November 16, 2020

From the Office

by Alan Beatts

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 -

September News

* 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:

October Bestsellers

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

October 15, 2020

October News

* Disappointingly, the release of the anxiously-awaited new "Dune" film has been delayed until October 1, 2021, but the trailer is definitely something to see: There's also this absorbing shot-by-shot comparison of the images from 1984 and 2020:

* Fascinating stories of the recent (non-fictional) hard-boiled private eyes of San Francisco:

* Wow -- check out this amazing animated short film based on Peter Watts' novel BLINDSIGHT!

* These new climate change projection maps show a radically transformed US:

* The pros and cons of Netflix's plan to adapt the THREE-BODY PROBLEM series, according to The Ringer:

September Bestsellers

 Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for September, 2020

1. A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire
2. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
3. Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
4. The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie
5. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
6. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
7. The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
9. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
10. Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey
2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
3. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
4. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
5. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
6. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
7. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
8. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
9. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, trans. by Ken Liu
10. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
 Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
3. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
4. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
5. Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
6. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
7. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
8. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
9.  Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10. The Shining by Stephen King

What's Goin' On?

by Alan Beatts 

Firstly (and maybe a bit redundantly) -- Wow, 2020 has been a terrible year in almost every detail.  From the most global standpoint all the way down to the most personal, it's just been awful for almost everyone I know.

I had a conversation recently with a friend that put some perspective on it.  They're at the age when low iron levels and / or thyroid issues start to crop up with the common symptom of general fatigue.  They'd been feeling like they just couldn't get enough sleep so, like you do, they got in touch with their doctor about maybe getting some blood tests.  The doctor's (quite lengthy) response was, in essence; "I'll order the tests for you but I suggest you skip them for now.  Almost every single one of my patients has mentioned the same symptom and, in virtually all of those cases, the cause is stress because of what this year has been like.  So, stay home, take care of yourself, and let me know if the feeling gets worse."

Imagine.  This year has been so bad, universally, that it's causing a common medical complaint all the way across the patient list of a busy doctor practicing in a major and diverse city.

That is, as they say, a Thing.

On one hand, that's pretty distressing.  But, on the other hand, it actually made me feel better.  Goodness knows, I've had some trouble focusing and getting work (or anything else) done over the past few months.  And there've been a fair number of days when a nap seemed like just about the best thing in the world.  Knowing that it's not just _me_, knowing that everyone has been having problems functioning this year . . . it makes it a little easier.

I mention this because, if you've been having a bit of trouble with the old "get up and go"; it ain't just you.  So, do like a bookseller - just hang on, read (if and when you can), and wait this out.  It's _got_ to end sometime.

September 08, 2020

A Message from the Editor

 Since business has been a bit slow due to the pandemic, we took the chance to make some changes to how the books are shelved at the shop. It seems to us that it would be easier for everyone if our used books and new books were shelved together.  In fact, there was a time when we did exactly that, but then we ran out of space and had to split them up.  We have enough space now due to a bunch of shelf re-arranging, and so we've merged the new and used hardcover and trade paperback sections together in all three genre areas (science fiction & fantasy, horror, and mystery).  Likewise the used and new paperback horror and mystery sections have been combined as well.  Sadly, there is no way that we could fit the science fiction & fantasy paperbacks in one section so they are still in two spots.

We hope that it will make shopping easier for you all in addition to making shelving easier for us.  Please feel free to let us know what you think.

Do bear in mind - if you see two or more copies of the same book; one or more of them may be used and, therefore, much less expensive.

Since we made these changes, we've created more room on the shelves as well.  So, we're looking for more used books.  If you've got some books that you like to sell to the shop for store credit or even cash, we're going to be buying books all through the month of September.  So, sort through that pile of books by your bed and bring us the ones you don't want to keep.  

