As a novelist, Stephen King needs no introduction. He is perhaps the bestselling, most widely read horror author of all time and among living writers he has no equal in any genre in terms of success, popularity and influence. What is perhaps less well known is that King not only writes fantasy novels, as well as the horror for which he is best known, but he is also an avid reader and fan of fantasy fiction. It was in fact an early reading of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that led in part to the creation of King’s own fantasy epic, The Dark Tower series. Far from being a mere side interest The Dark Tower actually stands at the heart of King’s imaginarium – as he has said on many occasions, this series is not only King’s magnum opus, it is the glue that binds together his entire literary output. In his own mind every single story that King has written is connected, even if there is no evidence in the story itself of this connection, and this makes The Dark Tower a very intriguing series indeed for any self-respecting King fan. Incorporating themes from multiple genres, including fantasy, science fantasy, horror and westerns, The Dark Tower has almost as many sources: the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning, Arthurian legends, the films of Sergio Leone and the aforementioned Lord of the Rings have all, at one time or another, been cited as influences on King. In spite of this, The Dark Tower is one of the most original, compelling and downright frightening works of fantasy ever written. It is also, even eight books later, far from finished.
Fans of vampire fiction may be interested to hear about a genre which does not feature angsty teenaged bloodsuckers or bodice-ripping paranormal romance. In fantasy novels, vampires tend to be more elegaic and horrifying figures than those who appear in more mainstream horror novels and for this reason I find the sub-genre of vampire fantasy fascinating. Although there are not a lot of examples of such novels around, the originality and power of those that do exist makes me wonder why more contributions have not been made to this genre. Perhaps the best examples that I can think of are Jack Yeovil’s creation The Vampire Genevieve, Sarah Ash’s Tears of Artamon trilogy, Oliver Johnson’s Lightbringer trilogy and the fantasy game worlds of White Wolf’s World of Darkness, TSR’s Ravenloft and Games Workshop’s Warhammer. It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that the most famous fantasy world of the lot – Middle Earth – also has vampires in it!