It may be redundant to say this, but we love classic SF. I know! Who saw that coming?!
The thing is, we don’t just love it because we publish lots of it – in fact, it’s the opposite: we publish lots of it because we love it. And we also love it when other people love it – people like Graham Ainsley, whose awesome labour of love, classic SF webstore The Space Merchants, we urge you to investigate and support. Graham has put together a wonderful catalogue of classic SF books, digests, magazines and artwork. We think it’s brilliant and decided to offer Graham a guest spot on the SF Gateway blog to tell everyone more about it . . .
With the closing in 2009 of the Fantasy Centre in North London, the capital found itself bereft of dedicated second-hand science fiction bookshops. As a long-time customer, news of its closing was heart-breaking, but rising rent costs and the advancement of Amazon Marketplace were huge challenges that few independent booksellers managed to get through unscathed. From that moment though, a dream was born and a plan hatched – we were determined to bring used SF back, to create a hub in which fans both old and new could (re)discover and delight over the classic SF paperbacks and magazines of yesteryear which we hold so dear.
The Space Merchants, named after the classic SF satire by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, is an online bookshop and the first major step in our undertaking. It took over 4 months to construct and stock, and was launched earlier this year on July 1st. The aim was to produce a modern and vibrant webstore, lavished with the kind of care and attention to detail that could only come about from fans that you couldn’t find anywhere else on the internet.
Every single item in the shop is scanned at the highest quality and painstaking effort is made to list all blurb and magazine contents so that customers can search for not only their favourite authors and books, but individual short story titles, artists and magazine contributors throughout our entire inventory. Anthologies, collections and mind-blowing artwork have always been an integral part of SF, so listing this kind of information and making it available to customers was always an important goal for us, especially so considering that these kind of details are so often omitted on other stores. When looking at a book on our website we have tried to do everything we can to make the experience as close as possible to actually holding the book in your hand and looking it over as you would in a brick and mortar shop. We take SF seriously, we love it, and we wanted to create an environment in which that respect and adoration was self-evident.
The bulk of our stock is novels, anthologies and collections. But the aim was always to become a one-stop shop for all aspects of SF literature, so that meant also sourcing classic SF magazines and digests such as Galaxy, F&SF, Amazing Stories and Astounding. We’ve started off on the right track with hundreds of vintage SF digests on display, and hundreds more to be listed over the coming months. We also stock a variety of critical studies of both the genre itself and its authors, from Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss to New Maps Of Hell by Kingsley Amis, and an extensive back catalogue of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction.
We have also recently launched a film club, dedicated to the celebration of classic SF film and television. Science Fiction Theatre will bring to the big screen the best, the most influential, but not necessarily the most well-known SF films and shows from the past 70 years. It has also given us an opportunity to commission and sell original poster designs for these classic films, which has produced incredible results so far. The pilot screening, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was very well received and SFT will be forming a regular part of our output, starting up again in January as a monthly event based at the Duke of Wellington in Dalston, North London.