Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis)

Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis)

martin-h-greenberg-paperback-lot-small

That’s a pic of one of the boxes I unloaded in my library this morning. It contained 103 paperbacks from the vast collection of the great Martin H. Greenberg, one of the most prolific and talented anthologists our field has ever seen (click for a more legible version). Greenberg died almost exactly a year ago, on June 25, 2011. He left behind some 2,500 anthologies and other books he created — including over 120 co-edited with his friend Isaac Asimov — and his company Tekno Books, a book packager which produced nearly 150 books a year. I wrote about six of them just last week in my article TSR’s Amazing Science Fiction Anthologies.

He also left behind a massive collection in his home in Green Bay, which was purchased by Chicago collectors Doug Ellis and Bob Weinberg. They’ve been gradually selling the high value stuff — autographed vintage hardcovers, things like that. Doug runs the Windy City Pulp and Paper show every year, and he brought some of it to the show.

I’m usually a pretty social guy. Put me in a room with fellow collectors and I’ll happily spend my hours chatting. But as I passed Doug’s booth, I saw countless boxes of what looked like beautiful, unread vintage paperbacks stacked in neat rows, all priced at a buck. I started to browse, then select a few books, and finally obsessively dig through every single box, much to the annoyance of the always patient Jason Waltz and my other companions.

Martin H. Greenberg
Martin H. Greenberg, March 1941 – June  2011

I buy a lot of collections, big and small. I even managed to acquire some of the legendary collection of Forry Ackerman — the man who inspired me to start my own small SF collection in 1977 — when it was slowly auctioned on eBay a few years ago.

But I don’t often see paperback collections in this condition. Virtually every book looked pristine and unread, and some were fifty years old or more. When you’re given a chance to browse a few thousand brand new books from the 1960s – 1980s, you take it — especially when they’re selling for a fraction of cover price.

I found a lot of titles I didn’t have, including the Charles L Harness novels Lunar Justice and Lurid Dreams, more than a few that would replace my own worn and tattered copies, and several dozen that I just couldn’t turn down for less than a buck, including vintage paperbacks by James Tiptree, Thomas M. Disch, A.E. van Vogt, Jack Vance, Theodore Sturgeon, K.W. Jeter, and many others.

I ended up purchasing four boxes of books. The good-natured Doug Ellis put up with me when I insisted on haggling, and cut me a terrific deal.

“Call me if you’re interested in looking at the rest of the collection,” he said.  “Seriously — there’s another 60 boxes sitting in my garage.”

Not every book I bought was unread. And that’s where the story really gets interesting.

My patient companions at Windy City Pulp & Paper: Joe Bonadonna, Morgan Holmes, John O'Neill, and Jason Waltz
My patient companions at Windy City Pulp & Paper: Joe Bonadonna, Morgan Holmes, John O’Neill, and Jason Waltz

Greenberg wasn’t just a workaholic editor and collector — he was also a voracious reader. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of early SF short fiction, and drew on that knowledge to produce hundreds of SF and fantasy anthologies.

I read dozens as I was growing up, including Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories (25 volumes), Science Fiction of the 50s, The Mammoth Book of Golden Age SF, The Future in Question, and many others.

Greenberg acquired his expertise through his collection, and that became obvious as I started to examine some of what I’d purchased — especially the older SF collections of the 1950s edited by Groff Conklin, Lester del Rey, and others.

The hardcover copy of Fletcher Pratt’s 1951 World of Wonder — which Doug sold to me for two bucks — has extensive notes scribbled in the table of contents. Beside “Operation RSVP,” by H. Beam Piper, originally published in the January 1951 Amazing Stories, is scrawled:

Fantastic — use. Conflict Resolution?

Greenberg reprinted “Operation RSVP” in Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The Wild Years 1946-1955, published in 1987. There are also notes beside other stories, including Heinlein’s “They,” “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and Rudyard Kipling’s “The Mark of the Beast.”

world-of-wonder2I first noticed Greenberg’s notes as I was packing the books in boxes at the show, before Jason Waltz carried them to my car (a task he has undertaken stoically since 2009, when he was accidentally standing next to me when I bought the entire stock of a vendor selling vintage SF digests).

