Google+ Followers

Monday, September 11, 2017

Wandering Through the Dark Carnival Sci fi/Fantasy Bookstore

Front entryway of a bookstore with a dragon figure on top of the business sign.
Photo Credit: The Blogger



I’m sorry I missed posting Labor Day weekend and for running late with this past weekend’s post. Saturday I was out in town for most of the day and last weekend I was in Berkeley visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in over five years. I had been planning a San Francisco day trip all summer but it didn’t quite work out so I had to settle for Berkeley which is a bit closer to Sacramento. One reason I had originally wanted to go to San Francisco was to check out a science fiction/fantasy bookstore there called Borderlands. I’ve bought books from them in the past but only at conventions. I heard they carry all the sci fi and fantasy books you can ever find there. However, Berkeley has an alternative to that book store: Dark Carnival.

Dark Carnival is a used-book store that specialises in science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. It fronts Claremont Avenue accompanied by a cat-size, brown dragon figure laying on top of the wood-looking business sign that hangs over the entryway. As I was walking up to the store, the owner was outside inflating his two approximately, 30-foot “Cheshire” grinning black cats for the store’s Halloween promotion.


Entryway to a bookstore with an inflatable black cat standing in front.
One of the two inflatable "Cheshire" black cats in front of the Dark Carnival bookstore.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

Inside, Halloween supplies, such as styrofoam mini pumpkins with ghoulish faces and witch figures, were on display seemingly at random points of the store rather than in a designated seasonal section. Although Dark Carnival’s main inventory, books, is well organised much of it is piled onto the floor due to lack of shelf space but this aspect of “messiness” is often a good one for any book lover. An overload of books tells any avid reader that the store will likely have what he/she is looking for. That’s not to say that Dark Carnival is a magical book shop that will have any specific title or edition of book you want regardless of the two floors the store consists of. Regardless of the fact that the amount of merchandise can overwhelm a customer’s search. But the shelves are labeled with letter tags signifying the initial letter of authors’ last names which help a lot.

I was looking for vintage paperbacks, ideally John Campbell’s work which seems to be very hard to find even in new editions. When I wasn’t finding anything by him I asked the owner if Campbell’s stuff would be anywhere else in the store other than under the C’s in the main shelves and he said it wasn’t likely. So I thanked him and walked over to the Stephen King section hoping to find an original paperback edition of Carry (one of his horror novels I haven’t read yet) but as large as the collection of King was I didn’t see any there. Interestingly though, I saw a literary critical anthology of his work. Like this book, non-fiction material related to the genres can be found throughout the store, many of which are shelved in the sections of their respective fiction authors. For example, if they pertain to a particular author such as King or Lovecraft, they will be shelved along with the author’s fiction. This makes sense, since most people who are going to care about literary criticism of an author are going to love that author’s works.

While I was looking through the King section, the owner came up to me with an anthology of sci fi authors which one of the stories was Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”, the novella that The Thing movies were based on. That is a story I’ve been intending to read as soon as I could get my hands on a Campbell book of short fiction. So I took the anthology to hold onto in case I decided to buy it, but it had many other authors’ stories who I wasn’t as familiar with and the book was quite high in price (I don’t remember how much, but it was pretty close to 20 bucks) so I was probably going to turn it down. Then he came back to me a little later and put two other books containing Campbell’s stories into my hand. One of these two was a hardback complete works collection of Campbell’s stories. It was called A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories. Don A. Stuart was the pen name Campbell used while he was writing science fiction and before he went on to edit Astounding Science Fiction magazine. And being a complete works collection, it included “Who Goes There?”. So it shows you how dedicated the staff at this store is to finding the books you’re looking for. I’m sure the owner found these three books in places I would never have thought to look. So I bought the copy of New Dawn.

I went on to look through the Lovecraft section. Not finding anything I was that interested in at the time, as far as his fiction goes, I did find a few works by the author Simon about the Necronomiconthe legendary book of the dead referred to many times in Lovecraft’s fiction and that formed the basis for his Cthullu mythos. I was hoping to find a copy of the Necronomicon itself, but didn’t see it there so bought Simon’s Dead Names: A Dark History of the Necronomicon instead.

Besides books, Dark Carnival also carries vintage magazines related to the speculative genres both pro and amatuer. You can also find novelties such as alien dashboard wobblers. And if this place isn’t enough for the sci fi/fantasy nerd, only two stores down is the Escapist comic book store also owned by Dark Carnival’s owner. Unfortunately, I only had time to look briefly through it and so didn’t purchase anything there. Maybe the next time.

Next post I’ll have more about my imprint logo thats icon I am just finishing up on. I may even have a photo of it by then.

Do you know of any other good bookstores that specialize in science fiction and fantasy, used or new? Feel free to list your responses in the box below.


Until next time . . .  

No comments:

Post a Comment