Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

July 22, 2009

Mendlesohn & James – A Short History of Fantasy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 11:05 pm

This is precisely what it says – a history of the fantastic, beginning with mythology and moving through fairytale and the Gothic novel to the beginnings of Fantasy As We Know It and then forward to the present day.

The first text mentioned (in passing) is the Epic of Gilgamesh; the most recent is Alice in Sunderland (graphic novel, Brian Talbot, 2007). At 280 pages including chronology, glossary, and further reading, there’s little enough space for any particular text, but plenty of them are given a thorough enough discussion that it’s clear where they fit into the braided narrative of fantasy.

An extensive “Chronology of important texts” always invites the reader to tick off what they’ve read, and I’m mildly disappointed by my lack of erudition there; but I’m pleased to find that I’m familiar with most of the texts referenced in the main body, at least until the last chapter (2000-2010).

Clearly, I need to read more heavyweight-recent SF!


  1. Sensitized by the current SFPA debate, I’m fascinated to observe that you use SF as a catch-all to include Fantasy.

    I quite enjoyed the book – it was the best-written list I’ve ever read. (And I really do mean that in a good way.)

    Comment by S. Worthen — July 28, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  2. Oh, my definitions are arbitrary and mostly because that gives me an easy excuse to talk about all of it. I follow the same core/penumbra model, though of course that’s not to say there’s only one core, and a couple of the things I’ve been vaguely meaning to write about aren’t really SF under any normal definition. (Dumas, mostly – though he did inspire some fairly iconic SF novels too.)

    Comment by Sam — July 28, 2009 @ 11:59 am

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