Sunday, July 5, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, July 2020

DISPATCHES FROM THE BORDER
Events and News From Borderlands Books
JULY, 2020

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Upcoming Events
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Virtual event with Katherine Addison, THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Wednesday, July 8th at 6:00 pm PST

Virtual event with Jo Walton, OR WHAT YOU WILL (Tor, Hardcover, $26.99) Thursday, July 9th at 5:00 pm PST

In the Middle: a virtual event with Mike Chen (A BEGINNING AT THE END, Mira, Hardcover, $26.99) and Kelly McWilliams (AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Little, Brown, Hardcover, $17.99) Wednesday, July 15th at 5:00 pm PST

Relentless and Unconquerable: a virtual event with Kate Elliott (UNCONQUERABLE SUN, Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) and Mary Robinette Kowal (THE RELENTLESS MOON, Tor, Hardcover $30.99 and Trade Paperback $17.99) Tuesday, July 21st at 7:00 pm PST

Virtual event with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. QUANTUM SHADOWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, July 23rd at 7:00 pm PST

Virtual event with Ferrett Steinmetz, AUTOMATIC RELOAD (Tor, Trade Paperback, $17.99) Friday, July 31st at 5:00 pm PST

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)

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News
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* As above, so below. . . a photographer captures the Milky Way and bioluminescent waters together: https://mymodernmet.com/bioluminescence-milky-way/

* Author L.L. McKinney discuses the role publishers play in commodifying black pain, and how the focus of the industry must move beyond just "Issue" books: https://www.tor.com/2020/06/17/the-role-publishing-plays-in-the-commodification-of-black-pain/

* Customer Adam M. pointed out Bright 21st, a sci-fi short-story contest for "inspiring futures and positive alternate realities".  They have posted the winners of the most recent contest, and they're all free to read on the site (with free registration) and will be turned into audio plays this fall: https://www.bright21st.com/

* Kate Warne, Pinkerton agent and America's first female private detective, was a pioneer in her field who also helped protect Abraham Lincoln: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/606901/kate-warne-first-female-detective

* Wow.  An "Untethered Miniature Origami Robot that is able to self-assemble, walk on various surfaces, swim in shallow water, carry small items, and climb up different grades" - https://laughingsquid.com/dissolvable-miniature-origami-robot/

* This hotel room has a secret library door that opens when you pull out a specific book in the room!  https://mymodernmet.com/bella-vista-bb-hidden-room/

* Shut down during the pandemic, these museums are competing online for the creepiest object in their collection: https://www.boredpanda.com/creepiest-objects-curator-battle-yorkshire-museum/

* One point scored against dystopia! A machine that sucks up smog and turns it into diamonds: https://ideas.ted.com/this-tower-sucks-up-smog-and-turns-it-into-diamonds/

* Night of the Living Dead. . . Crickets? https://www.popsci.com/living-dead-excerpt/

* A bit of cryptographic history is up for auction: an Enigma encryption machine -- https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/second-world-war-enigma-coding-machine-on-offer-at-vienna-s-dorotheum

* Two terrifying trailers for the new "Candyman" movie, directed by Nia DaCosta and written by DaCosta, Jordan Peele, and Win Rosenfeld -- the theatrical trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlwzuZ9kOQU and DaCosta's haunting puppet trailer, that shows the Candyman's tragic origin story, here: https://variety.com/2020/film/news/candyman-short-puppet-origin-story-1234640739/

* Scientists say conspiracy theorists have a fundamental cognitive problem: https://www.inverse.com/article/37463-conspiracy-beliefs-illusory-pattern-perception

* Probably in my list of Top Ten Best Headlines Ever -- "The monstrous blobs near Earth's core may be even bigger than we thought": https://www.livescience.com/core-mantle-ulvz-blobs-enormous.html

* What do you call the world's only pink manta ray?  Inspector Clouseau, of course. . . . https://mymodernmet.com/pink-manta-ray-kristian-laine/

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Special Offer
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About a month ago (or was it two years? -- so hard to tell nowadays) a nice guy named Payam Salehi who runs Anam Cara (https://writewithfriends.com) emailed us.  Anam Cara is part writing workshop, part social-network type of thing, and part writing/accountability group.  He got in touch with us to see if we'd be willing to help promote the next session (which starts on July 14th, and is led by author, professor and speaker Faith Adiele <https://www.adiele.com>).

