Tales of Yuletide Joy

pclogomainGreetings and salutations, all! We are here, at last, with our festive winter plans, and, hopefully, some clarifications for you, thanks to the art of the long-form blog.

Things to be covered herein: What a recurring subscription is, when you can buy one. What you can buy between now and January 13th. Purchase and posting dates. Our special Yuletide offer, the return of the popular ‘just the book’, for anyone who needs a Secret Santa/stocking filler. Gift certificates.

Yep, there’s a lot to talk about!

  1. Recurring subscriptions. These are currently closed until January 13th. A recurring subscription is one in which PayPal automatically bills you the cost of your box on a certain date every month. Should you wish to purchase a recurring subscription for yourself, but also want to start now, you’re very welcome to purchase a one box for December and January, and then subscribe when we re-open the ability to do so for February – we’ll continue your subscription straight on from there.
  2. Right now at Prudence and the Crow and until Jan 13th you may purchase a One Box, 3-month, 6-month or 12-month box. You may do this for yourself, or for a friend/relative/partner/other human/probably don’t get your dog one. Do remember that we’ll need your friend’s name and address to be able to send it to them, rather than your own default PayPal one.
  3. Last purchase date for a December box is 5th December. All boxes purchased after this will be/begin with a January box. See further down for info on purchasing January boxes as gifts. All US/Canada/Australia/NZ December boxes will be despatched on or before 14th December. European ones will be sent by the 15th. UK ones will be posted by the 21st. These be the last posting dates as set by Royal Mail.
  4. On 27th November we will be opening our Yuletide offer, ‘Just the Book’ once more! This little bundle will be a random vintage paperback, beautifully wrapped with a handwritten gift card, along with one of our library cards in its card holder. These cost just £6, inc. UK P&P. The book is randomly selected from your chosen genre, so this is not a suitable gift for smallest children or people who have very strong opinions on their books – the regular PatC box option is where we take the recipient into account! This offer closes on 5th December. All books will be sent by 19th December.
  5. Gift certificates! On 6th December, for 24 HOURS ONLY any 1, 3, 6 or 12-month box purchase from us comes with a free physical gift certificate, which will be printed, hand-signed and stamped, encased in a fine envelope and posted out to you (in a second envelope) or your recipient (there’ll be a special form for this) right away in time for actual gifting over the festive period. From 7th December onwards, you will receive a printable PDF gift certificate to fill out, or email on, yourself.
  6. Phew! That’s all for now. Have a handy timeline of our winter business at PatC:

NOW – purchase a 1, 3, 6 or 12-box for/starting with December for yourself or a friend.

27th November – the ‘Just the Book’ offer will go live. Links will be posted in all the usual places.

5th December – the ‘Just the Book’ offer closes, and it’s the last day to order/start with a December box.

6th December – You can purchase a January box, or buy a 3, 6 or 12-month  bundle to start with a January box. It’s Physical Gift Certificate Shopping Day! Links will be posted everywhere.

7th December – 1st January – you may continue to purchase January boxes. If you purchase for someone else, you will be automatically the proud recipient of a digital gift certificate you may print or forward to the recipient as you wish.

24th December – 2nd January From midday on the 24th, the Crow and I will be officially closing our metaphorical office doors and taking a break from customer service until midday on 2nd January. We will not be checking email or social media. If you should have any customer service issues during this period, please, please, please use the Contact Us form on our website to ensure that we receive your message and, on our return to work, can get back to you ASAP.

13th January – Recurring subscriptions will re-open, and January despatch week will begin, and yay!

That is it! Also, don’t forget, we do have a FAQ that you may wish to peruse before making a purchase or asking us anything.

We hope you are all as bright and well as can be this uncommonly sunny November day, and we’ll keep you posted with everything we’re doing along the way!

~Prudence, and the Crow

 

 

 

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Sci-Fi For Beginners: Where to Start?!

Greetings, Earthlings! Prudence here. We’re surrounded by books for your March boxes, and a good double handful more that wrangled their way through the door of our little bookcrammed home in the name of ‘research’, and it’s a beautiful way to be.

