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The Greatest Fantasy Writers of All Time!

Help Mania Pick your Favorite Fantasy Writers

By Tim Janson     March 08, 2009


After doing articles on the greatest horror and Sci-fi writers of all-time, there’s just one more genre to cover and that one is the most difficult…fantasy. The number of different sub-genres and styles in fantasy are so diverse that it makes picking the best writers extremely difficult. Some prefer traditional, epic fantasy writers like Tolkien, others like the Swords & Sorcery of Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber; many like the modern urban fantasy works of Simon Green and Jim Butcher or the dark fantasies of Tanith Lee. I’ll admit, I will need some help on this one! Please chime in on the comments section and give me a few of your choices for best fantasy writers. It’s your duty to take part!
In the News…
Solaris Books, an imprint of Games Workshop’s Black Library, is rumored to be up for sale. The imprint has enjoyed moderated success and profitability however apparently, Games Workshop wants to concentrate more on their core gaming products. Early reports indicate that Solaris will publish all scheduled books through Spring 2010. The Solaris imprint has published novels by Jeffrey Thomas, Gail Z. Martin, Brian Lumley, Eric Brown, James Maxey, Chris Roberson, Adam Roberts, Mark Chadbourn, and others.
Spectrum, the annual collection of the best in Fantastic art, has announced the winners of their 16th annual awards: 
Advertising: Gold — Ryohei Hase, "Go Forward and Forward" (FIGHTSTAR/Raw Power Management); Silver — Yuko Shimizu, "Little Red Polka Dots and Other Stories" (Microsoft UltimatePC).
Book: Gold — Petar Meseldzija, illustration for The Legend of Steel Bashaw (Zmaj, Novi Sad); Silver — Jean-Baptiste Monge, "Dunlee Darnan" (Au Bord des Continents).
Comics: Gold — Jon Foster, cover of Buffy the Vampire Slayer #14 (Dark Horse Comics); Silver — Aleksi Briclot, illustration for Annihilation: Conquest #5 (Marvel Entertainment).
Concept Art: Gold — Daniel Dociu, "Mole Tunnels" (ArenaNet/Guildwars); Silver — Kekai Kotaki, "Snow Battle" (ArenaNet/Guildwars).
Dimensional: Gold — Akhito, "Elegant Medusa"; Silver — David Meng, "Satyr's Head".
Editorial: Gold — Craig Elliott, "Damali Richards" (Devil's Candy Store); Silver — Nate Van Dyke, "Pool Hall Brawl" (Juxtapoz).
Institutional: Gold — James Gurney, "Song in the Garden" (Maison D'Ailleurs); Silver — Jaime Jones, "Progenitus" (Wizards of the Coast).
Unpublished: Gold — Jeremy Enecio, "Koi"; Silver — David Laub, "She's Back".
Spectrum 16: The Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art, edited by Cathy & Arnie Fenner, will be published by Underwood Books in October 2009.
… Jaye Wells, author of the forthcoming Red-Headed Stepchild, has a brand new blog. To celebrate she’s offering a chance for visitors to win gifts. Visit the site for details:
The Warded Man Peter V. Brett ( Del Rey Hardcover)
As darkness falls each night, the corelings rise–demons who well up from the ground like hellish steam, taking on fearsome form and substance. Sand demons. Wood demons. Wind demons. Flame demons. And gigantic rock demons, the deadliest of all. They possess supernatural strength and powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards–symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and mystery, and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile.
It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms. Once, under the leadership of the legendary Deliverer, and armed with powerful wards that were not merely shields but weapons, they took the battle to the demons . . . and stopped their advance. But those days are gone. The fighting wards are lost. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault.
Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past.
Arlen will pay any price, embrace any sacrifice, for freedom. His grim journey will take him beyond the bounds of human power. Crippled by the demons that killed his parents, Rojer seeks solace in music–only to discover that music can be a weapon as well as a refuge. Beautiful Leesha, who has suffered at the hands of men as well as demons, becomes an expert healer. But what cures can also harm. . . . Together, they will stand against the night.
ReVamped ( Void City , Book 2) J.F. Lewis (Pocket Trade)
