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Classic fantasy thread!

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message 1: by Veronica, Supreme Sword (new)

Veronica Belmont (veronicabelmont) | 1665 comments Mod
As per our most recent episode, our next pick will be a "classic fantasy" choice. Please list some of your favorites below, and the top choices will be put to a vote!


message 2: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard: The most important work of fantasy after Lord of the Rings, this is a collection of the first dozen or so Conan stories, detailing the famous warrior's career as a king, pirate, thief, and mercenary.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman and S. Morganstern: We all know the movie, but not many know that it originated as a novel. The two are virtually identical in terms of plot, and yet they're completely different in tone.

Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell: The story of a lothario who wanders through various fantastical realms seducing women, eventually ending up in Hell where he cuckolds Satan himself. This was one of the books "banned in Boston," and Cabell was prosecuted for obscenity in New York. But all the naughty bits were double entendres, and Cabell convinced the judge that they were unintentional and only deviated preverts would see anything dirty in the book.

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany: A young man in search of his fortune enters the fairy realm and falls in love with an elven princess. If you liked Stardust, you should like this. I mean, Gaiman stole most of the story from here.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard: A group of intrepid explorers, led by Allen Quatermain, trek into the unexplored heart of Africa in search of a missing Englishman. Along the way they discover the titular mines and help an exiled prince overthrow his evil uncle. This is a book that was extremely progressive by the standards of its day, though some elements will make modern readers cringe. Still, without this novel, there'd be no Indiana Jones or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs: A disparate group of Germans, Americans and Englishmen end up stranded on a mysterious island during World War I. An island where dinosaurs live alongside humans and a race of flying men. The publisher originally broke the story into three parts (The Land that Time Forgot, The People that Time Forgot, and Out of Time's Abyss) for publication, but most modern editions combine them into one volume under the title of the first book.


message 3: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments If this was classic "Science Fiction" then I would recommend the book Who Goes There?. The 1938 book which was the inspiration for John Carpenters 1982 movie "The Thing" (good movie - book was better)

My Classic Fantasy choices would be The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again - but on second thought, most people here have probably read it already.

Or the The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny - Amber is the one real world, casting infinite reflections of itself -- Shadow worlds, that can be manipulated by those of royal Amberite blood. But the royal family is torn apart by jealousies and suspicion; the disappearance of the Patriach Oberon has intensified the internal conflict by leaving the throne apparently up for grabs. In a hospital on the Shadow Earth, a young man is recovering from a freak car accident; amnesia has robbed him of all his memory, even the fact that...

How about a bit of the Arthurian Fantasy in Mark Twains - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Copy Right has expired so everyone can get it for free.

Or - better yet T.H. Whites The Once and Future King - "The Once and Future King" is children's fantasy as it should be, a delightful read for both kids and adults. Author T. H. White manages to mingle the humorous and the sad portions of the King Arthur story successfully, and he never talks down to his audience or tries to oversimplify the events. The result is a wonderfully entertaining book that never slows down, one that's both amusing and serious.


message 4: by Welwyn (last edited Sep 15, 2010 03:35PM) (new)

Welwyn Wilton Katz | 46 comments First I would like to suggest At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. This book, and the two others The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdieare three I'd be equally happy to see read by this group. They were written by MacDonald at the height of his power as a writer. He was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien but not really outclassed by him. Thankfully the three books I mention here are still available on Amazon, and so, likely other bookstores too. I'm heartened by that, because I almost never hear anyone talking about MacDonald any more, and yet he is, I believe, one of the best and most unique writers of the classical age of fantasy. ...North Wind is a short novel where the North Wind is literally a character, taking the hero with him on her travels, and the hero gradually learns why, as the story progresses. The Princess and the Goblin is the one most people like the most, an exciting tale of how Curdie attempts to save the Princess. The Princess and Curdie is, however, generally considered to be MacDonald's masterpiece. None are long. All are worth re-reading.

I would also like to suggest The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which I think most people saw as a movie and so missed the beauty inherent in the writing and the story "bits" that got left out and so trivialized the book in movie form. This is a book so gorgeous and strange that it is really true fantasy, a journey into fabulous new lands that only a writer of Peter S. Beagle's powers would dare attempt.

