Richard Foss

Mysterious Galaxy, new bookstore to create communities of readers

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Mysterious Galaxy, Hermosa

Mysterious Galaxy owners Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Hart. Photo by Chelsea Sektnan

Those who appreciate science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries have been watching the construction on Artesia near the Galleria with a hungry eye – when would Mysterious Galaxy, the South Bay’s newest bookstore, be open? The day has finally come, and we got a preview of the operation while workers were still painting the parking lot and putting the finishing touches on the building for its official opening Wednesday.

It’s almost shocking when you walk into this former computer store and see books – not music, games, or the other items that the chains push, actual books, attractively presented, with comfortable chairs around the shelves so readers may skim a few pages before they buy. Look closer at the selection and you will see that there is more than genre fiction offered – an area in the middle of the store, between walls devoted to mysteries and SF/fantasy, has an array of literary mainstream fiction. The eclectic selection is the deliberate strategy of co-owner Terry Gilman, a South Bay native whose Ladies, Lunch, and Literacy group has been arranging author meet-ups while raising funds for area charities.

Mysterious Galaxy also has co-sponsored events to benefit the Redondo Beach Library, is partnering with local corporations to encourage employees to read, and is starting a program to bring Young Adult authors into local classrooms. Gilman has deep roots in this community – going back a few years, her family owned the land where the South Bay Galleria now stands, and the ground under her store is one of two parcels that are still in the family.

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Gilman and her partner Mary Elizabeth Hart opened the first Mysterious Galaxy store in San Diego while she was there for an extended sojourn. That store has become famous not merely as a place to buy books, but as a stop for authors on the promotional circuit and the home of an active writer’s group, book discussion groups, and other special events.

“The reason Mary Elizabeth and I are in this business is to create communities of readers,” Gilman said as the store readied for opening. “It’s partly about creating a customer base, but also about introducing people who are already here to books they might not otherwise encounter.”

Asked whether literary readers would come into a specialty bookshop in the first place, Gilman pointed out that the lines between genres are blurring.

“Some of the bestselling books are crossover works – that’s where a lot of interest is. Jim Butcher writes a detective who is also a wizard, Charlaine Harris mixes the paranormal and horror with mysteries… there’s a lot of genre bending. There are still plenty of traditional mysteries and hard science fiction being written, things that are extending the ideas that have been explored for a hundred years.”

The star power this store can attract is expressed in their signings during their first weeks of operation – mystery author Denise Hamilton will be first, followed by best-selling vampire writer Jeanne Stein, then hard SF veteran Larry Niven. The store has also sponsored a local appearance by actor and author Hal Holbrook, who is best known for portraying Mark Twain in an award-winning one-man show. Other major authors who will soon make appearances at the store are Vernor Vinge, R.A. Salvatore, Brett Weeks, and Theresa Weir.

Mysterious Galaxy is now open, and a café will soon be established there selling premium coffee roasted by Catalina Coffee Company. It’s safe to bet that conversations over java and sandwiches are likely to be literary, intelligent, and eclectic. If anyone has a hankering for a good book to browse over their latte, they won’t have far to walk.

See mystgalaxy.com for more information. Mysterious Galaxy is at 2810 Artesia Boulevard, just west of the Galleria. Phone 310-542—6000.

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