Friday, May 8, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, May 2020

Events and News From Borderlands Books
MAY, 2020


How are we doing at Borderlands?

A lot has happened since my last update, a month ago.  Or was it two years ago?  I'm not sure because corona-time is strange and elastic. Regardless, much has happened.  Jude and I have been filling mail-orders as fast as we can (and that is fast indeed) but it's been hectic.  Selling 20-40 books over the counter is a moderately busy day but not at all a strain.  Processing, packing and shipping out 20-40 books in a day, however, is an awful lot of work.  We've been thrilled to do it -- both serving our customers and getting a little income makes us very happy -- but it's been busy. We'll be continuing to fill mail-orders for the duration and we're happy to send you anything you'd like.  You can check out our inventory at -

This is a good time to mention that Martha Wells' much anticipated Murderbot novel, Network Effect, just arrived today and we expect to be shipping out a lot of copies of that.  We're also going to have our first socially-distanced, drop-in signing with Christopher Moore on Friday.  He'll be signing copies of his newest, Shakespeare For Squirrels.  If you'd like to get a copy of that, or any of Chris' other novels, inscribed to you, just drop us a line at and we'll be happy to take care of you.

While Jude and I have been being the mail-order-monkeys, the rest of the staff have been working from home on various things, many of which I'm excited to announce today.

Thanks to a bunch of outstanding work on the part of Amy (with help from Jeremy), we have a new website.  It seems that 2005 called recently and wanted its website back, so we made a new one.  Please do check it out and let me know what you think -

We've also improved some other parts of our presence on-line.  Maddy has set up and is managing an Instagram account for us at borderlands_books so, if that's your thing, please do follow us there.  Maddy is also in the process of producing a series of videos that we'll be posting on our channel at YouTube.  The first should be up this Friday and we're hoping to post on a weekly basis thereafter.  If you want to be sure to hear when the video is up, please subscribe to our channel at

The final major thing that we've been working on is setting up our own shopping cart / ecommerce system.  As good as is and as great to work with as they are; our own system will work better, since it'll be specifically matched to our business, and we'll also save on the commission that Biblio charges.  Jeremy's been working on that and it's getting close to ready for a test run.  We hope to have it ready for ordering specific new releases within a week or two and to offer our entire inventory by next month.

Finally, I have been working on getting one of the Small Business Administration's Payroll Protection Program loans.  If you've been following the news about that, you won't be surprised that it's been a complicated and frustrating process.  However, despite my expectations, we did receive the loan on Sunday.  Granted, we applied on the 8th of April but, better late than never, as they say.  Thankfully, the decision about whether to accept the loan was simpler for us than it was for many others because we had kept the whole staff on payroll from the outset of the shelter-in-place order. Consequently, we didn't have to make the hard decision about whether to bring people back from furlough while still very unsure what the coming months would hold.

Thanks to that loan, we are currently in much the same financial position that we were in at the end of February.  Depending on what the next six to twelve months hold, it is still possible that we will be in a tricky financial situation at some point but, for now, things are looking relatively good. Not great, mind you, but pretty good. Certainly, we are not at risk of going out of business.

That said, your support is still very welcome and needed.  Ordering books from us to be shipped has made a huge difference over the past month and will continue to do so for as long as we keep the shop closed.  It's looking like we will be able to start offering curb-side pickup of books sometime in the coming weeks.  When that happens, continuing to shop with us would be a huge help in these trying times.

Though our original opening date at the new shop on Haight Street is now a thing of the past, I will be starting work there again this week.  The sheet rock crew will be starting on Monday, the 11th, and I hope to keep the work there moving forward at a good pace.  Perhaps by next month I'll have some idea of an opening date.  Sadly, I fear that we will have to wait for the opening party extravaganza that I had planned but, that will just make it even sweeter when it happens.  Because it will not only celebrate our new location but will also celebrate the existence of a vaccine for COVID-19!

So, until I see you again at the store -- whether it be outside the window, picking up a bag of books, or inside the shop, peering at me over a mask -- take care of yourself, your people and your world, be kind and patient, and stay safe.

All Best,

An Additional, Unrelated Note

A Word About State Senator Scott Wiener

Right now there are so many people behaving wonderfully that the ones that behave badly and deceptively are especially irritating.  Which is why I really feel the need to mention that our State Senator, Scott Wiener, said something in his April Newsletter that was deliberately misleading.  And it was about Borderlands.

In his newsletter he said, in part. "I know I'm biased, but I think that San Francisco has the best small businesses in the world. Some, like my personal favorite dim sum restaurant Mama Ji's, are still open for takeout. Others, like one of my favorite bookstores, Borderlands Books — a fantasy and sci-fi bookstore in the Mission -- have closed for now. "

Nice, huh?  Except I dunno why we would be one of his favorite bookstore since I'm absolutely certain that he's only set foot in the shop once.  It was back in 2015 and the occasion was to talk with me about some highly critical things that I had said.  I hadn't appreciated his position on the minimum wage increase that almost put us out of business and the cavalier way that he had dismissed a reporter's question about our closure by saying words to the effect of -- I love Borderlands but we knew that there would be some negative consequences from the wage increase.

At the time of his comment to the reporter, I asked all the staff if they had ever seen him in the shop.  They were all sure that they hadn't.  For some people, that recollection might not be authoritative but -- Scott Wiener is over six and a half feet tall, has red hair, and is even scrawnier than I am. He's not a person you can miss.

That conclusion was further supported by his one (and, I'm pretty damn sure) only visit to the shop.  He walked in and looked around in exactly the same way I've seen thousands of people do; the first time they come in.  He came to the counter and we had the following conversation.
Him, "Hi.  I'm Scott Wiener."
Me, "Yup."
Him, "I'm sorry to hear that you're closing."
Me, "Yeah, me too."
Him, " . . . . "

And then he left.

Not what I would say is the best possible example of reaching out to your constituents (at the time, Wiener was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and represented the district that both the store and my home are located in).  But, to be fair, I've been told that I can be a bit intimidating, especially if I'm not in a very good mood.

Since 2015, as far as I know, he's never set foot inside the shop again.  He's also not one of our mail-order customers (I checked).  Amusingly enough, we do have a sponsor named Scott Wiener, but it's not the same guy (I also checked).

So, why are we one of his favorite bookstores?  I truly don't know.  Unless it's because he likes being able to tie himself, as a supporter, to a business that enjoys a huge amount of support. Perhaps he thinks that he'll get the people who support us to support him?  As I said, I dunno and I don't really care.  But, I'm not going to let him act like he cares a bit about us when, at the time we needed help, all he could say was that -- there would be some negative consequences -- and then run away when he was face to face with the person who was suffering that consequence.

(Oh, and of course, he also said we were closed on April 3rd when, at the time, we had begun doing mail-orders again.)

- Alan Beatts

Upcoming Events

N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse read and chat, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall -- a virtual event to benefit Borderlands Books, thanks to Charlie Jane Anders and the wonderful I Love Bookstores Folks! Wednesday, May 27th at 12:00 pm PST  - We Love Bookstores is the brain-child of our friend Charlie Jane Anders, the author of The City In The Middle Of The Night, and was set up in response to concerns about the effects of the economic shut-down on Bay Area bookstores.  They're doing weekly events on Zoom and each event benefits a specific bookstore.  The two best parts of these events is that We Love Bookstores does all the work and all the proceeds from the ticket sales go to the specified bookstore.  It's a wonderful and completely spontaneous "happening" (in the very much 60's sense of the word) and we're just speechless with gratitude for what they're doing.