Off the bat we were _very_ skeptical.  There are an awful lot of on-line "writing classes" and they are usually, to some degree, a scam.  They over-promise, the "experts" actually aren't, they charge too much, and so on.  But Alan gave him a call anyway and he seemed like a nice, sincere guy.  After that, Alan did some digging and talked to both some prior participants and some other folks who are promoting it.  In the end, we decided that it was legit.  

Though it has the usual elements that you'd expect from an on-line writing class, the thing that stands out to us is the peer-support element.  At the outset, participants are added to a group and, further, assigned a writing partner.  The expectation is that, in addition to the class element, the group and especially your writing partner will be helpful and supportive of your work.  Based on the people Alan talked to, that idea actually functions as intended.

That seems to us to be a big plus over the typical writing group where the level of engagement within the group often leaves a bit to be desired, especially within groups that consist of mostly less-experienced writers.

Bottom line, if you're interested in trying it out, Payam is offering Borderlands folks a discount on the program.  The base cost is $390 ($290 each if you sign up with a friend) for the five-week course, but, if you use promo code "borderlands", you'll get $20 off of either price. Further, he's agreed to extend the refund period through the entire class so it is essentially a no-risk deal.  If you don't feel like it was worthwhile, you'll get a refund.

Full disclosure: Anam Cara's side of the promotional deal is that Borderlands will get 15% of any signups that come in through our promotion code.  We're not really focused on the income but, if the program is good and legit, it might be a nice little bit of extra cash for the shop.  The most important thing to us, however, is that it is, in fact, good and legit.  So, if you do decide to try it out, please let us know what you thought.

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Audiobook Recommendations
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Escape Through the Audio Hatch - Libro.fm Recommendations
By Melinda Rose

As I was compiling the list of my favorite listens of the past month, I realized these are all pure escapism. Light enough that you can do other things while listening, but meaty enough to hold your attention and distract. Turns out that's something I'm really needing right now, and maybe you are too. If so, I invite you to snuggle up with any of the following selections.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, performed by Stephen Briggs.
It's been a while since I've gone to the DiscWorld, and I'd almost forgotten how much it's like listening to a Monty Python sketch. Moist Von Lipwig is a con artist about to hang for his crimes when he's given a second chance at life. All he has to do is get the post office up and running again. Not a simple task. The mail's been piling up for decades and the postal workers are a skittish bunch of misfits. Despite his best efforts to remain cynical and aloof, Moist discovers his skill set is perfectly suited for government work, and that he really _wants_ to bring the postal service back to its glory days.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780060824693-going-postal?bookstore=borderlands

Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, performed by Mark Teretsky.
This classic has long been on my to-read list, and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  It's hard science fiction from 1958, yet somehow it holds up. There were times it reminded me of listening to The Martian by Andy Weir, because our hero is constantly science-ing himself out of or into difficult situations. I particularly loved Kip's pragmatic, supportive father. You want to go to the moon? Sure thing kid, guess you better figure out how you're getting there.There are so many great characters and plot twists I simply couldn't put my earbuds down.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781482964189-have-space-suit-will-travel?bookstore=borderlands

Lucky Supreme by Jeff Johnson, performed by Keith Szarabajka
I loved "Everything Under the Moon", so when I was craving something gritty I decided to explore more of Johnson's catalogue. The voice actor brings the perfect gravelly tones and pacing to this modern noir tale. The story centers around Darby Holland who runs a tattoo parlor in Old Town Portland. He's content with a simple life and an inner circle of employees and the other neighborhood proprietors. His life gets a lot more complicated when there's a sighting of a former employee in California. In order to save face Darby has to go down there, confront him, and attempt to recover the art he stole while skipping town. That endeavor escalates into a confrontation with a seedy Bay Area crime syndicate. Now Darby has to gather up all his resources to save his shop from those nefarious forces as well as a landlord ready to give into the pressures of gentrification. 
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781982616137-lucky-supreme?bookstore=borderlands

