A sci-fi and fantasy bookshop opens inside a school bus in Marfa

Marfa resident Adam Bork, left, talks about books with Lena Spurgin in her bookshop, Spurgin Stationers. Bork purchased the first book during the grand opening. Photo by Sarah Vasquez.

MARFA — Lena Spurgin looked up from writing prices in the books piled on the counter and asked, “This is my life now?”

It’s the first day she officially opened the doors to her bookshop, Spurgin Stationers, inside a former school bus parked next to Big Bend Coffee Roasters in Marfa. The teal and black bus was Marfa resident Mercer Black’s transportation as she traveled across the country with her son last summer. The idea to have Spurgin’s bookstore inside the bus just sort of happened.

“We had been talking about doing something in there, and the timing worked out,” said Spurgin.

Spurgin, an Alpine resident, has always been an active reader, but after her dad died from pancreatic cancer in February 2016, she turned to reading to feel less miserable.

“It was basically all I could do,” said Spurgin.

She started reading as much as she could and participated in a book challenge. She also started a Facebook group called “Read Your Brains Out” to provide a space to talk about books. There are currently over 200 members. Her reputation for reading led to jobs in bookstores, including Front Street Books in Alpine, that then led to the idea that she could open her own book shop.

It took six months to get Spurgin Stationers ready. Spurgin’s husband, Tyler, built the custom shelves. The beds became a reading nook in the back of the bus.

“It turned out way cool, if I do say so,” said Spurgin.

Spurgin sells new and used science fiction and fantasy books. She wanted to sell these specific genres because not only does she enjoy them, but she thinks they’re important.

“It’s a good genre. People need to escape,” said Spurgin. “I know how much it’s needed sometimes, but speculative fiction still makes you think.”

She added that the genre is good for political writing. Those who know Spurgin know that she is actively vocal about political issues, at times engaging with friendly and not-so-friendly commentators on Facebook. She said that fantasy and sci-fi books can take a big topic and make it seem more real.

“The climate fiction, or cli-fi, trend is an example,” Spurgin said. “We can read all day about what climate change is actually doing to the Earth, but it’s another thing entirely to read a story told from the perspective of the survivors of a global climate catastrophe.”

She estimated that there are about 2,000 books inside the bus. Most of her inventory came from Literarity in El Paso, and some are from donations and her personal collection. During a visit at Literarity, Spurgin shared her plans for the book shop with Literarity co-owner Bill Clark. He offered to sell her a collection of sci-fi and fantasy books he got from an estate sale.

“We bought them after looking in a few boxes and deciding it would be a good gamble,” said Spurgin. “Turned out we were right.”

There were around 900 paperback books and 800 hardcovers in the 50 boxes of books. Spurgin said it was an overwhelming amount, but many of them were written by women.

There is no order to the shelves inside the shop. Spurgin refers to it as a treasure hunt. The only organized section is the large shelf near the entrance that features women writers.

“I don’t want to have alphabetized sections,” said Spurgin. “I want people to browse around and find something they wouldn’t normally pick up.”

Spurgin said her collection is not much now but will grow as time goes on. She does accept donations of fantasy and sci-fi books for all ages. She won’t offer store credit for the donations, but will donate the remaining books to a charitable organization.

At the moment, she only accepts cash and checks, but most of the prices range from 50 cents to $12. She wants people to walk in her shop with $5 in their pocket and leave with more than one book.

It feels pretty surreal to her that her shop is officially open. Spurgin constantly smiled and expressed how excited she was during Friday’s grand opening as her friends stopped by. Some brought her flowers. Her former Front Street Books co-workers traveled from Alpine.

Adam Bork of Food Shark was surprised and honored to be her first paying customer. He stopped by to check out the store a few minutes before Spurgin officially opened because he had to work that night.

She’s still working out the details, but Spurgin Stationers will be open from noon to 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Spurgin told one of her friends that she thinks her dad would have been proud of her.

“I think he would like that I went for a dream,” said Spurgin.

Before Spurgin closed the shop for the night, she was reading next to her husband in the reading nook when her sister, Lynsi Daniels, arrived. Daniels shared she was happy for Spurgin as she looked around the shop. She handed her a bag that included a hat that belonged to their dad. Spurgin put the bag inside her car but left the hat. It now hangs inside the book shop.