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Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy

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  • Bill
    Jordan s view, in my opinion, is strictly mercenary. The series was originally only to be 5 books. He makes the bestseller list. The series will now be 8
    Message 1 of 17 , Jul 1, 2000
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      Jordan's view, in my opinion, is strictly mercenary.
      The series was originally only to be 5 books.
      He makes the bestseller list.
      The series will now be 8 books..
      He continues to make the bestseller list...
      Oh...make that 11 books...
      I may be jaded here, but the man is making big money for both himself
      and Tor. He has all sorts of incentive to be as circuitous as he wishes.
      There have been stories in the past that he tends to churn out the
      pages very slowly. One before the last book said he was so long in
      finishing it that Tor put him up in a hotel in NYC and had each day's
      writing output picked up on that day.
      Let me clarify what I meant earlier. It's my memory that in the early
      seventies the fantasy genre was in decline. The Ballantine Adult Fantasy
      series as edited by Lin Carter was for all intent and purposes dead. I
      have said before how much that series influenced me, introducing me to
      Dunsany, Morris, Cabell, Smith, and others. But except, perhaps, for
      Kurtz's original Deryni trilogy, none of it was a commercial success.
      While we as readers may not care if a book we love hits the marks the
      publishers set for it, they do. Failure to sell a certain amount of
      copies will determine whether or not they will keep a book in print on
      their backlists.The books I loved didn't make that figure,and that,
      possibly combined with whatever negotiations with heirs needed for
      reprints, meant those books went out of print from Ballantine.
      DAW books started up around this time, but Wollheim used his
      Ace Books contacts and writers like Moorcock,Norton, and MZB were the
      foundation. McCaffrey was Ballantine's big name, and Zelazny turned
      out Amber books for Avon. Those were the big names. Pickings were
      slim after that.
      Then DelRey revived the Adult Fantasy line with some books and
      writers that are not very memorable and with the Deryni series. They
      sold enough books to keep it going and then along came Brooks and

      Eddings. NYT bestselling fantasy. Yes, MZB had done it once. These
      guys did it again and again. Other publishers went hunting and came
      up with Feist and Williams and Jordan. They made money. They looked
      more, and there was Goodkind and Jones and Martin.
      They also establshed some midlist writers, like Carroll, Hoffman,
      Powers, DeLint, Tepper...and so on....
      Maybe we'd have found all of them eventually.Maybe not.
      But I seriously doubt the publishers would have taken a close look
      without the vision of another Jordan or some other name floating in
      their heads.
      But as I said,maybe I'm jaded....
    • David S. Bratman
      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
      Message 2 of 17 , 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 -
      • David S. Bratman
        I should add that I don t disagree with Bill s thesis that some of the midrange writers, like de Lint, wouldn t have gotten the kind of publication they did if
        Message 3 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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          I should add that I don't disagree with Bill's thesis that some of the
          midrange writers, like de Lint, wouldn't have gotten the kind of
          publication they did if it hadn't been for the boom. De Lint had a small
          press of his own before he became a major-list novelist, and that's
          probably where he would have stayed if, indeed, he had taken to writing
          large novels at all, had there been no fantasy boom.

          However, that tells us only about how they began. If the top bestselling
          authors were to disappear now, and especially if replacements weren't
          dredged up, I think de Lint's sales would go up to partially fill the gap.

          David Bratman
          - not responsible for the following advertisement -
        • Bill
          Hi David! ... This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print again.
          Message 4 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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            Hi David!

            >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.
            This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin
            Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print
            again. Only recently have some lesser publishers brought a few out and
            DelRey recently reprinted two Dunsanys in trade paperback.

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

            >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.)
            Being in the book selling business for 12 years now, I still feel it
            was lack of sales that persuaded the new owners not to continue it as it
            was.

            >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).
            As I said,a less than glorious period. Brian Daley and Robert Don
            Hughes are some of the names I recall from this period. Only the Kurtz
            is still on my bookshelves.

