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Tuesday, 10 October 2006

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» On the Uses of History from Roughtheory.org
Scott Eric Kaufman over at Acephalous is having a moment of doubt over whether it was such a good idea to spend several years of his life researching a writer somewhat off the literary beaten path. In a post titled Fœtid Historical Romances &#... [Read More]

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Rich Puchalsky

So who are the good writers from the period you study that are generally no longer read?

I'd say that James Branch Cabell is one of the best fantasy writers to have written so far, and he's close to fitting the criteria (American, wrote in the 1910s although he did his best work in the 1920s, once was read and now is not).

Scott Eric Kaufman

So my own blog ate my earlier response to this ... I feel betrayed.

That said, my earlier comment wasn't too substantial, amounting to "if there are 'good' lost writers from my period, I haven't found them." Seriously, I've found pockets of decent prose—Mitchell even produced some himself—but if you scroll down to "The Case of George Dedlow," you'll see that it's the content more than the literariness of the prose which compels interest. The holds for many of the other working scientists on the tail-end of gentlemen scholardom—Huxley and Holmes spring to mind, but neither would be considered "lost" so much as "under-read."

I should reiterate what I linked to Miriam saying: many unknown authors of interest, not so many of talent. (At least, not the sort of talent which would warrant continued interest.) On your recommendation, I've picked up a copy cheap editions of Cabell. I'll probably get around to reading them sooner than later, since the ones I grabbed have pictures, and we all (he says, nodding to the right sidebar) know how I feel about the funny books.

Rich Puchalsky

Cabell's best book is, in my opinion, The Silver Stallion, so start with that one if possible.

The other under-read fantasists that I know of in the 1890-1910 period are British. William Morris is known for other things, of course, but he wrote some fantasies in the 1890's, supposedly the first to be set in wholly imaginary worlds -- probably more interesting as influences than as reads to a contemporary reader, though. George MacDonald's Lilith was published in 1895, though he did most of his writing earlier. Lord Dunsany's first four books, and probably his best, were published by 1910. Dunsany is the one who comes closest to Cabell evaluatively, I'd say, though it's possible that I just don't see a lot of what's in MacDonald's books because I have the wrong background for him.

And yes, I only know much about fantasy and SF. It's gone from being an adolescent preference to being a life-is-short-so-I-might-as-well-specialize thing.

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