Masters of Fantasy, edited by Bill Fawcett and Brian Tomsen; Baen, 2004. I think this book is misnamed: I think it includes works by only two “Masters” (Norton and Foster, though each are more masters of space opera in the non-pejorative sense, especially Foster) and several who are potentially “Masters”, along with a lot of extruded fantasy product. In practical terms, I only liked the stories by Norton, Asprin & Nye, Drake, Moon, and Weber. Several of the others were competently written, and the rest were extruded fantasy product. (Foster is definitely a “Master” of space opera, and I've liked his Spellslinger tales in the past, but this one did nothing for me.)
In the Introduction Thomsen talks about the difference between “category” fiction (he explicitly calls “category” a pejorative) and “genre” fiction. As far as I can tell, the difference is that “category” fiction's main venues for sales were the drug store and gas station (and probably, though he doesn't say this, the supermarket) wire racks and the fact that they sold relatively few copies, while “genre” fiction sold well and was respected by the publisher and bookseller and was treated as essentially a normal fiction book. Thomsen attributes the publishers' and booksellers' current “respect” for fantasy entirely to fantasy's ability to produce best sellers, and to this respect attributes the existence of the numerous small publishers specializing in the genre.
Frankly, I disagree. The publishing industry's “respect”, as always, is for bestsellers only, because they make the most money for the publisher, and they're perfectly happy to discard authors who are profitable but not bestellers. That's why there has been an increase in small publishers: they are the only ones willing to publish these profitable but not bestselling authors. The big publishers are more interested in gambling on who will produce the next bestseller, so they publish new authors and drop them unless they produce bestsellers. That's why the size if a print run for a typical fantasy book are smaller now than in the mid 70s: print a few, see if it becomes a best seller, and if not, don't print any more, regardless of whether it was profitable or not. Go for the pot of gold at the end of the bestseller rainbow and ignore the profitable small business along the side road.
“Introduction”, by Brian Thomsen.
“Out of the Deep”, A Valdemar story, by Mercedes Lackey.
“Earthborne”, A Witchworld story, by Andre Norton.
“Mything in Dreamland”, A Myth Adventures in Dreamland story, by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye.
“Race for the Sky”, A Bifrost story, by Mickey Zucker Reichert.
“Shademehr and the Old Wive's Tale”, A Shadamehr story, by Margaret Weis and Don Perrin.
“Serenade”, A Spellsinger story, by Alan Dean Foster.
“Child of Prophecy”, A War of Light and Shadow story, by Janny Wurts.
“The Afterlife of St. Vidicon of Cathode”, A Warlock story, by Christopher Stasheff.
“The Elf House”, An Isles story, by David Drake.
“Gifts”, A World of Paksenarrion story, by Elizabeth Moon. Moon has come a long way from her original, AD inspired, Paksenarrion books; this story makes me want to reread the first few to see how much of it was always there.
“The Amorous Broom”, A John Justin Mallory story, by Mike Resnick.
“Web of Deception”, A Bahzell story, by David Weber. Well, it's not really a Bahzell story, is it? It is set in the same world, and Bahzell appears as an important supporting character. Good all the same.
Kothar and the Wizard Slayer, by Gardner F. Fox; Unibook/Modern Promotions, 1970. I picked this up because of Ron Edwards' mention of Fox's Sword & Sorcery books in Sorcerer and Sword; I might read another of Fox's books if I ran across it, but I wouldn't search them out.
Drinker of Souls, by Jo Clayton; DAW, 1986; DAW Collectors Book No. 668. Jo Clayton's books always have interesting protagonists in hostile surroundings, and always make me appreciate the comparative safety of a well-run modern legal system; well worth rereading.
Zatôichi nidan-kiri, also know as The Blind Swordsman's Revenge, 1965; directed by Akira Inoue; writing by Minoru Inuzuka and Kan Shimozawa; starring Shintarô Katsu.