11 Fantasy Books I Should Have Read By Now #WyrdAndWonder

For today’s #WyrdAndWonder prompt, in no particular order, a list of fantasy titles I really should have read by now:

Kindred by Octavia Butler:

Simply put, I’ve yet to read ANY Butler yet. I chose this one for the list because it’s reportedly “Fantasy” (in Butler’s own words: “a kind of grim fantasy”), but the reality is, I should have read something from her by now. I picked up Dawn and Imago at a used books sale and they have just been gathering dust ever since. I need to change that!

Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks:

The first book in the Shannara Chronicles. This is one of those books that I feel like I should read just to understand the history of one of my favorite genres. After The Lord of the Rings, Fantasy (with a capital F) was on the map and people were scrounging for similar kinds of stories. Apparently Sword of Shannara was what they found . . .

Problem is, I’ve heard it isn’t great for modern readers. I don’t know. The MTV show has been a guilty pleasure of mine, but I think it’s been updated substantially. I suppose I’ll get to it some day.

Gardens of the Moon by Stevin Erikson:

This is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It seems to be one of those series that is just EPIC. In scope, complexity, anything. I’ve never read any of it, but it always shows up on fantasy page count lists. Apparently you can buy the complete thing at just over 10,000 pages.

Regardless of whether or not it’s any good, it seems to be something of a notch on the old fantasy reader belt. Not a right of passage necessarily, but definitely a show of commitment to the genre . . . One of which I apparently haven’t completed yet. Some day . . .

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin:

Apparently I even ate GoT inspired Oreos.

I don’t have a good excuse for not having read this yet. I LOVED the show, and would certainly consider myself a fan of all things GoT. I’ve reviewed a precursor to GoT on this blog, cooked a meat pie from the GoT cookbook, and even waited in a super long line to meet the author and get my copy of this book signed (which I embarrassingly picked up at Target on my way to the signing, and even more embarrassingly, blinked during my photo with GRRM).

But for some reason haven’t read the book . . . Ok. Actually I know the reason. When I first bought the paperback, I wanted to get abs and so I started planking. I could read about two pages in the amount of time I could hold a plank. There are A LOT of pages. Over time I think I’ve developed a bit of a pavlovian response. Whenever I even look at the book, my abs hurt.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman:

Simply put, Neverwhere kind ruined Gaiman for me. All the good things I enjoyed about Good Omens I’ve started just attributing to Terry Pratchett’s influence. This one gets rave reviews from everyone I talk to, and the show seems pretty popular. But alas I’m not very motivated on this one. I know I should be . . . but I’m not.

Dragon Flight by Anne McKaffery:

Dragon Riders of Pern just seems to be one of those series that has influenced nearly everyone under the sun. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so much. Either way, I feel I should have read at least one of these simply because it’s SO pervasive. Time will tell.

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind:

I feel like I might have been able to lump this one in with the Shannara stuff earlier in the post as this series seems to be one that most people found after reading Tolkien and just wanted more. I put it down here because I think people get the “Terry’s” in fantasy confused enough as it is.

I honestly have no idea what it’s even about, but it seems like one I should have read. Who knows?

Black Company by Glen Cook:

At some point, I feel like I read a short story in the Black Company universe and I remember liking it. It seems pretty popular among people who like Fantasy, and I’ve heard that it is sort of proto Grimdark which . . . could be interesting to read for that aspect alone. It’s on the ever growing TBR.

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny:

This is one that I keep getting told I need to read and a series that I think I might actually enjoy. I’ve read Creatures of Light and Darkness before so Zelazny is on my radar for that reason too. I’ll get there.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman:

I pretty much love everything about the show based off this book that used to be on SYFY channel, and was essentially crushed when it got cancelled (although I suppose it’s probably good that it ended because I personally don’t feel it ever got “bad” as a lot of shows do when they run too long). However, I haven’t approached the books yet. I’ve heard several negative reviews and my love for the show is just soooo much that I don’t want to taint it. But I probably will because I just have to know!

Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber:

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and all their assorted adventures, just seem to be the inspiration for so many fantasy things (I think you could argue all of “low” fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery). I’ve read a few of their stories over the years and enjoy the pair immensely, but I’ve never read the original short story collection. One of these days.

