Armchair Fiction: “nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature” for the Kindle
I’m sure some of you, like me, remember the Ace Doubles (I still have some on my shelves). It was a series of science fiction paperbacks where there would actually be two books in one…and they were printed upside down to each other. In other words, you could flip the book over, and there would be another cover for another book on the “back”…both stories ended in the middle of the physical book.
I was excited to see that, in the spirit of that
has been producing “double novels” of vintage science fiction and horror.
I was even more pleased when I ran across books from Armchair in the Kindle store:
Naturally, they don’t have any kind of special “binding” in the Kindle format (and not all are doubles), but the authors and titles were really intriguing to me and the cover images stood out. Regular readers know I’m not all that visually-oriented, so if something catches my eye, there must really be something to it. ;)
The authors included:
- Edmond Hamilton
- Frank Belknap Long
- Stanton A. Coblentz
- Richard Shaver (of the Shaver Mystery…I’ve referenced Shaver once before in this blog)
In doing a little research, I was still more pleased (see how life just keeps getting better and better?) ;) that Armchair comes from the same creative source as
I knew SinCin from ads in some of the offbeat magazines I have read.
I wrote to Armchair to find out if the books were all in the public domain, although I suspected that the artwork might be new (and there were new introductions).
Greg Luce was nice enough to give me a lengthy reply…and to give me permission to share it with you:
Thanks for getting a hold of us. I’m the owner and founder of both Sinister Cinema and Armchair Fiction. I started Sinister literally thirty years ago–Spring of 1984. Armchair was started in December of 2010, so we’ve been around for roughly three-and-a-half years. Many of the Armchair titles are in the public domain, but certainly not all. We do have any number of copyrighted works, including most notably some of the works of Robert Silverberg, whom I consider one of the best science fiction authors ever.
The reason I started Armchair was essentially to do the same for nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature that I did with nostalgic sci-fi and horror cinema. There are literally thousands of older literary works of sci-fi and horror (including both novels and short fiction) that haven’t been in print since their initial publication. These are what we specialize in, although we are certainly willing to come out with more common works as well–Wells, Burroughs, etc. The thing that had always held us up were the costs of printing large numbers of books and maintaining large volumes of inventory. Being a mom-and-pop company, that was just never practical for us. However, when print-on-demand companies (like Createspace) started showing up, it changed the whole playing field and made it possible for us to move forward with a line of paperback books specializing in these forgotten works.
I grew up reading Ace Doubles, sci-fi digest magazines, paperbacks from Ballantine, Signet, etc., and these were the inspirations for what we’re doing. It’s been a real labor of love and the book side is, frankly, very labor intensive. There are only three of us–myself and two very good employees. I have plans for 400 double novels (we have 130 right now), 150-200 single novels (we’re currently at about 60), as well as many varied short story collections. I don’t know if we’ll ever get these all done, but we’ve been releasing 45 to 60 books a year, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep plugging along for many years to come. I’m not looking to become a millionaire doing this (although we did just recently sell our 10,000th book) and I’m not looking for any notoriety within the sci-fi community, I just want to do it for the people who like this kind of stuff. If I can make a little money on the side…great; but we’re in it for the long-haul no matter what. I really believe in what we’re doing.
One thing I discovered is that not everything ever written is on the generally high levels of works brought out by companies like Ace, Ballantine, and other companies. When you’re dealing with the Ray Palmer years of Amazing and Fantastic Adventures for instance, it’s really a mixed bag. Some authors like Berkeley Livingston, Leroy Xerxa, and other Palmer regulars were really not very good. Yet there were a few exceptions: Rog Phillips, David Wright O’Brien, and even Chester S. Geier churned out some surprisingly good tales. Then of course there was Richard S. Shaver, who is one of our best-selling authors, second in fact only to Edmond Hamilton. Shaver was a horrible writer, yet there is something about his stuff that has a unique appeal to many fans. I think that Shaver was to sci-fi literature what Edward D. Wood was to sci-fi cinema. They were both brilliant in their inspired lunacy.
Regarding the covers, many are the artwork pieces that were originally painted or drawn for the stories. However, there are many titles that simply never had any color artwork when first published. In these cases I have to go through literally hundreds and hundreds of PD artwork pieces looking for something that works. I’ve been very fortunate so far. Sometimes we have to do massive changes to make an artwork piece work for a story. For instance, one of our new double novels has a tale called “Voyage of the Asteroid” by Laurence Manning. The cover art we used here was originally for another story and appeared on the cover of the February, 1929 issue of Amazing. I think it’s a Frank R. Paul piece. This cover, as originally published, had a number of alien beings attacking a Tyranosaurus with ray guns. We had to get rid of the aliens and their ray guns in order for this cover to work. Using Photoshop (I’ve gotten pretty good with the clone tool!) I had to painstakingly get rid of them. It took me a while, but the end result was very good. Finding and preparing artwork is always a bit of a challenge.
At any rate, I hope this all helps. We don’t have that many Kindle editions of our books up yet (only about twenty) but more are coming. Right now the paperback editions are outselling their Kindle counterparts, probably because of the collectability aspects of the books themselves.
Thanks for your interest,
Sinister Cinema/Armchair Fiction
If you like science fiction of the “Golden Age”, I’d suggest you check them out. These might also be an excellent little gift for Father’s Day…especially if you have a geeky father in the “Monster Kids” generation (Baby Boomers, basically…if your Dad has ever mentioned Famous Monsters of Filmland or watching a local “Creature Features” type TV host in the 1960s or so, they are in this group).
The prices are good, and they look to be lovingly produced. :)
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