I've spent the last couple of days reorganising my study, digging books out of storage and putting them into some order that is, at the very least, sort of useful. I've now got all my novels together and three groaning shelves of short story collections - including Tony Daniel's excellent the Robot's Twilight Companion, the wonderful Galaxy Best ofs vol1 & 2, Anne & Jeff Vandermeer's Steampunk, and the Strahan and Dozois New Space Opera.
Sorting my books has been a wonderfully cathartic experience Robert E Howard's Complete Chronicles of Conan is sitting next to the recent Penguin translation of Proust's In Search of Lost Time*. I found all my Fritz Leiber's, my Michael Shea's, and my copy of Hope Mirrlees' Lud in the Mist. Which led me to thinking that these are three of most influential fantasists that no one has ever heard of.
Without Fritz Leiber's Nehwon books, and to a lesser extent, Shea's Nifft the Lean the current crop of sword and sorcery writers would not exist** and if a better fantasy novel than Mirrlee's Lud in the Mist has been written***, then I've yet to read it. I've never understood why this book hasn't had broader appeal. If you've read Neal Gaiman's Stardust or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke then you'd love this book. Maybe it has slipped through the cracks because it's hardly a big fat fantasy but the prose is gorgeous and the story driven by deep dark wit.
Same could be said for the Leiber and the Shea, they're basically novellas, but if you haven't read the Adept's Gambit, Lean Times in Lankhmar or The Fishing of the Demon Sea you're missing out on some wonderfully adult and glorious fantasy. Hunt down these authors, believe me, they're worth the effort.
* my, aren't I cleverly ironic.
** And lo, you say: ye Prince of the Blogs not blogged much, wouldn't that be a good thing? To which I respond: nay, well, ok, maybe, but Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard Novels are great fun. And Joe Abercrombe's books are a fine way to spend an afternoon. Not to mention the Garth Nix Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz novellas, well, the one I read was extremely promising.
***Sure, there are novels just as good, say Crowley's Little Big, Carroll's Land of Laughs, and that book about wizards, you know, it's the one with a dragon and a mountain on the cover.***
****BTW I love the cover of my copy of LUD-in-the-Mist, it's the Lin Carter*****, Ballantine paperback ed, it looks like a bad acid trip
*****Now, there's a man responsible for more awful sword and sorcery stories than anyone, but he can be forgiven (at least a little) for reprinting LUD.