Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, February 2020

Borderlands Is Hiring

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

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

Upcoming Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(for more information check the end of this newsletter)

Borderlands 2020 Sponsorships
by Alan Beatts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* Overheard in the Store:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* How science fiction pictured the 2020's:

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

* Nova Scotia bookstore entices cat lovers with adoptable kittens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Office

Two Cool Things:

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

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

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

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

February Building Update:

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

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

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

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

All Best,

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for January, 2020


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

Trade Paperbacks

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

Mass Market Paperbacks

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

Book Club Information

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

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

Upcoming Event Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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