Monday, May 5, 2014

Dispatches From the Border: May 2014

Events and News from Borderlands Books

Upcoming Author Events
Marie Brennan, TROPIC OF SERPENTS (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) and Mary Robinette Kowal, VALOUR AND VANITY (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, May 11th at 3:00 pm

Meet editor Ellen Datlow, Tuesday, May 13th at 7:00 pm

August Ragone, EIJI TSUBURAYA: MASTER OF MONSTERS (Chronicle Books, Oversized Paperback, $29.95) Saturday, May 31st at 3:00 pm

Sarah Lotz, THE THREE, (Little, Brown, Hardcover, $26.00) Sunday, June 1st at 3:00 pm

Jane Lindskold, ARTEMIS AWAKENING, (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Saturday, June 7th at 3:00 pm

Greg van Eekhout, CALIFORNIA BONES, (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Wednesday, June 11th at 7:00 pm

Jo Walton, MY REAL CHILDREN, (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, June 14th at 3:00 pm

Coming up this summer, we''re delighted to host Sarah Lotz, Jane Lindskold, Greg van Eekhout, Jo Walton, and many others, so stay tuned!
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* Overheard in the Store:
"It's just like GAME OF THRONES, with anthropomorphic bugs."
"_Please_ don't make me nose-pass gluten-free pastries!"
"I just love the idea of killing someone with meat"
"That's not really a good thing to hear, 'Other than that, he's completely sane.'"
"You lose all validity because you just said that you needed to put your nachos down in order to do the Chicken Dance."
"Actually, I think I have a unicorn downstairs."
"Do you find this picture of Elric weirdly erotic?"
"You just take your logic and go!"
"The world needs more polyamorous ghost stories. Or, well, one."
"Dude, this can totally be my Darth Vader hat for work!"

* We regret to report the death of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, famous for his marvelous magical realism. He was 87.

* Congratulations to Charles E. Gannon for winning the 2014 Compton Crook Award: .  Gannon's novel FIRE WITH FIRE is also nominated for a Nebula Award.

* The world's smallest 3D printing pen lets you draw in the air:

* Nominees for the 2014 Aurora Awards have been announced.  Check here for a full list:

* Short list of nominees for the 2014 Hugos announced:

* Short list of nominees for 1939 Retro Hugos announced:

* Scholastic along with Montegrappa, LBA Books, The London Book Fair and newspaper The Independent announce a brand new award for unpublished authors of children's fiction (aged 7 - 12):

* Pan Macmillan along with The James Herbert estate announce a new award for horror literature named after the late author:

* Nominees for The Scribe Awards, for media tie-in works, have been announced

* Congratulations to Karen Joy Fowler, whose latest novel WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES won the 2014 Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction:

* Humans with pig hearts: science fiction that is soon to be science fact?:

* Yay! Two previously unpublished early Octavia Butler stories, with an introduction from Walter Mosley, will be released as an eBook on June 24th:

* Steven Spielberg is set to direct film version of Roald Dahl classic, THE BFG:

* Cast list for Star Wars VII film announced:

* Karel Capek's 1919 play R.U.R., which coined the term robot, is not only up for a 1939 retro-Hugo this year but has also been turned into a 60s retro short film:

* Warner Bros. has nine DC comics based movies in the pipeline including Sandman and Fables:

* Remember that rumor that Atari buried a bunch of its unsold games, including the incredible dud of an E.T. game in a landfill? Turns out it's true:

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From The Office

(Editor's note: since Alan is still busy doing construction -- hey, the basement has a FLOOR now! -- I've asked some other staffers to contribute From the Office pieces for the next few months. Don't worry; all the rest of us are just as opinionated as Alan, and he'll be back with his own special brand of analysis in a few months. But meanwhile, enjoy another guest piece from Jeremy Lassen, Borderlands' first (and longest continuous) employee. (Please note that while Borderlands is probably the only bookstore in the world with its own SWAT team, and that Alan and I will personally back any of our employees in a street fight, their opinions are their own and don't necessarily represent the store. - Jude Feldman)

The City In Genre Books
by Jeremy Lassen

Genre fiction often uses setting as a major character. This is an obvious statement in regards to fantasy fiction (Middle Earth is probably the best realized 'character' in Tolkien's work,) but the science fiction, horror and mystery genres also feature setting-driven work.

