I love my Mom. Getting a package from her is always an experience. She's lived in Alaska since she was 9. Back in the days when TV was two weeks behind the rest of the country if you got it at all because they had to ground-ship the tapes up there. Moving stuff around wasn't quite as easy as today, so when you shipped something you made damned skippy sure that the thing was properly wrapped and taped. It had to be able to stand freezing, bumps, mashing and all sorts of indignities. She's never got over the habit, I'm afraid, even in these days of FedEx.
I received a vaguely cube-shaped box that looked like it was wearing a space-suit. You could have shipped the thing to the Moon, at any rate. It was wrapped in white paper with the shipping information written on it in 200pt Sharpie-script, and then entirely mummy-wrapped in clear strapping tape. Once you hacked your way through the epidermis, you discovered a dermal layer of yet another complete wrapping of white paper and tape. Under that, lay a layer of duct tape, completely covering the box. Then you actually get to the box. Which contained another box, and several of those packing things that look like blown-up Baggies. Opening that last box revealed the treasure - six books. I kid you not, she armor-plated books to ship them.
Not that I'm complaining. You see, these books are special. I sometimes think she wonders exactly what kind of cuckoo brought me to her nest. She's very proud of me, but she really doesn't get this whole computer thing, and most of the rest of the stuff I do. But she went out and found something that I will cherish.
Among others, it was E.E. Smith's "Lensmen" series that was read and re-read all through my jr high years. The librarian used to have to order me to turn them in so someone else could have a turn (but no one ever did). I'd let them sit for a week as per our deal, and then I'd go and get them again. I had a set of them I got when I was grown, but I lost them in the move to Seattle. Since I've gotten down here, I've only been able to find one - a first paperback edition of the last book, printed in 1966. It's the same edition our library had, except theirs was a library edition. I hardly dare to read the thing because it's fragile, but I like knowing it's there. I had bragged about finding that one a couple years ago, but we hadn't really talked about it since. She found that an obscure publishing house had re-printed the whole thing in trade-paperback editions with new forwards by such lights as Michael Straczynski, but with all the original artwork from the 1954 hard-bound editions. That's what she sent to me in that space suit.
I love them, but I don't expect a lot of others to.
If you're looking for complex characterization, don't read Lensmen. They are some of my favorite books precisely because they are anything but. Sometimes you have to believe there are real white hats in the world, at least for as long as it takes to turn those pages. Men are men, women are women, and the bad guys are big and nasty. With all that is good and bad about that. For the times they were progressive; nowadays they're offensively backwards in spots. Reading them can be like a bit of an archeology dig.
When they were written, wire recorders and phonographs were the hottest things around. Electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum and the weakest radio was new and daring. Power was palpable stuff; electricity ran through big copper wires and if you wanted a lot of it, big hunks of hardware were involved. Computers were rare and the size of rooms, and the few out there were run by punched cards.
Everything in the books is touched by this, and it's fun to me to read it and decipher what technology he was trying to stretch with his imagination and think about where we're still basically working with Bakelite, and where we've gone far ahead instead.
I'm staring down the barrel of an eight-hour wait outside an operating room, and being in that world instead of this one seems like a good way to get through it. So, you'll have to excuse me. I have to pack. And tomorrow, I have Gharlane the Eddorian to vanquish.