Loving Ace Doubles


Threshold of Eternity by John Brunner. Artwork by Ed Emshwiller.

Threshold of Eternity by John Brunner. Artwork by Ed Emshwiller.

Take a look at the cover to the right. I’ve made it larger than most images I include on posts because…well, it’s glorious. This comes from the first batch of Ace Doubles I bought at a library sale two years ago. I knew nothing about the book, I didn’t even really know what Ace Doubles were at the time. All I knew is that the cover was glorious, and I wanted to own the book.

I picked it back up today because I was looking for something to read while waiting for the Hugo Voters Packet to get put together (yeah, I bought myself a supporting membership to Loncon so I could get the packet and a vote). Since I’d be reading a lot from 2013 and 1939, why not split the difference at around 1959. I pulled the book out and the first thing I noticed was the name in bold at the bottom right corner.

John Brunner.

I probably don’t have to go into who John Brunner was on this blog. However, the particular point of interest is that the name John Brunner had never before appeared on the front cover of a book until this one. He’d pseudonymously published one novel a few years earlier, but Threshold of Eternity, published by Ace in 1959, is the first John Brunner novel.

But it’s the cover that dragged me in, and it’s the cover I wanted to know more about. So I went to an Ace reference site that lists cover artists for the classic Doubles and Singles of the late 1950s and early 1960s. That drew my attention to four letters hidden in the whirling fan blades just above Brunner’s name: EMSH. This is the signature of Ed Emshwiller.

Emshwiller was a graphic artist who won the inaugural artwork Hugo in 1953, then called Best Cover Art. He went on to be a four time winner in the updated Professional Artist category in the 1960s. Including the year 1960. Since this novel came out in 1959, this cover would have been part of his portfolio under consideration by Hugo voters.

It would be an exaggeration to call it a Hugo winning cover, but it was a cover published in a year that the artist won a Hugo for his work during.

So just grabbing a book that caught my eye at a book fair, I ended up with the first real novel by a future scion of the genre, with a cover by a five-time Hugo winning artist.

Oh, and on the flip is a book by some guy named Poul Anderson.

Ace Doubles are awesome that way.

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