Monday, November 16, 2020

Dispatches from the Border, November 2020

Events and News From Borderlands Books


* Overheard in the store:
"We're really happy because, Space Vampires."
"Now everyone's wearing masks -- no more facial recognition software for you, Surveillance State!"
"'Sexy Sorting Hat' was a Halloween costume that just didn't fly."
[Customer holding a copy of DUNE]: "Do you have a less-thick version of this?"

* We're sorry to report the death of incredibly popular fantasy author Terry Goodkind, who passed away in September at the age of 72:

* RIP Richard A. Lupoff; writer, fan, Edgar Rice Burroughs expert, dear heart and old friend.

* With regret we report the death of amazing author and lovely person Rachel Caine at age 58.

* A bit belated, but still stunning -- watch nearly 11,000 lightning strikes spark the awful mid-August Bay Area fires via a compilation of more than 400 satellite images:

* 15 recent sci-fi books that have shaped the genre:

* Care for a cup of Satanic tea?  This company is making traditionally "cozy" tea a lot more metal:

* A viable (and relatively safe) fusion reactor by 2025?

* This NASA spacecraft is losing precious study-able rubble:

* "Animals keep evolving into crabs," said the Popular Mechanics headline "which is somewhat disturbing," said the Popular Mechanics headline.  Gee, you think?!:

* Just what everyone needs! A life-size, knitted Thanos!   (Thanks to sponsor Jo F. for pointing this out.) Photos here:

* A much-too-short article, but some science to back up our strong supposition that growing up surrounded by books is a Very Good Thing Indeed:

* Crowdsourcing your moral code? What could possibly go wrong?

* Not super surprising but still incredibly cool: definitive evidence of water on the moon!  (Not to mention that just the phrase "flying telescope" is pretty nifty.)

* Well, this was absolutely terrifying.  A short UK film on the "logical conclusions" of tech we already have:

* This subterranean freshwater fish named after Gollum belongs to a never-before-described taxonomic family:

* What happens to your body when you die in space?

* Whether it's a sundial, a "witches' mark", or something else entirely, this mysterious carved medieval graffiti is pretty interesting:

* "Imagine an albatross with a hacksaw for a mouth" -- scientists have identified what may be the largest flying bird ever, with a wingspan of roughly 20 (!) feet:

* This is just cool.  Rather than build entirely over the hundreds and hundreds of years of history their Dublin grocery store was going to cover, these folks decided to feature it instead:

* The footage is incredible, no question about it -- but we're not sure why they keep putting the word "spy" [referring to the hummingbird-style drone photographer] in quotation marks in this article:

* A design studio has developed a concept for a spaceship that would take tourists into space:

* An envelope hidden in a wall for 100 years solves a minor mystery at the Winchester House:

* 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu was named America's Top Young Scientist in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her work in finding a molecule that could lead to a cure for COVID-19:

* An alternative to GoodReads:

From The Office

Despite the strangeness and historic elements of 2020, it's actually been pretty boring in a day-to-day way.  I don't know if that matches your experience but, around Borderlands, it's mostly been The Usual.  Or, perhaps I should say, the "new" usual.  Sales are slow-ish but we're managing and otherwise we're just plugging along.  Don't get me wrong, "plugging along" is just great, given how things might be, but it means I don't have a whole lot of news for you all.  One or two things, sure, but there really hasn't been much excitement around the shop.

Which is just _fine_ with me.  Absolutely.  In 2020 excitement has rarely, if ever, been a good thing.

Before I get to the store news, such as it is, I'm going to make a (thankfully rare) public service announcement.  I had been on the fence about mentioning this but today a friend who's a doctor with the SF Department of Public Health stopped by the shop.  She was a valuable resource for us in March and April while we were figuring out how to manage the pandemic and, as you'd expect, we started chatting about the current state of affairs.  That conversation made up my mind.  So, here goes -

As a country, we are in deep, deep trouble with the increasing rates of COVID-19.  At this moment, your risk of getting sick is probably higher than at any point since early March.  It's possible that your chances are higher than they have _ever_ been.  More importantly, your chances of getting infected and then passing that infection along to other people is higher than it's ever been.

And, the whole situation is going to get worse between now and January / February.  Possibly much worse.

There are two big things you can do to both keep you & yours safe and help out everyone else.  First is wear a mask (which you are almost undoubtedly doing already).  But the second thing is probably more important.

Stay home.  And, fer gods' sake, don't go to parties and social events.

It's pretty damn clear now how the vast majority of COVID infections are transmitted.  It's by breathing air in enclosed spaces with other people.  The longer you do it, the worse the risk.  The more people, the worse the risk.  Less air circulation . . . worse.

So, don't do that.