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, performed by Hilary Huber
"And I twisted myself about like twisted ones."  Fair warning - you're not going to be able to stop repeating the litany of the twisted ones for weeks after listening to this book. Mouse's grandmother was not a pleasant person. And, as Mouse discovers when she agrees to clean out the house after grandma dies, she was one hell of a hoarder. Among all the useless junk Mouse finds her step-grandfather's journal, and discovers there is definitely something eerie going on in the woods. The crazy ramblings of the journal start to manifest in the world around her and things get seriously spooky. There's an excellent unraveling of a mystery here, mixed in with so much laugh-out-loud humor I had to be careful about listening to this story in public. 
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781508297475-the-twisted-ones?bookstore=borderlands

[Editor's Note:
Libro.fm 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, Libro.fm makes 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 https://libro.fm/story 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: https://libro.fm/?bookstore=borderlands .)  After that, browse more than 150,000 audiobooks and either set up a monthly membership, or buy audiobooks a la carte. ]

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From The Office
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[Editor's Note: With all of the work we've been doing creating and revamping procedures and the projects that needed to occur to get our Valencia Street location back open, almost nothing has happened at Haight Street.  We hope to get back to work there shortly!]

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Best Sellers
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Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for June, 2020:

Hardcovers
1. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
2. Network Effect by Martha Wells
3. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
4. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
6. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
7. Angel of the Crows by Katharine Addison
8. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
9. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
10. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
2. Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisinn
3. Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger
4. The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
5. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
6. Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson
7. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
8. Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
9. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
10. City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
3. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
7. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
8. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
9. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
10. Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire

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Book Club Information
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Both of the book clubs that typically meet in the store will be meeting online via Zoom in July:

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, July 12th, at 5 pm to discuss A CLOCWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess.  All the details are here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/qsfandf . Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at cobalt555@earthlink.net, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, July 19th, at 6 pm to discuss A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE by Arkady Martine.  Please contact bookclub@borderlands-books.com to get the Zoom info.

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Upcoming Event Details 
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Virtual event with Katherine Addison, THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Wednesday, July 8th at 6:00 pm PST - We're happy to virtually welcome Katherine Addison, beloved author of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, as she presents her awesome new novel THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS! ANGEL is a terrific, atmospheric Holmesian fantasy with angels and werewolves and robotic dogs and mysterious murderer(s), and we know you're going to love it.  Register here for the event: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/borderlands-books-hosts/register and call or email us to set up an order for a signed and/or personalized copy!

Virtual event with Jo Walton, OR WHAT YOU WILL (Tor, Hardcover, $26.99) Thursday, July 9th at 5:00 pm PST - We're thrilled to be hosting Jo Walton as she presents her brand-new novel OR WHAT YOU WILL!  This is a story about an author's most beloved character, who has decided that perhaps he does not wish to be just a character any more. Jo will read an excerpt and discuss the book, and answer questions from the audience.  We do hope you'll join us; more details, and sign up for free here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/borderlands-books-hosts-2/register The author has also been kind enough to offer to sign and/or personalize copies purchased from Borderlands, so call or email us to set that up!

In the Middle: a virtual event with Mike Chen (A BEGINNING AT THE END, Mira, Hardcover, $26.99) and Kelly McWilliams (AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Little, Brown, Hardcover, $17.99) Wednesday, July 15th at 5:00 pm PST - Please join us for a fascinating virtual event with authors Mike Chen and Kelly McWilliams!  Mike and Kelly will each do a short reading and then discuss what it's like to launch pandemic fiction during a pandemic, moderated by Jude Feldman from Borderlands.  There'll be an opportunity for live audience questions as well.  And, if you purchase a copy of either (or both) A BEGINNING AT THE END or AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD from Borderlands, you can get a bookplate from the author signed and/or personally inscribed!  Email (orders@borderlands-books.com) or call (888 893-4008) for book order details; the link to sign up for the event via Crowdcast is here https://www.crowdcast.io/e/55so28hg/register.

