April 11, 2021

From the Office

by Alan Beatts

Hearing about John Varley's current health and associated financial difficulties (see the news section above or read about it here - https://www.gofundme.com/f/helpjohnvarley) this month and also hearing the very, very good news that Peter Beagle has finally and conclusively beaten his scumbag former manager in court . . . .  

It got me thinking.  Booksellers, as a group, have pretty poor retirement paths.  But, there are a few professions that have even worse ones.  A friend once outlined the usual retirement for a fencing coach; "Work 'til your knees give out and then live poor in a hovel for your remaining years.  If you're lucky."  That's pretty bad.  But, the retirement of a full-time mid-list author isn't much better.  

April News

*Overheard in the store:

"He's hardly some Svengali. I don't think he could mesmerize a Pet Rock."

"When I sit down to read a Terry Pratchett novel, I know that nothing can hurt me until after I'm done."

(Small Child, to stranger): "You look like a witch!"
(Guardian of Small Child, shocked): "[child's name], why would you say that? That's really not a nice thing to say!" (To Stranger) "I'm very sorry."
(Small Child, totally confused): "It IS a nice thing! Witches are pretty!"

#1: "Oh my gosh -- it's a wall of Tolkien!"
#2: "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
#1: "YES!"

* This was a tough month for literature lovers:

RIP Norton Juster: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/mar/09/norton-juster-author-of-the-phantom-tollbooth-dies-aged-91

Larry McMurtry passed away at age 84: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/mar/31/larry-mcmurtry-obituary

And we lost beloved "Ramona Quimby" author Beverly Cleary at age 104: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/beverly-cleary-obituary-cmwnfx38t

* Photosynthesis without sun! https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/deep-sea-bacteria-spurn-the-sun-instead-using-earths-internal-heat-for-photosynthesis

* This was completely amazing; the real life (and much better!) "Lord of the Flies" -- what actually happened when six schoolboys were shipwrecked for 15 months: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/09/the-real-lord-of-the-flies-what-happened-when-six-boys-were-shipwrecked-for-15-months

* Have you ever wondered how they did the special effects in that particularly gross scene in John Carpenter's movie "The Thing"?https://filmschoolrejects.com/the-thing-chest-chomp/

* We're all thrilled that brilliant fantasy author Peter S. Beagle has regained control of the rights to his work following a lengthy court battle with his criminal former manager Conor Cochran!  Read the press release here, and if you'd like to follow him on Twitter (@Peterbeaglever1) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Peter-S-Beagle-107876501377186), please use the official links listed: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-last-unicorn-returns-home-renowned-fantasy-author--screenwriter-peter-s-beagle-prevails-after-multi-year-legal-battles-against-elder-abuse-and-to-regain-control-of-his-literary-legacy-301254107.html

* Esteemed science fiction author John Varley is recovering well from recent heart surgery, but could really use some financial help.  Varley is a favorite writer of the staff not to mention being an all around lovely person.  A Gofundme campaign has been started by Spider Robinson and Steph Herman -- https://www.gofundme.com/f/helpjohnvarley

March Bestsellers

 Hardcovers
1. A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
2. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
6. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
7. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
8. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
9. The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
10. Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Trade Paperbacks
1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
2. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
3. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
4. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
5. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
6. The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
7. Memory of Empire by Arkady Martine
8. Agency by William Gibson
9. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
10. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire
3. Neuromancer by William Gibson
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
5. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
7. Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
8. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
9. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
10. False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

February 06, 2021

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!

From the Office

by Alan Beatts

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 - https://borderlands-books.com/v2/become-sponsor/, 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 - https://borderlands-books.com/v2/sponsorships/

February News

* We're very sorry to report that author and editor Storm Constantine has died at age 64: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/storm-constantine-fantasy-author-passes-away-aged-64-news/

* Someone created a computer graphic of what a Culture ship, from Iain Banks' novels, might look like: https://vimeo.com/184041325

* 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!): https://acoup.blog/2020/12/04/collections-that-dothraki-horde-part-i-barbarian-couture/.  

* Thanks to Jordan for letting us know about this extensive (and in-progress) Historical Science Fiction Dictionary: https://sfdictionary.com/. (From https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/26/arts/science-fiction-dictionary.html)

* Legend Ursula K. Le Guin gets a postage stamp! https://www.cnet.com/news/pioneering-sci-fi-author-ursula-k-le-guin-gets-her-own-us-postage-stamp/

January Bestsellers

 Hardcovers
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

January 08, 2021

Editor's Note

by Jude Feldman

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: https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/borderlands-books-san-francisco 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.

From the Office

by Alan Beatts

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 - https://borderlands-books.com/v2/sponsorships/. 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.

January News

* The amazing Nalo Hopkinson has been named the 37th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award by SFWA: https://locusmag.com/2020/12/hopkinson-named-sfwa-grand-master/

* We regret to report that legendary author and editor Ben Bova has died at age 88:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/13/books/ben-bova-dies.html

* Comrade! Come live on this extremely modern Russian cyberfarm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMX0pCs5-n0

* As Scott said, "cute so quickly devolves into terrifying,"; the Boston Dynamics robots dance, and this is completely unrelated to the cyberfarm link above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn3KWM1kuAw&feature=youtu.be

* "Rolling Stone" Magazine (!) talks to Kim Stanley Robinson: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/the-ministry-for-the-future-interview-kim-stanley-robinson-1101738/