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Modern Classics of Fantasy by Gardner R.…
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Modern Classics of Fantasy (1997)

by Gardner R. Dozois (Editor)

Other authors: Poul Anderson (Contributor), Peter S. Beagle (Contributor), Terry Bisson (Contributor), James P. Blaylock (Contributor), Suzy McKee Charnas (Contributor)26 more, John Crowley (Contributor), Avram Davidson (Contributor), L. Sprague de Camp (Contributor), George Alec Effinger (Contributor), Esther M. Friesner (Contributor), Horace L. Gold (Contributor), James Gurney (Cover artist), Damon Knight (Contributor), R. A. Lafferty (Contributor), Tanith Lee (Contributor), Ursula K. LeGuin (Contributor), Fritz Leiber (Contributor), Keith Roberts (Contributor), Robert Sampson (Contributor), Lucius Sherpard (Contributor), Bruce Sterling (Contributor), Thomas Burnett Swann (Contributor), Michael Swanwick (Contributor), Judith Tarr (Contributor), Jack Vance (Contributor), Howard Waldrop (Contributor), Manly Wade Wellman (Contributor), T. H. White (Contributor), Gene Wolfe (Contributor), Jane Yolen (Contributor), Roger Zelazny (Contributor)

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A big anthology, 32 stories and a long preface that takes about 660 pages total. The stories date from 1939 to 1996 and according to the editor they were all favorites of his. The majority of the stories were first published in a variety of magazines. Frankly I'm a little disappointed with this - there are too many weak stories. This does manage to present a wide variety of material to show the breadth of writing that can be considered fantasy. For me this meant that some of the types just failed to entertain me, especially the ones that tried to be humorous fantasy. The appearance of several strong stories and a few exceptional ones let me give this an overall OK to good rating. The editor writes a nice introduction to each and often gives a long recitation of titles by the author that was probably more useful in pre-internet times than now.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow of each story - that would be a task!. Among the stories that entertained and amused me was "Space-time for Springers" by Fritz Leiber, a story inside the head of a precocious kitten.

Many years ago, when I was in college in fact, I read Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" and was quite taken with it as I recall. In this collection is the novelette "The Overlord" which is supposed to be a story (one of many) that follows the original collection. It didn't trigger any recollection at all, although it is clearly written and enjoyable in the stylish fantasy prose that marks Vance's stories. I was glad to have read this but don't know how it connects to the original work.

Friends asked recently if I liked Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories and I couldn't recall, although I thought I had read a bit of them in my teens or early 20's. Surprisingly (or not) there was one in this collection - a novella "Scylla's Daughter." Unfortunately this story did not catch my fancy at all and I started to skim it and then gave it up. I did later go back and read the latter part of the story I had skimmed. It confirmed that this is just not my sort of story, even with cats. Not a bad story, just not my preference.

Keith Roberts' "The Signaller" was a wonderful heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking story set in an imagined alternate history England which reminded me that I must read Roberts' classic novel "Pavane" much sooner rather than later. The intro to this story tells me that this became part of the novel. Great imagination and storytelling with this one.

'The Manor of Roses' was an awesome piece of historical fiction/fantasy, a novella by Thomas Burnett Swann that the editor, in 1997, proclaimed one of the finest pieces of fantasy of the preceding 30 years. I'll make that 50 years. The writing is lovely without falling over the edge into purple schlock. It is a bit of a horror story as well as a fantasy and I was thoroughly entranced. Without giving things away the horror aspect here is primarily caused by mandrakes. Day of the Triffids type mandrakes! As an adult this is fairly mild but if I had read this as a child I may have missed much of the beauty and skill of the writing but would probably have had a nightmare or two and would never ever have ventured into an English garden or forest. I'll seek out other works by Swann in the future (he died in 1976). I believe I have one of his novels buried away somewhere.

I liked Poul Anderson's Nordic historical fiction / supernatural fantasy 'The Tale of Hauk.' This is told like we are reading an old Viking Saga and gives us a taste of what might happen if you die the wrong way. I've enjoyed this type of fantasy from Anderson before. He slips little details in with what might look like a throwaway sentence, but I appreciate it when a skillful author can do that.

