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Theodora Goss
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 12:03 am:   

Locus is conducting a poll on the best fantasy story of all time, and I just had to, opinionatedly and with orn, say that the absolute best is Peter S. Beagle's "Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros." There are many other stories I love on the list, including "Missolonghi 1824", which I once asserted was one of the best short stories of all time (and so it is! how ornery I'm being tonight). But for me, Beagle's story is the absolute essence of fantasy, as well as the most perfect example of what Tolkien called "eucatastrophe," the unexpected, fortunate turn that suddenly transforms the world into a wondeful place.

(Sorry, it's three in the morning and I'm opinionated when I'm tired . . . )
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 12:09 am:   

Oh no! Saki's "Tobermory" was nominated, but not "The Music on the Hill" or "Gabriel-Ernest"? (I have a feeling I may have gotten one of these titles wrong, so will have to correct them tomorrow . . .) They're both so much better!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 12:14 am:   

And WHERE is George McDonald?

To see the list:

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

(Thanks to Matt Cheney: I saw this on his blog, The Mumpsimus (http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/).)
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Rhys
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 05:30 am:   

Which George MacDonald story would you pick, Theodora?

My favourite MacDonald story is 'The History of Photogen and Nycteris'.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 10:20 am:   

"Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" is pretty wonderful. I'm never quite sure where to draw the line (when talking about the "best" anything "of all time") between a favorite, and a work that conforms best to certain aesthetic standards (or is the best crafted, or most ambitious or important, etc). If I lean toward the favorite side, I'd probably have to go with some Leiber (a Fafhrd & Gray Mouser tale) or Moorcock (one of the Elric novellas, maybe), partly because of the age I was when I read them. In terms of what might be more objectively called the best...

Hmm, you've got me thinking! :-)
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Andrew
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 01:43 pm:   

My choice is
"Unidentified Objects" or "Paper Dragons" by J.P.Blaylock
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 08:15 am:   

Rhys: That's the one I would pick as well. I've also seen it reprinted as "The Day Boy and the Night Girl," a not-as-interesting title! I also thought of "The Castle" and "The Light Princess," but the first is so obviously religious allegory, and the second is lighter and more whimsical. I think the best fantasy story should have a deep and serious magic. And I've never really liked "The Golden Key."

Granted, of course, that the enterprise of picking "the best" is an impossbile one, and sort of silly to begin with, because so many stories are the best in different ways . . .

Still, I thought I would list some of my favorites, some on the list and some not. There's a discussion on Jeff Vandermeer's board about this as well: http://www.nightshadebooks.com/discus/messages/15/3834.html?1107610000

My favorites (in addition to the ones mentioned above):

Jorge Luis Borges, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbit Tertius and The Lottery in Babylon
Angela Carter, The Tiger's Bride
Lord Dunsany, The Kith of the Elf-Folk
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Feathertop
E.T.A. Hoffman, The Mines of Falun
Sterling E. Lanier, The Kings of the Sea
Ursula K. LeGuin, April in Paris, The White Donkey, and The Wife's Story
Fritz Leiber, Space-Time for Springers (one of the saddest stories I know)
H.P. Lovecraft, The Music of Erich Zann
Lucius Shepard, The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule
Henry Slesar, My Father, the Cat
Nancy Springer, The Boy Who Plaited Manes
Frank Stockton, The Griffin and the Minor Canon
T.H. White, The Troll
Oscar Wilde, The Fisherman and His Soul

I also thought about including Hawthorne's Rappacini's Daughter, but I suppose that's really science fiction. Also M.R. James' Oh Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad. But I think that's one of the greatest horror stories (it actually gave me a nightmare in which I was being chased by nothing--but a nothing that was something, if you know what I mean), and not really one of the great fantasy stories. That is, what's great about it is the horror, not the fantasy, which isn't all that imaginative.

I'll add more as I think of them. And I hope other people will suggest titles, so I can go out and read them! :-)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 08:25 am:   

Hmmm. I followed the link above to the Locus poll, and then the link on The Mumpsimus, and neither worked the way they had originally. So it seems you'll have to dig around for the poll. But it's there . . .

The real usefulness of the Locus list, I think, is as a list of recommended stories. I haven't read many on the list, so now I think I'll go out and find them . . .

I also like Philip K. Dick's "The King of the Elves" and Jane Yolen's "The Sleep of Trees" (to add to my own list).
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Lavonne
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 01:28 pm:   

Hi Theodora (Dora?),

"The Sleep of Trees" is one of my favorites. Where did you find "The King of the Elves" and "The Kings of the Sea"?

