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.