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Moorcock's 100 Best Fantasy Books [with Links!]

The Worm Ouroboros
The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison (Illustration by Keith Henderson)

Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn's Fantasy: The 100 Best Books is a terrific selection of classic (Western) fantasy. Organised chronologically, the authors' reviews are a combination of passionate and snarky. They make for very fun reading.

Below, I've pulled out all 100 books (100+, really, as there are a few series), and added links to free, legal sources where I could find them. (Publication dates and titles are as the authors had them. Where possible, I've left series together, even when it screws with chronology.)

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Small Press Shakedown: George Sandison of Unsung Stories

9781907389412The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is George Sandison from Unsung Stories.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

The elevator pitch is ‘literary and ambitious genre fiction’. We also look for debuts, so for us it’s about giving new authors a home where they don’t have to compromise. There’s a tendency in the industry for emerging writers having to prove themselves before they attempt more outré works – we don’t agree!

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Gray is an insult to real moral ambiguity

 

Gustave Dore - Jaufry the Knight
Jaufry the Knight and The Fair Brunissende by Mary Lafon (1886); illustration by Gustave Dore

When Gareth Edwards wanted to make the case that his new Star Wars film, Rogue One, was something new for the franchise, he called it “gray.”

In some world, this is still an odd adjective to sell an entertainment product--connoting, as it does, dreary weather, concrete, and the absence of light, color, and action. But in the world we live in, Donald Trump is President and we all know that “gray” means that a work is for educated adults who have acquired a taste for watching characters they like get murdered.

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The Wizards and the Warriors & The Kings of the Wyld

Wizards and the WarriorHugh Cook's The Wizards and the Warriors (1987) has one of those timelessly awful late-1980s covers, and a generic cover quote - saying it'd be perfect for fans of David Eddings. In hindsight, someone in marketing really dropped the ball on this one. Maybe in the heady days of the 1980s, when Eddings was Martin, all you needed was a quest and a sword to earn that comparison. But for fantasy readers - or, hell, Eddings fans - buying the book on the strength of this platitude, Cook's debut must've come as one hell of a shock.

Wizards is, sort of, about a quest to stop an evil sorcerer. Kinda. We begin mid-journey, as three wizards have trekked halfway across the world in search of a fourth - a traitor that has unearthed an ancient artifact of doomslinging. Ostensibly linear, Wizards whirls about like the Tasmanian Devil. First, a pair of strapping mercenary warriors - in service to a corrupt local Prince - are recruited. But, well, not first, as they have their own problems to deal with before they can be convinced to join.

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Erin Lindsey's Bloodbound is back, still great

BloodboundErin Lindsey's Bloodbound was first published in 2014. The trilogy, continued with Bloodforged and concluded last year with Bloodsworn. The series is now - finally - out in the UK, which gives me an excuse to rave about it again. 

Here's how Bloodbound starts: a cavalry charge.

Alix Black, one of the scouts for the Kingdom of Alden, is watching a battle unfold. Her king is being overwhelmed by the invading forces of the Oridian empire, and, much to her horror, she can see that the King's brother is very much not executing his part of the plan. Treason is afoot, and both the King and the Kingdom are at risk.

In move that defines Alix - and to some degree, the entire series - Alix plunges recklessly into battle. There's only the slimmest chance of victory. Hell, there's only a fractional chance of survival, but Alix makes up her mind, trusts her gut and goes barrelling forward. 

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Small Press Shakedown: Christopher Teague of Pendragon Press

Bric-a-Brac-Man-Front-Cover-small-e1435060454931 9781906864248The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is Christopher Teague from Pendragon Press.

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Pendragon are one of the classics of the UK scene, and you've given 'first breaks' to everyone from Gareth Powell to Mark Charan Newton. Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

For nigh on 18 years, Pendragon Press has been part of my life – but I’ve been involved in the small press as a reader for over 20 years ever since I discovered Chris Reed’s BBR catalogue in the mid-90s.

I initially started out as a wannabe writer, with two stories to my name and plenty of rejections. It was when I got bounced from Nasty Piece of Work after about the third or fourth time I thought, “just how difficult would it be to put together an anthology?” And Nasty Snips was born.

The rest, as they say, is history. . .

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The White Witch should have been badass - but isn't.

Caspian Whistler_White WitchLet me say right out of the gate that the White Witch is not like any of the other baddies we’ve tackled so far. As a children’s villain, she’s not bogged down by pesky things like realism or complexity. She can be as powerful, as outrageous, as pure eeeeevil as she likes. That makes her both larger than life and somewhat two-dimensional. Even so, it would be a mistake to underestimate her. Like all things Narnia, her simplicity belies a strong theological and mythological pedigree. And, like the oldest fairy tales and nursery rhymes, though nominally intended for children, the White Witch is bloody horrifying.

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Small Press Shakedown: Martin Appleby of Paper and Ink

Paper and InkThe UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked& a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is Martin Appleby from the literary zine PAPER AND INK.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

My name is Martin and I edit, design and distribute PAPER AND INK, which is a submission based literary zine. I also publish various other zine-based literary treats, such as poetry collections and novels.

What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish?

My personal preference is to look for stories that have a basis in reality. A grounding in day to day life. I tend to lean more towards working class stories, as that is my background, but I like anything that has bite. I like stories that will kick you in the teeth and then buy you a beer afterwards. Snappy, concise prose doesn't go amiss either.

What have you recently published, and what's coming soon?

Aside from the regular issues of PAPER AND INK, last year I published a serialised novel (over three parts), that was kind of an experiment to see if the format would work and it turned out to be pretty successful. I am not actively seeking more novels to publish but if the opportunity arose I would consider it. I also published two poetry collections last year and will be publishing another two this year.

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The Face in the Frost and The Obsessed

The Face in the Frost
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs
(1969) is an oft-overlooked fantasy classic. Two elderly wizards - Prospero and Roger Bacon - meander across the North and South Kingdoms in search of a cure for some ill-defined metaphysical curse that's plaguing the land. The evil is deliberately vague, and all the more horrifying for it: an ancient tome is being read by a dark-hearted wizard, and badness is spilling forth. From damp moths to off-putting mists to an ominous sense of malaise, Bellairs excels at conveying an implicit wrongness that is more atmosphere than overt threat.

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Small Press Shakedown: Dominic Stevenson of Listen Softly London

Gary from LeedsThe UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is Dominic Stevenson from Listen Softly London.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

Listen Softly London started out as a creative arts night. We'd have poets, storytellers, comedians, and so on and we'd all get together and perform and critique and eventually the press seemed like a natural extension of that. 

To me the press is an opportunity to speak to people who may otherwise not access an arts event. It was a way of expanding beyond the echo chamber.

What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish?

I believe in using words powerfully, and that means I want stories and other works that really look beyond the obvious. We all hate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, but how can your writing get that message to an audience who may not agree? How can it be persuasive?

It's easy to sell books to likeminded people, but how can we get them beyond?

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