Over a week ago, we asked you to describe your favorite bookstore or comic book shop to win a giant box of free books from DelRey/Spectra. Now we've got our winner - and several runners-up.
This was one of my favorite contests we've done at io9, because I love bookstores - and the next-best thing to visiting a bookstore, for a bookstore nerd, is reading descriptions of bookstores.
I picked the winner based on how the writer, Allen_Richards, captured the way bookstores become communities. He's explored how a bookstore is about more than atmosphere and a good collection - it's also about the friends you make there, and the stories you share. (Oh, and Allen, email me with your address so we can send you the prize! My email is in the masthead.)
The Bookery Fantasy in Fairborn, Oh, serviced both Wright State University, where I went to college, and the servicemen and women of Wright Patterson Airforce base (even going so far as to mail comics to servicemen overseas, or simply holding them on file until they returned stateside). Pretty much everything I know about fandom I learned from that place.
When I first discovered The Bookery, back in 1991, I was a freshman at WSU, 420 miles from home, and knew no one in the area. The Bookery was located in an old house and divided into distinct sections, the comicshop and the Golden Age comic shop. Had I not glanced across the parking lot while driving past and caught the "comics" sign set back from the road, I would have mistaken the place for a rundown shack. There was also a room for used books, where I picked up many old horror, sci-fi (completed my run of Robotech first editions, not that they were ever worth anything), and suspense novels. This room also shared the gaming materials, and while I don't game it allowed me to get to know the employee who was in charge of the gaming equipment, Kevin Hamilton. We bonded through a mutual love of Joe Lansdale, The X-Files, and anime. I was there practically every other day picking up Lansdale books I'd missed over the years, and this gave us the opportunity to compare notes. Kevin would always hold and suggest the latest crime comics for me. A few years later Kevin and I tried to shoot an adaptation of Lansdale's THE JOB, after Lansdale informed us somebody else had just purchased the rights and we had to abandon that dream.
Through Kevin, I got to know some of the other employees, like the manager Steve Bates. Steve was a family man who left Wright State to manage the shop. He busted my balls for years after catching me riding in a friends motorcycle sidecar, but I didn't mind as Steve let me have first crack at Fort Knox. And my "Fort Knox," I mean the storage room where they kept a recently purchased motherload of Asian cinema vhs pre-records and bootlegs. Tons of action including my first exposure to some John Woo masterpieces, like BULLET IN THE HEAD, and the memory of trying to decipher the blurry, almost non-existent Engrish subtitles brings back the headaches suffered while squinting to read them in the first place. There were others, like the sleazy sci-fi goodness of ROBOTRIX, and when I finished picking my brains off the wall behind me after having my mind so thoroughly blown, I had to invite Steve to play my Elvis-impersonating hitman on THE JOB. How could such a cool guy NOT be part of my movie???
The Bookery outgrew its shop, and eventually moved to downtown Fairborn taking up two large storefronts. The room for used books was now an entire storefront dedicated to used and rare books, and knowing my love for literature, those guys gave me first crack at some nice limited editions, always at a discount. Looking at my bookcase right now, the majority of my prized possessions came from there: Lansdale's NIGHTRUNNERS from Ziesing Press, Chizmar's COLD BLOOD, also from Ziesing, an ARC for Skipp & Spector's BOOK OF THE DEAD 2, an imported Mikimoto artbook, and a slipcased Robotech Art, among others... They also threw me lots of freebies, and from their discarded books is where my love for Nina Kiriki Hoffman stems. Some of her fantasy novels are the only books I've read that I've never wanted to end. I once shared her novel THE THREAD THAT BINDS THE BONES with a girl I was dating and she shared those exact thoughts with me when she reached the last page. I knew on the spot that I wanted to marry her.
Eventually, I became friendly with all the employees, particularly one named Sam Lee, who became like my little brother, just as I had been Kevin's. Sam taught me about anime, and I could see the annoyance in his eyes whenever I'd incorrectly pronounce ESCAFLOWNE (apparently, there's an accent on the end, which I should have known considering I'd studied Japanese). I lost touch with Same about 10 years ago, but bumped into him on my last trip to Fairborn about 5 or 6 years ago. He'd finished school and seemed so ecstatic at his life ahead. He's just gotten his own place a new job - the career he's always wanted. I recently found out that he died in his sleep a few years ago from heart failure. I don't think he'd hit 30.
Those guys also introduced me to other local folk with similar interests. Jeff Drouhard worked at Wright-Pat and possessed a love of anime second to known. Andrew Kaplan was an even bigger Lansdale fan that I was, and while he worked at another bookstore, the Borders-owned Books & Co., he made all his purchases at the Bookery.
I miss Sam and all those guys, and if I hadn't fallen in love with Lansdale's sci-fi classic THE DRIVE-IN, I wouldn't have been there so much in those early days and would have missed out on the chance to make some great friends, many of whom I haven't even mentioned. I'd heard Steve now works for Diamond comics distribution, but I can't find Kevin. His website BadAfterTaste.com closed down a few years ago, and at some point he followed me into film studies. I hope it made it somewhere in the industry. Jeff still works on base, and Andrew is head librarian at a branch in Las Vegas. Like me, they've all moved on and I wish them well. Those guys have no idea how they helped shape my geeky self. While they seriously put a hurtin' on my wallet, they helped me discover a wealth of pop-art, and I'm indebted to them all.
While I did shoot numerous projects at The Bookery, I don't have access to those photos or videos. You can find pictures on their website: www.BookeryFantasy.com I've come across other bookstores and comic shops over the years, but they all pale in comparison on every level.
I picked out a couple other notable and cool entries to share here, either because they represented what several people had said or they were just particularly rich descriptions of bookstores and their communities.
Waldenbooks bookstores have been closing all across North America over the past month, and a lot of people wrote in comments about happy memories about this store - yes, it was a chain, eventually owned by Borders, but it gave people a lot of joy. Here's a great memorial to the store, from brownjawa:
My favorite bookstore is the Waldenbooks/Borders Express that closed a couple of years ago in my hometown. As a kid, I used to save my allowance and go every week for a new Star Wars book. Back then, they were only $5 and my only hardship was finding the loose change to pay the taxes. Over an entire summer that bled into fall, I read every adult Star Wars post-ROTJ book in print until I finally caught up. The store always had the SF/F section right up front and after that, I would march right up to the bays, pluck the latest installment on the day of release and make my purchase. It was a huge store to me then, with two entrances and long aisle down the middle separating towering shelves of books. Some of the smaller aisles snaked around corners or opened into new clearings of sections I hadn't noticed before. When I got older, I was surprised when the manager actually hired me and I stayed there a few years until our store was forced to close, shortly after a remodel. Of course I was devastated—this store had been a huge part of my life for so long, it felt like I was losing a friend. I kept the SF/F section clean and organized, taking particular care with the Star Wars books until the day we had to pack everything up and move out. To this day I haven't found another store that could replace that one. Also, I never get over the weird feeling of having to buy the newest Star Wars book from another store. It will always hold a special place in my heart!
I just love this picture of a Swedish scifi store, from bonjourhappylion, who writes:
I'm studying in Stockholm right now and spent a decent amount of time trying to scope out a good bookstore, especially one that carried scifi in Swedish or English. Some googling helped me find Science Fiction Bokhandeln in Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the city. Nothing is more awesome than walking down really old streets and finding a dragon attacking a spaceship. I was really amazed how huge the store was, and was able to find all the books I was looking for(although with Swedish prices, I wasn't able to buy too many). Its a must visit for Scifi or Fantasy book fans visiting Stockholm, Sweden!
Here's another picture I love, as well as a good story of a local bookstore, from Kitradu:
Gardner's on Mingo between 51st and 41st here in Tulsa has been around for years. When I was a sophomore in High School a friend of mine's mother took us there and I fell in love immediately. I picked up a book, the title of which I recognized but had never thought much of. Frank Herbert's "Dune." It was from the 70's, tattered and dingy, and I loved it. The store is still there and over the next several years I would buy more books, comic books (including the first Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men 205), playing classic arcade games like Smash TV, and more recently finding more old Frank Herbert books and even Vincent King, featured here before (I looked thanks to io9!). It started as a used book store including comics. Today they've grown exponentially, with a wi-fi coffee bar, selling video games, DVD's and Blu-Rays, and even connecting to a little family owned Mexican resturaunt. Any time I want to look for something hard to find, I always start at Gardner's. Despite so much growth, it's interior is just rows and rows of make-shift shelves and tons of books.
Another cool local bookstore is brought to life by Jessica Lewis:
My favorite book/comic store is a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Alabama called Legion. They are in an almost-abandoned length of stores on a back road that pretty much no one knows about except for the savviest of southern nerds. They inhabit three stores - one for manga, one for comics/sci-fi, and one for rpg gamers. Even though they have three stores none of them have air conditioning, combine that with swarms of nerds and you get a ripe aroma that says "home" (or soggy burritos, whichever you prefer). Going into the comic book store you see comics, books, and collectibles piled all the way to the ceiling — They also have shelves and comic boxes filled to the brim with dorkalicious goodies. It's an adventure every time we go (which is almost every payday), and I always find something new and interesting to tickle my nerdy fancy.
The manga store is a new add-on, and one of my favorite things about Legion. They have manga that is almost impossible to find, as well as DVDs to buy or rent (most of which are insanely quirky and weird finds from Japan). I always get my monthly dose of horror manga from legion, because where else am I going to find Kazuo Umezu (the father of horror manga) comics? The people who work at Legion are all friends, and seem to enjoy the time they spend at their little comic shop, which makes for great customer service. Going to Legion is almost like going to a little nerd convention every week — it's a place where every breed of nerd/dork/geek mingle together in perfect harmony (I have yet to meet one person there who wasn't just made of awesome). From the moment you step on their unfinished, cracked concrete floors, smell the savory, un-airconditioned aroma of nerds at play, and see the multitude of random collectibles and books you know this is one special place.
Also, I just thought this was a great bookstore story about nerd subversion, from DARSFOG:
There was a little bookstore in the town where i went to college. She had a lot of books even some hard to find ones that are no longer in print. She even had DnD books, but she kept them hidden (since this was a small christian town.) She was a kind hearted lady. She help me track down the original print of the Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher.
There were a ton of testimonials about other bookstores, like Powell's in Portland, OR and 9 Lives in San Antonio TX, as well as many others, so go read them all and find out if any of them are in your town!