Stocking up – collecting classic SFF

So I’ve fallen in with a shady crowd of deplorables. Not alt-righties or Trump fans, but the growing online collective of classic, pulp scifi fantasy-loving cretins. There’s something eminently satisfying about finding a stack of used Vance or ERB books, tweeting out a photo, and receiving validation. I probably need help.

I’m still getting my feet wet with this stuff; I’ve read the first three John Carter books, a couple Vance novels, and a smattering of Anderson and Offutt. I’m not going to count the likes of Lewis, Tolkien, Asimov, Heinlein, etc – too mainstream.


Do Dunsany, Stoker, Chesterton, MacDonald, Walter Scott, and their ilk count? Classic yes; pulp, no. This is why I put together the Grand List – not all of this stuff fits neatly together. At any rate, I’m working on supplying myself (and friends and future progeny) with several years worth of related reading. It’s tough to find some of this stuff, but I’ve discovered a few great sources.

First, there’s a used bookstore in Maryland that’s got a decent-sized SFF section. I’ve only visited a couple times, but spotted some great titles both times and am now a member of their club. This probably doesn’t help most of you (if you live in the DMV area, feel free to inquire further about this place), but chances are there are some used book stores or thrift stores in your area. These can be pretty hit or miss, but every once in a while you’ll hit a jackpot.



Second, is actually a decent market. Sometimes you’ll find a republication of an older work that Amazon actually stocks and handles themselves (a plus if you’re a Prime member), but there are also a fair amount of other sellers peddling their vintage wares. Some of these are ridiculously priced, but others can be had for $4 or $5 (including shipping).


Third, and this one I am a little hesitant to share, for fear of competition snapping up the pearls I seek, is a little company called Wonder Book. Wonder Book is another Maryland-based used book business, but this one boasts a warehouse of over 4 million books. And it also offers online shopping and shipping. I’ve found some gems on Wonder Book that were either unavailable or undesirably expensive on Amazon.


Lastly, there’s a veritable treasure trove to be found online, for free, at Project Gutenberg. They’ve got tons, including old pulp magazines. Have at it!

That’s it for now. After I finish reading some Witcher stories, I’ve got an excess of choices. I’m thinking Anderson and Moorcock, though, for it’s looking like the Witcher universe perhaps draws (maybe steals) a lot of ideas from Three Hearts and Three Lions and the Elric stories, and that sounds to me like an interesting avenue for exploration. We shall see!

(Pardon the recent period of inactivity. I’ve just been married and things have been a whirlwind of logistics, paperwork, and minor illness.)





16 thoughts on “Stocking up – collecting classic SFF

  1. Malcolm J Rhymer probably counts more than Stoker. He’s not personally well known, but he established a lot of classic vampire tropes. I really want to finish reading his Varney the Vampire serial someday, but the single-column tiny font on the ginormous annotated collection was much harder to deal with than the purple prose and plot holes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another name for me to take note of! There’s certainly some overlap between classic and pulp, but yeah, I think there are plenty of authors who can be clearly placed on either side of the line. Dracula was a little bit of a slog, but it was also a rewarding read with definite high notes. I thought Stoker was the preeminent source of a lot of the vampire tropes, so I’ll have to have a look at Rhymer and see where they meet and diverge. Even if Stoker wasn’t *as* classic and original as this predecessor, I think he can probably be excused. Idea theft has been going on for so long that I suppose it’s not surprising.


      1. Well, pulp was the descendant of the Penny Dreadful, and Rhymer’s two biggies, Varney the Vampire and Sweeney Todd (yes, that Sweeney Todd) have an impact still felt today.

        One funny bit the editor of the annotated Varney pointed out was that in the 1840s and 50s, almost no one could’ve told you about the Bronte Sisters, but everyone in England had heard of Varney, if not read it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahhh, interesting. I’m a fan of the Sweeney Todd musical; have never sought out the original work. More food for thought.

        Isn’t that so often the way of things? So many great writers and other artists either unappreciated in their own times or else arbitrarily forgotten in favor of other (sometimes inferior) ones. Unfortunate, but at least we’re getting to a point where it’s easier to preserve and access those kinds of works, though their creators fall out of favor with the masses.


    1. It’s called Second Edition. It’s a little shop in Columbia. Right next door is a Japanese place, which, despite its cheesy name and Chinese ownership, is one of my favorite J restaurants in the region.


  2. That’s a pretty deep rabbit hole, but it’s worth diving in.

    As with most cultures, forget about the dividing lines – they’re just there for taxonomic reasons. Just like the terms ‘alt-right’, ‘hotep’, ‘RPG’, and ‘punk rock’, there’s a whole lot of finer gradations that people tie themselves in knots over that don’t make a lot of different in the grand scheme of things. If it feels classic or pulp to you, then it’s your classic/pulp. We’ll figure it out soon enough, and the guys who quibble over how you split your hairs can pound sand.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve got a lot of great titles in that Great List of yours, but I would like to recommend that when you get the chance, you read a couple of Poul Anderson’s other fantasies: Operation Chaos and A Midsummer’s Tempest. They are both linked to Three Hearts and Three Lions. Not much in common with Moorcock or the Witcher books though.

    And Congratulations on getting married!

    John E. Boyle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John! Funny you should say that – I actually ordered Operation Chaos the other day, but didn’t realize it was linked to Three Hearts. The blurb I read just sounded awesome. I’ll look for Midsummer’s Tempest!


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