The reasons these settings-as-characters appeal to readers are as diverse as the number of readers out there, but there are some broad categories of reasons: sometimes it's the excitement of seeing someplace completely exotic. Other times is the comfort of seeing your very own streets lovingly and accurately depicted, and other times, it's the frisson of seeing something you know intimately presented with just a few minor tweaks and changes. This month I wanted to keep things kind of close to home and talk about some of my favorite books that use San Francisco as a setting.

One of my favorite novels set in San Francisco is the horror classic Our Lady Of Darkness by Fritz Leiber. It's a novel-length examination of the "modern" horror sensibilities that he pioneered in his short works like "The Smoke Ghost" and "The Hound." It mixes actual history and historic figures with a purely fictional account of some supernatural goings-on. That, combined with its sometimes painfully autobiographical nature make it one of San Francisco's best appearances in fiction. From the Tenderloin slums to the rocky outcropping of Corona Heights, it's a regular travelog of 1970's-era San Francisco. I first knew San Francisco through this novel, and when I moved here, I made a pilgrimage to Corona Heights, and later, I eventually found my way to the tenement at 811 Geary Street. Some people go for the mystery side of the house, and seek out Hammett. Some are attracted to the Beat writers' haunts. But for me, the first glimmerings of my love affair with San Francisco began with Our Lady of Darkness.

Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon is one of the classic, old school, City-as-major-character novels, and it's certainly worth a look if you've never read it. But I'm a fan of its lesser known sibling, The Dain Curse, which also features a pretty endearing snapshot of pre-WWII San Francisco. Since San Francisco has its own legendary Hammett expert in Don Herron, I'll suggest you check out his guidebook The Dashiell Hammett Tour, or pursue his website where he has a wealth of information (more on this later):

Staying in the mystery vein for a moment, I wanted to mention that legendary California crime writer Kem Nunn has a new novel called Chance, set in The City. It's part Sons of Anarchy, part Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco, featuring corrupt cops in Oakland, and a doctor who gets involved in trying to help a damsel in distress, and lots of bad people doing bad things. I really loved this one, and hope it ends up being the beginning of a long-running series.

Going back in time a bit, I have a soft spot for Oakly Hall's historical crime novels, featuring Ambrose Bierce. The first was Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades, in 1998, and the last was . . . And the Ace of Shoots, from 2005, with 3 other novels in between. Imagine a bitter, sarcastic Sherlock Holmes living in pre-quake San Francisco. That's a rough sketch of Hall's vision of Ambrose Bierce in these books, and this Bierce has a young journalist sidekick playing the role of Watson. Much like Kem Nunn, Oakly Hall is a true California original . . . a writer's writer who has had a huge influence on much of contemporary California fiction, and his work shouldn't be missed.

Staying with mystery but jumping forward to the present, I wanted to point out Isabel Allende's new novel, Ripper. This novel is a delightful potpourri of crazy genre mashups. The first thing you will be scratching your head about is - Isabel Allende wrote a murder mystery? Set in San Francisco? Yes. She did. Yes, it is THAT Isabel Allende. There's also a hint of the YA teen detective genre -- think a 21st century Nancy Drew kind of vibe, featuring an online group of teens who play the 'game' of solving murders that are written about in the media. When the young protagonist finds herself and her family caught up in a series of murders plaguing The City, the plot begins to unfold at a furious pace. There are some beautifully drawn characters in this one, and an equally beautifully portrait of contemporary San Francisco, focused much more on an old school bohemia, rather than the recently trendy hipster tech subcultures.

