Archive for Gnome Press

Drag myself to the keyboard…

Posted in Gene Wolfe, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2012 by Aaron

This seems to be the cycle: Post a few times, then sleep for a couple of months.  Repeat.
It’s been about ten weeks since the last post and quite a bit has happened in that time.  Well, some stuff has happened.  Got hold of a few more books and things, bought a new (old) camera, got myself a pet, busted up with the girlfriend…. and started reading again.  A couple of topics there aren’t really relevant to this blog, but hey, they are interesting and give me something to post about.  Lets address things one at a time.

When a first got into photography as an adolescent, it was with my father’s camera.  An Asahi Pentax H2 he bought as a 13 year old in 1959.  That particular model was known as both the Honeywell Pentax S2 and H2 in North America, I believe.  I really love that camera and I still have and use it occasionally.  A few years ago, I got into the history of Pentax cameras from around that time (late 50s – very early 60s), and there is a sub-culture that exists around the collection of Pentax cameras and lenses of that vintage.  They were technically groundbreaking cameras then, and still are one of the most aesthetically beautiful camera designs EVER.  I’ve had at one point or another every model from that time, the Original or AP model from 1957, the ‘K’ model from 1958-59 and of course Dad’s H2 which was the next model along in ’59.  Subsequently were the H3/S3, then the H1/S1, H1a/S1a and the H3v/SV up until the legendary Spotmatic series came out in ’64, though these later models are not considered truly collectable yet.  The H2/S2 is still reasonably common as it was manufactured in greater numbers than the other ’50s models, still, a mint working example with the brown leather case will fetch somewhere around a hundred dollars, or maybe a little more.  Of both the AP and K, around 19 – 20 000 units respectively were manufactured.  Nice examples of these with the leather case will cost you upwards of $250 (UPDATE 2012/09/18: A nice K model without leather case just went for $305 on eBay).  Both the AP and K that I had disappeared into eBay to fund my Gnome Press addiction.  Remember I said I’ve had every model from that time?  Not true.  I neglected to mention there is a model that sits between the AP and the K.  It’s the Asahi Pentax S.  Produced in ’58-’59 concurrently with the K, this is to Asahi Pentax collecting what I, Robot is to Gnome Press.  There are no clear records for volumes of any of these camera models, but the estimates for units of the ‘S’ produced range from slightly less than 5000 down to only 3000.  They are as rare as hen’s teeth, massively prized by collectors, and I picked one up in an auction in New Zealand.

I got a pet snake.  I’m from New Zealand as you may know, and we have one attribute that we share with very few other countries in the world.  We have no snakes.  Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and New Zealand are the only major landmasses that have no snakes.  Actually, Ireland does have snakes now (pets and zoos), but they have no native population of snakes.  Anyway, there are absolutely no snakes in NZ, not even in zoos.  Of course the odd few make their way over in shipping containers, but they are quickly disposed of, and I guess the odd one has been smuggled in.  A guy I used to work with about 20 years ago, his brother apparently brought one back from Australia in some pool furniture made from PVC tubing.  I don’t know what became of that.  As a person from New Zealand though, actually seeing a snake in the flesh (let alone having one) is a unique experience.  She’s a ball (or royal) python – python regius.  Her name is Chichi and she’s about six months old and as long as my arm.  She’s quite tame and I can pick her up and handle her no problem.  She eats frozen mice and rats (I thaw and warm them slightly before feeding her of course..) and will grow to about four feet long eventually.  She’s wonderful.

We broke up about a week ago.  A shame.

Gnome Press and Book Stuff
It’s been ongoing.  What was the last report on that??  Ah, right.  I picked up The Porcelain Magician and it appeared in my 75% report.  The only other GP items I have picked up since then are Lewis Padgett’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow & The Fairy Chessmen, a much nicer copy of Minions of the Moon (no spine fading!! Yay!!) which hasn’t arrived yet, and a Gnome Press Fall 1953 Science Fiction Book Catalog which has also to arrive.  An interesting item that last, photos when it arrives.  It’s been sluggish on the GP front, but my Gene Wolfe signed first edition collection has expanded considerably.  I’ve picked up the collections Plan[e]t Engineering, Endangered Species and (not here yet) Innocents Aboard, the novels Pandora by Holly Hollander and Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (which when added to Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun completes The Book of the Long Sun series for me).  I also picked up one of Gene Wolfe’s  limited chapbooks containing the short story Christmas Inn.  What’s a chapbook I hear you inquire??  See here.  What makes me very happy though is the acquisition of the complete The Book of the New Sun.  This is Mr Wolfe’s most famous and popular work and it’s my all-time favorite piece of writing.  All four books are in fine condition and have identical signed loose pages laid in.  The Shadow of the Torturer is below by way of example.

I’m reading again!!  Started on The Seedling Stars by James Blish.  Here’s hoping I actually finish this one!!


Three Parts… Three Quarters… 75%.

