Monday, January 27, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, January 2020

Upcoming Events

SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina St. San Francisco) with authors Cecelia Holland and Kim Stanley Robinson, Sunday, January 12th at 6:30 pm

Juliet Wade, MAZES OF POWER (DAW, Hardcover, $26.00) Saturday, February 8th at 3:00 pm

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

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

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

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

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)


* Overheard in the Store:

"We washed the rest of The Watcher. . . witched the rest of The Washer . . . DAMMIT. We WATCHED the rest of 'The WITCHER' last night!"
"I've never seen a 'Damn You, AutoCorrect' in real life before."

"When I worked for the hospital, I wrote, and then unfortunately lost, 'The Cat in the Hat Gets a Colonoscopy'."

"Ooh! An asexual tentacle monster! That's the closest thing to describing my actual gender."

"You can always tell the clouds that are hiding alien spacecraft behind them."

"This year EVERYONE is getting books!"

"Have YOU ever tried to wrap Z-Fold Mil Spec Combat Gauze to put in a Christmas stocking? I don't recommend it."

"I'll just let it live its Majestic Chicken Life."

"Everywhere I look -- tentacles!

"All I remember are bed shelves, clabbered milk, and people wandering off to die in the cold."

"It's THE CALL OF CTHULHU, done Dr. Seuss-style. There's no denying the world was waiting for that."

"The place is really called 'Normal, Illinois'? The city doth protest too much, methinks."
"You're right -- it's like calling a town 'Definitely Not Gay, Kansas'."

"Around here, I will tell you when to panic. You don't get to panic without authorization."

* The Bold Italic talked to Alan Beatts, Rudy Rucker, M. Luke McDonnell and Rina Weisman for this optimistic piece about science fiction in San Francisco!

* We're delighted to share the news that Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has new owners and will have a new location shortly!

* The New York Times on how Chinese science fiction conquered America (spoiler: it had a lot to do with Ken Liu):

* "Come and bake with us, Danny, forever and forever . . . . " It's a gingerbread Overlook Hotel!:

* The New Yorker talks with William Gibson (whose new novel AGENCY comes out January 21st):

* George R.R. Martin has opened Beastly Books next to his cinema in New Mexico:

* The fabulous Michael Moorcock turned 80 December 18th, so we thought it was time to revisit this great article on him:

* Borderlands Cafe made this list of San Francisco's Saddest Business Closures in 2019, along with Lucca Ravioli and Beach Blanket Babylon <sniffles>:

* "I think that a lot of rejection of critical analysis of people like Tolkien and Lewis, and of children's fantasy more broadly, comes out of this kind of harsh binary around how people deal with realizing that their faves are problematic." Read the rest of this fascinating article from scholar Maria Sachiko Cecire:

* We are saturated with information.  What matters now is how credible the source is:

* "The 20 Best Books of a Decade That Unmade Genre Fiction" from Wired Magazine.  (Spoiler, this article is almost entirely about how amazing Ursula K. Le Guin & N.K. Jemisin are, and that is FINE.)

* Two different sponsors passed on this fascinating article about "How [Johannes] Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe":

* Cory Doctorow on imagining a better world: "Science fiction needn't be monochromatic disaster porn.  Many of our most cherished science-fictional visions... propose a better world -- not a perfect one, and never free from strife... -- but still hopeful and inspiring."  The complete article is here:

* We have copies of the (gorgeous!) 40th Anniversary Edition of BUNNICULA in stock.  Why is this book so amazing?  Dear ones, sit back while Sarah Gailey explains the love story behind the vampire bunny story:

* A sweet article on the 14 best bookstores in San Francisco!

* "You can't wear Stormtrooper armour to Ren Faire!" "Hold my mead."

* How might future paleontologists visualize OUR era's animals?

* Speaking of paleontology, here are some of the strangest dinosaur names:

* A Smithsonian exhibit on the real vampires among us:

* We really do live on the coolest planet.  Here's proof:

* Ye dinnae need the Keekin Gless o Erised tae ken woo awesome thees is!

