Saturday, February 6, 2021

Dispatches from the Border, February 2021

Events and News From Borderlands Books


* We're very sorry to report that author and editor Storm Constantine has died at age 64:

* Someone created a computer graphic of what a Culture ship, from Iain Banks' novels, might look like:

* I completely lost myself in this totally fascinating (Very geeky! Very academic!) blog series by historian Bret Devereaux, excoriating George R. R. Martin for his portrayal of the Dothraki.  (Thanks to Fazal for letting us know about this one!):  

* Thanks to Jordan for letting us know about this extensive (and in-progress) Historical Science Fiction Dictionary: (From

* Legend Ursula K. Le Guin gets a postage stamp!

* A really interesting article on the 1960's concerns about "alien microbes" and the extreme (and massively flawed) steps NASA took to avoid a possible "lunar pandemic":

* Netflix's "Sandman" series has its main cast (ohmigosh, Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer! But where/who is Death?!):

* LeVar Burton (<3!) has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion:

* Yes, the title of this article from the Guardian UK is, in fact, "Texas Sorry After Mistakenly Sending Emergency Alert for Cursed Chucky Doll":

* Serious issues with AI and the "new" phrenology:

* The first successful face and double hand transplant has been completed:

* Nice article about how the "The Expanse" shows (mostly) accurate science:

* Somewhat unsurprisingly, the galaxy is larger than we thought.  Check out this article just for the phrase "galactic cannibalism"!:

* Locus Magazine has published their "Recommended Reading" List for 2020 - lots of fabulous stuff to check out:

Haight St. Update

January is not a quiet month for small businesses.  There's all the catch-up to do after the holidays on top of all the work to close out the books for the past year, along with getting tax information prepared (since Borderlands is a corporation, our tax deadline is a month early, on March 15th).  On top of that, mid-month I took a run up to Seattle to buy a book collection (more about that in my Office Piece a bit further down in this newsletter).  Long and short of it was that it was not a productive month at the new building.  

We did make some solid inroads on finishing up the last bits of sheetrock for the bathroom but, beyond that, all that I managed to get done was hang the bathroom door. That was a job that should have taken an hour or two, tops, but instead took closer to a day and a half.  The door that I was putting in is essentially temporary.  It's enough to pass inspection and work perfectly well but . . . it's a cheap hollow-core door.  Due to the thickness of the bathroom walls, I had to special order it but I wasn't really expecting any surprises.  But, that door was _made_ of surprises.

The first thing was that there was a gap at the top of the frame.  One of the nails had split the wood and so the joint wasn't tight.  Before hanging the door, I pulled the offending nail and closed up the gap.  I figured that would be it.  Once I got the door up, however, I discovered that the door had been fitted correctly _with_ the gap so now it was too tight and was sticking at the top.  Next step was to plane the side of the door to make it narrower and fit properly.  That job done, the door closed but was a little wobbly.  I checked the hinges.

Four of the eight screws in the top hinge were loose.  I tightened them and now, guess what, there was a gap at the top of the door where I had planed it.  Oh well, not a big thing (or a big gap - the door would have needed to be planed anyway just . . . not quite so much).  Onward!

Next I installed the latch and door knob.  It was a little irritating because the mortise (i.e. the recessed area that the strike plate fits into) had been miss-cut but I was able to sort that out with some quick chisel work.  That was made more complicated because, at some point, an unknown someone had hit a nail or screw with my narrow chisel, cracking off the corner of the edge.  A hassle but I just flipped the chisel over (it was a thankfully shallow cut) and finished up.  Installed the door knob and . . . the door won't latch shut.

Subsequent investigation determined that the location of the strike (the thing in the doorframe that the latch goes into) and the location of the lock-set (the holes in the door that the door knob and latch fit into) didn't match up.  They weren't off by a whole lot but it was enough to stop the door from latching.  The fix was to make the hole in the strike plate bigger.  Rather than do that by hand with a file, I decided to take the strike back to the bookstore, where I had the tools to reshape it easily.

Back at the bookstore, I turned on my trusty compressor and grabbed a die grinder.  I figure that would make quick work of the job.  Then the compressor turned off. Check compressor, it's fine.  Check cord, it's fine.  Check circuit breaker . . . tripped.  Hummmm.  Reset breaker.  Compressor starts back up.  Runs for a minute or so. Circuit breaker trips.  Double hummmmm.  Reset breaker.  Compressor runs.  Breaker trips.

