Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favorite Bookstores #5: Fantastic Worlds

(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on January 12, 2005.)

While running some errands in Fort Worth today, I happened to pass the original location of Fantastic Worlds Bookstore, where I spent a considerable amount of time during the early Eighties. Fantastic Worlds was primarily a comic-book store, but it also had an excellent selection of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks and magazines. It was just a little hole-in-the-wall space in a breezeway that ran through the middle of a strip shopping center, but it was crammed full of good stuff. We happened to notice the sign for it while driving by one day in 1981 and stopped in just to see what was there. I'd been a comics reader since the early Sixties, but I'd never seen a real comic book store before. Most of my comics had been bought in drugstores and grocery stores, off those old spinner racks that had a sign on top saying "Hey, Kids! Comics!" That was sort of a hit-or-miss way to amass a collection, but it was the only way to buy comics in those days. Now here was a whole store devoted to them. 

We became friends with the owner, Bob Wayne, and the manager, Michael Davis, and I went there at least once a week to pick up the new comics and spend an hour or two visiting. '81 was a year of big changes for me. I had quit my regular job and was trying to make it as a full-time writer. I had been corresponding for a couple of years with Bill Crider and Joe Lansdale, but they were the only other writers I knew. But in '81 I met Kerry Newcomb at a bookstore on the other side of Fort Worth, and through my visits to Fantastic Worlds I was soon meeting other SF and comics fans as well as SF authors and comic book professionals who did signings there. I started going to SF conventions, which allowed me to hang around with legendary authors like Jack Williamson and Philip Jose Farmer. And nearly all the pro authors I met immediately accepted me as a member of their fraternity on the basis of my short stories in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE and my lone novel, TEXAS WIND. It was a heady time, that's for sure, and Fantastic Worlds was a big part of it. I even wrote the store, and Bob and Michael, into one of the Mike Shayne stories I did for MSMM. 

Of course, I didn't make it as a full-time writer just yet; that was still several years off and I wound up working at other jobs in the meantime. Fantastic Worlds moved and then grew into a chain of successful comic book stores. Bob Wayne wound up selling the stores and going to work as an executive for DC Comics in New York, and he's still there. The Fantastic Worlds stores are all gone now. I bought my comics at other stores over the years and finally stopped buying them several years ago when I realized I didn't have the time or space for them anymore. (I still buy and read trade paperback reprints of the old stuff, though.) I'm prone to attacks of nostalgia, and when I drove by that old shopping center where Fantastic Worlds started out, it really took me back and I knew I had to do a little reminiscing.

(Update: Of course, as regular visitors to this blog know, I started reading comics on a regular basis again a couple of years ago. Bob Wayne is still at DC and still a friend; I run into him at conventions every few years. Michael Davis is still in the area and he and his wife Kelly are good friends of ours. The shopping center where Fantastic Worlds was located originally is still there, or at least it was the last time I drove along that part of Camp Bowie Boulevard. I have no idea what's in the space where the store was.)


Jack Badelaire said...

Diskovery (that's its actual name, they sell records as well as books) in Brighton, MA is closing up at the end of the year. It's probably one of the last of the traditional "big piles of books everywhere" used bookstores in the Boston area.

They moved to a more remote location a few years ago, don't get as much business, and I am fairly certain they don't have any online presence, which is the death knell of any used book store in my opinion - if you're not selling your wares through Amazon, you're done for.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

That's an imaginative name for a comic-book store. A pity the book store chain closed down. A lot of traditional stores, and not just book stores, are closing down in Bombay to be replaced by holes-in-the-wall selling computer and mobile phone accessories or shoes and apparel. Quitting your job and taking to full-time writing must have been a huge decision and challenge at the time. I'm glad it has all worked out well for you in the end.

Mr. Reasoner, thanks very much for adding my blog to your blog list.

Richard R. said...

I'm really loving this series of posts, please James, keep it up!