Moving into the realm of the fantastic, I wanted to point to our own Richard Kadrey, whose San Francisco based novel Butcher Bird preceded his more famous Sandman Slim series. Butcher Bird is filled to bursting with the local flavor of dive bars and tattoo parlors, and Kadrey's always sharp wit and broad sense of cultural history make it a pleasure to read. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Paradise Lost, on the mean streets of San francisco, was how I described it when it first came out.

Another San Francisco based writer who has used the City By The Bay for good effect is Pat Murphy. Her novel The City Not Long After was originally published as an adult SF novel, and later reprinted as a YA novel. It's a beautiful novel for children of all ages, and a love song to the culture and people that made The Exploratorium a magical part of our very real San Francisco. Her utopian post-apocalyptic visions of San Francisco fit neatly into the current crop of dystopian/apocolyptic trends.

Staying in the future San francisco for a moment, I wanted to touch on two science fiction novels by Brits that feature San Francisco. The first is Nine Tail Fox by John Courteney Grimwood. It has the vibe of an slightly edgy urban fantasy, but is a 20-seconds-into-the future science fiction story, with a hard noir-ish edge. A dead cop must solve his own murder, from the mean streets of Chinatown to the upscale modern palaces of the Seacliff neighborhood. It's a little bit travelog-y in that the bits of San Francisco that are used for local flavoring are ones that are routinely broadcast beyond our foggy borders, but there's nothing egregiously wrong with Grimwood's San Francisco, and the plot and characters are executed masterfully. And, OMG, what great cover art by Jon Foster.

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon is another novel that plays around with the Noir-ish elements of solving one's own murder. The San Francisco setting is far future enough that there aren't any physical indicators that it is OUR San Francisco. Rather, this is a book that LOVES Dashiell Hammett and his Continental Op, and the psychological portrait of The City is hugely reflective of THAT literary reality. It's sort of like seeing bits of San Francisco in the Star Fleet Academy parts of a Star Trek movie. except instead of the brightly lit utopian office parks and college campus vibe, you get the grimy, poorly-lit, messed up streets of Blade Runner, or DOA, or The Maltese Falcon. It's not OUR San Francisco, but San Francisco has seen itself in this light for a long time now.

An unlikely portrait of San Francisco comes from Anne Rice. It's easy to forget that Anne Rice set An Interview With a Vampire's framing device here in San Francisco, and her novel The Witching Hour takes place mostly in a beautiful old San Franciscan Painted Lady. Rice attended San Francisco State, and wrote Interview while she attended. For a long while after Rice won the writing lottery, it was common to hear snarky grad students from SF State's English department tell apocryphal stories of how Rice's instructors rewrote the novel for her. Jealously is an ugly, ugly thing. But it is clear Rice's early, moody gothic novels came in part from her experiences in 70s and 80s San Francisco.

One of the weirdest and most lovely re-imaginings of San Francisco comes from local author Ysabeau S. Wilce, whose series of YA books focus on the titular hero Flora Segunda. The Kingdom of Califi is a kingdom ruled over by the Aztec-esque Southern Kingdom. While there is an active revolutionary movement, Flora's mother is a general in the Army of the collaboration government, which is based out of San Francisco. There are crumbling Victorians, and magical house spirits who live in them with their human occupants. The Presidio is a massive Army base, full of intrigue and politics. There's magic and adventure and an incredibly subversive political message running throughout this series of books. The three Flora Segunda Novels are three of best "San Francisco" books I've read, although it's definitely a San Francisco you've never seen before.

