Post-Christmas Book-Buying Tips -

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Post-Christmas Book-Buying Tips

Plus: Maybe the Future's Here After All

By Denise Dumars     January 11, 2001

Well, it's after Xmas; no one has any cash, except for two quarters and a coupon for a fifty-cent double cappuccino at Borders. So whaddya do, besides see if your local library has been able to afford to buy any new fiction in, like, the last decade?

You can try to pick up these two books, in what we sometimes call 'quality paperback' format. F. Paul Wilson's collection, The Barrens and Others is out now for the first time in trade paperback. It contains stories of Repairman Jack, horror tales of the scary Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and 'Pelts,' which Wilson calls 'the only politically correct story I've ever written.' The collection also offers a one-act play version of 'Pelts' and the teleplay for Wilson's Monsters episode 'Glim-Glam.' A really affordable title and a lot of good stuff.

The next gives you two science fiction novels for less than the price of one in hardcover. C. J. Cherryh's Devil to the Belt contains her novels Hellburner and Heavy Time in a really nice trade paperback format, along with a new introduction to the plots of these novels. Basically, the story is about colonization of space by humans and what happens both on Earth and on the colonies when faster-than-light travel is actually perfected (emigration is restricted, for one thing). Looks pretty good.

You'll have to pay full price for this next one, unless you buy it online, which would be appropriate considering its subject matter. Silicon Follies: a Dot.Comedy by Thomas Scoville sounds like a book for us. It's about a guy with a liberal arts degree who finds himself working in Silicon Valley, where tech nerds rule. Paul, our protagonist, is having a conversation with one of his colleagues, and it is so loaded with computer jargon that it barely sounds like English. 'This isn't what I expected to be doing with my life,' Paul thinks. He's a stranger in a strange land until he meets a woman with a Master's in English who criticizes the grammar in one of his memos. Hopefully, they get together and live happily ever after. This looks like a fun send-up of the Silicon Valley lifestyle.

Stop Press: The Future is on ITS Way

According to journalist PJ Mark, who I just spoke to via email, his story in [Inside] online magazine this morning is absolutely true. It's about IT, a new book coming out by journalist Steve Kemperwho I will from now on refer to as 'the luckiest journalist on the planet' since he got a $250,000 advance. The book details an invention by scientist Dean Kamen, called IT, that will supposedly be the biggest thing since the InternetIT will set the world on fire, change the way we live, redesign our cities, stop Britney Spears (not really, but a girl can hope), and make a lot of money. What is IT? The article doesn't say. It's not a PC; it's not a medical breakthrough; it makes people laugh; and it's also called by the code-name Ginger. (Hey, it's my therapist!) But really, this thing has us on pins and needles: Steve Jobs and venture capitalist John Doerr are interested; we'll just have to wait and see. Harvard Business School Press is publishing the book on IT. Check out PJ's article at

Conversations Overheard, and Nonfiction

This makes sense; stick with me here. I was waiting for an employee of Border's to find a book for me (he never did) so I could talk about it in this column, and while he was away a phone call came in that another employee took: 'Yes, it's used on the show Charmed; that's where they get their magical info.... No, it's not just about the show? Well, I don't know; let me try to find it...' At this point I'm gesturing at him frantically. The book the customer on the phone wants in N. E. Genge's The Book of Shadows: an Unofficial 'Charmed' Companion, which I covered in Library Vault #12. I told the clerk about it, and he said the person on the phone claims that the witchy info in the book is actually used as background for the show.

Now I've found a new book by N. E. Genge. Beyond Blair Witch: the Haunting of America from the Carlisle Witch to the Real Ghosts of Burkittsville recounts tales of ghosts, voodoo, and other American occult activity since the year 1410. Lots of spooky, blurry photos (my fave is of the two-headed calf), the relationship of witchcraft to nursery rhymes, and the Civil War ghosts of Burkittsville are among the stuff you'll find in here. Looks fun and no doubt will really honk off the residents of Burkittsville once again.

While all this was going on, I was in Border's early in the morning, the one time the employees outnumber the customers. As I was walking to the metaphysical section, several young clerks were shelving books and I overhead this comment: 'Don't impose your Stanley Kubrick life on us.' What the frell? Sounds like one clerk is having an Eyes Wide Shut experience and all the others are jealous. We can hope, anyway.

I was there looking for dream analysis books because since my surgery I've been having lots of interesting dreams. Now, mind you, most dream analysis books are crap. The standard example of bad dream analysis is the hilarious entry in one book that states if you dream of slaughtering a lamb it means you're going to have a dinner party soon (this comes from the Victorian era, where leg of lamb was a dinner party staple). I looked through a bunch of dream books and found one that is actually pretty interesting. Dreams: Working Interactive by Stephanie Clement and Terry Lee Rosen contains dream analysis, a dream symbol dictionary, and examinations of children's dreams and the dreams of famous persons (Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, etc.). Though it relies heavily on Christian archetypes to explain the symbols, with a little Jungian analysis thrown in for good measure, it still seems pretty interesting. With the book you get software for journaling and dream interpretation. A nice and different sort of package, for sure.

A book I got for Xmas that I really like is The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life by Jennifer Louden. Louden is the author of The Women's Comfort Book, which is about being good to yourself in a too-busy world. Well, Louden found that after writing several books, touring and lecturing, she was totally stressed out and unable to follow her own advice. Along came the Comfort Queenan archetype that Louden describes as 'a cross between Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke and a Yoruba priestess.' The Comfort Queen gives herand uslots of good advice. Definitely recommended for women living in a world that works at Internet light speed and expects instant results (is my Editor listening?) Good book.

Publishing News of the Weird

Am I the only sane person in journalism and the publishing world anymore? Don't answer that. Who reports on what, and why do they do it? It's hard sorting it all out. For example, Inscriptions reports that a subscriber finds the search engine EgoSurf 'lacking in usefulness.' Well, duh. Use Google. It's run by librarians. They know what they're doing. Similarly, a confusing story was run about GalaxyOnline. It seems that Ben Bova resigned as publisher, and Rick Wilbur resigned as fiction editor, citing lack of financing. Then the site claims to have purchased Galaxy magazine. Huh? Galaxy ceased print in the mid-'90s.

The International Horror Guild, not wanting, apparently, to be confused with the Stokers, are not going to give their awards at this year's World Horror Convention and Annual Stoker Meeting in Seattle. Instead, they're giving them at Dragoncon. Hope that if anyone wins both an IHG and a Stoker, the resultant increase in book sales will afford them plane tickets to both coasts to pick up both awards.

A not-too-helpful article on writing query letters states that putting a 'hearts and flowers' stamp on the envelope will mark you as an amateur. Oh, give me a break. Like anyone cares what kind of stamp you use, or that a busy editor even has time to notice.

There may be a new horror mag of dark fantasy in art, culture, and music coming out called Dark Realms. Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it:

Censorship? Not in my country... Inscriptions reports that a 17-year old boy in New Jersey was arrested for writing and distributing a story in which he mentioned the killing of school faculty and students. Sigh.

And finally, for something cheerful: Barry Hanson, a.k.a. Dr. Demento, signs and discusses his book Rhino's Cruise Through the Blues at 7 Pm at Booksmith, 1644 Haight St. in San Francisco. Cheer up, already.


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