Eric has lost his strip club, his Mustang, and even Marilyn, the elderly love of his (mortal) life. Even his body was obliterated. In short, they almost got him. But when you're a vampire, "almost" is a very important word. With a little magical help from his friends, Eric is restored to corporeal form, but his treasured Mustang gets caught up in the sorcery and winds up with an unlife of its own. Now, along with "Fang the 'Stang," he's out to save Marilyn from one of Void City 's most powerful soul-stealing demons. But salvation comes at a high price, forcing Eric to venture into his own worst nightmare, Vampire High Society, to uncover the truth about the origin of his powers.
At the same time, Eric's ex-girlfriend, Tabitha, has begun to wonder exactly what it was that she admired about those High Society Vampires in the first place. Her quest to find her own place in this deceptively vicious circle may lead her right back to Eric's side -- if her little sister, Rachel, doesn't kill her first. And Eric will need all the help he can get, because it looks like someone is after his soul, too. Blood will flow, fangs will be bared, and the claws will come out, because revenge is never pretty...and Eric has plenty to pass around.
A Blackbird in Amber Twilight Freda Warrington (Immanion Press)
The Serpent M'gulfn has been destroyed, its dark reign ended - but its death has unleashed dangerous energies that threaten the Earth of Three Planes anew. Journeying to Gorethria comes Melkavesh, daughter of Ashurek, determined to harness the new potential of sorcery for good. It seems she is too late, for a ruthless usurper, Duke Xaedrek, has already seized power. Aided by a demon with malign ambitions of its own, he is working to restore the evil Gorethrian Empire. To save the Earth, Melkavesh must defeat him - even though their conflict may bring other lands to ruin, claim innocent victims, and even cause the moons to fall. Melkavesh may avert disaster only if she heeds the mysterious Lady of H'tebhmella. But can she withstand the temptation to reclaim her birthright - the dark throne renounced by Ashurek - or resist the all-too-seductive charm of Xaedrek himself? Freda Warrington's classic, weirdly atmospheric fantasies A Blackbird in Amber and A Blackbird in Twilight appear for the first time in a single, complete volume.
We Never Talk About My Brother Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon Publications)
Modern parables of love, death, and transformation are peppered with melancholy in this extraordinary collection of contemporary fantasy. Each short story cultivates a whimsical sense of imagination and reveals a mature, darker voice than previously experienced from this legendary author. In one tale the Angel of Death enjoys newfound celebrity while moonlighting as an anchorman on the network news, while in another the shortsighted ruler of a gentle realm betrays himself in dreaming of a "manageable war." Further storylines include an American librarian who discovers that, much to his surprise and sadness, he is the last living Frenchman, and rivals in a supernatural battle who decide to forgo pistols at dawn, choosing instead to duel with dramatic recitations of terrible poetry. Featuring several previously unpublished stories alongside a bevy of recently released works, this haunting compilation is appealing to both genre readers and mainstream literature lovers.
Lankhmar Book 8: Swords Against the Shadowland Robert Wayne Bailey (Dark Horse Press)
Years ago, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser turned their backs on the city of Lankhmar and the painful memories it held. But now, a deadly plague, spawned from a sorcerer’s curse, sweeps through the streets of Lankhmar, eating its victims from the inside and laying waste to the once-vibrant city. The two reluctant heroes are called forth once again to face Lankhmar’s winding alleys -- and the old ghosts who lurk in them.
After writing nearly forty stories chronicling the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fritz Leiber chose acclaimed fantasy writer Robin Wayne Bailey as his official successor. Swords Against the Shadowland marks Bailey’s first foray into the rich world of Nehwon. Based on Leiber’s notes and drawing heavily from the mythos he constructed, a new chapter in the lives of two of heroic fantasy’s most enduring heroes begins here.
Eternal Journey (Rogue Angel) Alex Archer (Gold Eagle)
After shooting an episode of Chasing History's Monsters at a dig in Australia , Annja Creed is left feeling mildly unimpressed. The artifacts being uncovered are considered fringe by experts who doubt their authenticity. Annja is disappointed by the general lack of mystery involved. But her boredom is quickly replaced with fear when all that's left of her cameraman is a drop of blood on his hotel-room carpet.
