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The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories

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An anthology of fantasy stories selected by the eminent Medievalist and Fantasy scholar Tom Shippey, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories gathers together thirty-one tales brimming over with imagination. This rich and intriguing collection of fantasy stories features classic figures--the Devil, trolls and werewolves, sorcerers and dragons--that have long been a part of the h An anthology of fantasy stories selected by the eminent Medievalist and Fantasy scholar Tom Shippey, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories gathers together thirty-one tales brimming over with imagination. This rich and intriguing collection of fantasy stories features classic figures--the Devil, trolls and werewolves, sorcerers and dragons--that have long been a part of the human psyche. The authors of these marvelous tales draw upon a deep well of images, characters, and landscapes with great imagination and subtlety. Featuring writers as diverse as John Buchan and Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter and Terry Pratchett, this is an anthology for the newcomer and dedicated fan alike.


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An anthology of fantasy stories selected by the eminent Medievalist and Fantasy scholar Tom Shippey, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories gathers together thirty-one tales brimming over with imagination. This rich and intriguing collection of fantasy stories features classic figures--the Devil, trolls and werewolves, sorcerers and dragons--that have long been a part of the h An anthology of fantasy stories selected by the eminent Medievalist and Fantasy scholar Tom Shippey, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories gathers together thirty-one tales brimming over with imagination. This rich and intriguing collection of fantasy stories features classic figures--the Devil, trolls and werewolves, sorcerers and dragons--that have long been a part of the human psyche. The authors of these marvelous tales draw upon a deep well of images, characters, and landscapes with great imagination and subtlety. Featuring writers as diverse as John Buchan and Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter and Terry Pratchett, this is an anthology for the newcomer and dedicated fan alike.

