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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 04:00 pm:   

https://secure.locusmag.com/2005/Issues/02PollAndSurvey.html

Locus has added a best fantasy stories of all time category to their readers' poll. I really like the idea, but the online drop down list of possibilities strikes me as very conservative, and almost completely lacks anyone not known first and foremost as a fantasy/genre writer.

Which is fine, because, granted, it's meant as a starting point, although the drop down list certainly will influence what people vote on online.

So, I'm curious--if you had to pick a Top 10 Fantasy stories as contenders for this category (I believe they're including novelettes [a bastard category of no reputable account :-) ] and novellas as well as short stories.), what would they be?

I'm tempted to say anything more recent than five years ago should be discounted, but what the hey--let's say as long as it was published no later than last week, it's eligible.

JeffV

PS I couldn't figure out a way to copy the contents of the Locus drop down list into this post, so if someone CAN that would help facilitate discussion...if anyone is interested in this.

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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 04:02 pm:   

I should note that Locus has limited it to stories from 1995 and before.

Um, Borges "Garden of the Forking Paths". Um, "Five Empires" by Alasdair Gray.
Um, Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber" or any other story therein.
Um, um, um...etc.

JeffV
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Christopher Rowe
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 05:39 pm:   

I can't figure out how to copy that list, either, but I bet Jonathan Strahan has it in a form he could post in here.

I saw that 1995 thing, too. But Andy Duncan's "The Pottawatomie Giant" is included and there's no way that's ten years old, is there?
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Anonymous
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 05:40 pm:   

Blaylock, James P., Paper Dragons
Bloch, Robert, That Hell-Bound Train
Bradbury, Ray, The Fog Horn
Bradbury, Ray, The Veldt
Cady, Jack, The Night We Buried Road Dog
Card, Orson Scott, Hatrack River
Charnas, Suzy Mckee, Unicorn Tapestry
Chiang, Ted, Story of Your Life
Cowper, Richard, Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Crowley, John, Great Work of Time
Dann, Jack, Going Under
Davidson, Avram, Or All the Seas with Oysters
Denton, Bradley, The Territory
Duncan, Andy, The Potawottamie Giant'
Ellison, Harlan, The Deathbird
Ellison, Harlan, Jeffty Is Five
Godwin, Parke, The Fire When It Comes
Hand, Elizabeth, Last Summer at Mars Hill
Heinlein, Robert A., And He Built a Crooked House
Holdstock, Robert, Mythago Wood
King, Stephen, The Monkey
Lafferty, R.A., Continued on Next Rock
Lansdale, Joe R., On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks
Le Guin, Ursula K., Dragonfly
Lee, Tanith, Red as Blood
Leiber, Fritz, Ill Met in Lankhmar
Leiber, Fritz, Smoke Ghost
Lovecraft, H.P., The Colour Out of Space
Macleod, Ian R., The Summer Isles
Martin, George R.R., The Monkey Treatment
McCaffrey, Anne, The Smallest Dragonboy
McHugh, Maureen F., The Lincoln Train
McIntyre, Vonda N., Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand
Morrow, James, City of Truth
Robinson, Kim Stanley, Black Air
Ryman, Geoff, The Unconquered Country
Schow, David J., Red Light
Shea, Michael, The Autopsy
Shepard, Lucius, The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule
Sterling, Bruce, Flowers of Edo
Straub, Peter, Blue Rose
Sturgeon, Theodore, It
Swanwick, Michael, Radio Waves
Vance, Jack, The Last Castle
Wagner, Karl Edward, Sticks
Waldrop, Howard, The Ugly Chickens
Wilhelm, Kate, With Thimbles, with Forks and Hope
Willis, Connie, Jack
Wolfe, Gene, Seven American Nights
Wu, William F., Wong's Lost and Found Emporium
Zelazny, Roger, Unicorn Variation
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 06:10 pm:   

Thanks, Anon!

JeffV
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 06:25 pm:   

This is the list? If I were to include an Ellison, I'd have to say "Paladin of the Lost Hour".

Yeah, that is a pretty conservative list. I'd have to think about it for awhile, though, before posting my candidates. That's a tough category to have to think about.
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 06:49 pm:   

And I do think the list is just meant as a starting point. However, it does influence the electronic vote quite a bit, since it is very easy to just select what's on the list rather than do a "write in".

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 06:51 pm:   

I'd agree with these selections, probably. Many of the others I can't remember or haven't read...or don't agree with.
JeffV

Bradbury, Ray, The Veldt
Cowper, Richard, Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Crowley, John, Great Work of Time
Davidson, Avram, Or All the Seas with Oysters
Denton, Bradley, The Territory
Leiber, Fritz, Ill Met in Lankhmar
Ryman, Geoff, The Unconquered Country
Shea, Michael, The Autopsy
Shepard, Lucius, The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule
Vance, Jack, The Last Castle

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John Klima
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 07:01 pm:   

It's stunning how few of those I've read.

:-(

JK
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DB
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 07:23 pm:   

Nothing by Millhauser, Chabon, Hawthorne, Poe, etc. etc.

This kind of list is ridiculous.
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 08:00 pm:   

Yes, and yet if we beat the bushes, who knows what wonders we'll flush out!

JeffV
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 09:54 pm:   

This is what we in the trade call 'stepping into the lion's den'. As most of you know, I work for what my colleague Tim Pratt refers to as a certain magazine. And, as you’ve noted, that certain magazine had decided to poll its readers on their personal selections for the greatest fantasy short story of all time. What you’re not aware of is the background.

Let me take you back a month or so, to the blistering heat of a Perth summer day. Editor-in-chief Charles Brown was on his semi-annual sojourn to the West to finalise the annual recommended reading list, and assorted matters. During conversations, perhaps over a glass of champagne as the sun set over the Swan River, the matter of what optional question should accompany the annual magazine poll arose, and your humble correspondent made a suggestion. Given our taste for polls, given that we’d asked readers about the greatest writers of all time, short stories of all time, and such, what about asking readers to name their choice for greatest fantasy short story of the all time? It sounded like a good idea. It was then set aside for a while and Charles returned to the East (which is the West if you’re in the US).

After a while, the question was readdressed, and I suggested we ask readers to nominate the best fantasy short published after 1900. Somehow, that morphed into before 1995 (though I don’t know how). I was then asked to provide a ‘seed’ list for the online version of the poll, with maybe fifty stories on it. To be honest, I disliked doing this because I think it prejudices the response you get, but I reluctantly acceded. Of course, as happens, I was in a hurry and a) made some errors, and b) didn’t take the 1995 limitation into account because I was unaware of it. The list is being revised and a new version should be up in a day or so, but it still will be less than perfect.

What I hope readers will do is ignore the list entirely. Go online to the poll, or return the poll in the middle of the magazine, and nominate the story you think is best or worthy or whatever. The results will simply be used to compile a list, so there’s nothing incredible riding on this, and by nominating you can help make the final list interesting and non-conservative and varied. It might even be cool.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 05:57 am:   

Yeah--I figured that was it, Jonathan. LOL!

You're not stepping into the lion's den. You're stepping into a good pub with people you know.

Nice background--and a good idea!

JeffV
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Brendan
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 11:14 am:   

Here are a few of my favourite short stories, two of them are coming out in an antho I edited, The Metaphysical Machine. Unfortunately, the Bloy is not one of those. Is it in English? Not sure....Borges did put it in his "Library of Babel". So many good short stories though. A bit silly to try and say which are the best.

Oliver Onions – The Beckoning Fair One
Marcel Shcwob – Arachne
Baron Corvo – The Armed Hands
Gogol – The Nose
Jean Richepin – The Metaphysical Machine
Alphonse Allais – A Christmas Story (unfortunately(?) he wrote many by this title…)
Leon Bloy – Tissane
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Claude Lalumičre
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 12:41 pm:   

Although I might have nominated differently at some other time -- tastes are so fickle and transitory -- these are the ones I voted for, five fantasy stories that have long been among my very favourites (none of them were on the drop-down list):
(this might not be the same order in which I placed them; they're all equally great.)
Jonathan Carroll -- Friend's Best Man
R.A. Lafferty -- You Can't Go Back
Gene Wolfe -- The Detective of Dreams
J.G. Ballard -- The Drowned Giant
Lucius Shepard -- Surrender
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 02:03 pm:   

In addition to what's been mentioned, needs
Manly Wade Wellman
Ambrose Bierce
Louisa May Alcott
Shirley Jackson
Peter Beagle
Mark Twain
Michael Moorcock
L Sprague de Camp
Robertson Davies
Henry James
Pat McKillip
Stephen Vincent Benet
Joyce Carol Oates
Jack Williamson
Karl Edward Wagner
Poe, Poe, Poe
Henry Kuttner
Ramsey Campbell
L. Frank Baum
Edith Wharton
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Richard Matheson
Tanith Lee
Fredric Brown
Lord Dunsany
C.S. Lewis
W.P. Kinsella
Lewis Carroll
Robert Reed (?--I'm only thinking of SF stories for Bob, so maybe not)
Charles de Lint
Neil Gaiman
Steven Millhauser
Kelly Link (post 95, but so's Duncan & Chiang & Dragonfly by LeGuin)
Jeff Ford
John M. Ford (those pesky Fords)

There's more, but that's what jumps out at the moment. Many of the above names, there's a singular story that's obvious, The Lottery, The Yellow Wall Paper, Shoeloss Joe Jackson comes to Iowa, The Devil and Daniel Webster, etc. The others, there's a range to choose from.

and there should be more Wolfe,
and more Stephen King (who's a much better short fiction writer than novelist),

not to mention I'd argue about which story to choose for a lot of the authors named--Lucius, Wolfe, Le Guin (though I do love the ending of Dragonfly), Davidson, Connie Willis, etc.
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 02:05 pm:   

Rip Van Winkle has to be on the list, for historical significance alone.

(I know JV wanted top ten, but as a service to Jonathan, and to keep from driving myself nuts trying to pick just ten, I just went stream of consciousness.)
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 02:08 pm:   

AS for top ten, would that be top ten personal favorites. Top ten most significant. The Fantasy Alltime Top Ten (thus far, of course). All of these would be different, and require more brain power than I can dare spare for now.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 02:12 pm:   

Naw--no rules, Minz. Free range. But you're including some writers who didn't publish much before 1995.

JeffV
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Anonymous
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 02:53 pm:   

Terry Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire" needs to be on that list.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 05:25 pm:   

Thank you, Terry Bisson, for nominating your story.

