austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Or maybe it was a magazine

So in an online conversation I got into a dispute with someone over my assertion that James Blish's books were unjustly obscure. He asked me what authors of Blish's vintage weren't obscure, if we go by availability of books in new-book-stores. I'm a bit hesitant, because I suspect I'm chatting with one of those people who believes the Market is All-Wise, All-Knowing, Infallible, and Perfectly Represented by the Actions of Corporations, but it did prompt me to count books available.

The authors were chosen by me based on remembering them as important names, who'd been dead since about 1990. The count is what I could find on the mass-market and the trade paperback shelves without intense digging; a novel, or a short-story collection, or a collection of short novels I counted as one, and I tried not to count multiple editions as different books. The bookstore was the Borders, on Orchard Road. Books are those same old papery things.

  • Alfred Bester: 5 books.
  • James Blish: 1 (Cities in Flight, justifiably four books, but sold as one for about 35 years now).
  • Philip K Dick: 24 (why is he so outrageously popular? Not saying he doesn't deserve it, but why?), plus Michael Bishop's Philp K Dick Is Dead, Alas, which under these circumstances must be regarded as irony.
  • Jack Finney: 1.
  • Fritz Leiber: 3.
  • Murray Leinster: 1 (I think this is one of those Baen short story editions were things are edited enough to irritate old fans, but not enough that new readers will think they're modern stories).
  • Erik Frank Russell: 0.
  • Clifford Simak: 1 (and it's Way Station -- I'd have bet on City).
  • Cordwainder Smith: 1 (Norstrilia, fair encapsulation of what he wrote).
  • EE Doc Smith: 1 (huh).
  • Olaf Stapledon: 2.

What it all means? Nothing much, except that everybody's better off than Erik Frank Russell fans. And the occasional person who tries to insist that more proof of science fiction's superiority over all other genres is that old classics stay in print while nobody remembers who wrote any best-selling ordinary fiction book from the 30s is quite wrong, but we all knew that before getting here. I don't know why I forgot to look up Richard Matheson.

Also I discovered they do have copies of Diana Wynne Jones's Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, as well as a new Get Fuzzy book and Complete Peanuts, 1955-56. Cool.

Trivia: Among the mental mathematical feats of Zerah Colburn, 1804-1840, was to determine that 232+1 is divisible by 641. Source: Yankee Science in the Making, Dirk J Struik.

Currently Reading: World History, 1815-1920, Eduard Fueter.


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