Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Today: Tales Before Narnia edited by Douglas A. Anderson

In many respects, this seems like the collection that real SF/F aficionados -- and those who love the history of the twinned genres -- have been waiting for. Editor Douglas A. Anderson -- a recognized expert on all things Hobbity -- here takes on the very history and roots of the form. Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction (Del Rey) explores the stories that fired C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and others. In total, 14 novels and several short stories.

“Many of Lewis’s inspirations can be traced to his wide reading,” writes editor Douglas A. Anderson. In Surprised by Joy (1956) an autobiography of his early life, Lewis noted that one of the experiences forming his pleasure in literature occurred when as a youth he read the poem ‘Tegnér’s Drapa’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”

It’s great to read about that in Anderson’s introduction, but it’s also great to then be able to look not far ahead and find “Tegnér’s Drapa” and sample the poem for yourself. (“I saw the pallid corpse of the dead sun borne through the Northern sky.”) In all, 21 works Anderson considers important to Lewis’ development as an author, including writing by Hans Christian Andersen, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien and others.

The publication of the book is meant to tie in with the second Chronicles of Narnia film, Prince Caspian, starring Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard and others and due to be released by Disney Pictures May 16th.

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