Ace Books is the oldest surviving SF publisher in the US. It was founded in the early 50s by A. A. Wyn, initially publishing westerns and mysteries, but quickly expanded into sf. Through the 1950s and ’60s Ace and Ballantine Books were the dominant SF publishers.
Many early Ace books contained two short novels or novellas (often heavily edited to keep within the size limitations) bound back to back, but upside down with their own covers -- this is known as the Ace Double or Doublebooked format.
Donald A. Wollheim was unhappy at Avon Books landed a job as editor with Wyn at Ace. And then in the mid 60s, science fiction author Terry Carr joined Ace and started the Ace Science Fiction Specials series of more sophisticated SF, including authors like Ursula K. Le Guin. Terry Carr and Wollheim co-edited an annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series; and Carr also edited Universe, an important series of original anthologies.
In 1965, Wollheim arranged for Ace to publish The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. He believed that Tolkien's copyright was invalid because the Houghton Mifflin edition had been bound using pages printed in Great Britain for the hardcover edition there. By US copyright law the text was public domain in the US. Ace Books published the first paperback edition of Tolkien's work, with cover art by Jack Gaughan. This did not sit well with fans and Ballantine published an revised and authorized edition with a special statement by Tolkien himself asking readers to avoid the Ace edition.
After A. A. Wyn's death, Ace Books was a division of Charter and then was acquired by Grosset & Dunlap, and then by by G. P. Putnam's Sons. Later Penguin acquired the Putnam Berkley, and retained Ace as their sf imprint.
Wollheim and Terry Carr left Ace in 1971. Wollheim set up DAW Books and Carr became a freelance editor; both Carr and Wollheim went on to edit their own Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series.
Carr later returned to Ace Books as a freelance editor and launched a new and very successful series of Ace Specials devoted entirely to first novels. It included Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore, Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes, William Gibson's Neuromancer, and Michael Swanwick's In the Drift.
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 later founded Baen Books. Other notables who have worked at Ace include Frederik Pohl, Terri Windling, Susan Allison Beth Meacham and Ginjer Buchanan.
Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
Ace Science Fiction Specials
The Ace Science Fiction Specials were three series of SF and fantasy books published by Ace Books between 1968 and 1990.
Terry Carr edited the first and third series, taking the "TV special" concept and adapting it to paperback marketing.
The first series was influential in the history of SF publishing; four of the six novels nominated for 1970 Nebula Awards were from the series.
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