The Lancaster Crew Do (Part 3: Interstellar)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 0:31 | Filed in Books, Life, Travel

When I was a student in Lancaster, there used to be a sci-fi bookshop in Lancaster owned by a guy called Peter Pinto.

This bookshop was very much like the concept of L-space as found in Terry Pratchett’s work. It was quite a small shop, but with books stretching from the floor too the ceiling along various sets of shelves and very narrow passages between the sets of shelves.

How narrow? Let’s put it this way, you had to move sideways down the shelving if you had broad shoulders as they wouldn’t fit across, and there was absolutely no way, under any circumstances, you could pass someone else in one of the alleys in shelving. You’d have to wait at the end for them to finish.

If I’ve given the impression of a relatively small room absolutely stuffed with books, you’ve got the idea. The shop was called Interstellar Master Traders (which I now presume is a nod to Cities in Flight, although I didn’t know that at the time).

The man was a walking sci-fi library: you’d mention a sci-fi writer — any writer — and he would tell you where to find him on his shelves; he’d compare different works the person had produced; he’d suggest other writers you might like if you liked him. He also quite regularly would make cups of coffee (black only) for people browsing his shop — unless that was just me. I don’t think I ever went in there and came out without buying something.

I vaguely remember talking to Peter Pinto about Terry Pratchett, who he said he knew, and while I had no reason to doubt him (he certainly had access to signed books and stuff), after I’d left Lancaster, confirmation came from the other source…

To the guerilla bookshop manager known to friends as ‘ppint’ for asking me, many years ago, the question Susan asks in this bookDedication in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Hogfather’

So when I was heading back to Lancaster, I just had to see whether Interstellar Master Traders was still there. It was… but not as we know it, Jim.

Interstellar Master Traders, Lancaster (flickr)

As you can see, the right hand side of the shop has the floor to ceiling shelving. The left hand side of the shop, similarly. In the middle however is a huge pile of books and assorted pieces of timber, rather begging the question “what happened here?”

Well, it turned out that a tour bus happened here…

I’ll let ppint explain:

i arrived at the shop on monday morning, fine, bright and “grand” a september morning as you might desire, a strong feeling that All Was Not As It Should Be crept over me.

i had the clear memory of having locked up an imposing dark green-painted old wooden inn door standing next a twin-paned shop window displaying board games [...] yet there was something distinctly lacking:in the way of anything remotely resembling a shop window, or indeed any window at all – or, indeed, a door of any kind whatsoever.

there was, however, a faintly concerned-looking customer & spouse, who explained between them that the apparent disappearance of IMT had been caused by an argument between a tour bus (lancaster for one of those high-bodied but single-deck coaches) and a taxi (mostly) outside the shop on North Road, Lancaster around about 8.30 p.m. on Saturday night [the twenty-second of September],

Interstellar Master Traders — The Diary Bits: Ouch

Or, in terms of what I picked up in actual conversationalisations, a tour bus hit a parked taxi, sending said taxi through shop frontage. Shop frontage somewhat destroyed; shop closed. After some time new frontage put in place but still requires painting and similar work; first attempt to rebuild destroyed shelving failed after timber was nicked from back yard. Attempt 2 involves keeping timber in shop until such time as work on frontage has finished and then building shelving…

And this, let’s not forget is now 14 months after the initial crash. The poor, poor shop is looking a bit battered. So I want you all to do your bit to help it out. If you live in Lancaster, go to the shop and buy books from it. If you don’t live in Lancaster, call in on the website and buy some sci-fi books, games, cards, or whatever it is.

This shop, as odd as it is, ought to be considered a national treasure. So let’s keep it going.

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2 Comments to The Lancaster Crew Do (Part 3: Interstellar)

  1. Rich Pedley says:

    November 19th, 2008 at 9:44 am

    We took a trip up there just to go to IMT, and meet up with ppint.

    This is what bookshops used to be like, full of books with occasional little extra gems.

  2. Will says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    The book shop is a bit reminiscent of Black Books :)

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