The Mecka of nerds sprung to life when an academic, a programmer, a civil engineer and a postman met in a science fiction-society. Today they provide a meeting place where the staff are passionate about what they do.
“Our customers trust us. That’s why they’re willing to shop here even though we’re not the cheapest.”
The Science Fiction-Bookstore stretches over three floors in the old house on Old Town’s tourist street, and both crystal chandeliers and a giant Xenomorph (from the Alien-movies) hangs between the floors. The shop has been located in its current position at Västerlånggatan 48 since 1996, and is a must for anyone who is part of a fandom, or just wants to look at interesting things. There is anything from movies, games and role-playing board games to clothes, mugs, toys and collectors items here. But most of all, there is books.
Maths Claesson, CEO and co-owner, is one of The Science Fiction Bookstore’s founders. The seed that sprouted into The Science Fiction-Bookstore was planted in back in the 80s. It started with The Scandinavian Society of Science Fiction, that had a mail-order business and ordered fantasy and science fiction-books from England and the US. The idea of creating their own store was born, but to start such a niche business seemed crazy.
“Everyone asked us ’what were you thinking?!’”
But eventually, their passion started earning them money.
“I only had a ’book-salary’ before,” says Maths. “I got paid in books. But all of a sudden I could actually give myself a real salary.”
It is important to offer them something extra. The shops are visited by authors, they host game nights, days when people in costumes get a discount.
“There needs to be stuff going on!” Says Maths.
The next upcoming event is the celebration of Harry Potter’s birthday, on the last of July.
“The Harry Potter-fans are probably our most involved fandom. But Star Wars and cosplayers are other big groups, which shows in our assortment range.”
When we start talking about how The Science Fiction-Bookstore chooses the products for their stock, Maths goes to get Mikael, who works with the company’s buy-ins.
“We meet representatives from the big companies in the US and England,” says Mikael. “Works of famous authors and popular titles are of course always of interest, but we also care a lot about special cover-editions and genre. How’s dark fantasy or hard sci-fi selling right now? What’s our customers going to like? Unknown authors are risky, but we want to help strengthen authorships.”
“When it comes to displays we highlight both things that sell well and things that we like – it wouldn’t feel serious otherwise. The staff’s recommendations are important, and we are always trying our best to keep up with the customers. It’s not enough to have read Tolkien here.”
“We [the Stockholm shop] are not centralized, however; the other shops get their say as well. They sell a lot of urban fantasy down in Malmö, for example, because the staff is very passionate about it. Of course they should stock that, then!”
The Science Fiction-Bookstore does not only sell books, but also action figurines, clothes, games (how about a Game of Thrones Monopoly?), Role-Playing Board Games, mugs, Warhammer-paints, and all kinds of collector’s items (Harry Potter-wands and Miyazaki characters as matryoshka-dolls, for example.)
“It’s important to keep a good balance!” Says Maths. “First and foremost, it’s a bookstore.”
“But we want anything that’s not realism.”
“Our average customer is around 20 to 30 years old with a higher education, but they’re also very diverse,” says Maths. “It’s become kind of mainstream, though, to like fantasy and sci-fi isn’t as ”shameful” as it used to be. A lot of our customers are getting older now, but they bring their children. Every weekday morning when we open, without fail, there will be a good couple of dads with buggies coming in.”
Although the rise of online bookstores have forced a lot of bookstores down on their knees, you cannot tell much of a difference here.
“Our e-store generate about twelve percent of our sales.”
“We have good, competent staff that are passionate about what we sell. Without them we’d be screwed!” Says Maths. “Customers can come here for advice, or just to talk to somebody with the same interests as them. That’s why people come to us even though we’re not the cheapest out there. Our customers trust us, and we always want to be around.”
The Science Fiction-Bookstore recommends:
Elysion Fire by Alastair Reynolds
It’s a fun, well written space opera. There are mysterious murders at a space port, and inspector Dreyfuss goes to investigate. In addition to that, the space port is also rotting from the inside. It’s the second installment in a series, but it works perfectly fine as a standalone piece.
Visit The Science Fiction-Bookstore
11129 Stockholm, Sweden
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10.00-19.00, Saturday 10.00-18.00, Sunday 12.00-17.00
Social media: @SFbok