Monday, July 11, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner No. 8: The Woes of an SF Book Collector

Welcome to my Monday 
bookish feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

I got entirely bogged down  with
my other blog for a while,
and neglected this one for much
too long! I'm trying to catch up now.

The Annual World's Best SF collection,
proudly sitting on my bookshelves, right 
next to The Science Fiction Century,
an anthology edited by David G. Hartwell.

Science fiction has always been one of my favorite reading genres, but I am sad to say that I haven't been reading  such books on a steady basis for the past few years. I have kept right on collecting them, too, hoping against hope that I would someday return to devouring novels set on alien planets, or in a parallel universe, with plenty of action and great human and ET characters!

To be honest, I have reviewed a few SF books on my other blog, A Night's Dream of Books, but, some time ago, I decided to dedicate that blog to YA fiction, pretty much exclusively. Most YA readers are not interested in reading SF, unless it happens to also belong to the Young Adult Fiction genre. Therefore, I will be reviewing SF books (those written for adults, that is) on this blog.

Some time back, I was very excited to discover The Annual World's Best SF collection, edited and published by the late Donald Wollheim. Arthur W. Saha was his co-editor. Even better, I also found out that the Science Fiction Book Club had published this collection in beautiful hardcover editions!

The collection was actually a continuation of a previous anthology series, titled World's Best Science Fiction, which Wollheim co-edited with Terry Carr. This previous collection was published by Ace Books from 1965 to 1971. I have acquired the last two volumes in this series (1970 and 1971), mistakenly believing that they were part of the later one.  

Although The Annual World's Best SF collection was first published in mass-market paperback editions by DAW Books, I was most interested in the SF Book Club hardcover editions, with their beautiful dust jacket covers. So I gleefully began to collect them!

The first of these books was published in 1972, and the last one was released in 1990. Sadly, that was the year Wollheim passed away.

I purchased most of these books on eBay, although a couple of them came from Amazon. Of course, they're no longer available in retail bookstores, except perhaps in those that sell used books.

As I collected them, I felt justifiably proud and happy to see year after year go up on my shelves. These covers are SO well done, the art of such high quality (although a few do seem to hark back to the pulp fiction days), that I even wished I could have some of the covers as posters to frame.

I got to the point where my collection was almost complete; the only year left was 1979. And that was when my happy little space bubble burst....

No matter which online site I went to, I simply could not find the SF Book Club edition. I tried Amazon and eBay. I also went to Alibris and Abebooks. Then I tried a general Google search. No all.

The mass-market paperback, published by DAW, was easily available. All of the above-mentioned sites had that one. Now, I have nothing against paperbacks, but when I do buy them, I much prefer the trade paperbacks. Mass-markets have a rather annoying problem: their pages tan very easily, and early on, too. So I prefer to avoid them if at all possible. And my overwhelming favorite? Hardcovers, of course! Since these can be a bit pricey (many recently-published hardcovers retail for an average of $24.95), then sometimes I do have to settle for paperbacks -- trade paperbacks, that is. I can only buy used hardcovers, and that's when I can get them for a good price.

Alas, those last four words, "if at all possible", became utterly unavoidable in this particular case.....I had to end up settling for the oh-so-readily-available mass-market paperback edition...... I was SO disappointed! The thing is, I wanted all the covers to match, which unfortunately isn't the case now.

The 1979 Annual World's Best SF,
mass-market paperback edition.

I had gone as far as to order a book I thought was a hardcover edition of the 1979 anthology. I found it through Abebooks, and it was being sold by a bookstore in the UK. The price was pretty stiff, too, for me -- around $44.00, with S/H included. However, the book was listed as having been published in 1979. It had an entirely different cover, one that didn't match the ones published by the SF club, but I was happy that I was at least getting a hardcover. So, after a VERY intense inner debate, I ended up ordering the book.

Since it was coming from abroad, the book took a while to arrive, but, when it finally did, I tore open the package with eager anticipation. I did like the cover, although it wasn't as nice as the others in the SF Book Club collection. And then....

