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The Secret History of Fantasy by Peter S.…

The Secret History of Fantasy

by Peter S. Beagle (Editor)

Other authors: Peter S. Beagle (Contributor), Aimee Bender (Contributor), Terry Bisson (Contributor), Francesca Lia Block (Contributor), T. C. Boyle (Contributor)17 more, Octavia E. Butler (Contributor), Susanna Clarke (Contributor), Jeffrey Ford (Contributor), Neil Gaiman (Contributor), David G. Hartwell (Contributor), Robert Holdstock (Contributor), Kij Johnson (Contributor), Stephen King (Contributor), Ursula K. Le Guin (Contributor), Jonathan Lethem (Contributor), Gregory Maguire (Contributor), Yann Martel (Contributor), Maureen F. McHugh (Contributor), Patricia A. McKillip (Contributor), Steven Millhauser (Contributor), Ann Monn (Cover artist), Michael Swanwick (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
Although I understand the frustration of writers tired of being marginalized, it's difficult to talk about without sounding whiny. Ursula LeGuin manages; Beagle, not so much. But none of that takes away from the fact that this is a stellar anthology whose lineup of participating authors should open a few eyes regarding “fantasy literature.” Particular favorites include Steven Millhauser's “The Barnum Museum,” “The Empire of Ice Cream” by Jeffrey Ford, Octavia E. Butler's “The Book of Martha,” and “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
I truly enjoyed this collection of fantasy stories that Beagle out together, mostly because it stayed away from the "epic" or "sword and sorcery" sub-genre that seems to dominate the genre as a whole and serves as a stereotype for fantasy geeks.

Some of the stories I didn't care for as much, but there weren't any I completely hated, and some of them I loved.

The standouts:

"The Lady of Skulls" by Patricia McKillip: This story is as close the anthology gets to sword and sorcery. A fable-like tale of knights who must correctly choose the most valuable item in a tower holding the greatest treasures in the world or die when they leave. Told through the POV of the tower's inhabitant: the Lady of the Skulls.

"Snow, Glass, Apples" by Neil Gaiman: A re-telling of Snow White from the POV of the queen/stepmother who might not actually be evil. With elements of vampirism and necrophilia, this rendition would make the Brothers Grimm proud.

"The Empire of Ice Cream" by author: Jeffery Ford: This was my favorite of the collection. It's protagonist is William, a boy with synesthesia, who composes music based on the colors associated with the notes. He discovers he can see a girl named Anna when he eats coffee ice cream and struggles with the strange relationship that develops. Great twist in the end!

Besides the stories, Peter S. Beagle and David G. Hartwell supply some essays about the history of the genre which I enjoyed. [author: Ursula LeGuinn] also supplied an essay, but hers was a defense of the genre that rambled a bit too much for my taste.

Overall a definite read for any fantasy reader, or someone who wants to read something non-realistic for a change. ( )
  Bodagirl | May 29, 2013 |
Pretty good stuff. I wanted to give this four stars except most of the best stories I had already read elsewhere, which means, I think, that it's not very "secret," at least not to me. Anyhow, some standout stories: I haven't read much Steven King but his "Mrs Todd's Shortcut" (which I hadn't read before even though it was apparently written in 1984) was probably my favorite of the bunch. I have master's in literature, so I'm not supposed to read Steven King (sarc), but he sure knows how to create characters, develop a sense of wonder, and pump up the intensity. My other favorites were "The Empire of Ice Cream" by Jeffrey Ford, "Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson, and "Mythago Wood" by Robert Holdstock, all of which I had read before, "Mythago" in novel form. Another standout is "Super Goat Man" by Jonathan Lethem. The writing is excellent, even though I found the ending very disappointing. The only real clunkers (for me) were Octavia Butler's preachy, religious, trite, "The Book of Martha" and Yann Martel's unreadable, post-modern wannabe "The Vita Aeturna Mirror Company." Overall, look at the table of contents; if you haven't read most of the stories, then this is worth reading. Also, the excellent introduction by Beagle, which offers a scathing disparagement of Tolkien copycat fantasy, is very interesting and appropriate. ( )
  malrubius | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is an impressive collection of fantasy short stories, most of them from the last two decades. I enjoyed most of them unreservedly. There are also two excellent essays at the back about the history of fantasy and its relationship to the literary canon.

I didn't like the way that the book was packaged, with the tag line of "fantasy is back" - there has been a continuous tradition of thoughtful, well-written fantasy in the twentieth century; it's just been overlooked and then overshadowed by bad sword & sorcery paperbacks. I'm also wondering when fantasy set in invented worlds will join the quasi-canon of literary fantasy - everyone praises Tolkien and Le Guin, then proceeds to include mostly urban and historical fantasy in their short story collections.

Peter Beagle did good at including women writers, less good at representing non-white or non-class-privileged experiences.

Favorite stories: probably Stephen King's "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," Terry Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire" (totally as good as the hype), Jeffrey Ford's "The Empire of Ice Cream," Kij Johnson's "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss." And I'd already read and loved the Susanna Clarke short story. ( )
  raschneid | Mar 31, 2013 |
I read most of this awhile ago and just finished it up. I don't remember much about the rest of the book, but the last few stories and essays are great. One essay goes into the Harry Potter phenomenon - why that series became so popular when better books with similar themes languish in obscurity - and another discusses the divide between genre fiction and so-called literary fiction. ( )
  bluesalamanders | Jun 3, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beagle, Peter S.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bender, AimeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bisson, TerryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Block, Francesca LiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyle, T. C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Butler, Octavia E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clarke, SusannaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ford, JeffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hartwell, David G.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holdstock, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, KijContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maguire, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Martel, YannContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McHugh, Maureen F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKillip, Patricia A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Millhauser, StevenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monn, AnnCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swanwick, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coulthart, JohnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weisman, JacobEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Robert Holdstock, 1948-2009
And with gratitude to Ellen Datlow, John Kessel, Jill Roberts, Bernie Goodman, and Jacob Weisman
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In the afterlife, Rachel lived alone.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Tired of the same old fantasy? Here are nineteen much-needed antidotes to cliched tales of swords and sorcery. Fantasy is back, and it's better than ever!

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