Wednesday, August 24, 2005

About this site (updated 24th April 2010)

NEWS 24th April 2010

So the series isn't dead after all. All titles bar one or two have been reissued in a (frankly revolting) new binding, with the elegant black background and colour insets replaced with what I can only describe as 'rhubarb and custard' The only redeeming feature is the fading smear of 'Gollancz yellow' at the top of spine.

Actually, the whole series is giving me cluster headaches.

There's a forthcoming cased edition of 'Childhood's End' in the traditional binding; a forthcoming paperback edition of 'Inverted World' in the 'rhubarb and custard' binding, and a forthcoming paperback edition of 'Helliconia' in a full colour rendering of the new-style binding.

If anyone can work out what the hell is going on, do please tell, because as usual Orion bookswith their customary two-fingered salute to the readers who keep them in business are being less than helpful on their website: yes, you've guessed, no series list, no reference to binding changes, no list of forthcoming titles. It may be worth keeping an eye on the Wikipedia entry (linked to in the sidebar of this site) in the interim.

I've no idea what's happening to the Fantasy Masterworks series, if anything.

I'm going to lie down now.

Before I do, however, be sure to check out a new group dedicated to the SFMW series on Goodreads.

Now I'm feeling disloyal to LibraryThing.

Ah! I'm over it.

NEWS 30th July 2009

Orion books is now at least acknowledging that it has a Twitter account (@orionbooks) on its home page.

However, I wouldn't like you to labour under the misapprehension that Orion actually told me that this was the case. Despite a number of requests for information via my @Diamat Twitter presence, they have dutifully ignored me, doubtless dismissing me as some time-rich crank who has nothing better to do than to badger them with outrageous and unreasonable queries connected with the apparently tiresome matter of when I can next give them some of my money.

Publishers, eh?

This command-and-control, 'bullhorn to the mouth, fingers in the ears' mindset is borne out by the fact that Orion's Twitter presence (28 following, 507 followers) is doing a lot of shouting, not much listening, and failing both to interact with and to reciprocally follow its community entirely. That is, unless you call a tweet to Jonathan Ross an interaction. Perhaps he is a valued customer? Perhaps they're hoping he'll retweet one of their messages to his followers (which won't happen), causing a sales spike (which also won't happen), and a pat on the head (when a slap round the chops would be more appropriate) for Orion PR, or whoever runs their account. Hard to say, as they haven't disclosed who is actually doing the tweeting. Ether way, it's a big slice of #twitterfail on Orion's part. Serving Ross's demographic of 1 (multi-millionaire TV twerp with an enormous Twitter following and a passing interest in SF... on film) isn't really a social media marketing strategy, is it? :)

Orion's SF Masterworks catalogue remains a shocking mess. Some entries are absent altogether; series numbers are missing; titles which have appeared in the series but which have been reissued as movie tie-ins (I Am Legend) or in other editions (the Blood Music 'Future Classics' release, for example) appear in the list in error. The Fantasy Masterworks catalogue, still quiet after #50, fares no better.

In all honesty, it's hard to see how they could be doing a worse job. As someone who has worked in publishing for over a decade, I can't say I'm surprised. As a reader and collector, I can't say I'm not disappointed.

If Orion were setting out to deracinate such brand loyalty as their readers' may still be in possession of, they're exceeding all expectations.

At present, Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle is still listed as the next release in the series with a publication date of 17th September 2009. The striking cover image (which is different to the SFMW hardback edition of the work) confirms the title to be an entry in the SFMW series, but the catalogue - predictably - does not currently denote that it will be #73. As usual with Orion, everything is subject to change and clouded in confusion.

As long time followers will have noticed, I have put a sequential series of cover images up on the site. I hope you like it. Titles that have been reviewed link to the relevant blog entry. Titles that have yet to be reviewed do not resolve.

As far as the reviews themselves are concerned: I hope to publish two in August, one SFMW, one FMW. I apologize for the delay in adding new content. I was made redundant in May 2009 (not fishing for sympathy here, I couldn't be more delighted about it, for various reasons) and have spent most of the last 8 weeks getting a consultancy presence running.

NEWS 9th April 2009
@orionbooks now has a Twitter presence and started posting on 17th March 2009. Again, who knows whether it's official or not, as there is no reference to this on their homepage. I've requested some clarification as to what is going to happen to the SF Masterworks series. I notice that a reference to PKD's The Man In The High Castle has now appeared as listed for publication in September 2009. As you can see from the link to the series above, whilst the binding would lead the reader to believe that this will be entry #73 in the series, it does not currently state that this is indeed the case.

