Ace Books is an American specialty publisher of science fiction and fantasy books. The company was founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn and began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns. It soon branched out into other genres, publishing its first science fiction (sf) title in 1953. This was successful, and science fiction titles outnumbered both mysteries and westerns within a few years. Other genres also made an appearance, including nonfiction, gothic novels, media tie-in novelizations, and romances. Ace became known for the tête-bêche binding format used for many of its early books, although it did not originate the format. Most of the early titles were published in this "Ace Double" format, and Ace continued to issue books in varied genres, bound tête-bêche, until 1973.
Ace, along with Ballantine Books, was one of the leading science fiction publishers for its first ten years of operation. With the death of owner A. A. Wyn in 1967, however, the company's fortunes began to decline. Two prominent editors, Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, left in 1971, and in 1972 Ace was sold to Grosset & Dunlap. Despite financial troubles, there were further successes, particularly with the third Ace Science Fiction Specials series, for which Carr was the editor. Further mergers and acquisitions resulted in the company becoming a part of Berkley Books. Ace then became an imprint of Penguin Group (USA).
|Parent company||Berkley Books (Penguin Random House)|
|Founder||A. A. Wyn|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City|
|Key people||Ginjer Buchanan, Editor in Chief|
|Fiction genres||Science fiction|
Editor Donald A. Wollheim was working at Avon Books in 1952, but disliked his job. While looking for other work, he tried to persuade A. A. Wyn to begin a new paperback publishing company. Wyn was already a well-established publisher of books and pulp magazines under the name A. A. Wyn's Magazine Publishers. His magazines included Ace Mystery and Ace Sports, and it is perhaps from these titles that Ace Books got its name. Wyn liked Wollheim's idea but delayed for several months; meanwhile, Wollheim was applying for other jobs, including assistant editor at Pyramid Books. Pyramid mistakenly called Wyn's wife Rose for a reference, thinking Wollheim had worked for her. When Rose told her husband that Wollheim was applying for another job, Wyn made up his mind: he hired Wollheim immediately as an editor.
The first book published by Ace was a pair of mysteries bound tête-bêche: Keith Vining's Too Hot for Hell, backed with Samuel W. Taylor's The Grinning Gismo, priced at 35 cents, with serial number D-01. A tête-bêche book has the two titles bound upside-down with respect to each other, so that there are two front covers and the two texts meet in the middle (sometimes with advertising pages in between). This format is generally regarded as an innovation of Ace's; it was not, but Ace published hundreds of titles bound this way over the next twenty-one years. Books by established authors were often bound with those by lesser-known writers, on the premise that this would help new writers gain readers. The main drawback of the "Ace Double" format was that the two books had to fit a fixed page length (usually totalling between 256 and 320 low-height pages); thus one or both novels might be cut or revised to fit. Despite the tag "Complete and Unabridged" on the cover, books so labeled were sometimes still abridged.
Some important titles in the early D-series novels are D-15, which features William S. Burroughs's first novel, Junkie (written under the pseudonym "William Lee"), and many novels by Philip K. Dick, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Harry Whittington, and Louis L'Amour, including those written under his pseudonym "Jim Mayo".
The last Ace Double in the first series was John T. Phillifent's Life with Lancelot, backed with William Barton's Hunting on Kunderer, issued August 1973 (serial #48245). Although Ace resumed using the "Ace Double" name in 1974, the books were arranged conventionally rather than tête-bêche.
Ace's second title was a western (also tête-bêche): William Colt MacDonald's Bad Man's Return, bound with J. Edward Leithead's Bloody Hoofs. Mysteries and westerns alternated regularly for the first thirty titles, with a few books not in either genre, such as P. G. Wodehouse's Quick Service, bound with his The Code of the Woosters. In 1953, A.E. van Vogt's The World of Null-A, bound with his The Universe Maker, appeared; this was Ace's first foray into science fiction. (Earlier in 1953, Ace had released Theodore S. Drachman's Cry Plague!, with a plot that could be regarded as sf, but the book it was bound with—Leslie Edgley's The Judas Goat—was not sf .) Another sf double followed later in 1953, and sf rapidly established itself, alongside westerns and mysteries, as an important part of Ace's business. By 1955, the company released more sf titles each year than in either of the other two genres, and from 1961 onward, sf titles outnumbered mysteries and westerns combined. Ace also published a number of lurid juvenile delinquent novels in the 1950s that are now very collectible, such as D-343, The Young Wolves by Edward De Roo and D-378, Out for Kicks by Wilene Shaw.