Relentless and Unconquerable: a virtual event with Kate Elliott (UNCONQUERABLE SUN, Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) and Mary Robinette Kowal (THE RELENTLESS MOON, Tor, Hardcover $30.99 and Trade Paperback $17.99) Tuesday, July 21st at 7:00 pm PST - We're delighted to host a virtual event with these two acclaimed authors!  Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sci-fi-authors-mary-robinette-kowal-and-kate-elliott-in-conversation-tickets-111045758854 and join us on July 21st to hear an excerpt from Mary Robinette's eagerly awaited new Lady Astronaut novel, and Kate's thrilling new space opera.  The authors will also be in conversation, and how lucky are we to get to listen in?!

Virtual event with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. QUANTUM SHADOWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, July 23rd at 7:00 pm PST - We're always happy to welcome L.E. Modesitt, Jr. to Borderlands, regardless of the format!  Lee's new book is called QUANTUM SHADOWS, and he'll read a short excerpt, discuss the novel with Borderlands' manager Jude Feldman, and answer questions from the audience.  Register here and don't miss this fascinating event! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/borderlands-books-hosts-l-e-modesitt-jr-for-new-book-quantum-shadows-tickets-111050990502 The author is also happy to sign and personalize books ordered from Borderlands, so give us a call or drop us an email to set up your order!

Virtual event with Ferrett Steinmetz, AUTOMATIC RELOAD (Tor, Trade Paperback, $17.99) Friday, July 31st at 5:00 pm PST - Details TK!

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Featured Upcoming Titles
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(These titles have not arrived yet.  You may pre-order most of these books by calling or emailing us.  Prices may be subject to change.  Of course, we have many more titles arriving each week . . . call or email us if you're curious about a particular upcoming title not listed here. This list is tentative and subject to change by publishers. Unless otherwise noted, books are originals.) 

ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT * In the Shadow of Men * Subterranean Press, Aug 2020 (na, hc, eb)
BEN BOVA & DOUG BEASON * Space Station Down * Tor, Aug 2020 (hc, eb)
JOHN BIRMINGHAM * The Shattered Skies * Head of Zeus, Aug 2020 (hc)
CHRISTOPHER BROWN * Failed State * Harper Voyager US, Aug 2020 (tp, eb)
P.D. CACEK * Second Chances * Flame Tree Press US, Aug 2020 (h, tp, hc, eb)
NEIL CLARKE, ED. * The Best Science Fiction of the Year * Volume Five, Skyhorse/Night Shade Books, Aug 2020 (an, tp, hc, eb)
JULIE E. CZERNEDA * Mirage * DAW, Aug 2020 (hc, eb)
SETH DICKINSON * The Tyrant Baru Cormorant * Tor, Aug 2020 (hc, eb)
GARDNER DOZOIS & MICHAEL SWANWICK * City Under the Stars * Tor.com Publishing, Aug 2020 (tp, eb)
GREG EGAN * Dispersion * Subterranean Press, Aug 2020 (na, hc)
SHANNON HALE * Kind of a Big Deal * Macmillan/Roaring Brook, Aug 2020 (ya, hc, eb)
LAURELL K. HAMILTON * Sucker Punch * Penguin Random House/Berkley, Aug 2020 (v, hc, eb)
MARIA DAHVANA HEADLEY * Beowulf * Macmillan/MCD X FSG Originals, Aug 2020 (pm, a, tp, eb)
KEVIN HEARNE * Ink & Sigil * Penguin Random House/Del Rey, Aug 2020 (hc, eb)
RICHARD KADREY * Ballistic Kiss * Harper Voyager US, Aug 2020 (h, hc, eb)
DEREK KÜNSKEN * The House of Styx * Rebellion/Solaris US, Aug 2020 (eb)
JOHN LANGAN * Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies * Word Horde, Aug 2020 (c, tp, eb)
JEFFREY ALAN LOVE * The Mountain of Smoke * Flesk Publications, Aug 2020 (pi, art, hc)
JONATHAN MABERRY * Lost Roads * Simon & Schuster, Aug 2020 (ya, h, hc, eb)
STEPHENIE MEYER * Midnight Sun * Little, Brown, Aug 2020 (ya, hc, eb)
TAMSYN MUIR * Harrow the Ninth * Tor.com Publishing, Aug 2020 (hc, eb)
KAREN OSBORNE * Architects of Memory * Tor, Aug 2020 (tp, eb)
K.J. PARKER * How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It * Orbit US, Aug 2020 (tp, eb)
GEORGE A. ROMERO & DANIEL KRAUS * The Living Dead * Tor, Aug 2020 (h, hc, eb)
ANTHONY RYAN * The Black Song * Ace, Aug 2020 (1st US, hc, eb)
LAVIE TIDHAR * By Force Alone * Tor, Aug 2020 (1st US, hc, eb)
F. PAUL WILSON * Other Sandboxes: Stories with Characters and Places Shared with Writers Living and Dead * Gauntlet Press, Aug 2020 (c, art, hc)

