Depending on how into science fiction, fantasy and publishing you are, you may or may not have heard of Gollancz, the sf and fantasy imprint of UK-based Orion Publishing Group. I've personally had a secret love affair with Gollancz for years; their Science Fiction and Fantasy Masterworks lines have long been a drug fueling my irrational acquiring of books. (Hello, my name is John and I'm a biblioholic.) Recent announcements made by Gollancz have only served to further solidify my affection.

Read last week's SF Signal about our Robot Overlords.

But first things first. Let me explain where it all began...

In the Beginning, There Were Masterworks

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Back in the late 1990s (remember the ’90s?) Gollancz undertook a project to bring back out-of-print science fiction classics. They called the series "SF Masterworks," and they were flat-out beautifully designed. Most appeared in paperback, but a couple of years later, a small handful of them began emerging in hardback versions. Along the way, a companion Fantasy Masterworks series appeared, also lovingly produced, that aimed to do the same for fantasy classics. The numbered cover designs of the Masterworks series were consistently enticing, daring readers not to pick them up and collect them. They were a biblioholic's dream.

The original Masterworks series lasted 10 years and was relaunched in 2010 with new cover designs. A few of the titles had appeared before, sure, but most of them were fresh reprints. The look of the line might have been new, but the goal was still the same—to bring back out-of-print classics worthy of readers' attention.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Goes Digital

sf Wind the clock back to 1979 (remember the ’70s?) which saw the publication of the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls with help from John Clute and Brian Stableford. A second edition, significantly more comprehensive and in-depth, appeared in 1993. The Encyclopedia quickly established itself as the essential go-to resource for science fiction information and, even though the information in the printed edition is not current, still remains a valuable asset to sf geeks like myself. (I own multiple copies strategically placed within arms reach at different geographic locations. See previous mention of biblioholism.)

Now wind the clock forward a couple of weeks ago (remember a couple of weeks ago?) and the recent announcement that the long-promised online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is finally becoming a reality. Not only will this remain an invaluable resource written by the field's foremost people-in-the-know, but it will also be free. Yes, free.

So what does this have to do with Gollancz? Well, it turns out that the online edition of the Encyclopedia is being produced in association with Gollancz.

Oh, Gollancz, you do know how to endear a science fiction fan, don't you?

The New Digital Gateway to Classic Science Fiction

It turns out that Gollancz's Encyclopedia announcement was just the tip of the iceberg. On July 20 (remember July 20?) Gollancz revealed that iceberg diff when it announced the launch of the world's largest digital SFF library, the SF Gateway, which aims to make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as e-books.

Let me say that again—Gollancz plans to make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as e-books.

In once respect, this is merely an organic continuation of their Masterworks initiative of bringing out-of-print classics back into public view. Yet on another level, it extends that initiative beyond what could reasonably have been expected. Instead of picking a few choice titles from science fiction authors, it now aspires to produce entire backlists of authors where possible.

This is huge. Soon readers can have access to the classic works of (quoting from their press release) "Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Alice B. Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.), Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm and Connie Willis." This is an unbelievable win for readers and a huge effort being undertaken by Gollancz. How can you not love them? The answer is: you do.

But just remember, I loved them first.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.