I’ve been reading fantasy novels since I was tiny. My dad read me The Hobbit when I was 5 and that was it. I devoured everything from the Belgariad to Narnia, and grew into the Stormlight Archive and Star Wars novels. When I was hired at Old Firehouse Books, I was thrilled to find out that this general bookstore has a significant lean. We sell a little bit of everything, it’s true—fiction and non-fiction, kids and adult, new and used—but it’s well-known that about half the staff skews toward science-fiction and fantasy, if given the choice. We’re housed in the original fire station of Fort Collins, CO (the old fire pole is next door in the teashop we’re attached to), but the fact that our building is the inspiration for the fire station on Disney World’s Main Street, USA, must have bled some magic into the hearts of everyone who works here. There are more than a few of us who’d love to wander not to the past but to the far-off fictional future.
There’s just something immensely satisfying about escaping into not just a different story, but a whole different world (or a whole different solar system. Or galaxy. Or dimension).
Our staff picks shelves are always a little biased. Whether you’re looking for something with a slightly darker bent (Tara can’t stop selling Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight), something with a bit of romance (Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson has bounced around all our shelves since it came out), or The Gay Stuff (Allison has had The Tiger’s Daughter on her shelf since I started working here—when she hasn’t just sent the last copy to a good home), there’s always something for every flavor of SFF fan who walks through the door.
Tor.com’s novellas have a whole shelf to themselves at the beginning of our SFF section because we can’t get enough of them. Tara’s love of Murderbot and the Wayward Children books spills into her recs constantly. My personal favorites are Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh—my exact favored brand of achy, atmospheric loveliness, and I’m a sucker for a Green Man retelling—and Desdemona and the Deep, by CSE Cooney, which absolutely hit me where I live—a story about a girl who goes to the goblin realm in an attempt to correct the heinous mistakes of her father? With actually goblin-y fairies and deals signed in blood? And trans rep and queer relationships for everyone? Sign. Me. Up. I think I called it dark and sepia-toned in my official bookseller blurb, and I stand by that; this book is gorgeous and definitely ranks on my favorites of the year.
I also can’t keep This Is How You Lose the Time War in stock. Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone have written straight up artwork. It’s a 200-page prose poem, an epistolary masterpiece, a master class in allusion. It’s intrinsically SFF and yet absolutely, gorgeously unique. It’s a time-travel spy romance—two agents of very different time-meddling organizations start writing letters to each other after messing with each other’s plans for years, and the relationship that unfolds like a blooming flower is absolutely stunning. With Easter eggs for the English majors and the music lovers, it feels ancient and new, a John Keats love-letter wrapped in jagged edges. It’s art.
And I think we’ve all agreed that Gideon the Ninth is…the store’s favorite book of the year. HO. LY. $#!&. Tamsyn Muir did something incredible with her weird, lesbian-necromancers-solving-puzzles-in-space book, and we’ve all read it twice—and it hasn’t even come out yet! It’s about terrible people being terrible, and terrible people learning how to be better people, and terrible people being good. It has some of the best character work I’ve ever had the privilege of reading—everyone in the supporting cast is memorable despite their ridiculous names; they are fully realized and awful, and you love them anyway, which is great and also awful because you love them and then terrible things happen to them... But it’s okay, because Gideon has this big heart, and you love her. She’s such a big goddamn hero, and this book is about the hard, gross, squishy parts of being a hero. And simply put—I love it. We all love it. I can’t wait for everyone to read it, for everyone to come into the store and be confronted with four of us all shaking our coat pockets like, “You wanna buy some skeletons?”
That might be creepy, but I also feel like it gives you a good picture of our store—we’re passionate and often dissolve in the stacks, clutching our hearts and sputtering because we can’t articulate how much we love certain books. We’re full of recommendations, and are happy to shove our favorite books at you and help you find your next favorite (we hope it’s one of our favorites!). If you’re ever in Fort Collins, Colorado, we hope you’ll pop in and say hi. We love books as much as you do, we’re queer as hell, and we’re as close as you can get to Disney World without being on a coast. So, you know. We’re awesome.
Megan Szmyd sings show tunes while driving, gets overly emotional about cake, and writes best at two in the morning. She’s from Chicago, but now lives in Colorado, where she professionally sells books and unprofessionally flails about Star Wars. You can find her on Twitter at @esseastri, where she yells a lot about books, her life, and D&D.