Of course, it's a bit easier to take if the person has passed on, because mortal woes must be small potatoes in infinity. They are surely not upset about it anymore, why should I be?
First, I would like to do my part on keeping us honest. Whether good or bad, the past should not be forgotten, and should be given its due. If not, we learn nothing, repeat mistakes and never evolve. We live in a perpetually egoistic culture that thinks every time it shits it smells like roses and that it invented everything under the sun.
Second, and probably more importantly, out of love. We should love those who devoted their lives to perfecting their talents and sharing the harvest of that labor with the world.
I love many authors, but I will only mention those who are relevant to the fantasy adventure genre, because they are often overlooked and not given the credit they deserve for creating the genre that is now taken for granted.
Those authors are: Fritz Leiber (creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser), Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane) and Jack Vance (creator of the Dying Earth and Cugel the Clever). Of these three, Howard is the most well-known, though in truth, most mainstream audiences would only be aware of the name Conan (from the movie) as opposed to R. E. Howard.
|Fritz Leiber, Jr.|
In a recent blog by Charlie Jane Anders, 10 Authors Who Wrote Gritty, Realistic Fantasy Before George R.R. Martin, the titled list is given. Nowhere are listed the three authors that helped define the genre. The list only goes back as far as the fabulous Micheal Moorcock (who is considered part of the new wave after Leiber, Howard and Vance). This alone shows that something is amiss. Leiber, Howard and Vance were "gritty." As far as "realistic" goes, this is where the problem really arises. I believe the term that Anders really means to use is "modern." Each generation views as realistic those parts of daily life or those current cultural reactions, morals and emotions that it experiences in its time. That is what makes it "modern."
|Robert E. Howard|
If we judge Leiber, Howard and Vance by the term "modern," meaning what holds up now, I would still say that most of Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories and Jack Vance's Dying Earth tales hold up. They do not seem dated. (Yet, one must remember the market for whom stories are written. Leiber and Howard were writing for the pulps, which had a younger male audience, whereas the writers mentioned in Ander's blog are mass market books written for major publishers).
Raymond Feist called Fritz Leiber the “spiritual father [of] most fantasy writers.” But his influence goes much further than that. Michael Chabon, the Pullitzer-prize winning literary author, is a huge fan of Leiber's (he provides the afterward for a collection called Selected Stories: Fritz Leiber, Neil Gaiman provides the foreword), and said that he learned to write by reading Leiber's stories. His book, Gentleman of the Road, is a tribute to Leiber, as well as Dumas, Moorcock and others.
Without Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and Jack Vance, most of the current fantasy adventure authors (including the ones on Ander's blog list) would never have written the stories they wrote. It is impossible to not be influenced by these three, for they built the very foundations upon which the sword and sorcery genre stands.
Please, give them their due. It is the least they deserve from we who have inherited the legacy of their rich treasures.
Happy reading adventures!
Addendum: Other authors were of course influential as well. I name Leiber, Howard and Vance as ones who had the most impact but are most overlooked. There are other greats, such as Poul Anderson (who I could actually name as a fourth—his work heavily influenced Michael Moorcock), Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith. C. L. Moore (Catherine Moore), etc. (and of course Tolkien, although he is more "high fantasy," and needs no more credit). I recommend reading them as well if you are interested in the genre or the roots of the genre.
Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. Start with the award-winning story, "Ill Met in Lankhmar" from this volume. http://www.amazon.com/Fritz-Leibers-Ill-Met-Lankhmar/dp/1565048946
Robert E. Howard: Many printings exist of his Conan stories. Start with the story "The Tower of the Elephant." Here's one volume: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Conan-Cimmerian-Original-Adventures/dp/0345461517/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428013742&sr=1-3&keywords=conan+paperback
Jack Vance: The Dying Earth. Ignore the completely inaccurate hard sci-fi cover art of this edition: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Conan-Cimmerian-Original-Adventures/dp/0345461517/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428013742&sr=1-3&keywords=conan+paperback