I'd add (to a list of favorites, rather than all-time bests, because with fantasy, I can't tell what I love because it's good and what I love because I love it):

"The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" and "The Story of the Eldest Princess" by A.S. Byatt

"The Spring Tune," Tove Jansson

"Touk's House," Robin McKinley

"Silver or Gold," Emma Bull

And maybe Italo Calvino's fragment about the city of Clarice from _Invisible Cities_, though I don't think it would really qualify as a story.

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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 02:57 pm:   

So sorry for the absence!

Lavonne, I found "The Kings of the Sea" in The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories, ed. Tom Shippey. "The King of the Elves" is in The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales, ed. Alison Lurie.

I also like "Touk's House," although my favorite Robin McKinley story is Beauty, which I guess is a short novel.

The others you mention I haven't read. I'll have to go seek them out!
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 01:06 pm:   

Beauty has been one of my favorite stories since Junior High. Years ago I wrote and told Robin McKinley that-and she actually wrote back!
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philipfoster
Posted on Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 03:18 pm:   

Can I just add my favourite story (fantasy or otherwise) from the last couple of years, which is 'The Least Trumps' by Elizabeth Hand (Note to Liz: It was because I loved this story and others in 'Last Summer at Mars Hill' so much that I found 'Waking the Moon' dissapointing).
I also agree with the earlier post of Andrew that "Unidentified Objects" and "Paper Dragons" by James P.Blaylock are both wonderful (and I would add 'Thirteen Phantasms' and 'The Old Curiosity Shop' as well). A few other favourites I've read over the last few years;
'The Hunter's Wife' by Anthony Doerr
'Incognita, Inc' by Harlan Ellison
'Green' by Ian R. Macleod (Read my quote on the 'Transrealism...'post.)
'The Heidelberg Cylinder' by Jonathan Carroll
'Mr Simonelli...' and ''Tom Brightwind...' by 'Susanna Clarke'
'Creation' and 'Something by the Sea' by Jeffrey Ford
'The Conjure Man' by Charles de Lint
'The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule' by Lucius Shepard
'The Bone Forest' by Robert Holdstock
'Blood of the Dragon' by George RR Martin
'Instructions' by Neil Gaiman

I think supernatural horror stories can be considered fantasy so I'd like to add that I've just finished 'The Dark' edited by Ellen Datlow which contains 'Dancing Men' by Glenn Hirshberg which is absolutely stunning (perhaps because of the eerie timing with all the documentary's been shown on the BBC at the moment about Auschwitz). Jack Cady's 'Seven Sisters' is another classic from this collection.

Anyway, I could go on all night...now what about 'Lousie's Ghost' by Kelly Link or 'The Rapid Advance of Sorrow'...
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 10:40 am:   

Empire of Ice Cream by Jeff Ford is one of my most recent favorites.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 10:38 am:   

:-)!

I also like "Louise's Ghost" a lot. Though I think my favorite Kelly Link story is "The Specialist's Hat." I haven't read "Empire of Ice Cream," though I've been meaning to for a long time. It's on SciFiction, right? So I can look in the archives?
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philipfoster
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 02:10 pm:   

Haven't read 'The Specialist's Hat' OR 'Empire of Ice Cream'. I have Kellys first collection 'Stranger Things Happen' on my shelf waiting to be read. I believe Jeffrey Ford has a new collection out soon, so I presume 'Empire...' will be included in that. There's another fine Jeffrey Ford story 'The Trentino Kid' in "The Dark' (I really seem to be plugging this collection!). Cheers.
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 09:28 pm:   

Yes, Empire is on scifiction so it should be in the archives;)
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Lavonne L
Posted on Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 03:06 pm:   

"The Specialist's Hat" is a huge treat. And thanks, Dora, I'll crack open my Ox. Book of Fantasy Stories again--and will look out for the Fairy Tales. Good old OUP.

And if Beauty is allowable (I'd vote for it!), then how about Greg Bear's _The Infinity Concerto_?

I just looked up 'Empire.' At the risk of sounding like a bad jacket blurb, I couldn't put it down. Or rather, I was glued to the computer. Should've just printed it out; this morning my eyes are crossing.
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AnnaT
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 02:45 am:   

Enjoying this list. Three that I love that I haven't seen mentioned:
"The Adventure of the Snowing Globe" by F. Anstey
"Yesterday Street" by Thomas Burke
"The Young Woman in a House of Old" by Vera Nazarian

I would also list "Death in a Nut" in a top-ten fantasy list, though it's listed in the Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories as a 'traditional story' with only a teller, not an author. What a great author "Traditional" can be!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, March 07, 2005 - 10:15 pm:   

Thanks for all the suggestions! Kelly Link also has a new short story collection coming out. Can't wait! And I'll be in line for any Jeff Ford collection.

