We … read science fiction … because we love to experience this chain-reaction of ideas being set off in our minds by something we read, something with a new idea in it; hence the very best science fiction ultimately winds up being a collaboration between author and reader, in which both create – and enjoy doing it…Phillip K. Dick, 1981
Aliens, wizards, event horizons, distant stars, magick: these words still prick the hairs at the back of my neck. They conjure up the brilliant worlds of Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert, the wild imaginings of William Gibson, Harlan Ellison and Phillip K.Dick, the fantastic visions of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Raymond Feist and Ray Bradbury. Of course now we have the great movies made from the imperious Tolkien tomes, from Neil Gaiman’s teasing delicasies, and stirred into this feast it’s hard to resist the visual smorgasbord of Avatar or The Matrix where stories burst, new and blinking into the flickering light of the silver screen, without a printed book in sight.
I still have Robert E. Howard’s paperbacks with the Frank Frazetta covers, and Marvel’s short-lived Epic Magazine with its incredible mix of high art and great stories and a couple of the brilliant Ballantine Books Ariel releases. And it’s not just the stories that keep them on my favourite bookshelves, but the imaginative power of the cover artists too: Bernie Wrightson, Michael Wm. Kaluta, P. Craig Russell, Barry Windor Smith, Jeff Jones, Dave McKean and, of course, originals like Roy G. Krenkel and Frank R. Paul. It’s a tradition that stretches back through Weird Tales and other pulps, to Victorian penny dreadfuls, and further to Gustave Doré‘s illustrations and engravings, back to William Blake and beyond, to Mezo-American mythology and even further to the Babylonians in the fertile crescent of the The Nile, The Tigris and The Euphrates of four thousand years ago. These stories whisper of distant lands and distant times, they fire us up, make us think in a different way, and yes they’re escapist too, but there’s nothing wrong with that!
And so we come to Ray Bradbury‘s spine-tingling, laser-focused Farenheit 451. It’s a book about repression and change, about the fine line between influence and control. It’s a book about youth’s eternal struggle with age, the state versus the individual, instinct vs logic, optimism vs cynicism. In our swiftly changing modern world these battles are apposite and chilling.
Farenheit 451 is the inspiration for our new publishing list. As the means of communication accelerate and science fiction rapidly becomes science reality (is that an iPhone in Captain James T. Kirk’s palm 50 years ago?), the infant, data-rich internet has become a stroppy adolescent, shaking off the mantle of servitude to print-only media. Now fiction publishing too is moving online, with bookshops and traditional book publishing turning from paper to digital, offering ideas and challenges as always, but adapting to the new media. The challenge is to retain the quality and the excitement.
So, Flame Tree 451, it’s a fantastic fiction imprint for a New World, exploring the classic, discovering the new. Let’s all enjoy the ride…
Nick Wells, Publisher/Creative Director, Flame Tree 451