More on the Club

There have been a lot of wonderful observations in the comments thread responding to my comments on this week’s changes at the SF Book Club. They’ve prompted a few thoughts. First, the SF Book Club isn’t dead yet. It’s my speculation that it will be folded into the main club, but that’s not been announced by the company. So, if you are a member, please don’t give up yet. I know of at least three original anthologies in process at the Club, all of which deserve your support. And, no doubt, there are some fine omnibuses to come too. These are all books that were set in motion by Ellen or Andy, so supporting them seems like a worthwhile thing to do. Second, I’d love to hear more about what the Book Club has meant to you. I’ve never been eligible to join (being located outside the US), but it’s always looked terrific to me. Given that it’s been mailing out great fiction since 1954, I’m sure it’s been important to countless readers and writers, so I’d love to hear what it’s meant to you.

6 thoughts on “More on the Club”

  1. I’ve been a member at three or four different times since the early 1990s, and I am a current member now. In fact, my current membership represents the longest instance of membership for me. For the last year or so, it’s seemed as if every time I even consider the tiny possibility of canceling, the very next flier to come in the mail had three or four things in it that I wanted.

    As I’ve seen mentioned in just about every blog comments thread on the SFBC topic since the turmoil became evident, the main value is in wonderful omnibus editions, and that’s where I’ve taken great advantage of the SFBC. It’s been invaluable over the last two years for my filling in of certain gaps in my collection, and at considerably less expense than if I were to track down the titles on their own, especially of things that just aren’t in print anymore or, if they are, are in expensive trade PB editions. Through SFBC I’ve been able to get nice editions of the Lensmen series by Doc Smith, the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series, and so on.

    Sure, these are “book club” editions of the books, so the paper isn’t quite as good quality and the bindings aren’t as good either, but that doesn’t bother me, as I’m a reader first and a collector second, and I treat my books well anyway, so even the book club editions tend to do just fine on my shelves.

    I’ve used SFBC more as a route to hard-to-find fiction than to get the new stuff (although I’ve bought some new stuff from them as well — books by John Scalzi, Charles Stross, and others). While I plan to stay a member for the time being, I am less than optimistic that SFBC will remain a good resource for the type of book-buying I’ve done from them. The fact that all the current turmoil springs from the eternal bugaboo of making the damned stockholders happy does not, it seems to me, bode well for a person like me who is happily digging into the earlier and, in some cases, largely forgotten byways of the genre.

    I’m sure we’ll reach a point someday in the future when the concerns of stockholders aren’t given paramount attention on an a priori basis. I just hope I’m still around when we get there.

    (Can’t wait for your New Space Opera antho, by the way.)

  2. Here’s some of what I said on my blog last night:

    I’ve been a member on and off for about ten years and thought they offered some wonderful things to members and would be annoyed if things with the club would change for the worse. Most recently, I’ve received some of their books to review for Their omnibus volumes alone are what kept me coming back – at the time I bought it, there was no easier way to get The Compleat Dying Earth by Jack Vance. Quite frankly, the cover art by Brom was great, too and the SFBC version was around a couple of years before Tor did their Orb omnibus. I also discovered Sean Russel’s work through the nice River into Darkness duology-omnibus. Thanks to the SFBC, I was able to read all of the (then 5) books of Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series.
    However, the SFBC, especially under the guidance of Ellen Asher and Andrew Wheeler (while I was a member) had the wonderful convenience offering new and classic books and wonderful prices – the 5 for $.01 promotion to join pays for itself in spades.
    I joined at one point and got my (then future) brother-in-law to join so I could get some books as part of the “refer-a-friend” deal and he could enjoy the benefits of membership. A couple of years passed and my membership lapsed. It wasn’t long before I joined again through my brother-in-law so I could sort of repay him. My brother-in-law and I are ten years apart so I thought this was really cool way for us to connect.

    It should also be pointed out that the SFBC Blog Andrew Wheeler has been managing has become THE place for virtuall ALL the daily goings-on in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy

  3. There’s no doubt in my mind that losing Ellen and Andy will be an enormous blow to the Club, and that it simply has to have a deleterious effect on the operation of the Club. They were both simply too good, too experienced, at what they did. The omnibuses – whether they scooped up Jim Butcher, Charles Stross, or Edgar Rice Burroughs, were too desirable. Still, try to hold the course. Let Bertelsmann know, if you can, how you feel. It’s important. In modern science fiction’s short history, 50 years is a long time, and it’s been an incredibly important institution for many, many readers.

  4. I’ve been a member of the Club for about 30 years, give or take a couple here and there. Like many people, it’s the omnibus editions that keep me coming back. And recently, it’s also been the Club originals. Even though I am now at a stage in my life and career where I can afford any book I want when I want it, I still go to the Club first when I’m trying out a new author (new for me, not necessarily new as in first time published.) There’s a certain – I don’t know – nostalgic comfort in getting a Club edition. I would really hate to lose that.

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