New Treasures: The Big Book of Classic Fantasy edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
One of my favorite anthologies of the past few years — perhaps my absolute favorite — is The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. It’s a companion book of sorts to their 2012 Tor volume The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, a monumental 1152 page collection of weird fantasy from roughly the last century.
But I don’t file it with that book, or the Vandermeer’s other fine anthologies. Instead, I give it a place of honor on the shelf with my other Vintage Big Books, which include Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Adventure Stories, The Big Book of Ghost Stories, and The Vampire Archives. Which is why I was so excited to see the VanderMeer’s add another book to that illustrious set this month: The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, a thoroughly impressive tome that unearths the fascinating origins of modern fantasy.
Kirkus Reviews calls The Big Book of Classic Fantasy a “quintessential anthology destined to become the standard by which future fantasy classic anthologies are measured… a must-have.” It contains rarely-seen tales from Asian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and Native American traditions, including brand-new translation of fourteen stories never before printed in English. Contributors include the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, E. Nesbit, Christina Rossetti, Jules Verne, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, L. Frank Baum, H. G. Wells, Arthur Machen, Edith Wharton, George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Hermann Hesse, William Hope Hodgson, Lord Dunsany, A. Merritt, E. R. Eddison, John Collier, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, J. R. R. Tolkien, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others.
Here’s the impressive Table of Contents.
Introduction by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
“The Queen’s Son” by Bettina von Arnim (1808)
“Hans-My-Hedgehog” by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (1815)
“The Story of the Hard Nut” by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1816)
“Rip Van Winkle: A Posthumous Writing of Dierdrich Knickerbocker” by Washington Irving (1819)
“The Luck of the Bean Rows: A Fairy Tale for Lucky Children” by Charles Nodier (1822)
“Transformation” by Mary Shelley (1830)
“The Nest of Nightingales” by Théophile Gautier (1834)
“The Fairytale About a Dead Body, Belonging to No One Knows Whom” by Vladimir Odoevsky (1833)
“The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” by Charles Dickens (1836)
“The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol (1836)
“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe (1845)
“The Story of Jeon Unchi” by Anonymous
“Feathertop: A Moralized Legend”y by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1852)
“Master Zacharius” by Jules Verne (1854)
“The Frost King; or, The Power of Love” by Louisa May Alcott (1855)
“The Tartarus of Maids” by Herman Melville (1855)
“The Magic Mirror” by George MacDonald (1858)
“The Diamond Lens” by Fitz-James O’Brien (1858)
“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti (1859) — poem
“The Will-o’-the-Wisps Are in Town” by Hans Christian Andersen (1865)
“The Legend of the Pale Maiden” by Aleksis Kivi
“Looking-Glass House” by Lewis Carroll
“Furnica; or, The Queen of the Ants” by Carmen Sylva
“The Story of Iván the Fool” by Leo Tolstoy (1886)
“The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt
“The Bee-Man of Orn” by Frank R. Stockton (1887)
“The Remarkable Rocket” by Oscar Wilde (1888)
“The Ensouled Violin” by Helena P. Blavatsky
“The Death of Odjigh” by Marcel Schwob (1892)
“The Terrestrial Fire” by Marcel Schwob (1892)
“The Kingdom of Cards” by Rabindranath Tagore (1892)
“The Other Side: A Breton Legend” by Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock (1893)
“The Fulness of Life ” by Edith Wharton (1893)
“Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady” by Vernon Lee (1896)
“The Little Room” by Madeline Yale Wynne (1895)
“The Plattner Story” by H. G. Wells (1896)
“The Princess Baladina—Her Adventure” by Willa Cather (1896)
“The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame (1898)
“Iktomi and the Ducks” by Zitkala-Ša (1901)
“Iktomi’s Blanket” by Zitkala-Ša (1901)
“Iktomi and the Muskrat” by Zitkala-Ša (1901)
“Iktomi and the Coyote” by Zitkala-Ša (1901)
“Iktomi and the Fawn” by Zitkala-Ša (1901)
“Marionettes” by Louis Fréchette (1902)
“Dance of the Comets: An Astral Pantomime in Two Acts” by Paul Scheerbart (1903)
“The White People” by Arthur Machen (1904)
“Blamol” by Gustav Meyrink (1903)
“Goblins: A Logging Camp Story” by Louis Fréchette (1905)
“Sowbread” by Grazia Deledda (1908)
“The Angry Street” by G. K. Chesterton (1908)
“The Aunt and Amabel” by E. Nesbit (1909)
“Sacrifice” by Aleksey Remizov (1909)
“The Princess Steel ” by W. E. B. Du Bois
“The Hump ” by Fernán Caballero (1911)
“The Celestial Omnibus” by E. M. Forster (1908)
“The Legend of the Ice Babies” by E. Pauline Johnson (1911)
“The Last Redoubt” by William Hope Hodgson — Excerpt from The Night Land
“Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse” by L. Frank Baum (1913)