30 review for The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    This is another entry in Oxford Univ. Press' long line of quality fiction collections; Tom Shippey is also the editor of a companion volume of science fiction stories, which got five stars from me. Here, he's assembled 31 selections by as many American and British authors, arranged by publication order (dates are given for each story), and dating from 1888 to 1992. (Only six of the authors are women, but of the eight writers represented from 1978 on, five are female.) Shippey's definition of "fa This is another entry in Oxford Univ. Press' long line of quality fiction collections; Tom Shippey is also the editor of a companion volume of science fiction stories, which got five stars from me. Here, he's assembled 31 selections by as many American and British authors, arranged by publication order (dates are given for each story), and dating from 1888 to 1992. (Only six of the authors are women, but of the eight writers represented from 1978 on, five are female.) Shippey's definition of "fantasy," like that of such other editors as Gardner Dozois and David Hartwell, is eclectic, including supernatural fiction set in this world, and the great majority of the included authors are well known in the speculative fiction field. (A few stories are "soft" science fiction, or meant to be taken as science fiction, and another one doesn't really offer any explanation, natural or supernatural, for its premise.) I started to read the Introduction; but quickly discovered that it contains a lot of information I consider spoilerish. There are nine stories here, or nearly a third of the total, that I've read in other collections. The "swords-and-sorcery" tradition is well represented by "The Tower of the Elephant" by Robert E. Howard (featuring REH's iconic hero Conan) and by C. L. Moore's "Jirel Meets Magic." Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John appears in "The Desrick on Yandro" and the late Tanith Lee's outstanding piece of vampire fiction, "Bite-Me-Not," or "Fleur de Fur" is another fine addition, as is Ray Bradbury's "The Homecoming." Peter S. Beagle's "Lila the Werewolf" uses lycanthropy as a means for exploring human relationships more than for scaring the reader. All of these, IMO, are good selections as quality speculative fiction reading (though I wouldn't label the latter four as fantasy). Last year, I read H. P. Lovecraft's "The Nameless City," in a collection of his fiction; and "Operation Afreet" by Poul Anderson was incorporated into his novel Operation Chaos, which I've also read. "The Demon Pope," by one of the few lesser-known authors here, Richard Garnett, is another story I read before, in the anthology Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy; but I didn't remember it at the time, so reread it here. That one is set mainly in the year 1001 in the pontificate of Pope Sylvester II (reigned 999-1003 --he was a real-life person, and the portrayal here is very consistent with what's known of his character; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Sy... . (Garnett doesn't suggest that Pope Sylvester was a demon; the story title... well, you'll just have to read it to understand!) No punches are pulled in delineating the corruption of the Roman Curia in that day, but nonetheless I don't think the tale is anti-Catholic (nor more broadly anti-Christian) in any true sense; and it's a masterpiece of wry humor. Of the 22 new-to-me stories, I liked or greatly liked 13. One of my favorites is a supernatural yarn by John Buchan, "The Wind in the Portico" (1928), set mainly in rural England --where, the author suggests, the malevolent powers worshiped in the pagan past are not necessarily things of the past. Lord Dunsany's "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" (1908) is deliberately written in the manner of an old folk epic; it uses the classic fantasy quest motif of the "hero's journey," but flavors it with the trappings of the author's spectacular imagination. The great stylistic skills of both Abraham Merritt and Clark Ashton Smith are evidenced, respectively, in "Through the Dragon Glass" (1917) and "Xeethra" (1934). Part of a story cycle set in the imaginary far-future continent of Zothique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zothiqu... ), on an Earth which is essentially a fantasy world, the latter tale is a dark fantasy that depends on the idea of reincarnation; but Smith's prowess at story-telling carries the reader along to suspend disbelief for the duration. Both Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story "The Bleak Shore" and Jack Vance's "Liane the Wayfarer" (set apparently in his Dying Earth milieu) are fantasy yarns with a quest structure, but they're otherwise very different. The book description for Mountain Magic (which is on my to-read shelf) mentions Henry Kuttner's fictional creation, the Hogben family. One of his Hogben family stories, "See You Later" appears here; no secondary description will do it justice, so you just have to read it, but it's a masterpiece of humorous SF. Of the newer (1960- ) selections that I liked, John Brunner's "The Wager Lost by Winning," at 30 pages, is possibly overly long for its content, but has a good message. Perhaps my reaction to Keith Roberts' poignant and thought-provoking "Timothy" can better be described as appreciation than liking. (The premise of that story is not a situation that could really correspond to any in the real world; but that doesn't mean that the reader can't extract moral truth from it or grow in empathy through it.) Sir Terry Pratchett's "Troll Bridge," the last and newest story, is set in his Discworld, and as in The Color of Magic it's humorous fantasy --but here the humor has more point than it does in the latter novel, with a serious message about modernity, "progress" and change, not all aspects of which are beneficent. Readers should be warned that a rape (though not graphically described) is a central plot element in "The Silken-Swift..." by Theodore Sturgeon, which revolves around the folklore of unicorns; but it would be a mistake to dismiss or avoid the story just on that ground, because there are aspects to it which are much deeper and more positive. As he does in "The Manor of Roses," which appears in Modern Classics of Fantasy, Thomas Burnett Swan delivers evocative supernatural fiction in a historical setting with "The Sudden Wings," which is set in 80 A.D., mainly in Petra against the cultural background of the pre-Islamic Nabatean Arabs (though the two main characters are Romans). (view spoiler)[That story does have an insta-love factor that weakens its credibility, though. (hide spoiler)] My favorite among the newer works was "The Kings of the Sea" by Sterling E. Lanier (an author previously unknown to me), set in Sweden in 1938, which has a distinctly Lovecraftian flavor. Most of the nine stories I didn't care for as much are well written (as expected from this publisher and this editor), and carefully crafted to create the effect the author wanted; and many are very atmospheric. But they're not satisfying (at least to me) as stories. A couple of the tales revel in a "triumph of evil" scenario which isn't my cup of tea. My least favorite read here was "Thorn" by Robert Holdstock, a grim and ugly story set in medieval England that pits Christianity against ancient folk paganism (or the author's imaginary folk paganism) and roots for the latter. "Same Time, Same Place" by Mervyn Peake, strangely, is actually a general fiction story with no speculative element at all, and so fits poorly into the collection. Having characters who are (view spoiler)[ afflicted with physical abnormalities (and treated here by the author with about the same sensibility, or lack of it, as you would encounter in a carnival "freak show" (hide spoiler)] and who behave in unrealistic ways, doesn't make this into "fantasy;" it just makes it poor and unrealistic general fiction. :-( Jane Yolen's short (about three pages) "Johanna" is (view spoiler)[ a starkly tragic tale, with an innocent on the receiving end of its unredeemed tragedy; and unredeemed tragedy isn't something I get a kick out of (hide spoiler)] . The most basic problem --though they have others-- with both "Subworld" by Phyllis Eisenstein and "Beyond the Dead Reef" by "James Tiptree Jr." (whose real name was Alice B. Sheldon) is that both have premises that are so far "out there" that it's impossible to really suspend disbelief, at least for this reader. It would be fair to say, though, that if the two are compared, the former is light years even further "out there:" and the Tiptree story does have a consciousness-raising message about the awful effects and scope of our current ongoing pollution of the world's oceans (which is probably much worse now than it was in 1983 when the story was published). While not repulsive like some of her work (although it has a certain erotic undertone), "The Erl-King" by Angela Carter is more a highly imaginative descriptive sketch than a plotted story. (It did, however, hold my interest, and does have an ambiguous conclusion of sorts.) Avram Davidson is represented by "The Singular Events which Occurred in the Hovel on the Alley off of Eye Street" (1962), set at the time of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, in an alternate world where government and society are shaped by magic and alchemy, and written with tongue firmly in cheek. It has its humorous moments, but it's ultimately a very slight story, and not the author's best work, IMO. Overall, there are enough good or very good stories here to render this a worthwhile collection for most speculative fiction fans. Readers' reactions to individual stories would no doubt vary from mine, since we all have individual tastes; but I think most would find a lot here that they like.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Ahlros

