Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Science Fiction Book Club

I mentioned in yesterday's post about The Sword of Shannara that my first encounter with the book was through a friend's mother, who was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club. Serendipitously, the next issue #77 of Dragon (September 1983) in my queue for this feature included an advertisement from SFBC.
That the Book Club advertised in Dragon at all is probably noteworthy, a testament to just how high the magazine's circulation was even at the end of the Golden Age. More interesting to me are the titles highlighted in the ad, which serve as a window into what mass market SF and fantasy was like in those days. In addition to Anderson, Asimov, Heinlein, and Herbert, you'll see Terry Brooks, a comic adaptation of the movie Creepshow -- the term "graphic novel" not yet having been invented -- and the delightfully idiosyncratic Fantasy Wargaming. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a book like that would be included in an ad targeted at Dragon audiences, yet I am. Fantasy Wargaming is, at best, a footnote in the history of the hobby. To see it sold through a mass market mail order book club like the SFBC is remarkable. Oh, how times have changed!


  1. Snazzy Header! :)

    For a footnote, Fantasy Wargaming sure gets around. Such a weird, little book but I wouldn't trade mine for anything short of an OD&D Whitebox.

    My copy is an SFBC one and while I first ran into the work at a local Waldenbooks, every subsequent copy I've seen, granted only about three or so, has been the BCE.

  2. Man, these pages were always tempting. This one still is.

  3. I did actually join up to the UK version. I still have my book club editions of the Riverworld books and McCafferey's Dragondrums on the shelf behind me.

    Bloody hard work leaving the club, though!

  4. Ah yes, the Science-Fiction Book Club: inexpensive – and cheaply made – SF&F hardcovers, sent to you regularly when you forgot to decline the selection of the month. I was a member for at least a decade, and have boxes and boxes of their tomes in storage somewhere (I discovered that they take up way too much shelf space). I was also simultaneously a member of the sister “Military” and “Mystery” Book Clubs – as well as the unrelated Book of the Month and Quality Paperback Book Clubs; so yeah, I ended up with a LOT of books.

    Hmmm … of the 27 titles shown in the ad I’m pretty sure that I own at least 16 of them, though not all through the auspices of the SFBC. These look-backs to a “moment-in-time” are always very interesting: I’m pretty sure that I could still find half of these books at the World’s Biggest Bookstore or through Amazon but I haven’t seen or heard of the others in decades (which isn’t necessarily a comment on their quality).

    As for Fantasy Wargaming, I definitely got my copy from the SFBC. I was a wargamer before I was a roleplayer, and as soon as I saw the title I knew I had to have it; in fact I ended up with two copies because I accidentally ordered a second copy before the first arrived. I must say that I was initially disappointed with the book because it really had nothing to do with “wargaming,” but somehow the book has remained on my shelves all these years - every so often I pull it down to look at it’s guidelines for creating authentic medieval settings or to ponder its weird magic system.

  5. Fortunately avoided the bookclubs, but loved FW.
    Although not for its fabulous unplayable ruleset.
    Also reviewed it differently a while ago, without knowing you already did.



  6. I am a 25 year plus member of the SFBC, and I can remember as a kid getting my copy of Fantasy Wargaming from SFBC (but through my mother's account at the time). I was never sure what to do with it, since it was so different from the Basic blue box D&D I had since 1979, and the recently acquired 1st ed AD&D books I got in 1980.

    While places like Amazon are usually cheaper, there are still bargains to be found with SFBC from time to time, especially with their BOGO offers.

  7. @mattruane - Ye Gads, I didn't imagine they were still in business! Good to know ... not that I can really afford to rejoin.

  8. Re: above ... I must admit that curiosity quickly got the better of me and I went e-searching for the SFBC. Apparently its US & UK divisions are still a going concern (for "over 50 years" according to one banner) but the Canadian division went into receivership in December 2010 - aw, shucks.

  9. Not a fan of the book clubs back in the day, less so now. They tend to produce badly made and edited editions, especially the collected versions. They might have been useful for a time, but that's long past IMO.

    Oh and Graphic Novel was around and in popular usage by 1983, see Marvel's Graphic Novel line as an example.