Here are my favourites. Most of these writers would, by coming out with a new book, make me drop
whatever I was doing to read it.
- Poul Anderson. Both for Hrolf Kraki's Saga and another whose title escapes me
(the main character was obviously modelled on Virginia Heinlein, I'll get it in a moment)
- Greg Bear. The Infinity Concerto puts him with the fantasy greats, though his
science fiction (e.g. Eon) is stronger yet.
- John Bellairs. The Face in the Frost is his only adult book, but is wonderful.
One of the characters uses the alias ``Nicholas Archer'' in the book. My wife and I registered
under Mr. & Mrs. Nicholas Archer on our wedding night---my brother-in-law and the maid of honour
were far too interested in playing tricks on us for our comfort. It was a great pleasure, one I
still savour, to watch Glenna phone every hotel and motel in town to ask for us, and when she was
finished with no success, to watch her face as we told her we had registered under another name.
Anyway, John Bellair's horror books for children are very creepy and very good as well. Pity
he's not with us any more.
- Steven Brust. I still want to hear Cats Laughing. If it's half as good as the Jhereg books,
it will be well worth listening to.
- Orson Scott Card, for `Seventh Son' but mostly for `A Planet Called Treason'.
- John Dalmas for `The Lion of Farside' and its sequel `The Bavarian Gate'. His
science fiction books are excellent as well.
- L. Sprague de Camp. I have a letter from him somewhere, in which he took the time
to explain to a (then 11-year old) RMC just how RMC's writing could be improved. I never
appreciated till I grew up just how kind that letter was.
- Charles de Lint, for Jack the Giant-Killer, and his many fantasies set in Ottawa---or
at least in a half-faerie version of Ottawa.
- Susan Dexter A sleeper---some of her early books are merely good, but `The Prince
of Ill-Luck' was wonderful.
- Dave Duncan. What are the chances that 30 million people (Canadians) can produce two
such talents as Kay and Duncan? Slim, but we lucked out.
- E. R. Eddison. My Ph.D. thesis and my books are studded with quotations
from his works. Eddison's books are difficult to get started on, but the language is nearly
pure Elizabethan, and his Zimiamvian trilogy, though unfinished, is one of the great works of
art in English. Yes, Eddison was a racist, and that comes through. It doesn't spoil the books
for me, though I can see that it would for some.
- Philip José Farmer. Kickaha (Paul Janus Finnegan) is one of the greats. But
`A Feast Unknown' is easily the most obscene book I have ever read, and `Lord Tyger' contains a scene with a
crocodile heart that my (very) first girlfriend hated when she read it---she'll never forgive him, I am sure.
- Lynn Flewelling for `Luck in the Shadows' and its sequel Stalking Darkness.
Too soon to tell if these are just flashes in the pan, but they're very good.
- Randall Garrett for Lord D'Arcy, but also for his delightful TakeOff! collection of short spoofs,
parodies, and pastiches.
- David Gemmel. Waylander rules!
- William Goldman for The Princess Bride. Many scenes are immortal; as a movie it worked almost as well,
which is high praise indeed.
- Barbra Hambly. More Starhawk, please.
- Lyndon Hardy, for Master of the Five Magics and its two sequels.
- Robert Anson Heinlein. Glory Road is a fantasy, so he belongs here, as well
as on the list as the Grand Master of Science Fiction.
- Robert E. Howard. Who? People say, knowing Conan only through the abysmal Dino de
Laurentis films and from later authors' pastiches. (Robert Jordan did a decent Conan, but there
is nothing to compare with the original).
- Robert Jordan. He's as good as Gemmel, though his last Dragon book was disappointing.
- Guy Gavriel Kay.
- Katharine Kerr for her novels of Deverry. Delightful.
- Kathryn Kurtz for her Deryni series.
- Mercedes Lackey. Slow down, or you'll wind up pissing your talent away as Piers Anthony did!
- Ursula K. LeGuin. Her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy (quadrilogy?) is classic.
- Fritz Leiber. (This is the Grand Old Man, no question).
- C.S. Lewis. Narnia: Out of the Silent Planet: Voyage to Venus: That Hideous Strength: The Screwtape Letters.
All superb, even if he's not a 90's kind of guy (sexist this time, not racist as such).
- Megan Lindholm. `The Wizard of the Pigeons' is unique.
- R. A. MacAvoy, for Damiano (a trilogy) and Tea with the Black Dragon. Also Third Eagle.
- Talbot Mundy for Tros of Samothrace. From memory: ``I will strike such a blow on the
anvil of life as will use to the utmost all that I am.'' I'm pretty sure that's accurate though
I last read the book 20--25 years ago. The whole `Tros' series is historical fantasy in a grand style.
