A companion piece to the Carter edited Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, this is a must read for anyone interested in the obscure byways of Anglo American fantasy from the 19th through the mid 20th centuries Carter s scholarship lets him down at times and his personal biases are perhaps a bit too obvious, and there s no question that the book isthan a little self serving as it points the way to much of Carter s own work but his enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the field ultimately win out This may well be the origin of my interest in Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and James Branch Cabell, and it remains a resource that I return to time and again Out of print I believe, but easy enough to find for under 5 on eBay. Having been published in 73, the book s outdatedness was also a strength Carter focuses a loton the pulps and pre Tolkienian work than an equivalent modern survey of fantasy literature would. This is very much a book of two halves The first half, an overview of the early writers who helped to shape the modern fantasy genre, is pretty gripping stuff Carter nails precisely what makes writers like Dunsany and Eddison so pivotal to the genre, as well as superb writers in their own right, and does so in a humorous and pithy style that clearly shows his great love and respect of the field overall The second half of the book, unfortunately, loses its way big time Carter spends a couple of chapters on world building while berating various writers like Howard and Brackett for their inappropriate nomenclature, as well as well as writers like Tolkien for their lack of a religious element in their works While some of his points ring true Howard was a notoriously sloppy world builder, IMO Carteroften than not fundamentally misses the point many of his examples were aiming for with their respective works, or chooses to criticise them on the most petty and quibbling aspects of their work More egregiously, he then proceeds to lecture the reader on effective world building, using his own execrable Thongor series as a main example Ssaa floaters Herpes Zoster These chapters are nigh on worthless at best, and potentially harmful at worst if one were to actually follow his advice, which seems unlikely , though they do provide quite a few belly laughs at Carter s expense. Two stars for Lin Carter s history of the pulp era of science fiction Zero stars for his jaw dropping how to write fantasy section at the back, which occupies a quarter to a third of the book.Carter gives a reasonable history of the early pulps, although he does not seem to care for really original work He sniffs at Tolkien as not up to snuff and is quite scornful of Michael Moorcock s work.It is the last third of this book, Carter s world building essay, that is a howling delight of awfulness He gives detailed instructions which if followed allow one to build a perfect clich ridden pastiche of Robert E Howard s old Conan stories, or at least how they were rewritten and improved by other writers after Howard s death.Carter tells in the most confident of terms how to create countries, magic, items His section on naming gives what he thinks are bad examples he reserves especial contempt for Moorcock s city of R lin K ren A a and good ones Herpes Zoster the wizard, good grief.This is a funny book But for the sake of decent literature everywhere, do not take his writing advice. Travel back to a time when Lin Carter felt the need to defend L Sprague de Camp s red blooded ness a time when Tolkein s inexplicable cult following was at it s Led Zeppelin inspiring peak, and Ursula le Guin and Michael Moorcock were newcomers Once there, be prepared to then simmer in a swamp of fanzine style criticism written in overwrought, anglophile prose a swamp whose name has too many Zs, Xs and Qs and doesn t sound at all swampy.This book helped me get through a rough couple of weeks, though, I got to say And I didn t hate the world building stuff at the end I can remember poring over articles in Dragon magazine about how to construct monster languages, some ten years after this book came out I also think it might be inspiring for people who want to write fantasy but don t think they are good enough After you read this, you ll be ready to shove your ideas through your typewriter, to paraphrase Lin Carter losing patience with Robert E Howard I think the attention he pays to all the pre Weird Tales novels and the lesser pulp authors in America is also fun That he doesn t bother to explain their probably awful politics is OK with me, I can check that later in Wikipedia But I think nowadays, with everybody and their mother gushing about Game of Thrones, it is kind of cool to think back to cats like James Branch Cabell. From Tor.com Lin Carter s Imaginary Worlds The Art of Fantasy is a study of the evolution of fantasy fiction, beginning with its earliest predecessors to the work of then contemporary practitioners Published in June 1973 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, it is an ambitious title magnificently flawed by the hubris of its author.The book s first chapters on the careers of Lord Dunsany, R A Eddison, Mervyn Peake, William Morris and other early masters are extremely valuable, providing both biographical information and establishing a timeline for the evolution of fantasy settings from the mundane earthly kingdoms and lost civilizations to entirely original secondary worlds Carter s strong editorial voice and legendary ego are both at their most subdued during these first chapters Unfortunately, both are soon enough loosed with disastrous results.The midsection of the book tackles both the early pulp writers and the works of Carter s mid century contemporaries It is here that Carter begins to shed any presumption of objectivity, sniping at the work of fantasy fiction s masters with abandon Robert E Howard Messy, at least until Carter and his colleague L Sprague de Camp tightened his fiction up by rewriting and even inventing out of whole cloth entire stories based on the smallest fragments of the Texas author s work Tolkien All well and good, except for the mistake of not inventing gods and a religious hierarchy for Middle Earth The fiction of Michael Moorcock Sloppy Naturally, these problems never stopped Carter from cribbing from his betters for his own anemic pastiche.The final third of the book purports to be a look behind the curtain at fantasy world creation, but once again Carter s ego gets in the way The section on the creation of imaginary names is especially odious Carter draws from the work of his contemporaries for examples of poor character and place names admittedly, some of these are justified and then has the unbelievable hubris to use his own work as a counter example of these techniques done correctly Outrageously enough, one such example given of his own work features a sorcerer with the dubious name Herpes Zoster Carter closes