Friday, May 25, 2007


It has been reported in various Web spots (Jonathan Strahan, SF Scope, Andrew Wheeler [see May 22 & 23 entries], Publishers Weekly, Locus [see May 24th news entry]) that the US Science Fiction Book Club is undergoing major changes.

One of which is the early retirement of Ellen Asher, who recently became the editor with the longest tenure of any genre editor. (Bittersweet congratulations, I suppose.)

Editor Andrew Wheeler has stated he will still have a job, but rumors are flowing. Jonathan Strahan's above-linked post encapsulates why this is troublesome to both the genre and publishing in general.

Certainly, losing highly respected and knowledgeable editors like Asher and Wheeler has got to be a bad thing for the industry, and any contraction of the SFBC, which has a history of providing access to economical editions of new science fiction and fantasy direct to readers that stretches back to 1953, would be enormously disappointing. (Strahan)
The only caveat I will add to the excerpted quote is this: The SFBC has been offering economical (and convenient to obtain) editions of classics of the genre(s) for as long as I can remember in addition to the new stuff.

I've been a member on and off for about ten years and thought they offered some wonderful things to members and would be annoyed if things with the club would change for the worse. Most recently, I’ve received some of their books to review for Their omnibus volumes alone are what kept me coming back – at the time I bought it, there was no easier way to get The Compleat Dying Earth by Jack Vance. Quite frankly, the cover art by Brom was great, too and the SFBC version was around a couple of years before Tor did their Orb omnibus. I also discovered Sean Russel’s work through the nice River into Darkness duology-omnibus. Thanks to the SFBC, I was able to read all of the (then 5) books of Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series.

In addition to those omnibus editions, they started creating original books too. One of which was the fantastic Black Seas of Infinity collection of Lovecraft stories compiled by Andrew Wheeler. Their recent original anthologies, like the World Fantasy Award winning The Fair Folk and the Best Short Novels series edited by the aforementioned Jonathan Strahan were also fantastic books, ones initially ONLY available through the club. Sure, online retailers such as, and countless others no offer readers the ability to find books they want. But that takes a little bit of work, which can be fun but ultimately more time consuming and frustrating than anything else.

However, the SFBC, especially under the guidance of Ellen Asher and Andrew Wheeler (while I was a member) had the wonderful convenience offering new and classic books and wonderful prices – the 5 for $.01 promotion to join pays for itself in spades.

It isn’t clear what exactly will be happening to the SFBC in the coming days, weeks and year(s). One thing; however, is abundantly clear: the club as it has been known and loved is an important institution to the genre and where MANY fans and professionals had their first major exposure to the genre. Just read the comments at Jonathan Strahan’s blog post here.

I joined at one point and got my (then future) brother-in-law to join so I could get some books as part of the “refer-a-friend” deal and he could enjoy the benefits of membership. A couple of years passed and my membership lapsed. It wasn’t long before I joined again through my brother-in-law so I could sort of repay him. My brother-in-law and I are ten years apart so I thought this was really cool way for us to connect.

Speaking as a person who was laid of by a publisher as part of “corporate restructuring” I can sympathize with the plain fact that it sucks – because all that passion and dedication to the job seem to be forgotten. Regardless of what happens, I wish both Ellen and Andrew the best in whatever the foreseeable future brings them.

It should also be pointed out that the SFBC Blog Andrew Wheeler has been managing has become THE place for virtuall ALL the daily goings-on in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy: book happenings, movie happenings, news, reviews, interviews. Basically if it was happening in or tangentially related to SF, it was there. The fact that it hasn't been updated since Tuesday May 22nd is not a hopeful sign.

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