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G. W. Thomas Presents


by Per J. Okerstrom

Late in the summer of 1968 the publishing team of Betty and Ian Ballantine recognized that the success of their edition of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit might just be the tip of the proverbial untapped adult fantasy iceberg. The Ballantines were extremely happy over the sales if The Lord of the Rings but were dismayed to learn that many of the younger, less-read entusiasts believed that this remarkable novel was without precedent and in all likelihood would never be surpassed! This, despite the strong tradition of the earlier pulps, who milked the river of classic fantasy for all it was worth during the 1920’s-1950s.

In an effort to capitalize on the growing demand for this “new” type of fiction, the Ballantines teamed up with Lin Carter, as consultant, to produce a series of books of adult fantasy for adult readers. Through the efforts of the Ballantines many of the more celebrated works of fantasy saw their first mass market publication. Works by Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, H. Rider Haggard and William Hope Hodgson all saw print, work that while hardly unknown was not to be found cluttering up the racks at the local drugstore.

 I was lucky enough to enjoy the riches of the 1960’s, though not its terrors.I was once one of those young enthusiastssearching for material in the same vein as Professor Tolkien. I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of Fletcher Pratt’s novel The Blue Star. Boldly strung across the top was the catch phrase “in the tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien”. I was hooked!  Here was anovel that held many wonders. Set on the high seas and carrying the trappings of the mystical Orient, a tale of thieves and maidens and magical gems. I think I devoured it in one sitting.

Looking farther I discovered that though this edition was a second printing it contained a fly-leaf where one could conceiveably order many other similar works. With this tool in hand, I managed to find Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword and William Morris’ The Well at the World’s End, Hyne’s The Lost Continent, and a book edited by Lin Carter, Discoveries in Fantasy.

 My vision of what Fantasy was all about was permanently skewed. Then it was I discovered H. P. Lovecraft—with wide-spread and gelid-coated arms. I remember traversing the great cold void to join Randolph Carter’s Dream-Quest. I, too, held the Silver Key and found out what secrets were held in the High House in the Mist.

Ballantine Books at this time upped the Fantasy stakes by releasing and in some cases re-releasing books that they now had created a market for. Peter S. Beagle’s wondrous fantasy The Last Unicorn and a uniform edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos—the last replete with very garish covers by John Holmes. The kind of covers that caused my folks to wonder just what kind of crap was their young impressionable son reading? (A view they still wonder about.)

I gathered and read many of the Fantasies that carried the Unicorn head colophon and all held various wonders. Some were a little dated and required a lot of concentration to read, where others carried you off with nary a moment’s hesitation. I heartily recommend hunting up these treasures in second hand shops if only to reassure yourself that Fantasy isn’t always filled with cliche puns about the color of anyone’s panties or tied to a major gaming company.

“... when the series first began I felt a degree of heady euphoria ... I could rediscover and reprint anything virtually, because I was the expert and the publisher was simply the enthusiast. So I began to think of Cabell, Dunsany, William Morris, George Macdonald, and my original list of books to reprint was about sixteen ... The publishers felt that if they could make the readers understand that this stuff was like The Lord of the Rings that the same readership, all those millions of college kids out there, would buy it. So in direct ratio to how much it was like Tolkien it sold well.”
                                                                                                                   —Lin Carter (Fantastic V26 #1)

Precursors to the Series

• The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, August 1965
• The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, October 1965
• The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien, October 1965
• The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien, December 1965
• The Tolkien Reader by J. R. R. Tolkien, September 1966
• The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddidson, April 1967
• Mistress of Mistresses by E. R. Eddison, August 1967
• A Fish Dinner in Memison by E. R. Eddison, February 1968
• The Road Goes Ever On by J. R. R. Tolkien and Donald Swann, October 1968
• Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, October 1968
• Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, October 1968
• Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake, October 1968
• A Voyage to Arcturus* by David Lindsay, November 1968
• The Last Unicorn* by Peter S. Beagle, February 1969
• Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien, March 1969
• The Mezentian Gate by E. R. Eddison, August 1969

* These titles showed up later under the Unicorn colophon

The Ballantine Fantasy Series

• The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt, May
• The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, June
• The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris, July
• The Silver Stallion by James Branch Cabell, August
• Lilith by George MacDonald, September
• Dragons, Elves and Heroes edited by Lin Carter, October
• The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter, October
• Figures of Earth by James Branch Cabell, November
• The Sorcerer’s Ship by Hannes Bok, December

• Land of Unreason by Fletcher Pratt & L. Sprague de Camp, January
• The High Place by James Branch Cabell, February
• Lud-In-the-Mist by Hope Mireless, March
• At the Edge of the World by Lord Dunsany, March
• Phantastes by George Macdonald, April
• The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft, May
• Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith, June
• The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith, July
• The Island of the Mighty by Evangeline Walton, July
• Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz, August
• The Well At the World’s End Vol. 1, by William Morris, August
• The Well At the World’s End Vol. 2 by William Morris, September
• Golden Cities, Far edited by Lin Carter, October
• Beyond the Golden Stair by Hannes Bok, November

• The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, January
• The Boats of ‘Glen Carrig’ by William Hope Hodgson, February
• The Doom That Came To Sarnath by H. P. Lovecraft, February
• Something About Eve by James Branch Cabell, March
• Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant, March
• Hyperborea by Clark Ashton Smith, April
• Don Rodriquez: Chronicles of Shadow by Lord Dunsany, May
• Vathek by William Beckford, June
• The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton, July
• The Children of Llyr by Evangeline Walton, August
• The Cream of the Jest by James Branch Cabell, September
• New Worlds For Old edited by Lin Carter, September
• The Spawn of Cthulhu edited Lin Carter, October
• Double Phoenix by Edmund Cooper and Roger Lancelyn Green, November
• The Water of the Wondrous Isles by William Morris, November
• Khaled by F. Marion Crawford, December

• The World’s Desire by H. Rider Haggard & Andrew Lang, January
• Xiccarph by Clark Ashton Smith, February
• The Lost Continent by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne, February
• Discoveries in Fantasy edited by Lin Carter, March
• Domnei by James Branch Cabell, March
• Kai Lung’s Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah, April
• Deryni Checkmate by Katherine Kurtz, May
• Beyond the Fields We Know by Lord Dunsany, May
• The Three Imposters by Arthur Machen, June
• The Night Land Vol. 1 by William Hope Hodgson, July
• The Night Land Vol. 2 by William Hope Hodgson, July
• The Song of Rhiannon by Evangeline Walton, August
• Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy #1 edited by Lin Carter, September
• Evenor by George Macdonald

• Orlando Furioso: The Ring of Angelica Vol. 1 translated by Richard Hodgens, January
• The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany, February
• Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy #2 edited by Lin Carter, March
• The Sundering Flood by William Morris, May
• Imaginary Worlds edited by Lin Carter, June
• A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay, July

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