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