The Last Bookstore: In the Year 2099
  Up Late    March 4, 2017     Eric Larkin

 

Howdy there!  Welcome to the original Last Bookstore!

You might be feeling a little dizzy right now from that little zip we just did thru the time/space nexus, but it will pass. Do you recognize where you are? YES! You are standing at the Mezzanine balcony of The Last Bookstore – but things look a little different, don’t they? That’s because it is the year 2099! Don’t worry – your trip was paid for by your grandchildren (who are watching us right now on the liquimonitor, right over in that corner – howdy ho, peeps!). All those times you dragged your kids down to the bookst– whoops! I forgot – none of that has happened yet for you – but ok, a few years from now, when you have kids, you’re going to repeatedly drag them down to the bookstore and it’s going to have a profound and grand effect on them. 80 or so years later, your kids are old and you’re dead, but your grandkids have kept up the family traditions of copious reading and frequent bookstore & library visits. They bought you this time-skipped Last Bookstore Tour as a gift!

I’m Eric9, your tour guide. (Ah – you seem repulsed. I am a clonedrone – don’t be weirded out by the loose-fitting skin and shiny eyeballs – totally normal for clonedrones.)  Okay! Let’s flap the banjingos! — sorry, you don’t even know what that means, do you… uh…Ah -Let’s go for it!  (better?)

 

Here in the year 2099, The Last Bookstore is still guilty of a little false advertising: even now, we are not literally the last bookstore. That’s good news, right? There are tons and tons of bookstores in all parts of the free world. Actual, physical books are still produced in great quantities, despite a long string of replacement technologies that all inevitably failed to produce the sine qua non: that book smell. (In fact, most new books have a built-in ScentVent which emits a gentle waft of whatever smells are relevant for its subject matter. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it makes it difficult to read. No matter: here in 2099 we believe that total immersion is the best way to learn and experience new things. Still, you can usually switch the ScentVent over to “book smell”, for instance if you’re reading something like Cannery Row and the odor is bothering those around you.)

Our original location is still flourishing – in fact, we’ve taken over the entire Spring Arts Building. Here in fecund, lush, Eden-like downtown New Los Angeles, though a lot has changed. In your time, d-town is mostly concrete, asphalt and glass.  No, nothing catastrophic has happened to your version of downtown, requiring a rebuild and necessitating the addition of the word “new” to its name, like some silly sci fi movie; it was just rebranding. That and there was an accidental mid-21st century discovery of an underground river-spring aqueduct built by an ancient, lost, lizard people civilization. Pretty amazing, right? All this time, only 40 feet below the surface of our belovéd downtown LA, there was abundant, fresh, running water! Yes, things have changed a lot since we first started slinging libros, way back in 2005.

 

Ok, quick lay-of-the-land:

1st floor: Vinyl & other disc media, comic books, giant ball pit (for our famous Swirl Slide) and vintage books

Mezzanine: Our museum and all science fiction and “genre”

2nd floor: Literature and the Classic Authors in Residence program

3rd floor: Science, philosophy, religion and the Eternity Room

4th floor: Art, design, etc. and The Last Book Hotel (terrible name)

5th floor: Cookbooks (and other domestic categories) and our Café

6th floor: History and our Rescue A Dystopia program offices

7th floor: Miscellaneous

8th floor: Kids & YA (and the top of the Swirl Slide)

9th floor: Training & offices

10th – 12th floors: Shelters for the illiterate

 

This was our first bookbot, serving from the late 40s to the mid 50s. It was very rude and prone to weeping. Needless to say, we learned a lot about robots in a retail environment. photo by Geoff Stearns

Bookbots & Clonedrones

Ah – first off, I should explain who I am. For guests with questions, besides our extensive database-hardwired bookbots who perform most rote store operations, there are roving clonedrones of a few of our earliest employees – yes, like myself. We are mechorganix, framed out from the DNA of a real person, long dead. It’s only been a couple decades since we’ve been considered “people”, but we are. Even if we sleep in vats of jelly and don’t have to poop. Here’s the hot tip for the LBS clonedrones: “The Kate7” is good for answering any and all serious questions on just about any topic, “Mr. Utah12” will give you a no-BS assessment of your reading selections (and what you’re wearing, the music playing thru the soundorbs, and anything else that pops into his oft-overheated dome), and “Kimlet8b” is great if you just need someone to pay attention to you for a few minutes – you can literally just chat about anything without feeling rushed. We sometimes get a bit ragged, but generally last 15 years before needing a refurb. I’m about due, hence the drooping eyeball. I’ll try not to shuffle my feet, but I’m deeply weary. I’ll do my best. cough

 

1st Floor

This first floor is much like the one you know back there in the 2010s: audio & visual art/entertainment on various disc-type media (highly collectible), comic books, and vintage books. The giant ball pit in the middle of the room is probably new to you, and the screaming children dropping into it from the ceiling will make sense later.