Today, it’s Prudence and the Crow and sci-fi, or, why we’re offering a sci-fi genre-specific subscription box. There are as many reasons as humans, of course, and whyever you’d want to subscribe to our box is more than perfect to us, but there are two gaps we wanted to fill: the sci-fi newbie, and the bundle-loving geek girl. I say this as someone who’s been both in their lives, probably from about age three. I’m 31 now, and sometimes I still feel like the former, and I hope never to stop being the latter. Is there anything better than glorious packages constructed around something you really want? But back to the former, for today’s piece!

There are few things I love so much as the vast and glorious collection of vintage sci-fi paperbacks I’ve accumulated ever the years. Even before you get to their content, there’s no book cover quite like the 1950s-1980s science fiction paperback book cover. Spanning the illustrative junket from pulp to technical drawing, there’s every permutation of rocket, desert, monster, lurid technicolour fontery, hero, fail!hero, damsel in distress, moon, space doll and imagined surface of Venus/Mars/Thalassa, etc. If you’ve not had the pleasure, or, indeed, if you have and want more of it, I heartily recommend this excellent blog packed with scans, analysis, and excellent info on all manner of such book covers: Science Fiction Ruminations – Cover Art. If you’re taken by the aesthetic, do feel free to specify as much as you like about such covers in your PatC box questionnaire – I’ll be sure to keep my beady eyes peeled for extra ridiculous/awesome/geometric/terrifying works!

But the aesthetic, the cover, all that is just the beginning of the world of sci-fi. One of the things the Crow and I discussed at length when beginning our little subscription box service was how difficult it was to ‘unlock’ the world of science fiction, if you haven’t had the joy and privilege of growing up in a household full of it. Everyone might be easily able to find the names and works of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, or have worked with H.G. Wells or Jules Verne at school (if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of curriculum – I was over the moon to legitimately dissect The Invisible Man at GCSE-level), but in the land of such vintage paperbacks, misleading covers, hyperbolic blurbs and drastically inconsistent quality of writing amongst many popular and prolific authors can mean anything from picking up a book that seems like it’ll be about a beautiful unicorn, only to find that it’s actually the exceptionally distressing account of the end of Earth with no survivors, to assuming you’re about to sit down with some masterful, hardline techy masters of the universe…and finding you hold in your hands a rambly slew of stream-of-consciousness nonsense, populated by the most hateable, irredeemable characters of all-time.

It’s easy to be put off sci-fi by experiences like this; put off the whole concept of picking up these strange and beautiful novels, novellas, collections. One bad experience can tar the genre, or stick you with some really icky thoughts that you can’t quite shake.

There’s a new audience coming to a lot of old sci-fi, a thing which joys and thrills me beyond all experiences I have and hear of the world of books and reading. The dystopian YA successes of recent years have opened the door to reading magnificent world-building amidst great and terrible technological innovation. The sheer length, credibility and complexity of popular series means a generation has the stomach to read stuff that wouldn’t necessarily have floated to the top of the must-read category in anyone’s personal library. Then, on top of that, oh joyful confluence, the space films, the Marvel films, and then the actual progress that is the stuff of science fact – the astronauts tweeting from real life in space…the appetites are all there, loud and clear, for the stories we told each other over the last century, whilst we waited for the genre to come back from niche to mainstream again.

For me, the important things in literally learning to love this kind of sci-fi were a) the grounding in the best stuff, the aforementioned authors of note, seeing the greatest possibilities of  and b) reading all the non-fiction about it, the biographies and the articles, the wonderful hive of such reasonably factual content that was a hefty slice of the early internet (very much my teenage playground). Understanding the publishers, the demand, the audience of the time, the strange variety of cult authors, popular authors, teams of editor-author-artist-publisher, of one-off books of a lifetime which were either never followed up at all, or, worse, were followed by book after book of unspeakable tripe, all this was important to me. It helped me see how drivel led to greatness, and vice versa, how trends came and went in the genre, how some writers wrote to a ‘formula’, and others told the same story over and over with different names.

