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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Literary Landscape - books that define the genre

   
Author Topic: The Literary Landscape - books that define the genre
billawaboy
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A writer friend of mine is not familiar with fantasy or sci-fi, but wants to write for the field, and asked me what books he should read. He said he didn't want to read everything, just what people thought added to or changed the field.

I spouted authors names and the big award winners - but he wanted a people's opinion. He wants to know the trends. He wanted 10 or 15 books that would effectively describe the literary landscape of field.

I had no idea. I not expert enough to even be considered an amateur.

What books would you recommend to someone to give a good feel of what's been done, where things are heading, and what's hot and what's not?

I admit, I'm curious about what books define our Hatrackians' world view of sci-fi and fantasy.

Basically this is the prompt: If a person you knew wanted to become a fantasy writer, which 10 books would you recommend to him/her to be competitive in the field.

Ditto for sci-fi.

Note: hope this is the right place to post it. Please move if not.


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sholar
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Well, with fantasy, you have got to read Tolkien. I think that then you have a lot of options- urban, quest, epic, dark, etc. To get a bit of all of that, plus a historical as well in no particular order

Narnia
Amber by Zelazny
something by Charles De Lint
Dresden Files by Butcher
A shadow in summer by Daniel Abraham
Transformation by Berg
Dune (though that could be on sci fi list)
Lloyd Alexander (Pyridian or Westmark)
Elantris or Mistborn by Sanderson
Abercrombie The Blade Itself
GRR Martin
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley


I am sure I am missing something important, but I tried to get some classics and some of the newer stuff as well.


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Meredith
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With a field as big as fantasy, I'm not at all sure that's even possible. There are so many subgenres, you'd almost be restricted to just one or two books in each.

How can he even know that he wants to write fantasy until he reads widely in the genre. Much less know what's already been done, what might be considered cliche, etc.

If he hasn't read it, why does he think he wants to write fantasy?

Some things are obvious. You must read Tolkien. No way around that. I'd tell him to start there and then come back after he'd finished The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 14, 2010).]


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KayTi
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Oooh - great post! I look forward to the collections of titles that will come.

I read mostly mid-grade and young adult (oriented for children ages 8 & up) and could recommend even more in those younger-geared categories, you'll have to let me know if it's needed.

Science Fiction:

THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS - Heinlein
SNOWCRASH - Stephenson
NEUROMANCER - GIBSON
LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS - Le Guin
A WRINKLE IN TIME - L'Engle
FOUNDATION (it's a series) - Asimov
OLD MAN'S WAR - Scalzi
THE FOREVER WAR - Haldeman
RAMA (series) - Clarke
RINGWORLD - Niven
MOTE IN GOD'S EYE - Niven & Pournelle
TRADING IN DANGER - Moon

I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch, but these to me represent a number of interesting directions in science fiction, a number of old golden age things, as well as more recent works. These also represent what was recommended to me when I was asking for recommendations a few years ago. I've read all but Neuromancer (which I have but haven't started yet.)


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Brendan
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Here is my SF list (it would probably vary from reader to reader). The choices are in there for various reasons, some started a subgenre within the field, some were great examples of certain types of story, some simply capture the time.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
Jules Verne is perhaps the father of science fiction. This was his best.

The Time Machine or War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
Another popular author who wrote before there was such a genre. I couldn't split the two. Personally, I liked War of the Worlds better, but The Time Machine put the now common idea of exploring through time into the world.

Star Maker - Olaf Stapleton (started grand theme science fiction)
This probably wouldn't get a look in with modern world, because it is not about characters, it is about themes. But they have never come grander. This had an big influence on the greats of the next generation.

Foundation Series - Isaac Asimov
You MUST read one Asimov in the list, and this is the one. Read the first trilogy - he later added more to the series, but times had changed by then and expectations were different.

On the Beach - Nevil Shute
Possibly not considered science fiction, but it had a huge impact in both popularising science fiction and putting the impact of nuclear war into the western psyche

Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
Some may be surprised by this choice, but one of the big sub-genres in SF is Post Apocalyse, and this was at the head of that field. He did a number of other entertaining stories in that genre, some of which have been turned into poor movies that did not really capture the essence of his stories (although the BBC series did do well for its time).

2001 - Arthur C Clark
Another must not miss author, the quintesentual hard science fiction. I could have said Rendevous with Rama, or Childhood's End, which I liked better, but 2001 is what he is most famous for, not the least because the movie changed the concept of science fiction movies.

Dune - Frank Herbert
I'll let others tell you of this. Its impact on the field was huge.

Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed - Ursella le Guinn
The Left Hand... is beginning of feminist science fiction, which was an important part of the era following "the new wave". This story played a large part in bringing females to the genre.

Starship Troopers/Forever War/Enders Game - Robert Heinlein/Joe Haldeman/Orson Scott Card
Read this as a trilogy. They each written in different times, post WWII/early cold war, Vietnam and the final throes of the cold war, and tend to capture different and diverse understandings of war. Starship Troopers perhaps started the subgenre of Military Science Fiction.

