Sunday, October 27, 2013

Books Received...Stephen R. Donaldson and K. W. Jeter

The Last Dark
The long-awaited tenth and final volume, The Last Dark (G. P. Putnam's Sons), in Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, has finally been published.

I remember when I first started reading the first volume, Lord Foul's Bane, shortly after the book was published in 1977. I was expecting a fantasy -- you know, some medieval land, or faery land, or bewitched land -- and here was some guy walking down the street on his way to pay his electric bill! So the community started paying his bills for him, and sending him food so that he didn't have to come into town for any reason. But one of those thoughtful meals, a sandwich, contained ground glass. And all of this was being done for, and to, the man because he had leprosy! WTF?

I was so taken aback by the setting -- it was so NOT what I had been expecting -- that I couldn't get into it, and I put the book back on the shelf.

For whatever reason I no longer recall, more than ten years later I picked the book back up and started to read it once again. Now that I knew what to expect, I got sucked in to the story and couldn't put the book(s) down. And by now, of course, there were six volumes to consume! I was working as a technical instructor at the time for a high-tech company. (The hapless company shall remain nameless to protect their innocence.) I would make my way to the classroom as early as possible to prepare for class, and as soon as all the setup was complete, I'd pull out whatever Thomas Covenant volume I was on at the time and continue my reading; and it always seemed to take longer to clean up after class, too.

It's now been more than twenty years since I've read the first six books in this series. Gawd, twenty-plus years.... I've now purchased all four books in The Last Chronicles, but I haven't started reading them yet. First, I don't like to read a series until I have all the volumes in the series in hand; and second, I'm seriously considering starting with book one, Lord Foul's Bane, and reading all ten volumes.

Fiendish Schemes
The second book I purchased was another long-awaited title: K. W. Jeter's Fiendish Schemes (Tor Books), sequel to his Steampunk novel Infernal Devices, originally published by St. Martin's Press in 1987. Jeter, by the way, is credited with coining the term "Steampunk" in a letter to Locus magazine, printed in the April 1987 issue.

In October 1988 I was on my way to ArmadilloCon 10, at which K. W. Jeter was the Author Guest of Honor, and the other author guests included James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers. I flew American Airlines from San Jose to Dallas/Fort Worth, and from there to Austin, Texas. Upon boarding the plane to Austin, as I was walking down the aisle to my seat, I spied someone reading a copy of Infernal Devices. I stopped, and made some type of comment like, If you're reading Jeter's novel, then you must be going to ArmadilloCon, too -- to which she responded in the affirmative. That individual was Spike Parsons, well known among Bay Area fandom, whom I met for the first time on that plane. [Hi, Spike!]

You can read a bit more about my attendance at Armadillocon 10 in my blog post entitled "Philip K. Dick & Rudy Rucker's Warez," posted on August 30, 2010.

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