The event that they're doing to benefit Borderlands is on May 27th and will feature N.K. Jemisin, Hugo Award winning author of The City We Became, and Rebecca Roanhorse, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of Trail Of Lightening, in conversation, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall.  This promises to be a really wonderful exchange between two hugely influential modern writers in our field and one super-talented up-and-comer!  You can get tickets here -

(Given the current circumstances, all of our in-person events have been cancelled indefinitely.  We'll let you know as soon as it's safe to restart them!)

* The brilliant Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Mars Trilogy, NEW YORK 2140, and many other seminal works, examines our current pandemic:

* Two enlightening links about what our bookshelves say about us: and

* Check out the gorgeous relaunch of The Fabulist Magazine! They're running an open call for fantastical art, with more fiction, poetry, and reviews to come:

* Cozy up with book-themed socks, and help out the bookseller community at the same time!

* Check out the virtual launch of one of Jude & Alan's favorite books of 2020, Mike Carey's BOOK OF KOLI! (You'll need to sign in & give your email to Orbit Books, but you probably want to get their updates anyway.)

* Fans of Sir Terry, rejoice! Discworld will finally be getting the adaptation it deserves:

* There’s a newly-discovered snake named after Salazar Slytherin!

* Seven amazing libraries you can explore from your living room:

* The Baloney-Detection Kit -- Carl Sagan's rules for critical thinking:

* When Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised appearance on April 5th, she gave a stirring, inspriational and heartfelt speech.  She also wore an electric green dress that made A LOT of people think "green screen".  And so hilarity ensured:

* We're delighted that City Lights Books has gone way past their fundraising goal -- folks have donated nearly $500,000 to save this landmark bookstore!

* A playful poem on the wonders of reading from Ursula K. Le Guin:

* Dan Mallory (pen name: A. J. Finn) went to No. 1 with his debut thriller, "The Woman in the Window,"  but his life contains even stranger twists. . . .

* What happens when you set out to create the world's worst porn?

* She caught bullets with her bare hands, and made magic's glass ceiling disappear.  The greatest female magician you've never heard of - Adelaide Hermann!

* One man's mission to build a magical mouse village:

* How do we know other industerialized civilizations haven't already risen and fallen in prehistoric times? This is how:

* A star is dancing around a black hole -- just like Einstein said it would:

Audiobook Recommendations

Battles, Science, and Zombies -- Recommendations
by Melinda Rose

I've been writing weekly audiobook recommendations for the Borderlands Blog, and it's been a lot of fun.  I've rounded up and refreshed the past month's reviews for you here. We've got an epic battle for the soul of a city, a character-driven military drama, armchair science, and of course a zombie apocalypse.

The City We Became by NK Jemisin, Narrated by Robin Miles.
Just, Wow! This audiobook was an experience. I've never listened to a book so well-produced, and it's set a new standard in my mind.  Miles' performance is stellar.  She nails the accents of each individual borough, and every character has a distinctive voice - not an easy feat considering all the different cultures, backgrounds, and ages represented.  There are sound effects and music woven throughout the story - at just the right point below the narration so as to enhance but not distract.
There's a lot that resonated with me in this book.  Not only does Jemisin tackle issues of racism, gentrification, and toxic masculinity; she does it with a diverse group of characters whose race and sexual orientations are important, but don't define them. I find that refreshing.
In this story, every major city has a soul, and New York City is fighting for its life.  In order to fend off the powers that want to prevent it from becoming truly alive, it selects one person from each borough to be a physical manifestation of that part of The City.  The story follows each of their journeys as they come to understand who they are, what they stand for, and what's at stake if they don't join forces and fight for the city they love.
Each character is strong on their own.  There are wonderful  'oh hell no, not today'  moments when they feel backed against a wall and have to fight, but none of them are exactly eager to trust each other.  They're used to being self-reliant, and thinking of their own boroughs as distinct, but this can be isolating.  Since listening to this book I've been thinking a lot about isolation versus community, and the strength in vulnerability.  I like it when a story stays with me and inspires me to ponder things on a deeper level.
Plus, as a San Franciscan, I completely relate to the struggle against the forces that would chip away at the very things that make a city unique, and I loved seeing that fight made as personal as it feels.

The Light Brigade By Kameron Hurley, Narrated by Cara Gee
I was already a fan of Cara Gee, who plays OPA Captain Drummer on The Expanse.  No, she doesn't use her Belter accent here, but the performance is equally strong.
The story is told in first person by Dietz, who volunteers for the army after her home is destroyed by aliens.  She's idealistic and stubborn, but as she progresses through training and then into fighting, she discovers things aren't exactly what they seem. Through a glitch in the way travel at the speed of light is made possible in her world, she ends up jumping around through time and spends most of the story trying to catch up with herself so she can figure what the hell is going on.  The non-linear timeline is confusing, because you're experiencing it in the same way Dietz is, but the way all the strands end up weaving together is quite compelling.

Have some extra time on your hands and looking for something you can really sink your teeth into?
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, and narrated by Edward Herrmann is a great way to go.  Part biography, part history of science, and part exploration of Einstein's contributions to the fields of mathematics and physics, it all adds up to a wonderful listen.
There was a lot in here I didn't know about Einstein's personal life or his earlier, less famous but still deeply important theories.  It's interesting to put his discoveries in the context of the world events at the time.  I also enjoyed the crash course in theoretical physics, which was neither too dense nor dumbed down, the perfect balance for an armchair science nerd.

World War Z by Max Brooks is a great listen. It's a series of interviews with a myriad of survivors of the Zombie War from all over the world.  Each conversation features a different voice actor, with Max Brooks playing the role of the interviewer, so it really feels like you're listening in on the interviews themselves.  This book is eerily poignant at this time, what a friend of mine might refer to as a "disaster cozy".  The first interviews are about the beginning of the global pandemic, as governments try to cover it up or ignore the severity, until it gets completely out of hand. And then of course, chaos ensues.
There are several versions, all abridged, but the ‘Complete Movie Tie In Edition' has the most content. (Note, the book and the movie are related in name only)

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you find some great listens of your own.

From The Office

A number of people have asked me about over the last month.  Specifically, they've been drawing my attention to it because they think that it would be really useful to us, especially given the current situation.  If you haven't heard about, the super-short version is that they're offering an almost effortless way that bookstores can sell books on-line and get a very nice percentage of the sales (30% right now).  Further, they're offering a much larger percentage of affiliate sales than Amazon (10% vs. 4.5%).  And, finally, they're giving a substantial portion of those sales to local bookstores.  So far they've raised $1,271,387.61.

So, what's not to like?  And, where can Borderlands sign up?

The first one is a complicated question but the second one, that's easy -- Borderlands _can't_ sign up.

The American Booksellers Association has a very long history (it was founded in 1900) and my history with the ABA is long as well.  Borderlands became a member in, I dunno, 1998?

The ABA has done some great things.  It was the kernel for The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (founded in 1990), an outstanding organization that supports freedom of speech and has mounted highly effective opposition to banning books.  It has also worked closely with the BINC Foundation, which provides aid to individual booksellers in financial distress.  And it has been a tireless advocate for independent booksellers by providing extensive education opportunities, acting as an advocate, and working in opposition to, initially, the threat posed by large chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble and, later, Amazon's domination of the market.

It's also a wealthy, often clueless, organization that see itself as the embodiment of independent bookselling.  Perhaps its greatest failing, probably due to institutional blinders, is that when the ABA _thinks_ "bookstore" what it _sees_ is a large, general interest, new bookshop.  Problem is; that doesn't describe most of the bookstores in the US.  Consequently much of what the ABA does ends up being a Procrustean bed.  Everything that doesn't fit gets cut off or distorted.  Please bear with me while I dig into the ABA for a bit.

