Bitten by the Head of the Long Tail of Fandom

Over at Uncle Bear we’ve had many a conversation about long-tail fandom, the idea that there’s so much good stuff out there — science fiction novels, games, movies — that you don’t really need be current to satisfy your geeky desires. I tend to stay a little closer to the wave front then Berin — I’ve read two or three novels that were written in the last year, and I’ve got my monthly subscription to Analog — but at least half of what I read or watch is more than few years old (or, in the case of Conan, the repackaging there of).

Riding the Long Tail means not having to keep up with the latest and greatest releases and a certain choosiness that comes from having all of history to choose from. But that doesn’t mean that you still can’t get bitten by the Head of the Long Tail. Last week I started reading Pandora’s Star (Amazon), an excellent space opera novel by Peter F. Hamilton which was published in 2004. Not that far down the tail, but still not exactly current. After voraciously reading it — I probably haven’t read a 1,000 page book this quickly in 10 years — I immediately headed out to Barnes & Noble to pick up the sequel, Judas Unchained.

And was shocked to discover that it was still out in hardcover. And that I’d have to pay $26 to conclude the saga.

Being a geek dad with two kids, one of which is six weeks old, that just wasn’t doable. So I had to reluctantly put the novel back on the shelf, and wait for it to work its way down the gullet of the long-tail serpent. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a while to digest — the book won’t be out in paperback until early 2007.

So what’s the morale of the story? There isn’t one really, save this: even when you’re working your way through fandom’s backlog, you can still find yourself on the cutting edge, without even trying.

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