Cleaning up the SF/Fantasy Section

sf catThe other day I tackled a job I’d been dreading. Only because it offered procrastination on a job I dreaded more.

So now we know: when it comes to cleaning and culling the Science Fiction and Fantasy shelves versus doing laundry, SFF wins.

Not casting aspersions, CJ Cherryh needed some serious attention along the spines. It’s the hazard of being shelved low in a cat-fostering bookstore; hair accumulates. And of course, the cats WOULD gravitate to Cherryh….. (Inside joke: for those who haven’t read her, she has a feline world thing going. I suppose if we had staff unicorns, they’d hang with the Anne McCaffreys. But do unicorns shed?)

And then there was alphabetization….The SFF shelves line the walls, but one sticks out, chest-height, at a right angle into the room. So, should A – or, as it’s known in the biz, Asimov, Anderson, Anthony – start on the wall or the sticky-out shelf.

It would have made more sense to plan this from the get-go, but not until I hit the Hubbards and Forgotten Realms (for some reason side by side in my mismanaged universe) did I decide the series would fit on that low shelf. So sensible, so orderly, so non-chaos-theory!

Until one tries to decide what a series is.

Star Trek, TekWars, Dragonlance – sure. But what about Jordan’s Wheel of Time, or Martin’s Game of Thrones? A chance to put him alphabetically next to, oh, say Meuller’s lesser-known trilogy would afford opportunity to see it while hunting famous people.

Yeah, we book sellers are sneaky like that.

But then there are the space issues (heh heh). Herbert’s Dune is the 1970s¬†Hunger Games more’s the pity – but it’s just too MUCH to get all that shelf space devoted to it. So I double-stacked him in the series section.

It felt a little like sending a has-been to the minor leagues. Spaceball? Hmmm…..

Anyway, I got all the way to L (aka Lackey and Lawhead) before I had to decide again. Jack Whyte went to series, but Lawhead? He’s esoteric: Christian themes, fantasy SF combo… Should I put him next to Bradley in series? Oooh, talk about a catfight. Bradley’s lusty Merlin next to Lawhead’s lawful good guy? Eeek.

So yes, I admit my organization of the SFF books became rather random and “because I say so” toward the end there. Burroughs isn’t in series, but Tolkien is–next to Star Wars, poor sweet elves.¬†Pendleton’s bad-guy survivor series is, Axler’s Deathlands isn’t.

Because space dictated it. Space, the final frontier? More like the final border. There’s only so much room, guys.

But I must admit, all this arranging got me in the mood for some fun, campy, spacing out. When I picked up my cat afghan crocheting that evening, I started in on Firefly, which is silly, and sweet, and has GREAT music. A friend described it as “intellectual, plus all the guys wear tight pants.”

Go by, mad world.

Science Fiction Escapees

We work pretty hard to keep our bookshop tidy. Jack says I am fixated on it and that used book stores should be the wee bit sloppy – aids in the thrill of discovery, doncha know.

Yes, dear. But I do like a wee bit of order to my life, and the shop’s bookshelves. Which is why I’m befuddled at the science fiction section. The books keep escaping.

The customers who cruise sf in our shop are tidy people; they tend to be looking for particular authors rather than browsing, so they’re pretty easygoing about keeping the books in place. I’ve seen men slide books out from the bottom of a paperback stack, realize it wasn’t what they wanted, and hold the whole stack up so they could return it to the exact same spot. Book shoppers are good people.

So I know it’s not them, the reason that L. Ron Hubbard keeps winding up in the children’s room. Or that Jack Whyte hangs out in Home Improvement. I can just about understand Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series relaxing with the Amish romances in Christian Fiction, but why on EARTH does James Axler keep heading for Patricia Cornwell? You think they’ve got something going?

I swear, one of these nights, I’m going to creep downstairs with night vision goggles and just watch, to see when the books begin their migrations, and what they talk about. In fact, this may well explain the mysterious dips in the liquid levels in our whisky and wine collection. I’m going to have to check the copyright dates for legal drinking ages.

Meanwhile, every morning, as I carry Axler back to his spot at the top of the Science Fiction shelf, I swear I can hear the books snickering. And sometimes, I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke.

(Don’t forget to scroll back to Sept. 10 and enter the final Caption Contest sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. It closes Sept. 24; winner receives a free book. Ostensibly mine that comes out Oct. 2, but if you want another one we can probably manage that.)