" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Science fiction and fantasy in my life.

 “I realized just how much time I spend consuming the past.”

from “Who Knows Where The Times Goes” at 4am

Auxiliary Memory

Things I want to remember – James Wallace Harris 


The idea for this post started germinating when I picked up copy of the 2nd Xanth book The Source of Magic while in Saskatoon last February. I had always loved the cover and I knew I had read the first 5 or six books in the interminable series, as well as some of his other series, before getting rid of all my Piers Anthony books except The Macroscope.

The purchase of that title plus my search for  A Spell for Chameleon started me thinking about the circumstances in which I began reading Anthony’s books.  In 1979 I came to Alberta for a summer Archaeology Field School in Elk Point, Alberta. The next year after graduation I was offered a summer job in Edmonton where I continued to live for the next 10 years. For several years one of my main sources of weekend entertainment was to go down to the Wee Book Inn on Whyte avenue to buy a bag of used books, mainly science fiction and fantasy. I would then walk down to Snoopy’s Fine Foods, a typical prairie dinner selling Chinese and western food where I would enjoy a cheese burger, fries and a coke while flipping thru my books.

My early science fiction reading started in elementary school and relied on the school and public library. This focused on my  big six authors, Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton and Christopher Wyndham who was taught in Ontario schools. I think know I think I also meet Clifford Simak and Robert Silverberg as well. But these were not my books, there were presented to me by librarians and dutifully returned. Now I not only had some pocket money and whole new selection of books, on annoying metal racks where you could only see the first of 3 of 4 books without flipping thru each stack. By the way The Wee Book in is still going.


I have spent several months thinking about the authors I meet there. I continued to look for my old favourites, but there were all these new writers, Frank Herbert, Piers Anthony, Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, Jerry Pournelle, James Hogan, C.J Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradly, Nancy Springer, Tanith Lee. Two I had meet the previous summer in Elk Point, a colleague had lent me book two of Jack L. Chalker’s Well World Series and I had found the 2nd volume of Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master trilogy. on the spinny rack of the drugstore. At this point there was no internet so my reading was still at the hunter gather level, I rooted around found a shiny nut or berry, covers were quite important at least in introducing a new author. There are obvious gaps but that is how foraging works serendipity plays a large part. I was interested to note how many female writers appeared on this list 

Some other these authors I continued to keep and read and some I got rid. Some because I tired of the books, some because of the author’s actions. But is thinking about my reading then there are some authors I will revisit. One of the first will be Chalker's Well world series (I love most to the covers), the only Chalker title i had kept was the singleton The Web of the Chosen so in late June my wife and I spent a weekend visiting several used bookstores. I found beautiful copies of the last three volumes plus many SFBC editions I could not resist. I found the 2nd volume in The Next Page used book section and despaired of finding the 1st volume when I found it next to the Herman Hesse pile, I also got Hesse's Gertrud. I already had already decided on my summer reading at the cabin and I have an eye procedure in October so i may not get to this pile until this winter but I am looking forward to it. 

And the copy of A Spell for Chameleon? Well i got that at The Sentry Box , a wonderful Calgary game shop with a huge bookstore, because my wife and I have decided that at least part of our retirement should be spent painting little tiny figures and I wanted Ash Waste Nomads riding Dustmite Helamites because I may be growing old but I have decided not to grow up. 


A few members of my Frostgrave warband.

As to why I am back, I missed it and I want to recommend The Auxiliary Memory

post , “77 Things I Learned From Writing 1000 Blog Essays 


I certainly felt a number of his points applied to me.


  1. Everybody who is a sci-fi fan has those treasured memories of encountering the genre in their younger days, usually through the agency of a bookstore that may have had a sizeable sci-fi section, or even been a specialty shop devoted to the genre. After reading your essay, well, if ever I'm in Edmonton, sounds like I need to visit the Wee Book Inn !

  2. Hi Thanks for stopping by. My earliest memories are the Windsor Libraries but the Wee Book Inn is a close second.