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The Fantasy Hall of Fame by Robert…

The Fantasy Hall of Fame (1983)

by Robert Silverberg (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The reputations of some of these stories and that of their authors may have waned in the 26 years since this anthology was published. None of the stories are bad though a few aren't that special. The stories were selected in a manner similar to the Silverberg edited The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One. Attendees of the World Fantasy Convention chose stories to honor that were published before the convention begin doing their annual awards.

The stories are arranged chronologically, and the first is Edgar Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842). This classic tale of a plague, mysterious colors, and death coming to a cloister of aristocrats is the grandfather of all those far future tales of decadents on a dying Earth. Poe influenced the prose and poems of Clark Ashton Smith, but the influence isn't very evident in the latter's "The Weird of Avoosl Withoqquan" (1932). It's a story of an avaricious man who hears an ominous prophecy from a beggar he snubs. Smith's Zothique series, very definitely a series of far future decadence, is not represented here directly, but it's certainly echoed in Jack Vance's "Mazirian the Magician" (1950), part of Vance's Dying Earth series. In a story full of Vance's exuberant palette of colors and exquisitely named magic, a sorcerer determines to possess a woman who has avoided him.

Of course, Poe was not just an inspiration but an idol to Smith's friend, H. P. Lovecraft. He is represented here by "The Silver Key" (1937). It's an odd choice, perhaps dictated by its length. There is nothing wrong with the story. Featuring Lovecraft's alter ego Randolph Carter, it's Lovecraft's most autobiographical work. Carter, a man in his thirties, goes on a quest to find his way back to the world of dreams - and its innocence - that he knew as a child. There are many better Lovecraft stories though. Lord Dunsany was an influence on Lovecraft's dream tales, and he's represented here by "The Sword of Welleran" (1908). A wry tale of a city no longer defended by its legends and full of humor and despair and perverse emotion. Dunsany's oddly syntaxed voice is probably still unique in fantasy. A lesser influence on Lovecraft was Ambrose Bierce. He shows up here with "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1886), a short, eerie tale of life after death in a far future land.

Representing Robert E. Howard is the fine "Valley of the Worm" (1934). A tale of reincarnation and of the ur-dragon slaying, its style is strong and exciting though delicate modern sensitivities will cringe at the asides on racial evolution. Howard stands near the beginning of the sword and sorcery sub-genre here also represented by Michael Moorcock's Elric story "Kings in Darkness" (1962). It's an ok story, but I suspect the voters thought they should have at least one Elric story. However, the fascination with the doomed Elric comes through many novels and stories and Elric seems a pale character (no pun intended) here.

Wonderfully exotic, charged with a dark eroticism, and seemingly composed of equal parts Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith, C. L. Moore's "Black God's Kiss" (1934) may start and end in medieval France, but it goes to some strange places in between. It is the first in her Jirel of Joiry series.

Another series character making an appearance here, in a rather unexceptional story, is Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer. In "Oh Ugly Bird!" (1951), John confronts a backwoods bully and the buzzard like creature he shares a bond with." As with the Elric story, I suspect voters thought they needed to have at least one story with a particular character.

Several stories represent the nuts-and-bolts, logic intense fantasy published by the legendary, if short-lived, Unknown magazine . L. Sprague de Camp's "Nothing in the Rules" (1939) details the legal wrangling necessary to get a mermaid into a swim meet. It's an adequate story. Better is the delightfully mean-spirited "A Gnome There Was" (1941) which turns its patronizing, trust fund, union organizing protagonist into a hard rock mining gnome. Anthony Boucher's "Snulbug" (1941) shows how it's really not that useful having tomorrow's newspaper. It isn't a great story though, just a passable exercise in logic.

Robert Bloch's "That Hell-Bound Train"(1958) is a classic deal with the Devil. Here a man barters his soul for a watch which will extend the happiest moment of his life into eternity - if he actually recognizes that moment at the time. It's a wise look at the power and perils of aspirations.

Casinos are the setting for Harlan Ellison's "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" (1967) and Fritz Leiber's "Gonna Roll the Bones" (1967). And they are also about the eternal war between the sexes. In the Ellison story, the desperate needs of a man on his last dollar and a prostitute collide in a Vegas casino when a slot machine goes on a very improbable winning streak. It's full of Ellison's combination of studied detail and stylistic pyrotechnics but marred a bit by a vague ending. The Leiber tale has a master dice thrower in a craps game with the Devil. While I'm not as in love with this story as many, the ending, with its sting about marital politics and manipulations, is interesting.

