Interesting points. Obviously when we're discussing nebulous terms like "old-school" it's impossible to be entirely scientific or even systematic..."

As this is a public list, I acknowledge that I have no control over the books that get added here. I've created other lists before on this site that made specific requests of contributors such as asking them not to add fantasy books to a list designed to feature exclusively science fiction titles. But of course, some readers felt the need to add fantasy books anyway, lol.

My experience leads me to believe that over time, this list will feature books that, as you suggest, should never appear on it. Assuming that everyone has their own sliding scale regarding which books they consider "old school", there's going to be some inevitable confusion. To avoid adding to that confusion, I've refrained from adding modern books that IMHO should probably be featured on this list since the writing style of those books are even more old school than some of the oldest of old school fantasy books.

Ultimately, I created this list because there wasn't any other resource that I knew of that I could refer to that featured books that fell under the umbrella term "old school fantasy books". This list may not be perfect, and will likely become less perfect over time. But I am hopeful that other readers will find it useful, as I do, in directing them to not only the literary works that form the foundation of this exciting genre, but also worthy book titles that carry on their legacy.


message 6: by Kevis (last edited Jul 09, 2012 09:47AM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson Garham wrote: "What about ER Eddison? I do not care for his work or world view, but I don't think that any list of of Old-School fantasy would be complete without "the Worm Ourobourous"."

As this is an ever growing list, there are tons of worthy books currently missing from it. But I do agree that Eddison should be added. I'll go ahead and add him now. But if you have any more suggestions, please do add them. After all, this list ceased to be my own the moment I published it. It belongs to Goodreads and all of its wonderful members now!


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