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Fantasy by Alan Dean Foster
Elephant shetani as carved by a Makonde artist

An elephantine form of the East African demons called shetani, as carved by a Makonde sculptor

In addition to his science fiction, Alan Dean Foster has written a lot of fantasy stories. From some of the things he's said, I get the distinct impression that he writes SF to nourish the mind and fantasy to nourish the soul. His fantasy is generally fairly light on character and plot, and very heavy on the world-building and the creativity. Which may not get him many awards, but makes for some mighty fine reading, in my opinion.

The Spellsinger series

Clothahump the wizard faced a dreadful problem: a terrible magic from our world that had been brought into his. So he sought for a wizard from our world - an en'geeniar - to counter this magic. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), what he got was a grad student named Jonathan Thomas Meriweather, whose job title was "apprentice sanitation engineer" and whose magic ability seemed nonexistent. Then Jon-Tom found that in Clothahump's world he was a magician - one who could make magic with music, a spellsinger.

The world of Spellsinger falls somewhere between traditional swords & sorcery fantasy and Terry Pratchett's Discworld: all the usual medieval-fantasy trappings are here, but often in a somewhat distorted form, and typically played for comedy as much as for drama. The result is quite serious and quite silly at the same time, and great fun to read if you're in the right mood for it.

  • SPELLSINGER
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-35647-6
    Clothahump the wizard has seen the future ... and it terrifies him. The Plated Folk are on the march, raising new armies to invade the warmlands where Clothahump lives. They also have a dreadful new magic from another world, one that Clothahump can't understand, and for a wizard of his power, that may be the most terrifying thing of all. So he reaches into that other world himself, seeking a wizard who can counter this magic. Unfortunately, what he gets is Jon-Tom Meriweather, grad student and amateur musician. However, Jon-Tom discovers soon that he is a wizard - a spellsinger who casts magic through his music. Now he must join Clothahump and a motley group of other warmlanders on a journey to raise the alarm and find a means of countering the Plated Folk's new magic, all while mastering the magic powers he never knew he had.
  • THE HOUR OF THE GATE
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-34181-9
    The menace of the Plated Folk draws ever closer, and Clothahump can't rest until he's found and recruited every possible ally. From the southern warmlander city of Polastrindu, the wizard leads Jon-Tom and his companions north, across the hostile grasslands of the Swordsward and then into - or rather under - the massive mountains called Zaryt's Teeth, to the lands of the Weavers and the Ironclouders.
  • THE DAY OF THE DISSONANCE
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-34363-3
    Clothahump the wizard is ill. If he dies, Jon-Tom will be forever stuck in this new world. So Jon-Tom finds his old friend Mudge the Otter, and together they set out on a journey to the far-off town of Crancularn, where the medicine Clothahump needs can be purchased at the Shop of the Aether and Neither. Unfortunately, a rival wizard by the name of Zancresta has heard of Jon-Tom's mission, and sets out to stop him. Pirates, bandits, overweight fairies, and other menaces also get in the way, and Jon-Tom and his friends must fight, think, and/or magick their way past each one in turn.
  • THE MOMENT OF THE MAGICIAN
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-32326-8
    A message from the wizard Oplode, in the far southern city of Quasequa, summons the wizard Clothahump to fight a dark sorcerer who has taken over the city. Clothahump is having none of it, though. But Jon-Tom believes the dark sorcerer Markus the Ineluctable may in fact be from his own world, and perhaps together they can get back to their own world. So after (again) finding Mudge the Otter, he sets out southward toward Quasequa. As usual, the way is filled with danger -- an animate heap of swamp muck, a hidden colony of aquatic Plated Folk, an island of mime-vines, and an eagle with dreams of conquest.
  • THE PATHS OF THE PERAMBULATOR
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-32679-8
    Reality in Clothahump's world has gone berserk, mostly because of a mysterious magician who has trapped one of the extramagical creatures called a perambulator. No one else can do anything about it, so Clothahump reckons he'll have to. So he, his apprentice Sorbl, Jon-Tom, and a handful of others (the koala with foresight is a nice touch) travel north to find and free the perambulator before its rage at being trapped destroys their entire world.
  • THE TIME OF THE TRANSFERENCE
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-30009-8
    While driving off a midnight raid on Clothahump's home, Jon-Tom breaks his duar, the musical instrument he needs to sing spells. He has no choice: he must travel far to the south and find Couvier Coulb, the only craftsman in the lands who can repair his duar. Along the way, he has to counter the usual range of menaces from this strange world: a pirate parrot, a gigantic snake, a village of ogres, and more. Oh, and Mudge the Otter fells in love.