As she looks for her friend, Annja narrowly escapes an attack by gunmen. She realizes her cameraman must have captured the image of something so valuable that someone would kill them for just having dared look at it. When it becomes clear that everyone on the dig is at risk, Annja begins to think they're in danger not because of what they saw, but who….
New In Science Fiction
The Hidden Temple (Star Wars: Legacy, Vol. 5) (Dark Horse TPB)
Cade Skywalker just wants to be left alone. But when you and your friends have just blown up half of the Sith Temple, cut down two of Emperor Darth Krayt's most trusted minions, and you happen to be the last known heir of the Skywalker legacy, people - bad people, and lots of them - are going to come knocking! The Empire's retaliatory genocide on Mon Calamari is just the icing on the cake. Cade and his bounty-hunter band realize that something must be done! If only there was somebody to help Cade save the galaxy and get the Sith off his back. Maybe a bunch of Jedi? The secrets of the Hidden Temple are revealed - along with a spy who was once a friend!
Fear Agent Volume 5: I Against I (Dark Horse TPB)
After being shot through the other side of a black hole, Heath Huston finds himself in a shadow universe marooned on the desolate Planet Westx. A stranger in a strange place, the last Fear Agent enters a world populated by gun-slinging robots, venomous mutants, and buxom cowgirls in this six-part sci-fi Western shot through the heart. Creators Rick Remender and Tony Moore reunite to bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly days of Heath Huston, outlaw - It's high noon in dead space!
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 3 (Night Shade Books)
The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer. Jonathan Strahan has edited more than twenty anthologies and collections, including The Locus Awards, The New Space Opera, The Jack Vance Treasury, and a number of year's best annuals. He has won the Ditmar, William J. Atheling Jr., and Peter McNamara Awards for his work as an anthologist, and is the reviews editor for Locus.
New In Horror
Antoine Sharp: The Atheist Volume 2 Phil Hester (Desperado TPB)
When your fears are beyond belief you need a hero beyond believing. Antoine Sharpe is a scalpel on two legs - skeptical, brilliant, ruthless. A special agent with a shadowy department of the U.S. government, Sharpe applies his unconventional intellect to any paranormal threats that arise. His mission: Debunk or destroy! The long awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed mini-series The Atheist returns! In this chilling tale, Sharpe must investigate a sleepy southern town where husbands have the nasty habit of burying their newlywed brides - alive!
Eerie Archives Vol. 1 (Dark Horse Publishing Hardcover)
Slithering upon the heels of Dark Horse's archive collections of the seminal horror comics magazine Creepy comes its terror-filled cousin publication Eerie! Collected for fans for the first time ever, and packaged in the same amazing oversized format as the Creepy Archives, Dark Horse Comics has taken great, gruesome care in presenting this groundbreaking material to readers who have been waiting decades to get their claws on it. Eerie magazine, like its killer kin Creepy, features work from many of the masters of comics storytelling. For fans of spectacular spookiness, mind-bending sci-fi, and astonishing artwork, the Eerie Archives library is a must have!
Vampire Hunter D Volume 12: Pale Fallen Angel Parts Three and Four (Dark Horse press)
Baron Byron Balazs nears the end of his arduous journey; his bodyguard - the enigmatic and deadly Vampire Hunter D - has delivered him to his faraway home in Krauhausen. Having survived the near-epic journey, and many attempts on his life - ordered by his father, the dread Vampire Noble Lord Vlad - the baron thinks he is ready for his final battle, whatever the cost. But Lord Vlad is not so easily vanquished, as he unleashes yet another host of nefarious killers on his son, not least of whom is a mad doctor enlisted to perform sinister experiments on the young baron's mother years before! With their battle raging across the landscape of Krauhausen, Balazs turns to D for aid once again. As the longest Vampire Hunter D mega-novel to date races to a heart-stopping conclusion, can D, and their mysterious ally, the noblewoman Miska, stop Vlad's reign of terror once and for all?
New in Non-Fiction
The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis: Dark Shadows, the Night Stalker and Other Productions, 1966-2006 Jeff Thompson (McFarland Books Hardcover)