            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).
            Also the McKillip RiddleMaster books. A great time to haunt the sf
            section of the bookstores.
            Thanks for the timeline. My dates were off a bit but I think I had
            the general events right.<g>

            Bill
          • Bill
            If, somehow, the current boom had gotten started without them ... Hmm..I put this in a second email because I m puzzled a bit by it. The formula for most of
            Message 5 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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              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.

              Hmm..I put this in a second email because I'm puzzled a bit by it.
              The formula for most of the bestselling fantasys are so much Tolkienish
              I fail to see why JRR would be outside it. You can draw up a chart
              with all the Eddings, Shannara, Feist, Williams and Jordan series and
              check off the similiarities to LoTR. I once used to amuse a friend with a
              litany of "Gandalf begat Alannon, who begat Belgarath, who begat..." etc.
              The wizard from the Dragonlance trilogy was in there too, but I forgot his
              name. <g>
              Even Donaldson could be said to follow in Tolkien's steps, except as the
              anti-Tolkien.<g>.
              Now, if by some publishing catastorphe (and no matter what we may think
              about some of these series, their ceasing to be would be disastrous to the
              genre and some publishers)they all vanished, De Lint might...MIGHT ..show
              a minor blip in sales. But I doubt it, as much as I love his work. I've
              tried to handsell his books to readers who were looking to read something
              while chomping at the bit for Jordan's next installment. Mind you, I was
              fairly sure it was a case of apples and oranges. I was right,in most cases.
              On the other hand, I had great success selling GAME OF THRONES when it first
              was published because I used a description from somewhere that called it
              "The War of the Roses meets Tolkien". We sold 56 copies in a month, and led
              the chain in sales for it.
              If anything, we are about to enter another Tolkien influenced boom,if
              my hunch is right. There is the Dungeons and Dragons movie possibly out
              this fall.(Since there is a new rules system being released for the game
              about the same time I think it's a safe assumption that it will be the
              fall.) And of course LoTR due out the year after..

              Bill W.
            • LSolarion@aol.com
              In a message dated 06/30/2000 8:30:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, dbratman@genie.idt.net writes: ... The Saint Martin s Press rep who comes to my store gives me
              Message 6 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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                In a message dated 06/30/2000 8:30:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                dbratman@... writes:

                << Diane wrote about Jordan:

                > I *knew* I was in for a long haul ... He needed to take out the
                > incidental materials and "cut to the chase." >>

                The Saint Martin's Press rep who comes to my store gives me occasional
                gossippy tidbits about Jordan, who has been getting more and more coy about
                how many books there are going to be. However, the rep says the upcoming
                instalment, due in November, will advance the plot considerably. A lot is
                going to happen, evidently, unlike what I've heard about the last one, which
                I haven't read yet (I'm waiting until the whole series is done, and hoping I
                live that long). Apparently, Jordan has been getting intimations of
                impatience from his fans. Let's hope so.

                Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the new George Martin!
                Cheers,
                Steve
              • David S. Bratman
                ... But it wasn t because fantasy, the genre, went into decline. ... Indeed. As I said, the vein of classics had been tapped out: the books had sold to those
                Message 7 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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                  On Sun, 2 Jul 2000, Bill wrote:

                  > This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin
                  > Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print
                  > again. Only recently have some lesser publishers brought a few out and
                  > DelRey recently reprinted two Dunsanys in trade paperback.

                  But it wasn't because fantasy, the genre, went into decline.

                  > Being in the book selling business for 12 years now, I still feel it
                  > was lack of sales that persuaded the new owners not to continue it as it
                  > was.

                  Indeed. As I said, the vein of classics had been tapped out: the books
                  had sold to those who were interested, and weren't selling many more, and
                  Carter was beginning to run out of top-notch work that was a) available
                  to reprint and b) was in the specific subgenre in which he was
                  interested. When I said that fantasy had not ceased to sell, I meant
                  fantasy in general, not those books in particular. My main point was
                  that they _never_ sold in large quantities to the sort of people fueling
                  the fantasy boom now. This had nothing to do with whether there was a
                  fantasy boom on or not. The Unicorn's Head books were a prestige series
                  for Ballantine, which never sold particularly well.

