The Eclectic 1965 Ace Catalog: Avram Davidson, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, and Andre Norton

The Eclectic 1965 Ace Catalog: Avram Davidson, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, and Andre Norton


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.

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Thomas Parker

I have about a dozen of these books in these wonderful old Ace editions, bought at a thrift store that was around the corner from my middle school with money that was intended (by my mother) for my lunch. Most of them have the name “Jim Buchanan” written neatly on the inside cover. I don’t know who Jim was, but I will be forever grateful to him.

And though I bought most of them in 1972-73, I still haven’t read all of them either!

John ONeill

Thomas — I was exactly the same. I didn’t start collecting science fiction paperbacks until I was a young teen in the mid-seventies. So I bought all those Ace paperbacks in used bookstores. The compact Ace editions had the best covers, and were very inexpensive — half off 40 cents meant you pick pick up a whole lot for just two bucks!

Last edited 2 months ago by John ONeill
Eugene R.

Oh boy, the 1960s, what a period of open creativity and experimentation, the Counterculture, the New Wave in science fiction. The Ace catalog reminds me of Bill Graham’s concerts at the Fillmore East in NYC. One show that was recorded and broadcast on the local PBS station (WNET-13) had the Byrds, Elvin Bishop Group, Albert King, Sha-Na-Na, and Van Morrison. Whoo-wee! Of course, if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there, as the old hippie saying went.

And I recognize at least 3 books in my collection from this catalog. Strange, I cannot remember how I got them, hmm …

John ONeill

Eugene,

Which books in this catalog would you recommend to a modern reader? Robert chose to highlight the Norton, Delany, Dick, Davidson, Carter, and Petaja. But there’s also good stuff on that list from John Brunner, Henry Kuttner, Damon Knight, and others.

Eugene R.

Looking over the list (lovingly, he adds), I would probably grab the “old faithfuls”, Delany and Dick, add the 2 collections (“Best of F&SF, 10th Series”, “World’s Best SF 1965”) as good and eclectic views of the genres in the early 1960s, and also bring in the unfairly forgotten Kuttner (“The Dark World” is a nice example of his noir-ish take on fantasy, prefiguring Moorcock’s cosmically fated Eternal Champion), Sprague de Camp (“Rogue Queen” is the best of his Viagens/Krishna planetary romances), and Davidson (even though “Strange Stars and Skies” lacks any of his classics).

Thomas Parker

You could have paid for all of them with a ten dollar bill and walked away with change in your pocket. Oh, for a time machine…

John ONeill

Holy cats — you’re absolutely right. All 17 books on the list would have cost you a whopping $6.80 — less than a single paperback today.

Curt Phillips

Yes, but a 10 dollar bill in 1965 was about as hard to come by as a hundred dollar bill is today. Particularly for a young teenager who’s just discovering sf.

Thomas Parker

C’mon – get a paper route!

smitty59

We had a newsstand back in the late ’50s through the ’60s called Readmore. There were four of them in my hometown. I had a paper route from 1962-67, and often, after high school classes let out, I walked a mile downtown to the biggest Readmore and found just about every paperback SF and fantasy title Ace published, at least in the F, G, M, and H series — and I bought every title I could find, including all the ones pictured here. I’ve read all the ones shown here, and still have these and all the others. And they’re all still in pretty good condition!

John ONeill

Smitty — wow. You must have a pretty incredible collection!

Do you still buy modern SF, or do your tastes run to the classics?

smitty59

I do, John, and I do still buy some modern stuff — mainly things I see reviewed here! I just wish I had time to read everything.

silentdante

i can identify with buying books and not reading them for a long time. in fact, i am that way about a lot of the things i collect, be it video games, comics, books. i think i enjoy the searching and buying of the items just as much as reading/using them. sometimes i wonder if i just get wrapped up in owning something i want just because i couldnt always before, and now i enjoy just getting things almost more. though when i eventually play a game or read the comic/book i love that too. i have often wondered what my addictive brain would be with more detrimental things like drugs or gambling if i had the same take on other hobbies/things like that.

smitty59

I know just what you mean, Silentdante. I had a factory job in the early ’70s, still living at home with my folks, and bought all these books with the expectation of eventually reading them once I was on my own. Life got in the way: getting a job I liked, getting a girlfriend, moving to my own place, starting back to college, and the next thing you know, 30-35 years have gone past, and I’m catching up now on reading the books I bought from bookstores that no longer exist. And the thrill of buying and collecting overwhelmed my ability to stay caught up with actual reading. Rather than comics (sold my best ones), or video games (never got bit by that bug), I got hooked on baseball cards. My daughters hope I live a lot longer — long enough to get rid of all this stuff so they don’t have to.

John ONeill

Smitty — LOL. My kids are pretty panicked that I’ll die before I get rid of all the paperback and old magazines I’ve crammed into the basement and attic. It’s probably a 10-year undertaking!

Thomas Parker

My kids are already salivating at the thought of selling off my comic books. Silver – and even some Bronze – Age stuff has increased at a dizzying rate over the last couple of decades. The Fantastic Four #48 (first appearance of the Silver Surfer and Galactus) that I bought for around two hundred dollars twenty years ago now goes for four to six thousand.

smitty59

I hear you. I’ve also got — literally — thousands of SF and fantasy magazines, and quite a substantial vinyl record collection. My kids might need more than 10 years, although they’ve threatened to light a few strategic matches in the basement…

Mark

Same: paperbacks I bought new and those purchased second-hand at long-gone used book/record stores from the early ’70s to the mid-’80s I am only now able to read thanks to my retirement. Some will return to the bookcases, many will be given away but I’ll have had the satisfaction of finally reading them.
Thomas: I’m selling off part of my comic collection due to space and am stunned at what I’m getting for issues that a decade ago would barely make the 3 for $1 bin. Even Charlton comics, the black sheep of the mainstream companies with the lowest production values, are selling at $10 each. Your Fantastic Four #48 was definitely a wise investment (not to mention the sheer pleasure of reading the first appearances of the Surfer and Galactus).

Thomas Parker

Definitely – and I wasn’t buying for any kind of investment; I was just getting comics that I loved when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s. The bulk of my collection consists of silver and bronze age books that I bought during the 90’s and I’m flabbergasted at what’s happened to their value. It gives me a lot of “I told you so!” power around the house!

Tony Den

I am in a similar boat as many here, although I only took to the collection of the vintage Ace (and Avon, Lion, Corgi, DAW etc) more recently. I seem to be in a read 1 but 10 mode. Thankfully many of these items are frugally written and amount to a quick read, so when you do pick one up it can be devoured relatively quickly. My biggest issue now is wanting to be a completist. To that end if anyone has a spare copy of the Avon (specifically) copy of An Earthman on Venus (aka The Radio Man) by Ralph Milne Farley that they would be willing to pas son, please let me know.

Impressive collection stories from all.

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