Recently, Peggy Hailey issued a
call to arms in these pages, lamenting the absence of books like the Del
Rey "Best of" series. Books which collected some of the best stories
by the giants of the genre and so not only showed us the field had developed
but also kept in print some of the best sf stories ever written. "So I'm
drawing a line in the sand," Peggy said, "throwing down the literary
gauntlet, as it were. I'm calling out the publishing industry, lining them up
against the wall, and taking aim . . . "
Good news, friends. We don't need a revolution to get the good stuff. Publishers
small and large are preserving it and presenting it to us in greater volume
and better editions than I have ever seen before. You won't find it in the supermarkets,
but since you are hip enough to have found Revolution SF, you will have no difficulty
going to the sources described below.
Years ago, the New England Science Fiction Association started publishing commemorative
volumes for the Boskone guest of honor. From that start has grown one of the
most respectable and I would say important publishing ventures in the field.
Del Rey's Best of Cordwainer Smith was a good collection of a great author,
but NESFA's The Rediscovery of Man gives you every short s-f story Smith
ever wrote. (Smith's one novel, Norstrilia, is available in a separate
volume.) Do you like hard s-f? NESFA has published three volumes of Hal Clement,
the standard by which hard s-f is judged, including five novels and nineteen
short stories. If you have, like I do, a sentimental attachment to Zenna Henderson's
People stories, you can get them all in Ingathering. On the other hand,
if well-written s-f adventure is what you are looking for, you could hardly
do better than First Contacts: The Essential Murray Leinster. These are
hardbound books printed on acid-free paper costing generally between $25 and
$29. This may seem a lot more than the old Del Rey collections, but bear in
mind that if those collection were republished today they would cost about $7
in the original format and $14 in trade editions. You can check out the entire
catalog at www.nesfa.org.
At the price, these are a steal.
Back when I was being introduced to science fiction as a kid, the magazines
had two sources of inside cover ad revenue: the Rosicrucians and the Science
Fiction Book Club. I haven't seen much from the Rosicrucians lately, but I can
testify that the SFBC is doing better than ever. They have more selections and
a greater diversity of offerings than ever before. Besides keeping up with contemporary
authors, they seem to make a conscious effort to keep alive the classics. Sometimes
these will be hardbound editions of books available only in paperback or not
at all. Browsing their website
recently, I found Zelazny's Lord of Light, Herbert's Dune, Williamson's
Darker Than You Think, and The Avram Davidson Treasury. The real
values, however, are in their omnibus volumes: all Doc Smith's Lensman novels
in two volumes; Jack Vance's Complete Dying Earth, in one volume; all
five of Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers novels in one volume. Book
club editions are usually half the cost of the publisher's editions. They provide
a convenient way for the discerning fan with limited financial resources to
upgrade his library of falling apart paperbacks.
The completists at NESFA have in some cases published the entire oeuvres of
their favorite authors in one volume (C.M. Kornbluth) or two (William Tenn,
Frederic Brown). These guys are pikers compared to Paul Williams and his colleagues
at the Theodore
Sturgeon Literary Trust, who have published so far seven handsome hardcover
volumes, complete with endnotes detailing the origins of each story. Buying
all of them may seem exorbitant unless, like me, you believe Sturgeon to be
the best writer this field has ever produced, and even then, the costs mount
up. A good thing, then, that they are reissuing the earlier volumes in less
expensive trade paperback editions. As a bonus, the site provides links to the
Vintage Books reissues of Sturgeon's novels.
There is a long standing problem which has become critical with the disappearance
of the mid-list. You publish a novel which gets a few good reviews and sells
moderately well. Then it sinks from sight and is never seen or heard of again.
Your publisher isn't interested in a new edition. What can you do? These days,
you can form your own publishing company, as the writers behind FoxAcre Press
have. Their initial offerings are a handsome set of trade paperbacks, which
include Robert Silverberg's Shadow on the Stars and Roger MacBride Allen's
Orphans of Creation as well as The Sins of the Fathers and Lifeboat
Earth by Stan Schmidt. (I have to mention Stan's books because he buys my
stuff for Analog. Sometimes.) Lawrence Watt-Evans Crosstime Traffic
is a collection which includes "Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers"
and is worth buying for that alone.
Four different publishing ventures. The NESFA Press and the Sturgeon Literary
Trust are labors of love, but executed with professional polish. The Science
Fiction Book Club is part of Big Publishing, but seems to be run by people who
truly know and love the field. FoxAcre Press is an experiment in intelligent
self-interest. Each is printing volumes worthy of your home or town libraries.
But what about Peggy's original complaint? What about the big publishers? Well,
what about them? We don't need them. A few years ago, an editor either from
TOR or NESFA told a con audience: "As long as the big publishers continue
not to do their jobs, my position is secure." We don't need to shoot the
big publishers. We can just ignore them. If we support ventures like those described
above, we will have access to more good science fiction than we have time to