Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dispatches from the Border: January 2016

Events and News From Borderlands Books

Upcoming Events

An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss Friday, January 15th at 7:00pm

Black Comix Arts Festival at the San Francisco Public Library (Latino/Hispanic Rms A & B, Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin Street) with authors Dawud Anyabwile, Ayize Jama Everett, Jewelle Gomez, Nalo Hopkinson, John Jennings, Brian McGee, and Nnedi Okorafor, Sunday, January 17th from 1:00pm - 4:00pm

SF in SF with authors Cecelia Holland and Kim Stanley Robinson at the American Bookbinders Museum, (355 Clementina between 4th and 5th Streets), Sunday, January 17th at 5:30pm

Lisa Goldstein, WEIGHING SHADOWS (Night Shade Books, Trade Paperback, $15.99) Saturday, January 23rd at 3:00pm

Charlie Jane Anders, ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY Launch Party (Tor Books, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, January 30th at 3:00pm

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, HAUNTING INVESTIGATION (Smoke and Shadow Books, Hardcover, $27.99) Saturday, February 13th at 3:00pm

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)

From The Office

A bit less than one year ago Borderlands was getting ready to close.  San Francisco voters had passed an increase in the minimum wage that was going to end the financial viability of the store, probably by the middle of July last year.  If not July of last year, then the second increase scheduled for July of 2016 was certainly going to do the job.

Though I and the rest of the staff strongly support minimum wage laws in general and we suspected that San Francisco's local increase would be generally positive for the city as a whole, we were trapped by the idiosyncrasy of the book business.  Unlike most products, books have a price printed on them.  That makes the usual business solution of increasing prices to cover higher expenses impossible for us.

Rather than ride the business down into the grave, I and the rest of the staff decided it was better to close quickly, at the time of our choosing and at the top of our game.

Our customers were very much opposed to this and, out of their comments & suggestions and in consultation with the staff, we decided to try an experiment.  We would ask that a minimum of 300 people sponsor the store for $100 each.  If that many people were willing, it would offset the added expense of the wage increases that were scheduled to raise the wage to $15 per hour by the middle of 2017.  Since that increased expense would be on-going, a basic assumption was that the sponsorship would need to recur each year.

We outlined a few benefits that we could offer sponsors at little or no cost to the business, and then announced the program.

The phones rang off the hook, the checks came flooding in, and people arrived at the shop in droves.  We had our initial 300 sponsors in 42 hours.  And the sponsorships kept coming.  By the end of 2015, there were over 800 sponsors of Borderlands.

Since then, the sponsorship program has transformed Borderlands in some fundamental ways. Among other things, we now know who we are running the business for and just how much the shop means to people.

Another thing that changed was how I looked at what we are doing.  Prior to last year, I viewed Borderlands as my business and as a piece of property that was mine alone.  I had always planned to run it until I was unable or unwilling to do so.  At that time, I would close.  I never, ever considered that Borderlands would (or even could) be something that outlived me or my ability to run it.

Last year changed that assumption.  And this year has only firmed my resolve to do everything I can to make sure that Borderlands outlasts me.

As planned, on January 1st we let all the sponsors from 2015 know that it was time to step up once again.  And they did.  The deadline to reach 300 sponsors was March 31st.  But, within one week we had the sponsors that we needed to remain open throughout 2016.  And the sponsorship are continuing to come in.

So, by one way of looking at it, we're set.  Based on the response this year, I feel pretty confident that we can continue to get the support we need to keep going, not just for this year, but for the years to come.

On the other hand, we need more sponsors -- lots of them.

Our current lease will expire in a bit over 5 years.  In all likelihood, our rent will skyrocket to a level that we cannot possibly cover.

Over the past few years, as I've watched the character of San Francisco change and the cost of rent go steadily upwards, my assumption was that we would be unable to find another location that we could afford when 2021 rolled around.  My plan was to scale down our operations in the cafe next door and co-locate the bookstore with the cafe.  It would cost us a lot of space for books, but I figured we could shoe-horn the two businesses into the same space.  Until the lease for the cafe ran out in 2025.  But by then I figured that I'd be ready to do something a bit less demanding than running two businesses and I would close the shop.

