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A Short Introduction to Dave Nee
By Debbie Notkin

The first thing to know about Dave Nee is that he keeps empty jars of dry roasted Planters’ Peanuts under his bed. But if you don’t have any good way to bring that up casually in conversation, you might want some other opening. There’s no shortage.

The second thing to know about Dave is that he runs The Other Change of Hobbit, a 22-year-old science-fiction bookstore. He does this for the same reason that he used to be a librarian, the same reason that he runs the Safety Subcommittee for the more-than-100,000-person San Francisco Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Pride Parade every year, the same reason that he’ll stop tourists on the street and help them figure out which end of the map is up: because his deepest joy in life is helping people find out what they want to know. (There are also circumstances in which he thrives on hoarding information…but we won’t go there. And those situations shouldn’t apply to the average Minicon guest…)

I have a theory about this. My theory is that he discovered this pleasure (you might even call it a vocation) at a very early age and, being a smart lad, made the next step pretty quickly. If you like sharing information, it’s good to have a lot of information to share. Ergo, he set about acquiring information. And he did a world-class job.

Now, it’s not too surprising that he knows an extraordinary amount about science fiction: you’d expect a science-fiction bookseller to have that. (You might not expect him to have a near-complete collection of 1960s and 70s science fiction paperbacks filed by publisher and book number…but, as Dave will cheerfully explain to you, that’s the most obvious filing system. (This, of course, only works if you’re Dave and you remember books by who published them and in what order.) The book collection goes far beyond those paperbacks in a lot of directions.

It’s not especially surprising that he has a wealth of information about comic books?lots of people love both science fiction and comic books. His comic book collection used to rival his book collection; these days, it’s mostly been redistributed into other hands.

Perhaps movies and film could be considered a logical extension. They’re popular culture, after all. Dave’s laser disc collection is nothing like the books and comics, but it’s significant. And he’s the person I call when I want to know the trade gossip about a movie, whether it was released last week or in 1949.

Dave’s encyclopedic information about music (classical, rock, folk, opera, you name it) is a little further afield, but it’s extraordinary. (Yes, he also files his records by label and label number. And he was about the third or fourth person I knew to buy a CD player, but his thousands of CDs haven’t replaced his love for vinyl. I miss the days when the little Russian émigré used to stop by the bookstore privately hawking decades-old European opera recordings, because he knew Dave was interested.) He’s certainly the only person I know who will play the seven or eight recordings he owns of a particular symphony and record the difference (in seconds) the various conductors and orchestras take for each movement, and analyze how that affects the performances. This wouldn’t impress me anywhere near so much if he didn’t manage to do it without ever losing track of the emotional power of the music.

Then there’s gay history, both as it relates to science fiction fan history (if you didn’t know, there’s a huge overlap) and as a specialty in its own right.

And there’s the history and current goings-on of the San Francisco Bay Area and environs. (Dave is that oddity, the native Californian. In fact, when he was born his parents were living at an address that has been immortalized by Anthony Boucher in “The Complete Werewolf.” Dave claims this is a coincidence.)

And trains.

And good food, both home cooking and in restaurants.

And theater and ballet.

And the necessary knowledge and experience to fieldstrip any computer and restore it to a faster and more efficient version of its former self.

And bibliographies and databases.

And Tarot cards (especially the Crowley deck).

Finally, there’s the mound of stuff generated by collecting all these things. Perhaps the last thing you need to know about Dave (and in some ways the most important) is that he has friends who care for him enough to help him move all his stuff every time he moves: books, records, comics, papers, computers, and the stuffed lesser panda (that’s the brown one that doesn’t look like a bear, not the familiar black-and-white panda), and even the occasional bit of furniture holding up a pile of bookstore records or a stack of books. No one gets those kinds of friends just from imparting information: Dave can listen, too, and share wisdom as well as knowledge.

You couldn’t have a more knowledgeable, interesting, or entertaining guest of honor at Minicon. Don’t miss your chance to let him point some of that information your way!


First published in the Souvenir Book for Minicon 34, April 2–4, 1999.