Lin Carter’s Forgotten Anthologies: Kingdoms of Sorcery and Realms of Wizardry

Lin Carter’s Forgotten Anthologies: Kingdoms of Sorcery and Realms of Wizardry

Lin Carter’s anthologies of Adult Fantasy: Kingdoms of Sorcery and
Realms of Wizardry (Doubleday, 1976). Covers by John Cayea and Robert Aulicino

Lin Carter was an exceptional editor, and one of the most important figures in 20th Century American fantasy. As Managing Editor of the seminal Ballantine Adult Fantasy imprint, he was responsible for publishing virtually one new title every month — and he did exactly that, tirelessly producing 83 volumes between August 1965 and April 1974. In the late 70s and early 80s he became one of the most important anthology editors in the genre, helming three major anthology series: Flashing Swords! (five volumes, 1973-1981), The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories (six volumes, 1975-1980), and the paperback incarnation of Weird Tales (four volumes, 1980-83).

But the early 70s was really Carter’s heyday, at least in terms of anthologies. In those days he was producing two to three every year, including terrific books like Golden Cities, Far (1970), Discoveries in Fantasy (1972), and Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy (1972), all of which were original paperbacks.

In 1976 Carter published his final anthologies of adult fantasy, Kingdoms of Sorcery and Realms of Wizardry. Unlike virtually every other anthology he published, these were hardcover originals — and in fact were never reprinted in paperback. But like the others they were assembled with exacting care, crammed full of dozens of entertaining and informative short essays introducing the tales. While they are much less talked about than his later titles, these are delightful books, with plenty to enchant modern readers — those few who know about them, anyway. I’m here to do what I can to correct that.

[Click the images to witness a minor act of sorcery.]

Front and back cover flaps for Kingdoms of Sorcery

These books were released less than two years after Carter ended his illustrious term as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, and it’s easy to see these as Carter winding down the project on his own terms, after the plug had been pulled on the BAF imprint. As Joe the Tron Guy puts it at Goodreads,

I believe these are the last major reprint anthologies Carter edited (his editorial work continued with Flashing Swords, Year’s Best Fantasy and a paperback Weird Tales revival, but that’s kind of a different thing).

Even moreso than his Ballantine Adult Fantasy anthologies, these books seem designed to act as an introduction to fantasy fiction, both containing a mixture of short stories and novel excerpts ranging from pre-20th century (William Beckford, George MacDonald, William Morris) through early 20th century genre pioneers (Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison, Fritz Leiber) and some of what would have been the biggest names in the field at the time (C.S. Lewis and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien), plus a number of others.

If Lin Carter had a vocation, a focus for his life’s work, it was unearthing, preserving, and promoting forgotten works of fantasy. He was certainly one of the most well-read editors and fantasy critics I’ve ever encountered, and he drew from his encyclopedic knowledge of British, American, and world fantasy to feed the voracious monthly publishing machine that was Ballantine Adult Fantasy.

He also had excellent taste, and he used his influential position to bring inexpensive editions of many of the greatest writers of fantasy to an appreciative American audience, including J. R. R. Tolkien, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, James Branch Cabell, George MacDonald, H. P. Lovecraft, Katherine Kurtz, Clark Ashton Smith, Evangeline Walton, William Hope Hodgson, H. Rider Haggard, and many others.

He took his responsibilities as the pre-eminent tastemaker of American adult fantasy seriously, and that really showed in his anthologies.

Realms of Wizardry and Kingdoms of Sorcery aren’t just entertaining reads. They’re meant to introduce discerning modern readers to the very best fantasy of the last two centuries they’ve been missing out out on. And at that they’re hugely successful — for readers in 2023, just as much as 1976.

Excerpts in Kingdoms of Sorcery include: The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt
(Ballantine Books, May 1976), The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (Methuen, 1971),
and Mistress of Mistresses by E.R. Eddison (Ballantine Books, August 1967). Covers by
The Brothers Hildebrandt, uncredited, and Barbara Remington

Kingdoms of Sorcery includes excerpts from Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn, T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Richard Adams Watership Down, and E. R. Eddison’s Mistress of Mistresses, among others.

That’s a dynamite list. If you were a reader in 1976 with no exposure to fantasy, this book turned you on to the most important works in the genre of the last hundred years.

In fact, at least one of these excerpts — the wonderful 14-page magic duel “Merlyn Vs. Madame Mim,” from T. H. White’s classic The Sword in the Stone — was cut in later versions of the novel, and remains unknown to most readers. Here’s the relevant info from Carter’s marvelous introductory essay (pg. 122):

While The Once and Future King is, I think, unquestionably the most perfect fantasy masterpiece of its length, in his revision of earlier work White was arbitrary and even ruthless, cutting or changing entire scenes which linger in the memory as favorite passages. The one scene I remember most fondly from The Sword in the Stone, the magic duel in Chapter 6 between Merlyn and the witch, Madame Mim, is, for instance. completely eliminated in the second version, which superseded the original book seventeen years ago.

