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An Encylopedia of Fantasy [Paperback]

John Clute
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

16 Sep 1999

This is the first comprehensive encyclopedia of the fantasy field. It has proved to be the definitive guide to the genre, offering an exciting new analysis of this highly diverse and hugely popular sphere of literature, from precursors such as Shakespeare and Dante, through Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and L. Frank Baum to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and their modern successors, like Ursula Le Guin and Stephen R. Donaldson.

With over 4,000 entries, and more than 1 million words, it covers every aspect of fantasy - in literature, films, television, opera, art and comics. Written and compiled by a team of editors with unparalleled collective experience in the field, it is an invaluable reference work not only for fans of the fantasy genre, but also for anyone interested in how elements of the fantastic are used in the imaginative arts.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 1079 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press; 2nd edition (16 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312198698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312198695
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 18.7 x 4.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,815,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon 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, sychological 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." --Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Entries are sharp, witty and packed with information (NEW SCIENTIST)

It is hard to imagine that it will ever be superseded (LITERARY REVIEW)

A tremendous project, very highly recommended (INTERZONE)

Its range is staggeringly comprehensive..This is a considerable work of reference and scholarship (TIME OUT) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive reference guide of fantasy 5 Dec 2000
This is a wonderful piece of work. If you wish to read it start to finish, or dip into it at random or to reference a particular subject it will not disappoint you. Want to know where your favourite writer was born,what influenced their writing, did they write other books under other names? Every time I pick this book up I find something completely new and am unable to put it down. One section cross references to another then another. Thought you'd read all the books worth reading in fantasy, then pick this up and produce a five page list for your next book buying excursion. John Clute and John Grant the authors have produced a fine work. They ask for contributions if faults or omissions have been made, however, I challenge you to find any!
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Academic Vocabulary for Fantasy -- Better Than It Sounds! 7 July 2000
By Scholar-Gipsy - Published on Amazon.com
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!" Furthermore, the fact that this vocabulary is employed consistently throughout the _Encyclopedia_ allows for thematic and formal juxtapositions of specific works, combinations and comparisons that might not occur even to the serious fantasy buff. Who needs hypertext when you've got such meticulous cross-indexing?
I recently received an Amazon.com gift certificate from thoughtful in-laws, and decided that even though I have access to a copy at school, I had to have an _Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ at home, both for reference while reading/writing and for couch-sprawl browsing.
I splurged and bought the $75.00 hardback. I had a hunch it would get a lot of use, and I wanted it to last. Money very well spent, as far as I'm concerned, and if you're a fantasy partisan, a literary theory wonk, or just someone who gets off on thousands of pages of really, really small type, you'll probably agree.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential reference work 7 April 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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...") as to be titillating rather than informative.
The Encyclopedia of Fantasy also repeats one of the faults of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The author entries could contain more biographical data to supplement the bibliographical data already included. I'm not looking for gossip, merely some idea of what helped formulate the authors' writing.
Despite these flaws, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is a major and important reference work. Essential to any library. Clute is still in negotiations to issue the Encyclopedia on CD-Rom. He says that if a deal goes through, he'll be able to replace author entries which were cut from the print version. The electronic format would be a welcome addition to the printed book.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one indispensable fantasy reference work 20 July 2000
By Robert James - Published on Amazon.com
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).
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential For Anyone Interested In Fantasy Fiction 7 Jan 2001
By Elyon - Published on Amazon.com
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. The first of its kind, and a worthy addition to the companion volume by the same authors for science fiction, this work is invaluable, one of the most significant works ever published in fantasy, and deserving of a place of prominence on the shelves of anyone interested in fantasy or the writing of fiction.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read 11 Jun 2002
By Lawrence Esprit - Published on Amazon.com
This is the most exhaustive Fantasy reference available.

All of the contributors are concise, probing and informative. Even if you don't know the author or work being cited, it is as revealing as its arguments are persuasive, which can lead you to the library to learn more.

For anyone who gets lost in the sea of jargon used throughout, the book is a glossary in itself, so don't fret! It includes the definitions of common Fantasy terms such as "Swords and Sorcery", "Fairy", and esoteric terms, like "thinning".

Basically, if it's not in here, it's not worth reading -- or at least according to the authors. They said that they've only excluded authors who they consider relatively unimportant.

A long entry indicates the importance of the author, so of course Tolkien's entry takes up a few pages. Get books by those authors if you want to read the groundbreaking genre-defining stuff.

John Grant's movies reviews are very inciteful and comprehensive. Without giving ratings, he often hints at what made one either good or bad, which can help you decide whether to see it or not.

If you want to get more interested in Fantasy, but can't pick the good books and movies from the bad, this should enlighten you. I find it a great means of escape.

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