I am looking for a good account for the development of modern fantasy, something like this section on Wikipedia, just bigger and covering newer authors like GRRM or Glen Cook (you know an article is outdated when you have to call those two new). A book would also be fine (if it's in print).

In case people don't understand what I am asking: I want to know why the books we read today are the way they are? For example, why are there stock race like elves, dwarves in some books? Was this solely because of LoTR or maybe the success of D&D board games contributed to this? When did fantasy begin publishing "dark" works (like ASoIaF)? Was GRRM's success a pathbreaker that allowed writers like Bakker and Abercrombie? Did the boom in sci-fi TV shows and movies in the 70s influence fantasy writing in any way? Is Ursula LeGuin's nearly as influential as it is made out to be?

I am pretty sure somebody would have written articles/books on this subject. I am looking for people to forward me to some such article/book.

  • This seems to me like a recommendation question. Can you clarify the question so it is not one? Also, let's not try to get around the banned fantasy tag. :)
    – DampeS8N
    Apr 27, 2011 at 16:42
  • 3
    Wouldn't the right course of action be to update the wikipedia entry?
    – DampeS8N
    Apr 27, 2011 at 18:31
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    This is sort of a story-identification question, but instead of looking for a specific story, you're looking for a type of reference book/encyclopedia.
    – user1027
    Apr 27, 2011 at 19:10
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    Isn't the on-topic, non-thinly-veiled-recommendation-question version of this just to ask the site directly a question about what you're trying to understand? That's the whole point of this site.
    – user366
    Apr 28, 2011 at 11:02
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    @Gilles asking people to provide a general account of anything is wildly off-topic, and asking for book recommendations doesn't change that. If there's a specific question that needs answering, that's what Stack Exchange is good at, not generating lists of recommendations. To wit, the C programming book question is off-topic on both SO and Programmers.
    – user366
    Apr 28, 2011 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


I found some good articles on the net -

These are all very brief, few paras each but still good enough reads.

The best result so far was the summary of a book "A Short History of Fantasy" by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James. From its amazon page, a brief look inside the book's content seems promising. A little expensive, but I will treat myself.

There's also a pretty large and complicated picture here, which seems to be a timeline of works in the fantasy genre.

A good article that discusses recent dark trends in fantasy is The Fantasy Genre, a brief history and its highlights at edbutkin's blog.

A book that showed several times in search results was "The Secret History of Fantasy" edited by Peter S. Beagle. It's not exactly a discussion of the fantasy genre, but seems interesting. You can read its review by Strange Horizons.

  • Also well worth reading is J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "On Fairy Stories".
    – WillAdams
    Jun 29, 2019 at 15:56
  • Many links are dead now, unfortunately :-(
    – lfurini
    Aug 9, 2023 at 9:13
  • love that picture, even with the spelling mistakes
    – tgrignon
    Aug 9, 2023 at 12:30

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