One of the things that I love about collecting old paperbacks is the surprises they sometimes contain. You just never know what you’ll find. It’s almost a Forrest Gump box of chocolates kind of thing.
For example. I live in Germany, and several years ago I won a Lin Carter paperback on eBay that contained a business card from a used book store in Columbus Ohio, near OSU, called the Monkey’s Retreat. The very same Monkey’s Retreat that I’d frequented back in 1984/85. So suddenly thirty years later, I’m pulling one of their cards out of a paperback sent from Essen. I have always wondered how that paperback made its way across such gulfs of space and time. I mean, 30 years and thousands of miles. The reality is probably mundane, a G.I. leaving it at his girlfriend’s apartment and having it end up on the table at a flea market, where a dealer snatched it up for a few Pfennigs.
There was another time when I found — inside an old Scholastic Book edition of Bernhardt J. Hurwood’s “true horror stories” — a lovely little hand drawn initiation to a young girls birthday slumber party. You can read about that one here.
But the latest surprise trumped all the others, and came as such a shock that it drove me out of the comfort of my warm feather bed at 11:00 P.M. on a chilly Bavarian night to spend the next few hours sending messages, doing research, taking photos and making scans.
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I first ran across Neil R. Jones’s Prof. Jameson stories in junior high while reading Isaac Asimov’s Before the Golden Age — which, by the way, is one of my favorite anthologies.
Neil R. Jones’s first Prof. Jameson adventure appeared in the July 1931 issue of Amazing Stories. In this first story, “The Jameson Satellite,” Mr. Jones gives us all the background information that we’ll ever need to follow this wonderful over-the-top space adventures of Professor Jameson and his Machine Men colleagues, the Zoromes!
Within the first few pages, we learn that Professor Jameson of the 20th century had a horrible revulsion against being buried and subsequently becoming worm food after his death. So, to ease his mind, he arranged to have his body placed in a hermetically sealed rocket after his death and then launched into orbit around the Earth.
Following me so far? Good. So now we skip ahead 40,000,000 years to find the Professor’s orbiting Tupperware bowl still circling a now-dead Earth, which is itself orbiting a dying Sun which has cooled off and become a Red Giant (we now figure that this’ll actually take somewhere around 5 billion years to happen). So far so good? Good!
We then meet a group of intergalactic explorers who are at this very moment investigating our dying solar system. Their sensors pick up a metallic object orbiting the Earth.
Now of course the reader knows immediately what the object actually is. When they finally approach Earth and discover Prof. Challenger’s coffin-ship, they take it aboard their own greatly larger ship.
It turns out that the Zoromes aren’t your run-of-the-mill extra-terrestrial explorers. Nope, they are actually cyborgs! The Zoromes wanted dearly to explore the galaxy, but knew their mortal bodies wouldn’t survive a journey that might entail thousands of years, so they traded flesh and bone for metal and circuitry. Makes sense to me.
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I had a hard time deciding whether a book from 1984 qualified as vintage or not.
Then I realized that back in 1984, Ronald Reagan was still in his first term as president. A little checking also showed that the Nr. 1 song in September 1984 was “Missing You” by John Waite and the top film was Ghostbusters.
The final proof that 1984 can be considered vintage is that I was 23 years old back then. So, yeah, I figure that a book from 1984 qualifies as vintage.
So back in 1984, I stumbled across The Color Out of Time at one of our two bookstores in Newark, Ohio. (As added trivia, Newark is the real world counterpart of Gary Braunbeck’s haunted town of Cedar Hill, the fictitious setting for many of his stories). Anyway, this book was especially special back then, as Cthulhu Mythos-themed fiction was scarce. It wasn’t the thriving sub-genre that it is today. So when you found some you grabbed it, paid for it, and then ran like hell to get home and start reading.
Color is one of my favorite Mythos-related books, and it won’t be leaving my collection any time soon. Its rarity on the collectors market shows that those who have it aren’t in any rush to get rid of it. To me, that says a lot about the quality and re-readability of a book.
Michael Shea is one of those rare writers who don’t have a high output, but everything they do produce is of extremely high quality. I’ve been a fan since the 1970s, when I first read A Quest for Simbilis way back in junior high school.
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When I was a kid in the late 60s/early 70s, I was fascinated by the fantastic. It didn’t matter what it was: films, comics, television, or books. Although, until I learned to read, my exposure to the genre — and especially horror — was through purely visual media such as comics and whatever was on TV.
Luckily my earliest talent, which later turned out to be pretty much my only one, was that I took to reading like a cultist takes to, well, cults! This opened up a whole new world for me, as our elementary school had a well stocked library.
And it didn’t take long to catch on that the best books didn’t have any pictures in them. Sure, they had great covers, but inside there was nothing but words! Lots and lots of wonderful words that helped me fill my mind with images that no film or comic could match.
Another important thing that I learned was that adults didn’t care what you read as long as it was a genuine book. Comics brought only disdain and suspicion.
Especially those wonderfully gory black and white comics published by Warren, Skywald, and Eerie Publications, those you had to hide from the adults. My dad always called those comics “Doug’s damned weirdo books.”
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