Kirkus Looks at The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press

Kirkus Looks at The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press

judgment-nightThe legendary Gnome Press, founded by David Kyle and Martin Greenberg in 1948, put some of the most important SF and fantasy ever written between hard covers for the first time — including C.L. Moore’s Judgment Night and Shambleau and Others, The Coming of Conan and Conan the Conqueror by Robert E. Howard, Clifford D. Simak’s City, Robert A. Heinlein’s Sixth Column and Methuselah’s Children, Two Sought Adventure by Fritz Leiber, plus Arthur C. Clarke, Edward E. Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Leigh Brackett, Murray Leinster, A. E. van Vogt, and dozens of others. It kept the genre’s most important writers in print, at a time when they appeared only in magazines, and in the process introduced them to a whole new generation.

Andrew Liptak at Kirkus Reviews has dug into the history of the press with an excellent piece, part of his ongoing look at the origins of SF and fantasy in America. Here’s his retelling of one of Gnome Press’s most famous acquisitions:

In 1950, Isaac Asimov began looking for a new home for some of his short stories… Rebuffed by his current publisher, Doubleday (who wanted new material, rather than repackaged short stories), Asimov approached Greenberg, who was eager to publish his stories. Asimov pulled together nine of his robot stories… into a single volume called I, Robot. Gnome released the collection at the end of 1950, with some of the stories reworked to include his character, Susan Calvin, telling a larger story of the evolution of robotics. The collection was a successful one, and Asimov brought Greenberg another series of books for which he would be well known: Foundation. First serialized in magazines, Gnome brought Asimov’s Foundation trilogy to hardcover between 1951 and 1953.

I had the good fortune to talk to Gnome Press co-founder David Kyle at Worldcon here in Chicago and his reminiscences on his days with the press were fascinating.

Today, Gnome Press volumes are some of the most collectible in the industry, especially titles by Robert E. Howard, Asimov, Leiber, and C.L. Moore.

We’ve discussed Andrew Liptak’s articles at Kirkus before, including:

Kirkus Looks at Astounding Science Fiction
Kirkus Looks at Galaxy Science Fiction
Kirkus Looks at Donald A. Wollheim and the Ace Double

Read his latest article on Gnome Press here.

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I’m not sure the importance of Gnome Press and the other small presses from that time period can be overstated. They made work available in book form for a new generation and in the process showed the big publishers that there was a market for this material. As a teenager I read many of the titles listed (I, Robot; the Foundation Trilogy; Judgment Night; ect.) as either paperback reprints or SFBC volumes. It’s highly questionable that would have happened if not for Gnome, Shasta, etc.

Just my $0.02.

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