Abbreviations indicate: (r) reprint, (h) horror, (ya) young adult, (nf) non-fiction, (c) collection, (oc) original collection, (na) novella, (a) associational, (om) omnibus, (eb) e-book, (an) anthology, (pi) pictoral and other, (art) art and others, (gn) graphic novel, (x) media tie-in, (nv) novelette, (ss) short story, (hc) hardcover, (tp) trade paperback, (ph) pamphlet, (pb) paperback, (oa) original anthology, (b) biography, (v) paranormal romance, (pm) poetry.

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
Thanks to David Fitzgerald for contributing news items!

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA 94110
415 824-8203
http://www.borderlands-books.com
Comments and suggestions should be directed to editor@borderlands-books.com

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, June 2020

Hi Everyone,

I'm going to jump in here right at the beginning of the newsletter since I'm sure folks are wondering about our plans for this month in terms of reopening the shop.  Based on the current (but subject to change) plan for San Francisco, we will be able to allow customers into the store starting on Monday, June 15th.  As we did with curbside pickup, I think that we'll take a slightly slower approach and we'll actually open for customers on Wednesday, the 17th.  That gives us time to make sure that we have everything in place to make the process comfortable for everyone.  It also gives us time to see what other businesses are doing and spot possible problems.  Likewise, just as we did last month, I think that we'll start with only Jude and myself working and then we'll bring the rest of the staff in the following week.

I'm still in the process of working out all the details.  Obviously we'll be doing all the expected things (hand sanitizing left and right (pun intended), masks required all the time for everyone in the shop, asking everyone to stay 6' apart, and so forth) but there will be a few other steps that we'll take as well.  What has been decided so far is that we'll be using a bunch of HEPA air filters that, in total, are able to cycle the air in the shop four to five times per hour.  Though there isn't a rigorous scientific conclusion that they are effective in reducing the risks in an enclosed space, I have found no guidance that suggest that they will be harmful in any way and it's reasonable to conclude that they will be helpful, if to an unknown degree.

We'll also be restricting the total number of people in the shop.  The exact number is still to be determined, absent guidance from the SF Department of Public Health, but my sense is that it will be in the 8-10 person range, inclusive of staff.  So, if you come by the shop after we're open and, upon entry, are asked to come back later, I hope that you'll understand our reasons and be patient with us.  We will also be open by appointment outside of normal business hours.  I'm still working on the exact details of that, but it's in the works.

You can expect a mid-month update email with all the details, once they're ironed out.  I've got to say, we're all very excited at the prospect of seeing you all again.  We've missed you.

All Best,
Alan

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Upcoming Events
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Melissa Caruso, THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, Trade Paperback, $16.99), Tuesday, June 9th at 6:00 pm PST, virtual event via CrowdCast

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)

We're also excited to be virtually hosting L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (QUANTUM SHADOWS) on Tuesday July 21st, and Kate Elliott (UNCONQUERABLE SUN) and Mary Robinette Kowal (THE RELENTLESS MOON) together on Thursday, July 23rd!  Look for more details on those events coming soon.

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News
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* Massive, enormous, huge "thank you"s to the wonderful folks who did incredibly successful fund-raising benefits for us over the last month -- Annalee Newitz and Short Story Club <https://www.shortstory.club/>; Charlie Jane Anders, N.K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall via We Love Bookstores <https://welovebookstores.org/>; and all of you who turned up virtually to show your support!  We appreciate it more than we can express, and it has made an immense difference in allowing us to continue paying our staff during the shutdown and moving forward with the construction plans for our permanent home on Haight Street.  We can't thank you all enough.

