This may be a bit cliché of me to say, but there are some authors I would consider required reading for anyone wanting to step into it as a fantasy author. Sure, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey and Terry Brooks are names everyone is familiar with. These stories are the “bread and butter” of any fantasy author. They provide the basis for what we write and the stories we develop, but there are some others you need to consider (in my opinion) to make you well rounded. Please remember, these are my opinion and I may miss some of your favorite fantasy authors. So please, add your own to the comments!
I’ll start out with my all-time favorite fantasy author and the person who inspired me to be a writer myself. Michael Moorcock, author of the Elric of Melnibone saga, is one of the best fantasy authors on par with Tolkien and others. His world-building is amazing, something I’ve never read before. The mythology of the Lords of Order and Chaos, the Eternal Champion, and more are terrifying to say the least. His stories span centuries, millennia even, and yet they flow together in such perfect harmony. It’s not your basic Dungeons & Dragons type of story, but unique in every sense of the word, from magic to mythos.
Elric is the perfect anti-hero, doing whatever must be done to in order to survive and defeat his enemies. He sacrifices friend and foe and its such a sad, solitary life, and you feel for him, every step of the way. All of his characters, from Elric to Cymoril, Yyrkoon, Moonglum and Rackhir are deeply intertwined and carefully written. I adore his wistful yet colorful descriptions of people, places and events. The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and Stormbringer will always be my two favorite novels of this series, because the Seas of Fate introduces the concept of the Eternal Champions to the reader and Stormbringer brings the series to a close like I’ve never read before. It’s a shame that Elric still hasn’t made it to the silver screen, and he would shine amongst fantasy epics.
Next up is Ursula K. Le Guin and the Earthsea saga. She is both a fantasy and science fiction writer, but I’m focusing on her fantasy epic here. It’s interesting to note that Le Guin meant for A Wizard of Earthsea to be a standalone novel, but then she wrote The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore after discovering loose ends in her first book. I think this is a great example of what plagues fantasy writers when it comes to a single story or a series, and she handled it brilliantly. Then it took her nearly 20 years to write what is considered my many as the second trilogy in the Earthsea cycle.
This demonstrates the patience she had as a writer to properly flush out the story, something many of us (me included) don’t do with our own writing. What I love about her story is the fact that she didn’t plop it down into your standard “middle ages fantasy” where the characters are all white. She went out of her way to differentiate the races of Earthsea into something unique and different, especially for a novel written in 1968. That’s the beauty of Le Guin in all her writings. She does not stick to the boundaries of race, sex, color, creed, or religion in her stories, always outside the norms. She is a must read for just that fact alone.
The next one might seem a bit unusual but its Diana Wynn Jones, author of the classic Howl’s Moving Castle. Yes, we all know about it from the beautiful and inspiring Hayao Miyazaki film, but have you read the book? It is completely different from the movie and just as inspiring. I read the series after I saw the movie and I wish I had done the reverse. Her writing style reminds me a lot of Frank L. Baum and his Oz stories, tales with such frivolity and backwards talking that its just fun to read to try to get into the mind of the writer. The other great thing about her is that she has been an inspiration to many great fantasy writers of our time, including J.K. Rowling, Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman. She is an award-winning children’s author and yet her stories are beloved by all. Her books are a lot like Harry Potter in that she brings magic into our regular world and makes it a part of everyday life. It’s a joy to read her stories and be inspired in my own.
Lastly, I would like to mention R.A. Salvatore . . . Yes, he’s not one of the more well known fantasy authors, but he’s one of my favorites because of his attention to detail in writing novels based on Dungeons and Dragons. As a teenager and young adult, I played D&D religiously, and reading these novels kept me in the game when I wasn’t playing. His books were especially provocative on different levels. I think he was responsible for taking the Drow Elf from a regular villain (in the game) to a hero in his Dark Elf Trilogy. Drizzt Do’Urden became so popular as a supporting character in his first book, Icewind, that he moved him to main character for his next three books. The other thing I love about Salvatore is he was once just like many of the independently published fantasy authors I collaborate and communicate with on social media. He worked as a bouncer, writing his fantasy stories in his spare time until he was picked up by TSR to write for the D&D Forgotten Realms novels. His publishing story gives me, and others like me, hope for own stories.
As I said at the beginning, these are some of my favorite fantasy writers that truly inspired me in my own stories as a writer, along with many of the classic and legendary authors of the fantasy genre. Let me know your thoughts or add your favorites in the comments.
# # #
Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.