James Stoddart on Lin Carter

I met James Stoddart exactly once, at the convention when he was presented with the Crompton Crook award for excellence in fantasy, his book The High House. I have never met a more charming and unassuming man, one with whom I had so many shared interests. I deeply regret that he is not my nextdoor neighbor, so that we could spend our evenings talking over the back fence or sharing a barbeque or a cold beer.

high-houseThat year, I had just published my first Everness book, which stars a faerie-haunted house quite similar to the High House of Stoddard; so he and I joked that we should start a society of chroniclers of fantastical mansions, if only we could get Mr John Crowley to join us and lend dignity to the project.

He was instrumental in getting published my ‘Night Land’ short stories to the generous editor Andy Robertson’s webzine, which allowed me to buy a new refrigerator, stove and microwave.

With considerable emotion, I read http://www.beyond49.ca/Carter/stoddard_trib.html Mr Stoddart’s tribute to Lin Carter. His opinions are as mine; his words would be mine were I as articulate as he:

For those of us who grew up in the late 60s and early 70s the years between 1969 and 1974 were the golden years in fantasy literature. It was during this six year period that Ballantine Books, under the auspices of Editorial Consultant Lin Carter, introduced the “Sign of the Unicorn” line of Adult Fantasy books, a series which was to publish some of the finest fantasy ever written. Although the series was based on the success of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, most of the books were classics predating Tolkien and owing nothing to his influence. At that time, under the ownership of Ian and Betty Ballantine, Ballantine Books seemed more like a quality, niche-marketing house than a mass marketer. A deep love of books pervaded their titles.

I was fourteen when my high school English teacher handed out an order form containing, among other books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I had heard they were good, so I ordered all four volumes on a chance. Four dollars was not an insignificant sum in those days, but I had scarcely left Bag End with Bilbo before I knew I was on to Something Big.

At the back of the Tolkien books was a modest request form for Ballantine’s catalog of current titles. As memory serves, the catalog turned out to be a 9 by 12 inch, glossy, first-class brochure with pictures of the book covers in black and white. Soon I was ordering titles through the mail and searching for them in local bookstores.

Throughout each book, Lin Carter served as host and guide. He was much more than just the Consulting Editor of the titles. Drawing on his extensive reading of fantasy literature, he chose works of beauty and power and grace that burned into my young heart. Because of his enthusiasm, his spirited introductions became very much part of my reading experience. Although I never met him, never exchanged correspondence or heard him speak, he became my friend and my mentor, a man who understood a literature that was very important to me. It was as if we were two long acquaintances, the older and the younger, he pointing here and there saying: “Have you seen this? Did you notice that? Now, look here.”

Together we saw it all. I remember as Lin and I climbed onto the back of a reptilian shrowk to fly above the mountains of the Ifdawn Marest with Maskull and the wild and beautiful Oceaxe in David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus. Or when we stood by the cairn with Rhiannon in the world of The Mabinogion, the Welsh Iliad, through the works of Evangeline Walton, a quartet of books beginning with Prince of Annwn. Parched with thirst, Lin and I crossed the burning deserts of the dying continent Zothique and stood frozen in fear with Ralibar Vooz in the caves of Hyperborea with Clark Ashton Smith. We crept down the seven hundred onyx steps and beyond the Gates of Deeper Slumber with H.P. Lovecraft in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. We eyed one another in silent awe as we fled from the descending Powers of Evil, through the Utter Darkness toward the safety of the towering Great Redoubt of William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, that bizarre and beautifully flawed story of an earth whose sun has died. Swords in hand, we fought the bloody manticore upon Koshtra Pivrarcha with Lord Juss and Lord Brandoch Daha in E. R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, a work written with power and elegance in archaic English.

Exhausted, heads spinning, panting, we threw ourselves down to rest. But after a moment Lin and I looked at each other and nodded. He smiled and said, “Let’s do it all again.”

I would have followed him anywhere.