JeffV
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Anonymous
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 06:02 pm:   

Sorry, but I'm not Terry Bisson nor do I know Terry Bisson personally. I'm just saying that from the list I've seen above, "Bears Discover Fire," is a glaring omission in my opinion.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 06:13 pm:   

And yet...so anonymous over something so...harmless. LOL!

JeffV
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Anonymous
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 06:30 pm:   

"And yet...so anonymous over something so...harmless. LOL!"

For what it's worth, my name is Byron Bailey and I find it very funny that anyone would mistake me for Terry Bisson.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 06:33 pm:   

LOL! Well, Byron--it's a great recommendation. Thanks.

JeffV
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Jonathan
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 07:15 pm:   

Hey guys

If you're interested, there is a new, revised and much looonger list for the poll at

https://secure.locusmag.com/2005/Issues/02FantasyStoryPoll.html

Jonathan
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jeff ford
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 07:58 pm:   

A couple I'd add are Mike Harrison's stories -- that collection of his blew me away. Also some of Michael Bishop's stories -- his Brighten to Incanescent is one of the best collections I've come across in recent years. I agree on the Bisson. Also couldn't do without Kipling and Isaac Bashevis Singer, and somebody must have listed Avram Davidson somewhere. That's just ones off the top of my head.
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ben peek
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 08:04 pm:   

i'm surprised no one picked ellison's 'the man who rowed christopher columbus ashore'. i reckon that's about one of the best things he's done. well, at least i reckon it today.

(or maybe that's after 1995. i'm sure it was published before andy duncan's story, though.)

i'd also agree with the ryman, morrow, and leiber choice--though i don't know if i'd pick smoke ghost. it's a fine little thing, but i don't know about best.


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Claude Lalumičre
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 03:52 am:   

I changed my vote (in the new, extended ballot) for Shepard's "Surrender" to his "The Jaguar Hunter".
I was tempted to vote for Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire" as it is one of my favourite stories ever, but here genre rears its head. As this is a story about evolution, I see it entirely as SF. I just don't see any fantasy elements to it (barring of course that SF is, as Robert Silverberg often says, a kind of fantasy). Still, with so many worthy stories to choose from, I chose to stay with stories that I clearly saw as fantasy. If this had been a "best story" regardless of genre, the choice would have been much harder. And if this were a science-fiction story poll, "Bears Discover Fire" would certainly be on my list.
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al duncan
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 04:47 am:   

Kipling, yes! I'm not sure if "The Gardener" quite classifies as fantasy but "They" has to be one of the most poignant and beautiful ghost stories I've ever read. I'd be tempted to vote for "The Finest Story In The World" though, just for the Abbot & Costello style "Who came first?" routine you could work with it.
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jeff ford
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 05:21 am:   

Al: The Finest Story In The World is one of my all time favorites. Great pacing and a really cool effect of slowly dawning weirdness. And the narrator, the writer, pushes the kid because he wants the end of the story. That's beautiful. But my top Kiplings are The Phantom rickshaw, The Return of Imray, and The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows. I'm finishing an essay for The virtual Anthology now for FM that deals with The Return of Imray. A problematic writer, but a really great short story writer.
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Minz
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 07:43 am:   

TB definitely belongs on the list, and I thought Mike Bishop was on the original--and I notice they had Tanith Lee so I didn't need to suggest her. I was just stream of consciousing.

And they violated the 1995 at least three times on the initial list. (both Le Guin's & Chiang's stories were 98, Duncan's 2000 or 2001--I'm pretty sure. I didn't check anything, but I worked on Legends, and remember reading Ted's story my first year in NYC)
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 08:10 am:   

I think you either let everything from 1995 in or you take it all off. Just not fair otherwise, and creates an artificial debate.

JeffV
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 08:12 am:   

I think you should only be able to vote for things written before you were born. :-)

JK
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Tim Pratt
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 09:40 am:   

Here are my picks (and my idiosyncratic criteria was to select stories that I first read some years ago, that I still remember with great fondness, and that, upon re-reading, still hold up well)

Theodore Sturgeon, "Need"

Jonathan Carroll, "Friend's Best Man"

Ted Chiang, "Story of Your Life" (I always thought it was SF, but it was on the original drop-down list, so...)

Lovecraft, "The Silver Key"

Charles de Lint, "Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair"

If you asked me next week, I'd probably choose entirely different stories, though Jonathan Carroll and Theodore Sturgeon would probably still be on it, and I'd likely pick *some* de Lint story from the first or second Newford collections, just because they were so formative for me.
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Susan Marie Groppi
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 10:24 am:   

If one is going to accept the category division between fantasy and science fiction, I'm not sure how one could possibly draw that line such that "Story of Your Life" ends up on the "fantasy" side. Also I feel compelled to point out that there's no way it was published in or before 1995. It's such a good story that I can understand wanting to vote for it whether or not it's technically eligible, but if you're going to go to the effort of having restrictions on the list, you should probably at least abide by them, you know?
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Susan Marie Groppi
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 10:29 am:   

Aha! And, if you check the new and improved voting list, as I should have done before posting, you learn that "Story of Your Life" isn't on the list anymore.
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Tim Pratt
Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - 11:43 am:   

True, true. I voted on the first day, when the drop-down list was still in existence. Suppose I should go re-vote...
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Rhys
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 07:32 am:   

