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Newsletter #65 March - June, 2004

30th Anniversary Sale

        Uncle Hugo's is the oldest surviving science fiction bookstore in the United States (and the number surviving dropped dramatically last year.) We opened for business on March 2, 1974. To encourage you to help us celebrate Uncle Hugo's 30th anniversary, we're having a big sale. Come into either Uncle Hugo's or Uncle Edgar's and get an extra 10% off everything except gift certificates. A discount card will save you even more-you'll get both the 10% savings from the sale and the 10% savings from the discount card. (Sale prices apply to in-store purchases, but not to mail orders.)
        The 30th Anniversary Sale lasts Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 7-giving you two weekends to take advantage of the sale.
        On Saturday, March 6, we will have a lot of local sf/fantasy authors in to sign their books. Check our website to find who will be signing during which time slot.

Is There a * on Your Label?

        Yes, we asked the same question last issue. Don spent close to 40 hours going through over 12,200 addresses and placed a * after about 1500 names of people we hadn't heard from in quite a while. He sent the mailing list to the printer (who also prints the addresses, sorts and bundles for the post office, and delivers to the bulk mailing center) with the *'s in place. The printer for some reason wiped out all of the *'s before printing the labels. Don has expressed his displeasure over this to the printer, who claims to have no idea how it happened, but promises it won't happen again. If it does happen again, we'll probably be using a new printer next issue.
        If there is a * after you name, it means this is the last issue you will receive unless you do something. You could (1) sign up on our website for the electronic version of the newsletter, (2) send some business our way, (3) send a contribution to help cover the cost of the Newsletter, as several people did after last issue, (4) let us know by phone, e-mail, post card, or whatever that you want to continue of receive the dead-tree version of the newsletter, or some combination of the above options.
        People without a * after their name are also urged to sign up for the electronic version of the Newsletter (please let us know to drop you from the dead-tree list) and to send business our way.

Award News

        The Preliminary Nebula Ballot consists of all works that received at least 10 nominations within the first 12 months after publication. The Final Nebula Ballot will contain the top five vote-getters per category plus perhaps a sixth title selected by a jury. The Preliminary nominees for Best Novel are Hidden Empire: The Saga of the Seven Suns, Book 1 by Kevin J. Anderson ($6.99), Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold ($25.00 signed first edition hardcover or $7.99 pb), The Mount by Carol Emshwiller ($16.00), Fitcher's Brides by Gregory Frost ($15.95), Light Music by Kathleen Ann Goonan ($7.99), A Scattering of Jades by Alexander C. Irvine ($7.99), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon ($5.99), Chindi by Jack McDevitt ($7.99). The Scar by China Mieville ($18.95), The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon ($23.95), Fallen Host by Lyda Morehouse ($7.99), The Return of Santiago by Mike Resnick ($25.95, $ pb due), Humans by Robert J. Sawyer ($6.99), Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove ($24.95 signed first edition hardcover or $7.50 pb), and Red Thunder by John Varley ($23.95 or $7.99 pb due early May).

        The nominees for the Philip K. Dick Award (for best paperback original science fiction) are Hyperthought by M. M. Buckner ($5.99). Clade by Mark Budz ($6.99), Dante's Equation by Jane Jensen ($15.95), Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan ($13.95), Spin State by Chris Moriarty ($11.95), and Steel Helix by Ann Tonsor Zeddies ($6.99).

        The shortlist for the 2004 Arthur C. Clarke Award consists of Coalescent by Stephen Baxter ($25.95), Darwin's Children by Greg Bear ($24.95), Pattern Recognition by William Gibson ($14.00), Midnight Lamp by Gwyneth Jones, Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson ($27.95), and Maul by Tricia Sullivan.

        The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2004 Edgar Allan Poe Awards. The nominees for Best Novel are The Guards by Ken Bruen ($23.95 hc or $12.95 trade pb), Out by Natsuo Kirino ($22.95), Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin ($6.99), and Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear ($24.00).
        The nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author are 12 Bliss Street by Martha Conway ($23.95), Offer of Proof by Robert Heilbrun ($24.95), Night of the Dance by James Hime ($24.95), Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel ($24.00 hc or $12.00 trade pb), The Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer ($23.95 hc or $13.95 trade pb).
        The nominees for Best Paperback Original are Cut and Run by Jeff Abbott ($6.99), The Last Witness by Joel Goldman ($6.99), Wisdom of the Bones by Christopher Hyde ($7.50), Southland by Nina Revoyr ($15.95), and Find Me Again by Sylvia Maultash.
        The nominees for Best Critical/Biographical are Mystery Women, Volume 3 by Colleen Barnett ($33.95), Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium edited by Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread ($29.95), Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan ($39.95), The American Police Novel: A History by Leroy Lad Panek, Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson ($32.50).