The ABA is wealthy.  Per the last federal tax filing in 2018, the ABA has assets of a bit over $34 million and revenue of $3.9 million.  In the real world, that's not much for a national trade organization, but we're talking about bookselling here -- that's a lot of cash.  In comparison, the average bookstore in the US has an annual revenue of around $225,000 (1).  As would suit a wealthy organization, the ABA is generous.  Salaries and other compensation in 2018 were $2.4 million.  Oren Teicher, the former CEO, pulled down a salary of $379,859 plus $65,367 in other compensation.  Remember that average bookstore?  Teicher's compensation is just shy of double that amount.  It's probably a good thing that the ABA is sitting on so many assets since, in 2018, they had an operating loss of more than three-quarters of a million dollars (2).

The ABA is clueless.  I'll just give a single example because I could go on and on.  Since the early 2000s, the ABA has flailed around trying to figure out how to provide access to ebook revenue for indy bookstores.  After various false starts (i.e. partnering with Sony and their walled-garden ebook reader), they settled on Kobo.  Which is not a bad eReader platform but, the deal that is supposed to make ebook sales have some value for stores nets a participating store around fifty cents per sale (3).  That's a fine model.  If a store moved 25% of its business to ebooks they could look forward to going right the hell out of business.  So, why the deal in the first place?  Every bookseller I've talked to about it has, at best, said, "Well, at least we can sell ebooks.  But, it's not really worthwhile."   One of the booksellers was an ABA board member at the time!  So, in a desire to seem relevant, the ABA chose a solution so bad that, if all their members embraced it and supported it, it would put them out of business (both the members and the ABA).  What makes it even better is that, though they didn't come up with a solution, they did create a perception on the part of customers that buying ebooks would support their local store.  If that doesn't sufficiently demonstrate the cluelessness of the ABA, just go visit the ABA's ecommerce site -  Never heard of it?  That's because it's awful and has always been awful.

Bottom line, the ABA is composed of well-meaning people who care about books, readers and bookstores.  I would never dispute that.  But, as an organization, they're not very competent and they're seriously out of touch with what bookselling is actually like.  Here's a secret about bookstores - many of the big, well-known stores are run by people who don't need to survive on their profits.  To my certain knowledge there are big bookshops owned by: venture capitalists who did very well during the dot-com boom; people who are well-enough-off to own a villa in Italy for vacations; the heir of a family that owns a significant portion of the downtown of a major city; and a landlord who owns a nice strip of top-end retail buildings in another major city (actually, there are two like that).  It is booksellers like that who have the time to serve as board members of the ABA.  I certainly have neither the time nor money to do it.  No bookseller who is really scrabbling does.  It's also booksellers like that who give the ABA the endowments that allow it to function.  And, finally, because ABA dues work on a sliding scale, it's the big stores that pay the most in annual dues.

So, you've got an organization steered by booksellers who are complete outliers in their field and headed by an officer whose compensation is almost double the gross sales of the average member store.  What could possibly make it better?  How about this?  The ABA, as an organization, is habitually less than honest in its public communication.  The first time I ran into that was a write-up in their newsletter years ago about a town-hall meeting with the CEO.  It was described as a pleasant discussion with Northern California booksellers.  In fact, it included an exchange between myself and the CEO that was so unpleasant that the president of our local booksellers association apologized to me for the CEO's conduct.  Over the years I've seen that pattern of spin-doctoring over and over again.  In that case, it wasn't particularly harmful, but it can be.  Take the ABA's recent riff, for example.  Over the past few years a big talking point for the ABA has been that indy bookselling is doing well and that new stores are opening.  It's treated as serious news by places like NPR (4), The Harvard Business School (5), and The Voice of America (6).

But what the ABA has actually been saying is that _their membership_ is growing.  If you look at the US Census figures, it's a different story --"For 1992, the Census Bureau reported 13,136 bookstore establishments, consisting of small "independent" stores as well as larger chain stores. As of 2016, the number of stores tallied in the Census Bureau survey had fallen to less than half that figure, to an all-time low of 6,448."  Furthermore -- "The bookstore workforce increased by more than 54% from 1992 to 2008. The number of employees then declined substantially, with 45% fewer people (83,319) working in these establishments in 2016 than eight years earlier." (7)  Even adjusted for the closure of Borders and the downsizing of Barnes & Noble, that is still a steady decline.

That kind of spin-doctoring is actually damaging because it gives people a false sense that everything is fine for bookstores.  Why does the ABA do it?  First, I think it's to maintain the fiction that bookstores are vibrant and important (and, by extension, that the ABA is important and going a good job).  Based on what I've seen over the years, that fiction is very important to the ABA.  Second, I think it's a function of the institutional blinders that I mentioned earlier.  The ABA has a hard time conceiving that bookselling is much bigger than their members.

Last point, and speaking of members.  Notice that the census figure for number of bookstores in 2016 was 6,448?   The ABA has gotten pretty clever of late and doesn't clearly list their total number of members.  But, searching their online list of members without any limit returns 2,817 stores (8).  They do list how many new stores join each year (while omitting the number of stores that stop being members -- perhaps no-one ever leaves?).  Per their website, they added 75 members in 2017 and 99 members in 2018.  Backtracking from that information suggests that they had 2643 members in 2016.  So, the ABA actually represents significantly less than half of bookstores in the US.  But you'd never imagine that from either their public statements or the amount of credibility they enjoy.

We haven't been a member since around 2000 or so.  I just wasn't willing to participate in an organization like the ABA.  I haven't regretted it for one moment.

By now, you're probably wondering what in the world the ABA has to do with, yeah?

Fair question. exists because a guy named Andy Hunter went to the ABA with some suggestions about what they could / should do to correct the problems with the ABA's ecommerce site -  The catch was that the ABA couldn't do it.  His suggestions would have meant that they were actually selling books, which they can't do.  (Rightly, I think. The ABA is a trade organization.  It's not cool for an organization that represents businesses to set up as a competitor.)

I talked to Mr. Hunter yesterday.  He's a good guy.  I think he really cares about bookstores.  Actually, I know he cares about bookstores because, when he couldn't work with the ABA to make something that would be really functional for indy stores, he went and did it himself; in consultation and with the support of the ABA.  At the time, he told me, he didn't know about issues with the ABA.  In fact, he said he had no idea that any booksellers had problems with the ABA.

So, to participate in, as a bookseller, you have to be a member of the ABA.  Granted, any bookstore can be an affiliate (just like anyone else on the planet) and get a little cut of referred sales but; that is neither financially nor practically the same thing.

Further, part of's plan is sharing a portion of their profits with independent bookstores.  From their website -- "If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they'll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don't use Bookshop)."(9)

The stores that get a piece of that "earnings pool".  It's the members of the ABA.  No-one else.

Which makes the counter at the top of their site reading, as of this moment, "$1,271,387.61 raised for local bookstores", a bit inaccurate.  Might be more honest if it said, "$1,271,387.61 raised for the membership of the American Booksellers Association".  Perhaps the ABA's fondness for less-than-straight speech rubbed off?  I hope not.  But, as my dad used to say, "You can't touch pitch and not be defiled".

