Acclaimed bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon spent his Covid quarantine lovingly and meticulously creating a digital tribute to / replica of the Science Fiction and Fantasy section in the bookstore of his youth. And it is glorious.
On Sunday, he posted the image on Threads and wrote:
This started (and was mostly finished) as a COVID project.
One endless quarantine afternoon, I was in my Berkeley studio, staring at my old #DAW_SF and #BallantineAdultFantasy paperbacks, and contemplating, in my imagination, the "Science Fiction and Fantasy" section at the loooong-defunct Page One bookstore, back in #ColumbiaMD, where I grew up.
People, I tell you, I fuckin HAUNTED that section! For YEARS! And now as I sat around communing with my tattered old friends, I discovered that I retained a sharp recollection — title, author, cover design — of what felt like every single book that had ever appeared on those tall shelves along the left wall of Page One, toward the back, between 1972 and 1980.
This — which I finally finished, last night — was the result. Think of it — I did — as a kind of time telescope, a look back at the visuals that embodied and accompanied my early aspirations as a writer, and at the mass-market splendor of paperback sf and fantasy in those days.
I'm the same age as Chabon, and I was also a bookstore rat, staring at these exact same covers and agonizing over which one I'd lay down my $1.25 for.
I know these covers so well. But that The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I, still sits on the bookcase beside me, ragged and smelling vaguely of cough syrup (long story).
Just look at those beautiful John Carter of Mars covers. I collected and cherished these, and the Tarzan series. Gino D'Achille did the illustrations for these John Carter covers, and that Tarzan of the Apes cover is by Neal Adams.
For some reason, these Ray Bradbury covers are not the ones I remember, even though Chabon and I were no doubt staring at the current Bradbury paperbacks at the exact same time.
I've met only one other person who read the Star Wars novelization before seeing the movie; in fact, before the movie opened. (That person is fellow cartoonist Tom Tomorrow.) So instead of experiencing the movie as it should have been — as campy movie fun — I experienced it as an adaptation of a literary work. (Still loved it.)
And the James Blish Star Trek series, just as I remember it. They only settled into a consistent cover style over the second through fourth volumes. And David Gerrold had only written the script for one Star Trek episode, but I read two books by him about it. Because they were there.
Chabon has generously posted links to download the photo, at various resolutions, here.
Images posted with the permission of Michael Chabon.