Check cord on compressor.  No problems, no wear, no short-circuit.  Take off a couple of cover plates to check wiring to compressor.  All fine. Ummmmmm.  Plug table saw into compressor circuit, reset breaker, turn on saw.  Saw runs then; breaker trips.  Right, bad breaker (they're all quite old because . . . landlord).

Look for extension cord for compressor.  All the heavy-duty cords are at Haight St.  Unplug compressor from air-lines, move compressor to different outlet.  Hook up temporary air line.

I'm not going to bore you with all the rest of the details.  Suffice it to say that, at pretty much every step, hanging that door was a problem.  I dunno, maybe the tree was cursed or something.  But, by the end of the second day (!) that I was working on it, the door functioned properly.  

That was last week.  I have high hopes that this week will be better.  I suppose it could be worse but I'm not sure I can imagine how.  Barring some unforeseen problems though, this month and next month are going to be very heavy days at the new building.  I've got all the catch-up done, the taxes are about ready to go to the accountant, and things at the shop are running smoothly.  The permit for the new front windows will expire in April and the permit for the bathroom expires in June.  It would be a very, very good thing to get both of those jobs closed out before the permits expire.  With a bit of luck and plenty of concentration, I'm pretty sure that I can get them finished.  Certainly, you will either be hearing about a bunch of accomplishments next month or . . . I'll be getting extensions for the permits sorted out.  Let's hope for the former.

-Alan Beatts

From The Office

My, it's much easier to focus on writing (or anything else) this month compared to early January.  That was one very weird time in the US.  Things are still pretty weird, I grant you, but the improvement is notable.  I hope that you are all doing well and staying safe.

We're one month into the year and our annual sponsorship renewal process.  As I mentioned last month, we have been dependent on our sponsorship program to offset higher payroll costs since 2015.  Each year 300 or more people sponsor us with a $100 contribution.  That process has not only allowed Borderlands to remain in operation but was the basis for the direct borrowing that allowed us to buy the building that will be our future home on Haight St.  Due to the economic effects of last year, moreso than ever before, sponsorships are critical for our continued operation.  If you've never been a sponsor before, now would be a great time to start.  You can sign up on-line here -, come in person, or call us to sign-up via credit card.  We're even happy to take checks via mail (if you're going to go the mail route, please include your full name, phone number, email address and mailing address).

If you'd like to know more about the history of sponsorship and the benefits associated with it, take a look here -

One of the benefits that doesn't appear on that list is access to preview sales when we buy large, interesting book collections.  Last month I took a trip to Seattle and purchased an extensive library (over two and a half _tons_ of books).  It's a really neat collection and very wide-ranging.  I haven't unpacked all the boxes yet but so far there have been things ranging from good paperback reading copies (right now we have more Philip K. Dick paperbacks than anytime in the past decade) all the way to mid-20th century classics (for example, the nicest first edition of Who Goes There by John W. Campbell that I have _ever_ seen).  It's a good collection and there are a huge number of books (by my estimate it's around 4000 individual books).

There's another element to this sale as well; since we're going to need to make room for all those books when we get them inventoried, this sale will also include a 25% discount on all our used books (including the rare books behind the counter).

I mention all this to you for two reasons.

First, the preview sale for our sponsors will be on Thursday, February 11th.  The shop will be closed to the public that day, which is one thing you should know, but, more importantly, it's not too late to get a sponsorship and come to the sale.

Second, right now our used paperback sections are filled with really great stuff because we entered those books from the boxes we've sorted first.  It's not going to last though so, if you're in the market for some paperbacks that you don't see used often, come on by.  Also, over the next few months as we inventory all those books, you can expect that there will be a lot of neat books, mostly hardcover, showing up in the shop.  So, as they say, shop early and often.