Neuromancer - William Gibson
Started cyberpunk (although True Names by David Brin perhaps could lay this claim as it predated this story by several years). The Matrix is cyberpunk.

Hyperion - Dan Simmons
It is harder to pick the ones that haven't yet proved themselves though the test of time, but the next four may do that. This one is a brilliant thematic story, although not really for the squeamish.

Red Mars - Kim Stanly Robinson
Hard science fiction on a grand scale.

Startide Rising - David Brin
Space adventure, but with some thought behind it.

Kaleidescope Century - John Barnes
Never an ugly story so compelling. I hated what the character became, but was compelled to keep reading.

A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge
Has brought the idea of a singularity into much of his science fiction.

Ok that is 16 (or more). I am interested seeing which ones others have and maybe a vote at a later date?


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Edward Douglas
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An anthology in either genre might be a good place to start -- so long as it is compiled by stories from new writers, more so than the well-known ones -- if he wants to see what the "people's opinion" of current writing/reading trends are.

[This message has been edited by Edward Douglas (edited February 14, 2010).]


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Kitti
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Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan, might be a good thing to add to the list, too. It's iconic epic fantasy.
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dee_boncci
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I don't read much SF, but on the Fantasy side George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice and the three Robin Hobb trilogies about the Assassin, the Liveship Traders, and the Fool, are head-and-shoulders above anything else I've read in the last several years when it comes to my personal taste.

Based soley on popularity, Harry Potter and the Twilight books probably deserve mention. I've read the former but not the latter.


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Robert Nowall
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For SF:

Five by Heinlein: "Space Cadet," "Red Planet," "Double Star," "Stranger in a Strange Land," and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."

Three by Asimov: "The Foundation Trilogy" (usually you can buy this in one volume), "The Caves of Steel," and "The Naked Sun."

Four by Clarke: "The Sands of Mars," "Childhood's End," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Rendezvous with Rama."

Anthologies: "The SFWA Hall of Fame," Volumes One (short stories), and Two (novelettes and novellas), "Adventures in Time and Space."

And in no particular order:

Jules Verne: "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."

H. G. Wells: "The Time Machine," "The War of the Worlds."

Olaf Stapledon: "Last and First Men," "The Star Maker."

E. E. "Doc" Smith: "The Skylark of Space," "Galactic Patrol."

Jack Williamson: collected stories

James Blish: collected stories, "Cities in Flight."

Philip Jose Farmer: "The Lovers" (short version).

H. Beam Piper: "Little Fuzzy," "Space Viking."

Andre Norton: "Star Man's Son."

Robert Silverberg: "Born with the Dead," "Nightwings," "Lord Valentine's Castle," collected stories.

Frederik Pohl: "The Space Merchants" (with C. M. Kornbluth), "Gateway."

Robert Sheckley: collected stories.

Theodore Sturgeon: "More Than Human," collected stories.

Vernor Vinge: "Marooned in Real Time."

No doubt I've missed several prime candidates and old favorites...I'll get back to you guys on fantasy...


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sholar
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Do we really have to count Twilight as fantasy? ;-)
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Elan
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I cannot fathom why someone would want to write stories in a genre they've never read?

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MAP
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I totally agree with Elan, and Scifi and fantasy are so diverse. He needs to be more specific about what type he is interested in, urban, young adult, epic, military, space opera, etc.

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billawaboy
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Good Gandalf! Thanks for all the great responses guys!

I think he just wants to try a normal straight up fantasy in the line of Tolkein - does that happen any more? Or does a modern fantasy writer have to choose a sub-genre? Wow, amazing scifi lists - can't say I've read many of them (only a couple).

If you all want to vote, we can. I can post a compilation and y'all vote on the best ten. I'll wait till next Saturday; I want to more posts.

But let us avoid inadvertently voting (or making) a Favorites List.
The goal is that of an experienced reader/writer trying to give the newcomer a good impression of the genre to help him/her become a better writer by recommending 10 books.

If you were a fantasy-writing teacher what 10 books would you recommend professionally to your student?
If you can give reasons why for each one you picked, all the better. Eg: Like I keep hearing Neuromancer is like the flagship novel of cyberpunk and so on.

Great posts all! It amazing see all the varied selections and also the commonalities that arise. Looking forward to seeing more of my fellow Hatracker's recommendations.


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Meredith
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I still have to wonder what makes him think he wants to write fantasy if he hasn't read it. Does he think it's easier to write?

quote:
I think he just wants to try a normal straight up fantasy in the line of Tolkein - does that happen any more? Or does a modern fantasy writer have to choose a sub-genre? Wow, amazing scifi lists - can't say I've read many of them (only a couple).

Well, yes and no. Trying to write modern myth, as Tolkein did, I think would be difficult to sell. Not to mention the world building that goes into thousands of years of history for each of several different races.

