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  #1  
Old 04-30-2009, 09:24 PM
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Are there any good fantasy novels set in the USA?


America never having had resident royalty is great for it politically perhaps but sucks when it comes to good fantasy. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and even Discworld and other bestselling fantasies are set in places that, while perhaps not technically England or Europe or even this realm of existence, are clearly based on medieval England or Europe castles, villages, royalty, knights, etc..

The newness of America in terms of civilization (no offense to the Indians) I suppose is the main reason it doesn't lend itself well to fantasy of the literary/juvenile variety. The great American YA and adult novels not set in the present tend to be either straight historical fiction or horror or even sci-fi. The closest I can think of to a fantasy set in America is Neil Gaiman's American Gods (a hit'n'miss book) but I'll admit I'm not especially versed on the subject and there have to be others.

So what are some American fantasy novels?
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:30 PM
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Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series is good. Charles DeLint's Series which includes Widdershins is also a fun read.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are set in Chicago.

Kim Harrison's books are set in Cincinnati.
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:35 PM
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Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John novels are good, and set in the Appalachians.

Some of the Dian Duane's Young Wizards take place in America.

Alan Dean Foster's Mad Amos stories take place in America.

Last edited by Der Trihs; 04-30-2009 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:47 PM
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Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series is primarily set in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic/mirror version of the United States, and is secondarily set in the real New York City.

Some of the books are terrible, but some - the first three, really - are very good.
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:58 PM
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Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Little, Big by John Crowley

Galveston (and sequels) by Sean Stewart

Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:08 PM
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Gaiman's sorta-sequel to American Gods, Anansi Boys, is much better (IMHO, of course) and still set in America.

Tim Power's The Last Call.

Christopher Moore--Bloodsucking Fiends, and Practical Demonkeeping.
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:12 PM
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Mark Sumner's Devil's Tower and Devil's Engine.
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:19 PM
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Mercedes Lackey's The Fire Rose is set in America, as are many of her stories with elves, and her Diane Tregarde stories.
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:27 PM
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Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series is set in Chicago.

But someone already said that.

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Old 04-30-2009, 11:08 PM
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Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series is set in Chicago.

But someone already said that.
It's worth repeating. What a great series.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:24 PM
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Steven King's The Stand strikes me quite a bit as being a fantasy novel.

Donn Kushner's A Book Dragon is mostly set in the US, I believe.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:28 PM
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I just rattled off some favorites, but this question has been itching at me and I won't get to sleep unless I unload a piece of it.

American fantasy is almost unrecognizable if you think of it through the straightjacket of Tolkien and mythology. Authors can and do use the American past, from Card's Indians to not just Wellman's but Suzette Haden Elgin's Appalachia, to the alternate histories of William Sanders. But the vast majority of American-set fantasy is uniquely modern and urban. And it crosses over into the territory of all the other genres.

Books that are undoubtedly fantasy and are never counted as part of genre were a major part of the 60s Modernist movement. Philip Roth's The Breast and The Great American Novel, John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy, Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, most of Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins and the later Vonnegut, while recognizably mainstream are also modern American fantasy.

The same forces also created the New Wave in American Science Fiction, many of whose works don't truly fall inside sf but tilt more toward fantasy. Roger Zelazny did a bunch of novels set in the U.S. including Doorways in the Sand and Damnation Alley. Robert Silverberg, in his incredible 60s streak (10 novel nominations in 8 years) wrote Dying Inside, A Time of Changes, and The Book of Sculls, all more on the fantasy side that the sf side. Harlan Ellison never was really comfortable writing sf; many of his greatest stories are really fantasy. The same can be said for Ray Bradbury and almost all his early novels fall under fantasy, with Fahrenheit 451 a fable that can go either way.

At some point the market changed and writers didn't need to be writing literary work to be accepted for not writing straight sf. This was the beginning of the genre cross-over. Mysteries came first. I did an academic paper on sf mysteries, most of whom were really fantasy mysteries, way back in the 80s and I probably had 50 examples then. Laurell Hamilton has made a fortune with fantasy mystery adventure hybrids and she has a zillion imitators. Who Censored Roger Rabbit (filmed as Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is a wonderful alternate world fantasy. Gahan Wilson followed with Everybody's Favorite Duck.

