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When I was reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. The best-known names in the emerging fantasy genre at that time were, besides J.R.R. Tolkien, authors such as Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter and a few writers off the mainstream including James Branch Cabell and E.R. Eddison. Out of more than four and a half decades of reading I have chosen my favorite top ten novels.
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I started translating English fiction into German while I was still a student at Cologne University. My doctoral dissertation on Fantasy: Theory and history of a literary genre (1981) was the beginning of a long-time preoccupation with this subject. Fortunately, my subsequent employer, Bastei Lübbe, allowed and enabled me to follow this up with some non-fiction book projects of my own. Two of them, naturally about Tolkien, are the inevitable result.
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Trying my hand at actually writing fantasy novels was a kind of self-experiment: I wanted to put into practice what I had researched in theory. I had to learn that editing or criticizing a novel was quite a different kettle of fish than writing them. Of course, I'd never dare comparing my novels to Tolkien's. But just as my other literary excursions into the realms of Norse and Celtic mythology it was exhilarating. I hope some of the fun I had is still felt in the stories themselves.