Boobooks is set to become Armidale's Galaxy or Forbidden Planet - a speculative fiction centre beaming its readers into outer space, or sending them questing after dragons and dark lords.
Owners Debra O'Brien and Yvonne Langenberg opened their science fiction and fantasy room on Saturday, September 21, and have plans for a short story competition, a book club, and a writers' festival.
"A lot of people in this town love science fiction and fantasy," Debra said. "Those two genres are very much about the big picture; in some ways, they're very political... A lot of science fiction does warn us about the pitfalls we could fall into in the future, and some has predicted where we've gone."
Boobooks sell more of the genre than other sorts of books, the owners estimate. In fact, they planned to officially open the science fiction room three times - but customers kept buying books.
"We couldn't open without Asimov, or Tolkien, or Ursula LeGuin!" Debra said.
A trip to Canberra's Lifeline bookfair a fortnight ago yielded 800 books to restock the shelves. They're now filled with the giants of the genre, both classics (Aldiss to Wells and Wyndham) and modern (including George R.R. Martin and Philip Pullman). They groan under Gormenghast, so to speak.
Debra and Yvonne will put a TARDIS on the door, and readers will step through a dimensionally transcendental portal into a madder, more fantastical world.
"It's bigger in there than on the outside, because in each of these books there's a huge universe," Debra said.
Fifty people came to the opening of the room on the Saturday, some costumed as monsters and aliens - including a terrifying Weeping Angel from the relaunched Dr. Who. Debra herself dressed as a blue-skinned Na'vi from Avatar, and Yvette as a sorceress.
There were some stranger visitors: trolls, dragons, and mandrakes from Granny Fi's Toy Cupboard. Amy Reilly baked a cake in the shape of the Milky Way, decorated with stars and planets.
Boobooks sold nearly 100 science fiction and fantasy books on the day, Debra and Yvonne said.
Young fans from across the New England electorate will get the chance to create their own strange new worlds. Boobooks will open a SF&F short story writing competition in March for adolescents (12 to 17-year-olds) and young adults (18 to 28-year-olds). An experienced science fiction writer will judge the entries; four or five might be published. Entry free. Boobooks is also looking for sponsors to support the competition.
The Boobooks owners also want to hold a yearly science fiction writers' festival - which will also bring tourists to the region. While this is still only an idea, Debra and Yvonne say members of the business community and university support it. They are looking for people to join the festival board.
They would also like to set up a monthly speculative fiction book club. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea should talk to the owners. "We'll get it going sooner rather than later," Debra promised.
They are also open to ideas from customers to hold genre nights, from mediaeval re-enactments to murder parties.
Boobooks will also hold regular soirees on the third Thursday of every month, starting October 24, at 5.30pm - with nibbles, wine, and live music. The bookshop will be open until late to give people working all day who find it hard to come into Armidale a chance to browse and shop, Yvonne explained.
She and Debra have run the shop for five months now; it's been hard work, but they're delighted it's become a drop-in and coffee place. Word has spread, and tourists come off the highway to visit - many sitting round a table round as Arthur's, and making friends.
Young people are also welcome to come in after school or on weekends, and spend the day browsing.
"In hard times, people want to feel they can go somewhere there's no pressure, where they can sit all day if they want," Debra said. "We don't care; there are people who sit here all day who don't always buy things. We want it to be not only an arts and cultural place, but a social centre as well."
"It's been really validating how much appreciation we get from people here in Armidale that we are running this show," Yvonne said. "Boobooks is loved."
"In a time of drought, and businesses closing, people want to feel there's hope, that something good is happening, that not everything is closing down, or dying," Debra said. "They get hope from the fact that people still believe enough to buy a business and use their imagination and believe it can succeed."