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New Worlds for Old

Lin Carter Justifies His Life as a Writer of Fantasy

Lynn Carter photo

As a fantasy writer, I am sometimes asked why I persist in limiting my talents to what has been charitably described as "fairy tales for grown-ups." Since I earn my living and support my family through the produce of my typewriter, such helpful persons argue, why do I not write for a larger audience, and reap some of the millions of dollars publishers lavish on whomever can or cares to write a VALLEY OF THE DOLLS or LOVE STORY? Surely I have nothing against the idea of making a million dollars? Those who argue thus have no real conception of just how difficult writing a novel can be, and what grisly drudgery it is to write something for which one has no real enthusiasm or interest.

I was once a wide-eyed kid drinking in the marvels of such splendid films as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and The Thief of Bagdad or lost in the fascinating pages of DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, MARY POPPINS and the "OZ" books. A little later, a gawky teenager, I gloried in the pages of Planet Stories, Weird Tales, Doc Savage, Unknown, and Captain Future. That little boy, and that fascinated teenager, live somewhere within me to this hour--nor would I have it otherwise.

This being so, it naturally followsa that I am most interested in writing the sort of fiction that first stirred and excited and enthralled me as a youngster, and which still entertains me and stretches my imagination to this day. It is not so much that I would not like to write a bestseller and make a million dollars and sell a book to the movies and appear on the Tonight Show. It is just that, by great good luck, I am able to earn a good living writing exactly the sort of thing I most want to write.

The problems--and the pleasures--of writing the imaginary world romance fascinate me. I have assiduously sought out the work of those writers who made this curious art their particular province. The list is not long, but it is a pantheon of brilliant creative talents. I reproduce it here for your amusement.

Of course, this is a list of personal favorites. It might well be argued that since we are talking about people who consciously wrote fiction, such earlier writers as Voltaire, or William Beckford, or George Meredith, or George MacDonald should be included--to say nothing of such contemporary fantasists as Jane Gaskell, T. H. White, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Michael Moorcock, Andre Norton, or John Jakes. Each connoisseur will have his or her own list of personal favorites. But the eighteen writers above seem to me to have devoted a major portion of their careers to the delicate art of world-making, to have done their best work in this genre, to have "specialized" therein and thus to have excelled.

Ken speaking now: Carter goes on to justify the significance of each of the writers on his list, but he has quit revealing things about himself, and so I cut short this essay. If you want to read it all, you will have to seek out NEW WORLDS FOR OLD (Ballantine, 1971). It is quite clear to me that Carter would like to be thought of as the 19th person on this list, and I believe he deserves the honor as much as anyone.

This all-star anthology of short fantasy includes Lin's own "Zingazar!" which begins thusly: They say in Simrana that long had the old sword slept in the great hall, and as it slept it dreamt of War. Simrana, of course, is Carter's own Dreamland, and it is consciously modeled on the work of Lord Dunsany--as was H. P. Lovecraft's. Seek it out and you shall be rewarded!

Ken St. Andre
Sept. 10, 1998