Light Sabers and Knitting Needles: The Naked Bookseller Lands at Mysterious Galaxy
This weekend, LARB’s Naked Bookseller program hands over the keys of our blog to star-crossed sub-genre bookstore Mysterious Galaxy (with a flagship store in San Diego and a second outlet in Redondo Beach).
It sounds strange today, but when Mysterious Galaxy opened its doors as a multi-genre focused bookstore during the Clinton administration, not a few people voiced concerns that we would not only not find an audience for books of martians, murder, magic and mayhem, but actually might alienate readers of one genre by including the other. People conjured visions of Agatha Christie-devoted cozy readers stealthily backing away from costumed speculative fiction enthusiasts, and vice versa.
It wasn’t that there were no cross-genre works or authors in 1993, but they were few and far between. (The late and greatly missed Ray Bradbury immediately comes to mind.) And it wasn’t that we didn’t have customers shopping both sides of the store. But it wasn’t until years after we’d opened our doors that titles like Guilty Pleasures, the first Anita Blake novel by Laurell K. Hamilton; Storm Front, the first Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher; Dead Witch Walking, the first Hollows novel by Kim Harrison; and Dead Until Dark, the first Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris, appeared on our shelves, and we were selling them to both our fantasy and mystery readers. Cross-genre books are the perfect books for many of our readers, and a great personification of our genre store.
Back in 2001, Mysterious Galaxy San Diego’s Linda Tonnesen dubbed the Sookie novels “southern gothic vampire romance mysteries,” which was a handy shorthand way to explain them back when there was no True Blood, no urban fantasy explosion, and readers wondered what to make of this new direction from the author of the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard southern mysteries. Charlaine and the Sookie novels in particular are an integral part of Mysterious Galaxy’s story – staff members are Tuckerized in Dead as a Doornail and later books, and with her traditional early May release dates, Charlaine made regular appearances at many of Mysterious Galaxy’s annual Birthday Bashes.
During our twenty years in operation, we’ve seen the repeatedly announced death of horror (guess it’s undead? Ha ha!), the rise and leveling out of cyberpunk and steampunk, the growth of paranormal romance to appeal to the fantasy reader as well as the romance market, and the embracing of young adult novels by readers of all ages (thanks, J.K. Rowling). Whether a sub-genre is loved by our staff as a whole, or we just have one passionate bookseller who’s an advocate, we love being able to offer diversity to our community. And we are glad that those light-saber and knitting-needle bearing cross-genre readers are acquiring their books from us.
Through our Naked Booksellers Program, LARB wants to collaborate with bookstores to tell their stories, and help broaden their website’s reach so that fans of a store who may not necessarily even live in the same town can still support it.Yes people, believe it or not, bookstores have websites, and inside those websites are books you can order.
Somebody must go to one of these with me.