Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bring back the cast of SF characters

When the books about the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by financier Bernard Madoff are written, one of them
will probably have a “Cast of Characters” printed somewhere between the front cover and the first chapter. Essentially, a cast of characters is a handy
“cheat sheet” that helps the reader keep the characters straight. This feature appears in quite a few books about business history, including Den of Thieves (1991), by financial journalist James B. Stewart, and, more recently, King of the Club: Richard Grasso and the Survival of the New York Stock Exchange (2007), by Charlie Gasparino of CNBC.

There was a time when science fiction books included a cast of characters, although here it seems to have been primarily for marketing purposes. For example, of the more than 100 Martian science fiction paperback books in my collection, a few have a cast of characters. Interestingly, all of them were published by Ace Books from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s:

First on Mars (1956), by Rex Gordon

The Mars Monopoly (1956, double novel), by Jerry Sohl

The Martian Missile (1959, double novel), by David Grinnell

The Secret of Sinharat (1964, double novel), by Leigh Brackett

The Martian Sphinx (1965), by Keith Woodcott

I don’t know if the practice of including a cast of characters in SF books has ended up on the dust heap of history, as I read only an armful of science fiction novels each year. If so, perhaps Ace Books, or another publishing company, could bring back the cast of SF characters.


Frances said...


I so agree with you. I like to have pages devoted to Cast, Glossary, Apendex. It helps me to remember things. If it's world building, or real science fact, so much the better. Good Heavens! I might even learn something!

Frances Drake

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Paul said...

Frances, thank you for your comments. I've read several pieces of flash fiction recently that I think qualify as science fiction romance. Nice to know that there is life behind hard science, steampunk, etc. Paul