    I find that this is a hard short story collection to review. With its 31 stories by different authors during different years of our history the first being written in 1888 by Richard Garnett and the last written 1992 by Terry Pratchett (also happened to be the only 5 star read by the lot in my opinion). Of these 31 stories I found as I mentioned one five star, six four star reads, four one star reads and five two star reads. Now my three star rating is because I gave fifteen of these stories 3 s I find that this is a hard short story collection to review. With its 31 stories by different authors during different years of our history the first being written in 1888 by Richard Garnett and the last written 1992 by Terry Pratchett (also happened to be the only 5 star read by the lot in my opinion). Of these 31 stories I found as I mentioned one five star, six four star reads, four one star reads and five two star reads. Now my three star rating is because I gave fifteen of these stories 3 stars. Now keep in mind that I am not a huge fantasy reader and haven't read any of these authors before. I must applaud Tom Shippey who collected these stories together for I feel they are different from each other and I did enjoy most of them. As you may see I have taken a looooong time reading this book, this is not only the books fault, however I have found it difficult to pick up although this could be because I am not a fan of short stories. I have had a bad reading year in spite of liking a lot of what I have read my heart hasn't really been in the right mood.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hepple

    First published in this volume in 1994, 'The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories' is a collection of 31 short stories originally published over the years 1888-1992. The authors included comprise some of the finest fantasy writers, and the stories themselves are superb examples, so long as you realise that only fantasy authors who can pen decent short stories are represented. Most enjoyable. First published in this volume in 1994, 'The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories' is a collection of 31 short stories originally published over the years 1888-1992. The authors included comprise some of the finest fantasy writers, and the stories themselves are superb examples, so long as you realise that only fantasy authors who can pen decent short stories are represented. Most enjoyable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edward Pissmeoff