But mainstream fantasy/quest stories are still done, even really long ones. But now, you have to get closer to the characters, more into their emotions, than Tolkein did for the most part. And have an antagonist with a little more motivation than Sauron had.

I'm just thinking off the top of my head, of what I've read lately.

Patrick Rothfuss, NAME OF THE WIND

Perhaps the first three books of THE WHEEL OF TIME.

I've greatly enjoyed Lois McMaster Bujold's CURSE OF CHALION and PALLADIN OF SOULS. The third in the series, THE HALLOWED HUNT, wasn't quite as good, IMO.

As a personal favorite, I'd add Jennifer Roberson's KARAVANS and DEEPWOOD.

For short stories in the genre, THE DRAGON BOOK, which I'm currently reading, has some very good ones. (Also some real stinkers.)

I'm ashamed to say that Sanderson's ELANTRIS and MISTBORN are still sitting in my to-read pile, but I suspect that they belong on the list.

That's just looking at things published fairly recently, not going back to the classics.

I might throw in the first of OSC's ALVIN MAKER series, SEVENTH SON.

Then, when he's read some of those, ask him to think about the world building that goes into dreaming up another whole world and making it believable. All of the above (except SEVENTH SON) are second world fantasies. (SEVENTH SON I would classify as alternate history.)

You have to make up the world, its geography, cultures, the rules of magic, at least some of its history.

Oh, and if he's still interested, Diana Wynne Jones TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND. In fact, that one might not be a bad place to start, come to think of it.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 15, 2010).]


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BenM
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If a person you knew wanted to become a fantasy writer, which 10 books would you recommend to him/her to be competitive in the field.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I would just recommend books on writing.

First, the genre is too vast a field to pick ten books, read them and say Yep, got it, I can write my magnum opus now.

Second, thanks to worldbuilding, the process of reading the SF genre is not only distinctly different to reading contemporary or literary genres, it is wildly different for every author out there.

Third, the field is wide. A book by Dean Koontz, Stephen King or Michael Crichton could be referred to as SF, despite the novel being set in a contemporary milieu with no worldbuilding at all.

If you were a fantasy-writing teacher what 10 books would you recommend professionally to your student?

There are plenty of recommendations online, why not have your friend check them out? Most also include detailed reviews. Ie here. If I were having a student read them, I'd try and pick examples from a wide range of dates so that the evolution of the genre were more obvious. The epic fantasy of Beowulf and The Faerie Queene differs just about as much from The Lord of the Rings as The Lord of the Rings differs from The Name of the Wind or The Way of Shadows, and the difference is important in understanding how the market is evolving. Assuming they want to write marketable material (because, if not, then who cares? ).


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Foste
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It's very hard to narrow down the genre to 10 books (as others have mentioned). If he wants to break into the field he'll have to read many other books too. At best I can give you 10 books which I enjoyed very much and consider crucial. (Tolkien is a must)

The Name of The Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
The Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin
Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan (The first three books)
The Far Seer Trilogy - Robin Hobb (also referred to as the ASSASSIN series)
Second Sons - Jennifer Fallon
A Tale of Malazan, Book of the Fallen Saga - Steven Erikson (a bit hardcore though...)
Dragonbone chair - Tad Williams
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Leguin

Damn already ten?

Well let me throw in Eddings and his Belgariade and Feist's Magician too.

Hope it helped.


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Robert Nowall
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I did neglect a couple of defining writers in my SF list, nearly all short story writers. And probably there are others.

Leigh Brackett: collected stories, plus the "Skaith" trilogy.

Edmond Hamilton: collected stories.

Henry Kuttner: collected stories.

C. L. Moore: collected stories.

Lester Del Rey: collected stories.

*****

On to fantasy:

J. R. R. Tolkien: "The Lord of the Rings" (of course)

...but it doesn't begin and end there.

Among the commercial fiction in Tolkien's wake, Niel Hancock ("Circle of Light" (four volumes)), and Katherine Kerr ("Deverry" series). Here I'm sure I'm forgetting somebody, but I'm less of a fan of the commercial end of Tolkien successors than I am of other things.

In the non-Tolkien-ish category:

Thomas Burnett Swann: anything.

Ray Bradbury: collected stories, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Fahrenheit 451."

H. P. Lovecraft: collected stories.

Robert E. Howard: the "Conan" series.

Clark Ashton Smith: collected stories.

E. R. Eddison: "The Worm Ouroburus" (spelling uncertain).

Mervyn Peake: the "Gormenghast" trilogy.

John Collier: collected stories.

*****

There's a certain amount of overlap between SF and fantasy, and not just because the genres are ill-defined. Of the above fantasy writers, several have written stuff that could also be called SF, and nearly all of them at one time or other wound up published under the SF banner. (It goes both ways.)

*****

Also, a lot of their stuff is out of print and might be difficult to obtain. But H. Beam Piper (from the last list), H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (from the above list) have lapsed into public domain; if you can't find a P. D. collection of theirs, it should be easy to find posted somewhere online.


