|I spent last week in the city of Los Angeles on business. Business travel, as a rule, if you were not aware, sucks. One shining event in my arduous journey was a trip to a special little book store.|
Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature is what you would call a high end SF book shop. Located on Santa Monica Boulevard, Levin has peddled the absolute finest in science fiction books, art, and memorabilia for 30 years. To enter his shop is to come into contact with treasures you simply can't find anywhere else; a true experience for the fan and collector.
As I entered the front door, what truly struck me was the obvious value of the stock and the manner in which it was cared for. You can not simply browse like in any run-of-the-mill store. All the shelves are behind locked protective glass. Mr. Levin is quick to retrieve any book you wish to take a look at, but obviously has no patience for browsers. Look, but do not touch.
There's good reason for this policy, however. In Levin's shop you can find a pristine as the day it was pressed, first edition of The Forever War, a signed and absolutely fine edition of Starship Troopers, and just about every Arkham House title ever produced -- in triplicate. Behind his desk is a pristine signed limited edition of H.G. Wells complete works, and if one were to buy such a treasure, it would be packed in the same wooden crate it was shipped in, in the 1920's.
The walls feature original art from the originators of SF art, signed letters and short stories from authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, and Harlan Ellison, and actual props from classic science fiction films. (Such as a Marine's rifle from Alien.)
There were tomes in this magical shop I'd only heard of prior to this visit, such as Philip K. Dick's limited edition collection from Underwood-Miller, and UK editions of not-so-modern classics. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
Not having the means of a Kennedy, my purchases were meager in comparison to what was available. I was able to acquire a pristine, unread first edition copy of Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins that looked as if it were printed yesterday. I also picked up a signed UK first edition of Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon (The only world hardcover, and very rare.) and a first edition of On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. (For a song!)
If you live within driving distance or plan on visiting LA this summer for Worldcon, take the time to stop on in. I left the store with a smile, some treasures, and a feeling of wonder in my heart. And that, after all, is what SF is all about.