There are two kinds of book lovers and they are as different as night and day, polar opposite as north and south. If you were to mix them in a bowl they would separate like oil and water.
On the one side we have what I would call the consumer booklovers, they are the carnivores in the book jungle. They gather for no other reason than to consume. They don’t care what edition they purchase, whether it’s a hardback or paperback, if it’s a first edition or the 100th printing. All they require to fill their book loving bellies is a copy, any copy. You will often see these folks using their paperback for a drink coaster when not being read, or bending over the pages to mark their spot. They will feel no remorse and no tick of pain when they pull back the hardcover boards until they snap and crack like an old man’s muscles doing his morning stretch. To these booklovers books are meant to be devoured, in whole and in parts if necessary. They will leave their books in cars, in an inflatable raft floating in the pool, or even as a doorstop.
I once remember seeing a women reading on a park bench who was tearing each page out of the book after finishing it. When I asked her why she was tearing out the pages her reply was simply, “I don’t have a bookmark”.
Now don’t get me wrong these aren’t bad folks, many of these people are our neighbors, our family and our friends. They see books as entertainment or educational and nothing more. Once the volumes have been read, and the entertainment or knowledge absorbed, there is little use for them; their purpose has been served.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the collector who sees books as all the things the consumer booklover sees but also sees them as works of art. To these bibliophiles books are a storehouse of knowledge and memories, they are history, and in some way, even before they open the cover, something to be admired for more than mere words. They want the closest thing that they can find to the author who created the work and in most cases that is the true first edition. For them, the true value lies with the first impression of the book produced for the public.
The collector booklover believes that books have an aesthetic quality not only to the eyes but also to the touch that, not unlike the lover of paintings, the collector feels merely from being in the presence of a great book. The experience enhances their quality of life.
These collectors tend to care for their books like they would anything else of value, with care and diligence. The books in the collector’s library are often seen as extensions of their heritage, beliefs, interests and passions. They are a reflection of themselves. A time capsule of sorts showing where they’ve been, what they’ve experienced what they believe and how they’ve come to those beliefs.
Now it’s not to hard to understand why then, to a collector, the condition of a book is so important, because quite simply it is a symbol of what they’ve come to treasure in life. To break it down to its core, the collector has moved from just hunter to the hunter and gatherer. The collectors want to ensure that they can enjoy the feast of reading the books in their collection more than once and even seeing those volumes on the shelf brings back the reminder of the pleasure had upon its first reading.
The purpose of the small press horror collector is a significant one. These written works will one day be seen as treasures by the masses rather than the few. And we, as collectors, are simply the caretakers of these treasures.
For example, society is just now starting to see the real influence that H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction had on American literature, film and art, a half century after his death. August Derleth’s passion for this genre took shape when he published some of the best dark fantasy in the world, with his Arkham House imprint. Yet even as the rest of the world is starting to realize the importance of “Weird Fiction” its influence has yet to be fully recognized.
I believe that the small press horror collector’s role in our world history will prove to be a significant one. We line our walls from floor to ceiling with these dark works of fiction because they teach us about the significance of life, its frailty and the ease with which it can be taken away. They afford us the opportunity to look at life as something very precious and worthy of our reverence. Without the collectors, most books would likely only be collected as rubbish by our local sanitation department and buried with yesterday’s dinner. Without these libraries we would likely lose some of our folklore, mores and folkways that are now written in between the pages of today’s small press horror literature. I believe that the importance of this genre hasn’t yet realized its influence on our “life ways,” but will, in retrospect, prove to be the reflection of the dark side of our nature through no less than five wars, concentration camps, occult suicides and school yard playground rampages to mention only a few. These works reflect our history and our lives over the past few centuries. Our genre reflects the darkness of our past and shines a light of promise and interpretation upon its future.