The Four Elements in Magic

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from urban fantasy author Ken Hughes, who’s taking a closer look at the four elements and the use of elemental magic systems. Ken is the author of the Whisperers Series and the Spellkeeper Flight Series, and has recently released his latest book, Freefall:

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“Water. Earth. Fire. Air.” Those are the first words in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but we’ve seen the same four-elements structure of magic and worldbuilding in so many other fantasy stories that the dreaded word “cliché” is never far away.

Still, the difference between a cliché and a classic might just be how long it’s been since we’ve seen that idea handled well (which Avatar does, yes). And fantasy does love its classics.  Continue reading

Popular 1970s Fantasy Novels

The fantasy boom of the late 60s came to full fruition in the 70s, drawing older works back into the light as well as bringing many new ones. The decade also saw the publication of important works in particular sub-genres, such as vampire fiction, fairy tale retellings, time travel fiction and more.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or significant fantasy novels published between 1970 and 1980. I’ve used the year each novel was first published  and I’ve tried to use the original cover or jacket from that year:  Continue reading

Popular 1960s Fantasy Novels

While the 1950s might have seen the publication of crucial series like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia, it was during the 60s that the fantasy genre skyrocketed to new levels of popularity and mainstream appeal. Publishers eager to meet rising demand sought out fantasy works, and the decade brought many beloved classics to the genre.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 1960 and 1970. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets: Continue reading

Popular 1950s Fantasy Novels

Many would say that fantasy literature as we now know it began in the 50s – specifically with the publication of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Add to that the release of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and you have the emergence of two fantasy worlds that shaped the genre for years to come. These works had such a profound impact they tend to overshadow other fantasies from this decade, but there are still some worth mentioning.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 8 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 1950 and 1960. I’ve tried to use the original cover or jacket from that year where possible:  Continue reading

Making the Change: An Indie’s Transition to the Traditional World

A short break in the decades series this week, but for a good reason – to bring you a guest post from Brian D. Anderson! Brian is the author of over 20 fantasy novels and has recently signed a book deal with Tor. He’s here to share his experiences in making the transition from indie to traditional publishing and the challenges he faced in moving between these worlds:

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So you’ve written a few books, had them edited, paid for a cool cover, learned how to market, and as a result, had a great deal of success selling them online. You’ve even quit your day job. Maybe bought a house or a car…or both. Life’s coming up roses. You’ve achieved something special. Something spectacular. You are a professional novelist! Moreover, you’re an experienced indie, well qualified to pass on your wisdom to the never-ending river of up-and-comers dreaming of emulating your accomplishments.

That’s more or less how I felt a few months ago. For seven years, I have enjoyed a degree of professional success in indie fantasy. Not to say I was at the top of the heap. But I sure wasn’t at the bottom. I had an agent, had made a few significant audiobook deals, and been nominated for an award or two. But that’s where it stopped. I’d reached the limit of where I could go on my own. If I wanted to continue up the ladder, I had to find a way to break into traditional publishing.

Continue reading

Popular 1930s and 40s Fantasy Novels

The 30s and 40s were a crucial period for the fantasy genre. Not only did they see the publication of The Hobbit and the meeting of the Inklings group of fantasy writers, but also a rise in the number of pulp magazines publishing fantasy stories. While the genre had not yet become mainstream, the stories of these decades significantly contributed to its development and definition.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most significant fantasy works published between 1930 and the end of 1949, with their original covers where possible. Because some serialised stories didn’t appear in novel form till later decades, I’ve instead included the covers of magazine issues they featured in (if possible):  Continue reading

Popular 1900s, 10s and 20s Fantasy Novels

At beginning of the 20th Century, books with fantasy elements – magic,  invented worlds, supernatural beings – weren’t as mainstream as they would later become (and were often described as pulp fiction or children’s stories, since “fantasy” still wasn’t yet a genre term). However, several fantasy books from this era still enjoyed great success or paved the yellow brick road for future authors.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 8 most popular or significant fantasy novels published between 1900 and 1930. I’ve used the year each novel was first published (if stories appeared earlier in another form those dates are included in brackets), and I’ve tried to use the original cover or jacket from that year:  Continue reading

Popular Pre-1900 Fantasy Novels

The word “fantasy” wasn’t used to describe a literary genre until the mid 20th Century, when fantasy books were distinguished from other kinds (particularly from children’s literature) and gained popularity. However, many novels of the 18th and 19th Centuries had all the hallmarks of what we’d now call fantasy, or influenced later fantasy writers.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most significant of these works published before 1900. I’ve tried to use their original covers, or failing that, their title pages:  Continue reading

The Most Influential Fantasy Books of Each Decade

I don’t usually pay much attention to the publication dates of fantasy books. My mind tends to file them into vague categories like “old classic” or “fairly recent”.  I do sometimes check when books came out or read articles about fantasy history, but it’s hard to remember it all clearly, and I tend to think books are much older or newer than they actually are. Occasionally I’ll see a decade or era referred to (e.g. 80s paperback, 90s fantasy) but not often, and the timelines I find online tend to be exhaustively long title lists or random “must read” compilations.

All of this is to say: getting a sense of which fantasy books were important at certain times or influenced later books, and how fantasy has changed over the last 50 or 100 years, is not always easy.

This made me think it would be interesting to see a snapshot of the most popular or influential fantasy books from each decade with their original covers, to create a kind of visual timeline that shows the changing genre and cover styles over the last Century. Continue reading

Elements of Steampunk

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from steampunk writer Katherine McIntyre. Kathryn recently released the third book in her adventure-filled Take to the Skies series, and is stopping by to give a glimpse into the world of steampunk and its historical roots:

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When checking out a novel, movie, or some form of art termed ‘steampunk,’ certain elements have surfaced enough times to have become hallmarks of the genre.  Even folks who aren’t savvy with the trend have come to recognize the assortment of gears, the Victorian style gowns, and the many pairs of goggles as steampunk.

Where did these elements come from? Continue reading