Monday, September 06, 2021

Reading Into the Past: Week of 9/6/01

Nothing new arrived this week, so I'll fire up the RNG's what I was reading this week in 2001:

David Garnett, Bikini Planet (bound galleys, 9/1)

This is a humorous SF novel, published in the UK in 2000; the US edition was more than a year later, at the end of 2001. I was clearly reading it a few months ahead of publication with an eye towards offering it in the SFBC.

We did not, in the end, offer it in the club. That may indicate my opinion of the book at the time, or may be because I made an offer and it fell through. (But I think it was the former.) I didn't remember ever holding or even knowing about a book called Bikini Planet until picking up the reading notebook a few minutes ago. And I don't think I've read anything else by Garnett (though I keep mixing him up with Paul Barnett, who I did know). 

P.N. Elrod, editor, Dracula in London (bound galleys, 9/2)

Elrod had a couple of fun series about vampires herself: Jack Fleming of "The Vampire Files" was a PI, I think in the traditional '30s, who solved crimes and hobnobbed with mobsters. And the Jonathan Barrett books, which I recall being a bit more ambitious, were set during the Revolution. And it looks like the rest of her career was pretty vampire-centric, as well.

So she edited this anthology, which looks to have been entirely original. I don't see a SFBC edition on ISFDB, which makes sense: anthologies were then and are now a tough sell; they never do as well as a single equivalent novel. I don't remember the specific stories, but it is an anthology I read during Worldcon twenty years ago. But Elrod was generally good with the vampire stuff, and Ace put together smoothly professional books, so my bet is this would still be fun and entertaining if you had a copy of it.

Alan Dean Foster, Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind's Eye (9/3)

I had definitely read this before. I know I read it at least once before Empire came out, and possibly other times afterward. My guess is that I was reading it in 2001 with the thought in my head that having a Star Wars book in one of our twice-yearly "Collector's Issues" would be a good seller, and that this book could slot in there and not be embarrassing. That's the guess, since there doesn't seem to have been a new edition around 2001 that could have triggered the re-read.

Or maybe I was reading it for pleasure? It's not impossible, but SFF tended to all be work, in those days.

Anyway, this is the very first sharecropped SW novel (after Foster's adaptation of the movie itself), and I've heard stories that it was a potential plot for Movie 2, if Star Wars did well enough to get a sequel but the budget got cut. It would have definitely been a lower-budget movie, mostly with Luke running around a misty planet and hiding from Vader - I don't remember the details all these years later, but it was OK adventure fiction that only showed slight indications of having been built from much earlier ideas of the Star Wars universe.

Evan Dorkin, Dork, Vol. 1: Who's Laughing Now? (9/4)

This was the first trade paperback collecting Dorkin's solo, and roughly-yearly, comic Dork! As I remember, there were eventually three volumes of Dork!; this one has the first five issues. You can get all of this material in more permanent form these days - most of it is in the big omnibus Dork (note the lack of exclamation point, indicating we are older and wiser now), with some of the strips over in the series-specific books about Milk & Cheese or the Eltingville Club.

Dorkin is, and was even more then, the grumpiest, most cynical cartoonist about the comics field (and a strong contender for "grumpiest and most cynical" in the overall event, too). I always appreciated that: he is funny, biting, and unstoppable at his best. But I always thought being Evan Dorkin seemed to be a really difficult, unpleasant thing - I hope he's mellowed as the years have passed, and that I don't see as much bile from him because he doesn't need to spread as much bile as he used to.

But these are awesome, nasty, funny comics and everyone who reads comics should read them. In this format, if you randomly find this book, in Dork, wherever. Dorkin is one of the greats.

The Humorous World of Jerome K. Jerome (9/6)

This appears to be a 1962 book from Dover Publications - famously a house that focuses on works out of copyright to simplify their accounting - and I have no idea why I was reading it, or what's included in it. I have read other Jerome - obviously I started with Three Men in a Boat, like everyone else, but I've also read Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and (I think) Three Men on the Bummel. And this, whatever this was.

My guess is that it was an anonymously-edited collection of excerpts from a lot of Jerome's work, but it could also have been a small omnibus - maybe of Boat and one other book.

Jerome is still entertaining, at his best: he was frivolous enough, and his time modern enough, that he still reads well today. So if you're looking for funny stuff, he's still a good place to go.

Philip Gourevitch, A Cold Case (9/6)

This was almost brand-new at the time; the hardcover came out in July. So I suspect I got a copy at work, since this was late enough that I think the BOMC-Doubleday merger had gone through and I had access to basically any normally-published book I could possibly want.

Gourevich was famous from We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, which had come out a few years before (and which is still on my shelf, unread - it's hard to get the energy to read several hundred pages about massacres). This book was shorter and about just one murder, which may be why I managed to read it. As I remember, it's a great book of reportage, following one detective as he cracks a personally-important thirty-year-old case. 

The beginning of this week overlapped the Millennium Philcon - the Worldcon was in Philly that year, so it was an easy, convenient trip, and I vaguely remember having a good time there. (As much as I've ever had a good time at any convention: I'm not good at crowds, or small-talk, and I never quite figured out what to do at conventions.) So those first few books were read in chairs in hotel lobbies, or at random moments in the exhibit hall, or (probably) in too much time in my hotel room. I seem to have been trying to "work" during that time, which makes sense: Worldcon was work for me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment