The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is the new gold standard for fantasy literary history, providing an excellent cadence of essential stories we all know and love, and often overlooked stories that are equally brilliant. I have my fair share of anthologies and this stands above the rest. Most notable are the many writers not commonly read in the West. This isn’t just a collection of stories you’ve already read, but a full compendium of imagination from all over the world. It definitely makes for a hefty volume, coming in around 800 pages, but it’s worth it.
I’ve highlighted a few of the stories below, and this only skims the surface. Were I to write about every story, this would be a truly epic review:
- Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants, by Carmen Sylva: a surprisingly terrifying tale of a woman making a promise to a colony of ants that ultimately ends with a horrifying life of solitude
- The Big Bestiary of Modern Literature, by Franz Blei: a delightfully satirical guide that likens the major authors of the time to fantasy creatures. Some of the likenesses are complimentary and a few are hilariously unflattering.
- The Goophered Grapevine, by Charles W. Chestnutt: a prime example of Chestnutt’s storytelling abilities
Overall, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is an essential guide to the early days of the genre, providing a framework for the fantasy literature boom of the later twentieth century. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find many of these stories outside of this collection, and that makes it an important addition to any serious fantasy literature library.
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy
Ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.