'The Congress' -- Jorge Luis Borges,
'The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D' -- J.G. Ballard,
'The Scythe' -- Ray Bradbury,
'Masterson and the Clerks' -- John Sladek,
'The Small Stones of Tu Fu' -- Brian Aldiss,
'Conversations at Ma Maia Metron' -- Robert Meadley,
'The Four Colour Problem' -- Barrington Bayley,

And three others... if I listed those now I'd probably change my mind tomorrow, so I'm keeping my options open.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:10 pm:   

I'm enraged !!!! And also quite intrigued by the worthy choices being chosen here. But, wait. What about the major authors who DEFINED this genre (apart from Poe). I'm talking, of course, about Robert Louis Stevenson (Will O' the Mill, The Merry Men, Jekyll and Hyde, etc. etc.); Conan Doyle (The Lost world, The Poison Belt); J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan); and surely to god, the most important figure of them all - George MacDonald, orchestrator of "At the Back of the North Wind", verily regarded as the first definitive fantasy novel ever.

OK, maybe Stevenson is a purveyor of other things (horror or science fiction??); and Conan Doyle is the property of detective enthusiasts. Barrie has been positively ruined by the reduction of Peter Pan to mere pantomine (although pantomine is interesting in its own right)...

But, shame on ye! Not a mention of MacDonald, one of the most important (if not THE most importatnt) figures in the development of fantasy.

So, in a round about kind of way, those were choices.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:20 pm:   

And, for the love of god, the greatest book ever written. James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which (judging by some of the rather wild choices considered here) could pass for fantasy - apparently.

Hogg's confessions is the scariest book ever written (with the exception of one or two other things that some of you, no doubt, could mention - which would make an interesting thread perhaps - but...) but is it fantasy?

Definitely, judging by some of the very un-fantasy-like things being suggested above. Sorry, am I starting a genre war?

But, Borges. Now, he was a devout lover of Stevenson. In fact, Steveons was not only one of his favourite authors, but one of his favourite things. wait, and I'll give you the quote.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:21 pm:   

Jesus. Drink's going to my head. Hold on.
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JV
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:24 pm:   

Frankly, I think the only useful way to consider this question is to get drunk.

I've been trying to think of my top 5 fantasy stories of all time and it's hopeless. They keep changing every five seconds.

JeffV
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:31 pm:   

Here it is, from the essay 'Borges and I' by Borges...

‘I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the roots of words, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson.’

So, for those of you giving it loads with the Borges thing, don't forget Stevenson, Borges's big passion. And if you've never read Will O' the Mill or Thrawn Janet or (perhaps above all) The Merry Men, then you're depriving yourself. If, that is, you consider yourself an expert on fantasy, horror, etc...
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:32 pm:   

I'm finished now. Thanks
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 02:45 pm:   

No, no. You're completely right, JV. It's impossible. I've already changed my mind. I was thinking - hey, what about the major forefahters (spelt correctly of course)??? But now I'm thinking - yes, but The Lost World isn't fantasy as WE know it. Fantasy as we know it began somewhere around Moorcock or Zelazny or with Howard maybe. Fantasy is a completely different thing now from what it was then.

And, I feel that fantasy NOW is much closer to things PRIOR to the 19th century "forefathers", who seem so apart from anything always somehow. I mean to say that, a novel by Zelazny, Liz Williams or Jeff Vandemeer seems much closer to Celtic legends or The Voyage of the Argos than 19th century stuff does, and therefore... well, I don't know what, really.
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jeff ford
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 03:11 pm:   

Dunmore: And let's not forget -- "The Bottle Imp." That's a beauty or "The Suicide Club" and the rest of The New Arabian Nights. Great stuff.
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 03:40 pm:   

Jeff F., you speak the undoubted truth. I forgot. Perhaps The Suicide Club is the most bizzare story ever written. Good call. And I thrust this challenge upon ye all - read this story and tell if, indeed, there is a story more bizzare than it. The plot is as the title reads: a club for people who wish to commit suicide.

And " The Bottle Imp"? Right, JF.

It has occured to me that any poll about fantasy that doesn't mention RL Stevenson cannot be taken seriously. One of my justifications for this is that he is one of the only "forefathers" (apart from Poe) who stands out as if he has just finshed writing his stories yesterday.

Gee whizz, the suicide club. Shocking stuff.
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 03:59 pm:   

Sorry, I don't mean to thrust anything on you exactly. Being a bit over-enthusiastic. But it's one hell of a story.

However, I do think Stevenson's absence from the Locus fantasy poll is (how can I say it?) questionable. And, as JF has implied, there are some stories by RLS that are quite incredible and should actually be legendary (alongside Poe and Lovecraft and whoever else) alongside all the legendary stories the predate/comprise fantasy.

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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 04:04 pm:   

But what a beautiful discussion!
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JV
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 06:25 pm:   

What about these stories?

Jeff

"The Distended Pupil" by Beckett

"Lord Bosch and the Underlings" by William Hope Hodgson

"Inevitable Decay" by Lord Dunsany

"Eyecandy for Magpies" by Angela Carter

"The Reliquary at Antigua" by Borges

JeffV
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Brendan
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 04:17 am:   

Dunmore: James Hogg's piece is a novel. I don't think they are talking about novels here. He did write shorter things though I am not sure if any of them would fall on the top ten list. Most of the best 19th century writers of the fantastic were French though, I think.
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jeff ford
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 05:26 am:   

Another writer who was enormously influential and seems to have gotten the short shrift here is ETA Hoffmann. "The Sandman" "The Golden Pot" "The Twins" etc.

