summer reading: forgotten sf/f classics

Summer’s here, and now’s a perfect time to do some reading, whether you’re a student on break from school, a parent trying to find stuff for said students to do, or you’re just looking for something to take to the beach.  Hence, this new series with my literary recommendations.

Even if you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy (and if not, why are you reading this blog?), you may not have heard of the great books I’m about to tell you about.  For whatever reason, they’ve fallen out of the spotlight, which is a shame, because they were ground-breaking, they’re tremendously influential, and (most importantly) they’re fantastic reads.

The Elric Series

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What It Is: The albino Elric is the physically weak but mentally brilliant sorcerer-emperor of a decadent, dying civilization.  Aided by the sentient (and evil) sword Stormbringer–which devours souls and gives Elric strength–and accompanied by the happy-go-lucky warrior/thief Moonglum, Elric travels the Young Kingdoms of men, finding adventure while being irresistibly drawn into a world-shattering confrontation between the forces of Law and Chaos.

Why It’s Awesome: The Elric series defies the tropes that dominated fantasy literature in the wake of Conan and Lord of the Rings.  Elric is a conflicted anti-hero who rebels against being a pawn of supernatural forces.  You can read more about Elric (and the influence the series had on my writing) here.

Recommended For: Fans of A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones, or anyone who likes complex, fallible heroes.  Elric is often as cruel and vicious as the villains and monsters he clashes with, but throughout the books, he retains his nobility and likability. The struggle between Law and Chaos, which underpins the series, is nuanced, more than a simple contest between good and evil.

Books In the Series:  Originally written as short stories that were later collected into a narrative, you should read the six “core” books in order:

  • Elric of Melnibone
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
  • The Weird of the White Wolf
  • The Vanishing Tower
  • The Bane of the Black Sword
  • Stormbringer 

You can find them on Amazon, either separate or in compilations.  There are also ancillary Elric novels and stories (such as The Fortress of the Pearl) that were published after the six main books.

Author: Michael Moorcock

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

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What It Is: A brawny but good-hearted barbarian warrior (Fafhrd) teams up with an amoral thief/fledgling wizard (the Gray Mouser) to become the greatest swordsmen in the rough-and-tumble city of Lankhmar, if not the entire world of Nehwon.  Their adventures pit them against the Thieves Guild, assassins, wizards, and monsters as they search for fortune and female companionship.

Why It’s Awesome: The tone of the stories is one of swashbuckling fun, considerably lighter than Elric, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings.  Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser aren’t out to save the world (though they sometimes wind up doing so), they’re looking to make some quick cash.  They often find themselves in way over their heads, but pull through with cunning, hard fighting, and a dash of good luck.

Recommended For: If you’ve heard of the term “swords-and-sorcery,” but never read any, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are the perfect introduction.  Also for those who would prefer reading fantasy that is less dark and pretentious.

Books In the Series:  Like Elric, most of the F&GM books began life as short stories that were later compiled, though The Swords of Lankhmar is a full-length novel.

  • Swords And Deviltry
  • Swords Against Death
  • Swords In the Mist
  • Swords Against Wizardry
  • The Swords of Lankhmar
  • Swords and Ice Magic
  • The Knight and Knave of Swords

Also like the Elric tales, you can find them on Amazon, either separate or in collections. compilations.

Author: Fritz Leiber

A Voyage to Arcturus

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What It Is: A seance is the just the beginning of a mindbending journey for two men, Maskull and Nightspore, who accept the invitation of the mysterious fellow Krag to travel to Tormance, a planet orbiting the star Arcturus.  Weirdness ensues.

Why It’s Awesome: I’m not going to lie: A Voyage to Arcturus is not an easy read.  It is, however, unlike anything you’ve ever delved into before.  Maskull travels across bizarre landscapes and meets a plethora of strange characters who embody various philosophies, all culminating in…well, I really can’t describe it.

Recommended For: Readers who want something COMPLETELY different.  May remind Baby Boomers of particularly vivid acid trips.

Author: David Lindsay

Come back next time for more summer reading recommendations.  And this week, the Kindle version of my novel Lost Dogs is on sale at Amazon for $0.99!

LD

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in late 2016.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. 

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