End of post thoughts:

This list could have been SOO much longer, but eventually I got tired. Also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of these books are older titles. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t think I should be reading newer things, because there is TONS of great new fantasy coming out all the time. The reason those titles are probably not on the list is because I’ve been trying really hard to keep up (although it’s impossible) and I think I’ve read at least some of the newer stuff. Older stuff is harder to will myself to go back to, because of all the great new stuff.

Anyway hope you enjoyed my listicle. Please let me know which titles you think should be on the list in the comments! Thanks for reading!

Super Bass: Just about Love?

Tor 5Tor.com turns five today (Aww). All this week they’ve been posting a variety of different content on their website to celebrate. I love it. It’s their birthday and they’re the ones giving things away. Well done Tor. Well done. I stopped by on Wednesday and found this little gem awaiting me (you’ll have to register but it’s so worth it and all you need to give is an email address). It’s the past five years of short fiction published by Tor on their website. A short fiction reviewer’s wet dream if there ever was one. I was perhaps more excited because, despite my general love of all things related to this company, I hardly ever get to read any of their short fiction. Tor’s pretty massive when it comes to all the content they produce. It’s really quite impressive. All the blog posts, re-reads, read throughs, newsletters, TV show re-watches . . . and then the novels! Sadly, when I get my newsletter I tend to skim over the links to the short fiction in favor of the news and other little tidbits they pack into those emails. I always save the emails for a while with the intent to come back to them but alas . . . I have a short attention span.

But there is no longer anything to fear! They’ve compiled everything for me in a (rather large) file which I’ve uploaded to my kindle (although not to my amazon account; it’s too big!).

Winning!

Anyway, this week’s short fiction review happens to come from this large anthology and it’s entitled Super Bass by Kai Ashante Wilson. I’ll be honest, I have never heard of Wilson before and I sincerely hoped that Super Bass was somehow related to the Nicki Minaj song of the same title.

It isn’t (at least not so far as I can tell).

But it is a great story! It tells of a place called Sea-John which, by the by, has people marry in groups of three. Sometimes two dudes and a chick, sometimes two chicks and a dude, and as often as not, three dudes or three chicks (really wishing I had gone with bi-the-bi earlier). Weird? Not in the slightest. The story, while taking issue with traditional gender associations, doesn’t dwell on the differences between our culture and that of the work. The differences simply are.

This was quite refreshing for me in a lot of ways. As an English major, I’d read many books and stories (and watched films too!) that took issue with sex, and gender, and the different ways our society is constructed which won’t allow for ‘like’ to sleep with ‘like’. I heard the message. I understood it. I wanted it to change. However, I was always left with a feeling of guilt. That because my preferences were aligned with the [suppressing] majority, I couldn’t truly understand the cause or help.

I didn’t feel that way at all while reading Super Bass. I felt more as if I had been invited to celebrate something beautiful, maybe exotic, but beautiful none the less. Perhaps a better way to describe it is welcomed. I was welcomed to celebrate something beautiful and exotic.

LGBTI think this is something common among science fiction stories in general. In one of those afore mentioned English classes, we talked a great deal about Octavia Butler’s work. I’m certainly no Butler scholar (although I see that Wilson’s work is also published in an anthology written by real Butler Scholars so I assume that he is), but I got the sense that she looked towards a future in which gender (and for that matter race as well) might no longer be such an obstacle for those who are in opposition to the mainstream. Not only that you might love only for that which makes you love, but that others might accept it as they accept something simple. Like an alternate route to work one morning or your favorite flavor of ice cream (mint?).

What I haven’t decided yet is whether or not things have progressed enough that Wilson writes without hesitation. Does he write, as any of us might, about love simply because it is love and these are ways in which we might love?. Or does Wilson write with a sense of duty? Does he write because we are still keeping the status quo and because without some vision of a more accommodating future, we might never reach it at all. I would like to believe the first but feel again as if my situation makes me naïve. Perhaps I can resolve to just be happy that I enjoyed a great story. Perhaps I’m still not doing enough . . .