Monday, December 4, 2017

Lin Carter’s Lost Juvenile Fantasy Series: Magic Kingdoms

Fantasiae was, according to its initial subtitle, the “monthly newsletter of the Fantasy Association,” based out of Los Angeles. The first issue was dated April 1973, and the final issue was no. 103 (volume 9 no. 10) from October 1981. The editor for the entire run was Ian M. Slater, who also contributed many articles and book reviews.

In the fourth issue, July 1973, Cory Panshin had a letter which noted:

“From what I’ve observed, the recent spate of children’s quality paperbacks hasn’t been very heavy on fantasy. I wonder if the Fantasy Association includes anyone with publishing connections to do a reprint program of children’s fantasy similar to what Lin Carter has done for Adult Fantasy with Ballantine?”

The editor replied: “Lin Carter has mentioned Magic Kingdom Books ‘for younger readers’ several times since early 1972.”

In fact, Carter mentioned this planned series in one of his Introductions to an Adult Fantasy selection. In Evenor by George MacDonald, published in September 1972, Carter wrote:

“With the publication of this book we have exhausted the adult fantasy of George MacDonald. But those of you who find pleasure and excitement in his work need not despair. For we are launching a companion series of classic fantasy novels for children which we have named ‘Magic Kingdoms.’ Among the first of our Magic Kingdom books you will find George MacDonald’s most famous children’s fantasy novel, The Princess and the Goblin. Each year, among our annual Magic Kingdom releases, we hope to include a George MacDonald fantasy, so that eventually we will have all of his fantasy, both adult and juvenile, in print at the same time.”

Cory Panshin’s letter, and Ian M. Slater’s editorial comment, brought forth a very interesting reply from Lin Carter himself, outlining the plans for the series. It was published in issue no. 5, August 1973.

“Cory Panshin’s letter in Fantasiae #4 asks for someone to revive children’s fantasy on a scale similar to what I have been doing at Ballantine over the last five years. Your note to her letter alludes to my ‘Magic Kingdoms’ series. Permit me to say a few words about this proposed series.

“Two years ago I suggested Ballantine launch a series of children’s fantasy classics as a sort of spin-off to the Adult Fantasy series. Mrs. Ballantine instantly recognized it as a good idea and the title ‘Magic Kingdoms’ was tentatively chosen for the program. I wanted to do seven or eight large-sized paperbacks a year, some old classics and some new books of quality. The series would have a special colophon and I would write afterwords to be put at the end of the books, since I wanted nothing to stand between the kinds and the beginning of the story.

“I planned to eschew over-familiar classics in favor of equally deserving but less easily available books—Mary de Morgan’s fairy tales, rather than those of Andersen or Grimm—The Rose and the Ring or The Cuckoo Clock rather than Alice or Peter [Pan].

“For the first schedule I chose Andrew Lang’s Prince Prigio, George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, Ting-a-Ling Tales by Frank Stockton, L. Frank Baum’s Sea Fairies, E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, and a new book called The Face in the Frost by a new writer named John Bellairs. I also planned to launch the series with a keynote anthology called, most appropriately, Magic Kingdoms.

“The thing is, you see, I love children’s fantasies every bit as much as I do the superior adult works in the genre, and I was eager to revive delightful fantasies like The Tale of the Land of Green Ginger, Sylvie and Bruno, and the fairy tales of Mrs. Molesworth and Oscar Wilde. (Who besides me knows such delicious books as Rocking Island, The Treasure of the Isle of Mist, Sky High, The Three Mulla-Mulgars, and The Amazing Vacation? If you do, then you know exactly the sort of book I hoped to get back in print.)

“Mrs. Ballantine went ahead and designed a unique form for the series, and has in fact three superb paintings and interior illustrations for three of the books. However, by the time all this had been done, it appeared that there might be problems at Intext [Intext owned Ballantine Books since circa November 1969] and the program was shelved for the time being. The new ownership (Random House [who bought Ballantine Books from Intext circa April 1973]) is still too new to immediately become committed to a while program of juvenile publishing which would be a completely different departure for Ballantine.

“The whole thing is still up in the air. It has neither been approved or disapproved, but lies dormant.

“I still think we could put together and beautifully illustrate a quality line of classic fantasies for juveniles which in my opinion could fine an enthusiastic audience, and I would love the opportunity to infect a whole generation of younger readers with the kind of sparkling, fairy-kingdom story that please and continues to please me.”

