Saturday, January 11, 2020

1985 newsletter for "A Change of Hobbit" bookstore

Here's a nifty relic. Pictured are the front and back of the April 1985 newsletter for A Change of Hobbit, a wonderfully named bookstore in Santa Monica, California. It existed from 1972 to 1991 and moved around to a few different locations. Wikipedia notes that it was one of the first of the subset of science fiction/fantasy/horror bookstores that sprouted in the wake of the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien's books. Hence the bookstore's name.

A Change of Hobbit served as the epicenter for a lot of fantasy/scifi fandom in southern California. This newsletter promotes upcoming "autograph parties" for authors Frank Herbert (who died less than a year later) and Terry Brooks. The reverse side features list of May's releases, which included Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic (U.S. paperback edition, I believe).

Author Sherry Gottlieb was the bookstore's owner, and she has written a very partial history of the store on her website.1 It's just seven printed pages, and it's prefaced with "This memoir of her bookstore by Sherry Gottlieb was once a work in progress, but she lost interest before completion." It's still an interesting read, and it would be wonderful if she changed her mind and completed it some day. Here are some excerpts that focus on the business aspects of starting and runnning a bookstore ⁠— a topic that has always intrigued me:

  • "I thought the first thing to do would be find out how to get inventory, so I sat down in front of our bookcase at home and copied down the names and addresses of all the paperback publishers. I wrote each of them a letter saying that I was planning to open a bookstore and how would I get their books to carry."
  • "One guy told me to leave the books in boxes sitting on the floor of my bookstore ('People think they’ll find treasures in boxes of books.'). I began to discover the unique and wonderful camaraderie of independent booksellers who regarded other booksellers as colleagues, not competitors. I put cards on bulletin boards around town offering to buy used paperback SF/F novels for a dime apiece, planning to sell them for half cover price, a potential profit of anywhere from 8 to 75 cents each. In a couple of weeks, I had accumulated a few thousand books and a 32-issue run of the old pulp magazine Weird Tales (which I read before selling)."
  • "It had cost me $1500 to start up A Change of Hobbit. Every time I sold a book, I’d write down the title in a receipt book with carbon paper so I’d know what to restock. My first day’s sales were $32 ⁠— nearly 75% of what I’d anticipated making in an entire month! ⁠— and the next day, I sold the set of Weird Tales pulps for $100 profit. I was thrilled. A Change of Hobbit was a success."
  • "In retrospect, one of the brightest business decisions I made was getting a telephone number which spelled out GREAT SF. Countless people over the years found my store on referral from others who didn’t quite remember the store’s name, but they all remembered the telephone number!"
  • "It won’t have escaped the notice of a savvy reader that the costs of running the bookstore were more than I’d anticipated, nor that the income was insufficient to cover those costs, in spite of exceeding my wildest fantasies. That summer [1973] presented an unexpected drop in sales ⁠— the commuting students at UCLA all went away for the summer; they had been the majority of my customers."

Speaking of bookstores

We learned this week of the death of Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart. Here's an excerpt from a 2011 essay that Peart himself wrote about his love for fellow drummer Phil Collins:
"I find it amusing that despite not meeting 'formally', Phil and I have actually encountered each other face-to-face, unknown to him, on two occasions, almost 20 years apart. In the late '70s, I was recording with Rush in London, and one day popped into a science-fiction bookstore in Soho called Dark They Were And Golden Eyed. At the door, I stood back to hold it for another patron, a bearded little guy in flat cap and overcoat, on his way out. Our eyes met for a moment, we nodded courteously, and I recognised Phil in his hirsute 'Artful Dodger' period, just before he was thrust into the frontman position with Genesis that would so change his life ⁠— from modestly successful drummer to immense international popstar."
According to Wikipedia, Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, named after a short story by Ray Bradbury, was a a science-fiction and comics store that specialized in science fiction, occultism and Atlantis. It also "played a key role in bringing American underground comics to the United Kingdom. ... The shop was also the semi-official correspondence address for the magazine Fortean Times from 1978 to 1981, and the magazine's team met every Tuesday afternoon in a room above the shop."

1. As I write this, the name of Gottlieb's Twitter account is "Evict the Traitor-in-Chief!" Her Twitter bio is: "Writer, Editor, Scrabble Hustler. Lifelong enthusiasm for peace and love, the Grateful Dead, dogs, and cannabis. Jewish Atheist."

