Several months ago I began working with my friends at Adams Media (an F+W Publications company, and publishers of The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction and How to Start Your Own Religion) on a new e-book imprint called Prologue Books. This is a noble effort to get out-of-print books—including some once-beloved, now obscure texts from authors both legendary and forgotten—back into the hands of readers. I’m one of those people who thinks no author should be forgotten, and obscure books are just classics that have yet to have their fair hearing.
There’s a lot being said about the “E-book Revolution,” and a lot being done, both above board and below. A lot of books are getting the e-book “treatment,” but there are literally thousands . . . no, probably millions . . . of terrific books that have not been widely available for a very long time. In some cases, the rare extant copy of these forgotten texts can fetch enormous prices on the collector’s market. Sometimes they end up in boxes at garage sales, left to the moths and mold at thrift stores, or abandoned under flea market tables. What a shame.
Now here we are, in the bold new digital landscape of the 21st century, and we have the ability to save this stuff—all of this stuff, and I can not be more delighted than to be a part of it.
It used to be, oh, way back in the dim recesses of history, like 2006 or 2007, that for someone to resurrect a book like, say, Joan Conquest’s delightful Leonie of the Jungle, someone would have to sit down and fill out a P&L (profit and loss) statement, justifying the considerable expense of printing, binding, shipping, distribution, returns—and much more likely than not come to the inevitable conclusion that there’s no way to justify that cost, however charming the book may be. Now, e-books are by no means free to create, but boy are they cheaper than all of that paper. And there are no returns, no waste. They take up a tiny sliver of server space, not a corner of a warehouse or precious bookstore shelf space. They don’t have to sell thousands of copies in the first few months or face summary execution come returns time. E-books will be there, waiting for you to find them.
And if you’re anything like me—not just an author and editor but a fan and student of the genre—you’re going love discovering these brilliant lost treasures as much as I have.
I’d like to take this opportunity to spotlight two titles in particular. These two books serve to establish the far ends of the spectrum of books that Prologue Books SF/Fantasy will encompass.
The first is The Galaxy Primes by SF legend E.E. “Doc” Smith. Smith is certainly best known for his Lensman series, which defined a generation of space opera and is widely considered one the great classic series of the genre. But The Galaxy Primes, first published in serial form in Amazing Stories, is no less amazing than Lensman.
This is pure space opera from a bygone era. Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” It was as though he had The Galaxy Primes (from the perspective of 53 years after it was first published) in mind. The Galaxy Primes’s enormous charm comes from its mix of out-there and antiquated ideas. The gender relationships, for instance, are straight out of Mad Men. It’s chock full of Cold War militarism. But then there’s a strange modernity leaking in around the edges that gives the book a weight that might be a bit difficult to nail down at first blush. There will be many more strange old tales of futures past to come from Prologue Books, but let’s start with The Galaxy Primes.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum.
When I was at Wizards of the Coast, we boldly embarked on a new imprint, Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, all full of piss and vinegar and promises and budgets . . . and the last two evaporated immediately after take-off. The good news is we found some amazing books by outstanding new authors, the bad news is those books died along with the imprint—a little cataclysm all too familiar in the publishing world.
I have taken a measure of relief in the past few years as I’ve seen many, if not all of those books find new homes with different publishers in various formats. One of those Wizards of the Coast Discoveries was A Song in Stone, by Walter H. Hunt.
I met Walt Hunt at the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, California in 2006, just as we were starting to read for this new imprint. He pitched me a time travel story involving the Knights Templar, and conspiracy theories that at the time were getting an awful lot of play in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I have to admit, I wasn’t too hot on what might be seen as another Da Vinci Code knock-off, but Walt’s pitch piqued my curiosity and I asked him to send me the manuscript.
I was immediately hooked by this brilliant, impeccably-researched time travel tale and stayed hooked all the way through to its surprising, lyrical ending. This is no knock-off. A Song in Stone is one of the best, most original time travel books I’ve ever read. And thanks to Prologue Books I had my chance to help it find a new audience as an e-book release. I could not be happier that A Song in Stone is there to usher in Prologue’s SF/fantasy list the way it helped give birth to Wizards of the Coast Discoveries—we’ll all be working hard to make sure Prologue Books is around a lot longer!
Only the first round of a handful of science fiction and fantasy titles have been released so far. Prologue started with mystery and crime titles, curated by editor Greg Shepard. I’ve got some catching up to do, as does Prologue’s own web site, but we’re comin’ out, people, and we’re comin’ out strong.
Keep an eye on us, and with a couple clicks of the mouse you’ll be exploring some strange worlds, both new and old.