* "The Mushroom Hunters" by Neil Gaiman becomes a gorgeous animated short film:

* "Star Wars" filming locations you can visit in real life:

* Welcome to Mystery Flesh Pit National Park:

* Indie booksellers creating community (what else is new?!):

From The Office

by Alan Beatts

Happy New Year All!

I hope that 2020 is treating you well.  As far as years go, 2019 was an often challenging one and, to be honest, I'm happy to see the back of it.  I think that 2020 is going to be . . . interesting . . . as well; but I hope in a much more positive way.  Something that is going to make this year especially interesting is that we're going to be moving our store.

"There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing"
- R. Dahl

If you've been following these newsletter for a while, you can probably skip down to the part that starts with "A scheme is not a vision" but, for folks who haven't been around for the past two years, here is the short version of what's going on.  In 2015, we planned to close the store because the increasing minimum wage in San Francisco was going make Borderlands unsustainably unprofitable (i.e. losing more than $30,000 a year by the time we were done). Rather than do that, we planned to close.  But, once we announced that, our customers inspired us to try to find a solution.  We started a sponsorship program that worked better than we could have imagined (more about that next month - but, if you want an outline read here - ).  Six years later, it's still working and going strong.

With that problem solved (and with a new sense of obligation to our customers), we started looking to the future for what the next problem would be.  The conclusion we came to was that the end of our current lease in 2021 would be a disaster.  Rents in San Francisco have climbed a lot since 2011, when we signed our current lease, and they've gone up even more than average on Valencia St.  There was no chance that we would be able to pay the new rent when the lease was up.

So, around 2016, we started looking for a building that we could buy and have as our permanent home.  It was a long shot, both because our down-payment would be low (though not tiny since we had been able to save much of the extra money that our sponsors had given us) and because it was going to be hard to find a building that would work.  Despite all that, in late 2017 we found a place and we managed to raise the money to purchase it.  In fact, we raised the entire purchase price by borrowing from fifty of our customers and sponsors.

The building is a lovely 1902 three-story Victorian at 1377 Haight St. that used to be the home of a used record shop.  There are two (rented) apartments upstairs, which give us enough income to cover the expenses for the building (at least they will once we add in the rent that the bookstore will pay).  The actual store location is a little bit smaller than our current space but, because of it's shape, it will actually work (and, I think, feel) like a bigger store.

Since the purchase we've been remodeling the store so that it will work for us for years and years to come.  It's been a long, slow process, in part because almost all of the work has been done by me and a group of volunteers.  But, the time it's taken us to get the job done is far outweighed by the money we've saved by doing it ourselves.

We're still a far way from being finished but we've set a date to be open and operating at the new building -- May 25th of this year.  Between now and then there will be a lot going on and I thought you might like to hear about the plan.

"A scheme is not a vision"
- L. Cohen

Thankfully, I've had the experience of moving a (granted, much smaller) store in the past.  And, I've helped out with a couple other store moves.  By now, I think that my schemes on the subject are pretty good.  However, as Jude is fond of saying, "The Universe abhors a plan" and so we're going to keep the following a "scheme", not in any way, shape, or form a "plan".  It will certainly change in the specific details as we move along and it may change in a more general sense.  But, for now, this is how we think our relocation to Haight St. is going to play.

Despite my deadline of May 25th, I don't expect that we'll be completely moved by then.  In fact, I don't want to be moved by then.  The last time we moved the shop, way back in 2001, we shut down for a week to do it.  Packing all the books took almost two days, then moving them, then getting them back on the shelves (which weren't all built by that time) . . . it was horrible and exhausting.  Plus it actually took closer to two weeks to get open again.  And the whole time I was hearing the "tick, tick, tick" of the clock since we were, probably, losing a full day of sales every day we were closed.

