The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Everyone's a
comedian on the
'Bikini Planet'

November 29, 2001
By Franklin Harris

In which our hero again ventures into the bookshop and learns many things ...

"Bikini Planet" is a title that jumps at you, at least if you have Y-chromosomes, and I do.

It sounds like the title of a Cinemax "Friday After Dark" movie — Roger Corman by way of Andy Sidaris. (And whatever happened to Andy Sidaris? There is a generation of Penthouse Pets growing up without the opportunity to star as gun-toting secret agents working undercover as strippers.)

As it happens, "Bikini Planet" is the title of a new (new to paperback, anyway) sci-fi novel by David Garnett.

There is, annoyingly, no biographical info about Garnett included anywhere on or in the book, but a quick Internet search leads me to think this is his first novel, which explains why I've never heard of him.

OK, the absurd title has done its job: The book is in my hands. Normally, this is as far as it goes. There are lots of sci-fi books with silly titles, after all. But once I've got the thing to eye level, I see it is plastered with an impressive array of endorsements.

Neil "Sandman" Gaiman's blurb is featured prominently on the front cover. Neil is a serious — and seriously talented — author. I'm intrigued.

On the inside front page, right before the title page, are some other known quantities: Michael Moorcock, Kim Newman and Christopher Priest.

Of course, most of them are using the opportunity to ham it up.

"If science fiction's founding father H.G. Wells were able to read this astonishing book, he would be alive today," quips David Langford.

"David Garnett has done it again. I warned you — I warned everyone," says Priest.

" 'Bikini Planet.' Just those two words make me think of bikinis. And planets. Er, and David Garnett," offers Gaiman.

How helpful.

Well, it's only $5.99. And I have a store discount card. What the heck?

If it stinks, I'll send Gaiman the bill. I'd send it to Priest, but he did warn me, didn't he?

And now, an interlude in the magazine section ...

Good lord! Oprah's face is everywhere!

Blast. The new issue of Cult Movies magazine isn't out yet. Gah! More Oprah! Does anyone even buy her magazine? There are, like, a bazillion copies of it here, and they never go anywhere!

Elsewhere ...

"Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art" by Roger Sabin is a gorgeous coffee-table-sized book. But unlike other books its size, it is refreshingly wordy. There is a story here to be read in addition to all the illustrations.

Funny animals, romance, jungle girls, horror, superheroes, underground comix — Sabin is nothing if not thorough.

The book is a British import, and I cannot find a price anywhere. It looks like a $60 book, but I finally locate a scribbled price tag: $39.95.

The checkout girl says she thinks she may have priced it wrong, but the store's loss is my gain.

Who am I to disagree?

Among the bestsellers ...

Oprah's Book Club. Is there no end to that woman's evil?

Leaving the bookshop and moving on to the comic-book store ...

Comic-book shops are like bars for fanboys. Everybody knows your name.

The owner has three new back issues on the wall — "Miracleman" issues 1, 2 and 3 by Alan Moore, Garry Leach and Alan Davis.

These comics are nearly impossible to find, and the Rumplestiltskins on eBay want your firstborn for them. The reprint rights, unfortunately, are as elusive as the Philosopher's Stone. (Or, as elusive as an American who knows what a Philosopher's Stone is, which must be pretty elusive, since the title of the first Harry Potter adventure is "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" in nearly every country except the United States.)

The shop owner offers me a deal I can't refuse.

It has been a good day. Except for the bits about Oprah.

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