By the late 1950s, Ace's output was approaching one hundred titles a year, still heavily dominated by the primary genres. Almost all the books were 35 cents, though some slim single volumes were 25 cents, and a handful were half a dollar. In the early '60s, rising costs finally forced an increase in the price of the books, and more books appeared at 40 cents, 45 cents and higher. A few thick volumes, such as the 1967 paperback of Frank Herbert's Dune, were priced at 95 cents. With Ballantine Books, Ace was the dominant American science fiction paperback publisher in the 1950s and 1960s. Other publishers followed their lead, catering to the increasing audience for sf, but none matched the influence of either company.
Market dominance was not only reflected in numbers of books published—Ace published, during this period, the first novels of authors such as Philip K. Dick (Solar Lottery, 1955, D-103, bound with Leigh Brackett's The Big Jump); Gordon R. Dickson (Alien from Arcturus, 1956, D-139, bound with Nick Boddie Williams' The Atom Curtain), Samuel R. Delany (The Jewels of Aptor, 1962, F-173, bound with James White's Second Ending), Ursula K. Le Guin (Rocannon's World, 1966, G-574, bound with Avram Davidson's The Kar-Chee Reign), Roger Zelazny (This Immortal, 1966, F-393), and R. A. Lafferty's Past Master (1968, H-54).
In 1964, science fiction author Terry Carr joined the company, and in 1967, he initiated the Ace Science Fiction Specials line, publishing critically acclaimed original novels by such authors as R. A. Lafferty, Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin. Carr and Wollheim also co-edited an annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series; and Carr also edited Universe, a well-received original anthology series. Universe was initially published by Ace, although when Carr left in 1971 the series moved elsewhere.
In 1965, Wollheim argued that there was a copyright loophole in the American edition of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The Houghton Mifflin edition had been bound using pages printed in the United Kingdom for the George Allen & Unwin edition, and as a result, U.S. copyright law might not protect the text. Based on this view, Ace Books published the first-ever paperback edition of Tolkien's work, featuring cover art and hand-drawn title pages by Jack Gaughan. After considerable controversy and the release of a competitive authorized (and revised) edition by Ballantine Books (the back covers of which included a message from Tolkien urging consumers to buy the Ballantine edition and boycott any "unauthorized" versions – referring directly to the Ace editions), Ace agreed to pay royalties to Tolkien and let its still-popular edition go out of print.
Wyn died in 1967, and the company grew financially overextended, failing to pay its authors reliably. Without money to pay the signing bonus, Wollheim was unwilling to send signed contracts to authors. On at least one occasion, a book without a valid contract went to the printer, and Wollheim later found out that the author, who was owed $3,000 by Ace, was reduced to picking fruit for a living.
Both Wollheim and Carr left Ace in 1971. Wollheim had made plans to launch a separate paperback house, and in cooperation with New American Library, he proceeded to set up DAW Books. Carr became a freelance editor; both Carr and Wollheim went on to edit competing Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series.
By the early 1970s, Ace Books became a major division of the old publisher, Charter Communications, which was based out of the Hippodrome Building, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, in New York City. In 1972, Ace was acquired by Grosset & Dunlap, and in 1982, Grosset & Dunlap was in turn acquired by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Ace was reputedly the only profitable element of the Grosset & Dunlap empire by this time. Ace soon became the science fiction imprint of its parent company.
