Saturday, August 4, 2012

The hoary beard of science fiction?

As a fan of weird fiction in general, and with classic supernatural fiction as one of my favorites, I like to peek in on the All Hallows newslist on Yahoo frequently (, and see what's going on in the current ghost story related conversation. Every now and then, the talk veers into similar but ultimately unrelated terrain, such as science fiction.

One of the other group members was feeling discouraged about the lot of older science fiction, and I responded according to what I see in the shop here. Then I thought to myself, why not post this on the Green Hand blog where everyone can read it? This is what I've been saying to folks in the shop for the last little while, so some of you may have heard bits and pieces of this over the last year, but here goes:

In response to the assertion that the only fans of old scifi (beyond the major classics like Heinlein) are retirement age themselves, I had this to say:

I'd have to throw up a flare of positivity here and disagree -- I've been growing my scifi section extensively since I opened my used bookshop 2 1/2 years ago, and the stuff that gets people really excited, both young and old, is the uber-classic stuff that's slipped through the cracks. I'm trying to fill that gap, because no one around here really cultivates their bookshop's scifi section (or horror, which is my real pet section, and sadly seems to be a much harder sell for me than scifi is at the moment).

I watch people as they come up, with their little pile of books in hand and a gleam in their eye as if they've found treasure before anyone else got to it. Or people come in and hopelessly ask me out of habit if I have a particular old obscure scifi title, and when I say, "Yes, I think I might have that," they get this I-won't-believe-it-'til-I-see-it hope on their face, and when I hand them the book, well -- I can safely say that the old scifi is not dead in people's hearts, at least not around here.

The younger customers are reading articles about scifi online written by people like you who read this stuff in the decades after it came out and loved it. I think so long as the fans of scifi have enough enthusiasm and heart to keep telling the newcomers about the things they love most, the kids are learning to appreciate it too. The other method of inculcation is word of mouth -- their friends read the older stuff and inform them that they "have to read this!" and they listen.

I have a ton of customers excitedly working their way through the obvious suspects (Heinlein, Asimov, Dick), and more who are taste-testing anything obscure they can get their hands on. Then there's Bester, Lem, Blaylock, and scores more who are scarce but sought after enough that I have a hard time keeping them in stock.

I also run an all-women scifi bookclub that has been going for just over a year now, and is alternating male and female authors month by month, with great success.

In my opinion, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a scifi fan, because there is no reason why you ever have to read a bad scifi novel (unless you want to!) -- the cream has risen to the top, and if a gem is missed by the vox populi, there is usually someone to stand up and shine a spotlight on it so that the observant fan will pick up on it and resurrect it.

So there's my two cents on the matter. I know, I'm an eternal optimist. Can't be helped! I'm excited about all those darn books.

No comments:

Post a Comment