Anna, what is "Death in a Nut"? I haven't heard of it.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 08:27 am:   

What? No Bradbury stories in anybody's list of favorite fantasies?

Ahmed
http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com
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AnnaT
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 01:56 pm:   

Theodora, "Death in a Nut" is an old folk tale in the Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories (though I'm sorry I didn't note the wonderful storyteller)
It's out in a book now
http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-184507081x-0
but what's more interesting, especially to those of us who love folk tales as I know you do, Dora, is the international range of the story itself, and its different versions, shown to some extent by this page. And who knows how many other versions there are?
http://www.story-lovers.com/listsdeathinanut.html
This story reminds me of reading Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book, and then soon afterwards, Calvino's Italian Folktales. There were many stories in common. But then another personal top-ten favourite short story of mine, Reginald Bretnor's "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out" is quite similar in its most important element to one of the tales in Calvino's Italian Fairy Tales. I would love to know if Bretnor knew it, and if so, which version from where did he know?
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Saturday, March 19, 2005 - 09:21 am:   

Funny, I can't think of a Bradbury short story that I particularly loved, although I think he's a wonderful writer. I have Golden Apples of the Sun, a collection of his short stories. Maybe I'll reread that next. Just going down the table of contents, I remember liking "The Fog Horn" (though it seemed like fairly old-fashioned SF when I read it, years ago), and "The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind."

Thanks, Anna! I love "The Gnurrs Come From the Voodvork Out," though I haven't read it for years. I wish there were a larger, better anthology of the best fantasy short stories of all time. Or I wish someone would pay me to edit one . . .

I think the best thing about the Locus list is that it got people talking, and remembering stories that they probably hadn't read in years.

And I should add to this topic too:

Just read H.G. Wells' "The Door in the Wall," which I thought was fabulous. I won't comment on it at all, since I don't want to influence the reading experience for anyone.
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Lavonne L
Posted on Sunday, March 27, 2005 - 06:54 pm:   

My favorite Bradbury story, hands down, is "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed." When I first read it, nearly every sentence in it made me swoon, and now it also makes me envious that someone could have sat down on a normal day with a cup of coffee and a sandwich and written it. I think it was originally collected in "S is for Space"--not a very promising title, I know!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2005 - 10:16 pm:   

Thanks, Lavonne! I'll try to look for it. Someone should start putting together a complete set of Bradbury short stories (if one doesn't already exist). That's when you know you're canonical: when someone edits your complete short stories (or poems). And Bradbury should be canonical enough already to have one . . .

Is there a collection of Samuel Delaney short stories? I haven't read much of his writing, but it's to die for (as though Virginia Woolf had decided to write Sword and Sorcery).
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2005 - 03:36 am:   

Dora, that's a perfect description of Delaney's work. I love it when someone can make a perfect analogy like that.

By the way, Isak Dinesen was mentioned in another thread on your board, but I think one of the best fantasy stories of all time is The Young Man with the Carnation. I don't think that story will mean much to non-artist types, but for me the conversation with God towards the end still sends a chill down my spine. It has such a life-sentence sort of feel about it, the proclamation of what the young writer in the story's life will be like because he is a writer.

But I also love Sorrow Acre to pieces and almost all of the Seven Gothic Tales. Last Tales are beautiful, and I like the Cloak immensely, like Jeff Ford, but reading Last Tales makes me yearn for the novel she never completed made up of those stories, Albondocani. I also quite like Babette's Feast, and the film version actually does it great justice if you haven't seen it already.

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Richard Parks
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2005 - 10:14 am:   

"The Fire When it Comes" by Parke Godwin
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 10:08 pm:   

But I also love Sorrow Acre to pieces and almost all of the Seven Gothic Tales. Last Tales are beautiful, and I like the Cloak immensely, like Jeff Ford, but reading Last Tales makes me yearn for the novel she never completed made up of those stories, Albondocani. I also quite like Babette's Feast, and the film version actually does it great justice if you haven't seen it already.

I love "Sorrow Acre"! I remember reading it the first time, and thinking, but now I know how the story will go, even after it ends. I've never seen anyone else do that, set up a story that will continue on after the last paragraph. It was magical.

I have seen Babette's Feast, and liked it a lot. Such a strange, silent movie. It made me want to read the story again, which says a lot for it.

Have you read "Ehrengard"? It's also one of my favorites. I feel about Dinesen the way Kendrick (who was trained as an artist) feels about John Singer Sargent: she's a writer's writer.
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Richard Parks
Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2006 - 09:48 am:   

I do wish someone could track down and squash this spambot. It's showing up everywhere on the board.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2006 - 10:16 am:   

Yeah, me too. Evil, evil Anonymous. (And I thought so well of him, based on his poems!)

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