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Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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