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Journeys of the Catechist

In the Catholic Church, a catechist is someone who teaches the Faith by both word and example. "Journeys of the Catechist", Foster uses the word in a somewhat different way. Etjole Ehomba, the protagonist, is no churchman. He's a herdsman from a primitive tribe that lives by the sea. He rarely attempts to teach anything to anyone; he simply asks questions and leads by example. His goal in this journey is to fulfill the last wish of a dying man, who was washed up on the ocean shore near his village. The dying man sought to find and free a beautiful woman from the clutches of an evil sorcerer. Ehomba agrees to complete the man's mission. This simple promise takes him on a months-long journey across many alien lands, through encounters with many kinds of people, some human, some not. Also many kinds of animals and plants. Along the way he collects a small group of associates/companions. And in the end, he does find his goal.

  • CARNIVORES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Aspect Books
    ISBN: 0-446-60697-9

  • INTO THE THINKING KINGDOMS
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Aspect Books
    ISBN: 0-446-60804-1

  • A TRIUMPH OF SOULS
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Aspect Books
    ISBN: 0-446-60930-7

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One-off novels and anthologies

In addition to his various fantasy series, Foster has written a number of fantasy one-shot novels and short stories.

  • INTERLOPERS
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00847-X

  • INTO THE OUT OF
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Warner
    ISBN: 0-446-34559-8
    Alan Dean Foster's best venture into dark fantasy to date. In African mythology, shetani are small, dark, demonic creatures from the other-world called the Out Of. When the wall between this world and the Out Of weakens, the shetani can cross over and wreak havoc here. Now it will require three very special people to stop the shetani: an undercover FBI agent on leave, a night-shift phone saleswoman from Seattle, and a skilled Maasai laibon, or shaman. They must find the breach in the Out Of and seal it, before the shetani can complete their plans and trigger a global war. They travel from Washington to Nairobi, to the mystic mountain called Ol Doinyo Lengai, then on to a site deep in remote Tanzania, where they find the entrance to the Out Of. Foster is very good at building good stories based on native legends, and this is among the best of that sort that he's done.
  • KINGDOMS OF LIGHT
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Aspect Books
    ISBN: 0-446-61061-5
    The evil sorcerers called the Munducuru have invaded the Gowdlands and cast a hideous curse over the land, robbing it of all color. Worse, in the process they killed the greatest wizard in the Gowdlands, the only one who might have had a chance of countering the curse. Now the only hope left is the wizard's pets: the cats Mamakitty, Cezer, and Cocoa; the dog Oskar; the snake Samm; and the canary Taj. Transformed to humans by a last spell of their dead master, they have to find away to travel into the rainbow and through the kingdoms of light beyond, until they can find the means to break the curse.
  • MAD AMOS
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-39362-7
    Amos Malone, whom some call Mad, is a mountain man in the Old West. Like Jim Bridger or John Coulter, Malone roams the Old West looking for adventures. Unlike those others, the Old West that Mad Amos wanders is a magical place of demons, dragons, monsters, and magicians. This is not a novel; rather, it's an anthology of short stories starring Mad Amos, his horse "Worthless" of uncertain ancestry, and ... others. One or two of the stories are based on Amerind legends; another is a truly ghastly Feghoot; a couple more are tales of badmen getting their comeuppance. All of them are fun to read.

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