Carr returned to Ace Books in 1984 as a freelance editor, launching a new series of Ace Specials devoted entirely to first novels. This series was even more successful than the first: it included, in 1984 alone, William Gibson's Neuromancer, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore, Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes, and Michael Swanwick's In the Drift. All were first novels by authors now regarded as major figures in the sf genre. Other prominent sf publishing figures who have worked at Ace include Tom Doherty, who left to start Tor Books, and Jim Baen, who left to work at Tor and who eventually founded Baen Books. Writers who have worked at Ace include Frederik Pohl and Ellen Kushner.
In 1996, Penguin Group (USA) acquired the Putnam Berkley Group, and has retained Ace as its sf imprint. As of December 2012, recently published authors included Joe Haldeman, Charles Stross, Laurell K. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, and Jack McDevitt. Penguin merged with Random House in 2013 to form Penguin Random House, which continues to own Berkley. Ace's editorial team is also responsible for the Roc Books imprint, although the two imprints maintain a separate identity.
The following people have worked at Ace Books in various editorial roles. The list is sorted in order of the date they started working at Ace, where known. It includes editors who are notable for some reason, as well as the most recent editors at the imprint.
Until the late 1980s, Ace titles had two main types of serial numbers: letter series, such as "D-31" and "H-77", and numeric, such as "10293" and "15697". The letters were used to indicate a price. The following is a list of letter series with their date ranges and prices.
The first series of Ace books began in 1952 with D-01, a western in tête-bêche format: Keith Vining's Too Hot for Hell backed with Samuel W. Taylor's The Grinning Gismo. That series continued until D-599, Patricia Libby's Winged Victory for Nurse Kerry, but the series also included several G and S serial numbers, depending on the price. The D and S did not indicate "Double" (i.e., tête-bêche) or "Single"; there are D-series titles that are not tête-bêche, although none of the tête-bêche titles have an S serial number. Towards the end of this initial series, the F series began (at a new price), and thereafter there were always several different letter series in publication simultaneously. The D and S prefixes did not appear again after the first series, but the G prefix acquired its own series starting with G-501. Hence the eight earlier G-series titles can be considered part of a different series to the G-series proper. All later series after the first kept independent numbering systems, starting at 1 or 101. The tête-bêche format proved attractive to book collectors, and some rare titles in mint condition command prices over $1,000.
In March 1984, I joined Ace Books, as an editor. Thirty years later, almost to the day, I am retiring, from the position of Editor-in-Chief of Ace and Roc Books. I've been very fortunate to work for three decades with many of the same colleagues and, in fact, many of the same authors. I will miss them all—but, since my job came out of my passion for the genre of science fiction and fantasy, I expect that I will be seeing them at conferences and conventions in the future
Readers of the first printed version of the novel didn't have far to look if their curiosity about Burroughs' adversaries was aroused. They only had to turn the book over and start reading Narcotic Agent, the account of former policeman Maurice Helbrant that came 69'd with Junky. ... if you've got a spare few thousand pounds, you can pick up a copy of the Ace Original paperback and read Narcotic Agent alongside the original Junky.
Conan and the Sorcerer is a fantasy novel written by Andrew J. Offutt and illustrated by Esteban Maroto. Featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, it is the first in a trilogy continuing with Conan the Mercenary and concluding with The Sword of Skelos. It was first published in paperback by Ace Books in October 1978, and reprinted in May 1979, 1982, and March 1984.Conan of Aquilonia
Conan of Aquilonia is a collection of four linked fantasy short stories by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The stories were originally published in Fantastic in August 1972, July 1973, July 1974, and February 1975. The collected stories were intended for book publication by Lancer Books, but this edition never appeared due to Lancer's bankruptcy, and the first book edition was issued in paperback by Ace Books in paperback in May 1977. It was reprinted by Ace in July 1981, April 1982, November 1982, August 1983, July 1984, 1986, June 1991, and April 1994. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in October 1978, and reprinted in July 1988. The book has also been translated into FrenchConan the Mercenary
Conan the Mercenary is a fantasy novel written by American writer Andrew J. Offutt and illustrated by Esteban Maroto featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, the second volume in a trilogy beginning with Conan and the Sorcerer and concluding with The Sword of Skelos. It was first published in paperback by Ace Books in 1980, with an official publication date of January 1981. Ace reprinted the novel in April 1983, and issued a trade paperback edition in 1985. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in July 1989.Furies of Calderon
Furies of Calderon is the first novel in the high fantasy series Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. The novel was first released by Ace Books in the United States as a Hardcover edition on October 5, 2004, followed by a Paperback edition on June 26, 2005. Orbit Books released a paperback edition in the United Kingdom in December 2009. It tells the story of a young boy named Tavi who is the only one without any fury crafting abilities.
