You Know…THAT Bookstore. The One.
There isn’t just “one,” of course. We all have our convenient go-to source for books, be they brick or pixel, yet I’d argue each of us also has that one science fiction and fantasy (and horror) bookstore closest to our hearts. The one we think of, when asked. That store where, yes, everybody knows the name.
Of the book you haven’t read yet but really should. Of the author you’ve collected from your teens. Of the new one you want to tell the world about. Of anything and everything genre.
Because that’s what these stores do, you see. They’re our special places. Our infallible libraries, staffed by, well, human card catalogues—not the stiff sort, you realize, but the mutant super power sort with extraordinary cookies–itching to put reader and book together.
Lucky you, if you’ve one close by, for you can go any time you wish. The rest of us must bide our time and wait our chance. Maybe we’ll slip away from more mundane family or friends while on holiday and lose a few blissful hours browsing. Perhaps we’ll sneak out during a break from a business conference at the hotel around the block. In our case, the entire family will take over the store! However we arrive, the reward starts the instant we step inside the door. (Or sooner, if you can’t see inside for the amazing posters!)
The first thing you notice?
True bookstores have fragrance. Rapture Au New Book. You’ve Missed Me Elder Book Musk. Comic Lust Cologne. Scents to evoke anticipation and daydreams and wonderful memories—excuse me while I sit and sigh happily. Join in, if you like.
Their very names send shivers of joy down the spine. White Dwarf. Flights of Fantasy. Mysterious Galaxy. Pandemonium. Slow Glass Books. Bakka-Phoenix. Sentry Box. Uncle Hugos. Owl’s Nest, University Bookstore (Seattle WA). McNally Robinson. Borderlands. Barbaras Books (now retired, but fully deserving of mention). Toadstool. Perfect Books. Paragraphie. Galaxy Books. Dreamhaven. Forbidden Planet.*
Box stores come and go.** Bestselling whatevers prop up tables at garage sales. But these stores? Our stores?
Keep their magic.
If you think we readers are grateful for that, trust me, authors like myself couldn’t survive without them. Why? Because genre bookstores are where our core readership discovers us, and not by accident. When staff in one of those stores puts my book in your hand, you trust that recommendation. And if you like what you read?
In a good, platonic, forever better together way. After all, we SF/F/H readers want more of what we love, by authors we love. Us authors? We’re delighted to oblige. It’s an affair that fosters careers and fills bookshelves, in turn helping our special stores thrive.
As best they can. That these stores have stood the test of time and change isn’t because we buy enough books from them (buy more!) but because they find ways to weather any storm. (Including buckets on the floors.) A labour of love–and that labour is immense, unending, and too-often thankless–must still pay the bills. Some combine books with games–and game nights; others with comics or art. They’ve tucked genre-themed restaurants inside. Most have taken their mail order online. A few have no physical home at all, existing only during conventions, such as the famous Larry Smith Books. (Authors, do let he and Sally know if you’ll be there too. They work miracles, but appreciate a heads up on the titles to stock.)
Best of all? Our stores invite authors! Launches. Workshops. Signings. Hanging out. We’re welcome anytime because, after all, these are the stores with our readers.
To be hosted by one of these stores is, well, MINDBLOWING!
Too much? Not at all. Forget being on that top ten list or opening your first box of author copies. Seeing your name in the window of THAT store is when you finally believe. It’s real. You write this stuff and people—your people–will read your book.
Sometimes, it’s hard to let go.
Best thing ever! Signing with my own favourite author and friend, Karina Sumner-Smith.
My sincere, deep gratitude to all who work in bookstores. We may not say it enough, our noses being deep inside books, but you are the beating heart of our story universe. Without you, we would be adrift and voiceless. With you?
Readers and writers fall in love, over and over again.
*I’ll have missed so many. Please share your favourite in the comments so they can become mine too!
**A ridiculous overstatement, you realize. Yes, some box stores are deserts for us, but there are others with spectacular SF/F sections, having super-powered staff (hi Stacey!) who love these books every bit as much as the most devoted indie. You know the ones I mean. As our genres gather, ahem, widened popularity, these staff are able to expand what they offer, not a bad trend at all. They won’t ever replace OUR stores, but let’s applaud, fervently, their efforts!
Julie Czerneda was kind enough to include her in her givesaway, spanning across her entire blog tour. The giveaway is below, and is for 2 sets of 2 books. 1 mass market of A GULF OF TIME AND STARS and 1 hardcover of GATE TO FUTURES PAST.
Since 1997, Canadian author/former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her boundless curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Recently, she began her first fantasy series: Night’s Edge with A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel. A Play of Shadow followed, winning the 2015 Aurora. While there’ll be more fantasy, Julie’s back in science fiction to complete her Clan Chronicles series. Reunification #1: This Gulf of Time and Stars, came out in 2015. #2: The Gate to Futures Past will be released this September. Volume #3: To Guard Against the Dark, follows October 2017. An award-winning editor as well, Julie’s latest project is editing the 2017 Nebula Awards Showcase, a singular honour. Meet Julie at Acadia’s Dark Sky Festival, Bar Harbor, Maine this September and at Hal-Con, Halifax, this November. For more, please visit www.czerneda.com.
About the Series:
The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.
And what will be the fate of all.
The Gate to Futures Past is set to be released September 6th, 2016.
There’s a lovely bookstore in the small town of Walla Walla it’s called Earthlight Books: http://www.earthlightbooks.com family owned and where I spent nearly all my allowances and have never regretted it once.
Note: not sure why my Kindle keyboard is insisting on all caps, I do apologize.
I remember Bakka so long ago down on Queen St. Just a few blocks from the girl’s residence I lived in. It was a very special discovery.