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Forgotten Male Fantasy Authors Of The 80s

Editor’s Note: Due to the lack of women writers on this post, Fantasy-Faction has posted a similar version focusing on women writers who readers of today may not have heard of. We decided to do this instead of adding them to this list, because when we asked for suggestions over Twitter we quickly hit double digits, so we want to spend time and do our research. Our apologies for the lack of women writers on this original post. Please click here for an extensive look at women writers of fantasy!

Legends of the Dragonrealm (cover)Recently, Fantasy-Faction held an interview with Richard A Knaak, the author of the wonderful Dragonrealm novels. I bought many of Richard’s novels from the import shelf at my local Waterstones, itself quite a new company at the time. But these days we live in an era where fantasy novels are available at the click of a mouse, where authors, traditional and self-published, are delivering so much choice and quality that it is tempting to always be looking forward to the next big novel. But what about all those great books from a golden era of fantasy, the 1980s, which are now sadly overlooked, forgotten and not getting the recommendations they deserve?

With that in mind, I ascended the stairs of the past, entered the lair of lost memories, and explored the land of legend that can only be described as pre-Kindle. Okay, I went into the loft and started searching through box upon box of books that I have no room to display in the house any more. So, here they are – a collection of books and series from the pre-Kindle age that are well worth reading, should you get the chance.

Magician's Law (cover)Michael Scott’s Tales of the Bard series, published in 1987, follows Paedur, the titular Bard, who strikes a deal with the Lord of the Dead. You’ll note the hook on the cover here. Paedur has only the one hand, which you’d think might cramp his instrumental playing however, this bard is a storyteller not a singer. He is also ruthless, committed, and with a moral compass you recognise but one that is distinctly his own. In an age (the 80s) of heroes who were heroes, Paedur is move towards the anti-hero we know and love (though we’d stay well clear of if we met them in a dark alley or, in Jorg’s case, any vast, open and well-lit space).

The Sleeping Dragon (cover)You played AD&D, didn’t you? Ever wondered what would happen if you became your favourite character? That’s what happens to the heroes in Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame books. You get all the clichés of AD&D, the warrior, the wizard, the dwarf, but with characters who know they are clichés. It is interesting to see how 20th Century knowledge changes the world and how the characters cope. There are more in the series than the five books I own but, a quick dip into Goodreads seems to suggest that after those five they lose their way a little.

The Wizards and the Warriors (cover)Hugh Cook wrote ten books of his Chronicles of an Age of Darkness during the 80s and 90s. You might be forgiven, though not by China Miéville and Scott Lynch, for looking at the titles (all began with The W… and the W…) and covers and thinking, “Oh no, it is just no-thought generic fantasy. I’ll pass, thanks.” In doing so you would have missed stories that “are intensely clever, humane, witty, meta-textually adventurous and pulp-avant-garde works” or says Mr Miéville, and you’d expect him to know. Some of these stories have been re-issued in honour of Cook who died in 2008. Mr Miéville even contributes a new foreword for them.

Master of the Five Magics (cover)The Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy was originally published in 1980. The sequels, Secret of the Sixth Magic, and Riddle of the Seven Realms, followed soon after. If you ever wanted to read a story that focused upon magic in all its wonder, complexity and mystery then these were the ones for you. I know, for instance, that the Doctrine of Signatures will help me perform alchemy and that the Law of Dichotomy is vital to the practise of wizardry. I’m not suggesting that these are instruction manuals in the art of magic but, they are as fictionally close as you’d want to get.

The Summer Tree (cover)The last series on this particular peek into the exhibits in my museum is the strange, bizarre yet fantastically written Fionavar Tapestry series books by Guy Gavriel Kay. Now, these are still in print, latest edition – 2011, and judging by their Amazon ranking folks are still buying them which proves that people have good taste. The heroes, like Joel’s books above, are transported from our world to a fantasy realm like Tolkien’s but, for my money, more fully realised and better written. Kay worked with Christopher Tolkien on The Silmarillion so he knows his stuff.