Seventeen years is too long a time for a scene as good as this one to laps into oblivion, unavailable to a readership unable to find a secondhand copy of the original edition. As the most hilarious single scene in what must surely be the most hilarious of all modern fantasy novels, it doesn’t deserve to remain a “lost chapter.” Hence I have repeated it here, exactly as it first appeared. picking the scene up at the point where White ended it in his revision.

Kingdoms of Sorcery also contained a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story by Fritz Leiber, two tales of the Folio Club by Edgar Allan Poe, a Pusadian adventure by L. Sprague de Camp, an original story by Lin Carter, plus stories by George MacDonald, Clark Ashton Smith, William Morris, and more.

Front and back flaps cover for Realms of Wizardry

Here’s the complete Table of contents for Kingdoms of Sorcery.

Introduction: Magic Casements, by Lin Carter
“The History of Babouc the Scythian” by Voltaire (Romances, Tales and Smaller Pieces, 1748)
“The Palace of Subterranean Fire” by William Beckford (excerpt from Vathek, 1786)
“The Witch Woman” by George MacDonald (excerpt from Lilith, 1895)
“The Folk of the Mountain Door” by William Morris (1914)
“A Night-Piece on Ambremerine” by E. R. Eddison (excerpt from Mistress of Mistresses, 1935)
“Dr. Meliboë the Enchanter” by Fletcher Pratt (excerpt from The Well of the Unicorn, 1948)
“The Two Best Thieves in Lankhmar” by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic, August 1968)
“Shadow: A Parable” by Edgar Allan Poe (Southern Literary Messenger, September 1835)
“Silence: A Fable” by Edgar Allan Poe (The Baltimore Book, 1838)
“Fables from the Edge of Night” by Clark Ashton Smith, a collection of three shorter works:
        “Sadastor” (Weird Tales, July 1930)
        “The Passing of Aphrodite” (The Fantasy Fan, December 1934)
        “From the Crypts of Memory” (Ebony and Crystal, 1922)
“The Tomb of the God” by R. H. Barlow (The Fantasy Fan, February 1934)
“Merlyn Vs. Madame Mim” by T. H. White (excerpt from The Sword in the Stone, 1939)
“The Owl and the Ape” by L. Sprague de Camp (Imagination, November 1951)
“The Twelve Wizards of Ong” by Lin Carter (original)
“Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time” by C. S. Lewis (excerpt from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 1950)
“The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm” by J. R. R. Tolkien (excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954)
“The Story of the Blessing of el-Ahrairah” by Richard Adams (excerpt from Watership Down, 1973)
“More Magic Casements: Suggestions for Further Reading, by Lin Carter

Its companion volume Realms of Wizardry showed up only a few months later.

Excerpts in Realms of Wizardry include: She by H. Rider Haggard (Dell Mapback, January 1949),
The Metal Monster by A. Merritt (Avon, December 1976), and The Sorcerer’s Ship by Hannes Bok
(Ballantine Books, December 1969). Covers by unknown, Stephen Fabian, Ray Cruz

Realms of Wizardry likewise contained a tasty selection of tales designed to introduce curious readers to the most popular fantasy of the last century, including a Dream Cycle story by H. P. Lovecraft, a Kull novelette by Robert E. Howard, a Jirel of Joiry novelette by C. L. Moore, a mini-epic of The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, an Elric adventure by Michael Moorcock, and a Dilvish story by Roger Zelazny.

It also contained excerpts from She by H. Rider Haggard, The Metal Monster by A. Merritt, and The Sorcerer’s Ship by Hannes Bok — plus the editor’s excellent mini-essays, in which he shared his infectious enthusiasm for all these writers and their work.

Here’s the complete TOC for Realms of Wizardry.