Jeff: For the Borges selection, I'd have to go with "The Aleph." Although I know everyone is going to have a different favorite. It has so many of his best traits and best story lines in it. Plus his sense of humor is in full gear with that lousy poet who is writing the grand epic of all creation. Mixed with the sublime and the humorous is the emotional impact and writing about the dead woman whom the narrator loved. I love the fact that the aleph is in some guys basement and the way you have to lay on the floor with your head a certain way to see it.
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 11:54 am:   

Brendan, you're right. A misplaced suggestion on my behalf. And also you're right as regards Hogg's short stories.

But, wait again. Some of Hogg's short stories would eat up for dinner some of those mentioned above!

And, you're right again, some of the french 19th century writers were exceptional. But care to mention a few? Hugo and Dumas (wonderful wrtiers) spring to mind, but I'm very thin on the ground as regards others.

I'll say one thing, Victor Hugo is incredible. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (or Notre Dame di Paris or however you spell it) is wonderful. In fact, it's one of those stories (like Jekyll and Hyde or Dracula) that is so well known that it doesn't tend to get read, precisely because it's so well known. And, of course, when you read it, you discover that it's so different (and similar) to how it's been portrayed in films or by hearsay.

And, JF, you're spot on again. Hoffman should have been mentioned ages ago. In fact, I feel ashamed for not having mentioned him myself!

Still, I can't help thinking that desperate searching for who wrote the best fantasy novel leads to certain strange conclusions (the fact, for example, that people like me are insisting on George MacDonald. The fact that he is so important, and wrote a great fantasy novel, doesn't mean that it's THE greatest fantasy novel. But, then again, perhaps it should be considered as the greatest because it was the first?? Oh, my head hurts. I'm too drunk again. What day is it?)
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 12:06 pm:   

'wrtiers', by the way, is french for 'writers'.
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 02:30 pm:   

And, I would like to add, a most important figure ideed, being Andrew Lang, who hasn't written a story of great note, but was most crucial in supporting those writers who weren't Realists during a period (late 19th century) when realism was considered the be all and end all of exemplary literary endeavour.

Andrew Lang, an interesting fellow if ever there was... Championed "romance" when it was very unfashionable to do so. To the point that he made it a viable "literary" medium when it was almost impossible to do so.

Well, on second and third or even fourth thoughts, I think we need to salute these fine forefathers of yore. So I'm going to vote for them right now....
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dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 02:42 pm:   

I should say, just in case there's anyone wondering, that Andrew Lang was very much as influential as Frazer's The Golden Bough as regards the "archetypal" approach to studying literature, which is perhaps especially relevant to fantasy. God, I can feel myself prising open a can of worms as we speak. But, certainly, he's a figure worth checking out.

I've ran out of booze now so will go away, and apologise profusely for writing so many messages in such a short space of time. Night, all.
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 03:09 pm:   

Oh, and I've just noticed that there is a connection between all the people (writers, rather than 'people') I've mentioned on this thread (apart from Hoffman, who wasn't my suggestion, but the suggestion of the worthy JF)..

If anyone can guess what that is, I'll send them... now let me see... I'll send them a bottle of whisky.

And now I remain silent. And, by the way, there is a kind of clue in this message as to the answer to my questioon...

ah, it's great to be drunken and irresponsible.
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Brendan
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 01:29 am:   

Actually, I think the best French fantasy short story writers are the following:

Rachilde
Villiers de l'Isle Adam
Catulle Mendes
Charles Nodier
Marcel Schwob
Jean Lorrain

A Russian writer I like a lot who doesn't get the attention he deserves is:

Odoevsky

Also, the Hungarian writer Gyula Krudy has some very good fantasy stories in his Sinbad book.
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Dunmore
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 02:04 pm:   

Thanks, Brendan. Will check them out. And you've reminded us that we should remember to keep an eye on eastern europe for writers and stories of exceptional interest. There's one Russian writer I've came across who's very interesting, called Mikhail Zoshchencko, writing around the early 20th century, I think, and writing stories very much geared towards fantasy.
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Minz
Posted on Monday, February 07, 2005 - 12:47 pm:   

Hey Dunmore, keep drinking!! I've been thoroughly enjoying your posts, though I'm wondering what particular short story of Barrie that you'd recommend. I haven't read anything beyond Peter Pan, and am drawing a blank on any short fiction of his that belongs on the list. (I'm not saying he doesn't belong, merely that I don't know his short fiction.)

Brendan, thanks for the recs.
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 05:51 am:   

Dunmore - shouldn't that prize be a bottle of 'Scotch'?
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Dunmore
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 01:28 pm:   

Honour is due, NeilW. And, having consulted a panel of imaginary judges, it has been decided that the cunning delivery of your answer merits, not only an official declaration of its legitimacy, but a good single malt by way of a prize.

We, the judges and I, will now endeavour to elicit some discreet and unobtrusive means of ensuring its arrival, but wonder if, in the meantime, this little ‘virtual’ offering might suffice:

http://www.aberlour.co.uk/welcome.asp

Now, Minz. The suggestion to carry on drinking is a good one – and one which the judges and I heartily approve of (but for our depleted reserves).

