Saturday, January 05, 2013

Science Fiction Day?

I'm glad to know there is a National Science Fiction Day and I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I hadn't learned of it until now. For the record NSFD coincides with the birthdate of Isaac Asimov, every year on January 2nd. In any case, the themes around the shop today included a good dose of Science Fiction.

1/4/13 - DK Publishing's "X-Men The Ultimate Guide: Updated Edition" from 2003 has found it's way here and began the Sci-Fi trend of the day. The X-Men universe of comics have always seemed, to me, to be the most science-y of the entire Marvel Universe, which (to me) always seemed the most science-based comic books. Granted, it's difficult to find a superhero comic that is NOT rooted in science fiction. The mystical and supernatural characters of comics typically play in a different sandbox, yet often cross paths with our super-science tinkerers and w√ľnderkinds. And why not? As another giant of Science Fiction, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, famously wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But, let's not forget that Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" used that very concept nearly a century before!

So, today a customer asked for John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" - another title I was disappointed to find we currently lack (and one I should find for my own reading purposes). We looked in a number of spots in the store; A) 'the rack' - a place we put popular titles, near our Classics, which will likely deserve a spot in the Classics section, one day, B) 'across from the desk' - a place we put books that are very popular, hard for us to find, or slightly more expensive than the norm (I've equated this space to the 'top shelf' liquor in a bar), and C) the Humor section. During all this searching I seemed to recall hearing of a "Confederacy of Dunces" movie and suggested we might look in the movie-books, but my wise guest informed me that it's been tried many times and the lead actor keeps dying off. My current internet search on the topic indicates another film attempt has recently been considered.

While at the 'top shelf' books we found "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon. He's another fellow I've yet to read, and I mentioned "Gravity's Rainbow" as being high on my to-do list. This became a short diversion to William Gibson, who is frequently thought of as a Sci-Fi writer but has lately delved into stories of a far more real-world nature - I'm partial to "Pattern Recognition", which has been considered for filming (like "... Dunces" and "... Lot 49") and was produced as a 5-part radio play for BBC Radio in 2007. Further broadening the thoughtscape was talk of publishing and then a mention of Cory Doctorow, who insists that many of his works be made available for free, at the same time his publishers are offering them for sale.

To wrap up the search for "... Dunces" we glanced through the aforementioned Humor section. While failing to find "A Confederacy of Dunces" we did stumble upon P. J. O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores" and shared a quick laugh about bundling the two books as a double-feature.

That's a lot for one day... all of this idea-volleyball occurred in the space of a mere 10-15 minutes! I also changed a lightbulb (it takes just 1 Bonnett to do so), helped our First Friday visitors, created Slushy, the Snow Blob, typed all of this, and more. It's a perfect example of why I wanted to begin chronicling a year of ideas in the shop. Such mental parkour is de rigueur and, being whelmed and overwhelmed in this manner is like a workout, leaving the brain all sweaty and catching it's breath. Some would casually call all this chit-chat trivia; we sincerely do not. A used bookstore isn't a graveyard of old information. Used bookstores are the original culture mash-up, the birthplace of the mental remix, and a seed bank of future ideas. Just the kinds of things Dayton is known for... inspiration, invention... and now Slushy, the Happy Snowblob. Caption him at will.