Influential Authors in Fantasy, Appendix 2 – Reading List!

The following is a reading list of works by the authors I’ve put forward as among the most influential in the shaping of the Fantasy genre. These books are not necessarily the best books by those authors, for two reasons – first, my own ignorance, which has sometimes left me unable to confidentally select the most famous, most accomplished or most influential work by a certain author, and, second, the way that some authors are better known for works farther from the Fantasy genre. Not every book here is Fantasy – some predate the genre, others are from sister-genres – but I’ve endeavoured to give some works by the authors more relevant to the genre, rather than the best or most famous novels. So, for instance, I include H.G. Wells’ urban fantasy, The Wonderful Visit, rather than a more famous but less overtly fantastical book like The Time Traveller or The Shape of Things to Come.

The number of books for each author is not strictly an indication of their influence. Rather, it reflects my ability to sum up their influence in a single book. Sometimes, I felt that giving several books better reflected their significance (as, for instance, in the case of William Morris), but more often I have listed multiple books only when the books seemed distinct in their influence, and where listing only one would fail, I thought, to encapsulate the spirit of the author. This is not always proportional to significance – so, for instance, while many would argue that Asimov should not be on this list at all, I have given him two works, reflecting two different sides of his authorship, whereas C.S. Lewis, a far more directly influential figure, has been given only one (as I felt that mentioning the other Narnia books would add little, and that the Perelandra novels were not sufficiently innovative or popular to be worth mentioning on their own).

Above all, the motivating force behind my choices has primarily been whimsy. Like the list of authors itself, this in no way sets out to be definitive, objective, or scholarly. This is as much a list for my own benefit, to remind me to read or re-read certain works, as it is for the benefit of anybody else – and, accordingly, my own interests, curiosities and whimsies have guided my hand here and there.

There is also, of course, some dubiousness as to what constitutes a work. For series, I have generally given only the first volume, but with some exceptions where the series was written as a single book and can be found as one (The Lord of the Rings) or where the individual books are so short that an omnibus edition is still not a weighty tome (The Foundation Trilogy). For short stories, sometimes I have given fix-ups and collections, generally where the collection is put together by the author themselves not long after the initial publication of the stories; elsewhere I have just listed some stories, which you may or may not be able to find collected in a single volume.

Finally, two words should be said about names. Regarding the names of books, it was common at one time for all works to carry a subtitle indicating the genre of the book – so, for instance, The Mysteries of Udolpho was published as The Mysteries of Udolpho, A Romance. I haven’t included these subtitles – they are generally bland, they appear to have changed sometimes between editions at the whim of the editor, and should be thought of as advertising descriptions rather than parts of the title. I have also not included fraudulent authorship or provenance information, given to a work either by mistake or as false advertising by the publisher (as with The Vampyre), or for intentional artistic purposes by the author (as with The Castle of Otranto). I don’t think this should really be considered part of the title, although admittedly this is debateable in the case of The Castle of Otranto, A Story. Translated by William Marshal, Gent. From the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto.

I have, however, included subtitles that offer alternative or explanatory names, and genre descriptions for books after 1850 – I judged that MacDonald and Cabell both intentionally gave their books these genre descriptions against the general trend of novels at the time, for artistic reasons.

The second thing is the names of authors. Again, whimsy has interfered with me. I decided that rather than give initials or middle names or titles or diminutives or whatever, I would just give a very plain and factual version of the author’s name: their personal first name, and their surname, both as given by their parents at birth (I have, however, allowed Byron to have three names, judging his surname to be “Gordon Byron”). There’s no real justification for this – it was a simple formatting decision at first, which I refused to back down from purely on grounds of whimsy. This has sometimes given forms quite distinct from those the author generally goes by. I hope that authors and their estates won’t take offence at this. Where the given name is obviously close to the name an author goes by, I have let this go without mention, but when the given name (either personal name or the entire name) is unguessably different from the popular name, I have given the popular name in brackets.