Nevertheless, let my little episode of over-excitement above serve as a lesson for us all as regards the costly effects of combining hard liquor with discussion boards. I am now bound by very exacting moral principles to ensure that the worthy NeilW receives his reward, for so it is that gentlemanly challenges, when met, must be duly honoured. And whisky costs a lot of money these days. Specially single malts.

About Barrie, Minz. I confess I was thinking about Peter Pan, which was before it had been pointed out to me that novels weren't included (which verily stands as another example of the twin evils of drink and discussion boards). But can't we allow Peter Pan? It's not very big. It only seems big cause you read it when you're a kid. Can I call it a novella, or a novelette?
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 02:09 pm:   

You may *not* call it a novelette. This bastard category with no literary meaning whatsoever from a writer's point of view should be done away with forthwith.

And I haven't had anything to drink. More's the pity.

JeffV
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 02:11 pm:   

LOL, that'll do nicely, Dunmore.

I'm wondering, however, why it occured to you in the first place to list writers with that particular link in common.
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 02:13 pm:   

When I hear "novelette" I hear "Smurfette" - surely that says it all?
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AnnaT
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 03:17 pm:   

Being no authority, I've learned much from this discussion, so many thanks to you who've stuck your necks out. From my own spotty reading, may I humbly offer a personal favourite? Alphonse Daudet.
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Jed Hartman
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 08:49 pm:   

Stopping by belatedly: I'm surprised nobody's been talking about the possible distinction between "greatest" and "favorite."

To me, the word "great" carries a variety of connotations. For example, if I were to describe a story as "great," I would probably mean that it's stood the test of time, and had a vast and undeniable influence on later work, and is still loved by many. And the fact that the poll is looking for one single greatest fantasy story of all time makes the pressure on the chosen work that much higher -- I feel like it would have to somehow represent the entire field, so it needs to be kind of iconic, not idiosyncratic. Whereas a lot of the stories I love best are pretty idiosyncratic. So there are a fair number of stories that, although among my very favorite stories in the world, I'd be reluctant to vote for in this poll. And there are others that, while I don't especially like them, are more or less undeniably great.

I'm still hoping to come up with a list of stories that I think fit those "greatness" criteria *and* that I loved. So far I'm having a hard time with it. The closest I've come so far is Joan Aiken's "The Third Wish," but it hasn't had the level of influence on the field that I associate with real greatness.
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AnnaT
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 09:33 pm:   

I don't know about other people, but I seem to lack the correct amount of appreciation for so many "greats", but do know what moves me (at least, at a particular moment). If thinking in terms of "great", though, isn't that rather trying to gauge the views of others? In which case one's own tastes become irrelevant? Perhaps this is how some "greats" who possibly the majority of people privately think are really crocks of something smelly are lauded as masterpieces? Just thoughts, maybe just a crock of something smelly.
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AnnaT
Posted on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 09:58 pm:   

Well, that posting of mine was probably asinine, and badly put, to boot. What I should have said, and left it at that, is that I'm glad to have read here about stories and authors people have personally thought great, or just enjoy a helluvalot.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 06:47 am:   

No, Anna, I think you're spot on.

In addition, it's not just the issue of people trying to gauge the views of others, but of actually forcing them.

That's what F. R. Leavis did (major oxford dude in the early twentieth-century) who decided everything about what was good and what was bad literature (what a fellow! - hoorah!).

We're still living with his despicable legacy of assigning to the "canon" a hierarchy of greatness beginning, at the top, with Shakespeare and ending, at the bottom, with sub-literary nonsense like fantasy.

I think with the Locus poll, though, the whole thing is different. We're working here according to a consensus opinion of "greatness". It's a democracy in motion - hoorah! And it may well be that consensus opinion awards the honour of greatness to a very idiosyncratic story indeed, which surely, Good Jed, is as good a criterion for greatness as being iconic - which may, in fact, be the very quintessence of iconicity.

Let the people decide what is iconic and what is not!
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jeff ford
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 07:37 am:   

Dunmore: I know of a Dunmore who wrote an introduction to an edition of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. That wouldn't be you would it? Of course, no need to answer if you feel the question too personal.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 08:59 am:   

Wasn't me, alas, Jeff. I wish it was. I did once write a book review on Glenda Norquay's collection of Stevenson essays, 'Stevenson on Fiction'.

Not quite as glamorous, but it was a pleasure to write on Norquay's collection, which contains some great essays by Stevenson. He says a fair few things that would have put yon Leavis in his place, and a fair few things supporting the kind of stories we're talking about here.

I wonder, Jeff F, now I recall your mention of The Suicide Club, if you know anything about an old film version of that story that was made. I know it's in black and white and is either British or American, but that's all. Must have been a risky film to make, considering the subject matter, especially back in the days of black and white (when everything was pervaded by an all-abiding sense of decency).

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jeff ford
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 09:16 am:   

According to the Internet Movie Database there were a number of films made of The suicide Club, or a number with that title, going all the way back to the earliest days of cinema and as recently, I think I saw, as last year.
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Minz
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 09:36 am:   

Leavis aside, Shakespeare _was_ one of the great fantasists of his time. The Tempest and Midsummer's Night's Dream are two classics. And MacBeth is a very entertaining historical fantasy (okay, more of a historical with some fantastical elements).

