Thursday, April 05, 2012

Bits of Books

Just got back from a trip to the bookstore and I have a few thoughts rattling around in the old brainpan.

I'm currently reading Kraken by China Mieville. It starts off dynamically, cooly and weirdly. As with any Mieville book, I'm savoring each page because there are ideas and language that have to be thought through. He makes me think and that's something that lets me keep coming back to his writing. Highly recommended.

I bought a copy of The Hunger Games today. I was going to get it from the library, but there are three copies there with over 65 holds on those three copies. So, I relented and went to the bookstore. (As an aside, there are really only three bookstores left in town that are worth noting. I went to the one closest to the house.) There was quite a display of at least three different versions of the book: hardback, trade paperback and the movie tie-in. I didn't want hardback so I looked at the trade and the tie-in. Based on pricing alone, I bought the trade paperback which was three bucks less (cover price) than the tie-in. I see no reason to buy the tie-in just to have the movie cover if it's more expensive. Weird marketing plan there.

While I was in the bookstore, I went to the so-called Science Fiction section. I say so-called because about 80% of the section was fantasy or urban fantasy, 10% was HALO or Star Wars books and the remaining 10% was actual SF which consisted mostly of Orson Scott Card Ender novels and some Frank Herbert and Philip K. Dick. That's all. It makes me a little crazy that there's not much SF out there. I know it's only one store and certainly not representative of what's going on in the 'real' world, but maybe it's time for Fantasy to have its own section. What do you think?

Don't get me wrong, I think Urban Fantasy is a subgenre that deserves to be recognized. It used to be that it was horror because it tended to involve vampires and werewolves and other supernatural things. I guess the word horror scared people off, because once it became Urban Fantasy, wow. Horror is a whole other genre now that still includes H.P. Lovecraft and now Joe Hill and even Richard Matheson, but I'd argue that even Stephen King wrote Urban Fantasies back in the day. I don't understand the distinction, I guess. Is Urban Fantasy really Horror Lite?

However, while I was in the SF section, I stumbled on a copy of Thomas M. Disch's novel The Prisoner. Yep, it's that Prisoner. Disch is one of the acknowledged SF masters and this'll be the first of his books that I've read. I'm thinking of it as a gateway book to more SF.

The point I'm trying to make here is that even though The Hunger Games and Kraken and The Prisoner are on my radar, there are a ton of books that aren't, and they aren't on the radar of a lot of other people. What's stocked in the bookstores is what people will buy, though not necessarily read. That's why there's more UF than anything else in the SF section. If people went to this particular bookstore to look for a Science Fiction book they hadn't read but had heard about, would they find it? Will they just end up not even going to the bookstore and simply order the book online?

I'll be doing that, for sure, with two books that come out May 25th. I want to be sure that I'll be able to find these books because I want to read them. Bookstores will have to do a better job to keep me coming to them, but I have to tell them what I want and then they have to follow through. It's tough to stock a wide variety of genre when space is so limited and the foot traffic through the store is down so much. Both used book stores in my town are doing booming business both in buying and selling. The best part about both those stores is that I can shop genre books and get lost in there for a while. This bookstore didn't do that for me this time.

Look, I'm rambling. What I want you to understand is that when you go to a store and you don't find what you want, tell the cashier. Hopefully there's a line of communication that will reach the store manager and if enough people want the store to carry things they care about, it'll happen.

I hope. If the science of this doesn't work, maybe I am living in a fantasy world.