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Lin Carter and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

Lin Carter and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

Beyond the Fields We KnowMany fantasy fans don’t realize how good they have it these days. Fantasy stories dominate the best seller lists, set box office records, and are some of the highest rated programs on television.

This hasn’t always been the case. In the years following the Second World War, fantasy in popular culture went into a decline. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this post, primarily because I don’t want to write a doctoral thesis. Once was enough.

What I’d like to address in this and following posts is the resurgence of fantasy in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically fantasy published by Ballantine Books in what became known as the Adult Fantasy Series.

The catalyst that led to the current fantasy boom was J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, of course. Although initially published by Ace in editions not authorized by Tolkien, Ballantine Books ended up as the publisher of the authorized editions. The books were a tremendous success. Readers began clamoring for more fantasy.

Ian and Betty Ballantine followed up The Lord of the Rings with, in addition to some other work by Tolkien, the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake, four novels by E. R. Eddison (The Worm Ouroboros, Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate), A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay, and The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place, the latter two by Peter S. Beagle. Considered precursors to the actual Adult Fantasy series itself, many of these books were later reprinted as part of the series with the unicorn head colophon.

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Checking in on The Hobbit

Checking in on The Hobbit

hobbitThere’s a movie version of The Hobbit coming out. You knew that, right? But if you’re like me, it’s not something you keep tabs on every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love all things Tolkien, but movies move at a glacial pace, especially a highly anticipated movie like this one, and especially during pre-production. So I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about it and update everyone.

So, after The Lord of the Rings movies, there were rumors aplenty that The Hobbit would be filmed as well. I was really psyched about this news. But then I read that Peter Jackson was in a dispute with New Line Cinemas regarding his contract for The Lord of the Rings and, considering that, couldn’t in good conscience agree to speaking about another movie with them until these issues were resolved. Jackson and New Line eventually came to some mutually beneficial agreement. Not only was the lawsuit by Jackson dropped, but he signed on to act as executive producer for The Hobbit film.

Then, early in 2008, I came across some news releases that reported about a new dispute with New Line, this time from the Tolkien estate. The allegation was that to date they hadn’t been paid a single penny for the movies. Wait a minute. What? The movies, which grossed more than the GDP of plenty of countries, haven’t resulted in any money for the Tolkien estate?

From the estate’s release:

The cumulative worldwide gross receipts to date total nearly $6 billion. Notwithstanding the overwhelming financial success of the films, and the fact that the plaintiffs have a gross participation in each of the films, New Line has failed to pay the plaintiffs any portion of the gross profit participation at all.

And this (emphasis mine):

The complaint seeks, among other things, in excess of $150 million in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages, and a declaration from the Court that the plaintiffs have a right to terminate any further rights New Line may have to the Tolkien works under the agreements, including The Hobbit, due to the serious and material nature of the breach of the agreements.

Now, this is only one side of the story, of course. But being an author myself, and being such a fan, I quickly jumped to the defense of Tolkien. I’d heard about crazy accounting practices on the part of the studios to avoid having to pay royalties, but this? And, as a fanboy, I was pretty miffed that those (allegedly) greedy practices were going to prevent my beloved Hobbit movie from reaching the silver screen.

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