I do really like it when an author can give me a story in about 10 pages that fully transports my mind to another place or gives me a look at something unexpected with enough detail. Anderson's 'The Tale of Hauk' took 17 pages to do that, but T.H. White and Jane Yolen manage to do that very nicely in about 10 pages each. White takes us on a visit to Lapland where we encounter 'The Troll', and Yolen puts us inside the mind of a tree spirit with 'The Sleep of Trees.' I read quite a few short stories and poems by Yolen within the pages of science fiction and fantasy magazines in the mid 80's and onward. They generally always satisfied. 'The Sleep of Trees' dates to a 1980 magazine publication and was new to me.

One of the grandest stories in here, and the story that is the source of the painting that graces the cover of this collection, is Lucius Shepard's 'The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule.' I had just started (in 1984) a one year sub to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (a Christmas gift from my spouse to be) and this story showed up in the last issue of the year (December 1984). I was devouring every one of the stories in the mags but this one knocked it out of the park. Re-reading it I can once again experience the discovery of the imagination that created this story. A little dark, and the sequel if I recall gets even darker (note to self - re-read the followup novella 'The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter'). I won't spoil the story but it is certainly among the best pieces of fantasy I read in the 80's. The story here is only 24 pages but I had it in my memory as much longer. I think I had added in one or two of the followup novellas. Shepard wrote some amazing stuff in the fantasy and science fiction genre in the 80's and into the 90's but his focus shifted more to horror in later years which I did not enjoy nearly as much as his earlier work. I need to read and re-read more of his works.

Slightly awesome to my warped mind is that the story that follows Griaule is 'A Cabin on the Coast' by Gene Wolfe, which appeared in the first copy (February 1984) of The magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I recieved in the mail those many years ago. This is a subtly spooky story about a ghost ship on the California coast that ventures into horror territory and even gave me a nightmare!

Ursula K Le Guin's 'Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight' is good but left me with mixed feelings. The story is a long short story that maybe needed to be the length of a true novella. It plays with the coyote-trickster character of Native American mythology who rescues a small girl who fell from the sky - the girl remembers being in a small plane. The coyote seems to be a shapeshifter. In fact just about everyone who shows up seems likely to be a shapeshifter. I won't try to analyze this story - I'm sure there is intended to be layers of meaning. There's some strange creepiness in here.

'Bears Discover Fire' by Terry Bisson is one of my very favorite fantasy short stories of all time. I first read it when it was published in Asimov''s magazine in 1990 and I've read it several times since. It won a slew of awards. It is a story that is what the title says - and it is also something more. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote RBeffa | Feb 7, 2018 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dozois, Gardner R.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, PoulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bisson, TerryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blaylock, James P.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charnas, Suzy McKeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crowley, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AvramContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Camp, L. SpragueContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Effinger, George AlecContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Friesner, Esther M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gold, Horace L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gurney, JamesCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, DamonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lafferty, R. A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
LeGuin, Ursula K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leiber, FritzContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, KeithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sampson, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherpard, LuciusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sterling, BruceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swann, Thomas BurnettContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swanwick, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tarr, JudithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vance, JackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waldrop, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wellman, Manly WadeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, T. H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, GeneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yolen, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zelazny, RogerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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For the editors, often forgotten now, who bought these stories, frequently against orders, because they loved a good fantasy - and wanted to share it with the world.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031215173X, Hardcover)

This is the kind of assortment that can hook a reader on short fantasy. Thirty-two good stories--some previously anthologized, some hot off the press ("Beauty and the Opera" by Suzy McKee Charnas appeared in July 1996), and a few once considered classic, but now nearly forgotten (Thomas Burnett Swann is rapidly falling out of sight)--offer entertainment for every taste. Many of the stories ("The Overworld" by Jack Vance, and "The Changeling" by Michael Swanwick) also offer continuation elsewhere as part of a longer work.

Gardner Dozois's emphasis is on magazine fiction. As such, it's an interesting view of the evolution and increasing sophistication of the "pulps"--and their readers. For this reason this would be an excellent text for a course on modern fantasy writing. Stories from Asimov Science Fiction Magazine, which Dozois edits, are prominent among the recent pieces. Providing a brief history of 20th-century fantasy, the introduction seems written with the new reader in mind.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:05 -0400)

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