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Robert Nowall
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Another thought: I've been profoundly influenced by obviously minor works by some of the above (Farmer's "Dare," Silverberg's "The Silent Invaders,") but I wouldn't say that they define the genres for me---or anyone.
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babooher
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I would suggest Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces if you are going to write fantasy. It is a nonfiction book that breaks down the hero's journey. It might not have influenced the field directly, but the book would help someone understand a good portion of fantasy.
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snapper
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Those are all very fine novels. However, if he wants to start writing he should fine tune his craft writing short stories. May I suggest a few anthologies.

Niven

Neutron Star, Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, and Tales of Known Space

Resnick

Book of Man

Saberhagen

Beserker Wars

Poul

New America

Turtledove

Departures

There are an array of short story collections out there. Most are filled with different authors (Writers of the Future, for example). Rarely will you like every story in them and the styles vary greatly. Reading a collection from one established author I believe is the way to go.


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Smaug
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I'm just going to add six to the list, because I think they're important examples of fantasy world building. They are the three books in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the three books in The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson.

Of course there are many titles already suggested that I agree with as well.


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Elan
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I've done these "favorite fantasy book" lists several other times here, but I shall repeat myself. There are certain fantasy books one should read to understand the genre, others because they're simply entertaining.
1) The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien - He's the granddaddy of modern fantasy and to understand the genre you need to experience Tolkien. Watching the movies doesn't count - there is a depth to Tolkien that cannot be replicated in film: development of written and spoken languages, history, backstory, world-building. While C.S. Lewis was a contemporary of Tolkien's, and the Narnia series a success all unto it's own, Lewis did not come close to equaling Tolkien in his all-encompassing world-building.
2) Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It's an entertaining story, entertwined with D&D, but it also spawned much of the modern twist to the genre and for that it's worth a read. I prefer, from a story-telling standpoint, their "Darksword" trilogy and the "Death Gate" series.
3) Alvin Maker series- Orson Scott Card. A good example of fantasy presented in an alternative history. Reading Card's work has taught me a great deal about simple story-telling. It doesn't have to be convoluted to be good. Any book by Card is worth the read.
4) Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley. A wonderful example of how to take an established tale - that of King Arthur - and spin it from a completely different viewpoint (that of his sister Morgaine). This remains one of my all-time favorite fantasy stories. Zimmer-Bradley's Darkover series explores mind-magic and is also a favorite of mine.
5) Daggerspell and the subsequent Deverry series by Katherine Kerr. I love these books. They take the concept of rebirth and successfully pull a coherent, singular plot out of multiple timelines. The magic is believable and the characters engaging.
6) Dragonriders of Pern - Anne MacCaffery. Who doesn't love dragons? Although I lost interest in the later books because her characters became either goody-good or incoherently evil, and there was too much predictability for my taste.
7) I think Ken Scholes "Psalms of Isaak" series, beginning with Lamentation and the newly released "Canticle" bode well for him as a writer. He's still working on the remainder of the series, so we will have to be patient. His publisher, Tor Books, stated they expect Scholes to eventually replace Robert Jordan as the #1 author in their catalog.
8) Tad Williams is outstanding. The "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series was good, as was Otherland. I have a fondness for "The War of the Flowers."
9-10+) C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, Andre Norton have all given me hours of pleasure, and I think it's time to put J.K.Rowling on the list with her Harry Potter series. Being richer than the Queen means you're doing SOMEthing right!

I disagree with the votes for Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Katherine Kurtz' Thomas Covenant series, and David Eddings, but it's a matter of taste.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited February 15, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I would like to suggest that someone who thinks he wants to write fantasy (for whatever reason) but who hasn't read much of it may want to consider writing what is usually called "urban fantasy" or what could be called "Twilight Zone" fantasy (two different possibilities).

Urban fantasy usually takes place in an overtly "normal" setting, but there are underlying magical things going on. With that kind of fantasy, the worldbuilding may not have to be quite as extensive as it might be for other kinds of fantasy.

"Twilight Zone" fantasy is more about normal characters who are caught up in something strange and extremely unfamiliar, and these ordinary people have to try to deal with new and terrifying situations. It also can require less worldbuilding than other kinds of fantasy.

That said, I'm with others who have questioned why someone who hasn't already read and developed a love for fantasy would even consider trying to write it. I find myself wondering if this person knows the meaning of the word "hack."


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billawaboy
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Yeesh, I'm feeling defensive all of a sudden...
Why does it matter if he's never read a book on fantasy? - should I tell him not to write fantasy because he's never read a book and thus not qualified?

BUT-I didn't mean to imply he has *never* read any fantasy - simply that he may not be familiar with it enough to write for the field. He's read The Hobbit and loved it, he thought Fellowship was "okay", but couldn't get through The Two Towers saying it got boring. He's read Narnia and loved it. I think that's it - unless you count harry potter.

