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1759Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy

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  • David S. Bratman
    Jul 2, 2000
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      Bill W -

      Assuming that your latest comments are in response to mine - the current
      fantasy boom is not what's keeping the "classics" in print. In fact,
      many of the classics are not in print, except sporadically, the way they
      always were. A boom might be what generates a given printing, but it
      doesn't affect the overall situation. For instance, there have been
      three, I think, paperback editions of Eddison over the years (one in the
      60s, one in the early 80s, and one in the 90s), but none of them stayed
      in print.

      As for new books that become classics, these get published or not
      regardless of whether there's a boom, because they don't appeal much to
      boom readers. The 1940s-1950s was not a good period for fantasy in
      general literature, and yet both Peake and Tolkien managed to get
      published. If, somehow, the current boom had gotten started without them
      and had taken its current form, they are both way too outside the formula
      (yes, Tolkien is outside the formula inspired by his own works) to be
      successful as they stand from a publisher aiming at riding the boom.
      They would have to be published more in its spite, which means they could
      just as easily be published if there was no boom at all, which in fact
      they were.

      Here's a timeline of the Adult Fantasy Series, in case there's any
      fuzziness in your mind about dates:

      1965: Ballantine publishes the authorized pb of LOTR, to counteract the
      unauthorized Ace edition of a few months earlier, which in turn rode the
      wave of a rising popularity of the hardcovers over the ten years they'd
      existed.

      1967-69. During the height of the Tolkien fad (after it his sales never
      dried up, the books merely ceased to be faddish), Ballantine tries to
      catch this wave by publishing pbs of Peake and Eddison, plus one new
      fantasy, _The Last Unicorn_ by Peter Beagle.

      1969-74. This is the period of the formal Ballantine Adult Fantasy
      Series (the "Unicorn's head" books) edited by Lin Carter. It included
      dozens of classics, most of them in their first paperbacks, plus a few
      new books by Evangeline Walton, Sanders Ann Laubenthal, and Katherine
      Kurtz (the first Deryni trilogy). Carter was let go at the start of 1974
      and a few more books dribbled in during the course of the year. This was
      not because fantasy had ceased to sell but because the vein of classics
      had been tapped out, and also because Ballantine had been sold and the
      new owners didn't wish to pursue this policy. (Daw Books was founded in
      1972, but it was largely a continuation of what Wollheim had been doing
      at Ace.)

      1974-76. Lester del Rey begins to run Ballantine's fantasy department,
      publishing a few books, notably Gordon Dickson's _The Dragon and the
      George_ and a fourth Deryni book, _Camber of Culdi_, under the griffin
      logo (Ballantine "chicken head" fantasies).

      1977. Founding of the Del Rey imprint under Ballantine, together with
      the publication of Terry Brooks's _The Sword of Shannara_ and Stephen
      Donaldson's first _Chronicles of Thomas Covenant_, the first blockbuster
      genre fantasies, plus the first Xanth book by Piers Anthony, first of the
      endless series fantasies (Kurtz and others being much slower off the
      ground at endlessness).

      David Bratman
      - not responsible for the following advertisement -
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