Also, there's plenty in the early b&w days of film that had nothing to do with an all-abiding sense of decency. It's just that the establishment pulled a Leavis and moved towards the saccharine crap. I'd actually be tempted to assert that films in the b&w days were actually much more free of social constrictions than in the days of color film. (I'd have to think longer and harder before getting all definitive about it. It's certainly true comparing much of the b&w era and current contemporary film, at least what's released nationally--though the various changes in how films are distributed over the years make even the phrase "released nationally" a problematic qualifier.)
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jeff ford
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 09:59 am:   

Minz: And you can add The Winter's Tale if you are willing to believe that the king's wife actually was turned to stone -- no reason not to really. Also, you got those creepy witches in McBeth, and I'm not talking about his wife.
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 02:49 pm:   

Minz, I know what you mean. But Shakespeare was a total thief of fantasy. He doesn't have a clue what he was talking about. His plays are full of complete distortions of the histories, folktales and fables from other countries (i.e. Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, etc.). He's the most unreliable source for anything you can think of.

Macbeth is a case in point. According to Shakespeare MacBeth is some kind of Robert De Niro figure from a Scorsese film.

Whereas MacBeth was one of the most successful kings in Scottish or in any country's history.
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JV
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 02:53 pm:   

Aren't those intentional distortions? I'm sure he didn't give a rat's ass about being true to the originals--just steal what suited him and arrange it as he saw fit.

JeffV
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 03:50 pm:   

Indeed. Mel Gibson did the same with Braveheart and he was condemened almost beyonod oblivion...

Can someone explain to me the difference between Shakspeare and Mel Gibson (apart from the fact that Gibson's film is enjoyable and Shakespeare's stuff is...well, Shakespeare).
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JV
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 04:48 pm:   

Mel Gibson is a simple-minded ass whose facial expressions as an actor have become more and more limited as time has progressed, even as his mindset has also become more stony and limited?

But I didn't mind Gibson's version of Hamlet.

JeffV
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dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 04:50 pm:   

Sorry. I'm getting all ratty cause we're talking about shakespeare. just how leavis would have wanted it!
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 04:51 pm:   

Oh God, there's a connection between Gibson and Shakespeare. I forgot about that.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 04:55 pm:   

Oh, and don't - please god - let's mention the film that gibson made about - what's his name- oh, yes, jesus. That was it.

I'll say only this...oooooffuuhhfffaarffg. That was bad.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 04:59 pm:   

But the Hamlet he did was very good, and filmed within a few feet from where I was born.
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 - 05:06 pm:   

And I've just mentally digested what JV was saying about Mel gibson's facial expressions, and only stopped laughing.

How true. It's funny, though. If you see the first Mad Max film, which is great, he makes no expressions whatsoever at all. And then he spends the rest of his career trying to make up for it.
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Tamar
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 06:37 am:   

"Shakespeare was a total thief of fantasy. He doesn't have a clue what he was talking about. His plays are full of complete distortions of the histories, folktales and fables from other countries (i.e. Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, etc.). He's the most unreliable source for anything you can think of."

To my way of thinking, folktales and fables are possessed by everyone, and we have a right to embellish or alter them as we like. After all, that's surely how they came to exist in the first place.

History is a rather different proposition because it pretends to accuracy. Messing with that is an altogther more dangerous and loaded pastime. But that doesn't stop people doing it.
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 08:46 am:   

Agreed, Tamar.

But my objection is to the appropriation of folk tales etc. by an appropriator who then claims all the credit for having produced them or, at least, for having produced the purveyor par excellence in a figure like Shakespeare. The canonisation of Shakespeare (and the development of the canon under such terms) means the destruction, not the perforation, of folktales and fables. It is the setting of them in stone (as misrepresentations) so that they are no longer things that pervade freely as you describe.

For me, saying (sorry Minz) that Shakespeare is one of the greatest fantasists of all time is like saying that Mel Gibson is one of the greatest historians of all time.

I'm just glad that Shakespeare didn't write any short stories, novellas or novelettes(!) so people could vote for him in polls like the Locus one.
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des
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 09:24 am:   

To my way of thinking, folktales and fables are possessed by everyone, and we have a right to embellish or alter them as we like.

Exactly, but how far can one legitimately take this, depending on the definitions? Are there modern folktales and fables?

This is a huge subject. But threads die...
des

PS: As a child I used to pull at threads in my blanket or counterpane and tease, worry them ... bobble them...
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 10:38 am:   

Hope I didn't sound rude earlier, Tamar. I wrote my response in a hurry. The point you're making is spot on.

One thing though is, you know how you said we have the right to embellish or alter them (folk tales etc.) as we like? Well, this introduces an element of conscious manipulation as regards the development of folk tales and stories and so on.

One of the things about folk tales is that they seem to grow out of nothing and that they are simply there. It's a big, big question. But do you think we actually have control over the development of these stories which have this seemingly amorphous universal form? It's a question that's always bothered me. Well, not to the extent that it's kept me awake at night or anything, but it's an important question, and I'd be seriously interested to know what you, or anyone else, thinks about it.

Am I speaking rubbish? Could be. But you know what I mean. It's almost as if the folktales and fables dictate themselves, rather than the other way round.

And as for you, Des (though it's way past your bed time), I think YOU ought to give us the answer to your question first. Do you believe there are such things as modern folktales or fables? Go now, and pick up the gaunlet!
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Dunmore
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 10:47 am:   

I've just noticed that me and des have just asked amazingly big questions on huge subjects which it could take forever to answer.