August Bestsellers

1. Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
2. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
3. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
4. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5. Quantum Shadows by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
6.  Network Effect by Martha Wells
7. Angel of the Crows by Katharine Addison
8. Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis
9. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
10. Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

Trade Paperbacks
1. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
2. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
3. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
5. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
6. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
7. Drowned Country by Emily Tesh
8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
9. Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, trans. by Ken Liu
10. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
2. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
4. Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
5. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
7. Dune by Frank Herbert
8. Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
9. Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt
10. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

September News

* Mapping Earth's eighth continent, which is almost entirely under New Zealand:

* An AI wrote this opinion piece on why we shouldn't be afraid of AI:

* National Geographic discusses "declinism" (decline bias), news and social media consumption, and why 2020 isn't _actually_ the Worst Year Ever:

* Author Judith Tarr on horses, metaphors, and accurate worldbuilding:

* Brandon Sanderson will be offering a free YouTube lecture series on writing science fiction and fantasy:

* This was fascinating; mystery writer Gabriel Cohen moved into a New York apartment that seemed too good to be true, and ended up both captivated and haunted by the real-life murder he found out had taken place there:

* For fans of Seanan McGuire's "Wayward Children" books, a side-quest novella with Lundy from IN AN ABSENT DREAM:

July 05, 2020

Upcoming Events

Virtual event with Katherine Addison, THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Wednesday, July 8th at 6:00 pm PST

Virtual event with Jo Walton, OR WHAT YOU WILL (Tor, Hardcover, $26.99) Thursday, July 9th at 5:00 pm PST

In the Middle: a virtual event with Mike Chen (A BEGINNING AT THE END, Mira, Hardcover, $26.99) and Kelly McWilliams (AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Little, Brown, Hardcover, $17.99) Wednesday, July 15th at 5:00 pm PST

Virtual event with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. QUANTUM SHADOWS (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Tuesday, July 21st at 7:00 pm PST

Relentless and Unconquerable: a virtual event with Kate Elliott (UNCONQUERABLE SUN, Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) and Mary Robinette Kowal (THE RELENTLESS MOON, Tor, Hardcover $30.99 and Trade Paperback $17.99) Thursday, July 23rd at 7:00 pm PST

Virtual event with Ferrett Steinmetz, AUTOMATIC RELOAD (Tor, Trade Paperback, $17.99) Friday, July 31st at 5:00 pm PST

Escape Through the Audio Hatch - Recommendations

By Melinda Rose

As I was compiling the list of my favorite listens of the past month, I realized these are all pure escapism. Light enough that you can do other things while listening, but meaty enough to hold your attention and distract. Turns out that's something I'm really needing right now, and maybe you are too. If so, I invite you to snuggle up with any of the following selections.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, performed by Stephen Briggs.
It's been a while since I've gone to the DiscWorld, and I'd almost forgotten how much it's like listening to a Monty Python sketch. Moist Von Lipwig is a con artist about to hang for his crimes when he's given a second chance at life. All he has to do is get the post office up and running again. Not a simple task. The mail's been piling up for decades and the postal workers are a skittish bunch of misfits. Despite his best efforts to remain cynical and aloof, Moist discovers his skill set is perfectly suited for government work, and that he really _wants_ to bring the postal service back to its glory days.

Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, performed by Mark Teretsky.
This classic has long been on my to-read list, and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  It's hard science fiction from 1958, yet somehow it holds up. There were times it reminded me of listening to The Martian by Andy Weir, because our hero is constantly science-ing himself out of or into difficult situations. I particularly loved Kip's pragmatic, supportive father. You want to go to the moon? Sure thing kid, guess you better figure out how you're getting there.There are so many great characters and plot twists I simply couldn't put my earbuds down.

Lucky Supreme by Jeff Johnson, performed by Keith Szarabajka
I loved "Everything Under the Moon", so when I was craving something gritty I decided to explore more of Johnson's catalogue. The voice actor brings the perfect gravelly tones and pacing to this modern noir tale. The story centers around Darby Holland who runs a tattoo parlor in Old Town Portland. He's content with a simple life and an inner circle of employees and the other neighborhood proprietors. His life gets a lot more complicated when there's a sighting of a former employee in California. In order to save face Darby has to go down there, confront him, and attempt to recover the art he stole while skipping town. That endeavor escalates into a confrontation with a seedy Bay Area crime syndicate. Now Darby has to gather up all his resources to save his shop from those nefarious forces as well as a landlord ready to give into the pressures of gentrification.

