David C. Smith and Steven H Silver find priceless treasures in the Dealers Room at Windy City Pulp & Paper
A month ago I wrote a short convention report on the 2023 Windy City Pulp & Paper Show, which took place Friday April 21st to Sunday, April 23rd in Lombard, Illinois. In that article I mostly rubber-necked at the gorgeous Weird Tales pulps and other rare magazines sold during the evening auctions, and took covetous pictures of the pre-auction displays.
Here in Part II, I’ll share a few more photos of the vendors and personalities I met, and showcase a few of the many treasures I dragged home in seven heavy boxes — including vintage comics, science fiction digests, graphic novels, new releases, and of course lots of great old paperbacks. Assuming you enjoy cautionary tales of disastrous self control, it should be an entertaining read.
[Click the images for pulp-sized versions.]
We kicked the whole thing off Friday with a celebration of Erik Mona’s birthday
Windy City isn’t just an adrenaline-fueled pulp and paperback bacchanalia, a book lover’s Black Friday. Yeah, I know that’s what it looks like from afar, but believe it or not, that’s not all there is to it.
There’s also a very real social aspect. Lots of BG contributors have made the long trip over the decades, and for many years we had a traditional Black Gate dinner on Saturday. I have very fond memories of lengthy conversations over dinner at Windy City with Howard Andrew Jones, John C. Hocking, Bob Byrne, Rich Horton, Jason M. Waltz, Dave Willoughby, Joe Bonadonna, David C. Smith, Steven H Silver, E.E. Knight, Stephen Haffner, Barbara Barrett, and many, many others.
For the past few years I’ve been meeting up with a small group of like-minded book collectors, including Arin Komins, Rich Warren, Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, John Majka, Joshua Dinges, and Erik Mona. Joshua often springs for a suite and plays host in the evenings, with a well stocked hotel bar and plenty of late-night discussion, on topics ranging from Arkham House to RPG art to the Emmanuelle movies.
Our traditional Saturday evening dinner, with Arin Komins, Rich Warren, John Majka,
Steven H Silver, and Rich Horton. Off camera: Geralyn Lance, Jer Lance, Erik Mona, Joshua Dinges.
Friday dinner was at The Desi Accent, an excellent local Indian restaurant in Lombard, where we celebrated Erik’s birthday. Happy 30th birthday Erik!
Dinner on Saturday, in accordance with tradition, was at Lao Sze Chuan, a very fine Chinese restaurant on Ogden road near the convention. We’ve been eating there for many years now, and it’s always a delight. Fine food, fine company, and a warm atmosphere — these are the things we live for. That, and six pounds of leftover Chinese food, because I’m the only one with a local refrigerator. Life is good.
Space Detective: A Science Fiction Private Eye Novel by Duane Spurlock
(InterroBang Tales, March 31, 2023). Cover by Mike Fyles
While socializing over good food with fellow collectors is very fine, Windy City is also about wandering the packed Dealers Room, meeting large-than-life booksellers, and rapturously spending hard-earned dollars on things you didn’t know existed five minutes ago. So let’s talk about that.
One of the first sellers I met was my Facebook friend Duane Spurlock, author of Three Witches and Airship Hunters (with Jim Beard). Duane was selling his brand new novel Space Detective, just published in trade paperback by InterroBang Tales, and I was delighted to see it.
Set in an alternate 1950s New York City recovering from an alien invasion, Space Detective follows a mysterious PI as he uncovers a sinister plot and a new invasion.
I knew the instant Duane put it into my hands that I had to have a copy. It’s precisely the kind of off-beat science fiction I really enjoy. I bought a copy immediately, and I hope to share a review at Black Gate soon.
Every convention is better when it includes the delightful David C. Smith (right)
I was walking into the Dealers Room on Saturday afternoon when I ran into none other than David C. Smith, author of the Oron fantasy novels, and Waters of Darkness (with Joe Bonadonna). I’ve known Dave for years, and we were part of the legendary Top Shelf writing group in Palatine that included C.S.E. Cooney, Joe Bonadonna, Patty Templeton, Gene Wolfe, and many others. We’ve done many interviews with Dave over the years, including a 2007 feature by Jill Elaine Hughes, and Joe’s discussion with him back in 2019.
It was great to see Dave again, and the first thing I did was take a selfie to prove I’m friends with the great Dave C. Smith (see our smiling faces above). The second thing I did was to take him to see Dave Ritzlin at his amazing booth at the back of the hall.