The 80s have a lot to answer for: Rick Astley, mullets, shoulder-pads, yuppies, dodgy weather forecasting (1987), and the influx of Saturday afternoon American TV shows (e.g. Knight Rider and The A-Team). Actually, scratch the last one. That’s something the 80s did right. However, and back to the point, 80s fantasy was a genre still finding its voice and I’ll bet there are authors out there who can trace their writing lineage back to those days and those books.

Can you think of any books from the 1980s that have seemingly been lost to time? Let us know in the comments!

Author’s Note: I own all of these books and they really are in my loft. And yes, there are many other books that came out in the 80s that are just as important and may even be better than the ones I detailed above. I probably have many of those, or borrowed them from the library when I’d run out of pocket money. It is not a list of the best, just a journey back through the years to some chosen highlights and series that got lost in the mists of fantasy time.

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar Murf61 says:

    No women writers? You must have had a rather narrow reading experience. Poor you

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      There will be a women writers edition – to address this – next week 🙂

      • Avatar Sebseb says:

        Yeah, it says that in a textbox at the top of the article. Excited for that. I just added Cook, Hardy and Knaak to my list to check out. I hardly think Guy Gavriel Kay was forgotten. He’s a pretty big name right now lol. ESPECIALLY the Fionavar Tapestry, but that River of Stars novel he came out with seemed to hit it off as well.

  2. Avatar Rob Mammone says:

    The Tales of the Bard books are are really hidden gem from that era. Mythical in tone, but lots of fun swords and sorcery as well.

    One I think is almost utterly forgotten is The Heroes of Zara Keep by Guy Gregory (pseud. for father and son combo). As far as I can tell, it’s the only book the duo did. For the longest time I thought it might’ve been written by Guy Kay as a first go at doing a ‘people plucked from the real world to help save the day in fantasy land’ he did later in the utterly superb Fionavar Tapestry books. Apparently not!

    Actually if anyone knows anything about the book, or its authors, it would be fascinating to know the history around its publication, before and after.

  3. Master of the Five Magics was one of my favorite books when I was a teenager. It was one of a handful of fantasies I loved so much that I brought them away to college with me so I could continue them again and again. The follow-ups were great, too.

  4. Avatar David Greybeard says:

    Not sure if Karl Edward Wagner’s KANE series extended into the 80s or if it was the 70s. For me, KANE easily rivaled Elric and the best of Fantasy in any decade and it’s unfathomable to me that the series is so long out of print.

    THE FACE IN THE FROST is another book that comes to mind.

  5. Avatar Damien says:

    Absolutely love the tales of the bard series, death law, demons law and magicians law. A lot happens and there is good characterisation throughout the series outside of the bard himself a lot of the other characters get development and have they’re own point of view. Also love the exploration of places like the isle of the Culai and other mythic realms. The Torc Alta (boar people) also appear in his young adult series about Nicholas Flamel.

  6. Avatar Dee says:

    Oh Rosenberg, I remember you and having your real-world characters use the ingredients list of a Big Mac as a security password in your fantasy world. (The things we remember…)

  7. Avatar Patrick says:

    Thanks for recognising Hugh Cook’s “Chronicles of an Age of Darkness”. Memories of teenage hours sopent reading them at marvelling even then at how different they were, both to each other and to other fantasy novels. I admit I struggled initially with some of the later novels as Mr Cook went further into his multiverse but some stand out as excelkent stand alone fantasy adventures especially ” The Wizards and the Warriors” and “The Walrus and the Warwolf”. I challenge anyone to name a better fantasy pirates and accidental new religion book!

  8. Avatar Erica says:

    Hmm, for the male-authored stuff that seems to be mostly forgotten now, I remember a lot of lighter fantasy, including stuff by Piers Anthony (Xanth, Apprentice Adept), Robert Lynn Aspirin (the Myth series), and Alan Dean Foster (Pip and Flinx series–technically SF, but it felt more like fantasy).

  9. Avatar Terry Ervin says:

    I enjoyed the works Elizabeth Boyer (Scandinavian in setting) during the 1980s.

  10. Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series is wonderful, it lies perfectly between Tolkien and Martin in tone and theme. Don’t be put off by the series length, it’s broken down into a series of acts which all end satisfyingly. The first four books beginning with Daggerspell are especially good.

  11. this is a wonderful post and these collections are the classics! what can i say, we are all trapped inside the world wide web. good one

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