10 of the Best Fantasy Short Stories Everyone Should Read

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

As a literary genre, fantasy is one of the oldest and most recent. Although modern fantasy only began to be recognised as a distinct genre in the late twentieth century, thanks largely to the popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien and his imitators, its roots can be traced back millennia. Indeed, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, often regarded as the foundational texts of western literature, are ‘fantasy literature’ in their incorporation of magical or supernatural elements and their focus on epic stories, perilous journeys, and mighty battles.

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Fantasy Book Review: Patricia McKillip, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews a lyrical early novel by Patricia McKillip

Sybel, a teenage girl living all alone among the mountains, spends her days caring for a menagerie of mythical creatures, including a cat, a falcon, and a boar, until a man named Coren arrives with a baby he entrusts to her for safe-keeping. Sybel is reluctant to take the baby under her protection, but this isn’t just any baby boy: he’s the heir to the kingdom.

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Michael Moorcock: Death Is No Obstacle

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads a rare but revealing extended interview with one of fantasy fiction’s greatest writers

When John Steinbeck was once asked how he went about writing, he replied, ‘With a pencil.’ Some writers are reluctant to give away too much about their inspiration, their influences, their thinking and writing and editing processes, as if wanting to perpetuate the Romantic fallacy that genius and inspiration just strike and that the lucky, ‘gifted’ individual is driven to pick up a pen and write down what the Muse dictates.

Despite his prodigious gifts and his long-standing success as a novelist, Michael Moorcock is only too happy to share the secrets of his craft. In a 1992 book, Death Is No Obstacle, which is essentially a long transcript of interviews the writer Colin Greenland had with Moorcock in 1990, Moorcock happily reveals some of the ‘tricks of the trade’ of writing genre fiction, as well as thoughtfully exploring his own relationship with various genres of popular fiction. The book isn’t easy to get hold of – copies tend to go for around £50 online. I’m indebted to my university library, which owns a signed copy.

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The Best David Gemmell Novels Everyone Should Read

Selected by Dr Oliver Tearle

In the 1980s, with his debut novel Legend (1984), the British author David Gemmell revolutionised heroic fantasy. Drawing on the stories of Robert E. Howard and the novels of Michael Moorcock and J. R. R. Tolkien, Gemmell also took inspiration from his favourite novelist, the prolific writer of Westerns, Louis L’Amour.

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Five Fascinating Facts about George R. R. Martin

Interesting George R. R. Martin trivia

1. Contrary to popular belief, George R. R. Martin’s middle initials are not a homage to J. R. R. Tolkien. Although George R. R. Martin is often referred to as ‘the American Tolkien’, it would appear that the two middle initials shared by both masters of fantasy literature are a coincidence and not a direct tribute to Tolkien on Martin’s part. Martin was born George Raymond Martin, and adopted a further middle name Richard upon his Catholic confirmation at age 13 (as, in fact, Martin himself confirms – as it were – in this video, at around 8:30 minutes in).

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