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Ballantine Books

Entry updated 25 January 2021. Tagged: Publisher.


US publishing company founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine (1916-1995), who had previously helped found Bantam Books, and his wife Betty Ballantine (1919-2019); in 2002 Betty Ballantine received an SFWA President's Award to honour the fruits of their long career. For the first six months, at the beginning of that career, they ran Ballantine Books from their apartment. Although it was a general publisher, an important priority was the prestigious sf list, the first of its kind in paperback, with numerous original works, many of which were – until 1958 – published simultaneously as hardbacks. Ballantine Books' first sf novel was The Space Merchants (July-August 1952 Galaxy as "Gravy Planet"; rev and cut 1953) by Frederik Pohl and C M Kornbluth; Pohl also edited Ballantine Books' Star series of Anthologies. By the end of 1953, Ballantine Books had also published Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (February 1951 Galaxy as "The Fireman"; exp 1953), Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's End (April 1950 Famous Fantastic Mysteries as "Guardian Angel"; much exp 1953; rev 1990), Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee (November 1952 F&SF; exp 1953), Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (fixup 1953), and others. The list of regular authors resembles an sf roll of honour: figures in later years included James Blish, Fritz Leiber, Larry Niven and many others. Almost 100 early Ballantine covers featured artwork by Richard Powers, much of it semi-abstract; meant to emphasize the modernity and innovative quality of the fiction, the effect was wider than that: it was as if sf had suddenly grown up. The Powers covers were one of the symbols of sf's growth to maturity.

Ballantine became a division of Random House in 1973, and the two Ballantines left in 1974. Judy-Lynn del Rey became sf editor, and in 1976 her husband Lester del Rey took over the fantasy list initiated by Lin Carter. In 1977 the sf/fantasy imprint was renamed Del Rey Books. Since that time some sf has been published under the original Ballantine imprint, but this has mostly been borderline sf or sometimes, as with novels by Michael Crichton, sf books for which a substantial mainstream sale is expected. In 1990 the combined imprints of Ballantine, Del Rey and Fawcett, all under the same ownership, were running fifth in the USA in terms of the number of sf/fantasy/horror titles published.

In 2007 Betty Ballantine received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. Both she and Ian Ballantine, he posthumously, were inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. [PN/MJE]

further reading

see also: Hugo.

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