Speaking of weird and awesome, there are not one, but TWO zombie apocalypse novels set in San Francisco. You MIGHT think I'm going to talk about The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer. But since that one is set mostly in the East Bay, I wont talk about it. At all. Even though it's awesome. No. The two I'm thinking of are Thomas S. Roche's The Panama Laugh, which features a pretty crazy-wide setting for its apocalypse, but our protagonist eventually finds himself holed up with a bunch of crazies at The Armory in the Mission District. Thomas is an old school San Francisco guy, who actually worked at The Armory for a while, so this one has a lot of stuff that rings true.

The second City-based zombie novel I wanted to mention was The Last Weekend by Nick Mamatas. He's a transplant from the East Coast, but don't hold that against him. His outsider's eye of The City and its politics, and his zany combination of political thriller, disaster movie, and zombie apocalypse novel should not be missed.

I certainly could go on and on about the myriad of novels set in San Francisco. It's a regular destination for the supernatural and the fantastical, as well as the criminal. Before I end this little overview, I wanted to point, once again, to Don Herron. Don has written a wonderful overview of mysteries set in San Francisco, and it can be found here: The other resource that Herron had a hand in helping create is the huge database curated by The Bancroft Library at Cal - A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CRIME FICTION SET IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. In part, it was created by cataloging Don Herron's personal collection of San Francisco mystery fiction. It can be found here:, and is an amazing resource to check out. Be careful, though -- it's easy to fall in and lose several hours at a time. And while you are at it, be sure to let us know about YOUR favorite book set in The City.

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Top Sellers At Borderlands

1. Summoning The Phoenix - Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments by Emily Jiang & April Chu
2. The Martian by Andy Weir
3. Influx by Daniel Suarez
4. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
5. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
6. Hild by Nicola Griffith
7. Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
8. Letters to the Pumpkin King by Seanan McGuire
9. Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
10. Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson & Allegiant by Veronica Roth (tie)

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
2. Marked by Alex Hughes
3. Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
4. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
5. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
6. The Long War by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
7. A Clash of Kings by George R.R.Martin
8. Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
9. Dawn's Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris and Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs (tie)
10. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter and A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (tie)

Trade Paperbacks
1. Questionable Practices: Stories by Eileen Gunn
2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
3. You by Austin Grossman
4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
5. Indexing by Seanan McGuire

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Book Club Info

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, May 11th, at 5 pm to discuss DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, May 18th, at 6 pm to discuss DAWN by Octavia Butler.  The book for June 15th is WOOL by Hugh Howey.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

Marie Brennan, TROPIC OF SERPENTS (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) and Mary Robinette Kowal, VALOUR AND VANITY (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, May 11th at 3:00 pm - We're informed by a reliable source that Marie and Mary, brilliant writers both, will both be in period costume for this signing -- the exact words were that the authors have "quite the show planned for you.  Period costumes, puppets, dragon bones, and party favours."  Marie has already visited us for the Second Memoir of Lady Trent (the Victorian era's foremost dragon naturalist,) but because the timing of the event was unusual, many folks were unable to attend -- here's your second chance!  We're also delighted to welcome Mary Robinette Kowal back to the store for the fourth volume of the Glamourist Histories, VALOUR AND VANITY.  In this novel, "master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote 'Ocean’s Eleven'".  Do not miss the enchanting opportunity to meet these two fabulous authors at once.  And, hey, dragon bones!

Meet editor Ellen Datlow, Tuesday, May 13th at 7:00 pm - We are delighted to host the esteemed, talented, and much-awarded Ellen Datlow for an informal chat in the bookstore.  A bit more detail from her website: "[Ellen] has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for almost thirty years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and has edited more than fifty anthologies, including the horror half of the long-running The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She currently acquire short stories for" Her most recent anthologies are AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA (co-edited with Terri Windling) and LOVECRAFT'S MONSTERS. Since Ellen lives in New York, we don't get to see her as often as we'd like, so be sure to join us, bring your questions, and your collections to be signed.