Then the minimum wage ordinance came up in early 2014, and made me pretty sure that the timeline for closing had just moved up.  But then we tried sponsorships and the idea was more successful than I had ever dreamed.  I started to feel that I had an obligation to all the people who had supported us, an obligation to try to find a way past 2021 and 2025 and even past my eventual incapacitation or death.

So now I'm working on how to build a bookstore that will last for the next 50 years or more.

I'm lucky that, in my personal life, I have already provided for all the people that I need to consider.  So, I already can plan on passing Borderlands on to a non-profit foundation.  But that's a question for (I hope) the more distant future.

The immediate and looming problem is where Borderlands will be physically located in 5 or 10 years.  The solution that I've decided on is to buy a building to house it, in perpetuity.  On first look, that seems like an impossible idea.  But . . . last year I was able to put aside almost $50,000 because the number of sponsors far exceeded what we needed.

Buying a building has been on my mind for a while (I just couldn't see how to manage it) so I've been watching the commercial real-estate market for well over a year now.  Based on the completed sales I've seen and my own experience with real estate (my mom used to be a broker), I think we can find a place that will work for around one million dollars.  For a commercial loan, that means a down payment of around $300,000 and a mortgage that we can cover with the money we currently pay in rent.

And that is why we need more sponsors, well beyond the minimum of 300.  We need to put aside enough for that down payment and we need to do it in four to five years.  I don't know if we can get there, I don't even really know if we can get close.  But I'm going to try and I'd like you to help.

Last year we did something unprecedented in bookselling.  I am hopeful that we can do something even more remarkable -- deliberately create a bookstore that is meant to last as long as there are books and people who want to buy them.

I'll be going into some more detail about this idea in later newsletters.  I think that outline will do for now.  There's only one thing left to say:

I and everyone else at Borderlands salute the 844 people who decided that bookstores matter and that Borderlands mattered enough to save.  And we further salute the 405 people and counting who've decided that, a year later, Borderlands still matters.  We are here today because of you.  You have our heartfelt gratitude.

Alan Beatts

PS  If you would like to know more about how the sponsor program came about, please see our sponsor's blog -  For details about what benefits sponsors receive -  And, if you browse around that blog a bit, you'll see some of what we've done with our sponsors over the past year.

PPS  You can become a sponsor on-line at, or you can call 888 893-4008, email or come into the store in person.


* Overheard in the store:
"Wait a minute - you talk about me to your hairdresser?!"

* Of all the things to do with delicious gingerbread?!  Both amazing and horrifying -

* For the first time we have actual photos of the sand dunes on Mars!  Check out the gorgeous images captured by the rover Curiosity:\

* Did you know that creators can submit ideas for new Lego sets, and those that get 10,000 supporters will be reviewed by Lego for possible production?  Everyone should go support this amazing black and white Lovelace & Babbage Analytical Engine Lego set; a stunning creation: . More photos here:

* George Clayton Johnson, who co-wrote LOGAN'S RUN along with episodes of both "The Twilight Zone" and "Star Trek",  has passed away.  He had been fighting cancer for some time. Check out his many accomplishments in this New York Times Piece:

* In further sad news, author Peter Dickinson, winner of two Carnegie medals, also passed away recently.  He was a talented and beloved author of a number of genres.  Head over to The Independent to read his entire impressive bio:

*, which has been publishing fascinating and experimental science fiction novellas in paper as well as on their website, will cease accepting unsolicited submissions this month.  It’s a shame, since we think some of their most innovative stories have come from unknowns.

* In better news for un-agented authors, UK speculative publishing powerhouse Gollancz will be accepting unsolicited and un-agented novel manuscripts during the month of January, 2016. Check out their criteria here:  (And get those novels done!)

* The Quartz has an interesting article on how books and newspapers will successfully survive the next few years, but magazines will not fare as well.

* Peter S. Beagle has sued his longtime manager, alleging elder abuse and fraud among other charges.  More details are here:

* An interesting meditation on whether GRRM should actually be blamed for the delay of THE WINDS OF WINTER and the curse of success:

* "Invisible Universe: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction", the documentary that has been in production for a number of years, appears to be reaching the final stretch of fundraising, and the filmmakers have released a seven-minute demo film.

