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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 2
Título: 1998

John CLUTE and John GRANT. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. NY: Saint. Martins Press, 1977, xvi + 1049 p. Introduction, Contributors, Abbreviations and Symbols. Cloth $ 29.95, Hardcover $75.00.

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by John Clute and John Grant, contributes a vast amount of knowledge and information for both the fantasy aficionado and novice. It provides a list of terms, movies, books, authors, and characters that are encompassed in the general scope of fantasy. Though opinionated, it is objective and it proffers itself as an essential reference for those who are serious advocates of fantasy.

For the authors, fantasy itself is a term that lacks any true definitive edges. Unlike its converse term, science fiction, it is not based on a specific structure. It is simply something that occurs outside of the normal world in which we find ourselves—the unrealistic. Something, then, would be fantasy if it were impossible for it to exist or occur in reality. To exist, it must occur in what are called “other worlds.” This leaves the general “reach” of fantasy indefinite, with what the authors describe as fuzzy borders that fade into water margins. Fantasy, then, is best defined by the examples that represent it.

The structure of the book follows in line with the definition. It focuses on the following basic categories of fantasy: Afterlife, Allegory, Dark Fantasy, Fabulation, Fairytale, Folklore, Horror, Science Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction, Surrealism, Taproot Texts, and Wonderlands. Its core coverage begins in the later part of the 18th century, but delves even farther into the past with a focus on such topics as fairy tales, folklore and myth, with numerous examples of authors and texts. These go as far back as Sanskrit Literature and Mesopotamian Epic. The coverage continues into the year 1996. The authors chose what they felt were the most important examples of fantasy and tried to include every angle with entries from Cinderella to Howard the Duck and from Love to Nostradamus.

All entries are not as equally in depth as are others. Some merely include a few words of explanation and, perhaps, a reference to other related topics. The entry of Comics spans seven pages of the book with in-depth citations of origins and examples. Godzilla, however, merely lists that it is a Japanese movie made in 1954. It seems that the root of this discrepancy lies in the criteria of the book itself. They did not attempt to cover every author of fantasy literature or every movie with fantasy element. Because fantasy is a word that lacks a hard definitive structure, what is considered to be fantasy, and important fantasy at that, had to be established by the authors. It is obvious that within the vast scope of Fantasy genre it s necessary to have some limit on what is included in the book. Sadly, the criteria for the selection process is not expressed by the authors and it is left up to the reader to ponder as to why particular authors are omitted and others included in what seems to be a fairly random selection process.

The entries are listed alphabetically in a dictionary style format. They include relevant information about the subject and can also include other works—if the entry is an author, other relevant topics, and capitalized words that are included in the book with their own definitions. For example, the entry of Robert Jordan begins with a small summary of the author and then lists his works that are relevant to the realm of fantasy. This is followed by a brief summary of their contents and then the thematic overview of his great epic series. Listed in its description are capitalized words that can be found in more detail as separate entries. What seems to be lacking from the entries, however, is more biographical data that would enhance what is already there. Perhaps a bit more in depth detail of how the book was written could be included—what influences, if any, contributed to the story line or ideas within its pages.

With a just few minor mistakes, on a whole the book is an excellent addition to any home or professional reference library. Its pages are filled with citations that lend themselves to easy understanding and general enjoyment.


Old Dominion University                                                                                                                                               ELISSA GOINS
Norfolk, Virginia