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.


  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

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

  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

  7. Your inability to maintain links with your pictures is just...sad.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...