Full Moons, Black Flames, and Grey Havens: A Meditation on Loss

The longest two week stretch of my life is almost over. I’ve made it through Christmas 2020. I’ve made it through a COVID-19 scare that sidelined me for a week. I’ve made it through a long New Year’s week. And today I’ve made it through an ultimately futile quest.

See, I was supposed to be on a trip today. Initially it was going to be to Memphis to look for books. Then it was to Northwest Arkansas to see my brother. The COVID scare stopped me–my dad is 73 so I’m not risking his infection–so it’s ultimately been a day hunting books at the flea markets in my area. And as I expected, the pump was primed to write.

I’m feeling a great degree of sadness as I return from my quest empty handed. I didn’t find anything that grabbed me. That’s not shocking. I usually don’t. But today, maybe more than ever, it hits me how much is fading from my world and how much I never had.

Today Lola and I hit up several flea markets and not one yielded much but more to the point several I love are gone, closed. We went to Books A Million too and yup, nothing I couldn’t get elsewhere cheaper. In the past I could have hoped to find new books days earlier. Today, days before the Mandalorian novelization, nothing. Walmart has shrunk their book section violently as have many other stores including all the chains. Hastings and their successor Entertainmart are gone. All but one of the comic stores in LR are gone. There’s at least two major cities in Arkansas with one or no bookstores

Then I hit the place that broke my heart. I visited a used bookstore in Little Rock. They didn’t say they were closing but with violently reduced stock, I knew they were going. They won’t see 2022. I definitely did not find anything there.

And I thought of the loss I’m experiencing. These were places I could get lost in and they’re truly no more. My brain can’t light up at visiting these places anymore. I can’t have the thrill of finding a new Star Wars novel. I’m having trouble simply finding a Thrawn novel that came out in paperback last year. It’s a little thing but the death of physical media hurts my autistic soul.

There’s another reason I’m thinking of this. I’ve been listening to a history of Full Moon Pictures. I don’t have any nostalgia for the company, they made trash, but I do have a sadness for the end of the video store. I miss the surreality of the posters, the boxes, the atmosphere. Full Moon was there through so much.

I think a lot about how everything is condensing to digital and how overrated that is. Oh it’s neat to have every option possible at your fingertips. But when everything is accessible, how much of it matters? I lashed out at a criticism of the content stream but it’s not untrue that when you have a ton of things at hand, none have the weight of a good physical book.

And you fail to see the limitations. I’m constantly searching for horror movie novelizations. A friend hooked me up with several this year but many are unavailable and I learned why. They’re banned from ebook sites by and large. They don’t circulate. They’re not allowed.

So I’m left with the Black Flames of the title. I have a few Black Flame books but mostly I missed my chance in 2004-2007. I can search used bookstores and Goodwill forever but limited print runs and a rabid collector market mean that I’m left to never get many. I can experience them, a good friend has phenomenal audiobooks, but there will be no epubs or print copies unless I fire mountains of money at sellers.

I’m feeling sad today. Sad at what is lost. Sad that I’ll keep searching fruitlessly at increasingly shrinking venues. Sad at the homogeny of Amazon. Sad at the homogeny of everything. Missing the feeling of my brain lighting up at a find. Mourning what was and will never be.

Physical media and all bound to it are heading to the grey havens. I mourn it all.