Nerdvana in the heart of downtown: the Legendarium
In Salt Lake City, at the northeast corner of Harvey Milk Boulevard and Blair Street (345 East), is a two-story converted residence. Above the entrance, flanked by hanging banners depicting the White Tree of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings and the Rebel Starbird emblem from Star Wars, is a sign reading “THE LEGENDARIUM.” Upon entering, one finds themselves in a science fiction, fantasy, and horror bookstore and role-play gaming café that is a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people, with a curated selection of books and merchandise specifically for them and other under-represented communities. Some might say Legendarium is an LGBTQ+ genre fan’s dream — a hybrid of a magical forest with new discoveries waiting around every corner and a friendly inn that Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Rangers, and Warrior Princesses would frequent.
Sisters Stephanie and Raelle Blatter are the owners and proprietors of Legendarium. I sat down with them recently to talk about the need for places like this. They relayed that in their experience, authors and publishers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror books and RPG games have become increasingly more forward-thinking, inclusionary, and willing to highlight underrepresented voices. However, some traditional retailers that offer those books and games have been less welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. “We wanted to create a space that felt like it was first and foremost a community-safe space for people to go to,” Raelle said. “All members of the family are welcome.”
Being a safe space for queer youth is very important to the Blatters. “We’ve made it clear to any young person that needs a place to go after school, to do homework, to hang out, just to feel safe – is welcome here, and they don’t have to make purchases. There are no caveats for them being here,” Stephanie said.
Growing up as a queer fan of these genres herself, Stephanie wished she had seen herself in these kinds of stories. “I felt like I was alone,” she told me. “The first time I read a science fiction book that challenged gender and had queer characters, I just devoured it.”
Legendarium opened its doors at the end of August 2022 and has seen success so far, including hosting a growing community of repeat (sometimes daily) customers and new ones every day. “Seeing that people consistently want to return to this space, that feels like victory right there,” Stephanie says.
A brick-and-mortar bookstore offers a more personalized experience for customers than an online retailer. “When you specialize in a genre like this, you can really highlight interesting reads that people may not even find on Amazon or Goodreads through searches because they wouldn’t pop up,” Stephanie said. “You wouldn’t be able to have a conversation about it. That’s the most exciting part is when someone comes in, and we can just nerd out about this unique, fabulous, life-changing book. Then they get excited about it … we have such a beautiful community that wants to see small businesses thrive.”
Legendarium not only stocks a selection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, graphic novels, young adult and middle-grade books for LGBTQ+ readers, arts and crafts by local artists, café offerings; it also hosts weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, local author events, and writer’s groups. They’ve even had D&D birthday parties. The sisters also informed me that, although they only stock genre books in-store, they can order any book for customers that’s currently available.
“We’re not trying to compete with Amazon in terms of price or anything,” Raelle says, “we’re just trying to create a space that the community needs and that the community can keep around.”
Legendarium is located at 349 E. 900 South. Their phone number is 801-474-6159.
Their website is Legendariumbooks.com, and their e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instagram: @legendariumbooks / Facebook: @thelegendarium / Twitter: @legendariumbook / Discord: https://discord.gg/BrRe4Mf9
Alpha Mercury has been a science fiction, fantasy, and horror fan since he watched the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of The Hobbit on television in 1977. He was eight years old. Alpha Mercury lives with his family in Salt Lake City. Write to him at email@example.com.