It starts off innocently enough. You discover tales of wild adventures in space as a young child and it strikes your fancy and feeds your imagination. Over time, you branch out and learn the classics of science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and other giants of the genre. Soon your fancy becomes a fandom!
The books that have enchanted you for years quickly become something more than simple ink on paper, and begin to transform into pieces of art, literary history, and something worth holding on to. The next thing you know, you are a collector, and if you are like me, the stacks of books in your home can make the hallways difficult to navigate.
So, you may consider this an intervention. It is time to focus and narrow down the teetering piles into a smaller, well-cared-for collection of science fiction literature. The task of caring for, researching, and pricing those stacks of books can be daunting. It may well be that many of the titles on your bookshelf are worth some money, but where do you begin? How do you pare down your beloved books to a sensible quantity for a beginner to maintain while building the foundations of a strong science fiction collection?
We’ve come up with a couple of ways to manage your collection. Choosing one of the following directions, and then you can narrow the scope further by collecting only signed copies, or first editions within your chosen category. Trust me, the farther you drill down into the wide world of book collecting, the more specific you will be able focus your collection.
By author: Choose your favorite author to focus on; for example, Jules Verne, or Madeline L’Engle. Now you have a direction for your research and can aim your resources towards collecting the best from one of the earliest authors of Science Fiction.
By publisher/press: Tartarus Press. Easton Press. Ballentine Adult Fantasy. Avon. Ace Science Fiction Specials, and more specifically, Ace Doubles. This realm take quite a bit of research, but there are substantial checklists everywhere.
By cover art: The pulp era of science fiction has given our culture an amazing collection of art from the oddest corners of the artists’ imaginations. If you have a favorite cover artist, this is a fun and easy way to build your collection. Or choose your favorite : robots; clunky starships; seriously bizarre aliens; desperate shrieking damsels and even cosmic footballs are oft-repeated themes.
By award: This gives an easy avenue to focus your collection! The Nebula Award, for example, names the best novel, novella, and short story for each year, as voted on and presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Choosing to collect the works by winners of a given award provides a manageable annual checklist to follow for managing a reasonable and effective science fiction collection.
By theme: This is a bit more vague of a focus, and the choice is all yours. Do you prefer to read tomes of Gothic horror over the more traditional tales of time-travel and robotics? Finding a first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth might be a bit out of your initial price range, but there’s also newer authors in that genre that are more affordable, and worth building a collection with, such as Poppy Z. Brite or Neil Gaiman.
Whatever method you use to refine your collection, always remember that the main key to keeping those collectibles worth the investment is keeping them in the best condition possible. Our blog has more resources to help you learn to properly store and care for your books, identify a Book Club Edition, and more.
Collecting Science Fiction Books
Biblio Unbound: Collecting Science Fiction Pulps and Digests by Michael Haynes
The LOCUS Index to Science Fiction Awards