Rogue Dragon (Ace Books, 1965, cover by Jack Gaughan) and the back-page Ace paperback catalog
As ludicrous as it might sound, I have a few books I bought more than half a century ago and still haven’t got around to reading. This short Avram Davidson novel was one of them, until I dusted it off last night.
Looking at the ads in the back of the book — from a time when publishers could do direct mail-order sales — I was struck by how eclectic the Ace catalog was. A couple of great anthologies there, including Carr and Wollheim’s 1965 World’s Best; some recycled pulp-era stuff; ersatz Edgar Rice Burroughs from Lin Carter; two Andre Norton juveniles; the first publication of Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (as half an Ace Double, paired with something by the now sadly forgotten Emil Petaja); an excellent collection of Avram Davidson’s short stories; Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney…
[Click images for more eclectic versions.]
A sampling of the 1965 Ace paperback catalog. Covers by (from top left, right to left): uncredited,
Ed Emshwiller, Jack Gaughan, Ed Valigursky, Jack Gaughan, and Jack Gaughan
What seems remarkable now is the publisher’s apparently justified belief that there was a market for all these very different titles, including some innovative and adult work — that the rising tide of science fiction would float all boats. Which I guess is down to the economics of publishing and print runs during the peak of the paperback era.
It didn’t make anyone rich, I imagine, but it did create a space for some unusual (and often downright eccentric) writing, and for at least a few writers whose work is nowadays reprinted in Library of America editions.
Robert Charles Wilson is the author of the Hugo Award-winning Spin and many other books. This article originally appeared on Facebook. Reproduced with permission.