Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Fantastic Primer

Sharon Wildwind

I had a wonderful time this past weekend at the World Fantasy Convention, not only a well-run con, but held this year in Calgary, so I could come home every night to sleep in my own bed. After I sort out my notes and recover from “convention fever,” I’ll post my thoughts on what I learned about the similarities and differences between mysteries and fantasy genres.

In the mean time, here are recommendations from the Best Fantasy of the Past Twenty Years panel. The panelists—all editors or publishers—identified these books as those which began a trend, or took fantasy in an unusual direction. Some of these may have been published slightly outside of the 1988 to 2008 time frame that the panel was supposed to stick to, but if you’ve ever been to a convention, you know that the most interesting panels frequently wander from the given topic. Happy reading.

Listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Orson Scott Card: Seventh Son, first book in the Tales of Alvin Maker. (alternate American frontier history, American folklore and superstitions)

Charles de Lint: Moonheart (Canadian urban fantasy, ancient magic and old feuds). De Lint is a Canadian author.

David Drake: Lord of the Isles series (Sumerian religion, medieval era technology, parallel universes) Note that “Isles” referred to are imaginary; the books are not set in Scotland.

Steven Erickson: Gardens of the Moon, first book in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. (epic fantasy, use of magic, plot structure which is not linear) Erickson is a Canadian author.

John M. Ford: The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History (alternate Italian and English history, with vampires)

Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death (medieval mystery in which medical knowledge and forensics of the time are key factors)

Neil Gaiman: American Gods (a mix of American popular culture and Norse gods) In an unusual cross-over, a few characters from The Sandman graphic novel—also by Gaiman—make cameo appearances.

Laurell K.Hamilton: Guilty Pleasures (a combination of alternative history and hard-boiled detective, featuring Anita Blake, a zombie animator and licensed vampire executioner) One of the books that started the current vampire infatuation.

Robert Jordan: The Wheel of Time series (European and Asian mythology, the concepts of balance, duality and a respect for nature) Jordan’s real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr, and he died entirely last year at entirely too young an age.

George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, first book in A Song of Ice and Fire series (fantasy world, based on Medieval Europe) A good example of multi-platform marketing, the book spawned several popular games and trading cards.

Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore (magic realism) The fates of two characters wind inevitably toward one another. Murakami is a Japanese writer.

Garth Nix: the Old Kingdom series, The Seventh Tower series, and The Keys to the Kingdom series (young adult fantasy series) Nix is from Australia.

Tim Powers: The Stress of Her Regard (horror fantasy, vampire-like creatures control a secret thread running though our history)

Robert V.S. Redick: The Red Wolf Conspiracy, The Chathrand Voyage Triology (fantasy involving a magical ship and a desperate voyage to bring peace to a warring world)

Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones (a murdered girl watches from heaven as her family and friends adjust to her death) There was general agreement that reading the book is better than seeing the movie.

Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (science fiction and fantasy set in the far future when the sun is dying)
Writing quote for the week:

Writing mysteries for young adults which depends solely on the impact of keeping the mystery a secret doesn’t work. The name of the game today is to spill the beans. The kids read the book and immediately go on chat rooms to tell all.
~Alison Baird, Canadian young adult fantasy writer


Darlene Ryan said...

Intriguing list. I was surprised to see Alice Sebold on it.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

A very male-heavy list. I much prefer fantasy to science fiction, and I'm wondering if some of my favorites were left out because, ironically, they're considered SF:
Sharon Shinn, Archangel (Samaria series)
Kate Elliott, Jaran
Lois McMaster Bujold, the Vorkosigan saga
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
Sheri S. Tepper--where do I start?
and what about Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse?
Also, nothing if not fantasy but ignored here:
Elizabeth Moon, Sheepfarmer's Daughter (the Deed of Paksennarion)
And for historical fantasy:
Judith Tarr (elves & Crusaders, for heaven's sake!)

Sharon Wildwind said...

Great suggestions all, Liz. I think the limits of the list may reflect more that this was all done in a 1/2 hour discussion, rather than a desire to not give fair shrift to female authors.