First published in 1998 in Science Fiction Age, Cory Doctorow’s short story “Craphound” is about nostalgia for the past and childhood memories in a future where aliens walk among us and trade fantastic technology for trinkets and do-dads. This story struck a chord for me, because I’m a craphound at heart. I enjoy browsing junk stores and particularly vintage toy shops (for original Star Wars toys of course).
When the narrator, Jerry is talking about finding treasures like Ace Doubles or old pawn receipts, he puts it into words:
It all made poems. The old pulp novels and the pawn ticket, when I spread them out in the living room in front of the TV, and arranged them just so, they made up a poem that could take my breath away (74).
The pieces do form a kind of poem about people’s lives, their loves and passions, their mistakes and triumphs. He goes on to say:
Over the years, I’ve found the steel desk and the wall sconces and carousel animals and tin Coca-Cola signs galore. Finding them feels right, like I’ve checked off an item on a checklist…it’s touching them again, just once, having them pass through my possession that makes it good (75).
I feel this way when it comes to finding something that I’m looking for, but don’t really need. Just knowing that it’s out there somewhere and I got to see it energizes me.
If you want to relive the past, if only for a bit, you should read “Craphound.” I found it in Gardner Dozois’ The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 12, and it’s also collected in Cory Doctorow’s A Place So Foreign and Eight More, but Cory has been very kind to release it online under a Creative Commons license here. The story has also been read on the Escape Pod podcast, so you can download and listen to the story here.