If I hear anything, I'll let you know.

If I don't hear anything, I'll also let you know.

SERIES UPDATE NEWS 26th March 2009
In a textbook example of why catalogues are useless and should be scrapped, none of the releases announced by Orion which I mentioned in the update below were actually issued. Instead, the SF Masterworks series continues with Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (#72, December 2008) as a cased edition. In other news, @Gollancz is now on Twitter. Whether they're official, who knows; there's nothing on the Orion site to suggest that this is indeed the case.

According to their latest catalogue, and following on from Dune (#71), it looks like Orion are going to continue reissuing the SF Masterworks they originally published in hardback (lacking the pbk rights) as 'cased' editions. The Man in the High Castle (#72, July 2008), Childhood's End (#73, August 2008), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (#74, December 2008) are all teed up thus far. I have high hopes that A Canticle for Liebowitz, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Day of the Triffids may follow next year, although if they're already recycling the previously published hardbacks, one does wonder how Orion is going to struggle to SF Masterworks #100, where I understand that the series will apparently conclude.

SITE UPDATE 16th August 2008
Having returned to the UK, I am getting back into the swing of this, and thoroughly enjoying it. In order to record some of my genre reading that falls outside of these series, I will be including occasional reviews from two other lists, namely Orion's stunning limited release of titles under the Future Classics banner in 2007, and the elusive Gollancz SF Collectors' Edition (more here). I describe them as 'elusive' only because I have been unable to find a definitive list of which titles have been published in the series, and hope that this enterprise will be one way of answering this question in the fullness of time. You may have noticed that I have also included links to various SF awards. When time allows, I will be adding reviews of some previous winners, too.

Welcome to my SF Masterworks and Fantasy Masterworks review site. This blog is dedicated to reviews of the two parallel series published by Orion under the Millennium imprint. The former was launched in 1999, the latter in 2000. Both series are still in print, with over 130 titles now published, although not all of the works are still available. The publication schedule has slowed significantly in recent years, but new, incrementally-numberred titles continue to be added to both lists in the same highly attractive bindings. A number of the works have been released with different cover images over the years; The Forever War and Almost Human are cases in point.

The editors have done an excellent job of treading the line between the fiscally necessary (i.e. finding reasons to republish those back list titles to which they continue to hold the copyright) and the artistically committed. In genres which are often accused of being written by the yard, both series contain entries which far surpass the confines of genre fiction and deserve a wider audience.

This site will celebrate both the works themselves and Orion's commitment to the future of the series. Pages dedicated to both series appear on the publisher's website, which the sidebar of this blog links to. I am including links to some excellent pages on the SF Site, which is a fabulous resource all round. Amazon's UK site is also a good source of publication information and advance glimpses of the jackets (which are uniformly delightful).

You will also find links to the works on LibraryThing here and here

Thank you for your comments and e-mails, it is great to connect with other readers who enjoy these works.


Andrew said...

Fabulous work you're doing here!

While there are tons more of the Masterworks series that I'd want to read reviews of so I can decide whether I'd like to buy them, I would like instead to recommend the two Tim Powers books that are available.

If possible, begin with the fun and rollicking The Drawing of the Dark and then proceed to the even better The Anubis Gates.

Also, while you're not dealing with the Crime Masterworks, you might want to check out Cornell Woolrich's Nightwebs. It's not his best collection, but Woolrich is one of my favorite writers.

Unknown said...

Very happy to have found your blog.
I have been collecting the series on and off since they began publishing. Living in Japan as I am makes it difficult sometimes to get hold of some books in the series, so there are some gaps in my collection (I'm only up to #48 so far). I'm finding it rather difficult to obtain some of the earlier books (namely The Drowned World, Nova, and The Complete Roderick). The prices on Amazon and elsewhere for second hand copies of some of the books seem quite ridiculous. I had no idea they were in such demand. I am frustrated that Orion's website is not up to date, but your blog has given me new hope of keeping track of developments. Keep up the great work!

philipjcowan said...

Not sure if you are keeping this blog going (pity if you are not), but it seems Orion has taken the Sci-fi Masterworks off their website...or am I mistaken?

Andrew said...

Hi Philip

Thanks for stopping by. Yay! We are now officially reading past-tense series. That's good, because at the rate I'm getting through these reviews we could all be dead by the time I've finished. ;)

Professional commitments have prevented me from writing more; I have several reviews to catch up with, and will press on with more entries to the (now historic) series soon.

Thanks for sticking with me.