Greetings from the Odinson,
Their names are legendary. They are the modern day masters of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and high adventure. These are the award-winning and fan-favorite writers along with many others that shape the worlds of modern day fiction. These names may have perfected the medium, but there exists a list of names that came before, a cabal of legendary writers whose genre-defining works paved the wave for our modern day heroes with bricks made of solid gold.
The Odinson Honors the Forefathers (and Mother) of Modern Day Genre Fiction
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) – Though she wrote other tales it is Frankenstein, or the Modern Day Prometheus (1818) which has assured her a place amongst the other legends on this list. Inspired by a summer she and her husband spent with the equally celebrated poet Lord Byron, the origins of Shelley’s novel are almost as legendary as the tale itself. About a mad genius who scoffs at the laws of nature and creates life by sewing together the parts of dead men and reanimating his monster using macabre science, Frankenstein explores the morality and the consequences of such an act. Mary Shelley’s tale has inspired and influenced so many including the Universal Monsters of the 1930s and 40s, comic books like Monster of Frankenstein and Creature Commandos, and countless other tales and mediums.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) – He may not have invented the action adventure, but you can bet your bottom dollar his name is synonymous with the genre. This is the writer that gave us such classics as The Three Musketeers (1844), The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), The Man in the Iron Mask (1847), and The Black Tulip (1850). His works may very well be one of the earliest examples of a shared universe. He was a master at taking real world historical events and using them as the backdrops for his powerful flights of fancy. And, he has one of the coolest names ever.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) – Way before Dean Kootnz, John Carpenter, and Stephen King, there was Edgar Allan Poe. With a legendary list of poems, short stories, and epics to his name, a list that includes The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Masque of the Red Death (1842), The Pit and the Pendulum (1842), The Black Cat (1843), The Tell-Tale Heart (1843), and Lenore (1843), Poe’s macabre work speaks for itself. Even if for some reason one were not familiar with these tales that helped make Vincent Price a mega movie star, one would be hard pressed to find an educated living being whose sleep has not been haunted once or twice by the sinister lines of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven (1845). “Nevermore…”
Jules Verne (1828-1905) – When it comes to pure high adventure mixed with the best that science fiction has to offer, one would be hard pressed to top the works of Jules Verne. With such classics as Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Around the World in 80 Days (1873), and Off on a Comet (1877), Verne not only assembled a resume that has stood the test of time, but he raised the bar and set a high standard for all other fiction writers that followed.
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) – Carroll’s Wonderland books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871), along with L. Frank Baum’s Oz Books were hugely influential in the evolution of children’s fantasy. Walt Disney owes a great amount of gratitude to these seminal works of fiction.
Bram Stoker (1847-1912) – Though it may not be the very first vampire story in literature, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) is, without a doubt, the most defining and influential vampire tale ever told. From Buffy to Twilight, True Blood to The Vampire Diaries, all modern day vampire fiction can trace its roots back to Bram Stoker’s original novel. When a centuries old creature of darkness empowered with all sorts of weird, macabre abilities arrives in England, it falls upon the brave shoulders of a small group of men and one woman to stop the fiend’s Machiavellian plans for world domination. Not only did Stoker’s Dracula create the definitive vampire character, but it also cast the mold for fiction’s very first super villain.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) – When it comes to adventure on the high seas, black sails, and treasure-hunting, it can hardly be argued that Stevenson did not define the genre with his classic stories Treasure Island (1881) and Kidnapped (1886). Not satisfied with simple dramatized pirate adventures, Stevenson took his storytelling one step further by adding elements of science fiction and horror in the pages of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Modern day box office sensation Pirates of the Caribbean can trace its roots back to the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Frank Baum (1856-1919) – Starting with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) and continuing with his OZ Book Series, a series that includes dozens and dozens of volumes, fourteen of which Baum did, L. Frank Baum along with Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books, would help define children’s fantasy for generations to come and have huge influences over modern day giant Disney.
H.G. Wells (1866-1946) – Before Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense were wowing audiences with twist endings and mind-blowing revelations, there was H.G. Wells. There are names and then there are NAMES among names. With a bibliography that includes The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1897), and The First Men on the Moon (1901), H.G. Wells is such a name. Even among the distinguished names on this list, his sticks out.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) – Most writers would be over the moon if they could create something that could stand the test of time, something that not only resonates in the time it was born, but even generations later with new readers and fans discovering it every day. Edgar Rice Burroughs is the father of two such creations – Tarzan and The Barsoom Series. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, is an iconic hero whose popularity in pop culture transcends decades with some form of adaptation, be it books, comic books, TV shows, or movies, still being produced to this very day. John Carter, the main protagonist of the Barsoom Series, is a legendary character in his own right and arguably a huge source of influence for the greatest super hero and biggest pop culture icon of them all – Superman.
H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) – This is a writer whose work is so influential that it created an entire subgenre all its own – The Cthulhu Mythos. With themes that include the forbidden knowledge, nihilistic dangers, and unyielding apocalyptic fates, Lovecraft’s writings have been revered as some of the most horrifying and tantalizing to date. If Stephen King is the Master of Horror and Edgar Allan Poe is the Godfather of Horror, then H.P. Lovecraft is the Father of Horror whose Cthulhuian tentacles squirm and reach out and influence all that came before and all that will ever come to pass.
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not just a masterpiece of storytelling, they are an international treasure that will and should be celebrated for eons to come. Tolkien’s writings combined with those of Robert E. Howard and the artwork of Frank Frazetta can be safely credited with the creation of modern day fantasy and the birth of Dungeons and Dragons. When the Alien Overlords finally decide we are worthy and come to visit us from beyond the stars, they will look down upon mankind, they will see what J.R.R. Tolkien created with his tales set in Middle Earth, and they will say, “Good job.”
Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) – He was a man whose real life was full of almost as much mystery and myth as his creations. Howard envisioned a fantasy world of monsters and maidens, wizards and dark gods. It was an age undreamed of – The Hyborian Age. And unto this age, Howard bore Conan the Barbarian. Conan is the mightiest, craftiest, most cunning, and bravest character in fantasy/sword and sorcery history. Along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the mind-blowing artwork of Frank Frazetta, the adventures of Conan can be said to have defined modern fantasy.
NOTE: Names like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and Charlotte Bronte are not included on this list for this is a list of the Forefathers (and Mother) of genres like science fiction, horror, and fantasy. William Shakespeare is also excluded for this is a list dedicated to novelist.
The most amazing thing about this list above is, even in some cases over a century later, how influential all these writers have been to this very day. Whether in comic books, on TV, in movies, and even in the writings of others, these Forefathers (and Mother) of Modern Genre Fiction have achieved something with their marvelous works of fiction very few ever will. They have achieved Immortality.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: The Odinson has written a book. It is my love letter to the slasher genre of the 1980s. For those interested, there are still a few FREE copies available to read online. Just follow this link – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale.