It was there I discovered Coven 13 (and if you don’t know what that is then obviously I need to do a post about it very soon) but this isn’t a when-I-were-a-lad story. I’m talking about free content, just bear with me.
The shop was run by Derek ‘Bram’ Stokes, whose wife must’ve taken pity on a tubby schoolboy balancing a pile of books he could hardly see over, because she vanished out the back and returned with a load of stapled pages from SF magazines. The originals had got damaged in transit from the States, but they couldn’t bear to just throw them away so they'd salvaged the pages they could.
Okay, basically what I was being offered was a bunch of stories by the likes of Brunner and Moorcock and Pohl and Silverberg. For free. As long as I didn’t mind not having the covers. So, Moses, you want these tablets or not?
A year ago, after moving to Surrey and then back to London, I came across that pile of salvaged stories. (Do I have hoarding issues? No no no, I sold my Stingray kit and my Aston Martin DB5.) Improvising a sofa out of cardboard boxes and unopened Ikea flatpacks, I started reading “Wizard Ship” by F Haines Price, torn from the pages of Worlds of If for November 1968. And, you have to understand, this was from the days before Star Wars. SF was proper then; we even said it stood for ‘speculative fiction’. Despite its title, the story most definitely was not about sword-wielding wizards in spaceships.
Anyway, just like that damned whodunit you find on holiday, the last page of the story was of course missing. And naturally I then had to go and track the magazine down on eBay and pay $10 and postage to see how it ended.
That’s the ideal in free content. You give away 99% of your story and people pay because, because… they just have to know. Okay, it wouldn’t work. Too many other distractions, too many movies and books and music downloads demanding people’s time. But the idea of giving away the first third, say, of your story? That I like. If you’re gripped by what you’ve seen, you’ll want to read the rest. And if you aren’t - well, in that case we wouldn’t have done our job properly and we wouldn’t deserve your money, would we?