The proposed Magic Kingdoms series did not more forward at all. Here follows a list, alphabetically by author, of what can be pieced together about Carter’s proposed selections:

Baum, L. Frank. Sea Fairies [Originally published in 1911.]

Bellairs, John. The Face in the Frost [Originally published in hardcover in 1969. Ace published a mass-market paperback in 1978.]

Carroll, Lewis. Sylvie and Bruno [Originally published in 1889. Carter would likely have also published the continuation, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893).]

Carter, Lin, ed. Magic Kingdoms [Proposed anthology. Carter noted in Imaginary Worlds, published in June 1973, that John Bellairs “has produced for my yet-unpublished anthology of juvenile fantasy, entitled Magic Kingdoms, a new short story which tells how his diabolic duo [Prospero and Roger Bacon, characters from The Face in the Frost] first became friends” (p. 167).]

de la Mare, Walter. The Three Mulla-Mulgars [Originally published in 1910. Retitled in some editions, beginning in 1927, as The Three Monkeys.]

de Morgan, Mary. Fairy-tales [de Morgan’s three volumes of fairy-tales included
On a Pincushion and Other Fairy Tales (1877), The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde (1880), and The Windfairies (1900). These volumes were collected in 1963 as The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde: The Complete Fairy Stories of Mary de Morgan. Roger Lancelyn Green introduced the volume.]

Green, Roger Lancelyn. [In Double Phoenix, two unrelated novellas respectively by Edmund Cooper and Roger Lancelyn Green, published in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in November 1971, Carter noted that Green’s novella, “From the World’s End,” was “probably just the first work by Roger Lancelyn Green you will see in the years to come under the Sign of the Unicorn’s Head.” Green is known to have submitted to Carter three of his unpublished children’s fantasies, The Wood That Time Forgot (written 1944, revised 1949); The Castle in Lyonesse (written 1950, revised 1956), and The City of the Tiger, a sequel to The Land of the Lord High Tiger (published in 1958). All three of these short novels by Green remain unpublished, though I included the a chapter of The Wood That Time Forget in my anthology Tales Before Narnia (2008), as the book had been an influence on C.S. Lewis, inspiring him to write the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia.]

Hodges, C. Walter. Sky High: The Story of a House That Flew [Originally published in 1947.]

Lang, Andrew. Prince Prigio [Originally published in 1889.]

Langley, Noel. The Tale of the Land of Green Ginger [Originally published in 1937.]

Love, Edwin M. Rocking Island [Originally published in 1927.]

MacDonald, George. The Princess and the Goblin [Originally published in 1872. Presumably Carter would carry on with its sequel, The Princess and Curdie (1883), and other of MacDonald’s shorter fairy tales, and perhaps At the Back of the North Wind (1871).]

Molesworth, Mrs. The Cuckoo Clock [Originally published in 1877. Carter probably intended to reprint more of her fairy-tales.]

Nesbit, E. Five Children and It. [Originally published in 1902.]

Stockton, Frank R. Ting-a-Ling Tales [Originally published in 1882.]

Tarn, W.W. The Treasure of the Isle of Mist [Originally published in 1919.]

Thackery, William Makepeace. The Rose and the Ring [Originally published in 1855 as by M. A. Titmarsh.]

Wickenden, Dan. The Amazing Vacation [Originally published in 1956.]

Wilde, Oscar. Fairy-tales [Wilde’s two volumes of fairy tales were The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1891).]

1 comment:

  1. Naturally, one starts to think of additional titles that might have fit in with a series like this. Had the series managed to stay in print long enough, it might have attracted interest from homeschooling families. My guess is that these books would tend to be a bit more sophisticated in vocabulary, and a bit more British, than the run of children's and YA literature produced in the past few decades, and librarians might have resisted them a bit for that reason. But the homeschoolers have often been in touch with one another. Back in the 1990s or so, there was an attractive little journal called, if I remember correctly, In Print, from the people who (eventually) produced a series called Bethlehem Books. They were Roman Catholics but not very sectarian, at least at the time I'm thinking of. They might have hailed Magic Kingdoms warmly. Ballantine could have sent complimentary copies to homeschool associations in larger cities.

    But it wasn't to be.