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Blindfolds and Cigarettes: NESFA, SFBC, Sturgeon, FoxAcre Press
© Robert R. Chase

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.

FoxAcre Press

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 read.

Robert R. Chase is the author of three published s-f novels. A dozen or so of his short stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov's.

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