Some time ago it occurred to me that I was buying far more books than I was reading, much less discussing and reflecting on. Part of the reason is that I enjoy books not just as text, but as physical objects with bindings, fonts, print runs and cover artists. I also see science fiction books as historic artifacts reflecting politics, society, science, current conditions and future extrapolations all changing over time. They move from religious allegories, to utopias, lost race, planetary romances, time travel, alternate history, juveniles. The atomic age, and cold war paranoia are followed by hard science fiction, feminist science fiction, anthropological science fiction, new wave, cyber punk, mainstream science fiction and post colonial science fiction all merging with and informing each other. And then you have the outliers like Cordwainer Smith, stories or authors that seem to come out of no where and disappear the same way, like fireflies that flash for only a moment, So when I have spare time or money or both I buy books this means I also read about the books, the authors and the historical trends they represent. Add to this the ever present social media which saps my time and energy and demonstrates very clearly that many of us are determined to replicate the science fiction dystopia as our preferred political model (hence it’s absence for the list above) and I realize I have not been reading enough.
So I have brought a number of books to the cabin, some “classic” works or important authors I have never read and some old friends. I have also tried to incorporate more female authors, Canadian authors, and Russian authors. Given that the cabin already contained some volumes of Gunn’s excellent The Road to Science Fiction and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame I am well served. By design this grouping does not contain a great deal of very current SF. Bud Webster the great science fiction historian/ fan/writer used to talk about how he was a geeky, some what picked on kid, looking for the refuge when he found it in the science fiction section of the public library and the books of Raymond J. Healy, Groff Conklin, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton and others.
“But the library was sanctuary for me. Nobody would chase me, nobody would yell at me, and best of all, nobody there would rag me for reading books. I'd have stayed there forever if I could have. It was quiet, cool, and it's where I became addicted to books, both as artifacts and because of the content.
I was probably all of nine years old when I first found the thick, heavy collections of stories edited by Conklin and Healy & McComas for the first time. But there they were, that pair of behemoths: Adventures in Time and Space (ed. Raymond J. Healy and Francis McComas, Random House 1946) and The Best of Science Fiction (ed. Groff Conklin, Crown 1946). They changed my life, and without a doubt altered the way I read science fiction, and I wasn't the only one.”
Anthopology 101: The Best of Time and Space, by Bud Webster