Words, Pictures, and Music, Part 2

Words are no easier to discard than music. Getting rid of books can be tough, but what about magazines?

I have a shelf in a walk-in closet which, until a few days ago, held a bunch of copies of Interzone, Science Fiction Age, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, and Pulphouse. About half had never been read. About ten percent are still in their plastic covers. I don’t know what to do with them. I don’t think there’s much of a market–we’re not talking vintage here. And, while libraries will take anthology-type zines, the kind that look like books and can stand up on a shelf, flat floppy ones are less attractive.

Here’s the thing: I have stopped reading paper periodicals almost totally. My exceptions being Locus, Bird Talk, Sunset, and The New York Review of  Science Fiction. No fiction. None. And I don’t do too well on the non-fiction, but I at least look at each of these.

These old magazines are weighing on me. The other day, though, I had occasion to pull them all out. I was looking for an extra copy of Interzone #184, in which my story, “Just A Number,” appears. I wanted to send it to my friend and editor, Eric Heideman, as he is helping me put together a couple five-story collections I plan to publish online. (Thank you, Eric!:)) Okay, so: found the extra copy and sent it off to the great city of Minneapolis along with another issue, then looked at the stacks I had pulled out, and thought, It’s time to let go of these.

I began to go through them, looked at all the authors’ names, and empathized with the joy and pride that comes from seeing one’s work in print. I felt the same for the editors and publishers. I knew that publishing and editing these magazines was loads of work, never glamorous, and often thankless. I grieved, though, at how of their time most of these publications are. Non-fiction articles wear much less well than the fiction…I saw pieces on how to read about science fiction on the newfangled Internet. I saw a quite dismissive review of the original publication of Game of Thrones. (Just another sword & sorcery, we are told. Very violent. Shallow female characters.)

What was clear above all was that few of these items in my closet were of any interest to anybody any longer, other than, perhaps, the authors appearing therein.

I wrote last time of music I haven’t gotten rid of. This is different. This time, I will let go of anything I can, giving it to the library if they’ll take it, or giving it to someone else. Worst-case scenario, they’ll go into recycling. I know that word-history weighs me down in a way music-history never could, and these magazines take up psychological space in a way old LPs never could. I feel I will write new material more freely if I remove these old items from my personal space.

It also has to do with the nature of memory as it attaches to each thing.

Words and music both hold memories, but music–even in the MP3 era–holds shared memories. We listen to music together, even now. Books and magazines, on the other hand, make up  a series of solitary memories, and I believe this is true, even if we talk about them, or discuss them in a book club setting. There is simply something very private about reading and memories of reading. Some of these memories have aged well, some not. None of them, though, can be replayed like a three-minute song. They are over, and it is time for them to go.

Yes, there are classics, stories that won’t go away, that will be published and republished. There are classic, vintage issues of magazines for collectors to collect. I’m not a collector; it’s the content, not the package, that does it for me.

So off they must go, leaving me to contemplate my newly emptied shelf.



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