Monday, October 17, 2011

A sci-fi and fantasy story

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to walk around the Israeli Fantasy and Sci-fi Convention (ICon). It was an interesting experience, not least because of the rare opportunity to see Israeli fans of science fiction and fantasy. Though the ICon accommodates just about every medium for sci-fi and fantasy, I (of course) found myself more attracted to the bookish aspects of the convention.

The ICon offers a few outlets for book buying and I have to admit that all were tempting. One of the leading Israeli bookstore chains Tsomet Sfarim is a sponsor of the events and thus has a prominent tent right near the entrance of the events grounds. Within, readers can find the chain's entire sci-fi and fantasy stock spread before them in both English and Hebrew. I was surprised by the sheer amount of books in English offered, but soon realized that given the limited translations of science fiction and fantasy into Hebrew, most fans have had to make do with improving their English and reading the originals. Fans don't seem to mind whether or not they're buying an original or a translation: all that matters is reading the book.

But beyond this tent, a three minute walk away, other booths offer other treasures. One long set of tables offered heavily discounted books but across a wider variety of genres. Independent authors and publishers approached potential customers with their books, coaxing them to crack open the covers. One publishing booth boasted that their new book would soon be "interactive". When asked what exactly they mean by that, one of the sellers laughed and said, "Soon you'll be able to interact with the characters and the story on Facebook! Everything will be on Facebook!" His companion to the booth hastily added, "We hope. It's in development."

And then there was the used books booth. Here, again, one could see Hebrew and English titles shoved alongside each other. Unlike Tsomet Sfarim's booth, I was able to find books all across the spectrum - classic sci-fi, not-so-popular fantasy, standards, newbies, oldies, obscure books... everything. The bookseller - who seemed to know the prices of all his books off the top of his head - told me proudly, "You think this is a lot? This is only a tenth of what I've got in my store!" I took his advertising bookmark and resolved to visit the store soon.

But it was on the other side of his booth that I found the true treasures. Here, the bookseller had spread out his assortment of collectible and valuable items: first editions, spiffy DVDs, elegant editions of popular books... this was the shelf. And on this shelf, I also found the loveliest leather-bound edition of the excellent The Left Hand of Darkness, as autographed by Ursula K. Le Guin herself. Unable to contain myself any longer, I called the bookseller over. His tension at finding me handling this beautiful book abated once he noticed the care with which I held the volume. "I have to know... how much for this one?" I asked, holding the book close. He looked at me somewhat sadly, recognizing, I suppose, my age deficiency as an indicator of my potential income. "1200 NIS*," he said, and I slowly returned the book to its appropriate place.

"Maybe next year," I said, "when I'm a billionaire..."

The lovely collectibles/expensive shelf
* Approximately $330

2 comments:

  1. Surely you wouldn't need a whole billion to justify this one book. Wouldn't a million do, until next year? Heh.

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  2. What a bittersweet ending to this lovely bookish story. Nothing better than a book filled table though, especially when you find something that is really special.

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