A statistical randomness: the best name to be born with in order to become an author who influences the Fantasy genre is clearly ‘William’ – there are 5, and one Wilhelm. Runners up, all with three,  are ‘George’ (plus two more if you count Georg and Jorge), ‘Terence’, and ‘John’, both with three. ‘Stephen’, ‘Robert’, ‘James’ and ‘Howard’ are close behind with 2 each, and ‘Joseph’ deserves special mention – 2 authors on this list were christened ‘Joseph’, yet neither is known by that name, nor any derivative of it.

Anyway, the books. Chronologically.

 

Before 1837

1: The Castle of Otranto (1764) – Horace Walpole
The original gothic novel

2: Vathek (1786) – William Beckford
A gothic tale of the decadent orient

3: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) – Anne Radcliffe
The most famous novel by the most succesful (critically and commercially) of the gothic novelists, and more explicitly supernatural than its forebears. Now rather less well-known, however, than its parody, Northanger Abbey

4: Hymns to the Night (1800) – Georg von Hardenberg (“Novalis”)
A meditation on life and death often considered the pinnacle of Romanticism, and the spark that birthed a long-lived worldview (and later translated by MacDonald himself)

5: Heinrich von Ofterdingen (author died 1802) – Georg von Hardenberg (“Novalis”)
Novalis’ novel-fragment gives Romanticism its most potent symbol

6: The Four Zoas: the Torments of Love & Jealousy in the Death and Judgment of Albion the Ancient Man (abandoned c. 1807) – William Blake
Blake’s bizarre Silmarillion, that seeks to unify and set plain his mythology. An earlier version was completed but never published, under the title Vala, or The Death and Judgement of the Eternal Man: A Dream of Nine Nights

7: Faust Part One (1808) – Johann Goethe
A dark folk tale becomes one of the classics of German literature (part two, however, is notoriously difficult and little read)

8: The Lady of the Lake (1810) – Walter Scott
Scott’s narrative poem of the Scottish clans sparked (along with the work of Macpherson) the Highland Revival that presaged later mediaeval revivalism

9: Children’s and Household Tales (1812) – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Centuries of dark of and bloody supernatural folk tales collected and made more suitable for children

10: Manfred (1817) – George Gordon Byron
Byron’s incest-inspired poem-play of guilt, despair, bereavement, black magic, and a brooding proto-Nietzschean tragic hero who defies authorities mundane and supernatural, and in the process begets two centuries of imitations

11: Frankenstein;  or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) – Mary Shelley
A seminal work of science horror, and a rare Gothic work in which the new could be as frightening as the old. Written under the influence of a rainy weekend, considerable quantities of laudanum, and a copy of Vathek

12: The Vampyre (1819) – John Polidori
Byron becomes immortal

13: Ivanhoe (1819) – Walter Scott
Perhaps the single most influential novel in birthing mediaeval revivalism, and helped establish its author as a byword for literary brilliance for a century

14: Don Juan (author died 1824, unfinished) – George Gordon Byron
Byron’s controversial magnum opus, a dashing epic of heroism with a heavy tincture of oriental decadence

15: [assorted short stories including “The Fall of the House of Usher”,  “The Pit and the Pendulum”,  “The Island of the Fay”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and “The Masque of the Red Death”] (1832-1849) – Edgar Poe
Famous tales by one of the founders of supernatural horror

16: Fairy Tales Told for Children (1835-1837) – Hans Anderson
Contains the bulk of Anderson’s most famous stories, both updated folk tales and his own imitations – the most succesful follower of the Grimms.

 

 

1837-1901

17: Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858) – George MacDonald
MacDonald’s symbolic allegory is perhaps the first stirring of the modern Fantasy genre

18: The Lake Regions of Central Africa (1860) – Richard Burton
The great colonial explorer’s most famous adventure, to discover the source of the Nile – told by a man determined to discredit his former companion and then rival, Speke. Not actually fiction, let alone fantasy fiction, but still a huge influence on the genre!