Introduction: The Horns of Elfland, by Lin Carter
“The Hoard of the Gibbelins” by Lord Dunsany (The Sketch, January 25, 1911)
“The Doom That Came to Sarnath” by H. P. Lovecraft (The Scot No. 44, June 1920.)
“Black Lotus” by Robert Bloch (Unusual Stories, Winter 1935)
“The Gods of Earth” by Gary Myers (Nameless Places, 1975)
“The City of Philosophers” by Richard Garnett (The Twilight of the Gods and Other Tales, 1888)
“Some Ladies and Jurgen” by James Branch Cabell (The Smart Set, July 1918)
“The Book of Lullûme” by Donald Corley (Pictorial Review, July 1922)
“The Descent Beneath Kôr” by H. Rider Haggard (excerpt from She, 1886)
“The Whelming of Cherkis” by A. Merritt (excerpt from The Metal Monster, 1946)
“How Orcher Broke the Koph” by Hannes Bok (excerpt from The Sorcerer’s Ship, 1942)
“Swords of the Purple Kingdom” by Robert E. Howard (King Kull, 1967)
“The Goddess Awakes” by Clifford Ball (Weird Tales, February 1938)
“Quest of the Starstone” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Weird Tales, November 1937)
“Liane the Wayfarer” by Jack Vance (The Dying Earth, 1950)
“Master of Chaos” by Michael Moorcock (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, May 1964)
“Thelinde’s Song” by Roger Zelazny (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, June 1965)
Other Realms of Wizardry: Suggestions for Further Reading, by Lin Carter

Here’s a peek at the back covers for both books.

Lin Carter’s anthologies of Adult Fantasy: Realms of Wizardry and
Kingdoms of Sorcery (Doubleday, 1976). Covers by John Cayea and Robert Aulicino

And here’s all the publishing details.

Kingdoms of Sorcery (233 pages, $6.95 in hardcover, January 1976) — cover by John Cayea
Realms of Wizardry (287 pages, $7.95 in hardcover, 1976) — cover by Robert Aulicino

Both books were published by Doubleday.

I call these Lin Carter’s ‘forgotten anthologies’ because I’ve seen virtually no discussion of them online. There were no paperback reprints, no digital editions, and both volumes have been out of print for over 47 years. They are overlooked today in a way that Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy and later series anthologies (Flashing Swords!, etc.) are not.

But they are not hard to find if you want a copy — and not expensive.  And they’re very much worth tracking down.

Why does my cat always show up when I photograph books?

Someone who didn’t ignore them (as usual) was my cat Jazz. As I sat down to photograph my copies for this article, she showed up immediately — as she frequently does. Her furry head is in the uncropped version of most of the jacket photos above. Why she loves to do this, I dunno. It’s nice to have a well-read cat, but it makes article prep cumbersome.

Our previous coverage of Lin Carter’s anthologies includes:

The Flashing Swords! Original Anthologies, by Rich Horton
Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy, Volumes One and Two, edited by Lin Carter
Lin Carter’s Imaginary Worlds #1 History of Fantasy by M Harold Page
Lin Carter’s Imaginary Worlds #2 World Building and Naming by M Harold Page
Lin Carter’s Imaginary Worlds #3: Tricks of the Trade and Reflections by M Harold Page
Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Bibliography by Doug Ellis
Lin Carter and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series by Keith West
The Spawn of Cthulhu edited by Lin Carter by Keith West
Dragons, Elve and Heroes, edited by Lin Carter by Keith West
The Young Magicians by Keith West
Weird Tales #1, edited by Lin Carter
A Contagious Love of Fantasy: Lin Carter’s Imaginary Worlds, by James McGlothlin

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Joe H.

Hah! That’s the second time you’ve spontaneously quoted one of my Goodreads reviews here!

And yes, I’ve been banging on about these two books for many years. Amongst other things, they were my first introduction to Haggard and Merritt and probably Vance.

Joe H.


Yeah, Haggard is great, although I’ve been slowly (1-2 books/year) making my way through his entire catalog in order of publication and he REALLY wanted to be a Serious Writer of Victorian Family Melodrama Novels for a while there.

Joe H.

It only just recently occurred to me that TRON (the original 1982 film) is basically a Rider Haggard lost-race adventure story.

John E. Boyle

Two great books from a great editor. Now, if I can only find my copies…

Thanks for this post, Mr. O’Neill. Those books are great introductions to some of the finest writers of fantasy and adventure in the English language. Never let them be forgot!

Lawrence Schick

Wow, I thought I knew all of Carter’s anthologies, but I’ve neve seen these. Thanks!

Stephen Milligan

I’m not familiar with the title of that Clark Ashton Smith piece in the first book. Is that another title for a story known better under a different name? Google has been no help here, sadly…

Joe H.

It’s actually three short pieces put together under a collective title by Carter: Sadastor, The Passing of Aphrodite and From the Crypts of Memory.

Stephen Milligan

Ah, that explains it. Thanks!

Mike Stamm

The Dell mapback edition of SHE is not a particularly good illustration for the book (though it is a nice cover). This version is, as noted on the cover, “retold”–abridged and rewritten to a considerable extent for mid-20th-century and later readers. There are any number of other paperback editions with the complete original text.

Aside from that, though, this article is a worthy piece. I have both KoS and RoW, but this is the first time I’ve seen anything written about them.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x