Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Read New Books

As science fiction fan and especially as a Lafferty fan, used bookstores are my constant comfort and often my greatest resource. I love exploring the stacks of used books, stumbling upon obscure treasures at bargain prices. I firmly believe books are to be read. The narrative does not expire after one person has read it, and the more people who have read a book, the more conversations and explorations of ideas it can spark.

As a father of 3 (2 in college), used bookstores and libraries are just about the only way I can afford to support my book habit.

There are some living, publishing authors for whom I make an exception of my borrowed and used book policy. I buy their books because I really like what they write. When I can, I buy new copies of their books because they are earning a living writing and publishing books. If I buy a really good secondhand copy, the bookseller makes a small sum. If I buy a new copy, the bookseller makes a small cut, the publisher makes a small cut, and the author gets paid! What a concept!

Authors like:

  • J Simon I have been reading his stories for decades. I even had the joy of publishing his Lafferty-inspired story, “The Woman Who Wondered What Onions Think” in the first Feast of Laughter. Check out his enormously fun Fossilized Gods at
  • Michael Swanwick writes with both humor and erudition, and he is an unabashed Lafferty fan. I first discovered his writing in the Periodic Table of Science Fiction (just look for it—you will not regret the loss of time). He has just published his newest Darger & Surplus novel, Chasing the Phoenix. He blogs frequently at
  • Michael Bishop includes a deep sense of humanity in everything he writes, even when he is writing about the utterly alien. I recently discovered his writing when he graciously, gladly, gloriously offered us his Lafferty tribute, “Of Crystalline Labyrinths and the New Creation” for the first Feast of Laughter. In reading as much of his work as I could get ahold of, I discovered that I had read and been impressed by the depth of some of his stories in New Wave anthologies when I was a teenager, and more importantly that I was truly enjoying reading him today! My current favorites are his Philip K. Dick tribute, The Secret Ascension (or Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas) and the truly incandescent Transfigurations. Check him out at
  • Howard Waldrop is a uniquely American voice, who should be classed with Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and R. A. Lafferty in creating an American literature. I cannot say enough about his writing. Find and read “The Ugly Chickens” “Mary Margaret Roadgrader” “Willow Beeman” (which he graciously allowed me to publish in the second Feast of Laughter). Howard is also one of the nicest human beings anyone is likely to meet. That coupled with his glacially slow and painstaking writing process and his penchant for selling stories to the lowest paying markets (like Feast of Laughter) has nearly guaranteed him a future of crashing on friends’ couches. Would the universe collapse if we all rushed out and bought enough copies of his books to let him live in comfort? It’s a risk I am willing to take! His latest collection, Horse of a Different Color is available from Small Beer Press at
    Also, check out his collections Things Will Never Be the Same and Other Worlds, Better Lives still in print and available new from
    Seriously, buy Howard's books. 
  • Stephen Case is a relatively new author I really enjoy. Again, I discovered his writing when he offered to let us published one of his reviews and a story in Feast of Laughter. I am really enjoying reading everything of his I can. Check out his First Fleet series of books. Check out his blog at
  • Anne Hillman has taken up the pen to continue her father’s Chee and Leaphorn detective series. Not only is this a continuation of a book series I have loved for decades, it turns out she is a good writer in her own right. Her website is
  • Daniel Pinkwater Read everything you can of his. You will be a better person for it. He is ostensibly a children’s author, and his books are aimed anywhere from the preschool audience to early teens. However, there is a depth and wry observation of our humanity in there that will help educate and enlighten any reader willing to let his word magic work. My favorites are his novels Lizard Music, The Neddiad, and Bushman Lives! He makes occasional announcements and answers readers’ questions at

The world of publishing is rapidly changing, and I do not know much about contracts and payment structures. I am sure there are plenty of players in the system who are out for themselves and who do not really care if the authors ever earn a single penny. However, without taking up arms in (and without devoting enough time to fully understand) this particular battle, I still feel it is better to support the authors I like. And the system does work to a degree. One friend of mine worked for twenty years writing a textbook. It has been gradually adopted by the biology departments of more and more universities, and he is now living far more comfortably than he was as a college professor trying to write his first textbook. To be honest, if he was paid fairly for the amount of effort and expertise he put into the book, he would be a millionaire many, many times over. On the other hand, Students are buying his book and he is getting paid. This is a good thing (though I may say differently when I see the bill for my son’s textbooks this fall).

For the most part, I will continue to hunt used bookstores and library sales for dirt-cheap used paperbacks of my favorites and perhaps new and future favorites. But when any of these authors publish something new, and when I happen to be able to afford a nice hardback, I will gladly shell out for a new book.



  1. Thanks for the kind words, Kevin! I'm thrilled to find myself mentioned in the same blog post as Michael Swanwick (whose fantastic STATIONS OF THE TIDE I reviewed a while back on my blog: If any of your readers are interested, you can find links to most of recent fiction on my website, and my early published fiction is collected in TREES AND OTHER WONDERS, available on Amazon.

  2. Regarding Howard Waldrop ... there two retrospective collections:
    "THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME: Selected Short Fiction, 1980 - 2005"
    and "OTHER WORLDS, BETTER LIVES: Selected Long Fiction, 1989 - 2003". Both remain in print - - and Small Beer has done the ebook versions.

    I think they're really neat-o collections, but then I published them.

    1. And worthy of pride! I went ahead and updated the post to include those two books. Thank you.

  3. Hi, Kevin. Could you send me your contact info offline? (There's a link on my website at I'd like to send you a bit of my work, which I've been told (by Mike Resnick) is very Lafferty-esque. Thanks!

  4. Kevin, thanks for including me and my efforts to continue Tony Hillerman's wonderful legacy of stories. I am honored to be mentioned in such wonderful company.