Fantastic Worlds is a useful anthology for beginners and long-time fans. Review by S.K. Slevinski
Edited by Eric S. Rabkin, Fantastic Worlds is an anthology of classic literature in the major alternative reality genres, designed to capture the scope of this literature as well as to give it a scholarly treatment.
Called "literature of the fantastic" by Rabkin, the works anthologized in this volume represent a collection of stories from classic authors, diverse mythologies and more modern writers. In his introduction, Rabkin attempts a scholarly analysis of these many varieties of literature of the fantastic—a task often overlooked by literature scholars. His treatment of this literature is novel, and readers of the academic mindset should find his theoretical essays intriguing. Fans not so interested in the scholarly conversation will find Rabkin's analysis accessible, but it is only his introduction, and the majority of this volume serves simply as a collection of great fiction, both historical and modern. Fans of alternative reality fiction will thoroughly enjoy paging through the old favorites and rarer classics assembled here by Rabkin.
This book is an excellent introduction to literary fiction for those unfamiliar with the roots of their favorite genres. However, it also provides an excellent collection of favorites for knowledgeable fans who would like to take a return tour in one handy volume (my paperback copy is not over 400 pages). This collection opens with a selection of myths from various cultures, including a few from Ovid. Next Rabkin brings us a selection of folktales, including fables and fairy tales from around the world. Then he includes some "Fantasy" greats, including stories from Lewis Carroll and James Thurber. Sections on "Horror" and "Ghost Stories" include selections from Poe, Lovecraft and Ambrose Bierce. Poe, in fact, appears many times throughout this volume in a variety of categories, so his devotees should be pleased with the offerings; writers of alternative reality fiction would also be wise to take a look, as Poe is a forerunner and master of the modern short story. A small section on "Heroic Fantasy" includes William Morris and Sylvia Townsend Warner. "Science Fiction" is covered by a variety of classic authors, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut and Arthur C. Clark. Finally, a section termed "Modern Fantasy" boasts stories and excerpts by Kafka and Calvino, among several others.
Alternative reality fans who have read mostly modern authors with enjoy this tour of pioneers and classics. But this collection is also worthy of well-versed fans eager to revisit their favorites and discover rarer classics.
S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.