So, over at io9.com, Charlie Jane Anders is talking about these lists of the "50 essential epic fantasies," and how the lists reveal that a lot of people aren't really clear about the nature of epic fantasies.
I think she's missing the point.
It isn't that people don't know what an "epic fantasy" is...
It's that there simply aren't 50 essential ones. Period.
There just aren't enough titles to fill up these lists, and that's why books like Perdido Street Station and The Dragonlance Chronicles (God save me!) pop up in them.
Ironically, the list that actually contains the most interesting titles - Ian Sales' - is the one that Charlie singles out as containing the least epic fantasy.
Bottom line, there are maybe a dozen essential epic fantasies, especially if one accepts that an epic fantasy cannot be essential if it's also badly-written crap. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Far- [rest of title deleted at request of Mendelssohn's publicist and lawyer]. And series count as single works:
Lord of the Rings
The Once and Future King
Nine Princes in Amber through to The Courts of Chaos
A Wizard of Earthsea
Moorcock's Eternal Champion (or, if you're in a lighter mood, Lieber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser)
The Chronicles of Prydain
and the source material:
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Divine Comedy
How do you know I didn't just pull this list out of my a**?
Hey, I write the stuff.