No holiday parties.  No parties, period.  No big Thanksgiving get together (no small one either).  Don't go camping with a group of people. Stay home New Year's Eve (though really, who would want to go out -- it's just the annual party for amateurs). And so on.

If you're thinking, "Come on, Alan.  I'm not an idiot.  I've been smart since March.  It's all those other people who are the problem." . . . I know you're smart.  Hell, you're someone who likes to read <grin>.  But here's the thing; I'm saying all this because I'm not seeing a clear message anywhere else.  Here's the bottom line:

The COVID-19 pandemic is;

It is going to get;
before it gets better.

So, at the very least, act like you did in June or July.  If your behavior made sense then, it certainly makes sense now.

New Store Update
I'm still having trouble getting clear time to work at the new building but last month was better.  The most exciting thing is the plumbers came in and hooked up all the bathroom fixtures.  So, we once again have a toilet and sink.  There is still some finish work on the bathroom to do but I hope to have that done soon and then I'll post some pictures.  I think it's going to look really lovely when we're done.

Rare Books at the Shop
There have been a couple of neat books that have come into the shop that I thought I'd mention.  First off, we have a complete set of the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  "Meh," you may think, "I've got the internet -- who needs an encyclopedia?"  Well, this one was published in 1910 and is notable in a number of ways: it's generally considered the last "British" edition (the later ones were produced in the US); it was the last one to include long, comprehensive articles (some almost the length of a short book); the contributors are a who's who of contemporary arts and sciences (Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Muir, T. H. Huxley, and Bertrand Russell for example); and, last but not least, the production is lovely (heavy, full leather binding on onion-skin paper).  And, it's a remarkable picture of the 19th Century.  When it was published there had never been a world war, the British Empire dominated most of the world, and the majority of nations were ruled by monarchs.  (By the way, it is technically a 12th edition, because it includes the three additional volumes published in 1921 that update the 11th edition to the 12th.)

It's not really something that's in our line but I just couldn't resist bringing it into the shop.  If you want a treat, ask to take a look at one of the volumes the next time you visit.  And, if you'd like to take the full 32 volume set home with you, it's priced at $500 (shipping, if needed, will be extra).

We also have a copy of The Storisende Edition of the Biography of the Life of Manuel by James Branch Cabell.  This was, at the time (published between 1927 and 1930), his complete works and the editing and production were supervised by him.  It is a total of 25 works in 18 uniform volumes and includes perhaps his best known work, Jurgen.  It's a pleasure to have a work like this, by such an early founder of the American fantasy tradition, in such a unique edition.  The condition is good but there has been some shelf wear in the past 90 years.  $600.

More Rare Books Coming
It's looking like we'll be getting a few more older rare books in stock over the next month or so.  And, sometime is the next couple of months, I think I'll be purchasing a pretty large collection with some nice titles in it.  All those will be 21st century works, but some small presses are going to be well represented so I think it will be exciting to get some of those in stock.  More details about that as I have them.

2021 Sponsorships in December
We are heading, once again, towards our annual sponsor signup drive.  (If you're not familiar with the sponsor program, you can find the details and history here - ).  This year we will be doing a couple of things differently.

Unlike previous years, you'll be able to sign up in advance, starting on December 1st, by going to and following the instructions.  Also, after years of requests, we will have the option to have your sponsorship renew automatically every year.  Details about that can be found at the page I've linked to.

As I'm sure you all realize, the events of 2020 have made the support of our customers more important than at any time in our history.  I'm incredibly grateful for everything you have done for us over the past eight and a half months.  I'm hopeful that 2021 overall will be much better than this year, but I fear that at least the first half of it is going to be pretty rough.  That prospect combined with our upcoming move to the new building on Haight St. is causing me some financial concern.  Concerns aside, I'm positive that support in the form of sponsorship will do a great deal to protect the store through 2021.  So, if your situation allows, please consider becoming a sponsor this year if you haven't done so in the past.

Thank you for being a customer and supporting independent bookselling through 2020.  You're the best.

All Best,

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for October, 2020

1. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
2. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
4. Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
5. Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
6. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
7. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
8. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
9. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
10. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
3. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
4. The Emperor's Wolves by Michelle Sagara
5. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
6. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
7. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, trans. by Ken Liu
8. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
9. A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
10. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
 Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
3. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
4. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
5. Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
6. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
7. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
8. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
9.  Foundation by Isaac Asimov
10. Neuromancer by William Gibson
Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, November 8th, at 5 pm to discuss KINDRED by Octavia Butler.  These meetings are currently being held virtually.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, November 15th, at 6 pm to discuss THE CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT by Charlie Jane Anders.  The book for December is ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer.  These meetings are currently being held virtually.  Please contact for more information.

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

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