Chapter 3

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This section is dedicated to Barnes and Noble, a US national chain of bookstores. As America's mom-and-pop bookstores were vanishing, Barnes and Noble started to build these gigantic temples to reading all across the land. Stocking tens of thousands of titles (the mall bookstores and grocery-store spinner racks had stocked a small fraction of that) and keeping long hours that were convenient to families, working people and others potential readers, the B&N stores kept the careers of many writers afloat, stocking titles that smaller stores couldn't possibly afford to keep on their limited shelves. B&N has always had strong community outreach programs, and I've done some of my best-attended, best-organized signings at B&N stores, including the great events at the (sadly departed) B&N in Union Square, New York, where the mega-signing after the Nebula Awards took place, and the B&N in Chicago that hosted the event after the Nebula Awards a few years later. Best of all is that B&N's "geeky" buyers really Get It when it comes to science fiction, comics and manga, games and similar titles. They're passionate and knowledgeable about the field and it shows in the excellent selection on display at the stores.

Barnes and Noble Nook:


All day long, people had been telling me that the weather man said we were in for a dust storm, but I just assumed that "dust storm" meant that I'd have to tuck my scarf under the lower rim of my goggles, the way I had been doing every time it got windy on the playa.

But the dust storm that blew up after we left Zeb behind and returned to the nonstop circus was insane. The night turned white with flying dust, and our lights just bounced back in our faces, creating gloomy grey zones in front of us that seemed to go on forever. It reminded me of really bad fog, the kind of thing you get sometimes in San Francisco, usually in the middle of summer, reducing all the tourists in their shorts and T-shirts to hypothermia candidates. But fog made it hard to see, and the dust-storm made it hard -- nearly impossible -- to breathe. Our eyes and noses streamed, our mouths were caked with dust, every breath triggered a coughing fit. We stumbled and staggered and clutched each other's hands because if we let go, we'd be swallowed by the storm.

Ange pulled my ear down to her mouth and shouted, "We have to get inside!"

"I know!" I said. "I'm just trying to figure out how to get back to camp: I think we're around Nine O'Clock and B." The ring roads that proceeded concentrically from center-camp were lettered in alphabetical order. We were at Seven Fifteen and L, way out in the hinterlands. Without the dust, the walk would have taken fifteen minutes, and been altogether pleasant. With the dust... well, it felt like it might take hours.

"Screw that," Ange said. "We have to get inside somewhere now." She started dragging me. I tripped over a piece of rebar hammered into the playa and topped with a punctured tennis ball -- someone's tent stake. Ange's iron grip kept me from falling, and she hauled me along.

Then we were at a structure -- a hexa-yurt, made from triangular slabs of flat styrofoam, duct taped on its seams. The outside was covered with an insulating layer of silver-painted bubble wrap. We felt our way around to the "door" (a styro slab with a duct tape hinge on one edge and a pull-loop). Ange was about to yank this open when I stopped her and knocked instead. Storm or no storm, it was weird and wrong to just walk into some stranger's home.

The wind howled. If someone was coming, I couldn't hear them over its terrible moaning whistle. I raised my hand to knock again, and the door swung open. A bearded face peered out at us and shouted, "Get in!"

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