I don't know if that small reading sample counts as familiar with fantasy enough to write for the field. LOTR, Potter, Narnia have become POP-reading now, due to the movies - but does that qualify as enough for everyone who read those books to write for fantasy? Personally, I don't think so. I say you have to know the field more. That's what I was trying to say by "not familiar with the fantasy or scifi"

The whole discussion came up when he asked me to recommend ONE fantasy book - and like everyone else I asked him to be more specific, to which he said "something I would recommend to someone who wants to write fantasy." That sparked another round of discussion which eventually had us asking which 10 books would "inform" a newbie interested in the field - i.e. books that's would show the "landscape" without having to read 70 books to catch up. That's the best way to look at it - It's a way of catching up to your audience.

I don't know why he wants to write fantasy. I just assume that like everyone else he just wants to write a good story that people will enjoy reading. I don't think he's trying to create "art" or do something for literary mags.

side query: How did you decide you wanted to write fantasy, anyway? What was the specific reason that went from merely reading to writing? (Probably another topic of discussion)

My friend's motivation was simply an explanation for the prompt: I was really more interested in how Hatracker's would answer.

Of course there are countless "should reads," "classics," "my favs" lists online. Heck I could have looked up each subgenre and picked the first book in that field and be done with it.

But I wanted *Hatracker* input. And I wasn't dissapointed. I Love all the responses. I especially like Brendan's and Elan's responses becuase they also put reasons for their choices. Awesome.

So far, I've have compiled ~70 books for Scifi and ~60 books for Fantasy from all the recommendations above. Are all of them important to the newbie writer? Yikes....

Also, You guys still want to vote for it? It'll be gnarly for sure...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
The whole discussion came up when he asked me to recommend ONE fantasy book....

Okay. I recommend HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY by Orson Scott Card.

A book dedicated to the writing on what he wants to write may be of more help to him in knowing what to do and what not to do than reading all of "what's been done." Even if he had read everything else, he would still have to come up with his own stories.

And if he wants to know what to avoid because it's been overdone, there is always the Turkey City Lexicon to help with that.


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billawaboy
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quote:
Okay. I recommend HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY by Orson Scott Card.

Oh, I've lent him my copy. Not sure how much use it's getting though.

Hmm... that's another topic starter - what writing books to recommend for the budding scifi/fantasy writer. Goodness, that's a whole can'o'worms by itself! (Does anyone here listen to the Writing Excuses podcasts? awesome way to spend 15 mins...)


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andersonmcdonald
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I agree with KDW on this one. I am currently reading How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and I think it's great. Some might say it isn't detailed enough, but I've found that it gives a lot of helpful info, some of it you might miss on the first read.
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andersonmcdonald
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Have you mentioned Hatrack to him?????
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Pyre Dynasty
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Fantasy: (In no particular order)

1. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. (An interesting take on modern fantasy.)
2. The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings.
3. Narnia, My favorite is A Horse and His Boy but all of them are good.
4. A good selection of DragonLance books, my favorites are the Weis and Hickman ones, The Siege of Mt. Nevermind by Furgus Ryan, Tales of Uncle Trapsringer, the Elven Nations Trillogy, and any of the tales books (Kender, Gully Dwarfs and Gnomes has an excellent story called the Storyteller).
5. Mystic Warrior by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
6. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan.
7. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
8. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
9. Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks.
10. Far World by J. Scot Savage.
(Also you may want to suggest your friend look up anthologies of short stories that way he can get a range without much time spent.)

Sci-FI
1. Ender's Game et al.
2. Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century ed by OSC. Probably the best sci-fi anthology your going to find.
3. Schlock Mercenary (Which is a webcomic but is still some of the best sci-fi running these days http://www.schlockmercenary.com/ Especially the Longshoreman of the Apocalypse.)
4. My Teacher Flunked the Planet by Bruce Coville
5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
6. War of the Worlds HG Welles
7. Pastwatch by OSC
8. Heaven's Shadow by Jeff Downs
9. The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury
10. Pretty much anything by Heinlien, Asimov, or Clark.


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MAP
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I think we want to write fantasy because we love to read fantasy.

If your friend read a fantasy book and thought it was so awesome that he wanted to read more, then that would be different. But when you said he doesn't read fantasy but wants to write it, I for one felt a little belittled, like he thought it was an easy way to get published or something.

I think you should be a reader of a genre before you write it and discover the books you love. I don't think there is a list of fantasy books that everyone who wants to write the genre has to read. Read what you love, and write what you love.

That said my list encompases many of the books already suggested, but I am going to add Terry Brooks to the list. I know a lot of people don't like him, but I do. I read The Sword of Shannara before I read Lord of the Rings, but I do realize that they are suspiciously similar. But still I think his later Shannara books are more original. Some I loved, some were okay, but I always had a good time reading them. The Elfstones of Shannara was my favorite, but the second book in The Voyage of Jerle Shannara (Antrax) was rather chilling and a unique blending of technology with magic lore.