Finally, I would ask you to consider the 1984 book Moonheart, by Canadian Charles de Lint, whom I don't know personally but admire extremely. In this book, he began (to my knowledge) the urban fantasy genre that has proven so fascinating to so many writers since. I love this book, which is de Lint's first set in the town he invented in the real world, in which he sets many later novels for the journey between reality and the fantastical world. Characters come in from previous books, and go; new ones join the mix. He is a really interesting author for his "ordinary" characters alone: in this book, a pair of antiquarian booksellers, a Druid, a biker, an Inspector of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and an ancient Welsh bard.

Even if none of my suggestions are accepted here, I do hope that they will give some people a whole new set of writers to explore. Thanks.


message 5: by Welwyn (new)

Welwyn Wilton Katz | 46 comments I totally agree about "The Once and Future King." Brilliant choice.


message 6: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Crazy as it may be, I just wrote down The Once and Future King as a book to read in the near future on my way home from work today. This was inspired by Tom's mention of his love for Arthurian legend on S&L #41. This is my first choice.

Another suggestion is Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I think this book has an air of inevitability to it. If it doesn't get picked for the next book, it will probably be a choice later.


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael Minutillo (wolfbyte) I've never read any of these but they're on my to-reads shelf but how about The Neverending Story, A Wizard of Earthsea or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


message 8: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4117 comments Hmm, nothing really to add here. I've never read The Once and Future King, but as soon as I saw it written the first time, I thought it was a great idea (and I too am really into Arthurian stories). Oddly, though I've read it before, I picked up Dragonflight from Audible and have it sitting on my iPod.


message 9: by Paul (new)

Paul (paulcavanaugh) | 51 comments I though of suggesting some classic classics. Why not Frederick Rebsamen's or Heaney, Seamus's translation of Beowulf. Or, for an eastern fantasy, Monkey: A Folk Novel of China (trans. Arthur Waley)?

They are nothing like the movie/mini-series in case anyone is worried.


message 10: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I've been wanting to read some Lord Dunsany.


message 11: by Rick (new)

Rick Pasley (hikr3) | 71 comments How about A Wrinkle in Time? I haven't read that in forever!


message 13: by dudeslife (last edited Sep 16, 2010 06:18AM) (new)

dudeslife | 9 comments Forgive my negativity, but why don't we avoid books most of us were required to read in school (Authurian tripe, CS Lewis, Beowulf, etc)..

The author doesn't need to be dead to have penned classic fantasy. I urge you to give these a try:

Lord Foul's Bane
The first book in one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever. He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself. Yet he was tempted to believe, to fight for the Land, to be the reincarnation of its greatest hero....

Deryni Rising
In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the mysterious forces of magic and the superior power of the Church combine to challenge the rule of young Kelson. Now the fate of the Deryni -- a quasi-mortal race of sorcerers -- and, indeed, the fate of all the Eleven Kingdoms, rests on Kelson's ability to quash the rebellion by any means necessary . . . including the proscribed use of magic!


message 14: by Jonshann0w (last edited Sep 16, 2010 06:31AM) (new)

Jonshann0w | 7 comments Ok, I went for a reasonably scientific approach to this. I sorted my read bookshelf by avg rating, to come up with the most popular options. In the Fantasy Genre the highest were obviously Tolkien, which while are a great suggestion I would guess everyone who is going to read fantasy will have already have read these. Next are WOT and Song of Ice and Fire which we have already covered.

This leaves two very obvious and in my view good choices:-
Magician (Raymond Feist) Avg Rating 4.27
Legend (David Gemmell) Avg Rating 4.18

My recommendation would be Legend, it's a brilliant story, with great battle scenes and cast. Druss is a larger than life hero. Plus from what I have seen on the S&L forum almost no one seems to have read it, so for that reason alone probably makes a better choice than Magician which I think is more widely read. Also Legend is a shorter and quicker read, rather than making people undertake another big read.

For those that like Legend after reading it there are about 30 other Gemmell's that are all very good.


message 15: by Brent (new)

Brent Quigley (mrquiggles) | 6 comments OOOLLLLD(est?): Phantastes by George MacDonald - generally regarded as the first fantasy novel for adults. Welwyn mentioned a number of MacDonald books earlier, but not this one...is there a particular reason?