Then the cyberpunks took over and everything looked like sf for a while, except much of it was fantasy at its bones. They spawned a counter group of unclassifiables like Lucius Shepherd, and Bradley Denton, and Howard Waldrop, and Thomas M. Disch and Joe Lansdale. Which opens the door to dark fantasy and to horror and the New Weird and nobody can possibly tell where any of those subgenres begin or end.

Following them came the cross-over romances called paranormal novels. One agent wrote that she handled books on dragons, werewolves, demons, vampires, witches, human who can perform psychometry, aliens, intergalactic warfare, time-travel, and futuristics. Vampires really need their own category. I'm heard there are over 1000 vampire novels in print today and most of those are set in today's world, like the ultra-popular Twilight books.

Mainstream fantasies are back. Michael Chabon's alternate history The Yiddish Policeman's Union reads more like fantasy than sf. Sherman Alexei writes about today's Indians often with fantasy overtones. Kelly Link hasn't written her first novel yet, but practically every story wins an award because she's transcendent. Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon could be mainstream or sf or fantasy or some of each. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn't set in the U.S. but his next book, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer will be. A weekly read of the NYTBook Review will always find one description of a new fiction book that lifts huge amounts of tropes from our field.

So tons and tons of fantasy. I haven't scratched the surface. Check for names who have been nominees for The World Fantasy Award or horror's Bram Stoker Award or The International Horror Guild Awards. I can't keep up, myself.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:33 PM
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I recall some of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series set the modern-day US. Been decades since I read it, though, so I'm not sure how much of it is. But it opens with the protagonist waking up from a coma in a New York hospital.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:39 PM
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Emma Bull's War for the Oaks. Wikipedia says it was pioneering urban fantasy when it came out in '87. It features a contest between the Seely and Unseely courts with death and rock bands.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:00 AM
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Raymond E. Feist's Faerie Tale, set in New York state (Pittsville, IIRC). Very good, quite creepy.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:11 AM
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There are tons of fantasy novels set in the US. Many (possibly most?) of the Urban Fantasy novels are set here. The Emma Bull novel mentioned up-thread is probably where the subgenre orginated.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:11 AM
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America never having had resident royalty is great for it politically perhaps but sucks when it comes to good fantasy. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and even Discworld and other bestselling fantasies are set in places that, while perhaps not technically England or Europe or even this realm of existence, are clearly based on medieval England or Europe castles, villages, royalty, knights, etc..
To my mind, Oz is about as American as Narnia or Discworld is European.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:50 AM
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Haven't read it but I have heard good things about Fevre Dream by George RR Martin which is a vampire novel set on a Mississippi steam boat.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:51 AM
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John M Ford's The Last Hot Time.
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:28 AM
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Doesn't the Shannara series by Terry Brooks have it's genesis in near-future America?
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:46 AM
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Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. Novels are set in a city that could be recognized as (I believe) San Francisco.
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:49 AM
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Exapno Mapcase, you took the words out of my mouth though I was going to start a fresh thread. I never understood how someone people got tightly focused on SF = space ships and fantasy = psuedo-medieval and no one can save you if you step outside of that box.

And for fantasy firmly established in the US... how about superhero comics?
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:05 AM
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John C. Wright's Everness novels.

Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:39 AM
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What American Fantasy? Sheesh -- don't you people read?


What about most of H.P. Lovecraft's ouevre? Or do you draw a line distinguishing fantasy from fantastic horror? What about Edgar Allen Poe and Ambrose Bierce?

Robert E. Howard set many of his stories in the U.S.



If you're looking for lighter-veined stuff, try L. Sprague de Camp's early works. There are lots of others from the pulps of the thirties through the seventies -- look in back issues of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Most of the authors aren't household names, but there are certainly fantasy stories set in the US.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 05-01-2009 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:56 AM
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Fur Magic, by Andre Norton.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:08 AM
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On slight reflection, there are a hell of a lot more.

Althougyh better known for science fiction, you had a lot of famtasy from


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.


How about Ray Bradbury?





And it's one of my pet peeves that everyone talks about all the British writers of children's fantasy, but ignore the voluminous output of L. Frank Baum, whose Oz books (and stage productions) were world-famous long before MGM decided to make a musical out of it. And who had other series besides the Oz series.