I suggest, des, that you and I go away and leave these people in peace and that we begin a new thread and remain there for the whole of eternity, just you and me, except on saturdays.

Only, I don't know how to make a thread. Do you need flour?
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JV
Posted on Saturday, February 12, 2005 - 12:45 pm:   

I'm happy to see this thread continue on about this subject.

JeffV
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des
Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 12:27 am:   

I do not know who Dunmore is but he or she seems to know I have early nights!
Where is the border beween an archetypal folklore or fable (which one can mess about with) and, say, a modern work which one may or may not be able to use as a shared universe? I genuinely don't know.
As to history, this is just as undependable as fiction: even primary sources. (Just look at modern news reports).
All tied up with The Intentional Fallacy and the Collective Unconscious.
Genuine brainstorming regarding creativity (and loosening/tightening of archetypes and by-lines), however, should never, in real life, compromise ownership.
des
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Tamar
Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 02:02 am:   

Perhaps the reason why folktales seem to "grow out of nothing" and to have this "amorphous universal form" is that they are derived directly from the unconscious, and express the primary emotions. They are allegories for universal human hopes, fears and experiences. I think it's impossible for us to grasp nowadays, in the age of print, just how these fantasies arose, developed, spread and established themselves as part of the collective culture. Our methods of creation and dissemination must be very different from those in the distant past.

That is precisely why I don't believe a writer like Shakespeare (or any other writer for that matter, including the rabbis who wrote the midrash elaborating on the Bible) does harm by taking and re-moulding such stories for their own purposes. The archetypes are indestructible - but it's almost our duty to re-tell them for our own time.
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des
Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 05:34 am:   

I think it's impossible for us to grasp nowadays, in the age of print, just how these fantasies arose, developed, spread and established themselves as part of the collective culture.

Is the Internet, then, equivalent to a round-the-campfire oral tradition? Rather than cheap throwaways that we sometimes think?

Blogging-forth a Homer for future generations? And all of us have become that Homer?


"Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue."
Henry James from 'The Art of Fiction' 1888





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AliceB
Posted on Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 07:17 am:   

"Is the Internet, then, equivalent to a round-the-campfire oral tradition? Rather than cheap throwaways that we sometimes think?

Blogging-forth a Homer for future generations? And all of us have become that Homer?"


Homer? Nah. But folks around a campfire, maybe, since what is written and posted on the internet is ephemeral but not necessarily forgotten.

Would urban myths be a kind of new folktale?--like the story of the exploding bottle in the back of someone's car making the driver think s/he's been shot.

Best,
Alice
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des
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 12:34 am:   

Night Shades forum is my computer's Homer-Page.
des
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AliceB
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 05:12 am:   

Well, there you go. It's odd to see, but I guess I lied.
Alice
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des
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 07:18 am:   

And what about The Simpsons?

(Homer-page was a joke, Alice. It's my Homepage.)
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Rhys
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 07:27 am:   

That's Virgil-ing on the ridiculous!
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AliceB
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 07:52 am:   

Sorry, Rhys. You can blame it on my Sappho-moric sense of Hume-or.

(So was mine, Des. Oddysey = "odd to see"; Iliad = "I lied". Awful puns.)

Alice
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des
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 08:17 am:   

oh! :-)
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Minz
Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 - 09:24 am:   

Hey Dunmore:
I was offline this weekend--sorry for the lag, and I'm sorry for going on about Shakespeare, but I didn't say he's one of the great fantasists of ALL time, but rather HIS time. There wasn't a lot of fantasy that survives from that period, and his are classics--not as fantasy, but as plays.

As for his borrowing, he did so liberally, from historians, other playwrights and poets, etc. He never denied that, and indeed, those among his audience who had educations would have been well aware of it.

And his distortions were absolutely deliberate, often for political obsequiousness--make England and the queen look wonderful while denigrating other nations. Almost propaganda. (though in his defense, it was more about making the queen favorably disposed toward theatre, more than creating nationalistic romanticism)

I enjoy his fantasies, but agree that they are not great fantasies, just great theatre.

As for some of the bigger questions that have arose, I have no time to get into it, but will just blithely refer you to Joseph Campbell, Andrew Lang and Antti Aarne & Stith Thompson
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Dunmore
Posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 01:59 pm:   

Hi Minz. I think it was me who went on about Shakespeare too much, so the apologies are mine, and I hope I didn't put words in your mouth.

Apologies to all, in fact, because this is a very fleeting visit.

Love

D.



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E Thomas
Posted on Sunday, March 13, 2005 - 04:16 pm:   

Just FYI, there is a discussion about the poll going on at Asimov's forum here All Time Best Fantasy Story.

Mostly people are nitpicking genre boundaries and the limit cut-off, but I'm hoping any minute now there will actually be some more discussion of favorite stories.
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jmorrison
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 03:27 pm:   

tried to read everything as not to repeat, let's see-

richard matheson: i am legend

donald barthelme: anything. something from 'city life' maybe.

depending on how you look at it bernard le bovier de fontenelle's 'conversations on the pluality of worlds' might be considered fantasy. ;)

at over seven hundred pages i guess 'gargantua & pantagruel' does not qualify does it? and i want so badly to say 'cyrano de bergerac'

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