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Bakka Phoenix Rises on Harbord Street

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Bakka Phoenix Rises on Harbord Street

The historic Bakka Phoenix Books has risen once again.

Canada’s oldest science fiction and fantasy book store, Bakka Phoenix Books, has found a new home at 84 Harbord.

Bakka Phoenix first opened its doors in 1972 on Queen Street, relocated for a short stint on Yonge, and in 2003, moved back once again to the merchant community of Queen West. Despite its nomadic, nearly 40-year history, Bakka Phoenix Books has found an exciting new nest to call home: Spadina and Harbord.

“We are now located more fully in the Annex, which is a less transient neighbourhood than Queen, and being close to the U of T community is wonderful,” says manager Chris Szego.

The store launched Christian Cameron’s Killer of Men (FantasticFiction, 2010) at the new location in November, which attracted crowds and kept sales steady through the frenzied month of December. January will be a month of taking deep breaths, reordering books and figuring out strategies for the future.

The bookstore is Toronto’s prime hub for speculative fiction fans, offering not only a prolific selection of science fiction and fantasy books, but a community space for book launches, readings, exhibitions and book club meetings. Bakka Phoenix is also within arm’s reach of other great bookstores in the area, such as the Toronto Women’s Bookstore.

The name “Bakka” was taken from Frank Herbert’s Dune, and means “the weeper who mourns for all mankind.” There is much to celebrate with the new location, however. The new store now boasts two levels, with the lower level being used as a community space for events and meetings, including The Space-Time Continuum – a sci-fi book club that meets at 1 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month.

“Our clientele is mixed and varied, and has been throughout the store’s various lives; moreover, speculative fiction is becoming incredibly mainstream,” Chris maintains. “If you think about it, some of biggest hits in entertainment – The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight – are science fiction and fantasy books. Even if you’ve haven’t read them, you have an idea about them. It’s easy to get hooked.”

Szego maintains that the appeal of the genre is more than escapism. “In difficult times, it is important to be reminded that triumph is possible. For example, what are battles between good and evil, really? A way of talking about our current political affairs, without talking about current political affairs. The only difference being that in the fantasy books, evil does not usually triumph. Fantasy and science fiction offer a wonderful opportunity to think about change, progress, and invention.”

From talking with Chris, one gets the impression that the fantasy genre is less about dungeons and dragons, magic and myth, than it is about the very world we currently live in. As such, it is one of literature’s most insightful genres, offering literature’s most important gift: a sense of wonder.

Bakka Phoenix Books will be launching Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston this evening. In anticipation of a large audience, the launch will take place at Dominion Pub at 500 Queen Street East.

Also look out for Bakka Phoenix’s grand opening, which will be taking place at the end of February.

For more information on the bookstore’s happenings and releases, visit

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