home : news : reviews : features : fiction : podcast : blogs : t-shirts : wtf?

Blindfolds and Cigarettes: Throwing Down the Literary Gauntlet
© Peggy Hailey

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror fans are a unique lot. Always looking for the next new thing, we are also extremely loyal to our old favorites. There's a sense of history to these genres; a pride in knowing how we got to where we are.

Which is why it's so golly-damned frustrating when classics disappear into the no-mans land of out-of-stock (OS), out-of-stock indefinitely (OSI, or as we in the book business call it, SOL), or out-of-print (OP). Don't misunderstand me; certain things should go. crap. The problem is the crap hangs around too long, and the good stuff appears briefly and then is rarely heard from again. I see it every day in my bookstore, and I'm tired of it.

Some of these books are no longer available (or only available from abroad or from specialty publishers), and that is criminal. So I'm drawing a line in the sand, throwing down the literary gauntlet, as it were. I'm calling out the publishing industry, lining them up against the wall, and taking aim, while offering nothing more than the traditional final comfort of the condemned: a blindfold and a last cigarette.

The revolution is coming, brothers and sisters, and it's time to make sure you're on the side of the righteous. I know for a fact that some publishing folks will be visiting this site, so here it is: your chance to be heard, and maybe, just maybe, make a difference.

I'll get things started on a personal note. I've been reading books for a very long time now, and I've noticed that I tend to read in cycles. I pick up a horror novel, say, read and enjoy it, and before you know it, I'm reading almost nothing but horror novels. Then one day a science fiction book catches my eye, so I try that, and soon I'm gallivanting around the galaxy, horror novels merely a dim and distant memory.

I had been reading other things for quite a few years, but suddenly in grad school, of all places, I rediscovered a yen for science fiction. What did it for me was a nice little used bookstore with a huge stash of Del Rey's Best Of series. Does anyone besides me remember these? Mass market paperbacks with suitably SF covers-not too pulpy, not too fancy-between which were sandwiched the glorious, thrilling best short works of classic science fiction.

Some of the authors I had already heard of: Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Philip K. Dick. Others were a mystery to me: Henry Kuttner, Murray Leinster, Stanley G. Weinbaum. All had short introductions by folks like Asimov, Bradbury, or Lester del Rey himself, and the stories were chosen to showcase the author in question at his or her best. I picked up a couple by authors I knew, but soon I came running back to pick up any books in the series I could find. What an education!

These books formed a blueprint, a map charting the history of science fiction. The authors and stories chosen ranged from the earliest days of the Golden Age of the 30s up through the New Wave of the 60s and beyond with no debates over the relative merits of eras or authors, but rather with the strongest stories that could be found.

I read stories I never dreamed existed, stories like Stanley Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey. Written in 1934, this was the first story to create aliens that were truly alien; i.e., not humans decked out in blue fur. Amazingly, it was also the first story to point out that alien / different did not necessarily mean evil.

Did I like every story/author? Of course not. But that's not the point.

The point is that I picked up authors I'd never heard of and gave them a try, and found some real gems like Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore in the process. So what am I complaining about? I'll tell you what I'm complaining about. I found these books 10 years ago, and most of them were out of print then.

Not only were the Best Of's out of print, but most of the other works by these same authors was also unavailable. The situation has not improved. Sure, some folks like Philip K. Dick have been revived and introduced to a whole new audience, but what about the rest of them? Go to your favorite bookstore and take a look around for anything by Cordwainer Smith or Edmund Hamilton or Frederic Brown.

If you find something, I guarantee you're in a specialty shop that carries used books, because barring non-US or specialty press editions, there's just nothing out there any more.

I mentioned the Vintage repackaging of Philip K. Dick's novels earlier. Vintage has also done a nice job re-introducing the world to the brilliance of Alfred Bester. How hard would it be to do something like that for this series of books? Think about it: nice trade paperbacks with classy covers and all new introductions by some of today's writers, say Connie Willis on C.L. Moore, or Terry Pratchett on L. Sprague deCamp.

And don't let them give you that tired old "Today's market isn't interested in those old fogies" crap. Of course today's market isn't interested-most of today's market has never heard of these folks because THERE'S NOTHING OF THEIRS OUT THERE TO READ! Give the market a chance, and you just might find there IS a demand out there for this stuff.

I've gotten this thing started. Now it's YOUR turn. I know there's an old favorite of yours consigned to the scrap heap of publishing, something you'd love to tell all your friends about but can't because no one can find it. Here's your chance.

Light up that mailbag, people. Tell me about your missing treasures. Heck, follow our editorial guidelines (which can be seen here) and the next "Blindfolds and Cigarettes" column might be yours. Don't let the bastiges tell you what you want to read. You tell them, loud and clear. Who knows? Somebody may be listening.

We told RevolutionSF Books Editor Peggy Hailey to lay off the cuervo while watching Viva zapata, but oh no; she knew better.

Recommend Us
  • Send to a Friend
  • Digg This
  • Reddit It
  • Add to del.ic.ious
  • Share at Facebook
  • Discuss!
  • Send Feedback
  • RevSF Remembers: Peter Fernandez, voice of Speed Racer
  • G'Kar, RIP
  • What are you reading right now?
  • Book Forum
  • Related Pages
  • Print This Page
  • Blindfolds and Cigarettes : Confessions of a General Bookseller
  • Blindfolds and Cigarettes: Reliving the Golden Age
  • Blindfolds & Cigarettes: Preaching to the Converted
  • Search RevSF
  • New on RevSF
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Book Probe: BattleMaster, Wade of Aquitaine, Kriendria of Amorium
  • RevSF Podcast: Drowning in Moonlight: Remembering Carrie Fisher
  • Logan
  • RevSF Home


    Things From Our Brains
    Get even more out of RevSF.

    The only free sci-fi and humor zine left in America.
    RevolutionSF RSS Feed
    Search RevSF

    Random RevSF
    Newsblast Archives: Number One Has No Total Recall

    contact : advertising : submissions : legal : privacy
    RevolutionSF is ™ and © Revolution Web Development, Inc., except as noted.
    Intended for readers age 18 and above.