Group Read 27The Big Book of Science Fiction

Story #105 of 107: “Craphound” by Cory Doctorow

Craphound” by Cory Doctorow belongs to that wonderful sub-sub-sub-genre, nostalgia stories by science fiction writers. Other classics of that theme are “Jeffty is Five” by Harlan Ellison, “Travels With My Cats” by Mike Resnick, and “A Scent of Sarsaparilla” by Ray Bradbury. I belong to several online groups where old science fiction fans dwell on old science fiction, and many of them collect all kinds of crap from when they grew up. The novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline resonates so well with certain readers because of its nostalgia for the 1980s.

Over my lifetime I’ve known many collectors of science fiction and their collections usually included memorabilia crap from the past. Forrest J. Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison were known for their huge nostalgic collections (much of it toys). Just pay attention to Harlan Ellison’s house in the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth. A few glimpses can be had in this preview from YouTube.

All during my school and college years, I thought science fiction was about the future, but ever since then, science fiction has been about the nostalgic past. There’s an article at The Economist, “If you think sci-fi is about the future, think again” that I’d love to read but it’s behind a paywall. It’s subtitled “An exhibition in London shows how much of science fiction is fuelled by nostalgia.” If anyone is a subscriber and is willing, send me a copy.

Cory Doctorow has tuned into these nostalgic readers with a story about Jerry and his best friend known as Craphound, an alien from outer space. Both are professional hunters of old crap that they resell for big dollars to the addicts of nostalgia. Sadly, their friendship is shattered one day when they get into a bidding war over an old suitcase of cowboy clothes and toys at the East Muskoka Volunteer Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary sale.

Why would aliens want our old crap? Well, without Craphound (which Doctorow uses for his domain name) the story wouldn’t be science fiction, and Doctorow couldn’t have sold it to a science fiction market. Without Craphound the story would just be about a loser with arrested development making a living by going to garage sales and Goodwill stores. Without Craphound, the story would be about people like us. Just imagine if you’re yard sale copilot was an ET.

Nostalgic SF is closely related to Recursive SF. If I could remember better, I could cite a long list of stories where science fiction stories longingly look back to the past.

In recent years I’ve been collecting old science fiction anthologies and a fair amount of old science fiction magazines and fanzines. I was just looking at my wall of bookshelves and thinking about all the people that once held those books and magazines. There must have been thousands of folks like me. Mike Resnick was one since I bought some fanzines on eBay with mailing labels addressed to him. When I die my wife will liquidate my collection and it will go to new collectors. Some of my things would make garage sale craphounds very happy. Who knows, maybe one of them will be an alien.

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James Wallace Harris, 3/15/22

3 thoughts on ““Craphound” by Cory Doctorow

  1. I’m discovering how little I know of what, to me, is modern science fiction. Never knew there was such a variety of sub-genres, and I probably should sample some of your suggestions. But as I get older I find I have less a desire to explore what are, to me, new territories; I’m comfortable with what I know and like. I suppose that’s rather narrow minded, but (and I probably fall back on this defense too often) I’m at an age where I believe I’ve earned it.
    I have a collection of Astounding, complete from 1938 through the late 70s (most of the Campbell years), and both Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Sci Fi from the first issues through the early 60s. And although you can read complete issues of each online, free, I prefer to turn pages, feel the grain of pulp paper, and wonder who else held in their hands those lovingly cared for and preserved time capsules, for most of what I’ve collected is in very good condition.
    The last comment I made here regarded looking back on those “sense of wonder” juveniles that brought so many of us to science fiction, (and thank you for the link to your article on the Winston series). I guess I should probably break out of my shell and actually read some of what I consider newer works.
    Thank for prodding my curiosity and revealing new insights. I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews, and I’ll be sorry to see them end. Or will they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll keep reviewing, but I don’t think I’ll try and review whole anthologies again. Some stories just are worth writing about. We are concurrently finishing up Star Science Fiction Stories number 1 edited by Frederik Pohl, and will be starting The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Ficion edited by Robert Silverberg. I’m sure there will be stories I’ll want to write about.

      By the way, I have a lot of Astoundings from the late 1940s through the 1970s, and I have the first issues of both F&SF and Galaxy and good runs of them into the 1970s also. I need to fill in the holes.

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      1. I’ll be looking forward forward to that.
        Gets pretty expensive filling in the holes. My collections were, for the most part, given to me by some dear friends, no with us.
        I’ll have to fire up my Facebook account, check out those sf communities.

        Liked by 1 person

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