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The Encyclopedia of Fantasy Paperback – March 15, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This masterful follow-up to the 1993 Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is an essential purchase for anyone who's serious about fantasy. Those who are serious about horror will also find it an excellent reference. The works of prolific and confusing authors such as Michael Moorcock, as well as authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien who have many posthumously published fragments, are explained with admirable clarity. Especially fascinating are the numerous terms for motifs and themes, constituting what the editors call a map of the many "fuzzy sets" in the universe of fantasy fiction--terms such as "crosshatch," "polder," and "water margin." There are many entries on horror movies and the better-known horror writers (only writers who write no fantasy, such as Richard Laymon, are excluded). You'll also find carefully written definitions of horror, dark fantasy, supernatural fiction, gothic fiction, psychological thrillers, and weird fiction. Locus calls The Encyclopedia of Fantasy "massive and welcome," and writes, "This will be the standard reference for years to come." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up. A comprehensive resource about fantasy literature and media. Similar in format to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (St. Martin's, 1993), it presents a thorough catalog of authors, awards, movies, TV shows, fantastic themes, historical individuals, and articles on the literature of various nations. There are entries on Howard the Duck and Homer, Santa Claus and Silverberg, Garcia Marquez and Germany. Articles are concise, detailed, and clearly written, although the text is sometimes dry. The book's main value is its cross-referencing. An entry about an author highlights themes covered elsewhere in bold face, and vice versa. For example, the definition of Steam Punk as a fantasy sub-genre refers to Alternative Worlds and to the author Tim Powers. By leading browsers from their favorite writer's works to articles about specific thematic elements and then to other authors who write along similar themes, The Encyclopedia serves as an efficient reader's guide to the genre. Unfortunately, specific mythological elements are not as thoroughly covered. Although there are articles on unicorns and dragons in fantastic literature, there is no entry covering griffins. Still, this is a useful reference book.?Lawrence Kapture, New York Public Library
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Revised edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312198698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312198695
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,514,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had coveted this book for quite some time before I ordered my copy. Aside from being a longtime and irredeemable fantasy geek, I am also an English teacher at a small independent school, and our reference library has a copy. This fact has enabled me to waste many happy free periods rifling through the _Encyclopedia_ instead of, say, grading papers or thinking deep, serious thoughts about the state of pedagogy in America. But before you write me off as a disgrace to my profession, hear me out:
_The Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ is a remarkable book, and any time I have spent with it in lieu of more mundane tasks is time very well spent indeed. I can even justify this frivolous perusal academically, because what really makes the _Encyclopedia_ a great resource isn't so much its exhaustive listing of authors or titles (much of which information is available elsewhere anyway), but the fact that Clute et al. have managed to accomplish nothing less than a rigorous, consistent, and phenomenally well cross-referenced taxonomy and analytical vocabulary for fantasy. I know, I know, that sounds awfully dry, but it isn't.
I'm a word junkie, so I love learning apt new terms for things, especially if those nameless concepts have gone begging for far too long. When Clute coins the term "thinning" to describe any fantasy world that, over time, loses its magic [Middle-earth, anyone?], you cannot help (assuming you're an aficionado of the genre) but say to yourself, "Aha! Now I know what to call it!
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By A Customer on April 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
To begin, John Clute and company's The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is an essential book for anyone who is serious about fantasy. Having said that, much of this review is going to focus on negatives rather than positives.
As can be expected with any book this size, mistakes have crept in. Within the first few days, I found several errors, mostly minor. A book attributed to Lynn Abbey which was written by Robert Asprin, a mistaken title for a book by Charles de Lint, that sort of thing. These mistakes, however are minor.
Perhaps a bigger problem with the Encyclopedia is the strange inclusion and omission of authors. Neither Sterling Lanier or Steven Frankos are included in the book, however Steve Szylagi, who has written a single fantasy novel has received an entry. According to Clute, the book does not claim to be as complete as its predecessor, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and the editors were forced to make some cuts. It would have been nice if he could have given some hint as to the selection criteria in the front matter. One friend suggested that if an author was included in the first book they would be left out of the second book, but too many authors appear in both books for this rule of thumb to be applied (Charles de Lint, Mervyn Peake, Larry Niven, etc.)
A larger percentage of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is given over to thematic entries than The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Fantasy, however, has more common themes and prototypes than science fiction does, therefore making these types of entries a larger portion of any survey of the field. Still, the reader has to wonder about entries such as "Pornographic Fantasy Movies" which is so vague ("few researchers are willing to sit through the stuff...
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Format: Paperback
Like the companion volume, "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction," "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" tries to include everything within its thick volume. Finally, readers can find the name of every single book ever published by their favorite authors. This is not the kind of book one reads from cover-to-cover; the sheer staggering amount of detail alone would prevent any useful retention. Rather, it is the perfect playing ground for encyclopedia tag: pick a page, read a topic, then follow the bouncing references until you get hopelessly, wonderfully entangled in ideas and authors you've never encountered before! My only minor complaints are the too-brief biographies for the authors, and the occasional over-opinionated discussion of an author's works. But even then, the book sparks curiosity by leading a reader to want to know more about an author or idea. An excellent gift for readers who constantly have a fantasy novel in their hands (and for whom you're afraid to buy a book for fear they've already read it).
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Format: Paperback
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards---and deserving---as every other reviewer has stated, this work is indispensable for anyone interested in fantasy fiction, whether scholar or casual reader. Comprehensive would be an understatement, as the authors have collected almost every reference, author or subject pertaining to the genre in one weighty volume, ranging from the Dolorous Stroke of Arthurian Romance to the influence of opera or film upon the fantastic imagination. Writers both influential and otherwise are included, and cogent examinations made into the conventions, tropes and history of this aspect of speculative fiction. True, as often happens with all efforts to compile an encyclopedic reference, this work reflects a certain cultural and Euro American bias, with certain, perhaps crossover, authors from the third world absent, as well as the burden imposed by the rapid passage of time, that demands constant revision, newer (at least for European and American audiences) and significant authors, such as the Australian writer, Sara Douglass, missing mention. Hopefully a new and updated edition will soon be forthcoming. But these quibbles are petty and unavoidable compared to the monumental accomplishment this volume represents, and I find myself continually referring to its pages for additional background upon authors and thematic elements that catch my interest, often individual entries leading to further study and references, as well as authors whose work I was not previously acquainted with.
As varied and vast as the world of fantasy has become in recent years, this work will surely open up new vistas for any reader, as well as firmly root the history, influence and contributions of the genre in the larger perspective and traditions of our literature.
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