Not.  Fun.  At.  All.

So, this time, we'll be doing it in stages.  On May 25th . . . yeah, we'll be open at the new shop.  But the inventory will probably consist of new releases and staff reccs but not much else.  And, we'll probably be open limited hours and days.  At the same time, we'll be open normal hours and days at the old store.  If nothing else, having little stock at the new shop means we'll have plenty of room for the opening party -- which will be epic.

Over the following weeks we'll move the inventory over to Haight St. one section (or one part of a section) at a time.  So, on the 1st of June you might come into the store on Valencia to discover that the Mystery section is empty 'cause it's been moved.  Then a couple days later the used Horror section might be moved.  And so on.

Doing it that way has a bunch of advantages.  It'll allow me time to get things finished off at the new shop if I'm not completely done by May (for example, the office is going to be just about the last thing that I build out at Haight St.)  It'll mean that we won't have any days when we're closed for moving.  We'll also have a lot of time at Valencia St. to let customers know that we're moving and where we're moving to.  But probably most importantly it will give us time to sort out problems, in a well-considered and final way, as they come up at the new space rather than rushing to get things fixed "Right Now!"

My best guess is that we'll be completely moved by the middle to end of June.  We'll mark that with a "wake" for the old shop, and then lock the doors an' walk away.

As you're probably imagining, there'll be a ton of work to do through June and so, if you've ever thought it would be fun to move a bookstore (pro tip: it's not but it certainly is an "experience"), we'll be letting people know via this newsletter when we're having a book packing party.

Getting to this point has been the result of a huge effort from more people than I can count.  The First 300 Sponsors who convinced us that we could stay open.  All the sponsors through all the years after that kept supporting us and having faith in us.  The professionals who helped make the building purchase work out (first and foremost among them, Dan Marshall and Lance Fulford of Compass Realty, who were willing to play along with my crazy scheme).  The 50 people who had the belief and trust in us to make the loans on the building.  The trades workers who have been so reasonable and easy to deal with.  Even the city inspectors who have put up with my constant, dumb "I'm not a contractor; in fact I don't even play one on TV" antics.  They all have played a vital part in getting us here.

But, moreso than anyone else, my thanks for two sets of absolutely extraordinary people.  First, the small crew of people who have volunteered their time, weekend after weekend, to getting the job done at Haight St.  All together they have put literally thousands of hours into building our dream.  The remarkable quality of the final product will be, in a large part, due to their efforts.

And second, the outstanding staff of Borderlands Books and Cafe.  In the first place, they made a business that people cared about enough to save.  And, in the second place, they are so damn good at their jobs that I could (and can) take the time to get all this together.

And this is the year that it happens.

"For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing."
- R. Dahl

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for December, 2019


1. Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
2. Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
3. The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
5. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
6. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
7. Dune: Deluxe Edition by Frank Herbert
8. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
9. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
10. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Trade Paperbacks

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
3. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
4. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
5. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
6. How Long 'Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
7. A People's Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
8. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
9. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
10. The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge

Mass Market Paperbacks

1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
4. Neuromancer by William Gibson
5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
6. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
7. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
8. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
9. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
10. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, January 12th, at 5 pm to discuss PERSEPOLIS RISING by James S.A. Corey.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, January 19th, at 6 pm to discuss LA BELLE SAUVAGE (BOOK OF DUST VOLUME 1) by Philip Pullman.  The book for February 16th is SENLIN ASCENDS by Josiah Bancroft.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina St. San Francisco) with authors Cecelia Holland and Kim Stanley Robinson, Sunday, January 12th at 6:30 pm - (Suggested donation $10, no one turned away for lack of funds.)  Doors at 6:00 pm, event begins at 6:30 pm.  We're so happy to participate in the Science Fiction in San Francisco reading series! The authors will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by author Terry Bisson.  The 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 Museum.  Questions? Email

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts
Big thanks to David Fitzgerald for contributing news pieces this month!

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