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
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
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:
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
So I’ve been absent on the blog front for a while – what was meant to be a short break turned into something quite a bit longer! I’ll spare you the long (and boring) story and just say that other projects and work kept vying for my attention. Fortunately I’ve finally found time to get back to blogging, so I thought in the spirit of unforeseen long absences I’d kick things off again with a post on a related theme:
It’s a common enough phenomenon in the fantasy book world: the long-awaited sequel. I’ve heard plenty of frustrated readers complain about how long they’ve been waiting for the next instalment of a favourite series, and when books get made into hit TV shows like Game of Thrones the wait often makes headlines.
I must admit, since I started using Goodreads I haven’t experienced much impatience myself – perhaps because the long list of new books I want to try and series I want to continue distracts me sufficiently during the waiting period.
Things were different in my teens though. One series (The Obernewtyn Chronicles) had me constantly stopping at my local book store to ask when the next book would be out. I was promised release dates only to be disappointed each time. In the end, the next book took 9 years, and by that time I’d long given up asking.
A 9-year wait might feel long, but when you look at the genre’s history, there have been longer ones. So I thought I’d find some examples of the longest spans of time between the publication of books in a popular fantasy series (by the same author) and see how they compare. Continue reading
During some recent TV viewing I noticed a few characters getting a little too conveniently knocked out, which got me wondering how many of the ways writers commonly use to render characters unconscious are actually plausible. To try and answer that, I did a little researching and wrote an article for Fantasy Faction about how true to life these fictional “fade to blacks” might be. Here’s the link in case the topic is of interest to anyone following along here: Continue reading
Book Cover: Dreams of Ice and Shadow by Kathryn Troy
This week I’m pleased to welcome Kathryn Troy back to the blog – last year Kathryn shared her thoughts on what it means to be Lovecraftian. Now she’s launching the second book in her gothic fantasy series and stopping by to take a look at the enduring appeal of vampires and how she uses them in her work:
Bram Stoker was certainly not the first person to craft a vampire story. Serialized tales like Varney the Vampire and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla were written decades before Stoker published his novel in 1897. Polidori’s The Vampyre was published in 1819, almost a century before. As serials and penny-dreadfuls, vampire stories had gained a modicum of popularity, which created a climate that was ready to accept Dracula. But it was Stoker who propelled and solidified the genre into the veritable beast it has become. Continue reading
Harry and Hermione, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010
So I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately, but I thought I’d get back into the swing of things this week with an examination of some more Uncharted Territory in Fantasy. Full credit for this post’s topic goes to Kumquat Absurdium, whose comment from earlier this year has inspired me to take a closer look at platonic male-female relationships in fantasy stories:
“Why can’t you have a male and female protagonist combo that remain completely platonic throughout the book? We need a movement for this – support #PlatonicProtagonists! It’s not strictly a fantasy problem but it is a problem in fantasy as much as anywhere else.”
Now to be honest, I love a good romance, and I’m not at all averse to sexual relationships in the fantasy I read and watch. That said, I think it would be refreshing to see more platonic friendships between men and women in fiction, because the different dynamic that these relationships offer can be satisfying and rewarding in its own unique way. It might also better reflect the fact that men and women can be friends in real life.
I do, however, think there are reasons we don’t see a lot of male and female protagonists in such friendships: Continue reading
I recently wrote an article on Fantasy Faction about characters who have “skunk stripes” in their hair. I wanted to find out why these occur both in fiction and real life, and how plausible “natural” white highlights really are. My investigation led me to some interesting answers, so I thought I’d share the article link in case the topic is intriguing to anyone following along here: Continue reading
It’s Tough Travelling time again! Tough Travels was originally created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn, revived on Fantasy Faction, and is now hosted by the team at The Fantasy Hive. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it highlights a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.
This month’s theme is mothers.
Now this is a tough topic, because as I already mentioned in a post last year about absent parents, it’s often hard to find mothers or fathers who aren’t dead or otherwise absent in fantasy narratives. However, there are definitely some out there, so I’ve picked five I found particularly memorable: Continue reading
It might seem a bit late to be looking back at 2017, but as I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve decided to start doing yearly round-ups of the award-winning fantasy books from the various awards of the past year. Since last year wasn’t all that long ago and had some intriguing prize-winning novels, I figured better late than never!
In this post, I’ll generally only be listing the novel-length fantasy works for adults or young adults that won an award in 2017 (I do make one exception for a novella at the end of this list). The other finalists are certainly also well-deserving of attention, as are the graphic novels, comics, short stories, novellas, science fiction novels, children’s books and other forms of work that won, but if I tried to include them all this list would get very long and overwhelming. If you’re interested in seeing other finalists and categories, the links below each book will take you to the full list of finalists and winners for the related award.
The book blurbs are from Goodreads (to go to the Goodreads page, click on the book cover). I’ve also briefly included my impressions and thoughts on whether I’ll read the each book – these are obviously just based on my own personal tastes and reading habits, and not an indication of whether other people should pick them up or not!