Dave Ritzlin, manning one of the best booths at the show, the DMR Books table
Dave Ritzlin, publisher and mastermind behind DMR Books, is one of the most prolific and creative small press publishers working in fantasy today, and he had one of the most impressive booths at the show to prove it. His table was groaning under the weight of dozens of new releases, almost all published in the last few years.
They include three volumes of his Renegade Swords fantasy anthology series; Planetary Adventures, a delightful volume of old school space adventures; two volumes collecting long out-of-print pulp tales by Edmond Hamilton; Samhain Sorceries, a new collection by Keith Taylor; Worlds Beyond Worlds, a new collection by Black Gate writer John R. Fultz; plus books by Poul Anderson, Ramsey Campbell, Tanith Lee, Adrian Cole, and the first collection by Dave Ritzlin himself, Necromancy in Nilztiria.
There were plenty of booths where I spent money at Windy City. But none of them had the sheer embarrassment of riches of Dave’s booth. I spent over $140 at the booth in the first fifteen minutes, and when I got home I wish I’d bought more.
A fabulous assortment of anthologies and collections published by Dave Ritzlin
I did manage to sit down with Dave Ritzlin later that afternoon, after the afternoon crush of buyers had thinned out, and it was great to catch up. Dave is a thoughtful and deeply knowledgeable guy with an enduing passion for sword & sorcery and heroic fantasy, and a keen eye for new talent. He is steadily building a back catalog with some of the biggest names in adventure fantasy, editing a stellar line up of original fantasy and science fiction anthologies, and simultaneously taking a chance on emerging writers with new novels and collections.
I only know a tiny handful of publishers doing anything on the same scale — and every one has a much larger budget, and a bigger staff than Dave. He’s averaging eight new titles per year (and up), and is accomplishing something really extraordinary.
If you haven’t had the chance to try one of his books, you’re missing out on one of the best-kept secrets in modern fantasy. Do yourself a favor and drop by his website at dmrbooks.com and check out his impressive catalog. You’ll thank me later.
Dave Smith shops at the DMR Books table
While Dave’s booth got me excited for the future of fantasy, the real demands on my wallet were for much older titles.
If you’re in the market for rare pulps and esoterica — such as signed editions, limited edition hardcovers, posters, artwork, and more — Windy City is the place to be. But if, like me, you’re looking to fill out your book or magazine collection, find key issues, or just looking for bargains, it is the capital of the world.
A great many of the sellers at Windy City aren’t professional booksellers. They’re collectors and enthusiasts looking to unload personal collections, overstock, and estate sale finds. That means they’re there to deal, and they don’t want to take anything home. I brought seven boxes of magazines, comics, and paperbacks home with me from Windy City Pulp & Paper, and the vast majority of items in those boxes cost less than a dollar each.
Typical pricing for vintage paperbacks and digests is around $1 per issue at Windy City
I arrived at the show in the mid-afternoon on Friday, and I hadn’t been in the Dealers Room for four minutes before I stumbled on a seller with half a dozen tables, many covered with heavy boxes of science fiction digests from the 50s and 60s. Condition was varied, but the price was right — a dollar an issue. I started sorting through them, selecting only magazines in excellent condition, and before long I had four very full boxes.
This is when the haggling begins.
By the time I was done, I had piled up a little over 300 magazines. My opening offer was $150 for the lot. We settled on $200, and I carted them out to my car, whistling a happy tune.
Some of the magazines I bought in the first 20 minutes at Windy City
I’d been at the show 23 minutes, spent $200 — about ten bucks per minute! — and my tiny Juke was already crammed with magazines. I could tell this was going to be an expensive show. That turned out to be an accurate prophecy.
[I wasn’t the only one spending money on vintage digests. On Saturday I ran into Rich Horton carrying two boxes piled full of science fiction magazines. He purchased the rest of the stock of the same seller I’d visited on Friday, and negotiated a much better price. I was glad to see they went to a good home!]
It wasn’t all about vintage magazines and paperbacks this year. I’ve done a lot of business at John Hauser’s booth over the years (in 2008 I negotiated to buy his entire stock, and you become friendly after something like that). This year he had something different at his tables — long boxes of vintage comics, most priced at a buck each.
Some of the dollar comics I bought from John Hauser
The first few times I came by there were buyers with lengthy lists, so it was several hours before I was able to have a look. By that point the boxes were picked over, and nearly half empty. But there were still plenty of fabulous treasures within, and before long I had a filled up a box.
At the rest of his booth John also had his usual stock — vintage digests, comic magazines, graphic novels, and science fiction magazines, all priced at $1-2. I found about a dozen more items of interest, including two early Swords of Cerebus collections, early Love & Rockets issues, and back issues of Cosmos and Analog magazines.
