A List of Egregious Omissions
I consider myself to be a well-read human being. Sure, I’ve read a lot of books. More books than the average reader, I’d dare say. I’ve read most of The Classics, even though I’m not a huge fan of LITERATURE, in the proper sense. Reading, to me, is a means of escape–hence my gravitation toward fantasy. But even in the realm of fantasy, there are omissions. Egregious, inexcusable omissions for which I have no defense.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll now publicly admit to my Top 5 Most Egregious Fantasy Omissions. I do so not to encumber myself with a virtual hair shirt, but instead to foster discussion—and hopefully a greater understanding of what people read and why. I strongly encourage comments. But be nice. I’m sensitive.
Without further ado…
5. Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Whether you’re a fan of comics or fantasy or both, you’ve heard of Sandman. With a run of 75 issues, Neil Gaiman exploded on the American comics scene with his epic tale of Sleep and all the other Endless. I’ve never read an issue. I own three Absolute Edition omnibuses of Gaiman’s run. I’ve come across Sleep and Death in other titles. I’ve read Gaiman’s novels. I even love the film version of Stardust. But I haven’t read a single word or looked at a single panel of what most consider one of the best (and most fantastical) comics of the 1980s and 1990s. Sandman is a touchstone, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I can remember seeing Mr. Adams’ masterwork on the shelf of my local bookshop from a ridiculously young age. The book. The nicely packaged box of cassette tapes. The fact that it said “Trilogy” but encompassed more than three books. All of these things have made an indelible mark on my brain. And with the advent of the Internet, H2G2 has been referenced innumerable times on nearly every fantasy, sci-fi or Anglo comedy site I’ve ever visited. But I’ve still never heard it, seen it or read a word. And for a guy writing for a fantasy website, that’s downright embarrassing. Particularly since I have read the first five or six Anita Blake novels. I know, I know, I have no defense for my actions. It is a horrible, inexcusable gap in my reading list. And again, there’s no real reason for not reading it. I own an omnibus and a DVD of the movie. They look great on my shelf. If the wear on the cover of the book is any indication, I’ve even thrown it into my workbag a couple times. Why haven’t I read it? Dunno.
3. Dragonriders of Pern series by Ann McCaffery et al
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. I cut my fantasy teeth on Dragonlance novels. I was really, really into dragons as a kid. There were charts involved. I used to stare at all the Pern novels at the bookstore and library, but I was never once compelled to pick one up and read it. While I don’t personally consider my Pern deficiency to be a Cardinal sin, legions of McCaffery’s fans would surely disagree. Unlike the two entries listed above, I’m not even sure what the Pern books are really about. But I knew then and know now that there, there be dragons (I know, I know, I’m better than that…) and historically that has been enough. As sad as this sounds, I’m sure there was a certain degree of preteen sexism involved, even though I was well aware that my beloved Dragonlance novels were written by the very, very capable Margaret Weis. I can see 11-year-old me being concerned that a lady named Ann couldn’t really write about dragons. What can I say? 11-year-old me was a moron.
2. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
A ten-book epic fantasy series? TEN BOOKS?!? Considered by many to be a Millennial masterpiece? WHY HAVEN’T I READ THESE?!? I’ve actually tried a couple different times. I get credit for trying, right? I can honestly say I haven’t gotten past the first five pages on each attempt. Each time I immediately got bored and turned off by the prose. It could be a matter of tone. It could be a fear of commitment. It could be the occasional bad review I’ve come across. But none of those reasons hold water because I’ve plowed through the entirety of Jordan’s Wheel of Time multiple times. And I’ve read more Sword of Truth novels than many would consider healthy.
1. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
Tolkien. Moorcock. Martin. The consensus Big Three of pure fantasy. I’ve read all of Tolkien. I’ve read all of Martin. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never even touched Moorcock. (Pause for laughter). You guys need to grow up. (More laughter). Seriously.
The saga of Elric of Melinbone has been lauded, referenced, recognized and proselytized on paper, on film, in music and on television. Mainstream, underground, fantasy readers and non-fantasy readers alike—Elric unites them all. And I’m on the outside looking in. I can feel your scorn. And I accept it.
So that’s it. That’s my list. “Dishonorable mentions” would also include Pratchett’s Discworld books, anything by Terry Brooks, and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Please skewer me, because I deserve it. And I’d encourage each and every reader to post their own list of Egregious Omissions in the comments thread. Through collective confession, maybe, just maybe, we can embark upon the road to penance, and start filling each other’s gaps. (STOP LAUGHING!!!).