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Books & Authors

Fantasy Before Tolkien

Many readers associate fantasy fiction with works by J.R.R. Tolkien like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but the genre thrived well before the 1937 publication of The Hobbit. If you would like to explore fantasy worlds beyond Middle Earth, take a look at the books below.

 The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard

In a meteoric career that spanned a mere twelve years before his tragic suicide, Robert E. Howard single-handedly created the genre of sword and sorcery. His most famous character is Conan, a swordsman who cuts a swath across the lands of the Hyborian Age, facing powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves and reavers. Collected in this volume are Howard's first thirteen Conan stories, featuring Conan the dangerous youth, Conan the daring thief, Conan the swashbuckling pirate, and Conan the commander of armies.

 The Gods of Pegana by Lord Dunsany

The Gods of Pegana is a rich tapestry of imaginative fantasy, one of the landmark collections of short stories from the early 20th century, and a tremendous influence on writers ranging from Ursula K. LeGuin to H.P. Lovecraft, who observed that "[Dunsany's] rich language, his cosmic point of view, his remote dream-worlds and his exquisite sense of the fantastic all appeal to me more than anything else in modern literature."

 The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith

Not just any fantasy author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living" or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith simply wrote like no one else, before or since. This new collection of his very best tales and poems allows readers to encounter Smith's visionary brand of fantastical, phantasmagorical worlds.

 Above Ker-Is and Other Stories by Evangeline Walton

This volume, edited and introduced by noted fantasy scholar Douglas A. Anderson, collects Walton's ten completed fantasy short stories, including her 1950 story published in the legendary magazine Weird Tales, and three superb Breton tales which first appeared in anthologies in the early 1980s. Four stories are published here for the first time.


 The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

A reclusive man, retreating to the Irish countryside with his sister, finds himself one day at the portal to another dimension. Years later, amid the crumbling ruins of his home, a pair of travelers find his diary and its horrifying details of the terrors that stalked his world — grotesque monsters crawling from an abyss to swarm the house, fierce storms that threatened to unleash malevolent powers, and a harrowing vision of the death of the solar system.

 Vathek by William Beckford

The Caliph Vathek is hungry for knowledge. When the mysterious Giaour offers him boundless power he is willing to sacrifice his god, the lives of children, and his own soul to satisfy his obsession. Vathek's journey to the subterranean palace of Eblis, and the terrifying fate that there awaits him, is a tale of magic and oriental fantasy, sudden violence and corrupted love whose mix of moral fable, grotesque comedy and evocative beauty defies classification.

 Lost Horizon by James Hilton

While attempting to escape a civil war, four people are kidnapped and transported to the Tibetan mountains. After their plane crashes, they are found by a mysterious Chinese man. He leads them to a monastery hidden in "the valley of the blue moon", a land of mystery and matchless beauty where life is lived in tranquil wonder, beyond the grasp of a doomed world. It is here, in Shangri-La, where destinies will be discovered and the meaning of paradise unveiled.

 The Treasury of the Fantastic: Romanticism to Early Twentieth Century Literature

The fantastic and the supernatural entwine in this incomparable collection of imaginative stories of wit by major literary figures from Lord Tennyson and Edith Wharton to Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. This deftly curated assemblage of notable classics and unexpected gems from the pre-Tolkien era will captivate and enchant readers.


 Swords and Sorcerers: Stories from the World of Fantasy and Adventure

Although the Lord of the Rings movies have brought swashbuckling fantasy back into the public imagination, they themselves are the product of a rich literary tradition. In Swords and Sorcerers, readers will find great stories and characters in worlds of great writing: the best work of William Goldman, Tim Powers, Susan Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, T. H. White and Alexandre Dumas, and a rich lode of surprising and forgotten gems.

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