        The nominees for the 2004 Dilys Award are Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon by Donna Andrews ($6.99), The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick ($24.95), Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde ($24.95), Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy ($23.95 signed first edition hardcover), and Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear ($24.00).

        The nominees for the Hammett Prize (limited to U.S. or Canadian authors) at The Delicate Storm by Giles Blunt ($24.95). The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman ($13.95), Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber ($7.50), Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane ($25.95), and Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman ($24.95).

        The Crime Writers' Association has awarded its 2004 Cartier Diamond Dagger to Lawrence Block for lifetime achievement. Fox Evil by Minette Walter ($7.99) received the Gold Dagger for fiction.

        The Nero Award went to Winter and Night by S. J. Rozan ($6.99).

Change in Mail Order

        It's been 3 years since the last time we've raised our shipping charge, and during that time UPS has raised their rates 3 times (and drastically raised their rates for home addresses outside major metropolitan areas) and the post office has messed with rates at least twice. So, our shipping charge to U.S. addresses will go to $6.00 for all orders shipped after March 1, 2004. If you have the option of having a package sent to a business address instead of a home address, please let us know.

Bad Santa
by Don Blyly

        The Uncles are closed on Christmas Day, but our annual Inventory Reduction Sale starts the next day. Christmas morning I went into the store (I thought for a couple of hours) to print and post signs about the sale. Everything was going according to plan as long as I was working with the computer and printer in the back room (which is on a poured concrete slab) or posting signs in Uncle Edgar's (which is also on a poured concrete slab). But things got strange when I went up front to Uncle Hugo's (which has a wooden floor over a basement, so that somebody walking across the floor makes a lot of noise in the basement). I was half-way to the front door when I heard a voice yell out (apparently from above the suspended ceiling), "If anybody can hear me, please call the police. I'm stuck in the chimney on the roof of the book store." My first thought was that somebody out on the sidewalk was being cute, so I continued to the front door to look to see if anybody was in front of the store. There was nobody in sight, and then the voice yelled out the same message again-clearly from behind me, somewhere in the store.
        I called 9-1-1, explained the situation to the operator, who controlled her laughter enough to pass along the information to the police and the fire department.
        When the first policeman arrived, his first comment was, "You've got to be kidding." I assured him that the situation was for real, pointed out where the voice was coming from, lead him through the store to the back door, and got out my ladder. We both went up to the roof to look around. First, we found that a chimney (formerly about 3 feet tall) had been torn apart brick by brick down to the roof line, revealing a hole about 5 inches by 5 inches. Next, we found another chimney (formerly about 6 feet tall) that had also been torn apart brick by brick down to the roof line, revealing a hole about 11 inches by 11 inches. Next to this hole was a pile of clothes and a plastic bag of burglary tools. The policeman pointed his flashlight down the hole and saw a face looking up. He yelled down the hole, "Hey, buddy, what are you doing down there?" A voice came out of the hole, "I dropped my keys, and I had to come down to look for them."
        At this point, the first fire engine pulled up, so I rushed down to open the front door before they decided to demolish it. I pointed out the big pillar next to the front entrance hall (which at that point was paneled and surrounded by bookshelves) as the location of the chimney. One of the fire-rescue guys told the burglar to start talking to them, so they could figure out where he was at. He started telling them that if they would just get him out, he'd be happy to pay for all the damages. The voice was clearly coming from above the suspended ceiling. So, they proceeded to shove the bookshelves out of the way, rip down all the paneling and the suspended ceiling to get to the area he seemed to be at. Once everything was ripped out of the way, we could see a grill installed in the pillar just above the level of the suspended ceiling-it seems that when the basement furnace was replaced with a roof-top unit back in the 1950s, somebody decided to use the chimney as a non-electrical intercom between the basement and the first floor. So, anything said from anywhere in the chimney came out of the grill above the suspended ceiling. With no idea where the guy really was, the fire-rescue people first started chopping a hole about 5 feet below the grill, but the burglar yelled that it felt like they were hitting him in the back. So they started chopping a bigger hole about 5 feet lower, hoping to get just below his feet and then be able to pull him out. After they had chopped completely through the chimney and the ceramic chimney liner, the guy yelled that stuff was hitting him on the head.