the book with some talk about swords and sorcery fiction s future, but detours briefly to decry the work of science fiction s New Wave , finding the movement s use of fiction to examine contemporary social issues as well as the sentiment that genres should evolve to both be especially worthy of condemnation.Imaginary Worlds does offer some value to fans of the swords and sorcery boom of the sixties Carter cites many authors from that period who have now been lost to obscurity a potential treasure trove for those devoted enough to seek them out at their local paperback exchange Whether these same fans will still be able to trust Carter s tastes after finishing this book is another question entirely. Another book about fantasy writers and legends in the Tolkien tradition Pretty good. Roughly 75% of this book is a history of fantasy sword and sorcery literature The other 25% is Carter s advice on writing in the genre The first larger part of the book was definitely superior to the second smaller part.Carter is at his best in assessing the late 19th and early to mid 20th century authors and works in the genre of fantasy He has a real love for the field and he s good at pointing out what makes it great generally, and what s best about it in particular authors and books He really gives you a desire to go back and dig into the works of William Morris, E R Eddison, and Robert E Howard Carter also has loads of praise as well as some critique of J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis As with most works of criticism, Carter s biases and idiosyncrasies show themselves concerning certain authors and works However, overall, he gives due praise for the shining works in the field.Concerning Carter s writing advice, though he has past away, and though his books are probably not near as popular as they once were, and given that his advice is dated in some ways there are current popular fantasy books that break his rules , nevertheless I am sure that there are various things that a new fantasy writer could learn from this section At the very least it shows what the expectations of the fantasy field were back in the early 1970s.Carter is NOT a boring writer concerning the history of fantasy literature For those who are interested in the subject, I highly recommend this work. This book was published in 1973, so it s certainly not an up to date survey of fantasy literature I m not up to date, either and I m not sure that I want to be , so that doesn t bother me in the least Carter writes in an informal, fanboy style that I find quite infectious He is definitely an apologist for the sword sorcery genre which he claims was jump started by Robert E Howard in the pages of Weird Tales, circa 1929, with the first published Conan stories I m not big on SS, but I m willing to indulge those who are I have enjoyed, from time to time, some E.R Burroughs, R.E Howard, and Fritz Leiber, but I can t take a steady diet of SS Carter does a good job of differentiating the two main wellsprings of American fantasy writing in the 20th century the legendary pulp magazines, Weird Tales 1923 54 and Unknown 1939 43 Weird Tales tended toward SS and purple prose while Unknown tended toward speculative what if tales, often featuring bumbling, contemporary anti heroes, who were described in plain language Carter rightly points out that ancient epics like Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and Beowulf are full of magic and imaginary beasts Which enables him to raise the question of why literary folks tend to look down their noses upon people who read fantasy books There is certainly nothing intrinsically inferior about fantasy as a genre Sturgeon s law applies just as well to fantasy as it does to sf at least 90% of all writing is crap, so it s simply unfair to stigmatize an entire genre Gems often hide in the garbage heap Books like Carter s help one cast aside the garbage and pluck out the gems Carter begins by providing valuable information about important early British and Irish fantasy writers e.g., William Beckford 18th c author of the Orientalist fiction, Vathek , William Morris a 19th c polymath, famous for Morris chairs, neo arabesque floral designs and the novel, The Well at the World s End , George MacDonald Phantastes, Lilith, etc , and E.R Eddison The Worm Ouruboros One of the biggest surprises here is Carter s assessment of Tolkien While he acknowledges Tolkien as the greatest of the world builders, he faults him for the cardboard quality of his characters In particular, Carter feels that Tolkien fails to explore evil in a convincing way Further, he claims that Lord of the Rings fails to achieve the perfect gestalt i.e., that it s a work which contains a few great scenes, but that the story, taken as a whole, is not greater than the sum of its parts It has been quite a long time since I read Tolkien, so I cannot argue these points Carter may well be right He holds up an earlier work The Worm Ouroboros as the great 20th c epic, but admits that it is a far less accessible work, primarily because the style is somewhat archaic.After reading Imaginary Worlds, I feel an urgent need to make a to read list Too bad I didn t take notes while I was reading But definitely, I d like to read Gilgamesh have not read it since high school Vathek Lilith Worm Ouroboros some Harold Shea stories from Unknown by Pratt de Camp perhaps Out of the Silent Planet or Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis Wizard of Earthsea by LeGuin a re read this was a childhood favorite of mine something by Dunsany Carter heaps lavish praise on Dunsany the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake and a book or two by John Bellairs.I m sure I ve missed a few Oh yes Jack Vance maybe The Dragon Masters or The Dying Earth and Andre Norton Witch World sounds interesting Note This was another find at the Milwaukee Airport, at Renaissance Books a truly fine store with lots of used books I cannot recommend the place highly enough If you have a layover in Milwaukee, do stop in You won t regret it. From The Cover Blurb Like Lin Carter S Other Look Behind Volumes On JRR Tolkien And HPLovecraft , This Book Examines The Background And Creation Of The Imaginary Worlds Of Some Of The Most Famous Writers To Appear In The Field Of Adult FantasyIMAGINARY WORLDS Is A Book About Fantasy, About The Men Who Write It, And How It Is Written It Is A Joyful Excursion By A Man Who Himself Loves Fantasy, Into The Origins And The Magicks Of Such Writers As Dunsany, Eddison, Cabell It Examines The Rise Of Fantasy In The American Pulp Magazines And Delights In The Sturdy Health Of Sword And Sorcery It Looks With Pleasure On The Works Of Some Modern Masters And Knowledgeably Explores The Techniques Of World MakingIt Is, In Short, A Happy Exploration Of Worlds, And Men, And Writers, And Writings, By An Author Whose Enthusiasm For His Subject Is Boundless And Is Thus A Joyful Guide For Fantasy Lovers Everywhere