Washington Post article: Let's Talk About Fantasy and Science Fiction Books That Have Fallen Off The Radar

Randy M.

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The ones I often raise here, Edgar Pangborn's Davy (novel) and Still I Persist in Wondering (story collection set in same world as Davy).
 

tachyon

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I'm very fond of RA MacAvoy's Tea with the Black Dragon, as well as her Lens of the World series.

I don't know if she was ever a really big name but she did stop publishing many years ago, and has recently come back with new writing.

I've heard of Tanith Lee but never read anything of hers, and I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any of the other authors mentioned in the article
 
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tachyon

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Thought of another one, Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis, made a big splash in 1997, reissued in 2017. The author didn't publish anything else in the interim but is (reportedly) working on a new novel.

This one also falls in that weird literary/non-genre/crossover space.
 

The Big Peat

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I've heard of Tanith Lee but never read anything of hers, and I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any of the other authors mentioned in the article

Well I suppose that somewhat proves the authors' points :p

Incidentally, I'd very much recommend Lee if you've an interest in invented mythologies, Gods of Pegana meet the Thousand Arabian Nights style.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Lee wrote stories in just about any sub-genre of SFF and Horror that one can think of. Some of those sub-genres simply have fallen out of popularity, and Lee's books with them. So far as I know, when she died she was still getting books picked up by publishers when they matched the genres they were publishing at the time.

But these things often go in cycles, which means that considering the quality of her work there will probably be reprints when things cycle back around again. I really have no fear that she will be forgotten. She was too good and her scope as a writer was too great.
 

BAYLOR

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Tanith Lee and RA MacAvoy: both great.

Ive never read R A MacAvoy but ive read a fair amount of Tanith Lee . A truly great and vastly under-appreciated writer.

Books ive read by her

The Electric Forest
Dark Castle White Horse
The Flat Earth books
The Birth Grave trilogy


My favourite short story by Tanith Lee. The Sombrus Tower
 

Bick

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And Tanith Lee is certainly a literary great.
'Certianly'? I've tended to find her stuff highly underwhelming, tbh. She gets trotted out as a literary great, but I've not seen all that much evidence. I've read 4-5 short stories in various magazines which were average and didn't engage me, and tried two of her novels I think, both of which were DNF.
 

Piman25

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'Certianly'? I've tended to find her stuff highly underwhelming, tbh. She gets trotted out as a literary great, but I've not seen all that much evidence. I've read 4-5 short stories in various magazines which were average and didn't engage me, and tried two of her novels I think, both of which were DNF.
It has been many years since I have read anything by her. I remember being blown away by Electric Forest. Maybe it's just because she contributed to Blake's 7.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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'Certianly'? I've tended to find her stuff highly underwhelming, tbh. She gets trotted out as a literary great, but I've not seen all that much evidence. I've read 4-5 short stories in various magazines which were average and didn't engage me, and tried two of her novels I think, both of which were DNF.

There was, as I have noted before, a tremendous range in what she wrote, from light-hearted children's books to the grimmest and darkest of fantasy to erotica to literary fiction ... and on and on from there, in a variety of sub-genres. Considering her output, she must have written constantly, likely even compulsively, and was absolutely fearless in what she chose to write about. It would not be hard in a random sampling of her work to hit on stories that did not impress or to find things that one actively disliked. Even I—and I'm a fan—have read things of hers that I actually loathed and did not finish or if I did wished that I hadn't (though in those instances more because there were scenes I really, really did not want to carry around inside my head and could not dislodge, than because of any failure in the writing—on the contrary, some might say that this is the kind of thing that made her work so powerful). And there were stories that just did not appeal to me, and I don't know why, but considering the variety in her work it would be a surprise if everything did line up with my personal tastes. Some of her most highly acclaimed novels did not work for me at all; some that are hardly known I admire immensely. I'll even admit that sometimes the quality of her writing was uneven.

But when she was at her best I can think of no one better; and I can think of no one at all who was so prolific and so good at the same time. The number of awards and nominations she received would indicate that many, many other readers also think she was great. However, just as writers are under no obligation to please everybody or to write to everyone's tastes, readers are under no obligation to admire a writer just because others do. There are many writers who are considered great by the majority of readers who consistently leave me absolutely cold. I imagine, however, that despite my failure to see what others see in their writing, they were nevertheless extremely talented at doing something that just doesn't work for me.
 

Bick

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There was, as I have noted before, a tremendous range in what she wrote, from light-hearted children's books to the grimmest and darkest of fantasy to erotica to literary fiction ... and on and on from there, in a variety of sub-genres. Considering her output, she must have written constantly, likely even compulsively, and was absolutely fearless in what she chose to write about. It would not be hard in a random sampling of her work to hit on stories that did not impress or to find things that one actively disliked. Even I—and I'm a fan—have read things of hers that I actually loathed and did not finish or if I did wished that I hadn't (though in those instances more because there were scenes I really, really did not want to carry around inside my head and could not dislodge, than because of any failure in the writing—on the contrary, some might say that this is the kind of thing that made her work so powerful). And there were stories that just did not appeal to me, and I don't know why, but considering the variety in her work it would be a surprise if everything did line up with my personal tastes. Some of her most highly acclaimed novels did not work for me at all; some that are hardly known I admire immensely. I'll even admit that sometimes the quality of her writing was uneven.

But when she was at her best I can think of no one better; and I can think of no one at all who was so prolific and so good at the same time. The number of awards and nominations she received would indicate that many, many other readers also think she was great. However, just as writers are under no obligation to please everybody or to write to everyone's tastes, readers are under no obligation to admire a writer just because others do. There are many writers who are considered great by the majority of readers who consistently leave me absolutely cold. I imagine, however, that despite my failure to see what others see in their writing, they were nevertheless extremely talented at doing something that just doesn't work for me.
That's very interesting to hear, Teresa and some very fair thoughts; perhaps I should perhaps consider her again at some point. I can't remember the novel titles of those I DNF to be honest, and they went to the charity shop a long time ago, but one was a sort of high fantasy, which rapidly entered a strange homo-erotic territory that totally put me off, as it wasn't even well written, just 'shocking' for the sake of it. Is there a particular novel or story you might recommend that it is not like that? The other book I DNF I only vaguely recall, and it was more mainstream fantasy but it was unengaging.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Well, you might start with Dreams of Dark and Light, The Great Short Fiction of Tanith Lee. The reason I suggest that one is because the stories in that particular collection are so various, practically no two of them alike, that chances are good that you will find something to like. And if you don't, then you will be able to say pretty conclusively that you really don't care for her writing.

Her writing was sometimes quite shocking—a lot darker and crueler at times then I like to read myself—but I don't think it was ever merely for the sake of shocking readers. There were certain themes she appeared to be obsessed with and compelled to write about, and frankly I don't think she gave a lot of thought to how readers would react. Anyway, if I remember correctly, the stories in the collection I mention above don't contain the really shocking stuff. A few are mildly homo-erotic, though.
 

Stephen Palmer

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Teresa's post above is a great summary of how it's possible - perhaps even desirable - to like an author but not enjoy all their works. I much enjoyed Tanith Lee's work, with my favourite being The Silver Metal Lover, but other works I didn't enjoy. I would hope people feel the same about my work. I don't expect a fan of Beautiful Intelligence to like Hairy London, or vice versa. Like TL, I write what I want and need to write. It's something we've spoken about a lot on Chrons - an author being their own brand. Tanith Lee was, I hope I am too. Another great example is Kim Stanley Robinson. Authors... be fearless!
 

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