There, I did it—I came out!

Well, not really. I’ve talked about my Ace Doubles collection and even my Star Trek shrine in the past, but this whole book collecting thing has been ramping up for me over the past several years in a way that not even I necessarily noticed was happening. I started collecting Ace Doubles years ago, and have been taking that pretty seriously all along. I’m still several volumes short of a complete collection of Ace Science Fiction Doubles, and have now started toying with the idea of also collecting the westerns and mysteries, both of which I have a few of already.

But then somewhere in there I started collecting the old Grosset & Dunlap Tarzan books, and realized I also had a few old Ace Books editions of other Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and so now I’m collecting those as well.

And as a very young kid I had a couple of the 1960s-70s Grosset & Dunlap library bound editions of the Tom Swift, Jr. series originally published in the mid-1950s, and in a flagrantly nostalgic move I’m not normally prone to, decided I needed all of them. This, by the way, is a need thing, not a want thing—but more on that later.

I taught a course in writing new pulp fiction based on Lester Dent’s master formula, and realized I hadn’t really read any of his writing. I found a few copies of the Bantam Books run of the Doc Savage series from the 70s and about a minute passed between, “Hmm, I should pick this up,” to “I will have them all, in order, though the Heavens may fall.” Which is pretty much how it works.

And when I was a kid I had a friend who’s father had a whole shelf of the old Ace Books Perry Rhodan series and I thought it was so cool, all those numbered sci-fi books all lined up in a row. Then, decades later, I happened upon a copy of the first two in the series in a used bookstore and figured I’d better buy them since I knew it wasn’t likely I’d run across them again, and then I was in a different used bookstore and there was a huge batch of them they were selling for $1.99 each. I asked one of the booksellers if she’d cut me a deal if I bought all of them and she said I could have them for a dollar each and $92 dollars later and I’m collecting the mid-70s Ace Books Perry Rhodan series, too. I ended up with a bunch of doubles which I’m letting go on eBay.
















Oh, and a couple years ago, at that same used bookstore, they had a hundred-year old complete set of the Harvard Classics Series for $50, which I gleefully paid, so that collection was one and done.

I mentioned the Star Trek shrine… I also have a collection of some of the Star Trek books and lately I’ve been wondering why I don’t have the complete Bantam Star Trek series, which were all conveniently numbered and many of which I’ve read over the years but haven’t held onto. I need to start that collection.

This thing can get out of hand. I read Berserker by Fred Saberhagen years ago and liked it and a few years ago decided I needed the whole series so I bought them all over the course of a year or so… but I’m honestly not that big a military SF fan, so when it was time to move back into my office after finally finishing the floors the Berserker books never went back on the shelves, and now they’re on eBay, at least for the next couple days, and will bring in some money to buy more Ace Doubles, Tom Swifts, Perry Rhodans, and Doc Savages.

And all those Star Trek books.

And there’s one other thing I’ve started doing… actually reading them.

I’ve added to my random behavior modifications these prompts:

Start reading an ACE Double

Start reading a random pb novel

Start reading a Tom Swift book

Start reading a Perry Rhodan book

Start reading a Doc Savage book

Start reading a Star Trek book

Start reading a Harvard Classic book

And guess what I’m reading right now…


That’s right an Ace Double: The Five Gold Bands and The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance in the later edition from 1972. I also have a copy of the 1962 edition of the same Ace Double, the first book printing of The Dragon Masters, but just happened to grab this one off the shelf at random. And I’ve taken the first dive into the Perry Rhodan universe with Enterprise Stardust—the two stories that started it all, and by “it” I mean a ridiculously robust series of SF stories that have been being published as weekly—yes, you read that right, weekly magazines for decades in Germany. Perry Rhodan: Germany’s #1 fictional American spaceman!

Why am I doing this? Why am I collecting these books, and planning on collecting others? I saw a YouTube video of a guy who’s collecting all of the classic yellow-spine DAW books, which were sequentially numbered, and I was all like, Shit. I need those.

Then I started to realize how many of those DAW books I’ve bought, read, and sold back to used bookstores or given away over the years and then all the others just like that—the Del Rey John Carter series and the whole Elric saga with the great Michael Whelan covers… 

Do not get me started.

Above I said that I need these books. It’s not a want thing.

We all need air, water, food, shelter.

And at least one other thing.

This is a philosophy I have instituted just now.

On my list: books.

I need air, water, food, shelter, and books. Lots and lots of books, many of which have lots and lots of companions, siblings, extended families… and in Phil’s world, no book is left behind.

—Philip Athans

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About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Hi Philip,

    Loved your post, as usual. Gobbled up every word with my morning coffee. 😄

    Followed the link to your ‘random (Sorry, don’t remember the full name) generator’ and thought of one thing more: Re-read first page of an old unfinished story of your own. Sometimes I do this and it surprises me how un-bad the story is, which motivates me to work on it, editing a bit more. If timing is right, sometimes they end up ready for submission.

    About book collecting, I now live in a 24 foot motorhome, so no room for shelves, though I have found nooks and crannies where I stuff the one I ‘need’.

    🤓 Laura

    • Philip Athans says:

      I definitely have writing prompts on that random list! See:
      JUST . . . WRITE https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/just-write/

      Book collecting is space-intensive, and you can see that across a lot of “BookTube,” with collections spreading into every available space. Fran Lebowitz talks about it in “Pretend It’s A City” on Netflix… having to dramatically over-spend on a Manhattan apartment to house her 10,000 books.


  3. Pingback: BOOKS FOR FANTASY AUTHORS XXXII: SHOW YOUR WORK! | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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