The Future … is missing

The strange case of The Future is Japanese.

thefutureisjapaneseI’ve been looking for this book for a year, based on an interest in Japanese culture and in one of the book’s editors, Nick Mamatas. It’s subtitled Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies From and About Japan, and the Amazon blurb says: A web browser that threatens to conquer the world. The longest, loneliest railroad on Earth. A North Korean nuke hitting Tokyo, a hollow asteroid full of automated rice paddies, and a specialist in breaking up “virtual” marriages. And yes, giant robots. These thirteen stories from and about the Land of the Rising Sun run the gamut from fantasy to cyberpunk, and will leave you knowing that the future is Japanese!

A year ago, the book didn’t show up in a Vancouver Island Regional Library search, but a search of Vancouver Public Library’s online catalogue showed they had two copies, one at Central branch, one at Brittania. I stopped in on a visit to Vancouver. The catalogue said it would be filed under FIC SS (Fiction, Short Stories). No problem. So i looked there under F for “future,” where common sense told me it should be filed. Nothing. Back to the catalogue for more info, then more searching, this time under T for “The Future” (nope), and then under the M and W, the last names of editors Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington. Nope and nope. Later i made it to Central branch, and couldn’t find it there either.

Oh well, it was just a passing fancy. Except it kept popping up in my memory on a monthly basis, which i took to mean that i ought to get ahold of it. Back at Tofino’s VIRL, i put in an interlibrary loan request. Months went by without word. When i inquired, staff checked and told me it the request had failed.

Some months ago, in a fit of impatience, i checked Kobo Books. It was there, and i downloaded the free preview. Yep, the first 25 pages were promising, and i wanted more. But i had the taste of free, and i wasn’t ready to buy the whole book for $8.99 yet. I decided to spring it from the library system.

Today, in VPL Central once again, i try once more. It shows up in the catalogue: one copy in Central, one in Kensington this time. So presumably at least one copy exists, as it seems to have moved from Brittania to Kensington.

I can’t easily get to Kensington, but i check the shelves here at Central, again under “Future,” and “The Future,” “Mamatas,” and “Washington.” Can’t find it, but i’m no expert at picking one title from a shelves of hundreds. So i enlist a librarian to help, a chatty, slow-moving older lady, who explains that FIC SS short stories are usually filed under author’s last name, but in this case, with various authors, it’s usually under title, but there’s no fixed standard.

We do another tedious F/T/M/W search—nope

Together we search FIC SS again under F, T, M, and W, interspersed with anecdotes about her trips to Tofino, the restaurants she ate at, the town’s changes over the years. She can’t find it either. She theorizes about where it could be. Under Fiction? We do another tedious F/T/M/W search — nope. Maybe under Science Fiction? Fantasy? Maybe with the novels?  I can see where this is going, but i’m out of both time and patience. Instead i adopt her suggestion: before i come to Vancouver next, phone up the branch and put it on three-day hold. That way, library staff will do the searching, and it will be waiting for me. Or it won’t.

She says she’ll put a trace on the Central copy. We conclude that the fiction filing system leaves much to be desired in this particular case.

And i continue to wonder why this book elude me. What’s the message here? Am i meant to read it? Am i meant to let it go? I’m starting to take it personally, and the curiosity inside me is gelling into an obsession.

The Future is definitely missing. It’s my mission to find it.

EDIT: As i post this, looking closer at the cover image, i see the words “Edited by Haikasoru” — a name that did not appear in the library catalogue, but which someone actually holding the book would see, and file it accordingly. Back to the search.

Author: Greg Blee

Poster to my own blog, and others.

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