* "The Expanse" for Syfy, based on the bestselling series by James S.A. Corey, has already been renewed for a second season.

* brings us this beautifully animated film, “Waltz with Four Hands”

* Also from io9, here’s a great list of the oddest ways that major characters were written out of sequels and franchises:

* This very interesting piece by television producer John Yorke argues that the structure of successful Western storytelling might possibly have roots in a universal archetype:

* Wired took some of the biggest science fiction movies of 2015 and posited what would happen if their science was a bit more realistic.  The results are . . . not pretty.

* Saucony has made a mini-documentary about Matthew Inman, creator of the comic "The Oatmeal":

* "The Guardian" has an article discussing the highly anticipated, diverse SF/F books coming out in the new year.

* And of course since it’s a new year, it is time for everyone’s lists of SF/F for the preceding year!  Check out the following: io9 gives us not only the 10 best but also the 10 worst science fiction & fantasy films of the past year:
Outer Places instead just focused on the worst science fiction movies, and there’s surprisingly not as much overlap with i09 as you would think:
SciFiNow ( and Popular Mechanics ( decided to list the things they are excited to see in 2016; only time will tell how many of those end up on the best/worst lists NEXT year!

Award News

* Joe R. Lansdale will receive the Raymond Chandler Award at the Italian Courmayeur Noir:

* The Masters Review -- a platform for emerging writers -- has announced their Fall Fiction Winners.  Check them out:

* The winners of the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award have been announced -- congratulations to Karen Coombs and Sallie Wolf!  The grant of $3000 is to honor the contribution of mid-list authors and bring attention to their current works in progress:

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for December, 2015

1. CHIMERA by Mira Grant
2. ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson
3. WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
4. MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger
5. THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi
6. AURORA by Kim Stanley Robinson
7. SHADOWS OF SELF by  Brandon Sanderson
8. THE END OF ALL THINGS by John Scalzi
9. THE CINDER SPIRES by Jim Butcher
10. CARTER AND LOVECRAFT by Jonathan L. Howard

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
2. THE FLUX by Ferrett Steinmetz
3. GIVE UP THE GHOST by Juliet Blackwell
4. A RED-ROSE CHAIN by Seanan McGuire
5. CRUCIBLE by Mercedes Lackey
6. ALIEN-IN-CHIEF by Gini Koch
7. THE BURIED LIFE by Carrie Patel
8. THE SHADOW THRONE by Django Wexler
9. THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA by Matthew Reilly
10. JOE STEELE by Harry Turtledove

Trade Paperbacks
2. ANCILLARY MERCY by Ann Leckie
3. A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER by Alex Marshall
4. THE FIFTH HEART by Dan Simmons

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, January 10th, at 5 pm to discuss THE EINSTEIN PROPHECY by Robert Masello.  The book for February will be CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell. Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, January 17th, at 6 pm to discuss GENE MAPPER by Taiyo Fujii.  The book for February will be THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss Friday, January 15th at 7:00pm - We are thrilled as always to host the delightful and hilarious Patrick Rothfuss!  Many fans know Rothfuss as the fantastically best-selling author of THE NAME OF THE WIND, THE WISE MAN'S FEAR, and THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS, but those of you who have seen him at Borderlands also know him as the first person to effectively explain why guinea pigs are actually fish.  Pat is also the founder of the phenomenally successful charity World Builders, which "use[s] the collective power of readers, fellow authors and book lovers to make the world a better place".  Join us for an evening of talk, questions and answers, and signing with this personable, intelligent, philanthropic, and incredibly charming author!

Black Comix Arts Festival at the San Francisco Public Library (Latino/Hispanic Rms A & B, Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin Street) with authors and artists Dawud Anyabwile, Ayize Jama Everett, Jewelle Gomez, Nalo Hopkinson, John Jennings, Brian McGee, and Nnedi Okorafor, Sunday, Janaury 17th from 1:00pm - 4:00pm - "The African American Center of San Francisco Public Library and the MLK Day Foundation present the Black Comix Arts Festival. This year’s author panel at the Koret Auditorium will draw from the best of the Afrofuturist genre." Featured authors will be Dawud Anyabwile, Ayize Jama Everett, Jewelle Gomez, Nalo Hopkinson, John Jennings, Brian McGee, and Nnedi Okorafor.  Borderlands will be on hand to sell books for this amazing selection of creators!