 

As you can see in this antique photograph, for months after Mount Revenge of Chavez Ravine appeared/erupted, it belched a strange blue smoke. photo Jimmy McIntyre

 

Mezzanine

The Mezzanine is a major DTLA historic site, as it includes our museum, featuring the Original Book Tunnel and, more importantly, the Spring Arts Collective & Yarn Shop Memorial. In 2025, a volcano popped up in the area you know as Elysian Park, later named Mount Revenge of Chavez Ravine. The initial shockwave gutted the south and east sides of the building at the Mezz level, killing every member of the Spring Arts Collective and Gather DTLA. “Huge bummer” as (I think) you might say. Of course, they rebuilt, with the contributions of LBS, fans, family, etc. – and eventually expanded to fill The Alexandria, right across the street. Once the two buildings were connected by the famous Yarn Monkey Bridge, it was like old times. Anyway, if you’re looking for an art school for your kid or some life-changing artwork, head right across that monkey bridge – just don’t look down!

 

2nd Floor

Literature is on the second floor. This floor also features one of our most popular programs.

It’s only been going about 10 years, but our Classic Authors in Residence program has really hit its stride. Once we learned how to control the time/space portals we discovered in the store way back when, and science developed ways to secure the Jonbar Points along the timeline (oh sorry – a Jonbar Point is a fork in time, the jostling of which can cause a disturbance in the time continuum, completely changing reality, for instance winking you or all of humanity out of existence – yes, a paradox, but good luck arguing about it when you don’t exist), we began inviting our favorite writers into the store for weeknight workshops. Anthony Trollope, Anais Nin, Bliff Nerfnow, Ngugi wa Thiong’o – wow – it’s been pretty amazing. Basho did a poetry thing that had folks just staring out the windows into the rain. Jules Verne was a touch irritating, though. He just walked around, pointing at things, “Predicted that. That, too. Called that one. Yep – all this.” It got old. We’re trying to bring the Inklings in for a panel, but we have yet to secure a liquor license. They are not okay with replic-ales, which I think is a bit unfair – I doubt they’d know the difference if we hadn’t told them. When we said they couldn’t smoke, they just laughed.

 

3rd Floor

Third floor is a serious floor: science, philosophy, religion, et. al.. But truth be told, most folks come up here for a different reason. Everyone seems to enjoy our Eternity Room. It’s not actually a room, per se, but a fold in space/time that you can slip into, read for as long as you like, then slip out, and no time will have passed. It’s never crowded, because… well, because it’s infinite. This one takes “awhile” to get used to, because most folks can’t get rid of that “how long have I been here” feeling. You are literally spending no time in the Eternity Room. It’s tough to acclimate to the idea. We offer complimentary coffee and Clif Bars, and napping is totally fine. In our Eternity Room, you do have time to read. No excuses! Oh, and it’s free.

 

Finding Books

They’re alphabetical. If you’re stuck, ask a bookbot or a clonedrone. Of course, occasionally we won’t have a specific book you’re looking for. Still not a problem; we can just quickly jaunt over to one of our other branches and grab their copy for you. LBS has a few affiliates around the world in 2099. There is Azken Bookstore in Basque Country, Bookstore Mwisho in Nairobi and La Lasta Librovendejo in the Esperanto States of Micronesiana. Also, we have a special relationship with the famous Parnassus Books in Nashville, home of the first bookstore for sentient dogs. So, it’s not really a problem. (Oh sorry – jaunting is a way of crossing into another dimension, then reentering ours at a different location, thereby covering great distances nearly instantaneously – though sometimes you have to pause mid-dimen to watch some stupid ad.)