John is used to haggling with me by now, and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse for the whole lot. The photo above and the two below are the comics and magazines I purchased from him this year. Always a pleasure doing business with John.
More $1 comics
A delightful collection of comic mags, graphic novels, and vintage SF magazines for $2 each
There were plenty of other vendors selling vintage magazines at around a buck an issue, and I managed to visit most of them. You had to be careful with condition (most were haphazardly piled in boxes, and that can be rough on old magazines, especially those from the 40s and 50s), but if you’re selective you can find some excellent bargains.
Below are a few photos of the last of the boxes I brought home from Windy City. In the four weeks since the show, I’ve slowly been going through them, examining them more closely and bagging them. A lengthy process, but a thoroughly enjoyable one.
The next step, of course, is to find room from them in my crowded basement (not as easy as it sounds).
Box #3 of vintage science fiction magazines from Windy City
Box #4 of vintage SF magazines
Box #5 — the seller threw in these magazines for free when I bought most of the rest of his stock
Box #6, including three issues of The Magazine of Modern Sex, from Sherbourne Press
Some of those vintage magazines
I did pick up a few paperbacks as well, along with a few odds and ends, including some gaming books and discount graphic novels. Most of it looked like bookstore overstock, unloaded at wholesale prices ($5 – $8).
Below are the last two photos of the treasures I brought home. Enjoy.
Next year’s Windy City promises to be a little more interesting.
A week after Windy City, Rich Horton posted some photos online of the magazines he’d acquired. That caught the attention of Michael Ward. Michael has been working tirelessly to find a home for the last of the legendary collection of Denny Lien, who died in Minneapolis on April 15. Denny’s collection included complete runs of virtually all of the major digest magazines (including Astounding/Analog, F&SF, Galaxy, Asimov’s SF, World of IF, Amazing, Fantastic, and many others).
The magazines were sitting in an empty house in Minneapolis, but not for long. Habitat for Humanity would take possession in a matter of days, and anything not removed at that point would go in the dumpster.
A modest haul of paperbacks this year, most purchased for $1 – 2
Graphic novels, Elric volumes, and odds and ends found at Windy City
Michael asked Rich if he would be interested in driving to Minneapolis to claim any of those magazines. Rich was unable to make the trip, but he was thoughtful enough to include me on his response — and I could.
The story of my May 3rd trip to Minneapolis to rescue those magazines, and the amazing treasures I found (and largely left behind) in Denny’s house, can be found here.
I’ll be haunted for years by the books and magazines I was unable to rescue at Denny’s, and which likely ended up in a dumpster. Doug Ellis and Deb Fulton, who run Windy City, made their own trip up and managed to fill their van with books to sell and give away at Windy City, for which I’m very grateful. For my own part, I managed to bring home 24 boxes of magazines and paperbacks, by far the most complete and immaculate collection of vintage digest magazines I’ve ever seen.
Over the next few years, Rich and I hope to catalog and sell the bulk of these magazines at Windy City, and contribute the bulk of the proceeds to Denny’s favorite charities (including Habitiat for Humanity). There’s a lot of work to be done, sorting through and preparing to sell part of my own collection at the same time. You can’t go though an experience like that, and not come away knowing that the time to start unwinding your own sprawling collection was yesterday.
If you’re a collector, fan, or simply curious about vintage genre magazines and paperbacks, the Windy City Pulp & Paper show is the place to be. It’s a marvelously friendly gathering of like-minded fans who love to talk, sell, buy and trade treasures of all kinds. It happens every year in Lombard, a suburb of Chicago, in late April.
The website is here. I hope to see you next year!
Our previous coverage of the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show includes:
Windy City Pulp and Paper — 2007 — Report by Howard Andrew Jones
Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis) — 2012
Tales From Windy City Pulp and Paper — 2013
A Triumphant Return from Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2014
Celebrating Pulp Fiction Magazines at Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2015 (video)
A Report on Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part I — 2016
A Report on Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part II — 2016
Capturing the Elusive Nifft the Lean — 2016, by Doug Ellis
How to Assemble an Instant Science Fiction Collection — 2017
DMR Books Brings Pulp Sword & Sorcery Back Into Print — 2018
The 19th Annual Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention — 2019 by Doug Ellis
Total Pulp Victory: A Report from Windy City Pulp & Paper 2019
A Mecca for Book Hunters: Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2022
Windy City Pulp & Paper Report, Part I — 2023
See all of our Convention coverage here.