Glenn Langnes owns and runs the shop with his wife. Langnes has read deeply into the sci-fi genre since high school and met friends in the Navy who recommended other books to him. He’s more or less had a lifelong interest in reading, though, he admits, perhaps more than most. That love drove him to supplement his “feast or famine” income from construction, where he worked as a framer and carpenter.
He started a bookstore in Astoria, across the street from the Columbia River Maritime Museum. He had considered other options, such as a fishing shop, but the finances weren’t there. He rented the space to start the bookshop. Since he continued to work in construction, the store was only open a few evenings per week and throughout the weekend. Despite limited hours, Langnes knew this was more than a hobby.
Langnes met his wife in Astoria, and she helped him run the shop. When she got called to Portland by her job, they took the plunge and moved the book shop, figuring it would be more successful in Portland. In a less desirable neighborhood and a small space, the couple put the store on a short hiatus after the move.
After living and working in Portland for six years, the couple bought a house in Vancouver and reopened the store in Clark County, marking its third locatio.
The current space is on 78th Avenue in Hazel Dell with an unassuming sign that says Science Fiction Books. When you pull up to the store, there’s a bargain rack outside with books for around a dollar and a nice, hand-painted sign with a rocket ship and the true title of the store. Glenn built the shelves in the shop, which are angled at the bottom in order to read the titles more easily. The walls are lined with signed book posters, and in the back section by the television titles and literary magazines is a large Darth Vader figure with an inhaler on a necklace.
For collectors of the old magazines such as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction or Analog Science Fiction and Fact, there’s a shelf dedicated entirely to magazines. The selection of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is especially notable, with a range of issues from almost 60 years ago to the present. There’s also a good selection of out-of-production magazines, such as Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. For people interested in the history of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, these magazines are the holy grail.
Near the door is a shelf dedicated to local authors, many of whom are part of the Northwest Independent Writers Association. Langnes finds it important to help promote local authors with a dedicated space and occasional signings. Authors keep a lion’s share of the money from the local authors stand in the shop, and for signings they keep all money from the sales of their own books.
Interstellar Overdrive has over 1,600 titles. The selection is so vast that they only have about one copy of each book on the shelf. This makes the store ideal if you’re looking for a more obscure title or an author that has fallen out of the more popular sphere. There’s an enormous selection of old pulps, authors like Andre Norton, Samuel R. Delaney, and Michael Moorcock; and a shelf full of Ursula Le Guin’s work beyond the Earthsea cycle. Langnes also stocks popular classics, but the shop is a mecca for more obscure books, or titles of which shoppers have forgotten the names. Langnes says one of the best things is helping someone find a book like that, possibly with the same cover art, and seeing their eyes light up like they have found an old friend.
The shop sees a wide range of customers, old and young. They’re looking to expand the young adult section, as well as sell some titles online. Considering that they opened up the Vancouver space at the height of the recession, the same year and month the Amazon Kindle was released, things are looking up for Interstellar Overdrive. Sci-fi and fantasy have seen a big resurgence lately, and, with the continued support of the community and local authors, they’ll continue to do well.
7732 NE Hazel Dell Ave in Vancouver
Open Monday – Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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