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by Rick Klaw

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Lori Wolf obituary
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Synergy

Texas fandom has lost one of its shining stars and most active members. Lori Wolf, a beloved and integral part of the Central Texas science fiction scene, succumbed to ovarian cancer after nearly a year-long struggle. As vice-president of the Fandom Association of Central Texas (FACT), she was influential and pivotal to the success of many science fiction-related events, including the long running ArmadilloCon.

I first met Lori ten years ago when she came to work at the now closed Adventures In Crime & Space. Crime & Space was a small science fiction/mystery bookstore nestled in downtown Austin. In those cozier shops where you have maybe five employees, everyone gets to know each other very well. I found Lori to be very intelligent and well read with a sharp, dry wit. As a bookseller, she was the perfect complement to me. Our book tastes rarely crossed and we developed a mutual respect. Lori was a fan of cozy mysteries and much bigger reader of fantasies than me. She educated me about books and writers that I never had and probably will never read. When I left Crime & Space, I missed were my frequent conversations with Lori. When we met up at conventions, I enjoyed the continuation of many of our discussions that started at Crime & Space.

Lori wasn't the first or the last bookseller with whom I developed a synergy. My second bookstore job (my first was for two months in Houston) was at a Bookstop in Austin. It's weird to remember that store since the company, for the most part, has been folded into Barnes & Noble1 and the very location, where I worked, is now a bridal shop. I still do a double take when I drive by the old location. Before B&N bought Bookstop2, this particular store had the greatest collection of bookselling talent I have ever worked with. The current head of marketing for the University of Texas Press, a Barnes & Noble district manager, a former B&N district manager who is now the manager of one of the company's most successful stores, a member of the small store development team for Ingram3, a distinguished book artist/designer, and a buyer for the biggest independent bookstore in Texas -- all worked with me at that store. Most of my fellow booksellers became bookstore managers either Bookstop/B&N or with other companies, and many of them became published critics.

Philip K. Dick When I left Bookstop, years later, to manage Adventures In Crime & Space, I took three Bookstop employees with me, including John Barton who became my assistant manager (and later the store manager when I left). If Lori was a perfect compliment as a bookseller, John was as a manager. His often calm demeanor and years of management experience was a good influence on my head-strong, emotional style of leadership. He helped to refine and define my managerial style by grounding me and showing me patience. John and I would accomplish seeming miracles by starting with no fixtures, bookcases, store front, or new stock to open a new store in about six weeks. We specialized in unusual promotions that prompted The Austin Chronicle to name Crime & Space the coolest bookstore in the city. My all-time favorite promotion was the Philip K. Dick signing. (Yes, we knew he was dead.) The first year the store was open, April Fool's Day fell on a Saturday, so John and I decided to schedule a "PKD signing" on that day. Figuring no one would take us seriously, we sent out press releases and posted announcements on the store's website. The Chronicle decided to play along and ran the gag as fact. We started to get phone calls asking when Mr. Dick would be signing and whether he would sign his older books... all of the usual calls a store gets for about upcoming event. John and I planned to sell all PKD titles for 20% off on April 1 to help assuage disappointed customers and to amuse fans in on the joke. It was all set to go until one of the store owners got cold feet. She was worried that we would offend someone. I've rarely worried about being offensive, and besides this event could greatly increase the "cool" quotient of the store -- absolutely essential to the success of a small bookstore. (If people believe a place is hip or cool, they will frequent it.) Since she was the owner, she won. Eventually, I realized that our visions differed, so I resigned to become managing editor of MOJO Press.

Darkest Heart Perhaps the most unusual event, that actually happened, took place on a warm September Sunday later that year. John and I arranged an early afternoon signing with Nancy A. Collins, creator of the popular Sonja Blue vampire novels, double-billed with a late afternoon devival4 with the Reverend Ivan Stang, founder of the Church of the Subgenius and the author of several books including the underground bestseller Book of the Subgenius. For the devival we rented a large white tent from which the good Reverend preached his unique brand of gospel. Both events were rousingly successful and a whole lot of fun. Events like this separated Crime & Space from the typical bookstore.