 

4th Floor

Wanna stay the night? No prob: the 4th floor is not only where we keep our vast Art/Design/Architecture selection, but also the famous Last Book Hotel. For a maximum of two nights, you can stay in one of our “book rooms” – so called because they are made entirely of books, as are all the furnishings (and yes, the toilet). I gotta be honest: I think the hotel is weird. But we’re “booked” solid for the next few years, so I might be in the minority. Being literally surrounded by books is not as relaxing to me as it might be to you folks who don’t live and work here.

 

5th Floor

Up in our 5th floor café, our new Corvam Replication-Chef 300s can create nosh & bevs carefully tuned to whichever books you are reading: convincing gruel, if you’re reading Dickens or our semi-famous Mammoth Wrap if you’re reading Jean Auel – anything! Of course, we also have things like Swedish meatballs and cheap hot dogs. And yes – you can and should bring a book! The rest of the floor is filled with cookbooks and a few other more or less domestic subjects. Occasionally, we bring in a pop-up kitchen, and the authors of the cookbooks demo their own recipes: always a fave.

 

We make use of a wide variety of materials in our destabilization of dystopias. photo Jeff Stevens

6th Floor

One of the programs I’m most proud of is our “Rescue a Dystopia”, or RAD. The offices for RAD are found here on the 6th floor, in the History section. Once bookbots were advanced enough to take over most of the bookclerking duties, it freed up us organics to do the more hands-on work. After a little training, we can send a “book agent” into a repressive part of the world. This is typically a place where an arbitrary characteristic (skin color, gender, whatever) is considered normative and intellectual & artistic pursuits are quashed, as a way of centralizing power around those with that arbitrary characteristic. A book agent can infiltrate the dystopia and not only provide relevant reading material, but teach the dystopians how to write, publish and disseminate all kinds of literature. This inevitably has a subversive effect on those in power. It’s dangerous work but very rewarding. I can’t discuss details of ongoing work, but a few of our trainers are from dystopias we’ve flipped in the past. You buy’em a drink, they might tell you a story.

 

7th Floor

7th floor is Miscellaneous.

 

As you shoot down the slide, you are completely surrounded by Brian Eno ambient tunes and these little guys. And yes, ok, a fair amount of algae. Imagine how difficult it is to clean an 8 story, spiral aquarium. (Those little scum-sucking fish went extinct in the 2030s.) photo Jeff Kubina

8th Floor

Way back in the beginning, I think it was an April… maybe 2018 or 19… we installed what was known as a “firepole” connecting the second floor to the first floor. It was a very popular feature: quick slide from floor to floor, kids loved it. Worked great until a mishap at an employee Christmas party – long story. Anyway, when Swirl Slides became a thing, LBS was one of the first in line. Safer than a firepole, the twisting, totally enclosed Swirl Slides were the funnest way to zip from floor to floor. Older folks especially enjoyed sliding in reverse, up, because it was (to them) a novelty. We still have the longest full stereo, aquarium-lined, retail Swirl Slide in downtown Los Angeles: 8 floors of ambient adrenaline, surrounded by Angel fish and algae. It’s why we made the 8th floor the Kids section, because duh, it’s where they wanna go anyway! They come up here, do a little reading to “earn” their ticket for the slide, and *shoooosh* off they go down into the ball pit on the 1st floor. Our Nanny52s are programmed to keep them safe and occupied while you finish your browsing.

 

9th Floor

9th floor is offices, training and things you wouldn’t be interested in. Also, it is where the other clonedrones and I “sleep” at night. We all have haunting, DNA-exhumed, nightmares from our former lives, but you don’t have to worry about that.

 

10th – 12th Floors

The 10th through 12th floors are where we house the illiterate. It won’t seem strange to you in your time, but in 2099 it is extremely rare that anyone in the free parts of the world cannot read. When someone is found who slipped through the cracks – or perhaps a refugee from a dystopia – they are given free room & board and the best avail tutoring (from 826NLA) until they are able to comfortably peruse a book or newspaper. Reading is considered a basic survival skill, and as a society, we decided long ago that to cast a person out into the world without the ability would be cruel.  

 

Well, that’s the tour of The Last Bookstore in the year 2099. I’ll leave you to wander around on your own. Take this complimentary store credit, in the amount of $8. It is not recommended that you try to communicate with your grandchildren; that could de-stabilize the Jonbar Points. Oh – we have no public restrooms, unfortunately – maybe next year. Sorry. There’s a Starbucks down the street.

And thanks for doing what you’re doing; you’re the reason we’ve lasted this long.

 

 

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