Intrigued, I returned to Doug’s table and flipped through a few more books. In a copy of Terry Carr’s 1974 anthology Universe 4 I found Greenberg’s notes on  “Stungun Slim” by Ron Goulart. (“Bus. — psy.” Whatever the heck that means.)

I dug around in my pocket. I had exactly 51 cents left. I called Doug over, handed him the 51 cents, and held up Universe 3 and Universe 4. He stared at me incredulously.

“You drive a hard bargain,” he said, shaking his head.

After unpacking one box I still have three more from the show to dig through, including dozens of hardcover anthologies from Martin H. Greenberg’s impressive collection. Perhaps I’ll find more notes.

I think this is neat. The thought that some of the books in my collection helped give birth to later books in my collection, and that the evidence is right there in front of me.

But it’s just a bonus. The real gift Marty Greenberg has given me is many hours of reading pleasure, and introducing me to a multitude of fine SF and fantasy writers of the 20th Century. And now he’s shared part of his excellent collection with me, and I look forward to many more.

Thank you, Martin Greenberg. May the earth rest lightly upon you.

And thank you Doug Ellis, for making it possible. You’re a prince among booksellers, and I hope you spend my 51 cents wisely.

Running out of shelf space, John begins to carpet his floor with books.
Running out of shelf space, John begins to carpet his floor with books.
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Dave T

Nice piece, John, and I am *so* envious of you! looking at all of those vintage paperbacks just makes me drool.

You mentioned Bob Weinberg as Doug’s partner in acquiring Marty’s collection. For some time now Tangent Online has been running (with art from Bob’s collection) his autobiographical memoirs of his 40 years of SF/F art collecting. We posted the 13th installment the other day, part of which includes rare photos of artist Edd Cartier.

And Bob has promised to write up the story behind his and Doug’s acquisition of Marty’s collection in the future. Very interesting stuff. Here’s the link to the latest column: http://www.tangentonline.com/articles-columnsmenu-284/1865-collecting-fantasy-art-13-two-great-artists

Now, if I can keep from drooling on the keyboard as I look once again at all those paperbacks you bought…

Dave

Funny you should mention this today John, I was just talking to my doctor…

Just kidding. As usual, absolutely a blast to peer over your shoulder at all the goodies you accumulate. If we lived closer you’d likely find me in your libraries reading through many of these. It’s probably a good thing we don’t.

Great write up as usual, I find your witty charm appealing. You really should pen more of the articles around here.

Not kidding, simultaneously acknowledging both the number of your posts (ok, a little tease there) and the fact that I like to read all your posts. Reading your posts is like listening to you talk, even like partaking in conversation with you. I can’t decide which I enjoy more, your charming wit or your witty charm 😉

Mister_Alex

These look like some great additions. Do you read the books you collect?

Scott Taylor

You read WAY too much… 🙂

John Hocking

Hey, not too bad.
Lotsa Tanith Lee, much of which hasn’t been seen around in too long.
That Stanley Weinbaum is nice, and older than most of what we see here.
And what’s with that Eric Frank Russell? I don’t know that one. Short stories, maybe?

Y’know, sooner or later you’re going to have to start putting together a real library.

John

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Allen Snyder

Man, that’s what my library looks like. Even the bookcases look the same.

Are you sure you didn’t sneak into my house to take that picture?

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[…] Windy City is one of my favorite local cons. I’ve written about it before, and in fact I’ve been attending the show for around 10 years. 2012 was perhaps the most successful, considering I returned with a fabulous assortment of mint-condition fantasy and science fiction paperbacks from the collection of Martin H. Greenberg. See the article and photos from that show in my 2012 post, “Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis).” […]

[…] Windy City is one of my favorite local cons. I’ve written about it before, and in fact I’ve been attending the show for around 10 years. 2012 was perhaps the most successful show in some years, considering I returned with a fabulous assortment of mint-condition fantasy and science fiction paperbacks from the collection of Martin H. Greenberg. See the article and photos from that show in my 2012 post, “Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis).” […]

[…] know any of this if I hadn’t stumbled on some of her paperbacks among a few of the collections I recently purchased, and become intrigued enough to give Yarbro another look. Perhaps the most […]

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