“The Plant Men () • short fiction by Edgar Rice Burroughs — Excerpt from The Gods of Mars
“Strange News from Another Star” by Hermann Hesse (1919)
“The Metamorphosis ” by Franz Kafka (1915)
“The Hoard of the Gibbelins” by Lord Dunsany (1911)
“Through the Dragon Glass” by A. Merritt (1917)
“David Blaize and the Blue Door” by E. F. Benson — Excerpt
“The Big Bestiary of Modern Literature” by Franz Blei
“The Alligator War” by Horacio Quiroga (1918)
“Friend Island” by Francis Stevens (1918)
“Magic Comes to a Committee” by Stella Benson — Excerpt from Living Alone
“Gramophone of the Ages” by Yefim Zozulya (1919)
“Joiwind” by David Lindsay — Excerpt from A Voyage to Arcturus
“Sound in the Mountain” by Maurice Renard (1920)
“Sennin (Immortal)” by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (1916)
“Koshtra Pivrarcha” by E. R. Eddison — Excerpt from The Worm Ouroboros
“At the Border” by Der Nister (1922)
“The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan: As Told in the Camps of the White Pine Lumbermen for Generations During Which Time the Loggers Have Pioneered the Way Through the North Woods form Maine to California Collected from Various Sources and Embellished for Publication ,” by W. B. Laughead
“Talkative Domovoi” by Aleksandr Grin (1923)
“The Ratcatcher” by Aleksandr Grin (1924)
“The Shadow Kingdom” by Robert E. Howard (1929)
“The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait” by Edogawa Ranpo (1929)
“A Visit to the Museum” by Vladimir Nabokov (1939)
” The Water Sprite’s Tale” by Karel Čapek (1932)
“The Capital of Cat Country” by Lao She
“The Spirit Chief Names the Animal People” by Mourning Dove (1933)
“Coyote Juggles His Eyes” by Mourning Dove (1933)
“Uncle Monday” by Zora Neale Hurston (1934)
“Rose-Cold, Moon Skater” by María Teresa León (1914)
“A Night of the High Season” by Bruno Schulz (1934)
“The Influence of the Sun” by Fernand Dumont (1935)
“The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutaro (1935)
“The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington (1939)
“The Jewels in the Forest” by Fritz Leiber (1939)
“Evening Primrose” by John Collier (1940)
“The Coming of the White Worm” by Clark Ashton Smith (1941)
“The Man Who Could Walk Through Wall” by Marcel Aymé (1941)
“Leaf by Niggle” by J. R. R. Tolkien (1964)
About the Translators by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
About the Editors by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
The Vintage Books Big Books make a fabulous library of pup and genre fiction. Most of them are still in print in oversized, economical trade paperback editions, and they get my highest recommendation.
The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps — 2007
The Vampire Archives — 2009
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories — 2010
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! — 2011
The Big Book of Adventure Stories — 2011
The Big Book of Ghost Stories — 2012
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries — 2013
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries — 2014
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories — 2015
The Big Book of Jack the Ripper — 2016
The Big Book of Science Fiction — 2016
The Big Book of Rogues and Villains –- 2017
The Big Book of Female Detectives — 2018
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy — 2019
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy was published by Vintage Books on July 2. 2019. It is 822 pages, priced at $25 in trade paperback and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Joe Montgomery, from an engraving by Grandville. Read an excerpt at io9.
See all our recent New Treasures here.
I’m on this. Jeff and Ann always manage to put out such huge and amazing collections. They go digging deep to find some really incredible stories you would never have heard of otherwise.
I would recommend “The Weird” collection by them also.
My kingdom for a “Big Book of Classic Sword & Sorcery”!
Although I do look forward to reading this one, and the BBoSF, and the Weird. Someday.
> Jeff and Ann always manage to put out such huge and amazing collections. They go digging
> deep to find some really incredible stories you would never have heard of otherwise.
Very true. With these big retrospective anthologies, the problem is usually that you’ve seen most of the best fiction before.
Not so with the Vandermeers. They take pride in finding true overlooked gems, and it shows.
> I do look forward to reading this one, and the BBoSF, and the Weird. Someday.
Does anybody actually read these things? Cover to cover, I mean. I’ve tried. But they’re so huge I always end up skipping around. I think that’s how they were designed.
Anyone who likes this kind of doorstopper is advised to seek out the two Black Water fantasy anthologies that were edited by Alberto Manguel. They’re long out of print and hard to find now, but are well worth it, especially if you like unfamiliar stories, many by European writers.
“Does anybody actually read these things? Cover to cover, I mean.”
For the record, I did indeed read, cover to cover, the Vandermeers’ *Weird* omnibus. I had committed to a review for Blackgate, and it was a daunting task, but well worth the entire read.
Well done James!