time in the middle of the next century, two book collectors meet. They were born
well after the baby boom, and have no old fashioned notions about
their hobby. Most likely they wouldn't recognize collecting as
we know it. For the sake of argument their names are Sidney and
Floyd, and they're in their middle fifties.
"Great to see you. So this is the
apt. Too good of you to let me invite myself over."
"Well, you'd dropped enough hints
that you wanted to see my collection. Could I refuse you?"
Sid ushered the other into a modern state-of-the-art,
urban multi-occupant standard three room res. (UMOS/3) Although
a confirmed bachelor, he had all three hundred and seventy-five
square feet of it to himself.
"How could I not drop hints? You only
have the best collection of fantasy literature and kiddy porn
on the East Coast."
"You flatter me Floyd. There are at
least three larger collections in institutions. Two of them better
than mine in their own way. Can I offer coffee? Soft drinks?
"Hell no, dude. We can observe the
amenities later. There's WWF Championship Mud Wrestling on the
wall screen at seven, too. Now I want to see... The Collection!"
"I'd be disappointed in you otherwise
Sidney closed the door behind Floyd, reset
the alert-sensors and armed the doorway mine again. Ten steps
took them through the UMOS to the spare room entry. (Eighty-one
square feet, no window, $900 a month extra.) Against the far
wall was a plastichip-board cabinet, waist high. A smart new
computer library array with quad-drive and chargers held up to
six handheld readers. There was a four by three wall display
as well, across from a comfortable looking chair.
Sid opened the cabinet. Floyd squeezed
into the room and watched respectfully as Sid removed a soberly
hued plastic snap-lid box about eight by eight by two. (Inches.
First quarter of the 21st. century or not, this was still America
"Here it is." Sid flipped the
top, exposing a two and a half inch square blue wafer with some
minute black arabesques in one corner: the contact head. "I've
spent half my life compiling this. Isn't it a beauty?" He
fingered the aluminized read/write slide like a metal panty covering
great treasure inside.
"Awesome Sid, totally awesome. Looks
like the original peel-off 3M-brand label too. Not a scratch
on the case. First scannings and virgin downloads? All?"
"Everyone of them, f'sure. No later
posts or pirates, no reverse translations, nothing but the original
"You know, I hear some people say
there were hard copies of some quite famous books before
the text tiles. How do you like that for a chicken or the egg
puzzle. Ever thought of that?"
"Sure. I suppose there has to be some
sort of raw input before you save a text file, sort of like a
rough draft except on paper rather than a note-pad, y'know? Doesn't
matter to anyone but academics or museum curators, who seem to
have a hard-on for paper copy, just as an object. Couldn't care
less about using text like it's meant. Instead of the plasticity
of the data, they only seem to care about the stone or parchment
or whatever it's put on, y'know?"
"The scholarly mind, I suppose. To
be fair, it isn't just the medium, they're hung up on one supposedly
more authoritative version, as though no one should change a
text to suit themselves! I'm satisfied to leave obscure questions
of derivation to semanticists or whoever. I'm satisfied to be
a simple bibliophile."
"Just takes the touch of smooth plastic
and that vague staticky feel to take me back to twelve, Floyd,
when I read Harry Potter And the Satanic Rapture for the
first time. Everyone's Golden Age is twelve."
"True, too true." Floyd handed
back The Collection. "It brings back memories every time
I hear the *snick* of the disc when it goes in the drive."
They sighed together.
Sid woke from the reverie first. "Here,
let me call up Neuromancer and show you how I've reformatted
it. You'll like my choice of font and chapter breaks. I mapped
in illos from a Japanese edition as well."
The disk slid with smooth precision into
the drive slit. An LED flashed as it read. Then Sid took a reader
from its plug and called up a display for his friend.
"Hey, love that light Neo-Uncial.
Minimally traditional, but modern. Is it an import or a default
Abruptly the lights dimmed. Then flared
as an upstate nuclear plant went on line to take up the slack.
"Fucking hell!" screamed Sid.
"The filter'll be saturated! Get the disk!"
It was too late. The drive whined like
a drunken banshee and the reader blanked. In the time it took
to blink an eye, 30,000 volumes of hard to find fiction vanished.
"Oh well," said Floyd after a
moment of stunned silence. "You can always upload most of
it again from the public library net. I'll copy for you what
I got, and maybe you can get the rest from those institutional
collections. Or a payload from a dealer-site. You'll be up again
by the end of the week, right? You can reformat and accessorize
in your spare time later."
"No," he sighed, "won't
need to. Only a momentary scare. I have all my first editions
and custom add-ons backed up. It's not as though I lost anything
with value, like property or something... "
Don't you love a happy ending, dear reader?