* We're also thrilled and grateful to artist Eli the Man <https://elitheman.com/> and Paint the Void for this amazing mural that now graces the temporary doors at 1377 Haight Street, our permanent-home-to-be: <https://twitter.com/borderlands_sf/status/1267174129683202048/photo/1>. Paint the Void is keeping artists engaged and paid during the shutdown; check out more of the stunning work they've been doing here: <https://paintthevoid.org/>

* In very sad news, Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, the oldest independent science fiction and fantasy bookstore in the US, and Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore (which shared the building) were both completely destroyed by fire during riots at the end of May.  Owner Don Blyly has claimed the Go Fund Me page originally set up by a fan: https://www.gofundme.com/f/let-us-help-save-uncle-hugo039s.  In addition, Greg Ketter's DreamHaven Bookstore, also in Minneapolis, "was trashed," according to Greg, but is still standing, and volunteers are coming to assist in the cleanup.  Dreamhaven is doing fine but the folks at Uncle Hugo's could really use your support.

* Tor and Tor.com Publishing, in partnership with Den of Geek, are launching TorCon, a virtual convention running from Thursday, June 11th through Sunday June 14th!  Info, schedule, and register here: https://www.tor.com/2020/06/01/announcing-torcon-a-virtual-books-convention/

* Tor.com is also hosting an amazing recorded panel with an absolutely stellar lineup of authors: P. Djéli Clark, Alaya Dawn Johnson, N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Tochi Onyebuchi!  The panel is part of The Bronx is Reading Festival.  RSVP here: https://www.thebronxisreading.com/rsvp

* A wearable, robotic third arm can assist with tasks when you need an extra hand: https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/robotic-third-arm-can-smash-through-walls

* A dictionary of Dolphinese? The clicking sounds dolphins use for echolocation actually form reproducible holographic pictures, that researchers suggest may be the basis of dolphin language.
https://upliftconnect.com/dolphins-communicate-holographically/

* You may remember local author (and photographer) Mark Coggins from last year's Litquake reading at Borderlands (remember when we could have in-person readings?!).  Mark has started a podcast, and he's reading the most recently-published August Riordian book as a serial audiobook. The podcast is called "Riordan's Desk", and you can check it out here: https://riordansdesk.buzzsprout.com/

* "Ugliest place I've ever seen": artist Amber Share makes charming travel posters for National Parks, based on their worst 1-star reviews. . . . https://boingboing.net/2020/03/05/artist-makes-travel-posters-fo.html

* While we were paying attention to other things, they made "Beetlejuice" into a musical: https://beetlejuicebroadway.com/

* Genre?  What Genre?  Six recent SFF novels that blur the lines:  https://www.tor.com/2020/03/06/six-recent-sff-novels-that-give-no-effs-about-genre-distinctions/

* Fifty years on, here are six ways Patrick McGoohan's surreal cult spy series "The Prisoner" prepared us for the modern world.  Are we all now living in The Village? https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/prisoner-patrick-mcgoohan-50

* Here's a pandemic treatment for you: Romans used to ward off sickness with (adorable) flying penis amulets: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/romans-used-to-ward-off-sickness-with-flying-penis-amulets.amp

* How a humble bookstore clerk outed Stephen King as Richard Bachman: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/502166/how-stephen-king-was-outed-richard-bachman

* Electrons may actually be conscious, sort of: http://nautil.us/blog/electrons-may-very-well-be-conscious

* 'Disco' tardigrade parties under microscope to win an international photo prize (and 50 other tiny wonders of microphotography): https://www.livescience.com/trippy-tardigrade-image-of-the-year.html

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Haight St. Update
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Last month we finally got back to work on the new shop.  And we made some really great progress.  So much that I've got some pictures for you to look at - https://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/p/haight-st-photos.html.  The high points are:

The sheet rock is mostly complete.  There are still some small areas that I'll be completing (because they're tricky) but the crew from Pat Trainor Drywall <https://www.marinbuilders.com/list/member/pat-trainor-drywall-inc-736> came by and banged it out faster than I would have thought possible.  They are the same company that did the work at the cafe and they're just the best.  It took them only one day to hang the entire 1400 square foot ceiling plus 300 square feet of wall.  And then just two more days to do all the mud. The difference is like night and day.