The question I had was; Why ABA members only?  Since then, I've spoken with Sarah High,'s Partnership's Manager, and with Andy Hunter, the founder. Initially the only answer I got was, "Our reasoning for the ABA requirement is because of our partnership with their organization."  But, at the end of a really lovely conversation with Ms. High, she said that it was because of an agreement that they had made with the ABA.  An agreement that the ABA requested.  No surprise there, really.  But then, during my conversation with Mr. Hunter, it turned out that there actually is not a binding agreement in place nor does the ABA have a controlling ownership stake or board position.  In an email followup to our call, Mr. Hunter pointed out that, from the very beginning, his understanding with the ABA was that only their members would be participants and that the ABA had been very helpful through the process. But, when all is said and done, the only conclusion that I can come to is that the requirement is there because the folks who run want it there.  Which, I guess, is fine.  It's their company, after all.  Perhaps they don't want to piss off the ABA.  That's never been something that's concerned me very much (shocking, eh?) but I'd hardly suggest that my way of doing business is well suited to most other companies.

I find myself very conflicted about  It is obviously run by people who share values with me.  Most importantly, they both care about independent bookselling and are competent enough to actually do something effective.  I absolutely love that they're playing Robin Hood to Amazon's Sheriff of Nottingham; with the greater affiliate percentage and their pass-along-the-profit scheme, they're taking sales away from Amazon and giving the money to bookstores and the people who are generating the sales.  During my conversation with Mr. Hunter he genuinely listened to my perception of the problems with the ABA and said he would bring them up.  I was left with the feeling that he really would like to see things work out well.

On the other hand, their catering to the ABA doesn't sit very well with me.  And, especially at a time like this, when _all_ bookstores are struggling and people are so happy to help, the misdirection in using a phrase like, "XXX dollars raised for local bookstores" and avoiding almost any mention of the ABA on their website is . . . upsetting.

The ultimate feeling I'm left with is that I just wish it were different. is something that I'm thrilled to see and I would love to support wholeheartedly.  I just wish they would support me.

Hell, they seem smart enough.  Perhaps they could solve the problem of how to get indy bookstores a good enough margin on ebooks that we could sell them, and not go out of business in the process.  That would be cooler than skates on a rattlesnake.

- Alan Beatts


Best Sellers

Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for April, 2020

1) The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
2) The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
3) Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
4) The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5) Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
6) Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
7) Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
8) Agency by William Gibson
9) When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
10) Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Trade Paperbacks
1) This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
2) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
3) Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4)  City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
5) Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
6) A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
7) The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
8) Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole
9) Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara West
10) Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Mass Market Paperbacks

(Since we've only been doing mail order sales, we didn't have enough mass market sales in April to make a reasonable list.)

Book Club Information

Both of the book clubs that typically meet in the store will be meeting online via Zoom in May:

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, May 10th, at 5 pm to discuss REVENGER by Alastair Reynolds.  All the details are here: .  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, May 17th, at 6 pm to discuss A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick, as well as voting for their next six books.  Please contact to get the Zoom info.

This newsletter is distributed monthly free of charge and may be distributed without charge so long all the following information is included.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts
Big thanks to David Fitzgerald, who rounded up lots of news for us this month!

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA 94110
415 824-8203
Comments and suggestions should be directed to


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, April 2020

Events and News From Borderlands Books
APRIL, 2020

Hi Everyone,

Strange days indeed are here.  I hope that you are all happy, healthy and managing the day-to-day challenges with "grace and artistry" (as Tom Lehrer put it).  Levity aside, I know that this is a difficult time for all of us.  The crew at the shop are managing pretty well but we're all quite lucky in our individual circumstances.  Others are not so lucky and our thoughts are with them.

In the scale of what is happening, Borderlands really isn't very important and so I'm not going to waste many words on our situation other than to say that, financially speaking, we're doing alright.  The financial consequences of closing up the shop are significant but, at this point, manageable.  The staff will continue to get paid and/or they'll be getting unemployment benefits that equal their usual income, which is a huge load off my mind.  For the business, money will be tight down the road but we can deal with that then.  For now though, there are a few things that we're doing that will help our situation.  You'll find details about them below.  Bottom line though - there is little risk that we'll have to close as a result of the current situation.

What is important, however, are the grimly historic events that we are caught up in.  I think we each have our own personal, "Wow.  This is serious." moments.  I don't mean the big things that you see on the news but the little, personal things.  For me it was today; I did the math and realized that I could park in front of the shop, all day long, for $4.  I know it's silly for cheap parking meters to bring home the depth of our situation but a small thing is something that my mind can really put in context.

A super-tanker sized hospital ship coming into New York harbor is just too large, both figuratively and literally, to be easily incorporated in my world-view.

But, however we get there, this truly is deeply serious.  The effects of this will be with us for a long time.  I hope that the magnitude of the measures we need to take as a society will decrease sharply in the next months.  And I also hope that, within a year or two, we will be past the destructive part of this pandemic.  But, there will be vestiges and scars of it left over for years to come.

San Francisco is strange right now, in may ways, but it's also kinder than it was a few weeks ago.  People seem to be smiling more at each other on the street (albeit while walking past each other as far apart as possible).  I talked with a postal worker today who was genuinely pleasant, helpful and accommodating.  There's a bag-piper in my neighborhood who's playing from his rooftop at sunset each evening.  In general, people are driving slower and with more courtesy.  And, across the board, the people I've dealt with have been kinder and more considerate than usual.

It's is all those little things combined with the big stuff, like the generally responsible behavior of mayors and governors around the country, that make me confident that we're going to be alright.  This is going to be hard and it's going to be long but we'll get through.

We're going to be alright.

All Best,

"I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown. In the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth. That we always make it just by the skin of our teeth, but that we will always make it. Survive. Endure."
-- Robert A. Heinlein, 1952

Books Available for Mail Order

This week, the San Francisco Health Department revised the shelter-in-place order.  The revised order states that non-essential businesses (which is us) can continue "Minimum Basic Operations" which are described, in part, as "provide for the delivery of existing inventory directly to residences or businesses" (Section 13.g.i.). That change, along with the shift of most of the bookstores in the city to doing mail order services, means that we feel that we can start fulfilling mail orders, effective immediately.

(To be perfectly clear, we wouldn't be doing this if we weren't confident that we can ship books without putting the staff, our customers, or the mail carriers at risk. Likewise, to maintain social distancing, the only staff that will be working in the store will be Alan and Jude, who share a household.  No other staff will be present.)

So, if there's anything you'd like, please feel free to place some orders.  There are three ways you can go about that -

1)  Biblio - Our entire book inventory is listed online at <>.  It's easy and intuitive to use, and is the simplest way to order books from us securely online.

2)  Email - You can always email us at with any orders, questions, comments, or preorders.  We'll need to know the item(s) you'd like, your shipping address and phone number, and a good time to call you so we can get payment info.

3)  Call - If you're really anxious to speak to a human to place your order, we'll be available to answer calls and happy to speak with you from noon until six pm PST on Mondays. The phone number is 415 824-8203.

We're going to be doing one thing different from some of the other stores in town by not offering "curb-side pickup" -- all our orders are going to be sent through the post office, even if you just live right around the corner from the store.  We know it's a pain in the butt and seems completely ridiculous but, first off, the Health Department Order doesn't say anything about having customers come to pick up their items, and secondly, we believe that passing paper bags between us and you, even if we remain separated by six feet or more, isn't consistent with the sort of social distancing that we, as a community, need.

Also, unlike other stores in the city, we're going to have to charge shipping on all orders.  The cost of shipping is high enough ($2.80 to $3.33 for media mail shipping on one book), that it would seriously eat into our margin on a sale.  However, for the duration of the store closure, we are going to reduce our shipping charges to $3 for the first book, and $1.50 each for additional books.

We expect that, even within San Francisco, it will take a few days for your order to arrive.  In part this is because, based on what we've seen, the postal service is overloaded right now.  But, there will also be a delay built into our shipping process.  Per the NIH, the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic (  Since book covers are often treated with a plastic-like substance, it's possible that the virus could last for up to 72 hours on books that we pack.  Of course, neither Jude nor Alan will be packing up books if they're sick but that's beside the point.