                  > Also the McKillip RiddleMaster books. A great time to haunt the sf
                  > section of the bookstores.

                  The first two Riddle Master books, having already appeared in hardcover
                  from Atheneum, came out in Del Rey paperbacks the following year, 1978.
                  (The third book had not yet appeared at all: it came out the next year.)
                  Yes, Del Rey was still publishing some good fantasy then, and it's useful
                  to remember that.

                  David Bratman
                  - not responsible for the following advertisement -
                • David S. Bratman
                  Bill - You need not convince me of the startling similarities between Tolkien and Donaldson, Eddings, etc. Nor is there any question whence these
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jul 2, 2000
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                    Bill -

                    You need not convince me of the startling similarities between Tolkien
                    and Donaldson, Eddings, etc. Nor is there any question whence these
                    similarities.

                    But beyond that, a specific formula has grown up, out of this general
                    form, which Tolkien does not follow, and which makes him disappointing to
                    those who are expecting it.

                    Not being gifted with this mindset, it's difficult for me to describe it,
                    but among the stumbling-blocks which readers of this sort find in LOTR
                    are the very scanty and unsystematized use of magic, and the long
                    meandering opening section before the adventure really gets going, along
                    with various "slack" passages thereafter.

                    Don't take my word for it: ask your customers. Certainly Tolkien is still
                    popular among many, even the young, but you will also find many young
                    readers who've grown up on later fantasists and who find Tolkien very
                    difficult or uninteresting.

                    David Bratman
                    - not responsible for the following advertisement -
                  • David S. Bratman
                    Lisa - Since the panel description on the Chicon website reads J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are the best known of the group, but there were other Inklings
                    Message 9 of 17 , Aug 22 10:47 AM
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                      Lisa -

                      Since the panel description on the Chicon website reads "J.R.R. Tolkien
                      and C.S. Lewis are the best known of the group, but there were other
                      Inklings too," it seems to me that what you're really on is a Charles
                      Williams panel. He's the real "other" Inkling, and the only other one
                      who wrote fantasy, so he's the one you should focus on. And it so
                      happens that since our book of Williams has actually been published, I'll
                      bring a copy along and you can show it off on the panel.

                      Sayers can also be mentioned, but she was a Friend Of, not an Inkling.
                      The other Inklings most worth mentioning, to an audience which doesn't
                      want the boring scholarly blither that I'd probably contribute if I were
                      a panelist, are:

                      W.H. Lewis - CSL's brother, author of some delightful volumes on French
                      history of the Louis XIV period (especially _The Splendid Century_) and a
                      superb diarist: selections of his diaries have been published under the
                      title _Brothers and Friends_, and are a good picture of CSL as well as
                      interesting in their own right.

                      Nevill Coghill - a literature professor at Oxford, he specialized in
                      drama and directed some notable Shakespeare productions, as well as
                      Richard Burton's film of Marlowe's _Doctor Faustus_; but to a literary
                      audience he should be most noted for his fine translation of Chaucer's
                      _Canterbury Tales_, in the Penguin edition.

                      Owen Barfield - somebody other than me will have to try to boil him into
                      a paragraph, but essentially he was a philosopher of language whose
                      thought deeply influenced both Lewis and Tolkien and enriched their
                      work. The Barfield books to start with are _Poetic Diction_ and _Saving
                      the Appearances_: the latter in particular will be appreciated by anybody
                      who was interested by Julian Jaynes's _The Origin of Consciousness in the
                      Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_. Barfield's influence on Tolkien is
                      well described in _A Question of Time_ by Verlyn Flieger.

                      Good luck!

                      David Bratman
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