The award-winning and innovative director Dan Curtis was known for helming epic war movies, but before that he darkened the small screen with the horror genre's most famous soap opera. Curtis directed the groundbreaking daytime television serial Dark Shadows from 1966 to 1971, then turned his lens to numerous made-for-TV horror movies. This book examines 16 horror films that Curtis produced, co-wrote, or directed, as well as the cultural impact of Dark Shadows and its various incarnations. The book features 71 photographs and a foreword by Jim Pierson of Dan Curtis Productions.
Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero: Critical Essays Robert G. Weiner (McFarland Books)
For more than 60 years, Captain America served as an iconic figure in popular culture, and one of Marvel Comics' flagship characters. He represented everything good and positive about the classic American ideal - truth, strength, liberty, and an unflappable belief that justice would always prevail. When his alter ego, Steve Rogers, was assassinated by a sniper outside a federal courthouse, his death rocked the comic world and left fans and critics with numerous questions about his life and how it ended. Did he die a political casualty of the Global War on Terrorism, or was it just another Marvel marketing ploy? Had he become an anachronism in tights, or was he still a self-conscious, larger than life figure who tried to bear the full existential weight of what American military power had become? And how is his death in the Civil War series to be reconciled with his second death, in Morrell and Breitweiser's series "The Chosen?" This book brings such speculations into sharper focus, compiling critical essays by a wide range of authors, including art and literary scholars, professors and graduate students, historians, and "Captain America" writers. The range of topics discussed include the ways in which Nazi Germany was represented in "Captain America Comics" from the 1940s to his resurrection in the 1960s; the creation of "Captain America" in light of the Jewish American experience; the relationship between Captain America and Captain Britain, who was featured in a few rare UK Marvel comics; the groundbreaking partnership between Captain America and one of the first mainstream African American superheroes, The Falcon; and, the various successful and unsuccessful attempts that were made to kill Captain America before his 'real' death.
Capsule Reviews
Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One Alan Moore (DC Comics Hardcover)
With all of the excitement surrounding the Watchmen, Alan Moore has received a lot of national notoriety as the story’s original writer. But if you had to pin me down and force me to decide, I would say it’s Moore’s work on Swamp Thing, particularly issues #20 – 50, that would rate as his best work in comics. When Moore joined on issue #20, he took a title that was near cancellation and turned it into a hit. Moore’s Swamp Thing was largely, if not solely, responsible for the creation of DC’s Vertigo imprint. Moore would soon team with artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben on an impressive run of haunting story arcs that remain some of my favorites.
Issue #20 is appropriately titled “Loose Ends”. This issue is the bridge from previous writer Mary Pasko to Moore and Swamp Thing is shot dead at the end of it. Issue #21 was truly Moore’s first issue and its one of the most important single issues of a comic book ever written. Swamp Things carcass is take to the Sunderland Corp where Jason Woodrue AKA The Floronic Man, performs and autopsy. He finds that Swamp Thing has lungs, a heart, brain, and other internal organs, all made of vegetable matter, and all quite useless. Woodrue then poses the theory that Swamp Thing is not the former scientist Alec Holland, but rather a form of vegetable life that THINKS he is Holland. For fans this was startling, as Swamp Thing’s quest to restore his humanity was the driving force in the series.
Moore now posed the question that if he isn’t Holland, just what is Swamp Thing? Moore was exceedingly clever about this. He revealed the true origin slowly over the course of many issues. First Swamp Thing would discover his connection to “the green”, and then battle Woodrue who threatened to destroy mankind by forcing the world’s vegetation to produce high levels of oxygen. 
This book collects issues #20 – 27 of the series as Swamp Thing begins to experiment with newfound abilities and go on a journey of discovery to find out his true origins. Bissette and Totleben’s earthy style of art was perfectly suited to the character and became the definitive look of Swamp Thing. After 25 years, these stories have lost none of their potency. Grade A



