Interview: Chris Szego

On Harbord Street just west of Spadina is quite possibly the most awesome bookstore that ever existed. There’s nothing fancy about its design and its not massive in size, but it exclusively houses science fiction and fantasy books. (What?!)

Bakka Phoenix Books opened in 1972 and is Canada’s oldest SF&F bookstore. (The name, Bakka, was taken from Frank Herbert’s Dune, and means ‘the weeper who mourns for all mankind’. Intense!) Be sure to check out their website for new releases and special events.

I contacted Manager Chris Szego who was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Tell us a bit about your gig. How do you go about choosing stock? How do you work with authors?

Since we’re located in Toronto, all the major publishers send reps to talk to me and we go through the catalogues together. As for working with authors, we host events all the time – readings, launches, panel discussions, etc.

Vampires are out. Zombies are in. What do you predict will be the next big trend?

First, I have to report that vampires are not out. They’re never out. Zombies are out (please, let them be out!). As for trends, they’re hard to predict (and even harder to create). But the desire for solid stories and real characters never goes out of style.

Fans of sci-fi/fantasy are very passionate about their favs. Have you or a member of your staff ever been involved in a heated debate? About which book?

We read, write, and talk about books. That’s what we do. We have intense discussions all the time. Generally not in the sense of ‘angry’; more in the sense of ‘involved’.

The store has had some bad luck recently with a flood, a break-in and now working around construction. Is Bakka cursed?

The floods and the construction are linked and seem to have been solved (…did you hear that roof? You’re fixed! No more leaks!). As for the break in, it happens. If you run a business in a major city sooner or later it’s going to happen. Better than when we were still located on Yonge Street. When the Leafs would lose in the playoffs random jackwagons would walk up the street kicking in all the doors.

What new releases are you super excited about?

Republic of Thieves is the 3rd book in Scott Lynch’s ‘Gentlemen Bastards’ series and it has finally arrived! Scott himself will be on hand for our Sorta-Annual-Christmas party on December 14th. You should come too!

I’ll be there!

Bakka Phoenix Books – 84 Harbord Street, Toronto
Monday through Friday: 11AM to 7PM
Saturday: 11AM to 6PM
Sunday: Noon to 5PM

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