19: Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) – Jules Verne
Intended at first as a reasonably scientific adventure, the progress of science has left this a classic tale of fantasy, and the father (if not the ultimate progenitor) of an entire genre of hollow earth fantasy

20: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) – Jules Verne
The earth’s own oceans become a fantastical world to be explored

21: In a Glass Darkly (1872) – Joseph (“Sheridan”) Le Fanu
Five of Le Fanu’s stories, including the novella “Carmilla”, the mother of the modern vampire story

22: The Princess and the Goblin (1872) – George MacDonald
MacDonald’s second great fantasy moves away from the philosophical to the more approachable and familiar – this is the book that inspired writers like Tolkien and Lewis

23: Idylls of the King (1859-1885) – Alfred Tennyson
King Arthur (via Malory and the Mabinogian) retold for Victorians in an elegaic song-cycle. Beyond repopularising the myths of Arthur and his knights, Tennyson’s poems were at the forefront of the reawakening of interest in chivalric ideals, courtly love, and firey magical celts

24: The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night  (1885) – Richard Burton
The hyperflorid, sex-obsessed and idiosyncratic translation that made the ‘Arabian Nights’ famous once more in the English-speaking world, and cemented ideas of oriental vice, and oriental magic

25: King Solomon’s Mines (1885) – Henry (“Rider”) Haggard
The African adventures of big game hunter Allen Quartermain begin, and the Lost World genre with them. Considered one of the greatest adventure writers ever, Haggard and his fame helped launch the pulp magazines

26: She: A History of Adventure (1887) – Henry (“Rider”) Haggard
One of the best-selling novels of all time, with a more overtly supernatural element than in King Solomon’s Mines; renowned also for its racism (on the other hand, Haggard could be unusually multicultural at times, being one of the few bestselling writers of his time to write novels with entirely African casts).

27: The Wood Beyond the World (1894) – William Morris
Reputedly the first pure secondary world fantasy ever published

28: The Jungle Book (1894) – Joseph (“Rudyard”) Kipling
Kipling presents his English readers with a doubly fantastical setting – first by telling tales of India, and then by making the animals of India his characters, not merely to tell fables, but as the heroes and villains of serious and dramatic tales

29: The Wonderful Visit (1895) – Herbert Wells
A now-little-remembered early urban fantasy novel from Wells in which a violin-playing “angel” (not of a religious kind) from the Land of Dreams inexplicably finds itself in Victorian England

30: The Well at the World’s End – William Morris
The second of Morris’ two famous romances is arguably the more directly influential

31: The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) – Herbert Wells
Again Wells shows that his earlier work leans more to the fantastical, with this classic tale of bioengineering

32: Dracula (1897) – Abraham Stoker
Possibly the most famous supernatural novel of all time

33: [assorted stories, including “The Great God Pan”, “The White People”, and “The Terror”] (1894-1917) – Arthur Machen
The stories of the progenitor of 20th century supernatural horror, and Lovecraft’s predecessor

34: The Invisible Man (1897) – Herbert Wells
Wells updates Plato for the Victorian age, though this time the magic ring is disguised in chemistry

35: Kim (1901) – Joseph (“Rudyard”) Kipling
Kipling provides arguably the pinnacle of orientalist literature, suffusing his India with the (to English readers) alien depth and complexity only a child of India could provide

 

 

1901-1939

36: Five Children and It (1902) – Edith Nesbit
The ancient story concept of the wish-giving fairy is updated for a contemporary young audience by marrying magic with realism

37: The Gods of Pegāna (1905) – Edward Plunkett (“Lord Dunsany”)
Dunsany one-ups Morris by creating an entire fantastical pantheon to go with his secondary world

38: [assorted stories, including “The Metamorphosis”, “Investigations of a Dog”, “Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk” and “The Burrow”] (1908-1924) – Franz Kafka
Much of Kafka’s most famous work is far from fantasy, but at other times he does come close. These four stories are examples of the fantastic – a transmogrification and three non-human protagonists

39: The Ball and the Cross (1909) – Gilbert Chesterton
Less famous and probably less influential than his two earlier novels (The Man Who Was Thursday and The Napoleon of Notting Hill), but one of the most fantastical – a surreal and sometimes allegorical adventure about what happens when a Jacobite and an atheist agree to duel to the death

40: The Ballad of the White Horse (1911) – Gilbert Chesterton
For once, Chesterton abandons his trademark wit and surrealism, and instead crafts an epic poem about King Alfred’s war against the Danes, distilling much of the essence of heroic romance. One of the few works to equally influence both Tolkien (in its melancholy mythic grandeur) and Howard (in its psychological dissection of sword-swinging heroism)

41: The Night Land (1912) – William Hodgson
A bereaved 17th century man beholds the earth millions of years in the future, after the Sun has gone out.

