The Modern Years of Fantasy
This is Part 3 of my 3 part series of articles about the history of Fantasy. In part 1 I covered the ancient era and the very beginnings of the genre right up until the Hobbit was published. In Part 2 we took a look at the wonderful array of books published between the Hobbit and up until the Sword of Shannara in 1977. In this part we now look at the Sword of Shannara to the present. And this era can best be characterized as the era of the big multi-tome epic!
Ahh yes! Those big multi-volume epics. If you are a fan of fantasy you know all about them. We hate them yet we love them. It is great to adventure again into a world that you are familiar with yet it is not so great to have to wait for what will happen next! That love/hate relationship is just something that comes with the territory of fantasy. We can really attribute this to Tolkien. But this technique very much came into its own in the 1970's and it pretty much started with The Sword of Shannara.
This novel came out in 1977 and it immediately went onto the NY TImes bestseller list. It was the first novel in the fantasy genre to do so. It brought new light onto the genre and practically spawned a whole new interest in everything fantasy. It takes inspiration from the Lord of Rings but only in a very loose manner.
This book is also one of the first in what is now a tradition in fantasy: the multi book saga. Often in threes. This is book one of the Shannara Trilogy which also include The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara.
If you love modern fantasy and multi book epics you have got to read this one! It is pretty much where it all started.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are my all time favorite fantasy books. This is a remarkable series that is often touted as the best modern fantasy series ever written. I agree. But it isn't as well known as some others in the genre. There are a lot of books in this series and as of 2011 the most recent one is called "Against all Things Ending". And I believe there is one more book to be published called "The Last Dark" This will end the series.
The first book in one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever.
He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself. Yet he was tempted to believe, to fight for the Land, to be the reincarnation of its greatest hero....
The Wheel of Time
There are 15 books in this series one of which is a prequel. Books eight through fourteen all reached the #1 spot on the NY Times Best seller list. Book 1 is: The Eye of the World and it was published in 1980. Robert Jordan passed away before completing book the series and the last three novels, "The Gathering Storm" , "Towers of Midnight" and "A Memory of Light" has been given to Brandon Sanderson who has been completing them. The final of which will be published in 2012.
Taking over the Whole world and crossing into new media
Well, the lord of the rings has been turned into a very successful series of movies and that really counts. But the books were published a long time ago while the movies are new. So I want to focus on something more current when talking about how a series of fantasy books have successfully crossed media. I am of course referring to the Harry Potter phenomenon.
Is there anything I can say about these books that haven't already been said? They have had a profound impact on a whole generation of young readers, introducing them to the wonderful world of fantasy. I have only read the first two and thoroughly enjoyed them. There is no doubting the fact that these books took the genre of fantasy into new heights by crossing the rope into the world of film and lots of other stuff like novelties, accessories, toys, games and more.
And this bringing of fantasy into the mainstream has itself invigorated the whole genre. Over the past few decades there have been isolated incidents of fantasy books made into movies but nothing comes close to what HP did. And, it has inspired lots of other movie works including a reintroduction to the CS Lewis Narnia works.
Well, this series on the history of fantasy has been a lot of fun. Thanks for reading and I hope you have some wonderful adventures in strange, beautiful and dangerous lands!