So, a bit ago the New Yorker posted a list of fantasy novels selected to follow up with Harry Potter, Narnia, and whatnot. This list, as you can see, is really limited. There’s nothing wrong with any of the books listed. In fact, Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the best fantasy writers around, and perhaps the best historical fantasist alive today. Other than Kay, I couldn’t really understand the other selections. Again, there’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just… You know, they’re all writing a certain mode of fantasy. Not a particularly diverse kind, either. I have difficulty mentally separating Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind. They’re just too similar.
To me, if you want to hook young readers into fantasy, any list you create should at least attempt to demonstrate the breadth of the field of fantastic fiction, even excluding science fiction. I was disappointed that the New Yorker, of all places, would assert a list wherein the honorable mentions were often better selections than the actual list itself.
I was also unhappy that the list was 6 men, and 1 woman, with no real ethnic diversity in either the works selected or the authors.
How can we introduce grown-up fantasy to young people, then, who will either like or not like all the books on the list, or none of them? I would hope our burgeoning readers are given a better introduction to the wide, and culturally inclusive field of modern fantasy fiction.
Over at AbsoluteWrite, I asked the boards for help compiling a better list. Thanks to everyone who participated. Here is what resulted.
I think this list demonstrates the diversity of our field, and the many diverse voices working in grown-up fantasy, far better than the list of the New Yorker. I suspect that no matter who you are, almost anyone who enjoyed Narnia or Harry Potter will find something to like out of these seven books.
1) Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
2) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
3) A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuinn
4) The Etched City by K. J. Bishop
5) Kindred by Octavia Butler
6) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
7) The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
This, of course, has been a topic of some discussion since Nancy Halford posted her list. I hope, however, that if you, fair reader, have a young reader interested in crossing over into “real” fantasy, this list proves useful to you as a good starting place.