    A great collection of shorts by masters of the genre, put together in chronological order, so you can see how the writers of the past have, and continue to, influence the new generations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I didn't love all of the stories. But there were a gems in the collection from Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Larry Niven, and Terry Pratchett. I didn't love all of the stories. But there were a gems in the collection from Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Larry Niven, and Terry Pratchett.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "The Demon Pope," by Richard Garnett (1888): 7.75 - Limped across the finish line, but otherwise enjoyable little ditty, in which we get all the hallmarks of 19th-century genre writing turgidity, ethnic-nationalism, and papist-bashing we could ever want (and in only several pages). Interesting to set this soul-to-the-devil tale so deep in the medieval past, although there are really no markers to set it apart from any timeless generic Protestant-generated assumptions about the Vatican except for "The Demon Pope," by Richard Garnett (1888): 7.75 - Limped across the finish line, but otherwise enjoyable little ditty, in which we get all the hallmarks of 19th-century genre writing turgidity, ethnic-nationalism, and papist-bashing we could ever want (and in only several pages). Interesting to set this soul-to-the-devil tale so deep in the medieval past, although there are really no markers to set it apart from any timeless generic Protestant-generated assumptions about the Vatican except for the seemingly more "barbarian" names. "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth," (1908): 8.5 - I know only one other Lord Dunsany story, and that one impressed me much more than this -- or, it gave me an impression that I would get something much different than I got here (although, to be honest, the final five-paragraph short epilogue [in which our narrator casts great/convincing aspersions on the veracity of the 'story' put forth in the proceeding pages, noting that, yes, maybe this heroic fantasy happened, or maybe some fevered man just went into the woods and hallucinated with his schwert, and who can know and who can care] here goes a bit of the way towards recapturing some of that story's more recognizably 'modern' or, at least, contemporaneous elements; I mean, to be honest, the .5 on this score here is almost fully attributable to that last bit). That earlier story being one in which a man, standing before a magic window, takes in the rise and fall of a fantastical kingdom, although completely from the safety of his perch (and, clearly, quite the commentary -- and early -- on particular aspects of the imagination and the thin veil between the real and imagined world). Here is about as straightforward a reimagining of a classic fairy tale/heroic narrative there can be, and, to his credit, this is more than likely exactly what Dunsany was intending the whole time. Even at that, however, the droll complexity of the whole thing is a bit of something to consider: set out fantasy village, introduce (rough) parameters of magic world, sickness in village, discerned by village magician, who recognizes the spell from fellow necromancer, hero kills dragon-crocodile in order to procure magic sword embedded in his skin, proceeds to use magic, unbeatable sword weapon to vanquish the evil sorcerer terrorizing his community. It's forward-pushing at all times, smooth if not a bit too overwrought, and, most clearly, quite influential on those writing in at least some aspects of this style thereafter: i.e. the powerful hero in an opulent villain's lair was seen almost in full in that Howard adventure yarn I enjoyed so much [does reading/appreciating the primariness of this story change that appreciation at all? No, definitely not]; and the fleshed out cosmology and creatures (and knee-jerk affiliation of feminine sexuality and oriental themes with the villain's homestead) sure to pop up again in some (Tolkien?) later imitators. Regardless, what this story most clearly resembles, to me, is the concerted effort -- in a place and time un-saturated by copies and copies of copies of the very thing the author's about to do -- to tell and tell simply a fairy tale, and one mimicking the voice and style and concerns [I assume it's not unintentional how severely limited the development and psychological complexity of the hero in this story is; he's simply a constantly moving, active, doer of deeds] of a certain type of folkloric tale from centuries past (or, most importantly, whatever conception of the same exists for a man of a certain class and position in Edwardian UK. "Through the Dragon Glass," by Abraham Merrit (1917): 6.75 - What to say? Some stories don’t need much; fairly standard fantasy fare for its time and place. The piece: soldier loots Forbidden City after Boxer Rebellion, finds mysterious dragon glass, eventually goes their through it, has adventure, and falls in love with, of course, "mysterious" girl. Admirable commitment to Orientalism here--there's barely any attempt to distinguish between Asian cultures; we touch -- all through the same Dragon glass portal -- elements of Chinese, Hindu, Tibetan, and Iranian cultures.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Originally published on my blog here in December 1999. This collection of short stories aims to be representative of the history of the modern fantasy genre, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The authors include many important shapers of the genre, though there are odd omissions - Tolkien, Morris, MacDonald, and Donaldson, for example. The selection concentrates on the earlier years, probably because the average reader of fantasy relies on the selection in the local bookshop and only ever Originally published on my blog here in December 1999. This collection of short stories aims to be representative of the history of the modern fantasy genre, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The authors include many important shapers of the genre, though there are odd omissions - Tolkien, Morris, MacDonald, and Donaldson, for example. The selection concentrates on the earlier years, probably because the average reader of fantasy relies on the selection in the local bookshop and only ever sees relatively recent literature. The introduction explains something of the importance of the writers, though its thematic rather than historical arrangement makes it difficult to gain a coherent understanding of the history of the genre from it. (It is clearly intended as a discussion of what makes a story fantasy and what elements are contained in a fantasy story.) The book would have been improved by giving a short editorial introduction to each story, to set it into the context of the author's work - some are entirely typical, like Robert Holdstock's Thorn, others not at all, like Mervyn Peake's Same Time Same Place - and to describe the author's role in the fantasy genre in general. For my taste, the selection ran rather too close to the horror end of the genre, and one or two of the stories are very unpleasant indeed, while few have the lightheartedness so typical of another side of the genre, a tradition running from Pratchett back to de Camp and beyond. (The most humorous stories are the first and last, The Demon Pope by Richard Garnett from 1888 and Troll Bridge by Terry Pratchett from 1992.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    SBC

