A Science Fiction Lover’s Guide to San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay area … the setting of such science fiction classics as “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, Morgan’s Takashi Kovacs series, Gibson’s Bridge trilogy … and the lesser-known gems such as “Our Lady of Darkness” by Fritz Leiber, and “The Fire Rose” by Mercedes Lackey.
It’s also the setting for films such as the 2014 “Godzilla”, the 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Leonard Nimoy, “Rollerball”, “The Core” and the rebooted “Star Trek”. It can also boast the the longest and silliest car chase in film history, from “Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine” (1965).
With such a rich heritage for the futuristic and fantastic, surely book lovers can expect to find some rare and unusual literary finds? On a recent trip to the USA, I was lucky enough to sample some of the city’s genre bookshops, and I thought I would share my findings here!

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street, near Mission
415-824-8203 (see photo above)

Borderlands is the flagship store for fantasy, science fiction and horror, which means that most of its stock is new. It does, however, have an impressive section of second hand books at the back, on the first floor. There are four floor-to-ceiing cases and one free-standing mini-case containing used paperbacks, and covering most of the authors in the field. The price is mainly two dollars, which is a bargain considering some of the book sare vintage out-of-print editions. I found the first volume of E E Doc Smith’s Lensman series here … and even more of a surprise, an autographed copy of Poul Anderson’s “The High Crusade”.

Dog Eared Books
900 Valencia Street, near Mission
Tel: 415-282-1901
This is just down the road from Borderlands, and it focuses entirely on second hand books of all genres, fiction and non-fiction. The Science Fiction section is of couse considerably smaller than Borderlands, but it is possible to find some gems here if you’re lucky, such as some of the obscurer titles by Michael Moorcock.

And then there’s the motherlode ….

Kayo Books (above)
814 Post Street
Tel: 415-749-0554

Kayo Books, in the Tenderloin area. The first floor is pulp fiction, which covers private eye, hard-boiled, true crime, and every variation thereof. The science fiction used books section is upstairs, and is twice as large and eclectic as the afore-mentioned Borderlands. You can expect to find most titles by the greatest names in the genre, as well as hard-to-find works by writers such as John Brunner, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, Roger Zelazny … the range is just mind-boggling. Not only that, the first floor has a comics section at the back, where you can find second-hand graphic novels and loose issues of Bronze Age comics such as “Tomb of Dracula”, “Werewolf By Night”, and Jack Kirby’s “Forever People”, “Demon”, “Kamandi”, “Omac: One Man Army” … just thinking about it makes me feel light-headed.

Sadly, we didn’t get time to check out …

317 Castro St

Mountain View

(650) 968-7323
which is apparently the biggest second-hand bookstore in San Francisco, or …

Isotope Comics
326 Fell Street (near Haight Ashbury)
Tel: 415-621-6543
which is apparently the best comic shop in the area. An honorable mention should go, however, to …

Jeffrey’s Toys
685 Market Street
which sells all the latest comic titles as well as having a bargain bin of back issues for a dollar (and I found some issues of Camelot 3000 in there).

And .. last but not least! This curiosity is being sold at the store “Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts” in the Ferry Building, at the Bay end of Market Street. It seems that Chris Cosentino, celebrity chef and TV star, is also a comics fan, and got the idea and the opportunity to write a one-shot special “Wolverine: In The Flesh”. The plot tells of Wolverine tracking a serial killer in the Bay area who professionally butchers his victims, and the clawed Canadian hero brings in a friend of his to help, a local master chef who looks suspiciously like … Chris Cosentino.

This autographed rarity is on sale at the Boccalone store for the extremely reasonable price of five dollars.
San Francisco! We’ll be coming back to riffle through your racks and boxes again … we can’t wait!

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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