Episode 255 – Henry Wessells

Virtual Memories Show 255: Henry Wessells

“This is a project I’ve either been working on for three years, or since I was seven years old.”

Antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells joins the show to talk about his new exhibition at the Grolier Club and its accompanying book, A Conversation larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic, 1762-2017 (Oak Knoll). We get into his collecting impulse and why he’s not really a book collector, the childhood influence of Doc Savage and the adult influence of Robert Sheckley, Mary Shelley’s primary role in the invention of science fiction, the relevance of John Crowley’s Little, Big to our current moment, the ways the internet has changed book-collecting and casual reading, the vicarious thrill of book-dealing, our mutual teenaged meltdowns when we encountered Neuromancer, the unsung writers in his collection, the one book he wishes he owned, and a whole lot more. Give it a listen! And go buy A Conversation larger than the Universe!

“The good thing about going into real bookstores is the thing that no algorithm will ever be able to do: finding the book next to the book you thought you were looking for.”

NOTE: The exhibition for A Conversation larger than the Universe runs through March 10, 2018 at the Grolier Club in NYC. There’s also a panel on science fiction on March 6, featuring Mr. Wessells, Ellen Datlow, John Crowley and Samuel R. Delany and other authors. Visit the events page at the Grolier Club for more information.

“There’s nothing like writing a book about the history of science fiction to realize how little of it one has read.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Henry Wessells is a Buddhist vegetarian polyglot and parent; lives in a house; is author of a collection of short stories, Another green world, a collection of poems, The Private Life of Books (with photographs by Paul Schütze), and A Conversation larger than the Universe; and publisher of Temporary Culture, whose titles include Hope-in-the-Mist by Michael Swanwick and Forever Peace. To Stop War by Joe Haldeman & Judith Clute; is a writer, translator, and antiquarian bookseller (see CV here); a baker of pies, peach, apple, & pumpkin; originator of the word electronym; a hand bookbinder; compiler of the Avram Davidson website; and a reader of books.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Wessell’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Wessells and of me and Mr. Wessells by me. They’re on my instagram.

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