I will also add The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It is Young adult but a very interesting post-apocalyptic world with an awesome, unique heroine.

Another new book that I loved was The Demon Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennen. It is Urban Fantasy with Demons and had a real twisty plot and a great brother-brother relationship.

These are just books that I have loved and have influenced me as a writer, but most likely won't be meaniful to your friend. I think your friend needs to find his own path.


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jayazman
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Add Brandon Sanderson to the list. He is a new(er) fantasy writer and doesn't do as much grand adventure (Tolkien) as was popular in the recent past. I think we are going to see more of this style of fantasy from the newer writers that are starting to break out now.
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billawaboy
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You know, I'm surprised no one mentioned Terry Prachett. Or Douglas Adams.

Now those two did add/change the landscape of their genre - (though they don't seem to be venturing from the safety of their established series or styles. Maybe they have nom de plumes...)


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Robert Nowall
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I can tell why I didn't mention them---my primal SF reading experience came roughly from 1970 to 1985, and from, oh, 1975 on it was harder to bring up some of the writers into my center of attention, and almost impossible to do so after 1985. A lot of what I read after that would be among the "old guard" of my experience. I read a little of both Adams and Pratchett, but past that expiry date.

If you're a teenager, what you like in SF, probably for the rest of your life, will be defined by what you read right now.


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Brendan
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quote:
You know, I'm surprised no one mentioned Terry Prachett. Or Douglas Adams.

I don't know why I forgot them. They certainly had a huge impact, particularly for making SF popular to the commercial audience. But I wonder if they were so quirky that it was difficult to emulate without looking derivative, and that makes it hard to turn a field.

I am glad that Robert mentioned More than Human - that one slipped my mind too.

And one short story (although later turned into a novel) that is a worthy mention, and surprisingly at the time was hard to sell - Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited February 16, 2010).]


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Meredith
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Okay, bear with our confusion, here.

On the one hand you tell us that this friend wants to write something Tolkeinesque. Then you tell us that he didn't even finish LoTR, that he found THE TWO TOWERS boring. It's been a few months since the last time I read it. Isn't that the volume where we meet the ents and the Rohirrim? So, your friend's not much into milieu?

This makes me think something altogether different. If he can't get through LoTR, is he interested in second world fantasy at all? Most of the recommendations have been for that. Certainly mine were.

The question still remains, why does he think he wants to write fantasy when he doesn't even like one of the great classics of the genre? Maybe you or your friend need to be more specific. Alternate history? Urban fantasy? Paranormal romance? What specifically is he interested in?

The advice I read and hear most often is to write the kind of fiction that you love. That's the single biggest reason I write fantasy. If he doesn't love fantasy, why try to write it at all?

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 16, 2010).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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Just popping by to say I agree with Meredith.
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Wolfe_boy
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Maybe dude could just pop by and pose his own questions.

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited February 16, 2010).]


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skadder
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Just tell him to go away. There's enough competition already.
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billawaboy
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quote:
The question still remains, why does he think he wants to write fantasy when he doesn't even like one of the great classics of the genre?

Does one *have* to like the classics to write fantasy? Does one have to like LOTR specifically? I mean how can we ask if someone likes fantasy when they've only read a small sample? It's ridiculous.

Ok, I'm about to get a bit blasphemous here. Personally, I don't see why people go nuts for LOTR. I'd take LeGuin's Earthsea saga over LOTR any day. I respect LOTR for essentially starting the whole modern fantasy genre, but I didn't think it was all that great. Yes, I read it as a kid and as an adult - but it didn't really wow me. I don't think you have to love it - but I do it is neccessary reading to understand the genre.

If I were a fantasy writer I'd feel more influenced by the Unbeliever series, or the Riftwar saga, or even WOT series. Some of those might be considered derivative of LOTR. That's fine; doesn't mean you have to like LOTR. Chronicles trilogy didn't impress either - but i'm sure some consider it as landmark pieces of DnD fantasy essential for a fantasy writer to read. That's what this thread is for.

I myself follow scifi more. That's why i added Scifi to the topic just to see what people would pick.

quote:
Maybe you or your friend need to be more specific. Alternate history? Urban fantasy? Paranormal romance? What specifically is he interested in?

don't wait on me - just put your best pick for each subgenre. Is the first book of it's kind always the best?...


[quote]The advice I read and hear most often is to write the kind of fiction that you love. That's the single biggest reason I write fantasy. If he doesn't love fantasy, why try to write it at all?


If he doesn't love fantasy...huh? What!?

So wait, let me put this hypothetically...are you saying that if a writer didn't like the fantasy novels she has read so far, but she still wants to write a fantasy story (let's say she got a really cool idea for a fantasy story), then she shouldn't bother to write that fantasy story because she didn't like the fantasy novels she had read so far?