Tile is also mostly complete.  Simon Firth of Canterbury Tile, who set the tile for the bathroom, did the work for the front wall and about half of the vestibule.  We changed the design partway through and so we needed more red tiles than we had on hand.  Once we finalize the design for the entry floor, he'll be back and we'll get the job finished off.  It looks so good. Even moreso, it's especially exciting because it's the first piece of final and finished work on the exterior.

And, finally, we have a mural.  Paint The Void <https://paintthevoid.org> is a cooperative effort on the part of two non-profits whose goal is, "Helping keep artists engaged and paid as guardians of hope and beauty in the wake of COVID-19".  Basically they raise funds to pay local artists to paint murals on boarded-up storefronts around town.  My friend Aaron referred me to them and, despite telling them that it was a construction site rather than someplace boarded up because of the shelter-in-place order, they said they would love to get us a mural.  A few days later I met up with Eli The Man <https://elitheman.com> who did the coolest damn thing on the front of the shop.  I think it's kind of a shame that it's temporary but, who knows, perhaps we'll figure out something neat to do, once the plywood comes down and we have windows?

This month my plan is to get the final work done on the walls in the bathroom and then I'll get the plumbers back in to finish off that job.  Beyond that, there's a tiny bit of framing in the ceiling right outside the door, followed by sheetrock and then the bathroom is done.  We'll see how getting that work done goes, with everything else that's going on.  Wish me luck!

----------------
Best Sellers
----------------
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for May, 2020

Hardcovers
1. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
2. Network Effect by Martha Wells
3. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
4. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
5. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
6. If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Trade Paperbacks
1. Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger
2. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
3. Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
4. Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
5. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex Harrow

Mass Market Paperbacks

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

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Book Club Information
------------------------------
Both of the book clubs that typically meet in the store will be meeting online via Zoom in June:

The QSF&F Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, June 14th, at 5 pm to discuss TIAMAT'S WRATH by James S.A. Corey.  All the details are here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/qsfandf . Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at cobalt555@earthlink.net, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, June 21st, at 6 pm to discuss IRONTOWN BLUES by John Varley.  Please contact bookclub@borderlands-books.com to get the Zoom info.

------------------------------
Upcoming Event Details
------------------------------

Melissa Caruso, THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, Trade Paperback, $16.99), Tuesday, June 9th at 6:00 pm PST via CrowdCast -  Borderlands is delighted to host a virtual book launch with Melissa Caruso for THE OBSIDIAN TOWER, the first novel in her new Rooks and Ruin series!  Join us via CrowdCast to meet the author, hear her read from the book, and get your questions answered. You can also order signed and personalized copies from us, either by calling 415 824-8203, emailing orders@borderlands-books.com, or securely online via Biblio.com using this link: https://tinyurl.com/yd6rnomd

Here's the book summary for this thrilling title from the publisher:
"One woman will either save an entire continent or completely destroy it in a captivating epic fantasy bursting with intrigue and ambition, questioned loyalties, and broken magic.  'Guard the tower, ward the stone.  Find your answers writ in bone.  Keep your trust through wits or war -- nothing must unseal the door.'  Deep within Gloamingard Castle lies a black tower.  Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years.  As Warden, Ryxander knows the warning passed down through generations: nothing must unseal the Door.  But one impetuous decision will leave her with blood on her hands -- and unleash a threat that could doom the world to fall to darkness."

We hope you'll join us and Melissa for an exciting new kind of event!