To ensure that we don't mail you a box full of germ-y books (wrapped in germ-y bubble wraps like some sort of tasty garnish), we will be packing books on the first day after we get the order (or thereabouts) but they'll spend the second day all boxed up at the shop.  The third day we'll drop them at the post office and they'll arrive no sooner than the fourth day after we get the order.  As a result, though we can't make any promises about the exterior of the packaging, all of the contents should be perfectly safe.  So, just like anything you get delivered, open the outside packaging, wash your hands, unpack it, wash your hands again and enjoy.  Granted, the risk of infection from a contaminated surface is considered low by the CDC but, we want to take all possible steps to protect the health of our customers.  (And that is why we're not doing curb-side pickup).

Help Support Borderlands with Audio Books

[Editor's note: Long-time customer Melinda Rose is a big audio book fan and a recent convert to, so we asked her to share her thoughts about the service and some of her personal recommendations.  See more about at the end of this article.]

Read Me a Story
By Melinda Rose

I love books, I love stories, and I love being read to. Growing up my parents read to us almost every night, and it's always felt like such a loving, nurturing thing when a partner reads to me.

I'm a longtime fan of audiobooks, and pretty much always have one going. The right performance can bring so much life and texture to a story, and I can get lost in a book while doing chores around the house, exercising, driving, or simply relaxing. Plus it's a great way to work through that never ending, ever increasing, to-read pile. Between all the fabulous new books coming out on the regular, recommendations from friends of great books I've somehow never read, all the books I've meaning to read, and the impulse buys when browsing my favorite bookstores, well, the sad truth is I'll never get to everything I want to read.

I've had an audible account since 2007, and I was thrilled when I found out there was an alternative that supports independent book stores. I recently made the switch to, and it's been wonderful. It's easy to set up an account and choose which independent bookstore you'd like to support. The company splits the profits with the bookstore, and they have a huge selection. You can set up a monthly membership to automatically buy one credit a month (good for any book in their collection) or just buy as you go a la carte style. You can listen to a sample before you buy to make sure you like the narrator (and believe me, that really makes or breaks the experience).

If you want to listen on your smartphone or other device, download the app and your purchases automatically show up in your library. The app's interface is basically the same as Audibles, and it's very intuitive, so if you're switching over it's an easy transition, and if you're new to the world of audiobooks you’ll find it pretty easy to navigate. They also have a very human, responsive, and helpful customer service team.

It's all about the performance!
Here are some of my favorite listens

* Erin Morgenstern's latest novel THE STARLESS SEA is a story about stories, and the way the stories we love shape our lives. It has love, adventure, and hidden doorways to a secret world. There are multiple narrators and it's very effective. There's the main story arc, and then there are the books and stories the characters come across and those are read by different voice actors. This is one of the most beautiful books I've encountered, and the audio version really brings the intersecting stories to life.

* Warren Ellis's CROOKED LITTLE VEIN performed by Todd McLaren perfectly captures the twisted noir tone of the story, told in first person by a private detective reluctantly exploring the debaucherous underbelly of American culture. Sex, drugs, and plot twists galore!

* If you're a fan of The Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss reading his novella "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" is an absolute treat.  It follows the adventures of Auri -- her life in the forgotten, underground halls and rooms of the university. It's an achingly beautiful character study.

* "Aliens suck at music" is the first line in YEAR ZERO by Rob Reid (performed by John Hodgman). Basically the galaxy is filled with intelligent, creative, and evolved life forms who had no intention of contacting the primitive Earthlings, until they discovered our pop music. . . . And downloaded and listened to it for decades before reading our copyright laws. Delegates from the intergalactic society descend upon a low-level entertainment lawyer to try and negotiate down the huge sum of money the rest of the galaxy collectively owes Earth.

* Neil Gaiman is as brilliant a voice performer as he is a writer, and he narrates most of his books. I've only listened to a few, but I've loved them all, and honestly I don't think you can go wrong in selecting one of his works.

I encourage you to go to's website and explore the options. Their catalog is not quite as extensive as Audible's, but it's still a huge collection and they're helping the small independent guys, which is wonderful. I know many of us could use an extra diversion right about now.

[ is an audiobook purchase platform specifically designed to support independent bookstores. Unlike all of the e-book sites that have offered us partnerships, and in direct contrast to Amazon's audiobook platform, Audible, make it practical and seamless to support Borderlands (or another indie of your choice) with your online audiobook purchases.  It's easy to sign up and easy to use, moreso, we've been blown away by their extraordinary customer service and dedication to helping bookstores. Just go to to learn more about them and create your free account. As part of the account set-up process, you designate an independent bookstore that you want your purchases to support. (You can use this link if you want to choose Borderlands to support right out of the gate: .)  After that, browse more that 150,00 audiobooks and either set up a monthly membership, or buy audiobooks a la carte. ]

Borderlands Sponsorships

As you may know, Borderlands has been supported by a sponsorship program since 2015.  Under normal circumstances, our sponsors' annual contribution of $100 allows us to offset the difference between our annual sales and the higher wages in San Francisco.  In the current crises, that program is what has allowed us to continue paying our staff, despite the store being closed.  It is also what is allowing us to manage our expenses despite having almost no income.

There are a number of benefits to being a sponsor (most of which, sadly, are meaningless right now since our operations are so terribly curtailed) but the important thing is that being a sponsor is a crucial support for one of the few stores remaining in the United States that represents our specialties.

Any support that you wish to give Borderlands in these challenging times -- be it mail order purchases, a subscription to, or just rushing to the store to buy books when we can reopen -- is hugely appreciated by all of us here.  If you would like to become a sponsor as well, that would be wonderful and we'd love to have you as a member of this very special group of people.

You can get your sponsorship on-line via secure credit card payment at .  You are also welcome to mail a check or call us during our limited office hours to pay by credit card.  Sponsorships are $100 per year for one individual, are good for one calendar year, and are available throughout the year.  When you get your sponsorship you'll also have the option of making an additional contribution to help cover the cost of our current operations as well as our moving costs when we relocate to our new building on Haight St. later this year.

Information about sponsor benefits -
The story of how the sponsor program came to be -

A Personal Note From the Editor

I was already knee-deep in personal complications before March 16th, when San Francisco's shelter-in-place order came down. It's pretty exciting (read: harrowing) to move your 78-year-old father and his two cats from Los Angeles to an assisted living place in Northern California in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.  It's even more exciting when they announce a shelter-in-place order just after you've passed The Grapevine.  We had planned to overnight in San Francisco, and then drive the remaining 60 miles and move Dad, his cats Nicky and Parker, and all his stuff in the next day.  When we heard about the order, we determined we had to go straight through, lest we get stuck in an untenable situation in SF.  Sixteen absolutely exhausting hours after we left LA, he and the cats were both safely installed.  The next day, the assisted living place folks told me very politely I could finish moving him in and then I needed to leave as soon as possible and not come back, since they were no longer allowing any visitors, and closing to all non-essential personnel immediately.  Given the givens, everything is as good as it can be right now but everything's also REALLY complicated.

My collected complications are now feeling closer to neck-deep.  While I'm thrilled that we're going to be able to serve our customers, even in this quite limited capacity, I am way, way behind on everything.  So this is a little PS to let you know that I'm trying to catch up but it is super slow going.  Both Alan and I do read every single (non-spam) email we receive and we try to reply to all of them, but replies are going to be slower than usual while we both get ourselves unburied.

