Vintage Treasures: The Fantastic Imagination Anthologies, edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski

Vintage Treasures: The Fantastic Imagination Anthologies, edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski

The-Fantastic-Imagination Boyer Zahorski-small The Fantastic Imagination II-small

The Fantastic Imagination, volumes I and II (Avon, February 1977 and December 1978).
Cover artist: unknown (left), Elizabeth Malczynski (right)

Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski were quite the dynamic pair in the late 70s and early 80s. They edited five anthologies between 1977-81, all but one paperback originals from Avon, and a sixth a decade later, from Academy Chicago specialty press. All are fine volumes well worth your attention today.

The Fantastic Imagination (1977)
Dark Imaginings (1978)
The Fantastic Imagination II (1978)
The Phoenix Tree (1980)
Visions of Wonder: An Anthology of Christian Fantasy (1981)
Visions & Imaginings: Classic Fantasy Fiction (1992)

It may be giving them too much credit, but for me at least Boyer and Zahorski defined fantasy and its related genres for a generation. With their popular and highly readable paperback anthologies they helped new readers explore Gothic Fantasy (Dark Imaginings), Mythic Fantasy (The Phoenix Tree), and Christian Fantasy (Visions of Wonder).

And with The Fantastic Imagination volumes in particular, they drew clear boundaries around the particular sub-genre that more or less defined English fantasy until Tolkien upended things in the early 20th Century: the fairy-tale, and the High Fantasy genre that grew out of it, rich with fairies, elves, dwarves, kings, queens, and knights.

[Click the images for epic-sized versions.]

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Back covers for The Fantastic Imagination

The two volumes of The Fantastic Imagination collect a goodly assortment of masterpieces of High Fantasy. The first book, and Boyer and Zahorski’s first editorial partnership, collected stories from Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald, James Branch Cabell, C. S. Lewis, Peter S. Beagle, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, plus an excerpt from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, a Prydain tale by Lloyd Alexander, and an Earthsea story by Ursula K. Le Guin. Here’s the complete TOC.

Introduction by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski
“The Elves” by Ludwig Tieck (1812)
“The Sword of Welleran” by Lord Dunsany (The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, October 1908)
“The Light Princess” by George MacDonald (Dealings with the Fairies, 1864)
“The Grove of Ashtaroth” by John Buchan (Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, June 1910)
“The Music from Behind the Moon” by James Branch Cabell (The Music from Behind the Moon: An Epitome, 1926)
“The Accommodating Circumstance” by Frank R. Stockton (1887)
“The Peach Tree” by H. E. Bates (Seven Tales and Alexander, 1929)
“The Loquacious Goblin” by Alexander Grin (1923)
“Riddles in the Dark” by J. R. R. Tolkien (1972)
“The Magician’s Book” by C. S. Lewis (1952)
“The Dufflepuds Made Happy” by C. S. Lewis (1952)
” The Tall One” by Mark Van Doren (1962)
“The Foundling” by Lloyd Alexander (The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, 1973)
“Come Lady Death” by Peter S. Beagle (The Atlantic Monthly, September 1963)
“The Rule of Names” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, April 1964)
“Beliard” by Sylvia Townsend Warner (The New Yorker, April 29, 1974)

The Fantastic Imagination II arrived a year later, packed with stories by George MacDonald, Lord Dunsany, Kenneth Morris, Evangeline Walton, David H. Keller, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joan Aiken, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, plus a Jirel tale by C. L. Moore, another Prydain story by Lloyd Alexander, an excerpt from Patricia A. McKillip’s novella The Throme of the Erril of Sherill, and an original story by Vera Chapman.

Here’s the complete contents.

Preface by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski
Introduction by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski
“The Golden Key” by George MacDonald (Dealings with the Fairies, 1867)
“The Glass of Supreme Moments” by Barry Pain (Stories and Interludes, 1892)
“Old Pipes and the Dryad” by Frank R. Stockton (St. Nicholas Magazine, June 1885)
“The Kith of the Elf-Folk” by Lord Dunsany (The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, 1908)
“Red-Peach-Blossom Inlet” by Kenneth Morris (1916)
“The Legend of the Christmas Rose” by Selma Lagerlöf (1910)
“Above Ker-Is” by Evangeline Walton (1978)
“The Abominable Imprecation” by Eric Linklater (God Likes Them Plain, 1935)
“Jirel Meets Magic” by C. L. Moore (Weird Tales, July 1935)
“The Thirty and One” by David H. Keller (Marvel Science Stories, November 1938)
“April in Paris” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, September 1962)
“A Harp of Fishbones” by Joan Aiken (Miscellany 4, 1967)
“The Smith, the Weaver, and the Harper” by Lloyd Alexander (The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, 1973)
Excerpt from The Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia A. McKillip (1973)
“Elphenor and Weasel” by Sylvia Townsend Warner (The New Yorker, December 16, 1974)
“Crusader Damosel” by Vera Chapman (1978)

The Phoenix Tree An Anthology of Myth Fantasy Visions of Wonder An Anthology of Christian Fantasy Visions and Imaginings-small

The Phoenix Tree (Avon, September 1980, artist unknown), Visions of Wonder (Avon, October 1981, artist unknown),
and Visions & Imaginings (Academy Chicago, 1992, Barbara Corey)

Boyer and Zahorski were both English professors at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. They vanished after 1992, at least in terms of the publishing world. As far as I’ve been able to tell, they’re both still alive.