Posted in 75%, Progress Report with tags on July 1, 2012 by Aaron

The first 25% took 6 months, it took a little over a year to bring it to 50%, and now achieving 75%, has taken one year and nine months. As I explained in the 25 – 50% review, the book split for the last half of this endeavor is 21/21 – I now have 65 of the 86 books required to reach my goal.  While bringing my collection to this point is gratifying from a purely statistical perspective, this has been the most unfulfilling period from the point of view of my commitment to reading and this blog.  In addition, I’ve been several hundred dollars distracted by Gene Wolfe and Brian Aldiss.

In the last progress report, I bemoaned the fact that my reading and contribution to this blog was poor.  This time around it has been poorer, and is a reflection of my lifestyle and general deportment over the past year or so.  But setting my personal situation and attitude aside, what about the books??  Let’s check out these 21 books.

Gnome Press: 50 - 75%

You’ll notice an odd detail on these books.  Aside from the nasty reflections, they all have a kind of seam-line down the center of the spine.  This is the heat-shrink plastic casing I put on all my books now in addition to the standard Brodart dust jacket covers that I apply.  This extra layer of protection keeps the atmosphere (humidity, dust etc.) away from the books.  Vacuum-packing them would be nicer, but I don’t have access to that kind of equipment here.

If you were counting, there are actually 22 books here.  You will see the group includes the Gnome Junior jacketed version of Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet.  As you may know, I picked up this title in the regular issue jacket some time ago.  This version is here because it’s a high profile addition to my GP collection.  But because I already have this title, I haven’t factored it’s $300 price tag into the ‘Most Expensive’, ‘Cheapest’ and ‘Average Price’ categories below.  You might say something like “Hey, what about the limited edition The Thirty-First of February.  You’re including that as a stand-alone title.”  Yes I am.  I consider that a completely different publication to the regular version.  It has several important binding differences and was specially created to stand apart from the other.  The Forgotten Planet here is a dust jacket variant only.
Another thing you may have picked up on is that The Menace from Earth has no dust jacket.  This is because the jacket is away at Craft Bookbinding Co. getting restored.

Best Condition:
Interplanetary Hunter by Arthur K. Barnes – a solid Near Fine if not Fine.  Pohl’s Drunkard’s Walk and The Bird of Time by Wallace West both come close.

Worst Condition:
The Carnelian Cube by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp – Poor.  Quite frankly, I don’t know why I bought it.

Most Expensive:
Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke – $235.

The Bird of Time by Wallace West – $10.  A nice little bargain.

50 – 75% Average Price:
$54.  If we include aforementioned variant of The Forgotten Planet, then this average leaps to $65.  But we don’t, so it’s up from the $47 for the second quarter, but less than the $57 for the first.

Best & Worst Read:
Reading is an area where I hang my head in shame.  Of the books in this bracket, I have only read Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars.  Sure, I read The Thirty-First of February and The Forgotten Planet earlier as part of the previous sections, and did listen to both The Menace from Earth and Against the Fall of Night a long time ago in audio form, but of the titles we are really concerned about here I’ve actually read only the one.  However, Mel & Rover is a super read, classic quality YASF.

Surprise Package:
Surprises can be both positive and negative, right??  Is a negative surprise called a shock??  Anyways, Robert Heinlein’s The Menace from Earth fits that bill.  I commented on that in detail in this post here.

Best Moments:
Procuring Against the Fall of Night and the limited edition The Thirty-First of February at reasonable prices – $235 and $52 (wow) respectively.
Adding the Gnome Junior jacketed version of The Forgotten Planet to the bookshelf.
My first Conan title – Conan the Conqueror.  Getting a Conan title is a nice satisfactory tick off the list.

Veritable Goldmine…

Posted in eBooks with tags on February 24, 2012 by Aaron

I just found a treasure trove of SF ebooks.  Check out Arthur’s Bookshelf.  There are other genres as well but of special interest to us is his Sci-Fi Bookshelf which holds several Gnome Press published authors along with many of their Golden Age contemporaries.  All books are either .epub and/or .mobi and/or .pdf ready for your ereader.  I’m not sure how many of these are actually supposed to be in the public domain, so get them while you can.  Check out the update to the Gnome Press books online for FREE page for the GP books that are represented.

Gnome Press, 50% down and 50% to go!!

Posted in 50%, Progress Report with tags on August 29, 2010 by Aaron

The first 25% took 6 months.  This, the second 25%, has taken a little over a year.

While the process of procuring the previous acquisitions was always exciting, this time around has, while also exciting, certainly had a few more ups and downs.  Chief among the ‘downs’ was my almost 6 month lull in reading and consequent lowered contributions to this blog.  From February to June I only got up only 8 posts, with none in May.  I abandoned reading Judgment Night as I fell so out of touch with the book that I felt it would be better to revisit it later.  I haven’t posted Review since Mutant on December 29th!!  I should have another up in the next couple of weeks though.

That aside, things are pretty much back on track now, and the ‘ups’ have been a few too. The biggest has been the most recent – Science Fiction Terror Tales.  I also picked up a nice copy of Pattern for Conquest which was a very desirable title to me, and SF:56 was a real highlight (see below).  So let’s see how the state of play has been in the Great Gnome Press Science Fiction Odyssey through the second quarter.