And these aren't simply American writers -- their fantasies are mainly set in an American setting (even the Kansas parts of the Oz books), so they meet the OPs criteria.
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Old 05-01-2009, 09:10 AM
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Does Stirling's Dies the Fire series count? If you read enough of it, there is a definite hint of magic really happening with the Juniper/Rudy pagan stuff.

John Nevitt's wizard stories are set in California. Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series is set in the Northwest and West. Wen Spencer wrote Tinker and some others that I forget that is set in an alternate Pittsburgh.
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:42 AM
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Jane Lindskold's Changer is set in Albuquerque and focuses on immortals among us.

The worlds of Oz is a great example, as well.
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:55 AM
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Books that are undoubtedly fantasy and are never counted as part of genre were a major part of the 60s Modernist movement. Philip Roth's The Breast and The Great American Novel, John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy, Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, most of Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins and the later Vonnegut, while recognizably mainstream are also modern American fantasy.
The problem is that genre fiction has been so completely ghettoized that we don't want to use the words "fantasy" or "science fiction" to describe books that we want to think of as more than fluff. Nowadays I think we call most of this sort of thing "magic realism" so that we can get our lit street cred hits in.
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Old 05-01-2009, 11:08 AM
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Apologies beforehand: I can't cite the title or author but maybe someone else has heard of it? Also, not fantasy as such but an alternate-history America with feudalism and nobility.

"Somewhere" I read an alternate-history story where Europeans first started settling North America during the middle ages. Because firearms hadn't been invented yet, the Europeans were under much greater threat from native counterattack, and so maintained a feudal society with castles and fortified settlements.
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Old 05-01-2009, 11:11 AM
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Jane Lindskold's Changer is set in Albuquerque and focuses on immortals among us.
Child of A Rainless Year is also set in the SW and is excellent, imo, but is a touch more like magic realism, I suppose, and her latest Thirteen Orphans, is pretty good too. Both of them are set in contemporary America...
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Old 05-01-2009, 11:37 AM
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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?
  #33  
Old 05-01-2009, 11:50 AM
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Here's the most famous.
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Old 05-01-2009, 11:55 AM
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Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, takes place at an American liberal arts college. I think most of Dean's other stuff starts off, at least, in the U.S. as well.

Madeline L'Engle, while bringing a global approach to her fiction, is classic American YA lit. In particular, The Young Unicorns takes place in a gritty NYC -- it's actually a little cringy, because for all her contributions to literature for young people, L'Engle had a terrible ear for slang and the dialogue of the characters who are supposed to be in a vicious street gang are simply ridiculous -- and specifically around St. John the Divine Cathedral. This seems particularly American in that St. John the Divine is supposed to be America's version of a cathedral in the European tradition, and it's both awesome and hippy-dippy, and we haven't managed to finish it.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:00 PM
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Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven is set in the United States, and I believe that Sunshine is as well.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:28 PM
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Charles De Lint- one of the pioneers of urban fantasy, along with Emma Bull. His Newford stories have a distinctly new age and Native American bent. I was into him a few years ago.

Ilona Andrews- I cannot rave enough about her Kate Daniels series. Takes place in a future Atlanta where magic and tech alternate in waves.

EDIT: Er, I think Charles De Lint is actually Canadian. But it's North America, anyway.

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Old 05-01-2009, 12:41 PM
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It is hard to add to what Exapno Mapcase's remarks in this area, as usual.

All I can add is that you simply must read Gene Wolfe's Peace, one of the finest novels of any genre I have ever read. It is set in the midwest.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:43 PM
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Let's not and say we did. If you want to call someone's religion fantasy, start a thread in Great Debates.
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:36 PM
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By sheer coincidence, the just-released May issue of Locus is a special urban fantasy issue. Most large bookstores carry it.
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:46 PM
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Haven't read it but I have heard good things about Fevre Dream by George RR Martin which is a vampire novel set on a Mississippi steam boat.
Enthusiastically seconded. I've read it several times, and it's a great book!