        At this point, I lead a large mob of fire-rescue people and cops down to the basement. (Apparently it was a slow day, and everybody wanted to be part of this operation. While everybody was professional about getting the guy out, it was also clear that all the rescuers were very happy to be involved. They'll probably all be telling this story to their kids, grandkids, and drinking buddies for decades to come.) There was a 6 inch diameter hole in the chimney, where the furnace flue used to feed into it. I pulled out the wad of insulation and immediately saw the guy's knee. The fire-rescue people proceeded to do a really good job of destroying the chimney in the basement in order to get the guy out. As they worked, one of them told the guy, "When we get you to the hospital, they're going to want to know how long you were trapped in there." The guy told them that he had been stuck in there since 1:00 in the morning. They finally got him busted out about 10:30 in the morning. He was barefoot and wearing only a pair of blue jeans (at least I think they might have started as blue-there was so much soot inside the chimney that they were black when he was pulled out.) As they placed him on the stretcher, the first cop on the scene told him, "By the way, you're under arrest." The burglar stopped being chatty at that point. There was no sign of any keys at the bottom of the chimney.
        By the time they were taking the stretcher to the ambulance, the TV crews from Channels 4, 5, and 11 were already on the scene, and Channel 9 showed up shortly afterwards. After the police photographers finished taking photos, I let the TV crews into the building and did a show-and-tell about the incident. I pointed out that the only reason I came into the store on Christmas was because of the sale starting the next day, and gave each news crew a copy of the sales flyer. (The lead story on every TV channel in town that night was the burglar stuck in the chimney, and all the stories mentioned that the only reason I was in the store on Christmas Day was the sale starting the next day, and 3 of the 4 stations even showed the sales flyer.)
Later in the day, while I was still trying to clean up the damage in Uncle Hugo's front entrance hall, I head a pounding on the front door. A reporter and photographer from the St. Paul Pioneer Press wanted to talk to me and take some shots. (Next day, the story with a color photo of me standing next to the busted chimney in the basement made the top center of the front page of the Pioneer Press.) The next day I also did an interview by telephone with Minnesota Public Radio, which was apparently played several times.
        I had high hopes that this kind of publicity would bring in enough extra people for the sale to make up for all the expenses of repairing the damage from the burglar and the fire-rescue people, but it didn't turn out that way. The Star-Tribune ran a story without talking to me or anybody else who was familiar with what really happened. The headline: "Santa Suit? More like birthday suit" They didn't get the name of the store right, they claimed that a passer-by heard the shouting and called the police, and they gave the impression that the building was now without heat because of the damage done to the chimney. (And I heard several people during the sale comment about how brave they wer to come to the sale even though the newspaper said we would not have any heat.) Their claim that the burglar was naked was picked up by the AP, which resulted in BBC Radio in London calling to do an interview. BBC was disappointed to learn that he was only half-naked, but decided to do the interview anyway. For the MPR interview, there was a short introduction and then I was allowed to tell the story, and I thought things went pretty well. The BBC decided to make it a "cute" story, but didn't bother to warn me. So, while I was in the midst of telling the story, the announcer broke in with questions like, "How is this going to influence your plans to leave cookies for Santa?" I was not pleased with the way the BBC interview went, but still find it amazing to have been on the BBC at all.
        Apparently both CNN and Fox News carried the story nation-wide, using the stories produced by a couple of the local stations. I got a call from somebody who claimed to be a staff person for Peter Jennings, but he lost interest when he found out the burglar was only half-naked. But I never got a call from Jay Leno, who is well-known for loving stupid criminal stories.
        The guy who came out to repair the chimney damage done by the fire-rescue people told me that if I wanted the chimneys on the roof rebuilt, that would cost me about $6500 for chimney and roof work. But both chimneys that were destroyed served no useful purpose, so I just had them removed and the roof repaired. It's going to cost around $1400 to repair all the damage, and my insurance coverage is $1000 deductible. The last time I had a break-in, the insurance company I had at that time paid less the $1000 deductible, but then refused to renew the policy. My agent had a heck of a time finding a company willing to issue a policy for a business that had turned in a claim in the past 3 years, so I'm just going to pay the whole thing out of my pocket.
        I've filled out paperwork for the county attorney to try to get restitution from the burglar, but I don't have high hopes of actually getting money from the guy, either during his 15 months of prison (when he has the option of working at a low wage to pay off the restitution judgement) or after he gets out of prison again.
        The most common question from customers is, "What did the guy think he could steal from a bookstore that was worth his life?" I have no idea, and the burglar isn't talking. I have no doubt that if I hadn't come in on Christmas day, he would have been dead by the time I came in the next morning. (The temperature was 13 degrees Fahrenheit when he stripped down to his jeans and slid down the chimney. After about 9 hours in the chimney, he was in the hospital for several days before being moved to the jail.) As much stink as a single dead mouse puts out for several days, having a dead burglar in the chimney is a very unpleasant prospect. And I bet the stink, like the voice, would have come from above the suspended ceiling, making it even more difficult to figure out what was going on.

