Let’s pull the ol’ soapbox out once more and take a closer look at what has become an uncomfortable trend.
What are our kids reading these days? The next generation of fandom may be in for quite a surprise from the literary perspective of my (baby boomer) generation. Influenced by Hollywood and the marketing monster that pretends to have the reader’s interests at heart, it’s obvious that times have changed.
I had an eye opening experience last week when the school our kids attend hosted their bi-annual book fair. What happened to all of those great genre classics of science fiction, fantasy and horror? In the heart of the holiday shopping season, what better opportunity to do a little gift buying than at a book sale. In our household, a wrapped book is always a welcomed gift. But when the choices are limited, well, it’s just not the same.
Finding the right books for our kids may not be as simple as going to a book sale anymore. Of course the term “right books” is purely subjective, but when your options are narrowed drastically, the future of fandom suddenly becomes uncertain.
Like many book fairs, this one was presented by Scholastic (not sure if any other organization offers similar services to local schools). And it should also be pointed out that their contribution to the inspiration of young readers has been nothing short of tremendous. When you see the children’s eyes light up as they walk among the makeshift shelves, it reminds you of the importance of first impressions and the need for exposure to all genres of literature.
So, what classic science fiction books were available at this event? Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That was it! There were about six copies. There were also a couple of box sets of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but they had images from the films on the covers and that kinda tainted the “classic” feel.
Convinced that I must have missed others, I methodically went back and checked, shelf by shelf, table by table. Nothing. No H. G. Wells. No Edgar Allen Poe. No Edgar Rice Burroughs. No Arthur C. Clarke. No Isaac Asimov. No Philip K. Dick. No Philip José Farmer. No Bradley, Silverberg, or Bova. Nothing could be found on the discount/sale table either.
Now I understand that the Scholastic Corporation has a vested interest in publishing works by author’s who they may have rights to and are limited by what books they can put their banner on. I get it. It’s a business. But there are a lot of classic works out there that they could still put in print and help preserve the institution of fandom if they really wanted to. Sadly, it seems that unless the work involves wizard schools or dystopian stories of teenaged resistances that are attractive on the silver screen, young readers must turn to other avenues.
So I’ll step down from this soapbox and thank Amazing Stories for giving readers, young and old, a home for fandom. The book fair might be a fine place to get affordable reading material, but you better look elsewhere if you want to pick up the classics.