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Award-winning publisher and editor Betty Ballantine was a pioneer in publishing, and played a pivotal role in the creation of the paperback. She has passed away at the age of 99, having died at her home in Bearsville, New York. Her granddaughter reported that she passed away of natural causes, and had been in declining health.

Elizabeth Jones Ballantine  was born September 25, 1919 in India, in what was at that time the British Raj.. She was educated in England, where she met and married American Ian Ballantine. Ian and Betty Ballantine helped to form Bantam Books in 1945, and went on to launch Ballantine Books in 1952.

Ballantine Books became known for simultaneously publishing books in hardcover and paperback, as well as being one of the earliest publishers of original science fiction paperbacks, starting with The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. Almost 100 Ballantine covers featured artwork by Richard Powers.

It was Ballantine which, in 1965, printed the first authorized edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In 1969 created the Adult Fantasy line, which reissued out-of-print fantasy works by authors such as Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, H. Rider Haggard and H.P. Lovecraft. The Ballantines won two World Fantasy Awards, in 1975 and 1984. Betty Ballantine received a special Science Fiction Writers of America President’s Award in 2002 and a Special Committee Award from LACon IV in 2006. 

“We really, truly wanted and did publish books that mattered,” Ballantine told the science fiction-fantasy magazine Locus in 2002. “And science fiction matters, because it’s of the mind, it predicts, it thinks, it says, ‘Look at what’s happening here. If that’s what’s happening here and now, what’s it going to look like 10 years from now, 50 years from now, or 2,000 years from now?’ It’s a form of magic. Not abracadabra or wizardry. It is the minds of humankind that make this magic.”

Rest well, Betty. You changed the world.

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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