Brandon Sanderson’s a pretty cool guy. He’s generous with his time. Writes at a pace envied even by court transcribers. And writes some pretty cool books. On top of this, he’s a passionate Science Fiction and Fantasy fan, and he’s showing these roots with a new project that he’s put together for his fans. It’s a tête-bêche collection of two novellas, Defending Elysium and Firstborn, doubled up in the style of the old Ace Doubles series: two novels, back-to-back. And, man, it’s sexy.

It’s also interesting for fans of Sanderson, who is best known for his Epic Fantasy, to experience his take on Science Fiction. Firstborn is available to read for free on Sanderson explains why he chose such a unique format for his novellas:

The technical term for this kind of book layout is tête-bêche meaning “head-to-toe,” which indicates that the book has two front covers and no back cover; flip the book upside down to get the other story. When you reach the end of one story, the next page is the last page of the other story, upside-down.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to get these novelettes out in print form for a while, and due to their length putting them together seemed like the best idea. Plus I’ve always thought Ace Doubles were cool. (These were classic SF novels put out in tête-bêche paperbacks by the publisher Ace.)

The “Firstborn” cover reprises Donato Giancola’s excellent illustration that he painted for the version, and the “Defending Elysium” cover features an illustration by Dragos Jieanu (check out his website and his DeviantArt profile). (If you like his stuff, consider donating to the Chance for Life Foundation, a Romanian charity he supports.) The cover design is by Isaac Stewart, and the book design is by Peter Ahlstrom.

It’s terrific to see Sanderson using the freedom afforded to him by his success and popularity to assemble such a great keepsake for his fans. He promises to make them available on his website, for $17.99, but only if there are copies left after his run through the convention circuit. Good odds on them not lasting so long. I’d love to get my hands on a copy, but, well, I doubt it’s in the cards. Really lovely idea.

  • Joe Sherry April 24, 2013 at 3:15 am

    To be fair, Subterranean Press did this a number of years ago with George R. R. Martin’s Starlady and Fast-Friend, Lucius Shepard’s Ariel / Vacancy, and Alastair Reynold’s Thousandth Night / Minla’s Flowers.

  • Aidan Moher April 24, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Oh, man, why you gotta play with my heart (and bank account) like that, Joe?

  • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) April 24, 2013 at 6:54 am

    For me, the ace doubles that featured two different authors and often very different titles, was the secret sauce for those. (although some of the one-author doubles were really good)

  • David Wagner April 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    What a cool design choice, the back-to-back config. I may have to grab a copy out of respect for the design choice… fun.

  • Aidan Moher April 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

    That’s an interesting point, Paul. The Ace Doubles did allow people an opportunity to find new authors by virtue of them being bundled together.