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Old 05-01-2009, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Fletcher Pratt (he and L. Sprague de Camp's Tales from Gavagan's Bar, among others), Robert Sheckley, William Tenn, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Theodore Coggswell, "Lewis Padgett", and -- how could I forget -- Fredric Brown.
Yeah, I was focusing on novels, but fantasy short fiction has a better and longer history, if not as well remembered or as influential.

Fantasy was a separate genre as far back as the pulp days. The seminal fantasy pulp, Weird Tales, started in 1923. Lovecraft and Howard have also been mentioned, but dozens of other 20s and 30s writers wrote fantasy. While fantasy could be set in any time or place, much of it did take place in the contemporary U.S., especially pieces that shaded more toward horror.

John W. Campbell, at the height of creating the Golden Age of sf, also started the fantasy magazine Unknown in 1939. Look at the list of authors and stories on that page. Almost every major sf writer of the period also wrote for Unknown and their stories, as can be seen there, were frequently contemporary.

Campbell couldn't get the paper for two magazines during the war, so he folded Unknown. By the end of the 40s he had turned Astounding into such a rigid platform for his notions that Anthony Boucher and J. Frances McComas launched the Magazine of Fantasy in 1949 (renamed the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with the second issue). F&SF especially concentrated on fantasy, and did hundreds of fantasy stories throughout the 50s.

The small presses that started around the same time to do hardback f&sf because the mainstream publishers wouldn't touch it did probably 1/3 to 1/2 their lines in fantasy books, mostly collections of short stories from the magazines.

So why did urban fantasy need to be reinvented in the 1980s? Well, Tolkien of course. But also Lester del Rey who founded Del Rey books in 1977 to publish Tolkien clones. The publishing industry had never been much interested in fantasy novels previously because they didn't sell as well as sf. Suddenly they did. And so fantasy began to mean exclusively Tolkienesque fantasy. History was also rewritten so that when classic fantasy stories of the Unknown and F&SF ilk were republished in anthologies and collections they were lumped together with the sf stories of those authors and called sf. Again, that sold better.

So the field was ripe for an inversion. Authors who wanted to do something interesting and different deliberately left Tolkieniana behind and started writing contemporary and urban. These never got the sales figures of standard fantasy until the vampire books took off. Anne Rice pioneered them in the 1970s and then Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris in the 1990s became bestsellers.

That people can't name more contemporary or urban fantasy is a shame. It's a huge field with a sparkling history. I fulminated once that Science Fiction is not about spaceships. In the same way Fantasy is not about princes. Fantasy is the Other is our lives. That's why it's had a much longer, larger, and more pervasive history than science fiction.

Ooof. You had to get me started, didn't you?