Things To Come : The 1950s Science Fiction Book Club Newsletter

Beginning in 1953, Things To Come was the newsletter of the hugely popular Science Fiction Book Club

Things To Come was the monthly newsletter (originally bi-monthly) of publisher Doubleday’s Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC). The short, typically four-page issues promoted the book club’s coming selections and best of volumes from Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

In January 1955, for instance, readers could look forward to Portals Of Tomorrow, edited by August Derleth, and Angels And Spaceships by Fredric Brown with illustrations by mostly uncredited artists.


Things-to-Come science fiction book club


Writing in Black Gate, Doug Ellis recalls some of the club’s many highlights:

I remember the bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come, arriving in our mailbox every month, and eagerly perusing the offerings to see if I wanted grab any of the featured selections or alternates, or something from the backlist. The SFBC purchase I most vividly recall reading was the Isaac Asimov edited anthology, Before the Golden Age, which was filled with great stories as well as fascinating biographical material by Asimov on his early days as a fan. Other favorite volumes include Leigh Brackett’s The Book of Skaith, Damon Knight’s Science Fiction of the Thirties and The Futurians, Frederik Pohl’s The Early Pohl, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, among many others.


Things to come


Like many subscribers, Doug enjoyed the art, especially the work of Virgil Finlay (July 23, 1914 – January 18, 1971) which began appearing in the bulletin in 1959. In 2005, he compiled those Finlay illustrations from the bulletins that he’d collected and published a small press booklet, Virgil Finlay: The Art of Things to Come.


Virgil Finlay for Things To Come

The newsletter was likely inspired by The Shape of Things to Come (1933) by the British writer H. G. Wells. And there is some debate about when the first issue of Things to Come was published, but the March-April 1953 issue ties in with the launch of the SFBC. The final issue appeared in 1982.


Advert for the science fiction book club, 1961

As Doug writes:

The earliest ad for the SFBC appears to be the one that ran on the back (and inside back) cover of the February 1953 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, which I’ll show here. A reader could select any three of six selections for only $1.00. The choices:

Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
Needle by Hal Clement
The Stars Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
Double Jeopardy by Fletcher Pratt
Takeoff by C.M. Kornbluth and
The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein

None of these became featured selections in Things to Come, but were available to new members or as part of the backlist that ran in Things to Come.

The selections available in the first bulletin, March-April 1953, were Asimov’s The Currents of Space (the March selection) and Edgar Pangborn’s West of the Sun (the April selection). Asimov’s Second Foundation became the selection for November 1953, making Asimov the only author to have two selections in the first year of the SFBC.

Below is a shot selection of some of Virgil Finlay’s many illustrations for the science fiction book club’s newsletter:


Things to come

Things to come

Via: Blackgate, 

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