Neighborhood Update
by Don Blyly

        I've written in the past about the original plans to replace the old Chicago Ave. bridge next to the store with 3 separate bridges. That plan was defeated, and a new bridge design was presented to the community that was more traditional and much more popular. Supposedly, the old bridge was to be torn out this spring as soon as the frost was out of the ground, and the new bridge was to be completed in time for all of Chicago Ave. (street, sidewalks, lamp-posts, etc.) to be replaced before fall. Things have now become more complicated, and the timeline has shifted.
        One problem is that the state historical people have now decided that the old railroad ditch and all the bridges over it are historically significant, and that therefore they have to give their approval to all plans touching on the former railroad ditch. The county (which now owns the ditch, and plans to use federal money to convert the northern half of the ditch into biking and hiking paths from the lakes on the west side of Minneapolis to the Mississippi River, and hopes to eventually run some kind of transit in the southern half of the ditch from downtown Hopkins to the Light Rail Transit station at Hiawatha & Lake) has accepted the idea that the state historical people have the right to tell them what they can and cannot do to the ditch. Last fall, the county started working on the north side of the ditch directly across from the Uncles. Before the work, the north side of the ditch was a moderately steep but even slope from the top of the ditch all the way to the flat area at the bottom of the ditch. So, you could start walking down the slope and end up running down the slope, but then have a large flat area in which to slow down again. The county dug out the slope, built a wall of huge (slightly smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle) concrete blocks that is about 8 feet tall, and then filled in behind the new wall. There is now a slightly less steep slope leading to an 8-foot straight drop to the flat area. I thought this was a lot of trouble and expense for the county, in order to encourage injuries and law suits, so at one of the community meetings I asked the county guy in charge of the project what was going on. He said that the state historical people had decided that the slope of the ditch is historically significant and had told the county to do this project for a long stretch of the ditch for historical preservation purposes. (And there is still no plan to provide a way for hikers and bikers to get between the ditch and Chicago Ave., and apparently any plan that could be brought forward would conflict with the plans of the state historical people for the preservation of the slopes of the ditch.)
        Apparently, there was a lot more bureaucratic paper that needed to be shuffled regarding the bridge than the city had originally expected. One of the last pieces of paper to come in was approval from the state historical people for the bridge design. Now, the city has to decide if they want to approve the bridge with the approval of the state historical people attached (thereby accepting the idea that the state historical people do in fact have the power to tell the city how to spend the federal money appropriated to replace 30 bridges over the next 30 years over the Greenway); or if they want to approve the exact same bridge design without attaching the approval of the state historical people (thereby challenging the right of the state people to control how the city spends the federal money) and see if the state people then try to block the bridge they've already approved. Of course, this kind of stuff can drive engineers crazy.
        What all this means for the Uncles is that the earliest the city might start tearing out the old bridge is sometime in June, and it might be even later than that. And the rebuilding of Chicago Ave. and the sidewalk from the bridge to Lake St. won't take place until sometime in 2005. But the bridge will be about a foot higher than the old bridge (to allow enough height underneath the bridge for any transit option the county might eventually want to put down there), so the sidewalk in front of the Uncles will end up being several inches higher than it now is. They might put in a temporary new sidewalk in front of the store once the bridge is completed this fall, and then tear it out next year before putting in a permanent new sidewalk. So, we will probably have a couple of periods over the next couple of years when customers will have to come to the back door rather than wade through wet concrete to get to the front door, but we have no idea when.
        At least for the next 3 months you should still be able to get the Uncles without great difficulty. Watch for more information in the next issue of the Newsletter, at which time we hope to have a better idea of the timeline and how to avoid problems.

        It appears that things are proceeding for Ryan Companies to take over the former Sears site from the city, but I've heard that there is a LOT of negotiating going on before a final contract is signed. The city recently mailed me a copy of a report sent to the City Council regarding financing for the Active Seniors Housing and the artists lofts Ryan wants to put into the Sears building. Ryan wanted to start construction this summer, but until the final contract is signed it's hard to predict when construction will actually begin.



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