A few years after I left Adventures in Crime & Space, I started working at Book People. There, I once again lured John away from a rival bookstore. (This time it was Borders.) John is still at Book People where he is the Inventory Manager and a buyer. I hold out hope that we will work together again.

There have been others. I met Peggy Hailey when I started at Book People. Rarely have I ever hit it off with someone so quickly. Peggy is one of those special people whom everyone likes immediately, but with us it was different. Rarely had either of us met another so in tune with our peculiar reading tastes. Within weeks of meeting each other, we were recommending authors and sharing geek lore. We already had respect for each other, but it was that first Christmas in the store that really cemented our friendship. Peggy was complaining that no one has ever been able to give her books that she liked and/or didn't already own. I took that as Dr. Adder a challenge. (And it was.) That holiday season I presented Peggy with two of K.W. Jeter's twisted novels, Dr. Adder and The Glass Hammer. She didn't own them nor had she already read them. She loved them. In the five years since, for both Peggy's birthday and Christmas, I have always found her a book that she hadn't read and sometimes hadn't even heard of. Peggy has since become one of my closest friends. She still works at Book People as the head buyer, and when the guys at RevolutionSF were starting up, I recommended Peggy as their books editor, a post she still holds.

Geek Confidential And there is Brandy. I met Brandy Whitten on my first day at Book People. Within five months, we were hanging out, and in nine months we were dating. Two years later, we were married. The dedication to my book Geek Confidential reads "For Brandy -- You are the sun, the moon, the stars, my everything." This isn't just lip service. With her unique look at the world and her understanding of many diverse things (how many people speak French, understand economics, comprehend Buckminster Fuller, explain the meanings of most religions, and still love Looney Tunes?), Brandy is an integral and welcomed part of all aspects of my life, including my writing. Every article, essay, and review I write, Brandy goes over with her red pen. I know that traditionally, wives make the worst editors but, in this case, tradition is wrong. The quality of my writing increased when Brandy began editing my work. She looks for far more than misspellings (especially since I'm a better speller than she is) and punctuation errors (with which I do need help), Brandy challenges me, pushes me to make every piece better than the previous. She questions every vagueness and vagary. Everything in my essays needs importance and purpose. Brandy has mean side though. She has made a list of verboten words and phrases. Brandy has gotten to the point that every time I use "wonderful," she hits me in the arm. ("It's too vague," she screams.) Now when I even think of using that word, my arm hurts. OW! Even with the pain, I can't imagine a life without Brandy.

This brings me back to Lori Wolf. It's difficult to think of Lori without A.T. Campbell, her loving husband. He is a caring man who is genuinely concerned about the feelings of others. Rarely have I heard him even utter a harsh word. A.T. is what we call, in these parts, "good people." His pain and anguish over recent events was palpable at Lori's memorial service. My condolences and thoughts go out to A.T. and to his and Lori's families for their loss. She will be missed.


1 Of the five Bookstops in Austin, only one remains. I'm not sure of their status in other cities.

2 Bookstop was one of the first "superstore" book chains. Based in Austin, they had stores throughout Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and California. B & N bought in order to develop their own chain of superstores.

3 The largest book distributor in the United States.

4 Imagine a twisted, humorous sort of revival complete with congregation, chants, preaching, and the like. It is a po-mo, Dada, post-consumerist, "put you faith in Bob" sort of spectacle.

Copyright © 2004 Rick Klaw

Not content with just being a regular columnist for SF Site, Rick Klaw decided to collect his columns, essays, reviews, and other things Klaw in Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century (currently available from Monkey Brains, Inc). As a freelance editor, former book buyer, managing editor, and bookstore manager, Rick has experience with most aspects of the book business. He has recently moved into a new house where he once again confirmed that books are indeed heavy.


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