I offer Robert Jordan as an example of just such a person who didn't really read much in the fantasy genre until he was hospitalized in 1977 at the age of 29, didn't think much of it, and began writing fantasy thereafter.

EDIT: wolfe boy I sent him the link - it's up to him to make an account and join in the fun.

[This message has been edited by billawaboy (edited February 16, 2010).]


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Robert Nowall
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Somehow I didn't pick up on that aspect of the original query, too...I also agree with Meredith. (I'm stuck on the issue myself: I want to write SF but I'm not so sure I love it anymore.)

"The Lord of the Rings" is, really, much denser, and with a greater depth, than nearly all of its successors. It's likely some writers are influenced by Tolkien only through these successors.

Somebody influenced by, say, "Harry Potter" might not be influenced by Tolkien at all. Seems to me "Harry Potter" now stands as the work that will be an influence on all that comes afterwards.

(I've often wondered if Tolkien influenced Rowling and "Harry Potter" in any way---Rowling denied it, I read somewhere, and I couldn't see any influence in the one volume of "Harry Potter" I read, but "The Lord of the Rings" would be a hard work to avoid, for any serious writer of fantasy. And if not that as an influence, then what did influence Rowling?)


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Robert Nowall
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I see billawaboy put up something while I was composing my post, that answered some of what I raised---but made me want to expand my comments. I do know of some other writers (besides Rowling) who have said they didn't read Tolkien, or didn't like Tolkien, no matter how Tolkien-ish their works actually were. The same goes for a couple of other "-ish" writers, too.

Should'a mentioned "Earthsea" in my list, come to think of it---but I wouldn't rate it above Tolkien.


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Meredith
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quote:
Does one *have* to like the classics to write fantasy? Does one have to like LOTR specifically?
I don't think you have to love it - but I do it is neccessary reading to understand the genre.

No, I don't think it's necessary to love LotR. I agree with you that it is necessary to read it--all of it--though. It's just too important in the genre not to.

quote:
I mean how can we ask if someone likes fantasy when they've only read a small sample? It's ridiculous.

I absolutely agree. That's been my point right along. I have no problem suggesting books or stories that I think are good choices to sample the genre. But until he's read something all the way through and loves it, it seems odd that he would say he wants to spend a year or so of his life writing that kind of story. JMO.

quote:

So wait, let me put this hypothetically...are you saying that if a writer didn't like the fantasy novels she has read so far, but she still wants to write a fantasy story (let's say she got a really cool idea for a fantasy story), then she shouldn't bother to write that fantasy story because she didn't like the fantasy novels she had read so far?

It's not impossible. But as I said above, this friend is going to spend about a year of his life on this novel, give or take. And then he's going to have to love it enough to believe in it through all the rejections. Why do that in a genre you're unsure of?

quote:
I offer Robert Jordan as an example of just such a person who didn't really read much in the fantasy genre until he was hospitalized in 1977 at the age of 29, didn't think much of it, and began writing fantasy thereafter.

Now see, I wouldn't offer Jordan as an example of anything but an author who couldn't bring a single subplot or character arc to any kind of a conclusion. I would certainly not hold that up as a standard to follow. JMO. I know there are plenty of people who still love WOT. I just got completely past caring about any of it somewhere around book 9. About then, I realized I was rooting for Rand to go crazy and destroy the world so the *($# story would end already.

I'm not saying your friend can't write fantasy, or even that he shouldn't write fantasy. What I said was that, if he finds Tolkein boring, maybe he's interested in something besides second world fantasy and that that would be a different list of books. If he is interested in second world fantasy, then he needs to do some reading to get a feel for the kind of world building required to do it well. And that does start with Tolkein, like it or not.

Edited to add: Since you specify you write SF, I'll clarify. Second world fantasy is that which, like LotR, EarthSea, WoT, Sword of Truth, Riftwar Saga, etc, is set in another world, which the author makes up completely. As opposed to urban fantasy, which is set in this world, with some rules changed (like magic works). Butcher's Dresden Chronicles would be an example. Or paranormal romance, which again, may be set in this world, with some fantastic creatures added (usually vampires and werewolves right now). *Gag* but probably the best known example at the moment is Twilight. Or alternate history, like say Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, set in some historical time period, but with something major changed (in that case, she added a dragon air force to the Napoleonic Wars). The milieu and world building for those kinds of fantasy stories is very different than that required for a second world story.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 16, 2010).]


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billawaboy
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quote:
I just got completely past caring about any of it somewhere around book 9. About then, I realized I was rooting for Rand to go crazy and destroy the world so the *($# story would end already.

True, i stopped after book 3 - waiting for the series to finish.

But the idea was not that he be a grounder breaker - in fact he can be considered terrible and derivative. The question to ask is: should he have not bothered to write fantasy?

----
back to topic:

here's more if you forgot any: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fantasy_novels

Also should works like Alice in wonderland or Beowulf be considered as helping understand the fantasy genre today.

