Fantasy can be, for whatever reason, a difficult sell for me. I’m not really an elf and faires fan, which is seemingly 99% of fantasy fiction.
This article then is about the other eloquent, less trope filled, yet still imaginative, 1% of Fantasy that I am a fan of:
ROBERT E. HOWARD- I Find his Solomon Kane to be the far more interesting of Howard’s creations. If you’re going to pick up one Robert E. Howard book, you would be hard pressed to choose a better one than the Gary Gianni spot-illustrated THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE.The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
CHARLES SAUNDERS- At the risk of sacrilege someone who did and does the noble warrior and tribal civilizations and fantastic action, better than just about everybody else, past or present, is Charles Saunders. Much in the way Howard was pretty much overlooked while he was writing, I really think Charles Saunders is similarly an incredibly overlooked talent. His IMARO series, is required reading and I think would make both Burroughs and Howard go… “Damn! This guy’s good!” Four books have come out in the series and by all reports the fifth book is on the way.
The original out of print DAW paperbacks are striking, with gorgeous cover art (at least one if not more by artist James Gurney), and are worth having just for the art alone, add the great stories and it’s win-win, but the new revised/improved editions are must buys.
Particularly because Saunders is another Fantasy writer who unfortunately goes out of print way too quickly, pick up the whole series while prices are reasonable.
Imaro: Price your Copy Here
The only negative I’d lay against this series is the cover art for book #4 (and to a lesser extent book #3)is not good. See for yourself here:
While we all bandy about the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, I really am (like most of us) inclined to great looking covers. So a great book with a lousy cover is like shooting yourself in the foot. Pay the money, get a decent artist to do your cover. Make it easy for people to recommend your books, get that great cover art.
“Charles Saunders is one of the most innovative writers in the so-called Sword and Sorcery field. He was in the second wave of pioneers. Those who actually made what Robert E. Howard invented move into a new and equally exciting arena. I always loved his ground-breaking novels and stories. And it’s good to see him back.”
-Joe R. Lansdale, author of Sunset and Sawdust and The Bottoms
“Lord knows, the field needs the fresh and discerning insights that only Charles R. Saunders can bring to it.”
-Charles de Lint, author of The Blue Girl and Someplace to Be Flying
KARL EDWARD WAGNER- The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane- Let me get on the bandwagon with saying the short fiction of Karl Edward Wagner and his tales of the immortal and amoral Kane/Cain is the way to go. Unfortunately getting this sadly out of print edition is going to set you back, quite a bit.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN- Martin is seemingly everywhere these days, particularly with the critical and commercial success of the television adaptation of his GAME OF THRONES. He’s now on his fifth book in the series.
NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU- Her novels set in the Sahara of the coming dawn, are among some of the most imaginative and innovative and fresh fantasy of the last couple of decades and her The Shadow Speaker is an essential read.
The Shadow Speaker:Price Your Copy Here
STEPHEN R. DONALDSON- His series of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is required reading.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1):Price your copy here
“Since its first publication in 1977, Stephen Donaldson’s best-selling Thomas Covenant trilogy has become an indisputable classic – acclaimed around the world as the most compelling work of epic fantasy since Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”— Voyager
STEVEN BARNES- Steve Barnes masterfully jumps genres from science fiction to fantasy to historical fiction, and while you can make a strong argument for keeping him in the former rather than the latter I just think his work is too rich in all camps to exclude from any camp. An amazingly prolific writer, he’s a writers writer. There’s a ton of places you can jump in and enjoy his work. Check the upcoming links!
STEPHEN KING- Speaking of writers writer, I personally ran out of interest before finishing King’s multi-book Dark Tower series. And by all reports I’m not the only one. That said, on rare occasions adaptations can improve on the source, can perhaps focus and streamline it. Zack Snyder’s 300 film being an improvement of Frank Miller’s 300 Graphic Novel. With the DARK TOWER that seemingly works in reverse, the collected graphic novel omnibus seems to be hitting all the right notes, garnering a level of satisfaction even from those less than satisfied with the original prose wrap-up. Wherever you fall on this you cannot deny the huge mythology that King has created.
MINISTER FAUST- A great moniker for an elegant and irreverent writer. His work tinged a bit with that gonzo element of social satire that marks the work of one of my favorite writers, Ishmael Reed . But Minister Faust jettisons most of the baggage of our every day world, skewing toward fun and fantastic fantasy.
“If Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, William S. Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft were to collaborate on a novel, the result might be The Coyote Kings. Pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.”– Sci-fi Dimensions
J.K. ROWLING- There is nothing you can say to add or detract from Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, love it or hate it, it is an undeniable success. However, I tend to be a contrarian and have a knee jerk reaction against the uni-mind of culture, when everybody’s reading the same thing, I worry about the books that aren’t getting attention and aren’t getting read, because the media has eyes only for its chosen flavor. That said you cannot deny the books place or their popularity, and they should be sampled for familiarity’s sake if no other reason.
NALO HOPKINSON- SKIN FOLK is one of the best debuts, and best anthologies in years, and in a genre of stale Dragons and insipid elves and tired tropes it is that rarest of things… something new and good.
MERVYN PEAKE- The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. Do I really need to say anything else? Not only is this volume a work of literature, it’s also a work of art.
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Well that’s it kids, some of the greatest Fantasy writers!
Support the writers (or their memories) and buy the books. Support this blog, and purchase through the handy dandy links. Your Karma will thank you. 🙂