I’m proud to say that all 25 of the original novels in John Norman’s Gorean saga are together for the first time in decades, plus his 26th and penultimate novel, WITNESS OF GOR. The journey of the series from Blockbuster to Can’t Give Them Away and back to Blockbuster (they are among E-Reads’ biggest sellers) is a saga in itself and sheds some interesting sociological light on the publishing industry.
The first novel, TARNSMAN OF GOR, was released by Ballantine in 1966, and over the next fifteen years or so another 24 were published by Ballantine and then DAW. The books were enormously popular and sales were tremendous – until, one day it all ground to a halt, mysteriously, like that scene at the end of War of the Worlds where a seemingly invincible alien catches cold and drops dead. What happened? Tastes in reading habits change but usually they evolve rather than fall off a cliff as Gor did.
The answer may lie not in what readers like to read but what editors like to edit. The Gorean Saga’s epic sales were fueled by the kind of red-blooded male readers that consumed cowboy books, Executioner and Destroyer action-adventure, Spillane-type thrillers and space operas by the carton. And many of the editors who acquired them were red-blooded males themselves (with notable exceptions like Judy-Lynn Del Rey, the diminutive titan who gave her name to Random House’s science fiction line).
Then came the Feminist movement, and with it a revolution in editorial viewpoint. And Feminists had a lot to say about the morality practiced by the masters of Gor on their female slave subjects. As Feminists occupied more and more significant editorial positions at major publishers including the science fiction and fantasy divisions, hard-line Feminist thinking influenced decisions on all kinds of books, especially the kind that guys cherished. A lot of Feminist ire focused on Gor – many female editors passionately hated Norman’s world and all the decadent male chauvinism it seemed to stand for. (Not surprisingly, the author takes a very different view of all of this!) In any event, yes, by the 1990’s you couldn’t give Gor away.
The books were all out of print when I started E-Reads around 2000, but I discovered something very interesting when I went online. Not only was there a huge cult revolving around Gor (some of his hard to get editions sell in the used book market for well over $100), but many of those involved in Gorean role-playing games were women who were into fantasy slavery or simply took the stories in with a large dose of good humor.
Gor is once again alive and thriving on E-Reads, I’m happy to report. And as for Feminism in the publishing industry, I’m also happy to report that it’s here to stay. But it still unnerves me when female editors refer to the literature men like to read as “Boy-books.”
Harper Collins announced a pilot launch of the Author Assistant program, designed to help authors build and maintain personal websites to promote their books. This web-based toolset will allow authors to create a website and include biographical information, blog posts, coming attractions, Q&As, photos, links to other articles and posts, browse inside widgets, and even a map of other Harper authors that fans have in common. Authors own any content they create for their pages.
The initial launch involves 40 Avon Romance authors but the program will roll out through all HarperCollins U.S. imprints by mid-2008.
The current feature set “reflects the basics of what authors need to publish content on our site,” according to SVP for Global Marketing Strategy and Operations Carolyn Pittis, who says they plan to add numerous other features, driven in large part by “what authors want.” One of the most likely additions is a video component, as well as feeds to provide third-party syndication. They expect to be adding more two-way features.” In general, the program is intended to be a way of matching up author-generated content with marketing know-how.
Sounds like a great way to help everyone sell more books. That’s another idea we like a lot.
To put you into an appropriately squeamish mood for Halloween, E-Reads offers a selection of horror fiction designed to traumatize you for life or at least make your night’s sleep a living torment. Among our featured authors for the season are:
Sean Costello: In Eden’s Eyes, The Cartoonist and Captain Quad, Costello demonstrates the full range of terror, rage, anger and madness that the horror genre can encompass. In the process, he also creates memorable characters while blending the real and the supernatural in ways uniquely his own.
Rex Miller: Miller’s bestial antagonist, Chaingang, is four hundred pounds of brute rage who feasts on fresh hearts and is not too delicate about how he extracts them from his victims. Miller’s genius is that he makes Chaingang sympathetic, a villain you hate to love, unless you happen to be with him in a pitch-dark room.
Ray Garton: Recently made a Grand Master by the Horror Writers of America, Garton’s characters populate a Grand Guignol of depravity. Live Girls, his masterpiece, portrays ravishing pleasure girls who seduce a lovesick man into a world of irresistible fantasy and ecstasy. (The book is being developed as a movie as I write this.)
Melanie Tem: We have four strikingly original and suspenseful horror novels by one of the most masterful storytellers working in the genre, plus The Ice Downstream, a marvelous collection of stories.
Poppy Z. Brite: Are You Loathsome Tonight? Join horror master Brite as she explores the outermost regions of murder, passion, death and religion in twelve extraordinary short stories.
– Richard Curtis