We trod the dusty roads to Utterbol to The Well at the World’s End with a genuine Renaissance man in both the arts and literature, William Morris, who might well be called the father of modern fantasy. Lin and I donned masks and gave chase through the streets of turn-of-the- century London in G. K. Chesterton’s farcical The Man Who was Thursday and pondered detective’s mysteries in Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors. …

I, too, recall the shrowk and the wild and beautiful Oceaxe; I recall Rhianon, and the wasteland of Zothique; I, too, trod the onyx steps of the Gates of Deeper Slumber, and know the fear and terror of the Utter Darkness beyond the Last Redoubt; and I recall the manticore.

Thank you, James. And farewell, Lin Carter.

I, too, Mr. Carter, would have followed you anywhere, to Arcturus, the Isles of the Mighty, to the dying world and the world after death and the gates of Ziamavia where it is feigned the ghosts of heroes beloved of the gods do battle unwearing forever.

I will not say I would follow you to the ends of the Earth, since that was but the starting point of our strong flight on the many-colored wings of hippogriff far beyond the fields we know.


For those of you who are interested in Pre – Tolkien fantasy, I reprint here a list compiled by the Haunted Bibliophile:


Series Preface

The following titles were not part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series proper, but were published (or planned) before Lin Carter came aboard as a consultant for Ballantine. Carter has stated that he would have urged Ballantine to publish them if they hadn’t already (and in fact, many have had the Unicorn’s Head colophon added in later printings). Anyone collecting the series should consider pursuing these titles.

THE HOBBIT, J.R.R. Tolkien. August, 1965.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, J.R.R. Tolkien. October, 1965.
THE TWO TOWERS, J.R.R. Tolkien. October, 1965.
THE RETURN OF THE KING, J.R.R. Tolkien. December, 1965.
THE TOLKIEN READER, J.R.R. Tolkien. September, 1966.
THE WORM OUROBOROS, E.R. Eddison. April, 1967.
MISTRESS OF MISTRESSES, E.R. Eddison. August, 1967.
A FISH DINNER IN MEMISON, E.R. Eddison. February, 1968.
THE ROAD GOES EVER ON, J.R.R. Tolkien & Donald Swann. October, 1968.
TITUS GROAN, Mervyn Peake. October, 1968.
GORMENGHAST, Mervyn Peake. October, 1968.
TITUS ALONE, Mervyn Peake. October, 1968.
A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS, David Lindsay. November, 1968.
THE LAST UNICORN, Peter S. Beagle. February, 1969.
THE MEZENTIAN GATE, E.R. Eddison. April, 1969.

NOTE: Of these 16 titles, 6 that I know of had Unicorn Heads attached in later printings: THE WORM OUROBOROS, TITUS GROAN, GORMENGHAST, TITUS ALONE, A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS, and THE LAST UNICORN. This has caused some confusion as to whether they really are a part of the series or not. Some of these reprints were out by the time Carter compiled his series list and he didn’t include them, so I’m toeing his line. Having said that though, I think anyone trying for a complete set should try to get all six of these earlier titles in their Unicorn Head printings. Something else worth noting is THE LAST UNICORN and THE MEZENTIAN GATE state “A BALLANTINE ADULT FANTASY” on the front cover by the spine in their first printings, in apparent anticipation of the start of the series proper (the agreement for Carter to edit the Series having been signed 11/22/68).

The Series

In the back of IMAGINARY WORLDS, a “look behind adult fantasy” volume, Lin Carter provided a listing of what titles had been published in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series up to that point. That list is provided here, and expanded to cover the series to its conclusion.


1. THE BLUE STAR, Fletcher Pratt. May.
3. THE WOOD BEYOND THE WORLD, William Morris. July.
4. THE SILVER STALLION, James Branch Cabell. August.
5. LILITH, George Macdonald. September.
6. DRAGONS, ELVES, AND HEROES, Lin Carter, ed. October.
7. THE YOUNG MAGICIANS, Lin Carter, ed. October.
8. FIGURES OF EARTH, James Branch Cabell. November.
9. THE SORCERER’S SHIP, Hannes Bok. December.


