Years ago, when I was finishing up my dissertation, one of my professors (who had written about sci fi back in the 70s) was cleaning his office. He knew that I was writing a chapter on science fiction and he told me that if I was willing to come to his office and box ’em up, I could have his collection of sci fi novels published from the 1950s through the early 1980s.
Since then, I’ve carried theses novels from Providence to Champaign-Urbana to Pittsburgh to Milwaukee to Eugene. I always counted unpacking them a measure of my commitment to a given place. I unpacked one box in Champaign-Urbana (which doesn’t really count since it was only a post-doc); I unpacked everything — and alphabetized them — in Pittsburgh; I stored them in the basement in Milwaukee; and I was told in no uncertain terms “to get them out of the house” in Eugene, in the midst of a major book purge.
Problem was that I have a dim memory of my professor asking me not to sell them, so that was out of the question. I tried to give them to the university library, but they had neither the space nor, I think, the desire.
So right now, my office is ringed with thousands of sci fi novels, organized by color. And I’ve finally given in to the inevitable: I’m just going to have to read them. I’ve set certain rules:
1. If I don’t finish a book in a week, it goes on the discard pile.
2. If anyone has a compelling reason for wanting the book (read or discarded), she should tell me and we’ll work something out. Unless it’s a book I decide to keep.
3. Whether read or discarded, I need to say something about it.
On to book number one.