All Best,

Best Sellers

Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for January, 2021

1. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
3. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
5. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
6. Ring Shout by P. Dejeli Clark
7. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
9. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
10. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
3. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
4. The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
5. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
6. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
7. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
8. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
9. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
10. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Neuromancer by William Gibson
3. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
6. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
7. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
8. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
9. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
10. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, February 14th, at 5 pm to discuss THE FOLD by Peter Clines.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, January 21st, at 6 pm to discuss FINNA by Nino Capri.  The book for March 21st is THE MEMORY POLICE by Yoko Ogawa.  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


Friday, January 8, 2021

Dispatches from the Border, January 2021

Events and News From Borderlands Books


* The amazing Nalo Hopkinson has been named the 37th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award by SFWA:

* We regret to report that legendary author and editor Ben Bova has died at age 88:

* Comrade! Come live on this extremely modern Russian cyberfarm:

* As Scott said, "cute so quickly devolves into terrifying,"; the Boston Dynamics robots dance, and this is completely unrelated to the cyberfarm link above:

* "Rolling Stone" Magazine (!) talks to Kim Stanley Robinson:

* "Write a sentence as clean as a bone," and other sage advice from genius James Baldwin:

* Would you like to be able to create holographs at will?

* The best book covers of 2020, according to 29 professional book cover designers.  Jude and Scott have Opinions; let us know what you think!:

* The mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe, explored:

* "Time-traveling" comedian Julie Nolke's shorts, explaining current events to her past self, have been helping us keep sane this year through (somewhat bitter) laughter.  Start here:

* The ten most popular "National Geographic" stories of 2020 -- (spoiler alert, there are totally Murder Hornets; you'd temporarily forgotten about those because of all the other disasters, right?):

* The science stories most likely to make headlines in 2021, according to "Science" Magazine:

* Highlights in Radio Astronomy 2020, from Syfy Wire:

* SF Grand Master James Gunn has died at age 97:

* The Zodiac Killer's most famous cypher, finally solved:

* Eleven lost cities you can visit:

* We're very sorry to report the death of author John Le Carre, undisputed master of the Cold-War spy thriller:

* The life and death of the fisherman who discovered the Loch Ness Monster:

* William Gibson discusses his literary influences (& we're so pleased to see Jack Womack's endlessly underrated RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE mentioned!):

* "Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm":

* An absolutely mind-boggling 3D model wins 2020's Best Illusion of the Year Contest:

* Previously unseen Shirley Jackson story to be published:

* Chinese authorities are investigating the suspected poisoning death of wealthy game tycoon (and producer of "The Three-Body Problem" Netflix adaptation) Lin Qi:

* Can virtual reality change peoples' minds on social issues?  (Please note, this story is from 2017.)

* Seanan McGuire discusses how "My Little Pony" (or, as she describes it, "Gormenghast with hooves") inspired her (and continues to help her) subvert genre norms:

* In case you hadn't noticed, nature is weird:

* R.I.P., artist Jael, who has died at age 83:;

From the Editor

Well, welcome to 2021.  At this point, all I can say is that I'm fervently hoping that you're all doing and feeling as well as possible, and that the entirety of the rest of the year is extraordinarily boring.

A few quick reminders and updates for y'all -- first, we're currently open to the public from 11 am - 6 pm, seven days a week.  We have a maximum capacity of 10 people in the store at once, and masks are required for entry.  We'll also ask you to sanitize your hands on your way in.

If you'd rather not come into the store, there are other options.  We're always happy to do mail orders -- search our inventory online here: or just call us directly and we'll be glad to send you whatever you'd like.

We're also doing curbside pickup, and we even have a specifically reserved parking space for it just outside the store -- call us and we'll work out the details and cheerfully bring your books out to you when you arrive.

As far as the new building on Haight Street -- as you can imagine, it's been pretty difficult to get anything substantial done.  We have made some progress on finishing the exterior of the bathroom (did I mention that, yay, we have a bathroom?!) and also gotten some planning work done, but concrete progress has been more elusive.  As with so much else right now, it's a matter of staying focused and doing the best we can.  We'll get there. We appreciate your support and faith.

Very Best,

From The Office

As I write this, it is the evening of Wednesday, January 6th.  It's hard to think that anything I've got to say has any significance in light of what has been (and is) happening in Washington, DC.  But, this is going to pass and we'll move on (though, like much of what 2020 brought us, I don't think we'll be "moving on" in the same way that we were).  So, please forgive the comparative triviality of what follows.

The last year has been crushingly hard for most small businesses and Borderlands was no exception.  Compared to 2019, our sales were down by 45%. That's a really hard hit for a bookstore.  On the other hand, several things were in our favor; we were among the lucky businesses to get a PPP loan from the SBA (which looks to be completely forgivable), we were able to make some changes to the schedule that reduced payroll (without any layoffs), and we have a wonderfully loyal set of customers.