10. LAND OF UNREASON, Fletcher Pratt & L. Sprague de Camp. January.
11. THE HIGH PLACE, James Branch Cabell. February.
12. LUD-IN-THE-MIST, Hope Mirrlees. March.
13. AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, Lord Dunsany. March.
14. PHANTASTES, George Macdonald. April.
16. ZOTHIQUE, Clark Ashton Smith. June.
17. THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT, George Meredith. July.
18. THE ISLAND OF THE MIGHTY, Evangeline Walton. July.
19. DERYNI RISING, Katherine Kurtz. August.
20. THE WELL AT THE WORLD’S END, Vol. 1, William Morris. August.
21. THE WELL AT THE WORLD’S END, Vol. 2, William Morris. September.
22. GOLDEN CITIES, FAR, Lin Carter, ed. October.
23. BEYOND THE GOLDEN STAIR, Hannes Bok. November.


24. THE BROKEN SWORD, Poul Anderson. January.
25. THE BOATS OF THE `GLEN CARRIG’, William Hope Hodgson. February.
26. THE DOOM THAT CAME TO SARNATH, H.P. Lovecraft. February.
27. SOMETHING ABOUT EVE, James Branch Cabell. March.
29. HYPERBOREA, Clark Ashton Smith. April.
31. VATHEK, William Beckford. June.
32. THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, G.K. Chesterton. July.
33. THE CHILDREN OF LLYR, Evangeline Walton. August.
34. THE CREAM OF THE JEST, James Branch Cabell. September.
35. NEW WORLDS FOR OLD, Lin Carter, ed. September.
36. THE SPAWN OF CTHULHU, Lin Carter, ed. October.
37. DOUBLE PHOENIX, Edmund Cooper & Roger Lancelyn Green. November.
38. THE WATER OF THE WONDEROUS ISLES, William Morris. November.
39. KHALED, F. Marion Crawford. December.


40. THE WORLD’S DESIRE, H. Rider Haggard & Andrew Lang. January.
41. XICCARPH, Clark Ashton Smith. February.
42. THE LOST CONTINENT, C.J. Cutcliffe-Hyne. February.
43. DISCOVERIES IN FANTASY, Lin Carter, ed. March.
44. DOMNEI, James Branch Cabell. March.
45. KAI LUNG’S GOLDEN HOURS, Ernest Bramah. April.
46. DERYNI CHECKMATE, Katherine Kurtz. May.
47. BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW, Lord Dunsany. May.
48. THE THREE IMPOSTERS, Arthur Machen. June.
49. THE NIGHT LAND, Vol. 1, William Hope Hodgson. July.
50. THE NIGHT LAND, Vol. 2, William Hope Hodgson. July.
51. THE SONG OF RHIANNON, Evangeline Walton. August.
52. GREAT SHORT NOVELS OF ADULT FANTASY #1, Lin Carter, ed. September.
53. EVENOR, George Macdonald. November.


54. ORLANDO FURIOSO: The Ring of Angelica, Volume 1, Translation by Richard Hodgens. January.
55. THE CHARWOMAN’S SHADOW, Lord Dunsany. February.
56. GREAT SHORT NOVELS OF ADULT FANTASY #2, Lin Carter, ed. March.
57. THE SUNDERING FLOOD, William Morris. May.

NOTE: Lin Carter’s list stops here.

58. IMAGINARY WORLDS, Lin Carter. June.
59. POSEIDONIS, Clark Ashton Smith. July.
60. EXCALIBUR, Sanders Anne Laubenthal. August.
61. HIGH DERYNI, Katherine Kurtz. September.
62. HROLF KRAKI’S SAGA, Poul Anderson. October.
63. THE PEOPLE OF THE MIST, H. Rider Haggard. December.


64. KAI LUNG UNROLLS HIS MAT, Ernest Bramah. February.
65. OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY, Lord Dunsany. April.

Honorable Mention

MERLIN’S RING, H. Warner Munn. June, 1974.

NOTE: This book has all the right attributes, the Lin Carter introduction, the Gallardo cover art- it’s just missing the Unicorn’s Head colophon. Surely a left-over from the series proper.

PRINCE OF ANNWN, Evangeline Walton. November, 1974.

NOTE: Another left-over, but this time there is no introduction by Lin Carter. A necessary title as it completes the Mabinogi cycle started and continued by Walton’s three books issued under the Unicorn’s Head colophon.