Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Accidental discoveries of the third kind
Yesterday I was strolling through Brussels, killing some time and the occasional toddler running under my feet before meeting some friends for diner. By chance I stumbled upon Sterling Books, an English bookshop in the centre of the city. They had lots of books – obviously – and more to the point a quite impressive collection of recent and not-so-recent science-fiction novels. So what, you say (I know that up to know no-one has found my weblog yet, so technically, I’m speaking to myself here, which is a bit worrying).
To appreciate my discovery, you have to understand that on average, Belgians have no imagination whatsoever. Seriously, their combined imagination wouldn’t allow them to envisage someone building a huge canon to fire a huge bullet filled with people to the moon. We have at the moment zero-point-nothing-whatsoever science fiction authors here, at least none that got their work published (for the others, see this site (Dutch language)). That is why Jules Verne was a Frenchman and not a Belgian. So science fiction novels are rare here, because not many people read them. And if you find a SF-novel, it’s the obligatory Star Wars spin-off crap about the exciting life of Princess Leia and Han Solo after their marriage. Allow me to take a moment to puke here.
…So, all done. For the rest, you can find Fantasy novels here, although only the more popular titles. That is because we in the Flemish part speak Dutch (kind of), which is a language only a couple of millions of people speak. So it’s often not worthwhile to translate books into Dutch, especially not science fiction novels that are avoided by Belgians like a Wookiee with the Vulcan plague.
Series of novels are often a problem, because they only translate parts one, three and fifteen. So you have to buy the rest in English. Or you did buy parts three, four and five, but the first two volumes are nowhere to be found. And no way, they’re going to be reprinted. Because they burned the translated manuscripts AND the translator, they exiled the printer, and they erased the memory of every salesperson who was ever in contact with those novels. So you’ll find no trace of them anymore ever.
So a bookshop like this is to a Belgian SF-fan like an ice-cream stand to a car-crash victim ablaze like a torch in the middle of a desert. They had so many books missing in my collection that it was difficult to choose. And best of all, at ridiculously low prices (mustn’t tell them that, they might increase them): 12.5 € for an Isaac Asimov classic, that would otherwise cost me at least 20 € or more.
I’ll guess they’ll see me often there, in the coming months.