Find more information and register for free here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/caruso-obsidiantowerlaunch/register

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, May 2020

DISPATCHES FROM THE BORDER
Events and News From Borderlands Books
MAY, 2020

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Update
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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 Biblio.com - https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/borderlands-books-san-francisco

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 orders@borderlands-books.com 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 - http://www.borderlands-books.com

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgvLsi-6ZyU0fuY09DIAt3A

The final major thing that we've been working on is setting up our own shopping cart / ecommerce system.  As good as Biblio.com 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,
Alan

-----------------------------------
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

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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 - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nk-jemisin-and-rebecca-roanhorse-for-borderlands-books-tickets-103364449852

(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!)
-------
News
-------

* The brilliant Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Mars Trilogy, NEW YORK 2140, and many other seminal works, examines our current pandemic: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/the-coronavirus-and-our-future

* Two enlightening links about what our bookshelves say about us: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/books/celebrity-bookshelves-tv-coronavirus.html and https://twitter.com/BCredibility

* 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: https://fabulistmagazine.com/

* Cozy up with book-themed socks, and help out the bookseller community at the same time! https://libro.fm/binc

* 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.) https://www.crowdcast.io/e/229sxi4b/register

* Fans of Sir Terry, rejoice! Discworld will finally be getting the adaptation it deserves: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/apr/28/terry-pratchett-novels-faithful-tv-adaptation-discworld

* There’s a newly-discovered snake named after Salazar Slytherin! https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/21/world/salazar-slytherin-pit-viper-trnd/index.html

* Seven amazing libraries you can explore from your living room: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/7-libraries-you-can-visit-from-home

* The Baloney-Detection Kit -- Carl Sagan's rules for critical thinking: https://www.brainpickings.org/?s=baloney+detection+kit

* 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: https://www.boredpanda.com/queen-green-screen-outfit-photoshop/

* 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! https://www.gofundme.com/f/aeany-keep-city-lights-books-alive

* A playful poem on the wonders of reading from Ursula K. Le Guin: https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/10/21/ursula-k-le-guin-reading-poem/

* 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. . . . https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/11/a-suspense-novelists-trail-of-deceptions

* What happens when you set out to create the world's worst porn? http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2017/07/10/amazons-secret-bad-erotic-video-auteur/

* 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! https://narratively.com/she-caught-bullets-with-her-bare-hands-and-made-magics-glass-ceiling-disappear/

* One man's mission to build a magical mouse village: https://mydailymagazine.com/post-36ce93c1/?dai=6BWwbB0KW1FKMEXE1aDOM8&fpCode=

* How do we know other industerialized civilizations haven't already risen and fallen in prehistoric times? This is how: https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/04/20/143758/if-we-werent-the-first-industrial-civilization-on-earth-would-we-ever-know/

* A star is dancing around a black hole -- just like Einstein said it would: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/world/star-black-hole-dance-einstein-relativity-scn/index.html

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Audiobook Recommendations
------------------------------------

Battles, Science, and Zombies -- Libro.fm 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.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781549119736-the-city-we-became?bookstore=borderlands

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.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781508280408-the-light-brigade?bookstore=borderlands

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.
libro.fm/audiobooks/9780743561396-einstein?bookstore=borderlands

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)
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780449806968?bookstore=borderlands

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 Bookshop.org 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 Bookshop.org, 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 - https://www.indiebound.org.  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 Bookshop.org, yeah?

Fair question.  Bookshop.org 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 - Indiebound.org.  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 Bookshop.org, 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 Bookshop.org'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, Bookshop.org'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 Bookshop.org 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 Bookshop.org.  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.  Bookshop.org 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

1) https://www.womply.com/blog/the-state-of-local-bookstores/
2) https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/view_990/135676641/0ca9d546f5bf1c27b1240f1296c9bab0
3) https://publishingperspectives.com/2015/08/ebooks-sold-at-independent-bookstores-garner-pitiful-profits/
4) https://www.npr.org/2018/03/29/598053563/why-the-number-of-independent-bookstores-increased-during-the-retail-apocalypse
5) https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/20-068_c19963e7-506c-479a-beb4-bb339cd293ee.pdf
6) https://www.voanews.com/arts-culture/us-independent-bookstores-thriving-and-growing
7) https://www.amacad.org/humanities-indicators/public-life/bookstores-establishments-and-sales
8) https://www.bookweb.org/member_directory/search/ABAmember/results/0/0/0/0
9) https://bookshop.org/pages/about

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Best Sellers
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Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for April, 2020

Hardcovers
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.)

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Book Club Information
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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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/qsfandf .  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at cobalt555@earthlink.net, 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 bookclub@borderlands-books.com 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
http://www.borderlands-books.com
Comments and suggestions should be directed to editor@borderlands-books.com

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