The setting for The legendarySalt Lake City’s newest independent bookstore, looks like something out of the books the store specializes in.
The house the shop is located in, at 349 E. 900 South in Salt Lake City, was built in 1910. The atmosphere surrounding the crowded shelves – a dream come true for nerd fandoms everywhere – mirrors that of Tavern: Creaky wood floors, warm yellow lighting, and an abundance of fantastic memories.
Sisters Stephanie and Raelle Blatter opened the store in August, selling only science fiction and fantasy books. Their goal, they said, is to highlight writers from these genres who bring underrepresented voices — BIPOC and queer writers and characters — to the fore.
“My sister and I really wanted to create a safe space for people to come in,” Stephanie said, adding that there’s a certain strength that comes from specializing as a bookseller.
“It’s such an exciting genre, because they’re releasing authors who are traditionally underrepresented, and kids need them,” Stephanie said. “If you can’t see it and read about it in the stories you’re exposed to, then you feel lonely.”
That’s how Stephanie said she felt growing up, not seeing queer representation in literature — for example, she said, it’s especially hard to find well-written Sapphic stories. (Both Blatter sisters are gay and Raelle is a transgender woman.)
“Growing up, science fiction and fantasy were incredibly important to [us], because they allow the building of a new world and the imagination to run wild,” said Stephanie. “You can address topics that are important to you internally like mental health or neurodivergence or that don’t fit in a certain box.”
Fight book bans
In literature, especially science fiction and fantasy, one can imagine a world where such topics are not divisive, she said. In this world, however, they are – and The Legendarium aims to talk about them too.
Among the books available at the store are titles recently fired shelves in the library of the Alpine School District, the state’s largest, after complaints from members of a conservative parent group. These titles include the books “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas, who have been criticized for their sexual content.
Stephanie said she and her sister aren’t worried The Legendarium will be the target of book bans and challenges that are spreading like fires Across the country. Instead, she says, they lean into it.
“We are starting a banned book book club to highlight and honor banned books,” she says. “More [banned books] are banned because they address issues of social justice. … These are queer books, books that deal with racism and the disability community.
Stephanie said she didn’t want to categorize people, but these are all books that “big conservative groups are uncomfortable with because they challenge their view of the world.” (It’s an opinion that a group of Utah children’s book authors also shared in an open letter distributed in September.)
Storing such books, she said, is key to the Legendarium’s mission because such books “challenge white, heteronormative, patriarchal society.”
“We can’t necessarily put them in schools or libraries, but we can showcase them here and provide a space where people can come and read them and discover them here,” Stephanie said.
The No-Potter Rule
Giving customers a holistic experience covers not only the books they sell, but also the ones they don’t.
The most notable choice the Blatters have made is not to stock anything related to the Wizarding World or its creator, Scottish author JK Rowling. (The only exception is a “Harry Potter”-themed board game in the store’s cafe, in a pile with other games available to customers.)
It was a very personal and conscious decision the Blatter sisters made, Stephanie said, with a candor the sisters grew up reading and loving. But, she added, Rowling “is investing millions of dollars in anti-trans legislation in the UK. … The purchase of “Harry Potter” novels would financially support this author and [her] transphobic statements.
Acknowledging that some might find it hypocritical for The Legendarium to defend banned books while going through the “Harry Potter” universe, Stephanie defended the decision. “I am convinced that books are crucial for the mental health of young people,” she said.
Stephanie said she has nothing against the “Harry Potter” book franchise itself. “People can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble,” she said. “If they want something more specialized and open-minded, they can find it here.”
Paying attention to conservation goes beyond Rowling’s work. The store tends to steer clear, said Stephanie, of authors from the 1980s and 1990s who had gender issues with their books — and instead chooses landmark authors like series author Ursula K. LeGuin. fantastic “Earthsea” and other famous titles. , “whose work defies gender”.
“Not everything we’ve brought may be perfect, but I’ve made a conscious decision to exclude some beloved fantasy or sci-fi pieces that don’t align with what we want to represent, what The Legendarium stands for,” says Stephanie.
Coffee, games and writing area
The name of the shop comes from the journal of the writings of JRR Tolkien, where he was doing world building. “He would tell his kids stories at night and then he would start writing them down because his kids would challenge him like, ‘Oh, you didn’t say that last week,’… and so he’s like, ‘ OK, let me start writing this,” Stephanie said.
To further this spirit of promoting creativity and an inclusive space for children, The Legendarium has partnered with the League of Utah Writers and allows young people to enter the store after school to relax.
The sign outside the Legendarium shows a stack of books being scoured with a sword. The store’s tagline is also prominent: “Purveyors of books, legends and local roasts” and the store’s official logo is a steampunk dragon, named Gizmo, which was designed by Disney artist and childhood friend Liz. Richards.
The walls are decorated with posters of various fantasy and sci-fi series, and various merchandise from an Etsy seller. The windows of the old building, giving way to the gray light of Salt Lake City fall, include stained glass vinyl stickers of beloved characters such as Mr. Spock, Jean-Luc Picard, Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) and Princess Leia, among others.
The store’s mini-café – complete with “Lord of the Rings” coasters and old-fashioned portable lamps – offers themed drinks such as “Gondor Fog”, “Barefoot in the Shire” and “Priory of the Orange Mocha”. The cafe partners with small Utah businesses such as Blue Copper Coffee, tea cave, Lone Pine Bakery and the Beehive Cooking.
The store is also used for role-playing games, with a “gaming dungeon” area in the basement as well as tables for customers to play games such as Dungeons and Dragons. RPGs, she said, “pair well with literature because it’s about telling stories, building a world, and developing characters.”
Stephanie – wearing a pair of earrings she made herself featuring dragons and a samurai sword – said starting the bookstore had been a dream for her and all her siblings for a long time.
Part of the inspiration, Stephanie said, is San Diego’s iconic Mysterious Galaxy Library, which she says is like a “Mecca for fans and authors”. The inclusive environment of this store inspired them to recreate something similar in Utah.
“I was kind of like, ‘You know what, if I don’t do it now, I never will,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie Blatter said she counts on others who share her family’s interest in science fiction and fantasy to make The Legendarium a success – and the response in the first three months of the store has given them raison. There is, she says, a “large community of really into imagination nerds in Utah.”