These things don’t have to be important to everyone. It’s fine to pick something up, read it, or stop after a couple of pages, and then move on. But there’s a point at which the back catalogue is so vast, so epic and so capable of being massively disappointing, that it can get a bit to the point where you might as well not bother, or you might give up and go back to whatever’s out this year, which is also fine. (let it always be known that both I and the Crow fully believe that any and all reading is fine, always, there is no superior reading, no ‘better’ book, and nothing, come to that, wrong with reading the back of a cereal packet of a morning instead of the newspaper…you might just find more facts in it…but I digress…) But the point, my point, our Prudence and the Crow point is: if you’ve found yourself wondering about the older stuff, the vintage stuff, the strange stuff, the infinite worlds of weird and wonderful and awful writing that shaped the both the world we live in, and the worlds we read about, it’d be nice, wouldn’t it, if there was someone to choose a book from the entire history of the stuff for you, to place said book in your hand, tell you the key things about it and why they’d chosen it for you, to give you a way in, an opportunity, a chance to see for yourself what you think. And then, the next month, they’ll do the same thing again, but with something else, or, if you like, more of the same. And then after that, and after that. And before you know if, you’ve a library of thoughts, content, and context and, you’ve become a user of, we hope, a genuine and human service that enables discovery and enjoyment.

And if you came here genuinely hoping to know where to start in sci-fi, and are feeling none the wiser at the end of this, why, of course I’d love you to sign up for a Prudence and the Crow box of your very own, but in the meantime, here are my five most generic recommendations from the vintage world for those just starting out at looking back! I’d love to know any more of your favourite recs, or, indeed, any of your thoughts!

  • The New Accelerator, by H. G. Wells. Available here as an MP3 reading, along with many other choice Wells short stories. This story occupies a huge space inside my head. I’d love to see it as a film.
  • Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke. A great way into Clarke’s brilliance; I love that the man himself considered this one of his favourites. A strong story that’s hardly aged, about the flip from Utopia to dystopia and the power of children.
  • The Last Question, by Isaac Asimov I love the Multivac-verse, centred as it is around a magnificent computer, and this simple, effective short story is nothing but a masterclass in every aspect of sci-fi, and, indeed, the form of the short story itself. Link is to an excellent YouTube reading.
  • The Moon Voyage, by Jules Verne. A composite of From the Earth to the Moon, and Around the Moon, two of my favourite early sci-fi reads. The perfect ‘men in a rocket’ read, made better still, as Three Men in a Boat was a few decades later, by the addition of a dog.
  • Chocky, by John Wyndham. Perfect perspective writing: a father observes his son’s interactions with his imaginary friend, which grow more and more disturbing. Link is to the classic 1967 dramatisation. A small novella, brilliantly executed.

 

 

Greetings and Salutations!

 

Welcome to Prudence and the Crow! As we so lengthily, but accurately say, we’re a London-based vintage paperback subscription service – basically, you sign up for a box once, monthly, or for several months at a time, then fill out our lovely questionnaire with a couple of details about what you like and what you don’t, and we post you a letterbox-sized thing of beauty, containing a book we’ve chosen just for you, and a couple of other lovely things! So, once a month, you get to sit down and read something special, and, we hope, just your cup of tea.

If you haven’t already, do take a wander over to prudenceandthecrow.com and have a look at our beautiful website, all lovingly handcoded by the Crow herself. There, you can see the nuts and bolts of who we are and what we do, and sign up to join in!

This is something we’ve wanted to do for years. We’re huge fans of the subscription box concept, indeed, Prudence is signed up to several, but what we really love is the memory of the 1980s fan club welcome pack. If you weren’t around for ’80s fanclubs, then picture the excitement of getting a pack of informative paper, combined with A STICKER, and A BADGE, and sometimes even A PENCIL! In the very best ones? A woven patch. Oh yeah *happy sigh*. So, there’s a chance you’re smiling nostalgically, and if you are, this might be just your cup of tea! You also might, if you’re trying to picture it and failing to capture any sense of excitement at all, really need to know what it’s like. Give us a go! And the best thing of all? We can send you a box of this feeling every month.

That’s about it for now. We’ll be here with all kinds of thoughts and feelings, topics and wonderings, and we’re super excited to see who you are and what you love. And, hopefully, to give you so much more of it!  

 

Yours,

Prudence. And the Crow.