More generally, we look forward to providing you with great books during this bizarre and uncertain period.  I said earlier today that these are really strange times, but it's also fascinating to know you're living history as it happens, as opposed to recognizing it in hindsight as usual.  I feel like genre fiction readers are better equipped than the general population to handle it when things get Deeply Weird, and indeed they have.

We'll get through this together, even while we're at least six feet apart.

- Jude Feldman

Upcoming Events

At this point, due to the San Francisco shelter-in-place order, we have canceled all our upcoming events.  As soon as this changes, we'll let you know.


* Overheard in the Store/ at the Con/ at Writers With Drinks:

"It's a writing prompt: 'A lending library. . .*of* children.  Maybe a Redbox too.'"

"Hey, have you heard of this Robert Heinlein guy?"
"Wasn't he the one who wrote TWILIGHT?"

"Sadly I've had to put the whole cannibal thing on hiatus indefinitely."

"People will totally pay double to get drunk in a collapsing multiverse."

"It's completely legal to ship axolotls in the US, so at one point I received a box that said 'Contains Live Salamanders -- Hopefully'."

"That's A LOT of finger food for a pandemic."

"Their first mistake was assuming I was a harmless old woman. They didn't get a chance at another mistake."

"Eeney, meeney, mine-y, . . . . Both!"

"A bunch of great people. . .   great, supportive, and REALLY weird."

"We're vertical, on the right side of the sod, and sending telemetry. We're good!"

* Welcome to our new neighbors, indie comic shop Silver Sprocket!

* Meet the mad scientist who wrote the book on hunting hackers:

* Black History Month is over, but these authors deserve to be read all year 'round:

* Beer in Space!  Author Arkady Martine gives us the low-down on deep-space home brewing:

* A victim of the 79 A.D. volcanic blast at Herculaneum was found with an exploded skull and glass-like brain tissue . . .

* A gallery of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" paintings:

* Riddle us this: What has the head of a vulture, the body of a parrot, is the size of a small child -- oh, and is TOTALLY REAL?  This isn't a fantasy creature, this is the Dracula Parrot.

* In today's real-life Lovecraftian-Horrors news:

* From the Hogwarts school to the Wall in "Game of Thrones," here's how different buildings from fiction measure up:

* A 16th-century assassin's (or perhaps just an herbalist's?) cabinet discovered in a hollowed-out book:

* Once again, reality and science fiction are neck and neck: scientists build "first living robots" from frog stem cells: "It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism."

* What every mystery fan needs -- a thorough guide to not getting murdered in a quaint English village:

* Is Belukha Mountain (Siberia's highest peak) haunted by the color out of space?

* Forget chess - the real challenge is teaching AI to play D&D.  Some artificial intelligence experts think role playing adventure games will help machines learn to be as clever as we are:

* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42!

* It was just a matter of time.  Creepy abandoned dollhouses for your inner demon child:

* Akira Kurosawa's spectacular hand-painted storyboards:

* "Medieval wall made of bones".  How can you resist a phrase like that?

* NOT Dr. Seuss creations . . . 10 amazing and beautiful houseplants you never knew existed:

* Metal, Dude! Astronomers have discovered a planet where it rains iron:

* David insisted I HAD to include this in a newsletter ASAP -- detailed 3D illustrations of anatomically correct cartoon character skulls labeled as scientific specimens:

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for February, 2020
(Note, due to current events, the March bestsellers are not listed)


1. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
2. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
3. Agency by William Gibson
4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
5. Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
6. Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr
7. Penric's Progress by Lois McMaster Bujold
8. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
9. Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
10. Dune: Deluxe Edition by Frank Herbert

Trade Paperbacks

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. A People's Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
3. City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
4. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
5. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
6. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
7. The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes
8. Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
9. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
10. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Mass Market Paperbacks

1. Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
2. Neuromancer by William Gibson
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
5. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
6. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
7. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
8. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
9.  Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10. Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Book Club Information

We have canceled all our upcoming bookclub meetings.  We'll let you know as soon as they are restarted.

This newsletter is distributed monthly free of charge and may be distributed without charge so long all the following information is included.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts

Big thanks to David Fitzgerald for rounding up lots of news items this month!

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA 94110
415 824-8203
Comments and suggestions should be directed to


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, February 2020

Borderlands Is Hiring

Dave Fitzgerald, whom many of you know as the "baby" member of our staff  (he's only been a bookseller for a bit over a year -- that's a mere infant in bookseller years), is going to be heading out of SF for Eureka.  We're damn sad to see Dave go; he's a hell of a fine bookseller on top of fitting in well with the rest of the inmates at The Borderlands Home for Those Who Read Too Much.  But, since it's looking like he'll be splitting at the end of February, we need to hire someone to replace him. Further, because of all the extra work that this year is going to hold, we're decided to hire two new staff people.  So . . .

If you've ever thought that it would be fun to work at Borderlands, here's your chance.  But, before you fire off a resume and cover letter, there are a couple  of things you should know -
1)  It's a hard job.  Despite his charming disposition, Alan can be a demanding person to work for and, on top of that, there is a _lot_ of work to do.
2)  The pay is San Francisco minimum wage, currently $15.59 per hour.
3)  Almost all shifts are from noon to 8 pm, weekends included.
4)  After being trained, there would be two to three shifts per week.
And that's all the bad news.  There are a bunch of upsides, but we can talk about them in person.  If you're interested, please do email Alan Beatts ( a resume-type-object along with a cover letter explaining why you'd like the job.

Upcoming Events

Juliette Wade, MAZES OF POWER (DAW, Hardcover, $26.00) with Deborah J. Ross, Saturday, February 8th at 3:00 pm

Writers With Drinks (at The Make Out Room, 3225 22nd Street, San Francisco) with authors Tracy Clark Flory, Aaron Glantz, Meng Jin, Barbara Tomash, Juliette Wade, and Charles Yu, hosted by Charlie Jane Anders, Saturday, February 8th at 7:30 pm

Sarah Gailey, UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED (, Hardcover, $20.99) in conversation with Meg Elison, Tuesday, February 11th at 6:00 pm

Katharine Kerr, SWORD OF FIRE (DAW, Hardcover, $27.00) Saturday, February 22nd at 5:00 pm

SF in SF (at The American Bookbinders' Museum, 355 Clementina Street, San Francisco) with Mike Chen, Tiffany Trent, and Juliette Wade, moderated by Terry Bisson, Sunday, February 23rd at 6:00 pm

Seanan McGuire, COME TUMBLING DOWN (, Hardcover, $19.99) and IMAGINARY NUMBERS, (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99), Saturday, February 29th at 6:00 pm

N.K. Jemisin, THE CITY WE BECAME (Orbit, Hardcover, $28.00) Thursday, April 2nd, time and location TBA

Max Barry, PROVIDENCE (G.P. Putnam's Sons, Hardcover, $27.00) Saturday, April 4th at 3:00 pm

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)

Borderlands 2020 Sponsorships
by Alan Beatts

At the beginning of 2015 Borderlands was getting ready to close.  San Francisco voters had passed an increase in the minimum wage that was going to end the financial viability of the store, probably by the middle of July that year.  If not at that point, then the second increase scheduled for July of this year was certainly going to do the job.  Although I and the rest of the staff strongly support minimum wage laws in general, and we suspected that San Francisco's local increase would be generally positive for the city as a whole, we were trapped by the idiosyncrasy of the book business.  Unlike most products, books have a price printed on them. That makes the usual business solution of increasing prices to cover higher expenses impossible for us.  Rather than ride the business down into the grave, I and the rest of the staff decided it was better to close quickly, at the time of our choosing and at the top of our game.

