Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wollheim, Donald A

 Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

(1914-1990) US publisher, editor and occasional writer. In the first two roles he had a considerable influence on the development and marketing of commercial Science Fiction and Genre Fantasy, particularly as editor at Ace Books 1952-1971, and then with his own DAW Books from 1972. It was DAW who helped establish High Fantasy as a marketable commodity in the late 1960s, when he published an unauthorized edition of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in June 1965. (He was within his rights: the book had not been lodged for copyright in the USA.) Ballantine Books, about to publish the authorized and revised edition, took legal action, and DAW eventually made payment and withdrew the Ace editions, but not before the publicity had drawn considerable attention to them. DAW rapidly developed a quota of fantasy at Ace Books, and even more extensively at DAW Books, in particular the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lin Carter, Jo Clayton, C J Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Brian Lumley, Michael Moorcock, John Norman, Andre Norton, Jennifer Roberson, Michael Shea and Thomas Burnett Swann. Many of these works fall into the category of Planetary Romance or Sword-and-Sorcery. DAW also inaugurated the series the Year's Best Horror Stories in 1972, edited in turn by Richard Davis (1945-    ), Gerald W Page (1939-    ) and Karl Edward Wagner, and the Year's Best Fantasy Stories edited first by Lin Carter and then by Art Saha (1923-1999).

DAW's involvement with Supernatural Fiction and Fantasy dates back to his days as an sf fan when he corresponded with H P Lovecraft. He was already producing minor fan broadsheets, but in 1935 he took over a club magazine and retitled it The Phantagraph, which he then edited on-and-off for 11 years (1935-1946). In its heyday this was the leading amateur magazine of supernatural and fantasy fiction, including stories, poems and articles by many of the leading genre writers of the day (Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Robert Bloch, Abraham Merritt) and many that would establish themselves over the decade (James Blish, Cyril M Kornbluth [1923-1958], Henry Kuttner, Robert W Lowndes and Emil Petaja). DAW later assembled a volume of mementoes from the magazine, Operation: Phantasy (anth 1967 chap), and published a semi-professional magazine of supernatural fiction, Fanciful Tales of Space and Time (1 issue October 1936). This gave DAW some editorial experience, which allowed him to take on the suicidally underfinanced professional magazines, Stirring Science Stories (4 issues February 1941-March 1942) and Cosmic Stories (3 issues March-July 1941). Stirring had its own separate fantasy section with the running head Stirring Fantasy Fiction, which published some fine stories by David H Keller, Kornbluth and Clark Ashton Smith.

When these Magazines folded, DAW moved to Ace Magazines, where he edited a variety of pulps. He also edited the first sf paperback anthology, The Pocket Book of Science Fiction (anth 1943). At the end of 1946 DAW contacted Avon Books, who were establishing themselves as a paperback publisher, and this resulted in the first of what became a long series of digest-sized anthologies, the Avon Fantasy Reader. The first Avon Fantasy Reader appeared in February 1947 and the series ran for 18 volumes in total (> Avon Fantasy Reader). Its success encouraged other publishers to enter the digest field and contributed heavily to the emergence of genre sf and fantasy. In addition to various magazines for Avon, DAW also compiled the first all-original anthology of fantasy and sf, The Girl with the Hungry Eyes and Other Stories (anth 1949), featuring stories about various Femmes Fatales, plus The Fox Woman and Other Stories (coll 1949), the only volume of A Merritt's short fiction. 20 years later George Ernsberger, the then editor at Avon Books, worked with DAW to compile two retrospective selections from the series, The Avon Fantasy Reader (anth 1969) and The 2nd Avon Fantasy Reader (anth 1969).

DAW returned to Ace Books in 1952, establishing its sf imprint and introducing the famous Ace Double dos-a-dos format. For Ace he edited over 20 anthologies, of which those with a supernatural or fantasy content are The Macabre Reader (anth 1959), More Macabre (anth 1961) and Swordsmen in the Sky (anth 1963), a volume of Planetary Romances. He also compiled for another publisher Terror in the Modern Vein (anth 1955; cut in 2 vols as Terror in the Modern Vein 1961 UK and More Terror in the Modern Vein 1961 UK), one of the first anthologies to highlight the modern approach to Horror. In all of DAW's anthologies there is a wide appreciation of the field beyond the genre magazines.

DAW's own fiction is mostly sf, although he contributed some effective supernatural horror stories to his own magazines, to F&SF and to Magazine of Horror, often under the pen names David Grinnell, Millard Verne Gordon and Martin Pearson. Some are in Two Dozen Dragon's Eggs (coll 1969), The Men from Ariel (coll 1982) and Up There and Other Strange Directions (coll 1988). DAW's own reflections upon his career are in The Universe Makers (1971). [MA]

Donald Allen Wollheim


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.