Friday, September 28, 2007
There are all sorts of addictions and I don't know anyone that doesn't have a monkey or two on their back. Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, gambling, video games...the list is endless.
Of course, I'm not immune and my biggest downfall has been my addiction to buying books and movies. Also, to a lesser extent, music.
Growing up, I always loved reading. I had to get my own books and I never neglected mowing the yard, because I'd miss that week's issues of Marvel Comics. Later, I wearied of comics and moved on to Doc Savage and other pulp fiction. If I skipped lunch for two days and saved the money I was given every morning, I could get myself a Doc Savage paperback. Pretty extreme behavior, I know, and my parents would have been pissed if they had known about it
I had the worst sort of jobs in my early adulthood, but I somehow always managed to get reading materials. I read science fiction almost exclusively and I bought a lot of used paperbacks. I had a hell of a collection.
But I always loved movies too, and when VHS became affordable for almost everyone, I got set up with a player and began taping all the movies I rented. Most of them, anyway. It was instantly an obsession. And I could barely afford the blank tapes and all the rentals I was getting.
Gradually, it became conceivable to buy movies on factory videotapes. I was far from the only one that had caught the movie collecting bug. I had a wall of videos that were my pride and joy.
They're all gone now. A lot of money down the tubes.
In the meantime, I switched gears and stopped reading SF and became a full-fledged horror fiction fan. This was in the early 80's, which was a wonderful time to be reading horror. So many exciting things were happening. I gradually stopped buying used books and bought new paperbacks and even the occasional hardcover. Again, I could barely afford to eat at certain times of the month, but I got my horror fix.
There had been small press books in the horror genre, but I couldn't afford any. Until Cemetery Dance came along and the very first one I bought was Writer of the Purple Rage, by Joe R. Lansdale. I was thrilled when it arrived and I wanted more. I got more too; much more.
Subterranean Press came along somewhere along the way, as did Gauntlet. I loved them and spent far too much on their publications.
Then the home entertainment world exploded with the advent of DVD. I had always wanted a laserdisc player, but couldn't afford it. In 1998, I saw that DVD was going to the The Big Thing and I spent $400.00 on a player. The first discs I bought were Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Starship Troopers. They were far from the last.
That was cool though, if not exactly wise. But I was on my own and I had no one to depend on my but myself. I started buying DVDs like crazy.
Like with movies and DVD, the horror fiction community went nuts with an explosion of small presses popping up. Pricey editions abounded and no one could keep up with it all. Idiots like me tried though.
Then came Shocklines. It was like a fever for a while and everyone seemed to be collecting. New writers and new publishers were popping up every day, it seemed and the buzz told us that they were not to be missed.
After a few years of unparalleled success for writers and publishers, the hype began to grow cold. Many saw the situation like a buddy system, where everybody praised each other, regardless of the actual quality of the work in question. Readers were becoming bitter, cynical. Tired of it.
Not all. Some of the presses still are thriving and selling out titles. I think the buzz has waned though and I wonder how long this prosperity can last.
Through it all, I thought I had some noble purpose to support the things I loved. Movie distributors, publishers, writers, booksellers. I was doing something good for something I believed in.
I was a damned fool.
Now I have a couple of children, one of which has special needs. It costs a lot of money. Feeding the children is a daunting task and add in medication, therapy and countless other expenses that build a young life.
Yet I continued to preorder books and to buybuybuy DVDs. Movie prices were becoming more reasonable all the time. Why not have a huge collection? But as with any other addiction, enough was never enough and the high I got from getting movies, books, in the mail wasn't working any more. It became boring. But expensive.
Prices for small press books are still usually astronomical and the current trend of expensive novellas is getting far too out of hand. I miss the days when I could check out a new writer by spending five bucks for a paperback. And it be a full-length novel or a whole collection of stories.
This past week was financially devastating for me. A series of terrible events escalated and shook me up and made me start to think. With a sober mind and not one deluded with collector's fever. It's time to stop. My priorities have been screwed backward and I have neglected to focus on the things that truly matter.
I'm done. Not 100%, but I'm giving up the weekly purchases. I can't keep it up and I don't even want to. I was some kind of Don Quixote saving the genre with my never-ending support. Well, the genre is going to have to live without me from now on. I don't think I really make much of a dent in things, but this will make my own personal life infinitely richer. And maybe, eventually, when I do make an exception and purchase a DVD or a nice book, that old special feeling of magic will return. The thrill of opening a package and finding a treasure.
I can do this. It will be hard, but I can have resolve when I need to. I never had been one to exercise or workout in my life and last October I made a commitment to better myself and I stuck to it. My brother always ragged me about it and when I felt weak, I thought of him and it gave me the strength I needed to continue. Now I only need to think of my wife and kids, or remember the agonizing sleepless night I just had, to break this addiction I have to books and movies.