Our customers were very much opposed to this and, out of their comments & suggestions and in consultation with the staff, we decided to try an experiment.  We would ask that a minimum of 300 people sponsor the store for $100 each.  If that many people were willing, it would offset the added expense of the wage increases that were scheduled to raise the wage to $15 per hour by the middle of the following year.  Since that increased expense would be on-going, a basic assumption was that the sponsorship would need to recur each year.

2020 will be our sixth year operating as a sponsored business.  Thus far, it has been a big success.  Not only have more than the required number of people sponsored us for each year, but with the support of our sponsors, customers, and fellow professionals in our field, we were able to raise the funds to purchase a building on Haight Street to be our permanent location.  2020, our 22nd year in business, is going to be a momentous one marked by our relocation to our new home.  We will no longer be subject to the greatest threat to the survival of any small business -- a massive and unmanageable increase in rent.

As exciting as this year will be, it's not going to be easy.  We are still under the wage pressure that caused us to start the sponsorship program in the first place.  In time, our new building will ease some of that pressure, once the costs of moving and the finances stabilize, but for now the finances of the building are only self-supporting and they do not benefit the bookstore. In fact, the building finances are only self-supporting once the bookstore is paying the rent that currently goes to our landlord into the new building's coffers instead.  Added to that pressure, I am doing a great deal of work to get the building is shape to house the store, which means that there will be even more work than usual for the rest of the bookstore staff.

If you have never been a sponsor or if you were in the past but stopped, this year will be a watershed moment for your support.  If you'd like to sign up, you can do so on-line at, or you can call 888 893-4008, email or come into the store in person.  Though there are quite a few benefits to sponsorship (you'll find a full list here - the greatest thing that your sponsorship will accomplish is helping us move forward and make our transition to our new space.

If you're interested in more details about how the sponsorship program came to be, you'll find the story here

In closing we'd like to thank everyone who has been a sponsor in the past.  Without you, we wouldn't be here.


* Overheard in the Store:

"Our benevolent, yet hapless, geek empire will span the galaxy."

"PLEASE go away. I am completely out of patience for mumbled glossolalia today."

"Thank you kindly, but I don't need anything else that could potentially cause awkward questions from the TSA."

"I don't need to watch the game. I can track it from the screaming outside."

"She kills all the plants, right?"
"Yeah, she's _definitely_ more of a mineral person."

[angrily, on the phone]: "Well obviously there's a ton of uncertainty here. We have no idea what we're doing, but that's never stopped us before!"

"Our team-building activity is to not talk to each other.”

"I told her that I REALLY needed a cocktail. Or a lobotomy."

"I like it when the aliens are weird enough to be recognizably alien but still human enough to be hot."

* "In partnership with SF in SF, Borderlands Books, Locus magazine, Tachyon Publications, Consonance and other organizations, SF by the Bay at the San Francisco Public Library, February 1 – April 30, presents over two dozen programs, including film screenings, author talks, live dramas, lectures, panel discussions, a filk music concert, book displays, a costume contest, and an exhibit of rare books, magazines and art drawn from the Main Library's J. Francis McComas Fantasy and Science Fiction Collection, a reference collection of more than 3000 books and magazines. With a focus on local authors and culture, the SF by the Bay exhibit and programs highlight the San Francisco Bay Area's important contributions to the history of fantasy and science fiction and celebrate this ongoing history in relation to its international and multimedia contexts."

* The Wall Street Journal talks to Kim Stanley Robinson about surviving climate change and his amazing novel NEW YORK 2140:

* How science fiction pictured the 2020's:

* William Gibson's new novel AGENCY is fantastic (and it starts literally on Valencia Street, directly across from Borderlands!). Here's a couple of articles on Gibson: (a review), and (an interview)

* Nova Scotia bookstore entices cat lovers with adoptable kittens!

* This is AMAZING.  Actual pulp cover treatments of classic novels:

* Christopher Tolkien, editor and tireless keeper of his father's legacy, has died at age 95: . (Christopher Tolkien was not just his father's editor, but also the cartographer of those iconic maps of Middle-Earth that set the standard for fantasy ever after: )

* If you happen to be in Atlanta, there's a "Dark Crystal" exhibition at the Center for Puppetry!

* It may not be _where_ we are, it may be _when_:

* Scott says "I knew I was cooler than my ancestors."  He pointed us to this interesting article that claims human body temperature has decreased in the US since the 19th century:

* Richard Stanley's "Dunwich Horror" will expand his Lovecraft universe and feature the Necronomicon:

* Five books that will leave you with hope for humanity:

* If your language had no words to describe "the future," would you still stress over it?  Here are five languages that could change the way you see the world:

* Similarly, English is the world's dominant scientific language, yet it has no word for the distinctive smell of cockroaches. What happens though, if you have no words for basic scientific terms?

* For the music of nightmares. . . you need the Apprehension Engine:

* N. K. Jemisin talks about the dreams that led to her worlds:

* Amazing historic scenes you won't believe are actually miniatures. . . .

* Judith Schaechter draws on Catholic iconography, contemporary culture, and Greek mythology to create stained glass works of art that recall Hieronymus Bosch's chaotic hellscapes:

* How Animals Behave When We Aren't Looking by artist Julien Tabet.  This is equally cool and just a bit distressing.

From The Office

Two Cool Things:

I don't get much time to write about stuff that I thought was particularly neat now-a-days.  Actually, I don't get much time. Period.

But, I ran across two things last month that I wanted to share.  The first is the TV series of Andrzej Sapkowski's "The Witcher".  It is . . . odd . . . and I really liked it.  The books are thoroughly imbued with Polish historical and cultural influences and that quality comes through in the show.  Which means that characters don't always act the way that you'd expect, and the story doesn't play out that way, either.

Now, granted the show is a bit uneven and there are some flaws but, overall, I thought it was refreshingly different.  And there are two _great_ sword fights, which is a big plus in my book. You'll find it on Netflix and I think it's worth a watch.  As a little added treat, here's the show's star, Henry Cavill, reading the first "Witcher" story -

The other thing . . . wow.  I read Everything Under The Moon by Jeff Johnson a couple of weeks ago.  I read it in one day (almost in a single sitting).  The damn thing grabbed me by the face and didn't let go 'til I was done.  I absolutely loved it.  It came out in 2016 but somehow I managed to miss it 'til now.  Full disclosure prompts me to make clear that this isn't everyone's sort of book; it's kind of like Crooked Little Vein by Ellis or Bad Monkeys by Ruff ran into a Jim Butcher novel in a dark alley.  The main character is part werewolf and kills bad people for fun (and profit), all while wearing a bad attitude like a trench-coat.  It's very noir, pretty violent, and the first person narrator's voice is absolutely spot-on and irresistible.  If that sounds like your sort of thing, you will _love_ this book.

February Building Update:

January was a good month and we made solid progress.  The bathroom tile work is done and looks wonderful.  We have a little bit of work left to do on the walls, and then we can have the plumbers and electricians come in to do the final work.  With that completed, we should be just about ready to close out that permit; almost two years after we opened it.  That's been a long trip but, given that the job started in the basement with new foundations and structural beams, I think we've done pretty well. I'm excited to get that closed and, perhaps even more so, excited to have a bathroom again.

The upstairs electrical work is also well on its way.  All the ceiling lights are wired up and, after some work this weekend, we should be ready for the "rough" electrical inspection.  Being past that means we can close up the ceiling and remaining walls. That's a real watershed moment because it marks the change from doing "rough" work (framing, major electrical, plumbing) to doing "finish" work, which is the stuff that makes the place start to look complete.  Depending on the availability of a sheet-rocking crew, the space will change dramatically over the next month or so.