But, the biggest thing we had going for us was that we are not a restaurant or, gods help them, a bar or music venue.  I cannot imagine what the owners of that sort of business have been going through.  Compared to them, at least we've been able to be _open_ through most of the past nine months.

One other thing that has been an immeasurable help over the past year is our sponsor program - It came about in 2015, when I planned to close Borderlands because of the upcoming increases to San Francisco's minimum wage.  Though I enthusiastically support a higher minimum wage, the economics of the business meant that Borderlands wasn't going to be viable if we had to increase wages by almost 50% over three years.  Rather than hold on as long as we could, I decided it was best to close once it became apparent that we wouldn't be able to make it.

I expected that our customers would be upset to hear that we were closing but I totally underestimated the magnitude of the outcry.  To make a long story short(er), as a result of our customers' ideas and input from the staff, we came up with a solution.  

The wage increase was going to put the store roughly $30,000 in the red each year.  To offset that, we asked that 300 people each become "sponsors" at a cost of $100 each.  As long as that continued, each year thereafter, we could remain in business.  The response was overwhelmingly favorable and it has continued so every year since.

This year, more so than any other since 2015, sponsorships of Borderlands are hugely important.  We can continue to operate for at least the next six months under the current circumstances and probably longer but . . . without help, our planned move to our new location is going to be incredibly more difficult.  I'm pretty sure we can do it, regardless of the circumstances, but, at the very least, it won't be the way we've been imagining it.  But, to be painfully honest, I'm not 100% sure that it will be possible.  And that would mean that we will be in a difficult position indeed when our current lease expires in October.

So, if you are already a 2021 sponsor, thank you so much.  If you've been a sponsor in the past but didn't renew (something for which there are a multitude of good reasons), it would really mean a great deal if you came back this year.  And, finally, if you've never been a sponsor . . . becoming one, even if only for this year, will make a truly concrete difference for Borderlands' future.

But, all that aside, Borderlands is not the business that needs your help the most.  As I mentioned, there is a whole set of local businesses that have been hurt much more severely than us.  Restaurants, bars, gyms, nightclubs and live music venues, and many others; they are really struggling and some of them may not survive the next six months.  Many of us are experiencing constrained circumstances right now and, for many people, resources are limited.  So, if you're in a position where you must be selective about what businesses you are going to support -- please, turn your attention to the local businesses that are most at risk.

You can get some takeout from a local restaurant.  Or, even better, go in and pick it up yourself -- the delivery services eat (pun intended) a hell of a lot of restaurant profits.  Almost every local bar has a fund-raiser of some sort going on and, if they don't, they likely have t-shirts and other swag for sale. If live music is your thing, check out the Independent Venue Alliance (  Also check your favorite place's website 'cause there's a good chance that they're running a "staff relief fund".  Anyway, you get the idea.

You're on this mailing list because you care about bookstores; you already know that the tapestry of locally-owned businesses are the backbone of a city's character.  Among all the things that have been threatened by the past year; those businesses; that backbone -- it's at risk.  Please help all of us get through the next six months so that, when the dust finally clears, SF will still be the city we lived in a year ago.  The alternative is a quasi-dystopian landscape of vacant storefronts and national chains enlivened by the occasional local shop that, somehow, managed to hang on.

If you're interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more information here - - and you can sign up on-line here -  You're also welcome to stop by the shop and sign up in person.  Or, if you're truly old-school, you can join by mail; just send your information (name, phone #, email address, and mailing address) to the store address with a check.

Thank you all for your support over the years.  Here's hoping for a much better and brighter year for all of us.

All Best,

PS  The focus of the preceding was on San Francisco, but it applies regardless of where you call home.  Local businesses really need your support if they are going to make it.  Please do what you can, whether you live in Chapel Hill, USA; Malmo, Sweden, or Helensburgh, Australia.

Best Sellers
Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for December, 2020

1. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
2. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
4. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
6. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
7. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
8. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
9. The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow
10. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
3. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
4. The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
5. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
7. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
8. Aurora Rising by Alastair Reynolds
9. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
10. Rejoice, a Knife to the Heart by Steven Erickson

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Neuromancer by William Gibson
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
5. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
7. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
8. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
9. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
10. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, January 10th at 5 pm to discuss GRIDLINKED by Neal Asher.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, January 17th at 6 pm to discuss THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson.  The book for February is FINNA by Nino Capri.  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