I read the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, but I took a bit of a break from them at the end of last year. I pretty much didn’t read them from August to February. Kris posts less, so when I decided to catch up, I started with hers. Once I caught up to current, I started working through my backlog of Dean.

Now, Dean has a long streak of blogging every day, so I knew it would take longer to get through. Although many days are just a quick update or recap of available workshops starting up that don’t take very long to read, there are some blog posts that touch on an aspect of the writing and publishing business. Not only do those tend to be longer, they also tend to have a long comment section. The mobile version doesn’t do very well with nested comments, so I’m reading it in desktop format on my phone, which is a bit of a pain because I need to zoom in every time just to read the text, but worthwhile because I don’t have to try an interpret a comment that is so narrow that only one letter displays on each row…

One of the things that I missed from not reading the blogs in those months was a Kickstarter for Pulphouse magazine. There was even a reward on how to write a Pulphouse story. I was actually kicking myself a bit for missing out on that. And I go curious and decided to look and see if the original Pulphouse fiction magazine was available through the library.

In the past, I’ve viewed old issues of science fiction magazines online through a library login. I figured maybe they would be available in a similar fashion.

I was half right. A local library did in fact have Pulphouse magazine, but it was not at all digital. Instead, I checked out a bound periodical (which is a term I learned when I checked the book out). It’s exactly what it sounds like, a whole bunch of magazines bound into a hardcover like a textbook. I started reading it, mostly skipping the articles to focus on the fiction. If I couldn’t get in on the how to write a Pulphouse story workshop, then I’d just have to figure out what a Pulphouse story was by reading them.

I started trying to read every story, but I could only take the book out for a week. There were three novel serializations in the first issue. One of them was okay, something that I might continue to read if I had time to go through every issue in the bound periodical. Another was not to my taste – a flavor of self referential story telling that I just don’t enjoy. But the third one… I got caught up in it.

I ended up devoting most of my reading time to just reading that novel, because I wouldn’t have long to read it, and I wouldn’t be able to buy my own copy without spending an exorbitant amount of money for a used out-of-print hard copy of either that book or a trilogy omnibus.

Dean often writes about how traditional publishing puts an artificial “freshness” limit on books. A book that isn’t a bestseller in the first month or three is a failure; and, in the past, the book would go out of print. Books published now will likely include an ebook copy that won’t go out of print. But this book is from the early 90’s. There is no ebook, and probably won’t be, because whoever owns the rights to it isn’t interested in making that investment. And, since the first book in the trilogy is available as an ebook, and one of the authors is still living, I’m guessing that the authors did not retain the rights that would allow them to create an ebook.

So I’ve now read a book that could be gaining readers every year, but instead can only be found in libraries, whether in bound periodicals or paperback copies that have survived. Sure, someone could buy a copy, but the prices are high for someone who is just browsing. Those are more likely to be purchased by people who had read it before.

I really enjoyed reading Starseed by Spider and Jeanne Robinson. How many more books are out there, hiding in libraries, out of print, but no less quality for having been published 30 years ago?

It can take time to find an audience, but it can be done – as long as the books are available. 

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