Here’s an excerpt from Boyer’s bio at

I retired from full-time teaching in 2005, after forty-four years: four years in high school, three years in universities as a graduate teaching assistant, and the last thirty-six years teaching English at St. Norbert College in Northeastern Wisconsin… The teaching afforded opportunities for travel. I have taught in Canton, Ohio, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Phoenix, Arizona, in Philadelphia, and in Northeastern, Wisconsin. I was fortunate to earn a fellowship to study at Oxford University in England, with my wife and four children along. Later on, courses that I taught, or research that I did, took me to Nicaragua (during their civil war), to El Salvador (just after their civil war), twice to Spain, and six times to the Philippines. I spent two sabbatical semesters in Spain, and I was a Visiting Professor in Manila, the Philippines, on one occasion. Friends have been referring to me of late as “an adventurer.”

The teaching and travel have resulted in the books listed on this site, the most recent of which is Sundays in Manila, the travel memoir based on my experiences in the Philippines. That country and the many friends and acquaintances I have met there keep drawing me back. I also write a monthly column for VIA TIMES Newsmagazine, a Philippine-American publication out of Chicago. You can find me, including a recent picture, on their web site ( I am currently working on an All-Ages Fantasy Novel set primarily in medieval Spain during the Arab ascendency there.

You can find Zahorski’s bio in the back of his poetry volumes, such as this one from Where Love Abides (2017).

Kenneth J. Zahorski, Professor Emeritus of English and Ombudsman at St. Norbert College, is the author or co-author of twelve books and five poetry chapbooks. His award-winning poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines and journals. A lifelong nature lover, an avid reader, an extensive traveler, and a collector of memories and sea shells, he is married, has two daughters, and three granddaughters.


Dark Imaginings 1978-small Dark Imaginings 1978-back-small

Dark Imaginings (Delta, 1978). Cover by Joel Schick

We previously discussed the Gothic Fantasy anthology Dark Imaginings, edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski, back in 2018.

Here’s the complete publishing details for The Fantastic Imagination volumes.

The Fantastic Imagination (334 pages, $2.25 in paperback, February 1977) — cover artist unknown
The Fantastic Imagination II (318 pages, $2.50 in paperback, December 1978) — cover by Elizabeth Malczynski

Both volumes have been out of print since they originally appeared over 40 years ago. There are no digital versions. However, copies are readily available for much less than the cost of a new paperback at the usual places. I bought the unread copy of The Fantastic Imagination II I scanned above for less than $1, as part of a set of 19 paperback anthologies on eBay earlier this year.

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A collection of 19 vintage paperback anthologies purchased for $14 on eBay

I discussed one previous volume from this set, Robert Hoskins’s 1972 science fiction anthology Wondermakers.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Tony Den

That looks like a decent series to look out for John! the cover art, especially of Fantastic Imagination (1) and the Phoenix Tree got me wondering. I don’t see an artist attributed on ISFDB – I would guess you also tried a little sleuth work there. BUT, both covers, in my humble laymans opinion, are reminiscent of works by Barbra Remington. Specifically the similarity to the Ballentine version or ER Eddison’s Worm Oruroboros. Sadly she passed away in January this year, so one cannot ask her, but perhaps an expert out there can add some insights.

This article got me wondering on another point. Also tried some mild lookups but didn’t reveal anything. Whether Robert H Boyer is any relation to Elizabeth H Boyer, the author – who has been mentioned here in the past.

Joe H.

I really need to read these one of these days; and now that I’m stuck at home (instead of reading on the go, when my Kindle is so very, very convenient), this would probably be a good time.

They did at least one more book together — an essay collection called Fantasists on Fantasy.

Joe H.

Fantastic Imagination II credits Elizabeth Malczynski as the cover artist. To my eye, at least, it does look like the same person did both Fantastic Imaginations and The Phoenix Tree. Visions of Wonder seems like a different artist.

Eugene R.

I am a stone Boyer and Zahorski fan, having fallen into the dark fantasies of Dark Imaginings and never quite climbed back out again. The Fantastic Imagination volumes I also enjoyed. So, of course, I knew nothing of their 1992 volume, Visions and Imaginings. Some day, I must learn something about this field of literature.

ISFDB has Elizabeth Malczynski credited as the artist for the Fantastic Imagination volumes, as Joe H. has confirmed. She may be best known for her cover of Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen.

The Phoenix Tree artist is uncredited, and the same for Visions of Wonder. Visions and Imaginings is credited to Barbara Corey. If I were to offer a guess, I would say that Visions of Wonder is by Michael Mariano, who did the covers for Ursula Le Guin’s The Language of the Night and P.C. Hodgell’s Godstalk.

Joe H.

Did a bit more poking around and it looks like Visons & Imaginings (the 1992 collection) is comprised of selections from their original 1970s anthologies.

Happily, it’s also available in eBook format.

Tony Den

Eugene R – ISFDB only accredits the art on Fantastic imaginations II to Elisabeth Malcynski. The style of Vol 1 looks different to me, but i am a bit clueless WRT art and artists can produce work in different styles so maybe? Wither which way love the covers, all of them.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x