Vintage Treasures: The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson

Vintage Treasures: The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson

The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-small The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-back-small

Cover by Michael Whelan

When Jim Baen left Ace to found Baen Books in 1983, he implemented a publishing strategy that served him well for decades: buying up the back catalog of popular authors and re-issuing them in visually similar covers that could be identified at a glance on crowded bookstore shelves. It was a strategy he learned while working under Tom Doherty at Ace Books from 1977-1980 (and refined under Doherty at Tor Book from 1980 – 1983).

While at Ace, Baen’s genius was to marry popular authors that had substantial back catalogs — like Andre Norton, Gordon R. Dickson, and Keith Laumer — with brilliant new cover artists. For me the exemplar of this strategy was Poul Anderson’s late 70s Ace editions, given new life by the striking world of a rising new artist named Michael Whelan.

When Richard Powers single-handedly remade science fiction art in the late 60s, it wasn’t long before bookshelves were overrun with abstract art. SF paperbacks, once criticized for pulp-era sameness and tired spaceship motifs, now suffered from a very different but no less stifling form of sameness. Plenty of writers were victims of the “Powers revolution” in SF art in the 1960s, but I think Poul Anderson was more victimized than most. His colorful tales of science fiction adventure on far planets were sold to the public under abstract covers that told them nothing about what they were getting.

[Click the images for vaster and more mind-boggling versions.]

Richard Powers was not single-handedly responsible for all of this, of course. Except… well yeah, he was.

Poul Anderson Guardians of Time-small Poul Anderson Strangers From Earth-small Poul Anderson Shield-small

Poul Anderson paperbacks in the late 1960s. Covers by Powers

Now, I don’t want to appear as if I’m critiquing Richard Powers. He arrived on the scene as SF art was stagnating, and his gorgeous artwork triggered a much-needed revitalization of the entire genre. I can’t even critique Art Directors at publishing houses all that much… for nearly half a decade, the key to selling a science fiction paperback to the public was to slap a Powers cover on it. For many years he was the most in-demand artist in the field, and readers couldn’t get enough.

Until, of course, they could.

Enter Ace Books and Jim Baen, who broke away from what had become the new established wisdom, and packaged SF adventure tales with artists that understood adventure. Here’s a sample of Anderson’s Ace covers, all by Michael Whelan.

Poul Anderson Michael Whelan Ace-small

Poul Anderson paperbacks in the 1970s. Covers by Whelan

It was a brilliant move, and it introduced Poul Anderson (and Laumer, and Norton, and Dickson and many others) to an entirely new generation.

Certainly Anderson and Whelan deserve a much longer and more detailed survey of their fruitful Ace partnership. But today I want to focus on one particular title in the extensive set, The Long Way Home, originally serialized in four parts in Astounding Science Fiction in 1955, starting with the April issue.

Astounding Science Fiction April 1955 The Long Way Home-small

Cover by Kelly Freas

Here’s the complete set, for the magazine collectors in the crowd.

Astounding Science Fiction May 1955 The Long Way Home-small Astounding Science Fiction June 1955 The Long Way Home-small Astounding Science Fiction July 1955 The Long Way Home-small

The Long Way Home first saw paperback later that same year as part of Don Wollheim’s Ace Double line, #D-110, under the title No World of Their Own, paired with Isaac Asimov’s The 1,000 Year Plan (better known these days, of course, as Foundation).

No World of Their Own Poul Anderson

It was out of print for two decades before finally being reprinted in the UK in 1975 by Panther, who restored its original title.

The Long Way Home Panther Poul Anderson

The Long Way Home is a standalone novel, not part of Anderson’s famous Psychotechnic League future history, Dominic Flandry, or Technic History novels, and I think it makes a fine intro to his work.

The Long Way Home was published by Ace Books on February 1, 1978. It is 245 pages, priced at $1.95. The cover is by Michael Whelan. It has been out of print in the US since 1981, but Open Road Media published a digital edition in 2015.

Our previous coverage of Poul Anderson includes dozens of articles. Here they are.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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James McGlothlin

I’ve only read Poul Anderson’s fantasy–and love, love, loved it! I just recently finished The Broken Sword and couldn’t believe I’d never really had heard of it. I definitely want to read more of him. Thanks for the post.

Thomas Parker

Anderson is one of the greats – Tau Zero is one of the most mind-blowing hard SF novels I’ve ever read.

John Hocking

All right Mr. Parker! A shout-out to Tau Zero is as uncommon as it is richly deserved. Unforgettable novel.

Joe H.

Open Road Media has been doing good work. I have a very, very long list of other authors I keep hoping they’ll pick up at some point. (Louise Cooper, e.g.)

Glenn

I’ve got The Broken Sword, The High Crusade, and a collection of short stories on my shelf. I’ve never touched any of them. The more i hear about them the more I realize i need to pick them up.

kelleyg@ecc.edu

I’m enjoying Poul Anderson’s The Complete Psychotechnic League Series also published by BAEN Books.

SJB

Do we really admire the covers for Ensign Flandry and Agent of the Terran Empire? Surely the 1960s abstracts would look better on a contemporary bookshelf?

R.K. Robinson

I read The Long Way Home in Astounding in the issues you show, as I had a subscription at the time. I wish I still have all those issues (they were stolen by a teen who sold them for cigarette money). January 1950 through December 1972, gone.

But back to Anderson. I surely love the Whalen covers better then Powers, but always wished they could have gotten Kelly Freas to do them. I guess for some reason his work wasn’t available (contract issues?). This post makes me want to pull out some Anderson as soon as I finish SEMIOSIS by Sue Burke. So far I’m enjoying it.

Joe H.

Oh, lord, those covers.

Open Road Media: In addition to Anderson and Simak, they’ve also picked up, amongst others, catalog titles from Jo Clayton, Dave Duncan, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Harlan Ellison.

Joe H.

Oh, and lots of John Brunner!

Thomas Parker

40 years?! Geez, John, the book is what, 120 pages? Pull the string, man, pull the string!

SJB

New covers: ‘nuff said.

SJB

doug

Richard Powers was actually more late 50s/early 60s. It was Paul Lehr whose abstact art dominated the paperback racks during the late 60s and early 70s.

Doug

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