Gnome Press: 25 - 50%

Since there are 86 hard cover titles (I’m counting the regular edition and Special Edition issues of The Thirty-first of February as two separate collectables) to collect (excluding BCEs), over the first 50% I’ve split it 22/22.  This means that in point of fact I am one book over the exact half mark.  The next half will be split 21/21.  Note that all categories here are drawn exclusively from the 25 – 50% group.  This works except for Best and Worst Read as I haven’t read them all yet.  That’s too bad.  It looks like some books will never get a shot.  I’m sure something like Science Fiction Terror Tales, the SF’5x books, or even Travelers of Space could have had a decent shot at Best Read.  Perhaps when I get to the very end and have read them all, I’ll look back and attempt to do it properly.  Anyways:

Best Condition:
SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF’56) edited by Judith Merril – Fine+

Worst Condition:
Path of Unreason by George O. Smith would be but was a gift, therefore it’s not in the running, so it has to be Typewriter in the Sky & Fear by L. Ron Hubbard – G-

Most Expensive:
Science Fiction Terror Tales edited by Groff Conklin – $267, and my most expensive acquisition thus far.

SF’58: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Judith Merril – $8, real bargain this.

25 – 50% Average Price:
$47 – 10 dollars less than the first 25%, good news!!

Best Read:
Men Against the Stars edited by Martin Greenberg

Worst Read:
Cosmic Engineers by Clifford Simak

Surprise Package:
SF: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF:56) edited by Judith Merril. I bought it unseen and on recommendation for the apparent high price of $93.  At a print run of only 3000 copies, it is one of the least common Gnome Press titles, and possibly in the best condition of any I have.  After being a bit anxious about what I had bought, it turned out to be a real find.

Best Moments:
Hands down number one: getting hold of Science Fiction Terror Tales.
Discovering Ms. C.L. Moore as a writer.
Completing the set of the fantastic Adventures in Science Fiction Series of anthologies.  Still two to read.

It’s worth noting that there are still two titles from the first 25% that I haven’t yet read – Sands of Mars and The Vortex Blaster.

Gnome Press, 25% down and 75% to go!!

Posted in 25%, Progress Report with tags on April 22, 2009 by Aaron

Well, it’s been a whirlwind 6 months, but we are a quarter of the way there.  Time for a little reflection.  First of all, I am surprised at how exciting this has been.  I have always wanted to collect books, and my dream is to have my own library (you know, a couple of levels inside with one of those big brass ladders that runs around the walls).  So to be actually doing this is great.  It’s addictive.  I need that buzz of knowing that there are books on the way and it’s always a thrill to get books in the post and check them out for the first time.  I’ll never forget the feeling of having that maiden Robert A. Heinlein 1st edition in my hands…

The second thing is I’ve come in contact with some very friendly and helpful dealers and collectors and learned a lot.  People have been very willing to give me anecdotes and a bit of history if they can.  I appreciate all of it very much.

There are 86 volumes in the Gnome Press publication catalog.  That’s regular hard-cover books.  There are of course some other bits and pieces like a small amount of paperbacks, newsletters and a couple of calendars and so forth, and one limited edition volume (which incidentally, a copy of which is ear-marked for me… thanks Geoff).  Below are the 22 volumes I have in my Library thus far in what I think is order of publication.  Click the pic for a bigger and more detailed view.

So, where to from here??  I’m under no illusions it’s only going to get more expensive and more difficult.  My frenetic pace of acquisition will be slowing down.  The next 25% will be slower and so too the next, and the final quarter… well… gulp… that giant monster ‘I, Robot’ lurks.  However, the road to 50% does start with a bang – I already have seven volumes nailed down and due when I get around to paying for them over the next month or so.  I’m now going to do something rather inane and compile a kind of highlights package of 0 – 25%.

Best Condition:
The Thirty-First of February by Nelson Bond – Fine

Worst Condition:
Iceworld by Hal Clement – ex-library

Most Expensive:
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag by Robert A. Heinlein – $210

The Philosophical Corps by Everett B. Cole – $15

0 – 25% Average Price:
$57 – wow really?? shhh… don’t tell my wife…

Best Read So Far:
Robots Have No Tails… by Lewis Padgett

Worst Read So Far:
The Philosophical Corps by Everett B. Cole

Surprise Package:
Agent of Vega by James H. Schmitz. For two very different reasons. The book was in poorer condition than I expected, it has crappy cover art but it was an unexpectedly good read. Highly recommended.

Best Moments:
Getting my first RAH 1st edition (Hoag).
Being wonderfully entertained by Padgett’s Robots Have No Tails.
Getting hooked by Martin Greenberg’s ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ concept collections.
Discovering Nelson Bond – what a great writer that guy is.

To wrap this post up, I’m having a fantastic time in this endeavor. I’m discovering new authors, reading some wonderful stories and accumulating a slice of real science fiction history. I hope you stick with me.