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Postcard: Four horsewomen of the apocalypse

We need to let women lead the way! OK, here's a real photo postcard that was mailed from the super tiny village of Lamar, Nebraska. How small of a village? In the 2010 U.S. census, it had just 23 people. According to Wikipedia, Lamar had its own post office from 1887 to 1995, which seems inefficient given the population size (though it didn't drop under 100 people until after World War II). The original reason for the post office was, of course, the almighty railroad.

The postmark is blurred, so I don't know for sure the year that this postcard was mailed. The third number looks like a zero, which would put it between 1900 and 1909. I don't think that's an awful guess.

It was mailed to Miss Nina Stocks of Nashua, Iowa, and this is my best deciphering of the cursive note:
"Dear Friend: What do you know about this? Can you find me in the bunch? You can see I'm having a fine time. I am between my cousins, Abel Peterson's girls. Mr. Shattuck knows Mr. Peterson. And the other lady is Mrs. Danner.
Lovingly, Blanche"
So, if Blanche is between two people, that means she can only be horsewoman #2 or horsewoman #3, right? I'm betting she's #2, which would put Mrs. Danner in the #4 spot.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Chinese poster with Kamajī cosplay

I love good movie posters, and here's a cool one you might have missed.

Last summer, Hayao Miyazaki's transcendent animated film Spirited Away finally ⁠— nearly two decades after its original release in Japan ⁠— had an official theatrical release in China. As The Hollywood Reporter's Gavin J. Blair noted, "Miyazaki has legions of fans in China who predominantly know his work through pirated DVDs and downloads. ... All foreign films screened in China must win government approval."

Of course, to release the film in China, it had to be dubbed/revoiced into Chinese. Film stars from China including Zhou Dongyu, Jing Boran and Peng Yuchang handled that work.

Finally, a new set of marketing materials was required for the Chinese market, and they were jaw-droppingly gorgeous. You can see them on the blog Spoon & Tamago, which noted that "the Chinese release even includes a series of stylized posters featuring the voice actors and actresses in the film." And that brings us to the poster at the top of this post. It's film director, producer and actor Tian Zhuangzhuang getting into character as Kamajī, the humanoid spider who operates the boiler room of the mysterious bathhouse.

Again, you can see all the posters at this link.

* * *

Watching Films
(December 2019 update)

I previously wrote about the films I watched in November, so here's the list of what I viewed in December:

  • Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
  • Letter Never Sent (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1960)
  • Salesman (Albert Maysles, David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin, 1969)
  • Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
  • Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)

Book cover: "... but once a year ..."

  • Title: Good question. There is some inconsistency on the punctuation.
    • Cover: ...but once a year...
    • Title page: ...but once a year
    • First page: ...but once a year...
    • WorldCat: But once a year
  • Author and illustrator: Russell T. Limbach (1904-1971)
  • Publisher: American Artists Group, Inc., New York
  • Publication date: 1941
  • Pages: 32
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "All over Farmer Brown's home and the apple tree alongside it, where the Squirrel family lived, and over all the countryside, was snow — deep, soft snow that had been piling up for days. Rusty and Junior, the two little Squirrel twins, scurried around, stopping often to take a look into the house — a long, long look — first through one window and then through another. ... You'll like this story of strangeness and heart-warming sentiment, in which Russell T. Limbach tells how the Squirrel twins learn about Christmas. And you'll love his wonderful pictures of all the Browns and the Squirrel family."
  • Provenance: This copy once belonged to Nancy Ruth Rosenberg.
  • First sentence: "Strange things had been happening at Farmer Brown's house on the hill."
  • Last sentence (a line of dialogue from Farmer Brown): "Only, as you've heard me say, humans are funny people."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "It was not at all like Jimmy to behave like this."
  • Reviews of this book: I cannot find a single one.
  • About the author: According to (which showcases some of his great works), Limbach was an Ohio native who left art school "to become an apprentice in the sketch room of a small lithographic plant ..., learning and refining his technique under the guidance of four experienced staff artists." He studied in Europe for a brief time and was eventually in charge of the Graphics Division of the WPA Arts Project in New York. ... Around the time he published this book, he joined the faculty at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. ... Shortly after his death in January 1971, The Evening Independent of Massillon, Ohio, published an editorial praising his life. An excerpt: "While lithographs were his specialty, he also was artistic with the brush and in later years did considerable photography. ... Mr. Limbach did not have a wide acquaintance in Massillon which possibly accounts for his works not being recognized here as appropriately as they should have been for a native son. A quiet, unassuming person, he made no boast of his accomplishments for which all Massillon should be proud."