Seeds of Change, Then and Now

Rose Fox intereviews John Joseph Adams in her “Genreville” column for Publisher’s Weekly:

The assistant editor for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a longtime book reviewer, he has recently turned his hand to editing anthologies. I interviewed him about Seeds of Change (Prime, August 2008).

Seeing a new anthology with the title Seeds of Change reminded me of Laser Books, the imprint created by Harlequin Books in 1975. The company hoped to repeat its success with Harlequin Romances in the sf genre, putting out three books a month, a Kelly Freas cover on every one. Laser Books’ initial marketing strategy included sending multiple cartons of the line’s first novel, Thomas F. Monteleone’s Seeds of Change, to sf conventions across North America to be given away. All they proved is that even free books can become a glut on the market. As Alan Chudnow recalls:

Unfortunately [Seeds of Change] was not very good and immediately attracted the mockery of a large number of convention attendees. I happened to attend the Equicon SF convention in Los Angeles that year. By Saturday night of the con, groups of fans were gathered around on the upper balconies of the hotel publicly mocking the text as it was read aloud. As each page was finished it was ceremoniously ripped out of the book and flung out over the balconies to the convention floor below.

The web shows the 1975 Equicon was held in San Diego, but I remember such a scene at the 1975 NASFiC in Los Angeles. Perhaps that’s what we’re both remembering.

The launch of Laser Books anticipated today’s marketing technique of offering free downloads of sf novels — with the critical difference that publishers now understand how much it helps to pick books people will like.

2 thoughts on “Seeds of Change, Then and Now

  1. Pingback: I’ve Still Got Three Copies! « The Crotchety Old Fan

  2. What was worse, if I remember correctly (it’s been about thirty years), was that registering at the door for his first Balticon, according to Monteleone’s own account in Mike Bracken’s fanzine Knights of the Paper Spaceship, the volunteer working the registration table handed him a copy of Seeds of Change, saying “Here’s a free copy of a new science fiction novel, courtesy of the convention.” As I recall, Monteleone said he just stared at her without speaking until she looked at the book cover and then at his nametag and made the connection, which flustered her into silence, then he just walked away angrily without another word.

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