Friday, July 29, 2011

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

I went to the used book store yesterday, looking for some inspirational reading. Actually, it was a very specific sort of book I was hunting for, an illustrated book with lots of interesting images of different fantasy/magic creatures. There’s a lot of research to be done for my next novel, and I thought that a nice picture book would give my brain a rest from words while offering inspiration and instruction.

The sf&f section in the local used book store is huge, probably the largest section in the store. However, it didn’t have a single reference-type book or illustrated book. So, I moseyed to the children’s section. Nothing quite fit the bill.

Then, I found the Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant. It has no pictures, but I flipped through it anyway. What a great reference! Books, films, authors, directors, creatures, magic, history - you name it, it’s probably in here. I started reading the sections on different themes in fantasy, which gave me a lot to mull over for my new project’s plot and themes. Here’s the first couple of lines from the one-page entry on “Thinning” (one of the authors' own terms, I believe):

THINNING: Fantasy tales can be described, in part, as fables of recovery. What is being regained may be (a) the primal STORY that the surface tale struggles to rearticulate, (b) the TRUE NAME, or home, of the protagonist, (c the health of the LAND (>> FISHER KING) through a process of HEALING, or indeed (d) the actual location of the land itself (>ARCADIA; OTHERWORLD; POLDER; TIME ABYSS).

I like that it gives me a nice summary of things across different traditions, media, etc., plus references to specific works as examples. As for the fantasy/magic creatures research, it does have listings for some creatures, with their myths of origin from different cultures and examples of specific literature, TV and/or film where they appear. It is a start and gives me some good ideas for where to direct my research. However, it isn’t the book’s focus, and some relatively common creatures are missing. In short, I still need that creature book.

Anyway, the encyclopedia won the Hugo and you can find it on Amazon. I look forward to spending some time deep in its 1,049 pages. I’m quite pleased with my find: hardcover book in new condition for seven-pounds-eighty at the used bookshop.

As for the illustrated book of magical creatures: Anyone have any suggestions?

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

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