The novel was well received, with critics praising Butcher's turn at a more traditional fantasy setting, fast pacing, action, and his characterization of the antagonists.Hugo Award for Best Novel
The Hugo Award for Best Novel is one of the Hugo Awards given each year for science fiction or fantasy stories published or translated into English during the previous calendar year. The novel award is available for works of fiction of 40,000 words or more; awards are also given out in the short story, novelette, and novella categories. The Hugo Awards have been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction" and "the best known literary award for science fiction writing".The Hugo Award for Best Novel has been awarded annually by the World Science Fiction Society since 1953, except in 1954 and 1957. In addition to the regular Hugo awards, beginning in 1996 Retrospective Hugo Awards, or "Retro Hugos", have been available to be awarded for 50, 75, or 100 years prior. Retro Hugos may only be awarded for years in which a World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, was hosted, but no awards were originally given. To date, Retro Hugo awards have been given for novels for 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1951, and 1954.Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with six nominees, except in the case of a tie. The novels on the ballot are the six most-nominated by members that year, with no limit on the number of stories that can be nominated. The 1953, 1955, and 1958 awards did not include any recognition of runner-up novels, but since 1959 all final candidates have been recorded. Initial nominations are made by members in January through March, while voting on the ballot of six nominations is performed roughly in April through July, subject to change depending on when that year's Worldcon is held. Prior to 2017, the final ballot was five works; it was changed that year to six, with each initial nominator limited to five nominations. Worldcons are generally held in August or early September, and are held in a different city around the world each year.During the 70 nomination years, 145 authors have had works nominated; 48 of these have won, including co-authors, ties, and Retro Hugos. One translator has been noted along with the author whose works he translated. Robert A. Heinlein has received the most Hugos for Best Novel as well as the most nominations, with six wins (including two Retro Hugos) and twelve nominations. Lois McMaster Bujold has received four Hugos on ten nominations; the only other authors to win more than twice are Isaac Asimov (including one Retro Hugo), N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis, and Vernor Vinge, who have each won three times. Nine other authors have won the award twice. The next-most nominations by a winning author are held by Robert J. Sawyer and Larry Niven, who have been nominated nine and eight times, respectively, and each have only won once, while Robert Silverberg has the greatest number of nominations without winning at nine. Three authors have won the award in consecutive years: Orson Scott Card (1986, 1987), Lois McMaster Bujold (1991, 1992), and N. K. Jemisin (2016, 2017, and 2018).Nebula Award for Best Novel
The Nebula Award for Best Novel is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for science fiction or fantasy novels. A work of fiction is defined by the organization as a novel if it is 40,000 words or longer; awards are also given out for pieces of shorter lengths in the categories of short story, novelette, and novella. To be eligible for Nebula Award consideration a novel must be published in English in the United States. Works published in English elsewhere in the world are also eligible provided they are released on either a website or in an electronic edition. The Nebula Award for Best Novel has been awarded annually since 1966. Novels which were expanded forms of previously published short stories are eligible, as are novellas published by themselves if the author requests them to be considered as a novel. The award has been described as one of "the most important of the American science fiction awards" and "the science-fiction and fantasy equivalent" of the Emmy Awards.Nebula Award nominees and winners are chosen by members of the SFWA, though the authors of the nominees do not need to be members. Works are nominated each year between November 15 and February 15 by published authors who are members of the organization, and the six works that receive the most nominations then form the final ballot, with additional nominees possible in the case of ties. Members may then vote on the ballot throughout March, and the final results are presented at the Nebula Awards ceremony in May. Authors are not permitted to nominate their own works, and ties in the final vote are broken, if possible, by the number of nominations the works received. Beginning with the 2009 awards, the rules were changed