Every book tells more than one story: there’s the one between the covers and there’s the one that the owner associates with it. It could be how the book was acquired, or a special personal memory attached to the book…
We asked this week’s panelists the following:
Q: What book or books hold special memories for you? What are they?
Read on to see the books people adore…
Since her first sale in 1987, Kij Johnson
has sold dozens of short stories to markets including Amazing Stories
, Duelist Magazine
, Fantasy & Science Fiction
, and Realms of Fantasy
. She won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short story of 1994 for her novelette in Asimov’s
, “Fox Magic.” In 2001, she won the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art’s Crawford Award for best new fantasy novelist of the year. Her short story “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change
” was placed on the final ballots for the Nebula and World Fantasy awards, and it was also nominee for the Sturgeon and Hugo awards. Her story “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss
” was also a Hugo finalist. Her novels include two volumes of the Heian trilogy Love/War/Death: The Fox Woman
. She’s also co-written with Greg Cox a Star Trek: The Next Generation
novel, Dragon’s Honor
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, by H. P. Lovecraft.
I was in Chicago the summer I was eleven, a week-long vacation with my family. We mostly visited museums because we were that sort of family, but we also spent an afternoon at a vast and wonderful bookstore called Kroch’s & Brentano’s, because we were also =that= sort of family. In the years since I have spent much time in Blackwell and Powell’s and the Strand, but at eleven, I’d never visited even a library as large. My parents gave my brother and me fifteen dollars each and cut us loose for two hours. Fifteen dollars went a long way.
The Lovecraft books were on the second shelf of a case in science fiction, just at chest-height, all turned face-out. These were mostly the John Holmes covers, a series of ghastly skulls draped with rats or tentacles or slime, and I was repulsed and fascinated. The rat-boy on the cover of At The Mountains Of Madness gave me nightmares for weeks afterward. I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of them, but there was one Lovecraft paperback with a cover that didn’t make my skin crawl, from a different artist.
This was The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. The stories were amazing to me, about a dream world filled with monsters and ghouls and gaunts. It was a dark and terrible place, but Randolph Carter and Kuranes had mastered this dreamland, could walk alive through it and even shape it to their will. I wanted that sort of mastery and power. For an eleven-year-old girl, life is perilous in all the wrong ways, and mastery of anything at all — wearing the right clothes, not being hated by the others — seems unreachable. To master the dreamlands would be something indeed.
I read the stories in the car on the drive home, and then reread them many times, and imagined myself as strong. Unconsciously, I also soaked up words and images; a notion of how they could be used either sloppily or surgically to convey atmosphere; and a sense of the importance of setting.
I still have that copy of that book, and I still reread it. Sometimes I cringe, but mostly I am eleven again, looking into a world that terrified me but promised that mastery was possible, and that there was a shining city at the end of it all.
Read the rest of this entry