Masterpieces of Fantasy and Wonder
Compiling a “best of” volume presents challenges of space limitations. Compiler David G. Hartwell’s thirty-eight selections vary widely in length, subject matter, style, and setting; he obviously chose diversity rather than adherence to a narrow definition of fantasy literature. Most of the authors whose works are included are well known.
Hartwell’s presentation is by (loosely defined) topic rather than chronological, but notes preceding each selection place the stories in context. Many of the notes refer readers to other selections. Hartwell divides the stories into five sections devoted to enchantments, wonders, creatures, worlds, and adventures. Several of the stories are translations, and a few are parts of longer works.
Hartwell makes clear in his introduction that one defining characteristic of fantasy fiction is the necessity that the reader willingly suspend disbelief. Fantasy is unlike science fiction in that events do not need to be explained—magic is allowed to exist. The least satisfactory selections in this volume are those in which magic or unexplained phenomena alone drive the story. In such selections, an unusual character appears or an event takes place with no reason given; at the story’s end, the character simply leaves or the event runs it course, with things mostly returning to normal. These stories tend to be short, leaving out character development and background. They are the most similar to children’s...
(The entire section is 379 words.)
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