42: The Book of Wonder (1912) – Edward Plunkett (“Lord Dunsany”)
Dunsany pre-empts criticism of his verbose and important style by authoring a new collection of fantastic tales in which he politely mocks himself

43: A Princess of Mars (1912) – Edgar Burroughs
The first John Carter novel takes the Haggardian novel to the stars, or at least to the planets, and creates the planetary romance genre

44: At The Earth’s Core (1914) – Edgar Burroughs
As an encore to 1912’s Carter novel, and the first Tarzan novel (published the same year), Burroughs delivers one of the classic hollow earth novels. Determined not to outdo the mere dinosaurs of other authors, Burroughs has mind-controlling pterodactyls.

45: Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice (1919) – James Cabell
Arthurian legend and Dante are parodied in one of the first classics of comic fantasy, as Jurgen travels through dimensions in search of courtly love. Alastair Crowley called it one of the epoch-making masterpieces of philosophy.

46: The King of Elfland’s Daughter (1924) – Edward Plunkett (“Lord Dunsany”)
Dunsany brings his fantasy into a longer format, and combines fairy tale with high romance
47: [assorted stories, including “The Call of Cthulhu”, At the Mountains of Madness, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and The Shadow over Innsmouth]  (1926-1931) – Howard Lovecraft
The seminal writer of cosmic horror

48: [assorted stories, chiefly regarding Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane] (1928-1936) – Robert Howard
The seminal writer of sword and sorcery

49: The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937) – John Tolkien
Tolkien takes a break from working on his private mythology to tell a light-hearted fairy tale to his children. Of course, he can’t quite avoid a few darker moments and allusions…

50: The Once and Future King (1938-1958) – Terence White
White updates Arthur for a more cynical age, complete with metatextual irony and a witty narrator – as well as a great deal of tragedy

 

 

1939-1976

51: [the Lankhmar short stories] (1939-1988) – Fritz Leiber
Leiber may not have begun Sword and Sorcery, even if he did give it its name – but his Lankhmar tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser may be the archetypal examples of the genre

52: Fictions (1941-1956) – Jorge Borges
A collection of some of Borges’ most innovative and distinctive short stories

53: [assorted stories, including The Last Question, Nightfall, Blind Alley, The Ugly Little Boy, and Living Space] (1941-1958) – Isaac Asimov
By chance (or perhaps not), Asimov was often at his best when his stories strayed furthest from conventional ‘science fiction’

54: The Foundation Trilogy (1941-1953) – Isaac Asimov
Asimov’s magnum opus (arguably) is an epic of prophecies, of mystic artifacts, and magical mind-bending powers – all dressed up as respectable science fiction – as well as a key turn from the physical to the sociological

55: Titus Groan (1946) – Mervyn Peake
Peake’s one-man gothic revival may have little if any overt fantasy content, but that hasn’t stopped it from inspiring many with its baroque oddity

56: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) – Clive Lewis
The first, if not the best, of the Narnia novels was, I believe, briefly the most succesful fantasy ever published, and remains a mainstay of modern childhood

57: Tales of the Dying Earth (1950) – John Vance
Vance’s short stories merge fantasy with science fiction in the Earth of the far distant future

58: The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) – John Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings.

59: The Stealer of Souls (1963) – Michael Moorcock
A collection of the first Elric stories – Moorcock’s Byronic, parodic, Sword and Sorcery riposte to Tolkien

60: Rocannon’s World (1966) – Ursula Le Guin
Le Guin’s first novel may not have the fame of her later SF works, but it bridges genres even more completely – a novel of faster-than-light travel, interstellar warfare, and sword-wielding elves.