Seemingly about the struggles between certain types of men and women is Theodore Sturgeon's "The Silken Swift" (1953). It's really just about this man, these two women, and a unicorn. If that sounds like the setup, despite the fairy tale like language, to a joke that's because it kind of is - a ribald, not very funny joke.

A. Merritt's reputation has not survived history very well. He used to have whole magazines devoted to printing his work. "The Women of the Wood" (1926) shows well why he was so popular. Despite its ending, this tale of a man caught up in a war between forest spirits and the men determined to eradicate them had some interesting moral ambiguity that undercut the sympathies of its hero.

Frankly, I'm not really sure what happened in C. M. Kornbluth's "The Words of Guru" (1941), but it's disturbing, a bit surreal, and seems to involve a child who just might destroy the world.

Ray Bradbury's "Homecoming" (1946) has a small, normal boy growing up in a clan of monsters, most of them vampires. Not measuring up, being the outsider - not to mention missing out on the family's usual long lifespans - are the subjects.

Avram Davidson's "The Golem" (1955) has an elderly Jewish couple confronted by an impertinent, threatening golem escaped from a local mad scientist. It's just the right length not to wear out the Jewish humor and has a very satisfying resolution.

Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973) is a fable that not only self-consciously plays with what a fictional utopia should be like but the more important issue of how we face the tragedy of life, the circumstances natural law dictates to us. Is it foolish or noble to rebel? ( )
  RandyStafford | Feb 10, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Silverberg, RobertEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, PoulAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballard, J. G.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bisson, TerryAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blish, JamesAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bloch, RobertAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borges, Jorge LuisAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boucher, AnthonyAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, RayContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chiang, TedAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AvramAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Camp, L. SpragueAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dick, Philip K.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gold, H. L.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heinlein, Robert A.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, ShirleyAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lafferty, R. A.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leiber, FritzAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, C. L.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shepard, LuciusAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simak, Clifford D.Authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
St. Clair, MargaretAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturgeon, TheodoreAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, JackAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, GeneAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zelazny, RogerAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The phenomenon of the science fiction convention – a gathering of readers and writers for the mutual exchange of ideas and general social amusement – goes back nearly fifty years. (Introduction)
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There are two books with the title The Fantasy Hall of Fame.

One is from 1983, one is from 1998. The latter volume is associated with SFWA.

They are both edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Silverberg.

The later 1998 SFWA book has ISBN 0061052159 and 1568658583 for the hardcover.

The earlier book has been reprinted as The Mammoth Book Of Fantasy All-Time Greats (ISBN 0948164719) and the original ISBNS are 0877955212 and 0517451263
There are two books with the title The Fantasy Hall of Fame.

One is from 1983, one is from 1998. The latter volume is associated with SFWA.

They are both edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Silverberg.

The later 1998 SFWA book has ISBN 0061052159 and 1568658583 for the hardcover.

The earlier book has been reprinted as The Mammoth Book Of Fantasy All-Time Greats.
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Book description

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

An Inhabitant of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce

The Sword of Welleran by Lord Dunsany

The Women of the Wood by A. Merritt

The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan by Clark Ashton Smith

The Valley of the Worm by Robert E. Howard

Black God's Kiss by C. L. Moore

The Silver Key by H. P. Lovecraft

Nothing in the Rules by L. Sprague de Camp

A Gnome There Was by Henry Kuttner

Snulbug by Anthony Boucher

The Words of Guru by C. M. Kornbluth

Homecoming by Ray Bradbury

Mazirian the Magician by Jack Vance

O Ugly Bird! by Manly Wade Wellman

The Silken Swift by Theodore Sturgeon

The Golem by Avram Davidson

That Hell-Bound Train by Robert Bloch

Kings in Darkness by Michael Moorcock

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes by Harlan Ellison

Gonna Roll the Bones by Fritz Leiber

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guin
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061052159, Paperback)

When the Science Fiction Writers of America added the word fantasy to their name in 1992 (becoming the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), the SFWA membership thought it would be a good idea to create a defining collection of stories from their newly adopted genre. Accordingly, SFWA members nominated and voted for stories up to 17,500 words in length that were published between 1939 and 1990, eventually ending up with the top 15 stories and 15 runners-up. Those stories were collected in this book, a companion to SFWA's 1967 collection The Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Editor Robert Silverberg calls the Fantasy Hall of Fame "a definitive one-volume library of the modern fantasy short story," and as usual he's correct. Although you might not agree with all the choices (the most popular story turned out to be "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson), you'll find that every piece here is a true gem, from Anthony Boucher's Compleat Werewolf to Roger Zelazny's Unicorn Variations. --Craig E. Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:21 -0400)

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