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Bantam Books

Entry updated 14 February 2022. Tagged: Community.

Large US publishing house, a general publisher, mainly of paperbacks, rather than an sf specialist. It was founded in 1945 by Ian Ballantine, but he left in 1952 to form Ballantine Books because he wanted to publish paperback originals, whereas Bantam's list was almost entirely of reprints – although one early sf paperback original (but not published as sf) from Bantam was Shot in the Dark (anth 1950) edited by Judith Merril. In the 1950s and 1960s Bantam published some sf, including original collections by Fredric Brown, but generally were not major players in sf publishing. Their sf line was expanded when Frederik Pohl was hired as sf consultant in 1975; inter alia he introduced Samuel R Delany to the list, with Dhalgren (1975; rev 1977; rev 2001). Pohl was followed as sf editor by Sydny Weinberg, who was in turn succeeded in 1980 by Karen Haas. By 1981 Bantam was publishing over 20 sf/fantasy paperback originals a year, including such authors as David Brin and John Crowley.

Lou Aronica took over the sf line in 1982, with considerable success, his list coming to include Thomas M Disch, Richard Grant, Harry Harrison, Robert Silverberg and Norman Spinrad, and introducing Pat Cadigan, Sheila Finch, R A MacAvoy and Robert Charles Wilson. By 1985 Bantam had become one of the top five sf publishers in terms of number of books published, and in that year launched the new Bantam Spectra imprint for sf, which emphasized original publications rather than reprints and also published some hardcovers. Shawna McCarthy joined Bantam as sf editor in 1985, working for Aronica, now Publishing Director. Soon Bantam authors included Karen Joy Fowler, William Gibson, Lisa Goldstein, Ian McDonald, Lewis Shiner and Connie Willis. McCarthy left in 1988. By the late 1980s Bantam had one of the most prestigious lines in sf publishing. Its anthology lines included Wild Cards and Full Spectrum. Tom Dupree was a senior editor of Bantam Spectra in the 1990s.

In 1986 the German company Bertelsmann, which already owned Bantam, bought Doubleday. As a result, since 1987 Doubleday's new hardcover imprint, Doubleday Foundation, was closely associated with Bantam Spectra. In 1989 Aronica became vice-president and publisher of all Bantam mass-market books, while retaining his direct control of Bantam Spectra. Much of the Doubleday Foundation list was returned to Bantam Spectra.

The UK Transworld Publishers, which publishes sf and fantasy under the Corgi Books imprint, is a subsidiary of Bantam. [PN]

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