Hmm...maybe I should just get a flowchart showing all the sub genres. Any one have a link to all the subgenres for fantsay? hat about scifi.

EDIT:
* Fantasy
* by Theme: Epic Fantasy / High fantasy; Gawęda; Mythic; Traditional fantasy; Comic fantasy; Dark fantasy; Fantasy of manners; Low fantasy; Magic realism; Quest; Superhero fantasy; Sword and sorcery; Surrealist novel

* by Place: Urban fantasy; Suburban fantasy; Country Fantasy; by Time; Historical fantasy; Celtic fantasy; Medieval fantasy; Prehistoric fantasy; Wuxia; Modern fantasy; Contemporary fantasy
; Futuristic fantasy; Alternative history fantasy; Bangsian fantasy

* Fantasy Cross Genres: Heroic fantasy; Speculative Cross Genre fiction; Science fantasy; Dying Earth subgenre; Planetary romance
; Sword and planet; Steampunk; Cyberpunk; Paranormal fantasy

- wikipedia: List of literary genres
----

KDW - that turkey city lexicon link is awesome!

[This message has been edited by billawaboy (edited February 16, 2010).]


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Brendan
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quote:
The milieu and world building for those kinds of fantasy stories is very different than that required for a second world story.

Err, yes and no. You make it sound like second world building is more difficult than other fantasy structures, then cite alternative history as an example of a lessor type. While different subgenres have different demands, I would suggest that alternative history is even more demanding than second world building because it has the added element of authenticity required - people know their eras and what should and shouldn't be there.

When setting out to build a world, there are probably more commonalities with other fantasy types of writing than differences. So, whatever the world, you still have to immerse yourself in developing the world's details, you still have to develop a knowledge of (and added fictional) the politics and large scale conflict potential, the physical restrictions of the landscape, the thematic understanding inherent in the milieu, and the key differences/commonalities between this world and the current world we live in.

If he wants to write almost any speculative fiction, he needs to learn to do the groundwork of world building. Knowing what others have done in this regard is valuable, in that it allows you to understand the common knowledge base and expectations for depth that is currently held by the audience and allows you to tap into that. But it is not essential, as you could just as easily develop your own, completely different knowledge base and cause the audience to love it. Where a difficulty arises is when you try to mix the two, using some common knowledge identities (elves, for example) but then use them in ways that are inconsistent with common knowledge (by writing them as Roman Gods, for example). You risk losing the target audience if that occurs.


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Meredith
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quote:
Err, yes and no. You make it sound like second world building is more difficult than other fantasy structures, then cite alternative history as an example of a lessor type. While different subgenres have different demands, I would suggest that alternative history is even more demanding than second world building because it has the added element of authenticity required - people know their eras and what should and shouldn't be there.

At the risk of taking this topic a little too far afield, I did say different, not less. Alternate history clearly does demand research that might, or might not, apply to a second world milieu. But some people are more comfortable researching an existing world than building one from scratch. Some would rather make up a world to suit themselves. Some can and do do either. I'm not saying either one is easier than the other. Just different.

And to take it back to the original topic of recommendations:

Alternate history:

Naomi Novik--TEMERAIRE (just the first one).
OSC--ALVIN MAKER series
Almost anything by Harry Turtledove

Urban fantasy:

Jim Butcher--THE DRESDEN CHRONICLES
Raymond E. Feist--FAIRIE TALE
Terry Brooks--THE WORD AND THE VOID series

Paranormal Romance:

I can't really think of anything at the moment.

Any other suggestions?


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Pyre Dynasty
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Robert, in Chamber of Secrets Rowling introduces a giant spider named Aragog, which is very reminiscent of a certain giant spider named Sheilob. There are more but if Rowling says she wasn't influenced by Tolkein then she is wrong. As to her other influences I'm sure she studied fairy tales. And there is a whole slew of private school stories and she is solidly in that genre.

Which is actually my real response to this person's question, if you want to be a fantasy writer, don't so much study fantasy, but study it's roots. Mythology, fairy tales, folklore. Most fantasy today is dominated by western European mythology. Also study Joseph Campbell.


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Robert Nowall
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I thought a story series by Poul Anderson usually titled Operation Chaos was an influence on Rowling's work...but I haven't seen a straightforward account of her influences in any interview I've seen or writeup I've read.

Speaking of influences again reminded me that I should add Lord Dunsany (collected stories), and William Morris ("The Well at World's End" and others) to my list of fantasy. Come to think of it, Kenneth Grahame ("The Wind in the Willows" and "The Reluctant Dragon") as well.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Thinking of that I want to add "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman to my list of science fiction. (It's not usually thought of as that, it doesn't really have a plot just a load of description that is so immensely captivating.) As well as the Hitchhiker's guide.

And to fantasy I need to add that I really want to read Watership Down by Richard Adams.


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Robert Nowall
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By the way, I gather Rowling is being sued for plagiarism (again). Which would make her gunshy of naming any writer or work that influenced her.
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