From the age of 18 to 33 I spent about 12 years working in bookstores – a Borders in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA and a college bookstore in Richmond, VA after I moved down here to finally finish school at VCU.
The Borders years in particular (1997-2001) were very formative not just for a growing-into-adulthood Jay but also in my interests in music and books and the subsequent collections because it’s hard not to take advantage of a generous employee discount and put all of your money back into the biz when you don’t have much in the way of bills. Most of my existing library and boxed up CD collection is a consequence of these years.
Borders also provided an opportunity to discover new works thanks to review copies of books and CDs that allowed us booksellers to be informed and upsell certain works (mainly the books – most of my review copies of CDs would come from the college radio years at WVCW (2005-2008)). In some cases those books were entirely new authors (to me or anyone else), in others it was a way to get my hands on the newest book of a favorite author before anyone else. Only a handful of these Advance Review Copies (ARC) remained in the library all these years later but they remain as little memories of those halcyon days of being young and carefree and stuff.
I’ve tried to put into words some thoughts around the passing of Derrick Ferguson earlier this month. Aside from a brief Twitter thread (which I build off of below) shortly after word broke, all I’ve been able to write is: “Damn.”
I’d do not exaggerate when I say Derrick is one of my absolute favorite people. Just a fantastic person with a love of reading, writing, movies, so much – and a love if sharing all of that with others.
He truly embodied “write the stories you want to read” but was also always kind, always encouraging, always excited to see what you could do next. Never saw writing and his talent and art as a bubble or competition but as a group exercise, a community that could grow together.
Derrick was a mentor to so many, a hype man that lifted up entire communities and helped so many writers come into their own. He was your Number One Fan, saw talent to be encouraged and nurtured, to be prodded not just because you should write, damnit, but because he wanted to see what could come next.
His confidence in the talent of others could make anyone a novelist. Stop being so self-critical, just write, damn it.
I regret not knowing him better, not speaking with him more often, not meeting him in person more than a couple times, but despite all of that he was always there, always a friend, always with an open door and heart. A huge loss.
There is so much more to be said on Derrick, his writings, his influences, his influenced. Others have said it better than I.
“I don’t know, man – who’s this story for?” I asked, one time. Stupid question. I have – had – still have – a bad habit of thinking that ‘market’ and ‘audience’ are interchangeable. Derrick knew better. He laughed – whatever else, I could always make him laugh – and said, “It’s for me, J. I just write what I want to read.”
I’ve long argued that (bear with me here for a moment) Isaac Asimov was the brains of sci-fi but that Ray Bradbury was its heart. In the same way, Derrick was the heart of the community of independent genre writers, and particularly that of New Pulp. But it wasn’t just his writing that put him there and defined it. It was his sort of ambassadorship for the movement, bringing the unrelatable term to the masses with comparisons to movies and other forms or entertainment, his “get started” lists of 100 New Pulp books you need to read, and his action-adventure mindset in regard to everything from his movie reviews to his posts in the Usimi Dero group he ran on Facebook that brought so many like-minded fans together.
A new project for me to never complete: photos of the books that make up my library.
“Never complete” because I’ll probably forget I started it and/or there are a LOT of books and/or I’ll keep getting more so it’s never ending anyway.
Not all of my books are educational or highfalutin, but all of them are here for a reason beyond just being a hoarder of books.
And, before anyone asks, no, I haven’t read all of them. And probably never will. In some cases I worry I’d wreck the book because of it’s age and I have it more for historical or personal reasons. In other cases I ascribe to Umberto Eco’s “Antilibrary” which Nassim Nicholas Taleb covered in Black Swan (which I own and will photograph at some point):
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
So many of these, sure, I’ve read. Many more I WANT to read because they’re knowledge I have yet to gain. Or mindless reads I’m waiting for a good vacation or retirement (HA! HA HA HA HA HA! I’m going to die working.) to get to.
I’ll be presenting these largely without context beyond my owning them. Maybe I’ll feel compelled to provide a backstory or explanation. Maybe not. We’ll see. It’s a lot of books.
Enough with the intro and excuses! Pictures of books!