Well this ended up a lot bigger than I originally intended…
This is a project to put together, largely off the top of my head and with little revision, a list of fifty authors with the greatest influence on the Fantasy genre. There ended up being rather more than 50.
Then the authors, in batches (not entirely chronologically):
Romantic, Gothic and Oriental (early foundational influences)
The Macabre (the 19th century tradition of horror/dark fantasy/mystery)
Other Worlds (four writers late in the century who took fiction to new places)
Pulp Fiction (etc.) (early 20th century writers)
Symbolism and Religion (the MacDonald school of English Fantasy)
Transitional Figures (bridging the gap between the founding figures of the genre and the later growth in popularity)
The Big Boom I (the explosion in popularity in the late 1970s)
The Big Boom II (the 1980s)
The Big Boom III (the post-war generation’s contribution comes to a close in the 1990s
New Turns (the torch passes on to three writers of the new generation in the last few years of the 1990s)
I’ve left off in 2000, both because of my relative ignorance of modern Fantasy, and simply because, whatever we know about the good and the bad, it’s too early yet to make judgements about the ‘influential’ in the last decade.
Like I say (many times over), though: this is not intended as an authoritative or academically sound list. It’s just something I threw together off the top of my head, and is intended more as a spur to thought than as a definitive last word on the topic.
Hope this has been of interest for some of you!