OLD: The Well at the World's End by William Morris

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Everyone's seem the movie, but who's read the book? (Not me)

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, e-curmudgeon.


message 16: by Tim (new)

Tim | 2 comments Elric of Melniboné Awesome tormented anti-hero


message 17: by Tim (new)

Tim | 2 comments Hiero's Journey For those of you whomever played the game Gamma World :) Stay Radiated...


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael Minutillo (wolfbyte) Brent wrote: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Everyone's seem the movie, but who's read the book? (Not me)"

Haha. I've been reading this to my kids for a few weeks. They love it but they were confused at first because I'm reading them the ebook off of my phone ;)


message 19: by Sam (last edited Sep 17, 2010 08:18AM) (new)

Sam Smith (last_endeavor) My suggestions are:

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin

I was watching an interview of Patrick Rothfuss and he said The Last Unicorn is one of his favorite fantasy books.


message 20: by aldenoneil (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments Conan: seconded.


message 21: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip is a classic, imho, and a favorite of mine. I'm pretty sure that there's a volunme that combines all three parts and it would come in shorter still than much current stuff.


message 22: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments (ok, so are you all manually building the links to goodreads page for the books you reference; I thought maybe it would be created automatically...or magically should I say.)


message 23: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Al - when posting a message - right above the text box is a "add book/author" link. Click on that to get a DIV box that lets you search by author or book title then click the "Add" button next to the one you want to add to your message. (it can create a thumbnail or a text link)


message 24: by Vvxn (new)

Vvxn | 5 comments Al wrote: "Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip is a classic, imho, and a favorite of mine. I'm pretty sure that there's a volunme that combines all three parts and it would come in shorter still than muc..."

Ooh, I just picked Riddlemaster of Hed up at a used book store because of the awesomely cheesy cover. Dude, the guy looks like He-Man! So far, it's pretty fun. I'd be glad to read all three. And yay for some recommendations of women fantasy authors!


message 25: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Can I throw in here that I am just sick thinking that books from the Eighties are "classics"? I was in my twenties in the Eighties. Books from the Eighties are not old enough to be "classic fantasy". In my opinion, fantasy that goes back to The Lord of the Rings and earlier are "classics".


message 26: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4117 comments Sandi wrote: "Can I throw in here that I am just sick thinking that books from the Eighties are "classics"?"

Gotta go by what you think of as classics. I was born in '79 so obviously my opinion of what's classic will differ from yours.

I would sort of define "classic" to be more of the type of "been around awhile and everybody knows of it; they may not have read it, but when you hear the title, you recognize it and associate it as a commonly-known title in the genre, even if you don't regularly read the genre."


message 27: by Remington (new)

Remington | 38 comments I'm more laser than sword but I've heard good things about The Once and Future King so that has my vote.


message 28: by Josephine (new)

Josephine (craftyjosie) | 3 comments The Guys can read just talked about A Wizard of Earthsea. It's on my list of to be read.


message 29: by Nathan (new)

Nathan (forjay) | 51 comments I would be interested in The Once and Future King or A Wizard of Earthsea.

The Silmarillion is another one that's been on my list for a long time, but I can't ever seem to get motivated for it.

Finally, if we want to go slightly toward the horror side of fantasy, we could read a classic H. P. Lovecraft book. Perhaps At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror.


message 30: by dudeslife (new)

dudeslife | 9 comments Sandi wrote: "Can I throw in here that I am just sick thinking that books from the Eighties are "classics"? I was in my twenties in the Eighties. Books from the Eighties are not old enough to be "classic fanta..."

You are overthinking it.


message 31: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments Tim wrote: "Elric of Melniboné Awesome tormented anti-hero"

Another vote here for Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. Brilliant high fantasy hero with a a dark and tortured soul.


message 32: by Vvxn (new)

Vvxn | 5 comments Please, please not The Once and Future King. I've read it at least 3 times. I'd totally read some Lovecraft or Moorcock. I'm also totally enjoying Robin McKinley right now. Next on my list is The Hero and the Crown.


message 33: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Nathan wrote: "I would be interested in The Once and Future King or A Wizard of Earthsea.

