Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gollancz SF At Fifty

Victor Gollancz Ltd, founded in 1927, started publishing science fiction and fantasy in 1961.  Many will, like me, remember hunting down Gollancz hardbacks with their distinctive yellow jackets in library SF & Fantasy shelves in the 1970s and 1980s.  The family firm of Gollancz was sold by Victor Gollancz's daughter, Livia, to Houghton Mifflin at the end of the 1980s.  A few years later, Houghton Mifflin sold Gollancz to Cassell, which was bought by Orion in 1998; the Gollancz name lives on as its SF and Fantasy imprint.  And now Gollancz Science Fiction and Fantasy is having a little contest to celebrate its anniversary. Pick what you consider to be the best title from 25 SF and and 25 fantasy books published by Gollancz, and you might win a subscription to SFX magazine, and a copy of each of the top 10 titles from both lists.  And gosh, my novel Fairyland is up there in the best SF list...

Fairyland was my sixth book with Gollancz.  My first, Four Hundred Billion Stars, was published 23 years ago, in, yes, a yellow jacket, when Gollancz was still independent publisher Victor Gollancz.  My editor was Malcolm Edwards, and I still remember our first meeting.  Gollancz was housed in a Georgian building with a tall narrow frontage on Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.  (Later, I would discover that the company owned the property backing on to the townhouse, creating a Dickensian maze of offices and corridors and odd spaces that ran through the block (was there a courtyard?  Were there clerks making entries in ledgers with quill pens?) to the next street.)

As I recall on that first visit, the reception wasn't a place to linger.  No comfy sofas, coffee tables, vases of cut flowers. There were piles of books wrapped in brown paper and a couple of motorcycle dispatch riders kicking around the small, dimly lit room.  The receptionist, working behind a counter, directed me upstairs.  All the way up to the top, several floors of winding rickety stairs to a kind of penthouse with a lot of glass looking out over London rooftops, where Malcolm presided with unflappable affability over his first empire.  He moved on just before Gollancz was swallowed by Houghton Mifflin; I stuck it out until just before Cassell, and Gollancz, was bought by Orion, under the direction of . . . Malcolm Edwards.  It's a small world.  Now I'm back with Gollancz, and my old titles have or are coming back into print, and I'm working on my nineteeth novel.  Twenty-three years.  As Matty Ross says towards the end of True Grit, time just gets away from us.
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