Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Lost Age - DAW SF Covers

















When I was a kid, Summer Break meant at least two weeks at with my aunt in Palatka, FL, a town in the middle of nowhere that just happened to have a fantastic used bookstore - the "Bookworm". The store was stuffed with used paperbacks; you could usually stuff a bag full of them for about $5, and my aunt made sure I got in at least one trip every summer. The Sci-Fi wall at the time was dominated by these books with bright mustard-yellow spines - DAW SF titles from greats like Vance, Cherryh, Moorcock, Norton, Leiber, Zelazny, and Tanith Lee. The covers were bright, evocative, and the titles lurid and irresistible to a 10 year old boy. Obviously my adolescence came well after the age of Weird Tales and Argosy - for kids in the late 70's, early 80's, DAW SF was our "Pulp" connection. They were cheap, plentiful, easy to read, and memorable.

As a quick scan of the covers will reveal, this was from the age when sci-fi and fantasy were easily interchangeable. The last yellow-spined DAW SF book was published in 1984 (the first was in 1971), about the same time as Tolkien pastiches would come to dominate the sci-fi sections of bookstores, and publishers grew more concerned with clearly delineating their fantasy titles.

The cover art still resonates with me today, and I've begun picking up the odd yellow-spine here and there when I see them at used bookstores and garage sales. Will I ever replicate the 1000-title Bookworm wall of my youth? We'll see. It'd certainly be fun trying.

6 comments:

  1. Ha! I own several of those titles for a while there I would only look at books with the yellow spines when I went looking for SF. I think what made DAW great in the 70's was a real lack of editorial control which allowed for some pretty crazy things getting published - some good some bad but always interesting. Much better than the Del Rey tolkien pastiche factory.

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  2. Hell yes, lots of love here for the old DAW covers. Read tons of them when I was younger, and occasionally return to them even now. I re-read The Storm Lord a few months ago!

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  3. DAW SF was our "Pulp" connection.

    Damn, I never thought of it that way. That’s dead on.

    I must admit that I will buy a book with a yellow spine just because.

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  4. I have Birthgrave in my collection (and its associated follow on books), but none of the others you have listed. I agree that DAW books are a fond memory of the time. I still pick them up time to time as well.

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  5. I've got a number of those in my collection myself. Quintessential 70s covers.

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  6. I am a huge fan og DAW yellow spines. I had a store from my youth in Crestline California that had tons of these for a quarter a piece. As an adolescent boy I made sure that I bought up all the John Normans. lol

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