Arts: The Fantasy League

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The Independent Culture
JRR Tolkien: The grandaddy of 20th-century fantasy. The Lord of the Rings set the standard for the genre, creating a self-contained world. One of the most popular books ever, it is generally loathed by literary critics.

Michael Moorcock: Passionate and prolific, Moorcock is a difficult writer to classify. But his Eternal Champion series, set in a multitude of worlds, ages and dimensions is a classic work, sometimes dark and filled with profound reflections on fate.

Stephen Donaldson: A more straightforward writer whose major works are centred around Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. Torn from a quiet existence on Earth, Covenant finds himself a key player in a world where good and evil battle for supremacy.

Terry Pratchett: The Discworld novels are one of the big success stories of the decade. It is not so much sword and sorcery, as satire and cynicism. Magic abounds, but with a twist, and many "mythical" characters exhibit traits clearly recognisable in contemporary Western society.

Ursula Le Guinn: One of the few top female writers in the fantasy stakes, Le Guinn has also had a better critical reaction than most writers in the field. Her world is one of magic and metaphysics, with powerful forces all around.

Robert E Howard: His work was largely ignored in his lifetime. But he gave the world Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, enabling muscle-bound men and scantily-dressed women to make terrible films.