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January 30, 2007

Disappearance and reappearance

Fred Kiesche considers the ever shrinking selection of science fiction in the big box retail environment. I have noticed the same problem. Look, I have no problem with Shatner making a quick buck from "writing" a novel; if ghost writing for Houdini was good enough for Lovecraft it is good enough for whoever is paying the rent cranking out TekWar. But every shelf inch taken up by the lie is forcing out real authors. It is the literary equivalent of monocropping.

Now, I like series books. I cut my "eye teeth" on series books such as "Doc" Smith's Skylark and Lensman books. Many of my ongoing reading projects are revolving around various multi-book series, both science fiction and fantasy. But the shelves seem to be dominated by endless series of endless fantasies (Robert Jordan and Laurell K. Hamilton and other imitators). How much is actually science fiction?

The same phenomenon has been the case for many years in the horror section. God bless you, Stephen King, but get out of the road: You are holding up traffic for miles. I expect the problem may be addressed once the boffins produce a PDA with a legible screen. PDF editions may bring back classics currently available only with an attentive eye to the best used bookstore in town (yesterday's score: Frank Belknap Long's "Journey into Darkness"). The second comment at Fred's post puts the problem down to a tax code which incentivises returning pulp fiction to the pulp from whence it came. It seems to me that if publishers and booksellers cannot or will not make books available for sale the people will turn to the torrents in much the same way they have for music, television and film.

On a related, and more cheerful, note is the ever increasing availability of classics once lost in the mists of childhood and to the vagueries of late night television broadcasting. Mike Campbell has made a useful survey of YouTube offerings of Robin of Sherwood, easily the best film or television adaptation of the myth. Where there are fans there will be someone to string the bow.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 30, 2007 06:53 AM


Steven King should be relegated to mass-market releases from three novels ago to infinity. Open up the shelves, booksellers!

Posted by: agent bedhead [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2007 01:32 PM

It is a sad state of affairs when even a substantial horror section - six shelves, say - will have a shelf and a half each of Peter Straub and Stephen King and possibly the same again for Clive Barker but not a single copy of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft let alone more recent, established authors like Poppy Z. Brite. There is a huge market for horror and I would have imagined some variety might be a good thing even for timorous folks who need to be assured by a brand-name author. Clive Barker's big break, for example, came about in large part because of a Stephen King endorsement.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2007 01:38 PM

I thought everybody in this town knew that Bakka on Queen West was the only bookseller to go to for science fiction. Surely there are like-minded vendors (also located on Queen West, no doubt) catering to the horror-lit crowd.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2007 02:13 PM

I can't even find the Robin Hood series on Netflix! Disappointing, to say the least. It does, at least, exist on dvd.

Posted by: Andrea Harris [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2007 12:18 PM

There is great science fiction out there, and I cut my teeth on Asimov, but for the most part I tend to feel that fantasy is just science fiction without the pretentions of realism. :-)

Posted by: James Bow [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 11:52 AM