A Rich Library of Modern Science Fiction: The SF Gateway Omnibus Editions
Yesterday I posted a brief article on Jack Vance, and as one of the header images I included a pic of the Jack Vance SF Gateway Omnibus, a massive volume from Orion Publishing/Gollancz containing three complete works: Big Planet, The Blue World, and the collection The Dragon Masters and Other Stories. I did it because I thought the book was very cool, and I wanted readers to know about it. And it paid off — in the comments section Glenn posted the following:
Just an aside John. Has anyone at Black Gate taken a look at the Gateway Omnibus series? I saw a whole bunch of them turn up at my local Half Price Books. The covers are weird but they seem dedicated to getting some lesser read classics out there in an inexpensive format.
Glenn read my mind. And in fact, he had the exact same experience I did. In April last year, while I was in Lombard, Illinois for the Windy City Pulp & Paper Show, I dropped into the local Half Price Books. I came out with a few interesting vintage paperbacks, but the real find was a handsome assortment of bright yellow oversized trade paperbacks with the Gateway Omnibus logo. All were brand new, and each volume contained a generous sampling of reprints from a well-known science fiction name. I’d never seen them before, but I was struck by both the eclectic mix of titles, and the wide range of authors: folks like Algis Budrys, C.L. Moore, Damon Knight, Clifford D. Simak, Edmond Hamilton, E.C. Tubb, Edgar Pangborn, John Brunner, Jack Williamson, Kate Wilhelm, James Blaylock, Joe Haldeman, Frank Herbert, Henry Kuttner, and many others. Best of all, the books were very reasonably priced — $7.99 each. I ended up taking four home with me that day (the Wilhelm, Kuttner, Williamson and Moore), and doing an online search to find just how many were out there.
What I discovered was an extremely impressive catalog of over 50 titles. All were originally published in the UK, so distribution in the US is spotty at best, but many are still widely available (and still reasonably priced). To give you an idea of the amazing scope of the collection, I’ve gathered 51 thumbnail images for you to browse below.
[Click the images for Gateway-sized versions.]
Orion/Gollancz is a British publishing company and their Gateway catalog includes a rich selection of British writers, many of whom who are less well known on this side of the Atlantic. This makes the SF Gateway Omnibus catalog a goldmine for American readers interested in inexpensively acquiring some of the best British SF writers of the 20th Century, like Barrington J. Bayley, D.G. Compton, Keith Roberts, Edmund Cooper, John Sladek, Garry Kilworth, Richard Cowper, and others.
Just how big is the SF Gateway Omnibus back-catalog? The ISFDB lists the 51 volumes I’ve assembled here, though I’m not sure it’s complete. The four volumes I have so far range in size from 600-800 pages; so I figure the complete set would weigh in at well over 30,000 pages, as a conservative estimate. That’s a sizable library of science fiction, nearly a lifetime of reading.
There’s probably not a lot of value to the SF Gateway collection for serious collectors, since everything included is a reprint, and in most cases what’s reprinted is the authors more popular work (though rarely the most popular work). Still, I consider myself a serious collector, and I’m keenly interested in these things.
For one thing, the price is very appealing — as of this morning, new copies of many of these books are still available (at least in limited qualities) for under $10 at online booksellers like Amazon and B&N. And there’s also more than a few surprising gems, like the complete set of Berserker novels, the sword & sorcery trilogy by Robert Holdstock originally published under the pseudonym Chris Carlsen in the UK in the 1970s, which are a hard find today.
Although the editors did a solid job selecting representative works, the series as a whole doesn’t pay equal attention to each author. There are two volumes for Patricia McKillip, for example, and two for Holdstock — one featuring his Berserker books, and a second presenting a fine selection of his later more serious work.
And there’s a whopping six titles dedicated to the great Edgar Rice Burroughs: three focusing on Tarzan, one on his lost world SF adventures, one on Pellucidar, and one featuring Carson of Venus.
See the entire library at the Orion Publishing website here.
Although these are no-frills budget reprints, I still appreciate the level of effort involved. Many volumes include lengthy introductions, drawn wholesale from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. That may have been a cost-cutting exercise, but the intros are well written and informative, and are very welcome in my book (no pun intended).
The first books in the SF Gateway Omnibus series (the Gordon Dickson and Sherri Tepper volumes) were released in July 2013; the last (McKillip and Lucius Shepard) in March 2015. Many of them are now out of print and gradually increasing in price on the open market. Here in the US at least it can be tough to find them in bookstores; I didn’t even know they existed until that lucky find last year at Half Price Books. Thiftbooks has nearly dozen titles in stock from $6 – $12.
Although the Gateway Omnibus series seems to have wrapped up, SF Gateway is still very much an ongoing concern. Their mission is to keep SF classics in print in attractive and affordable editions, and they’ve been doing a fine job. Their other imprints include the Golden Age Masterworks, Gateway Essentials, and the superb SF Masterworks. Their website is here.
Below are thumbnail images of every title in the series I could find; click for bigger versions. There may well be a few I missed — if you’re aware of any, shout out in the comments, and I’ll catalog them below.
In the meantime, enjoy.
Very nice! These remind me of the Gollanzc SF Masterworks series – also British, also hard to get a hold of, but worth it when you do.
Berserker by Holdstock/Carlsen is one of the best sword and sorcery series I’ve ever read.