The Silmarillion is another one that's been on my list for a long time, but I can't..."


Th Silmarillion isn't a good choice since it's a very dense book that's hard to get into. It took me five tries before I managed to get past page 50, and even the Tolkien Professor admits it took about as many tries for him. Maybe Tales from the Perilous Realm, which contains several short novels.

As for Lovecraft, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath would be a better choice as it's his most fantastical book; I believe there's a volume with Dream Quest and At the Mountains of Madness (which are both short novels).


message 34: by Eric (last edited Sep 17, 2010 12:18PM) (new)

Eric Taylor | 20 comments Well I for one would put my vote in for The Princess Bride, I have seen the movie so many times, but have never read the book.

Couple of more selections to think about are Another Fine Myth by Robert Lynn Asprin. Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is also a great classic fantasy. Also, we could go for a safe classic in The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien. Just some suggestions, but I'm up for anything.


message 35: by Halbot42 (new)

Halbot42 | 185 comments Elric is a emo ridden twerp. Lets read Amber. Or Jhereg start of the Vlad series, just about the coolest mafia assasin in fantasy. Lovecraft would be cool too


message 36: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Gass | 36 comments How about a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story collection by Fritz Leiber? We could go with "Swords and Deviltry" which is a collection that includes the first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story and the Hugo and Nebula award winning novella "Ill Met in Lankhmar", along with two other stories.


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

The Crystal Cave: I noticed that there are quite a few nominations for 'Once and Future King'. 'The Crystal Cave' was written in 1970 and is the first volume of a great Arthurian series.

Alice in Wonderland: I've seen this classic pop up on some fantasy lists. I read this and 'Through the Looking Glass' many years ago, and it might be fun to revisit them.

Grendel: I read this book in college as I was tackling 'Beowulf'. I remember it being a really interesting take on the story.


Watership Down: One of my best friends loved this book. It's been on my 'to-read' list for a long time.


message 38: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments Halbot42 wrote: "Elric is a emo ridden twerp. Lets read Amber. Or Jhereg start of the Vlad series, just about the coolest mafia assasin in fantasy. Lovecraft would be cool too"

How dare you dismiss such a brilliant and classic fantasy figure as Elric like that. I can tell from the language you use and the recommendations you make that you are a five minute old shallow superficial American. Get lost.


message 39: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4117 comments Sarah wrote: "Watership Down: One of my best friends loved this book. It's been on my 'to-read' list for a long time. "

Oddly, S&L read this a few years back, when we were still a Ning group. I thought this was a hit-or-miss book. I didn't particularly enjoy it (actually I don't think I could be bothered to finish it), it just didn't grab me. But I know some people really seemed to like it.


message 40: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4117 comments Halbot42 wrote: "Lets read Amber. Or Jhereg start of the Vlad series, just about the coolest mafia assasin in fantasy. Lovecraft would be cool too"

Amber? Can't say I know what book you're talking about.

Personally, I think to call Jhereg "classic" is a bit silly (at least, going by my definition of classic as I said earlier, i.e. books that people identify as fantasy, even people that don't read fantasy). Though I've heard of it, I'm pretty sure my mom hasn't. Nevermind that it was written in 2002.

There are a number of books in this thread that I think would be on everybody's list of what's classic, though I have to admit, there are a lot here I have no interest in. Guess we'll see which ones go into the poll and which one wins... (Veronica, when's the poll going up?!?!!) :)


message 41: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments terpkristin wrote: "Amber? Can't say I know what book you're talking about.

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, the first part of the Amber series.

Personally, I think to call Jhereg "classic" is a bit silly"


Jhereg was actually published in 1983, but other than that I agree it's not a classic. My understanding is it's not even that popular within fantasy fandom.


message 42: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Noel wrote: "How dare you dismiss such a brilliant and classic fantasy figure as Elric like that...."

Some people really don't like the New Wave and find it pretentious.

I can tell from the language you use and the recommendations you make that you are a five minute old shallow superficial American. Get lost.


I think that's a bit much. It's not like he recommended the works of John Ringo or Tom Kratman. Brust's works are well liked by SF critics, and Lovecraft is the foundation for much of modern horror.


message 43: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4117 comments Sean wrote: "Jhereg was actually published in 1983, but other than that I agree it's not a classic. My understanding is it's not even that popular within fantasy fandom."