August Ragone, EIJI TSUBURAYA: MASTER OF MONSTERS (Chronicle Books, Oversized Paperback, $29.95) Saturday, May 31st at 3:00 pm - We are delighted to welcome local author August Ragone, presenting EIJI TSUBURAYA: MASTER OF MONSTERS - DEFENDING THE EARTH WITH ULTRAMAN, GODZILLA AND FRIENDS IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF JAPANESE SCIENCE FICTION FILM. From the publisher's website: "Behind-the-scenes hero to anyone who’s thrilled by giant monsters duking it out over Tokyo, Eiji Tsuburaya was the visual effects mastermind behind Godzilla, Ultraman, and numerous Japanese science fiction movies and TV shows beloved around the world. The first book on this legendary film figure in English, this highly visual biography surveys his fascinating life and career, featuring hundreds of film stills, posters, concept art, and delightful on-set photos of Tsuburaya prompting monsters to crush landmark buildings. A must-have for fans, this towering tribute also profiles Tsuburaya’s film collaborators, details his key films and shows, and spotlights the enduring popularity of the characters he helped create." August Ragone has written and commented on Japanese film and pop culture for more than 20 years.  Don't miss the fascinating opportunity to check out this book and bring your questions!

Sarah Lotz, THE THREE, (Little, Brown, Hardcover, $26.00) Sunday, June 1st at 3:00 pm - Come to Borderlands to hear Sarah Lotz read from her haunting new novel, THE THREE.  There are world-spanning events we never forget: in this novel Lotz takes that truth and spins a tale of fear, uncertainty and media pressure.  Although it is similar in structure to WOLRD WAR Z, THE THREE is completely unique.  From the publisher's website: "Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten.  The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.  There are only four survivors.  Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt.  But they are not unchanged. And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone. A message that will change the world.  The message is a warning."

Jane Lindskold, ARTEMIS AWAKENING, (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Saturday, June 7th at 3:00 pm -
Celebrated author Jane Lindskold launches an entirely new series with ARTEMIS AWAKENING.  Publisher's Weekly described it as: "…paying homage to golden-age SF by authors like Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, and C.L. Moore…" which invokes fallen interstellar empires, genetically altered animals (and humans) and a race to rediscover everything humanity has lost.  From the publisher's website: "The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay. . . but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had “bested” the environment.  The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children.  Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets. . . and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind."

Greg van Eekhout, CALIFORNIA BONES, (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Wednesday, June 11th at 7:00 pm -
Greg van Eekhout lives in Los Angeles and is the author of many short stories and several novels including NORSE CODE and the charmingly titled middle-grade adventure KID VS. SQUID.  However, I have to admit I'm most excited about his new novel CALIFORNIA BONES.  Here's the publisher's description: "When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian. Then, when Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.  Now thirty, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles -- the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California -- he is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist for Daniel to undertake: break into the the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.  Daniel assembles a trustworthy team of his closest friends from the criminal world. Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Morales, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.  Extravagant, inventive, and shot through with moments of intensity as bright as the California sun, Daniel’s story is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality -- different from the world we know, and yet also familiar and true."  We're looking forward to hosting Greg and checking out this incredible book; we certainly hope you'll join us!

Jo Walton, MY REAL CHILDREN, (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, June 14th at 3:00 pm - In MY REAL CHILDREN, her first new novel since 2011's AMONG OTHERS (which won both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award for Best Novel) Jo Walton explores two different worlds and a woman who can't be sure which is real.  From the publisher's website: "It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. 'Confused today,' read the notes clipped to the end of her bed.  She forgets things she should know -- what year it is, major events in the lives of her children.  But she remembers things that don't seem possible.  She remembers marrying Mark and having four children.  And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead.  She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.  Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War -- those were solid things.  But after that, did she marry Mark or not?  Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat?  Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy?  And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?  Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs."

Borderlands event policy - all events are free of charge unless otherwise stated.  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.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts
Contributor - Na'amen Gobert Tilahun

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of
Borderlands Books
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA  94110

Comments and suggestions should be directed to