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StarlightGuard 3/9/2009 4:52:30 AM

well we already know Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have a place on this list

DarthAndrea 3/9/2009 4:57:47 AM

Robert Jordan and his Wheel Of Time series have to be top of the list here. It's Epic Fantasy at it's very very best.

Sanity 3/9/2009 8:52:05 AM

Of course Tolkien will be at the top of the list, even if it's not the best fantasy.  He did lay the foundations.  Though first very rarely equals best.

Sorry DarthAndrea, but Jordan shouldn't be at the top, even if Tolkien isn't either.  His work was just "pretty good".  There are others that hit "very good", and in my opinion, only one that makes the "greatest" grade.  George R.R. Martin is my vote for the top.  Above Tolkien, if only by a small margin.

Don't argue that point if you haven't read "A Song of Ice and Fire' yet.  If you have, I'd love to hear of someone better, I've been looking for something good to read.

tjanson 3/9/2009 10:30:42 AM

those are some of the obvious names.  But what about the less obvious...think spots 11 - 20 on a list of Twenty....

Do names like Dave Duncan, David Eddings, David Gemmell, Richard Knaak, Tim Powers, Fred Saberhagen, Lawrence Watt-Evans qualify?

DarthAndrea 3/9/2009 6:59:48 PM

Thats the thing, just on the order of sales I don't think any other Epic fantasy title has out sold The wheel of time. Knife of Dreams book 11 in the wheel series sold something like 56 million copys it's first week, if I am remembering correctly. Sure Harry Potter and Twilight may have done better but those aren't epic fantasy. those are modern fantasy. Goodkind and Martin would piss themselves to have those kinds of sales. 

kligy 3/10/2009 5:43:48 AM

IMHO Tolkien belongs  at the top of the list.  The Lord of the Rings has been read over 20 times by me including twice on one weekend.  Nothing else made me do that.

Who else should be included?  For now let's consider:  Raymond Feist, Stephen Donaldson, Janny Wurtz, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, David Eddings, David B. Coe.  More later.



Sanity 3/10/2009 6:13:24 AM

DarthAndrea, if we based the list on sales, we wouldn't even need to give our opinions.  It would just be a matter of looking at the numbers and putting them in order.  That'd be like saying a Toyota Camry was a better car than BMW 328, just because it's had way more sales than the BMW.  Or that Halo 3 is a better video game than Resident Evil 4 because it sold so much more. 

Oh, and the Harry Potter series was definately more enjoyable than the Wheel of Time, so I'd have to put Rowling above Jordan.  Steven King's Dark Tower series was more enjoyable than TWoT too (so-so ending included).  That was fantasy.  Put him above Jordan also.  Martin FTW.  My opinion.

kligy - Stephen Donaldson???  What?!  Don't you have him on the wrong list?  This is the "Best" list, not the "Worst"!   I felt like I'd been violated after making it halfway through his second Thomas Covenant book before throwing it out.  lol.

kligy 3/10/2009 6:39:40 AM


     To each his own.  I found Donaldson's Thomas Covenant Chronicles (First and Second) to be books that I could not put down until finished.  Oh, and I forgot Tad Williams, "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn".  I finished those three and just said outloud "Wonderful".



kligy 3/10/2009 7:29:22 AM

Oh yes,... Terry Goodkind, Mercedes Lackey, C. L. Moore, Fritz Lieber, Robert E. Howard, A. Merritt, Andre Norton, and others I will recall later.


Sanity 3/10/2009 8:08:37 AM

kligy - How does Williams's MSaT compare to his Otherland series?  I read the first book of that, but it was a difficult task, so I never picked up the second.  I have heard a lot of people say they like him though.

I have seen one author create two totally different stories where one was great and the other not so.  Orson Scott Card's Ender series was really good, but his Alvin Maker wasn't.  If Williams's MSaT is a lot different than Otherland, I might try it out.

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