61: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) – Gabriel García Márquez
The standard-bearer for ‘magic realism’

62: Dragonflight (1968) – Anne McCaffrey
Apparently this is science fiction. Readers confronted with telepathic bonds between humans and teleporting dragons in a mediaeval society might not have read it that way

63: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) – Ursula Le Guin
Le Guin turns to straight Fantasy, in an epic that serves both as a counterweight to, and a spiritual successor of, The Lord of the Rings

64: Salem’s Lot (1975) – Stephen King
The vampires are back – like Stoker before him, King transplants an ancient evil into contemporary society to create an urban fantasy horror

65: Interview with the Vampire (1976) – Howard O’Brien (“Anne Rice”)
Vampires were clearly in the air in the mid-70s. One year after King, Rice takes the vampire myth in a very different direction

1977 and after

66: The Silmarillion (1977) – John Tolkien
A posthumously-published summary of Tolkien’s private mythology

67: Our Lady of Darkness (1977) – Fritz Leiber
One of the founding novels of urban fantasy – Leiber not only brings magic into the city, but creates a form of magic founded on the nature of the modern city

68: The Sword of Shannara (1977) – Terence Brooks
In showing that the surface of Tolkien was all that anyone needed in order to be a commercial success, Brooks opened the door for a commercial explosion in the genre

69: Lord Foul’s Bane (1977) – Stephen Donaldson
The Thomas Covenant novels experimented with a thoroughly unlikeable anti-hero and a baroque, peculiar vocabulary, yet still managed to be a success

70: Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen(1978) – Michael Moorcock
Moorcock’s own mediaevalist romance, set in a pseudo-Elizabethan world

71: The Stand (1978) – Stephen King
A post-apocalyptic epic that sets out to translate The Lord of the Rings into modern America

72: The Gunslinger (1982) – Stephen King
King’s own world-walking epic fantasy saga begins here

73: Pawn of Prophecy (1982) – David Eddings
The first of ten wildly popular fantasy novels following the farm boy Garion, invested heavily and consciously with fantasy tropes and cliches

74: The Colour of Magic (1983) – Terence Pratchett
The first Discworld novel suggests little of what is to come, but is an exuberant and uncontrollable skewering of the Fantasy of its day

75: The Black Company (1984) – Glen Cook
Cook’s grey-compassed military fantasy has been a great influence on later authors, even if it was not the greatest commercial success

76: Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984) – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The first of the TSR Dungeons and Dragons novels

77: Mythago Wood (1984) – Robert Holdstock
The founding text of modern mythic fantasy

78: Neuromancer (1984) – William Gibson
A gritty, freakish, eyeball-kick of a near-future SF novel that has resonated far beyond its genre

79: It (1987) – Stephen King
Another of King’s most succesful urban fantasies

80: Guards! Guards! (1989) – Terence Pratchett
This early Discworld novel is notable for turning Ankh-Morpork from a passing background setting into what would become the most developed urban setting in modern fantasy

81: The Difference Engine (1990) – William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Steampunk is born

82: The Eye of the World (1990) – James Rigney (“Robert Jordan”)
The ‘Wheel of Time’ cycle is by far the most popular epic fantasy since Tolkien. As in twice as many copies sold as of any rival

83: Small Gods (1992) – Terence Pratchett
Often considered the best of the Discworld novels, Small Gods shows how much fantasy, even comic fantasy, can say about the real world

84: A Game of Thrones (1996) – George Martin
Epic, grey, bloody, complicated, psychological, and (at least at first) a low-magic setting very close to historical fantasy – ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ redefined what was expected of mainstream fantasy

85:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) – Joanne Rowling
Has sold more copies than Tolkien, and to an audience that largely doesn’t read Fantasy

86: Heroes Die (1998) – Matthew Stover
A blend of SF and fantasy that outdoes Martin in grittyness, resurrects and modernises a Sword and Sorcery approach to Fantasy, and sets the foundation for writers like Abercrombie and Lynch

87: Perdido Street Station (2000) – China Miéville
It’s quite strange

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One thought on “Influential Authors in Fantasy, Appendix 2 – Reading List!

  1. […] conclude, two appendices: Appendix I (a simple list, in one place, of the 60 authors) Appendix II (a suggested reading list of some of their […]

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