Wow, I’ve never seen any of these.
Carson of Venus but no John Carter of Mars? (Unless they’re part of the “Other Tales” section of those two additional Tarzan volumes.)
Still, a pretty solid assortment.
I have a small pile of them.
They are also producing *lots* of ebooks–some in omnibuses, some not.
Wagner’s KANE books and Tubb’s DUMAREST series, for a start.
(Not all are available in North America though, which can be frustrating. E.g.; Leiber’s TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD novelization ebook is only available in the UK.)
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! Great, more reading I’ve got to do. 😉
Unlike you John I resisted buying any of them. I don’t know that much about most of the authors listed and I was getting rid of stuff because of a move.
I wish I would have grabbed a few, especially had I known to look for the Berserker series.
Even though the covers leave a lot to be desired I like that they are the larger trade paperback and the text isn’t too small.
> Very nice! These remind me of the Gollanzc SF Masterworks series
Yeah, they’re from the same publisher (Orion/Gollancz), so I’m not surprised. The SF Masterworks has been running a lot longer (since 1999), and has a LOT more books. 72 in the first series, which ended in 2013:
and who knows how many in the second series, which ran 2010-2018:
The other main difference with the SF Masterworks series (and its spinoff, Fantasy Masterworks) is that they are hella expensive and hard to find on this side of the pond. Maybe the various reprints have helped the situation over the years, but last time I tried to collect them (back in 2005 or so) I eventually gave up.
Check out this awesome Wikipedia pic of a SF Masterworks display in a London bookshop (from this page; click to magnify). Ah, I wish I could teleport over to browse!
> Berserker by Holdstock/Carlsen is one of the best sword and sorcery series I’ve ever read.
That greatly piques my interest, Dave. I don’t know a lot of folks who’ve read it! Fletcher was the one who first told me the series existed, back in 2016.
> Carson of Venus but no John Carter of Mars?
I wonder if they had difficulty getting the rights? Or maybe they’re part of the SF Masterworks series? (Though I don’t think so.) Whatever the case…. yeah, it’s an obvious omission.
I bought a dozen of these omnibuses. As you point out, you get great value for your money. Online prices for these books seem to be drifting upward.
> They are also producing *lots* of ebooks–some in omnibuses, some not.
> Wagner’s KANE books and Tubb’s DUMAREST series, for a start.
I hadn’t realized they had such an extensive digital library as well (although I note that Gollancz calls SF Gateway “the world’s largest science-fiction and fantasy library” of digital works, so I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.)
Especially glad to see the Dumarest series back in print…. er, digital print!
> I bought a dozen of these omnibuses…
> Online prices for these books seem to be drifting upward.
Yeah, there are still a handful of Amazon sellers offering them for around $7, but I noticed a lot of those copies got snatched up in the last 48 hours. I bought the Michael Coney for $19.75, and now the only new copies left are selling at collector’s prices ($54.55).
I went on a bit of a binge yesterday, and ordered new copies of the following online:
Garry Kilworth – $3.59
Edmund Cooper – $7.10
Keith Roberts – $7.10
John Sladek – $7.10
E.C. Tubb – $7.10
Michael G. Coney – $19.75
Damon Knight – $9.95
Sheri S. Tepper – $11.88
Theodore Sturgeon – $7.10
D.G. Compton – $10.49
Connie Willis – $3.59
Robert Holdstock – $10.89
Barrington Bayley – $11.66
Richard Cowper – $19.99
Joe Haldeman – $17
Pat Cadigan – $20
Gregory Benford – $12.38
Many of them have already jumped in price. I guess it doesn’t take many purchases to make a difference when there isn’t much stock.
I picked up the Kane eBooks last year when I was doing a reread (and didn’t want to take my Centipede Press hardcovers to the bar with me).
One comment: They’re basically reprinting the original paperbacks plus the Book of Kane, so they’re missing the more recent stories plus the unfinished novel fragment. But TBH I didn’t care as much for the modern stories, so that wouldn’t have bothered me too much if I didn’t already have them in physical editions.
If you are in the U.S., there are still a page worth of Gollancz Masterworks & omnibuses available from Hamilton Books.
That’s a great link! Lots of excellent prices. Wish I’d checked there before I made my big order yesterday. 🙂
They used to have a lot more. I grabbed the full TARZAN set from them awhile ago.
I’ve got at least 10 of these. There’s a UK music chain store called Fopp and they sell a lot of Gollancz Masterworks very cheap and once they had piles of these omnibuses very very cheap and I wish I had bought more of them.
People at Gollancz must love Mckillip because along with these two omnibuses, she has three novels in the Fantasy Masterworks series.
I’d love to hear some commentary from the people involved. Why are the two Fantasy Masterworks series so much shorter than the SF ones? My theory is that the prose of classic fantasies is less accessible to the average reader and therefore does not sell as well.
When each of these series ends does that mean it was doing poorly or did they just stop? I’d imagine that these omnibuses sold poorly and were taking up too much space in shops, although I wish they had continued.
And just general explanations of the titles chosen.
Some of the same CL Moore material has appeared in Fantasy Masterworks, SF Gateway Omnibus and now Golden Age Masterworks.
Lafferty and Cadigan books are coming in SF Masterworks series, so it didn’t end in 2018, unless they rebooted the series.