My heart sank when I took a look at the copyright page, which stated that this book had originally been published in the USA, in 1977, and was then published in the UK, in 1979..... I raced to my bookshelves, pulling out the 1977 SF Book Club edition. I put both books side by side, and opened both of them to the Table of Contents..... Yes, there they were, in black and white.....the very same contents! I felt like a complete and utter idiot. WHY hadn't I first contacted the UK seller, to make sure his book was indeed an alternate edition of the SF Book Club 1979 book? WHY didn't this even occur to me? But then, how the heck was I to even suspect that the Abebooks seller was purveying the very same book?! The thing is, the British edition is titled: The World's Best SF 4. So there really was no way for me to know, without contacting the seller, which I never thought of doing....

American and British editions of The 1977
Annual World's Best SF. The British
edition was published in 1979. 

As a small consolation, I did notice that the British edition does not have any foxing on its pages, which my American edition does have. So maybe I will now have to buy another copy of the American edition, as I am a perfectionist where collecting books is concerned. I want the newest-looking copies I can possibly acquire. I refuse to accept dog-eared copies, no matter how cheap and easily obtainable. And, in the case of paperbacks (whether trade or mass-market), I utterly detest spine creases and bent corners! Well, we'll see...perhaps later on down the line, I will purchase another hardcover copy of the American edition, and donate the one I have now to Goodwill. looks like, for some strange reason, the 1979 book was never published in hardcover by the Science Fiction Book Club! I find this very hard to believe, though, because these editions are available for each subsequent year, from 1980 to 1990. I don't understand why the year 1979 should be any different. Maybe it's just extremely hard to find.... 

I have found out, while preparing this post, that the 1979 mass-market paperback edition was reissued by DAW in 1984 with the title: Wollheim's World's Best SF: Series Eight. This one is currently unavailable on Amazon, but, as it's yet another mass-market edition, I'm not interested in the least.

I have Googled this topic, to no avail. No other SF aficionado/collector seems to be aware of this problem, to my knowledge. On the other hand, I don't know that many SF aficionados online or in person, lol. And I'm talking about hardcore SF aficionados, too -- the kind who go to every SF convention imaginable, watch endless reruns of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars", and have collected all the great SF movies and books, or are in the process of doing so, and even play SF video games. I consider myself practically an ant, or maybe even a gnat, among such giants. 

I suppose I must resign myself to suffering in silence.... Could it be that there's some sinister plot by secret ET visitors to make sure that we earthlings are unjustifiably deprived of that 1979 SF Book Club hardcover edition? Inquiring Terran minds want to know!

If anyone reading this post is aware of the location of a hardcover copy of this amazingly elusive book -- published by the SF Book Club, of course -- I sure would love to know! Just go to my Contact page, where you can get my email address, and please, please, please send me an email with the relevant information!!  I would be ever so grateful!!  

Meanwhile, peace and long life! And may the Force be with you!!

 Online Links

What are your thoughts 
on my book collecting woes?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!


Brian Joseph said...

Such an interesting but frustrating story Maria.

Though I have thought about it I have never been much of a collector. I wish that I could offer some useful insights.

I imagine that there might be catalogues of published editions of books out there that might confirm if this hardcover exists.

Though they are affiliated with Penguin, it looks like DAW Books still exists so maybe they could help you.

I used to love reading these science fiction analogies but it has been a while since I read one.

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

This has indeed been a very frustrating experience! For the life of me, I can't imagine WHY this hardcover should be so hard to get. Nor can I imagine why the entire series -- from 1972 to 1990 -- should have been published in hardcover, with the sole exception of the 1979 anthology.

I'm attempting to get back to reading more SF, and this is, I think, a good way of doing so. Besides, those books are calling out to me: "Read me!!" Lol.

Thanks so much for the link!! I greatly appreciate it!! I'll let you know if I get any results!

Thanks for the visit and the comment, as well!! :)