Ah, guess it was just a certain edition I was looking at here on Goodreads that was originally published in 2002.

It's interesting to see how people feel about various fantasy books and where they fit in. I remember a time on Ning when we were really trying to stay away from the "classic" books, to find new authors and such.


message 44: by Rick (new)

Rick Pasley (hikr3) | 71 comments It never fails when discussing "the classics", no matter what the subject, it always starts arguements. I also remember when the group shied away from the "classic" books. With so much new and exciting fantasy being written right now, I wish we would go back to that ideology. To me, classic fantasy reads as stiff and weak. The tastes of consumers has changed the genre enough so that I don't find older fantasy appealing at all. I will put up Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, or george r. r. martin against any of the classics.


message 45: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Rick wrote: "It never fails when discussing "the classics", no matter what the subject, it always starts arguements..."

I don't know about that. On the science fiction side, we've done Dune, Childhood's End, The Forever War, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (and Ender's Game probably qualifies too) with no problem. You'd think classic science fiction would be harder to get into because the technology is out of date, while swords and horses haven't changed since the days of Morris and MacDonald.

While I agree that a lot of older fantasy is stiff -- A Voyage to Arcturus, Titus Groan, The Worm Ouroboros -- much of it doesn't. Haggard is as readable as Conan Doyle, while Howard and Burroughs had the simple style of pulp writers who were as likely to be read by ten year old boys a adults.

But then a lot of modern fantasy is drek -- Sturgeon's Law and all that. If there's more good stuff today, it's because there's more crap as well. Martin might be able to compete with Dunsany, but most of the Extruded Fantasy Product that's out there isn't even close to the same league.


message 46: by Betsy (new)

Betsy (betsybb3) I've seen lots of mentions of The Once and Future King, but actually the first book that came to my mind for this thread was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which I think of as a more mystical take on the Arthurian legend.

Almost anything by Ursula K. Leguin, esp. the earlier ones like A Wizard of Earthsea series.

The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne Macaffrey.


message 47: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Stoessel (vinny2020) | 36 comments I'll vote for Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny.
Nine Princes in Amber One of my favorite fantasy novels ever. Equally awesome would be Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
Elric of Melniboné (Elric, #1) by Michael Moorcock


message 48: by Halbot42 (last edited Sep 19, 2010 04:41AM) (new)

Halbot42 | 185 comments Try to remember Noel, i insulted Elric not you. Wish you could say the same. Anyway, Elric runs around being conflicted by all his silly desires and stroking his black sword and murdering those who try to help him in almost every sense. I have little interest in authors who feel the need to make their characters mighty by murdering women. I find it a dull and dreary series, whereas Amber dates back almost as far, is more influential, is consistent with quantum, and it's fun. Now go caress your black sword Noel. "5 minute old shallow superficial american" gotta save that for my troll wall...
As to whether Jhereg is classic enough for you, thats ok, you dont need to vote for it. My rationale recommending it was that it is in the classical vein, is more modern and accessible, is a fast, fun read, and the author is actually alive so some level of interaction is possible, whereas interviewing Tolkien or Zelazney would require some advances in ouija board technology. I think Brust represents the classical ethic but with modern sensibilities, and i think we should try to support good currently working writers.
Thanks for speaking up Sean, imagine my chagrin in that i posted how conflicted i am that i like john ringo in spite of everything he believes in and everything i believe in. He is silly but writes great action, but i agree the stuff with Kratman trying to redeem the SS was dreck.
And oh yeah, while im not sure they really are fantasy, i do love the bunnies, watership would be fun to revisit


message 49: by Halbot42 (new)

Halbot42 | 185 comments Probably asking for trouble but... The Gunslinger. The start of a modern masterpiece by Stephen King, the best writer since Dickens. There i said it release the trolls


message 50: by Kris (last edited Sep 19, 2010 07:09AM) (new)

Kris (kvolk) I would add Karl Edward Wagner Kane books. Like Conan in a way but Kane is a anti hero and Wagner is not a pulp writer like Howard was. I also think Guy Gavriel Kay The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is an awesome fantasy series in the Tolkien tradition.


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