    A really interesting read. My first introduction to "The Silken-Swift" and "Bite me not or fleur de fur", both awesome stories. Contents: The demon pope /​ Richard Garnett The fortress unvanquishable, save for Sacnoth /​ Lord Dunsany Through the dragon glass /​ Abraham Merritt The nameless city /​ H. P. Lovecraft The wind in the portico /​ John Buchan The tower of the elphant /​ Robert E. Howard Xeethra /​ Clark Ashton Smith Jirel meets magic /​ Catherine L. Moore The bleak shore /​ Fritz Leiber Homecoming A really interesting read. My first introduction to "The Silken-Swift" and "Bite me not or fleur de fur", both awesome stories. Contents: The demon pope /​ Richard Garnett The fortress unvanquishable, save for Sacnoth /​ Lord Dunsany Through the dragon glass /​ Abraham Merritt The nameless city /​ H. P. Lovecraft The wind in the portico /​ John Buchan The tower of the elphant /​ Robert E. Howard Xeethra /​ Clark Ashton Smith Jirel meets magic /​ Catherine L. Moore The bleak shore /​ Fritz Leiber Homecoming /​ Ray Bradbury See you later /​ Henry Kuttner Liane the wayfarer /​ Jack Vance The desrick on Yandro /​ Manly Wade Wellman The silken-swift /​ Theodore Sturgeon Operation Afreet /​ Poul Anderson The singular events which occurred in the hovel on the alley off of eye street /​ Avram Davidson The sudden Wings /​ Thomas Burnett Swann Same time, same place /​ Mervyn Peake Timothy /​ Keith Roberts The kings of the sea /​ Sterling E. Lanier Not long before the end /​ Larry Niven The wager lost by winning /​ John Brunner Lila the werewolf /​ Peter S. Beagle Johanna /​ Jane Yolen The Erl-king /​ Angela Carter Beyond the dead reef /​ James Tiptree Jr. Subworld Phyllis Eisenstein Bite-me-not or fleur de fur /​ Tanith Lee The night of white Bhairab /​ Lucius Shepard Thorn /​ Robert Holdstock Troll Bridge /​ Terry Pratchett.

  9. 5 out of 5

    'chris d

    I read an anthology "The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories by Tom Shippey." I found it inconsistent; that is purely an opinion as a reader. I had never read H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard (Conan) and frankly, they were two of the best stories in the book. I've never read Terry Pratchett until this anthology; lovely, lovely short story. I was surprised. It was worth reading. I like short stories but I could not get into all of them. I read an anthology "The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories by Tom Shippey." I found it inconsistent; that is purely an opinion as a reader. I had never read H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard (Conan) and frankly, they were two of the best stories in the book. I've never read Terry Pratchett until this anthology; lovely, lovely short story. I was surprised. It was worth reading. I like short stories but I could not get into all of them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erdahs

    Eh. Not terrible, but not good enough to be worth slogging through. Skipped to the Tanith Lee, then sent it back to the library.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I enjoyed reading these short stories. A few near the beginning of the book were not as good as the rest, but most were amazing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    bluetyson

    The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories (Oxford Books of Prose) by Tom Shippey (2003)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    A great anthology that shows the progression of the fantasy genre. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hadia Aladawy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paloma

  17. 5 out of 5

    Truthiness

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Ann Lawler

  20. 4 out of 5

    R Kulik

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Procash

  22. 5 out of 5

    Valerie, Queen

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Smokie Lee

  25. 5 out of 5

    Huma

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meliae Sybella

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  28. 4 out of 5

    julia cortes

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rienk

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jonas Gehrlein

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