He also wrote a pulpy book about a British officer spying on a fantastic Sikh fortress, in the early days of the Raj---I forget
the title, but I still remember many scenes vividly, after 15 years at least---the soldier is
disguised as what we might call an itinerant quack, and the scene where many unwilling but
desperate wild men are lining up to have him lance the boils on their necks and whatnot is
- Anne McCaffrey. Her Pern books are not what they used to be, but they're still
- Patricia McKillip. The Riddle-Master of Hed---wow!
- A. Merritt. `The Ship of Ishtar'.
- A. A. Milne. He belongs here for Once On A Time---Prince Udo is one of the lasting
- L. E. Modesitt, Jr. The `Recluce' stories are top-flight.
- Elizabeth Moon. Paksenarrion rules!
- Michael Moorcock. I shouldn't put him on this list, because I don't read him anymore.
But Jerry Cornelius, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Elric (i.e. the Eternal Champion) were staples of my adolescence.
At one time I considered the unification of all these works the finest achievement in fantasy.
Certainly Elric has power even now. (But the parody of Elric, where he talks like Foghorn Leghorn, in the comic Cerebus---ow,
my aching sides!)
- C.L. Moore. Jirel of Joiry was the first; arguably the best.
- John Myers Myers: Silverlock (and The Moon's Fire-Eating Daughter, too) is a
- Larry Niven. See the comments in the Science Fiction section.
- Tim Powers. This man is one of the best on this list. The Drawing of the Dark is quietly brilliant,
and Powers' other works are well-crafted true originals.
- Terry Pratchett. Possibly the funniest (and wisest) man alive. He seemed a kindly person when I met him
(1995) at the White Dwarf (my favourite bookstore,
which is in Vancouver). More discussion of Terry Pratchett
- Fletcher Pratt. I just found out that this man was better known as
a historian. I have been itching to read his historical works. His fantasies were
mature and rich, and it is a great pity that there are so few.
- Sean Russell. A Vancouver author, of three excellent books so far.
- Fred Saberhagen, for the Swords, and for Dracula as he should have been, and for
- Robert Silverberg. A Grand Master---Nightwings got me hooked, but he has only
improved with time.
- Thorne Smith for `Night Life of the Gods'. Very silly!
- Mary Stewart, for her Arthur and Merlin books.
- Sean Stewart. ``Nobody's Son'' is remarkable. I met him before I read the book,
otherwise I might have treated him with considerably more respect. Look for great things
from this man.
- Judith Tarr for Alamut, and her stories of the djinn.
- J. R. R. Tolkien. What can I say?
- Jack Vance. He consistently writes of people who think differently than we do.
- David Weber. One very good fantasy puts him here! He's also in the SF section.
- T. H. White, for his Arthur and Merlin books. Did you know that his `The Book
of Merlyn' was banned in WWII as antiwar?
- Elizabeth Willey. She is probably the best new author on this list. I have read only `A Sorcerer and A Gentleman', and cannot
find her other books; I am with child to read them. 'Sorcerer' is Zelazny-esque, in a delightful way. An interesting
curiosity is that the cover for the TOR paperback (by C. Vess it looks like in the signature),
which caught my eye in the first place because it is much in the style of Arthur Rackham,
depicts a slim young man riding at night past an elegant stone fortress caught against a huge moon. The rider,
by coincidence one assumes, is the spitting image of Mike Haslam, who is a
grad student here. Except the green cloak, staff, and sword, and the long hair, don't fit Mike's current image---and he claims
that he's allergic to horses too. I don't believe him---I believe the painting, and I'm convinced Mike
moonlights as the sorcerer Dewar. Nothing he can say will convince me otherwise.
- Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (whom I missed my chance at meeting at the White Dwarf) for her Saint-Germain books.
- Roger Zelazny. His "Amber" series is perhaps the best of all fantasy series, of all
time. Corwin, and later his son Merlin, are compellingly real and fascinating. I own a copy of
every book Zelazny wrote, of course. His short story Divine Madness is my candidate for best
short story of all time (though Delany gives him a run for his money). I also own a signed copy
of the Baronet press "The Illustrated Roger Zelazny", a collaboration with the artist Gray Morrow
(whom I like very much, by the way). I believe that my copy is unique---it is flawed, in that eight pages (from the Furies and from
A Rose for Ecclesiastes) are duplicated, and some of the Furies is missing as a result). I just
looked at the date---I bought it 19 years ago. I keep my letter from Diefenbaker (yes, John G., the former prime minister---
somewhere I have a signed, personalized picture of him and his dog, too) in this book.