Remaining work is completing the new front windows and doors, replacing the floor, and doing the painting.  Once that's all done, we can get to work on the shelves and final details.  When that is complete, we can get the basement office built and the rest of the basement in order.  At this point I still don't know exactly how thoroughly completed the place will be when we open up on May 25th but it's looking like we'll at least have all the big stuff done in time.  Thank goodness that we don't have a hard deadline for when we need to be out of the shop on Valencia.  That has really eased the pressure on this job.

That's about all the news.  Cross fingers that the progress continues and I shall keep you posted.

All Best,

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for January, 2020


1. Agency by William Gibson
2. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
3. Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
5. Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
6. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
7. Penric's Progress by Lois McMaster Bujold
8. The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
9. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
10. Dune: Deluxe Edition by Frank Herbert

Trade Paperbacks

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. A People's Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
3. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
4. How Long 'Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
5. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
6. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
7. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
8. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
9. Death's End by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
10. Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Mass Market Paperbacks

1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
2. Dune by Frank Herbert
3. Neuromancer by William Gibson
4. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
5. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
6. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
7. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
8. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
9.  The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
10. Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, February 9th, at 5 pm to discuss THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, February 16th, at 6 pm to discuss SENLIN ASCENDS by Josiah Bancroft.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

Juliette Wade, MAZES OF POWER (DAW, Hardcover, $26.00) with Deborah J. Ross, Saturday, February 8th at 3:00 pm - We're delighted to welcome local author Juliette Wade, showing off her debut novel MAZES OF POWER!  From the book description: "The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city's technology wanes.  When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father, and marry the girl he loves.  But the struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society, and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret's sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family's success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.  Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?"  Join us to meet this up-and-coming author who is soon to be a superstar! Juliette will be in conversation with author Deborah J. Ross.

Writers With Drinks (at The Make Out Room, 3225 22nd Street, San Francisco) with authors Tracy Clark Flory, Aaron Glantz, Meng Jin, Barbara Tomash, Juliette Wade, and Charles Yu, hosted by Charlie Jane Anders, Saturday, February 8th at 7:30 pm - Writers With Drinks is the most awesome spoken-word variety show in the world, hosted by the incredible Charlie Jane Anders, and we're always happy to participate!  The amazing lineup this month includes Tracy Clark Flory, Aaron Glantz, Meng Jin, Barbara Tomash, Juliette Wade and Charles Yu! Cost: $5 to $20, no-one turned away for lack of funds.  All proceeds benefit local non-profits.  Doors open at 7:00 and Borderlands will be on hand to sell books.

Sarah Gailey, UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED (, Hardcover, $20.99) in conversation with Meg Elison, Tuesday, February 11th at 6:00 pm - We couldn't be more excited to welcome Sarah Gailey, who will be showing off their brand-new novella UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED!  Jude can't stop raving about this book and we're convinced you'll love it, too.  Here's the description from the publisher: "Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her -- a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend.  Her best friend who she was in love with.  Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.  The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing."  Join us to meet Sarah and hear about your next favorite book.  Sarah will be in conversation with local author (and Philip K. Dick Award winner) Meg Elison.

Katharine Kerr, SWORD OF FIRE (DAW, Hardcover, $27.00) Saturday, February 22nd at 5:00 pm - We're always happy to welcome the beloved Katharine Kerr to Borderlands! She's back with the first a new trilogy that will re-introduce readers to Deverry!  From the book description: "The bards are the people’s voice -- and their sword.  All over the kingdom of Deverry, the common people are demanding reform of the corrupt law courts.  In Aberwyn, the situation catches fire when Gwerbret Ladoic, second in authority only to the High King, allows a bard to starve to death rather than hear their grievances. Guildwoman Alyssa, a student at the local scholars’ collegium, and Lady Dovina, the gwerbret’s own daughter, know that evidence exists to overthrow the so-called traditional legal system, if they can only get it into the right hands. The powerful lords will kill anyone who threatens their privileges.  To retrieve the proof, Alyssa must make a dangerous journey that will either change her life forever -- or end it."  Don't miss this near-legendary author who is at the height of her creative powers right now!

SF in SF (at The American Bookbinders' Museum, 355 Clementina Street, San Francisco) with Mike Chen, Tiffany Trent, and Juliette Wade, moderated by Terry Bisson, Sunday, February 23rd at 6:00 pm - (Suggested donation $10.)  Doors and bar at 6:00 pm, event begins at 6:30 pm.  We're so happy to participate in the Science Fiction in San Francisco reading series!  This month we're joined by the fabulous Mike Chen, Tiffany Trent, and Juliette Wade!  The authors will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by Terry Bisson.  Authors will schmooze & sign books after.  Books will be available for sale.  Seating is limited, so first come, first seated.  Bar proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Museum. Questions? Email

Seanan McGuire, COME TUMBLING DOWN (, Hardcover, $19.99) and IMAGINARY NUMBERS, (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99), Saturday, February 29th at 6:00 pm - One of the hardest working authors in genre fiction today, Seanan McGuire is back with not one but two new books!  From the publisher: "The fifth installment in New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire's award-winning Wayward Children series, COME TUMBLING DOWN picks up the threads left dangling by EVERY HEART A DOORWAY and DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES.  When Jack left Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister -- whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice -- back to their home on the Moors. But death in their adopted world isn't always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her.   Something terrible.  Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive.  Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.  Eleanor West's "No Quests" rule is about to be broken.  Again."  From the publisher of IMAGINARY NUMBERS: "The ninth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.  Sarah Zellaby has always been in an interesting position.  Adopted into the Price family at a young age, she's never been able to escape the biological reality of her origins: she's a cuckoo, a telepathic ambush predator closer akin to a parasitic wasp than a human being. Friend, cousin, mathematician; it's never been enough to dispel the fear that one day, nature will win out over nurture, and everything will change.  Maybe that time has finally come."  We're always delighted to welcome Seanan and we sincerely hope you'll join us!

N.K. Jemisin, THE CITY WE BECAME (Orbit, Hardcover, $28.00) Thursday, April 2nd, time and location TBA - (Details TK.  We are absolutely thrilled to host the three-time Hugo winning author of The Broken Earth Trilogy.  This event will take place at a local theater venue and there will be a suggested donation of $20 to help offset the rental costs.  However, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.  There will be advance tickets and we will be sending out a special notice when they are available.)

Max Barry, PROVIDENCE (G.P. Putnam's Sons, Hardcover, $27.00) Saturday, April 4th at 3:00 pm - We are happy to welcome Max Barry to Borderlands!  Max is the author of LEXICON, MACHINE MAN, and many other novels, but this current one may be his most inventive yet.  From the publihser: "Seven years after first contact, Providence Five launches.  It is an enormous and deadly warship, built to protect humanity from its greatest ever threat. On board is a crew of just four -- tasked with monitoring the ship and reporting the war’s progress to a mesmerized global audience by way of social media.  But while pursuing the enemy across space, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson confront the unthinkable: their communications are cut, their ship decreasingly trustworthy and effective. To survive, they must win a fight that is suddenly and terrifyingly real."

Borderlands event policy - all events are free of charge unless otherwise noted.  You are welcome to bring copies of an author's books purchased elsewhere to be autographed (but we do appreciate it if you purchase something while at the event).  For most events you are welcome to bring as many books as you wish for autographs.  If you are unable to attend the event we will be happy to have a copy of any of the author's available books signed or inscribed for you.  We can then either hold the book(s) until you can come in to pick them up or we can ship to you.  Just give us a call or drop us an email.  If you live out of town, you can also ship us books from your collection to be signed for a nominal fee.  Call or email for details.