What were once vices are now habits…

The title of this post comes from an old Doobie Brothers lp and it’s always struck a chord: the way it refers to the journey from passion overindulged, and then become commonplace, expected rather than enjoyed: vices truly become habits.

The reason I refer to it now is I was perusing my ‘to read’ stack and felt both a little jaded and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books. And by volume, I don’t so much mean number as length. I’ve got some books I really want to read, and in a number of cases they’re books I am very excited about, but they are long. The new Lucius Shepard collection, Trujillo, sits there looking at me, all 680 pages of it, alongside almost 700 pages of Robert Silverberg collection, Phases of the Moon. I just got the new Susanna Clarke in the mail (two copies for some reason), and it’s another 800 pages. I’m waiting on Mieville’s Iron Council which also doesn’t appear to be small, and there’s a bunch of other stuff (I’m even kinda weirdly attracted to the new Stephen Donaldson book which is supposed to be nearly 900 pages long according to the publisher’s catalogue).

Now, there was a time when I would have been thrilled. Lots of books, and likely lots of good books, and they’re mostly all long so they’ll last! Now I just look at them and despair a little. I have so much else to read – couldn’t they be a little shorter? Just a little. (sigh).

The thing that has disturbed me the most, though, about my ‘to read’ stack is that I’ve come, reluctantly, to accept that if something doesn’t get read on the first pass, if I don’t read it when it’s new, I’m never going to read it. Ever. I wish that wasn’t true, but it feels true. I can’t picture a time when I’m going to have the opportunity to go back and fill in gaps, read stuff I’d meant to get to. It’s forever beyond me.

And for all of that, these are great times. Not only have I been ludicrously lucky, not only getting a dream position at Locus, but then getting to edit or co-edit a bunch of anthologies (five to date, with that many again in the works), but I get most of these books free! If you’d told me that would be happening ten years ago I would have laughed at you or thought I’d won some kind of lottery. And you know what? I did. It doesn’t feel like it every day, but when great books pour in for free, when there are more books and magazines than you could hope to read, and when the people you admire most accept you as a colleague, that’s a very cool thing. It is, perhaps, better than winning the lottery.

Oh, and for the regular readers out there, yeah: I’m avoiding writing a column. I’m started and I’m going to finish, but I’m in avoidance. Speaking of columns, I’ve abandoned the new C.J. Cherryh. I really like her work, but after the opening the thought of following Marak Trin Tain across his destroyed world just felt leaden. Now, it’s probably a very good book, but I think it’s one I’m going to let go through to the keeper. On the other hand, just read Steve Baxter’s “PeriAndry’s Quest” from Analog, which is a cool story, and really like the Christopher Rowe story from SciFiction. I’ve also started to peruse Jeff VanderMeer’s Secret Life in earnest, and it’s a way cool collection. The hoopy Scott Eagle cover should be enough to convince you of this, of course, but the stories are weird and wonderful. You should whip over to Jeff’s website or to Golden Gryphon and check it out, and then get thee hence to a bookstore as soon as it hits the shelves. And there’s lots more to recommend. More on that soon.

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