Ken Grimwood's Replay could be described as science fiction (it's about a man reliving his life over and over again, a bit differently each time), but since

SPOILER:
the mechanism for his repeated return to his youth is never explained,


it really is more of a fantasy. And a very good, compulsively readable one, too. The same could be said of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, for that matter.
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:52 PM
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Madeline L'Engle, while bringing a global approach to her fiction, is classic American YA lit.
Yes, the first thing that popped into my mind was A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:06 PM
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I can't believe no one's mentioned Piers Anthony's Xanth series, which takes place in a magical, alternate-reality Florida. (Well, I guess the OP did say good fantasy novels. But they weren't bad books for the adolescent set.)

Also, Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom For Sale—SOLD! It's another pocket-universe type setup (like Xanth), whose entry point is in the USA.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:07 PM
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I saw mention of Stephen King's The Stand and the Dark Tower books, but I think The Talisman, written with Peter Straub, is easily classified as fantasy, and is much more bound to the U.S. than the Dark Tower is. (All right, technically, it was drawn in to the Dark Tower universe, but you know what I mean.)

Perhaps it's just because Lenny Henry read the audio book, but I was sure that Anansi Boys was set primarily in Britain, with the final action in the Caribbean.

It might be more horror (though I think Clive deserves his own category of "fucked up fantasy") but Barker's Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story and The Great and Secret Show are set unequivocally in America.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:57 PM
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As noted above, most of H.P. Lovecraft's horror-fantasy is set in America, specifically in Lovecraft Country. The British-or-otherwise-non-American equivalent is Campbell Country. The distinction between them illustrates the difference between the Old and New Worlds as fantasy settings. From the latter link:

Quote:
Lovecraft Country is typically set in New England, home of horror writers Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Stephen King, and their respective followers/imitators. This makes it a difficult place for writers of Lovecraftian Fiction who do not have a Yankee background to write about.

The solution was suggested to British writer Ramsey Campbell by Lovecraft follower August Derleth: Create your own equivalent in a place you know, either your home country or a place you have visited. This has led to the creation of variant Lovecraftian settings appropriate to other locales.

Shifting the setting of a Cosmic Horror Story to, for instance, England presents problems. As the old saying goes, "An Englishman thinks a hundred miles is a long way while an American thinks a hundred years is a long time." In other words, England is a much smaller country with a much longer history. It's much easier to believe that an English village was the site of some dreadful secret dating back to medieval, Roman or Pagan times. (No matter how "ancient" and "witch-haunted" HPL thought Arkham was, no US town is much more than 400 years old. This problem is sometimes avoided by stating that the natives were doing unspeakable things before colonisation - however, this merely carries the increased risk of Unfortunate Implications.) However, it's much harder to believe that cosmic events could happen in little ol' England and nobody would notice whereas in a big place like the United States (even in a single region like New England), isolation comes relatively cheap. (Essentially, in Lovecraft Country, the old secrets are very secret, whereas in Campbell Country the old secrets are very old.)

By contrast, small European and British settings are far better for simpler horror stories, such as haunted house tales, as there are so many old houses, castles and abbeys around the place.
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:05 PM
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Apologies beforehand: I can't cite the title or author but maybe someone else has heard of it? Also, not fantasy as such but an alternate-history America with feudalism and nobility.

"Somewhere" I read an alternate-history story where Europeans first started settling North America during the middle ages. Because firearms hadn't been invented yet, the Europeans were under much greater threat from native counterattack, and so maintained a feudal society with castles and fortified settlements.
Might or might not be the one you're thinking of: King of the Wood, by John Maddox Roberts.
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:11 PM
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It's worth repeating. What a great series.
And there's a new one out!
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:21 PM
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Doesn't the Shannara series by Terry Brooks have it's genesis in near-future America?
Yup. And the The Word and The Void trilogy that preceeds it is set now.
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:26 PM
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This far in and nobody's mentioned Stephenie Meyer's excellent Twilight books? Shame on you all!
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:34 PM
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. . .
Perhaps it's just because Lenny Henry read the audio book, but I was sure that Anansi Boys was set primarily in Britain, with the final action in the Caribbean.
. . .
Florida was in there somewhere.
  #50  
Old 05-01-2009, 04:35 PM
Khadaji is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
Posts: 21,599
Most Urban Fantasy is set in the States. But I had the impression that the OP was looking for more traditional fantasy.
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