to the current format. Prior to then, the eligibility period for nominations was defined as one year after the publication date of the work, which allowed the possibility for works to be nominated in the calendar year after their publication and then be awarded in the calendar year after that. Works were added to a preliminary list for the year if they had ten or more nominations, which were then voted on to create a final ballot, to which the SFWA organizing panel was also allowed to add an additional work.During the 53 nomination years, 183 authors have had works nominated; 40 of these have won, including co-authors and ties. Ursula K. Le Guin has received the most Nebula Awards for Best Novel with four wins out of six nominations. Joe Haldeman has received three awards out of four nominations, while nine other authors have won twice. Jack McDevitt has the most nominations at twelve, with one win, while Poul Anderson and Philip K. Dick have the most nominations without winning an award at five.The Blade of Conan
The Blade of Conan is a 1979 collection of essays edited by L. Sprague de Camp, published in paperback by Ace Books. The material was originally published as articles in George H. Scithers' fanzine Amra. The book is a companion to Ace’s later volume of material from Amra, The Spell of Conan (1980). Most of the material in the two volumes, together with some additional material, was reprinted from three previous books issued in hardcover by Mirage Press; de Camp’s collection The Conan Reader (1968), and the de Camp and Scithers-edited anthologies The Conan Swordbook (1969). and The Conan Grimoire (1972).The Flame Knife
The Flame Knife is a 1955 fantasy novella by American writers Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, featuring Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was revised by de Camp from Howard's original story, a then-unpublished oriental tale featuring Francis X. Gordon titled "Three-Bladed Doom". De Camp changed the names of the characters, added the fantastic element, and recast the setting into Howard's Hyborian Age. The story was first published in the hardbound collection Tales of Conan (Gnome Press, 1955), and subsequently appeared in the paperback collection Conan the Wanderer (Lancer Books, 1968), as part of which it has been translated into German, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. It was published by itself in paperback book form by Ace Books in 1981, in an edition profusely illustrated by Esteban Maroto.The Spell of Conan
The Spell of Conan is a 1980 collection of essays, poems and fiction edited by L. Sprague de Camp, published in paperback by Ace Books. The material was originally published as articles in George H. Scithers' fanzine Amra. The book is a companion to Ace's earlier volume of material from Amra, The Blade of Conan (1979). Most of the material in the two volumes, together with some additional material, was reprinted from three previous books issued in hardcover by Mirage Press; de Camp's collection The Conan Reader (1968), and the de Camp and Scithers-edited anthologies The Conan Swordbook (1969). and The Conan Grimoire (1972).The Treasure of Tranicos (collection)
The Treasure of Tranicos is a 1980 collection of a fantasy short story and essays by American writers Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp featuring Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian; the essays by de Camp are on the title story and on Howard. The book is illustrated by Esteban Maroto.
The title story was revised by de Camp from the original version by Howard and was first published as "The Black Stranger" in Fantasy Magazine for February, 1953. It subsequently appeared in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967).The Virgin of Zesh
The Virgin of Zesh is a science fiction novella by American writer L. Sprague de Camp, the fourth book of his Viagens Interplanetarias series and the third of its subseries of stories set on the fictional planet Krishna. Chronologically, it is the fifth Krishna novel. It was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories for February 1953. It was first published in book form together with The Wheels of If in the paperback collection The Virgin & the Wheels by Popular Library in 1976. For the later standard edition of Krishna novels it was published together with The Tower of Zanid in the paperback collection The Virgin of Zesh & The Tower of Zanid by Ace Books in 1983. The first English language stand-alone edition was published as an E-book by Gollancz's SF Gateway imprint on September 29, 2011 as part of a general release of de Camp's works in electronic form. The novel has also been translated into German.As with all of the "Krishna" novels, the title of The Virgin of Zesh has a "Z" in it, a practice de Camp claimed to have devised to keep track of them. Short stories in the series do not follow the practice, nor do Viagens Interplanetarias works not set on Krishna.