SF in SF with authors Cecelia Holland and Kim Stanley Robinson at the American Bookbinders Museum, (355 Clementina between 4th and 5th Streets), Sunday, January 17th at 5:30pm - (Suggested donation $10, no one turned away for lack of funds.)  Doors and bar at 5:30 pm, event begins at 6:00 pm.  We're so happy to celebrate the return of SF in SF, at a lovely new venue!  Each author will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by author Terry Bisson.  Authors will schmooze & sign books after.  Books available for sale courtesy of Borderlands Books.  Seating is limited, so first come, first seated.  Bar proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Mueseum.   Phone (night of event) 415-572-1015. Questions?  Email

Lisa Goldstein, WEIGHING SHADOWS (Night Shade Books, Trade Paperback, $15.99) Saturday, January 23rd at 3:00pm - We're delighted to welcome Lisa Goldstein back to Borderlands!  Her new novel is a time-travel extravaganza.  Here is that description from the book: "Ann Decker fixes computers for a living, and in the evenings she passes the time sharpening her hacking skills. It's not a very interesting life, but she gets by -- until one day she's contacted with a job offer for a company called Transformations Incorporated.  None of her coworkers have ever heard of it before, and when Ann is finally told what the company does, she can hardly believe it: TI has invented technology to travel in time.  Soon Ann is visiting a matriarchy in ancient Crete, and then a woman mathematician at the Library of Alexandria.  But Transformations Incorporated remains shrouded in mystery, and when Ann finally catches her breath, there are too many troubling questions still unanswered.  Who are Transformations Incorporated, and what will they use this technology to gain? What ill effects might going back in time have on the present day?  Is it really as harmless as TI says?  When a coworker turns up dead, Ann’s superiors warn her about a covert group called Core out to sabotage the company.  Something just isn’t right, but before she has time to investigate, Ann is sent to a castle in the south of France, nearly a thousand years in the past.  As the armies of the Crusade arrive to lay siege, and intrigue grows among the viscount’s family, Ann will discover the startling truth -- not just about the company that sent her there, but also about her own past."  Join us to meet Lisa and check out WEIGHING SHADOWS!

Charlie Jane Anders, ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY launch party (Tor Books, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, January 30th at 3:00pm - Borderlands is thrilled to welcome Nebula, Lambda and Emperor Norton Award winner Charlie Jane Anders for the launch of her highly anticipated debut genre novel.  Charlie Jane is a San Francisco literary icon and this novel shows you exactly why, blending science and magic, fear of the future and the wonder of hope, all told in her own unmistakable style.  “Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school.  After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.  But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention.  Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments.  Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark age. A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.”  This is sure to become one of the most talked about novels of 2016, and we'll even have refreshments courtesy of Tor Books, since this is a party!

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, HAUNTING INVESTIGATION (Smoke and Shadow Books, Hardcover, $27.99) Saturday, February 13th at 3:00pm - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is an award-winning author of over seventy novels, and she’s coming to Borderlands to celebrate the release of the fifth book in her noir 1920's detective series The Chesterton Holte Mysteries!  From the publisher: “Spring 1924. The world has clawed its way back from the ravages of WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic.  The 20's are beginning to roar.  Poppy Thornton lives with her Aunt Jo and her excitable cat Maestro in upper-crust Philadelphia.  Poppy is determined to make a name for herself as a serious crime reporter, but is stuck reporting on garden parties and ladies' fashion. Then one day her editor assigns her to collect background information on the suicide of a prominent businessman. She soon discovers it was actually a murder . . . but her surprising source for this information is the ghost of a man killed alongside her father during the Great War. Even if she dared tell anyone, who would believe it?  Together Poppy and her "gentleman haunt" follow the trail of a string of murders. But as their investigation narrows in on an all-too-familiar suspect, Poppy becomes a target herself and wonders if her ghost of a partner will appear in time to keep her from joining him in the after-life.”  Join us to meet this distinguished author and explore a dark ghostly mystery!

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 - Na'amen Tilahun
Assistant Editor - Jude Feldman

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