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, performed by Hilary Huber
"And I twisted myself about like twisted ones."  Fair warning - you're not going to be able to stop repeating the litany of the twisted ones for weeks after listening to this book. Mouse's grandmother was not a pleasant person. And, as Mouse discovers when she agrees to clean out the house after grandma dies, she was one hell of a hoarder. Among all the useless junk Mouse finds her step-grandfather's journal, and discovers there is definitely something eerie going on in the woods. The crazy ramblings of the journal start to manifest in the world around her and things get seriously spooky. There's an excellent unraveling of a mystery here, mixed in with so much laugh-out-loud humor I had to be careful about listening to this story in public.

[Editor's Note: is an audiobook purchase platform specifically designed to support independent bookstores. Unlike all of the e-book sites that have offered us partnerships, and in direct contrast to Amazon's audiobook platform, Audible, makes it practical and seamless to support Borderlands (or another indie of your choice) with your online audiobook purchases.  It's easy to sign up and easy to use, moreso, we've been blown away by their extraordinary customer service and dedication to helping bookstores. Just go to to learn more about them and create your free account. As part of the account set-up process, you designate an independent bookstore that you want your purchases to support. (You can use this link if you want to choose Borderlands to support right out of the gate: .)  After that, browse more than 150,000 audiobooks and either set up a monthly membership, or buy audiobooks a la carte. ]

A Special Offer

About a month ago (or was it two years? -- so hard to tell nowadays) a nice guy named Payam Salehi who runs Anam Cara ( emailed us.  Anam Cara is part writing workshop, part social-network type of thing, and part writing/accountability group.  He got in touch with us to see if we'd be willing to help promote the next session (which starts on July 14th, and is led by author, professor and speaker Faith Adiele <>).

Off the bat we were _very_ skeptical.  There are an awful lot of on-line "writing classes" and they are usually, to some degree, a scam.  They over-promise, the "experts" actually aren't, they charge too much, and so on.  But Alan gave him a call anyway and he seemed like a nice, sincere guy.  After that, Alan did some digging and talked to both some prior participants and some other folks who are promoting it.  In the end, we decided that it was legit.

Though it has the usual elements that you'd expect from an on-line writing class, the thing that stands out to us is the peer-support element.  At the outset, participants are added to a group and, further, assigned a writing partner.  The expectation is that, in addition to the class element, the group and especially your writing partner will be helpful and supportive of your work.  Based on the people Alan talked to, that idea actually functions as intended.

That seems to us to be a big plus over the typical writing group where the level of engagement within the group often leaves a bit to be desired, especially within groups that consist of mostly less-experienced writers.

Bottom line, if you're interested in trying it out, Payam is offering Borderlands folks a discount on the program.  The base cost is $390 ($290 each if you sign up with a friend) for the five-week course, but, if you use promo code "borderlands", you'll get $20 off of either price. Further, he's agreed to extend the refund period through the entire class so it is essentially a no-risk deal.  If you don't feel like it was worthwhile, you'll get a refund.

Full disclosure: Anam Cara's side of the promotional deal is that Borderlands will get 15% of any signups that come in through our promotion code.  We're not really focused on the income but, if the program is good and legit, it might be a nice little bit of extra cash for the shop.  The most important thing to us, however, is that it is, in fact, good and legit.  So, if you do decide to try it out, please let us know what you thought.

July News

* As above, so below. . . a photographer captures the Milky Way and bioluminescent waters together:

* Author L.L. McKinney discuses the role publishers play in commodifying black pain, and how the focus of the industry must move beyond just "Issue" books:

* Customer Adam M. pointed out Bright 21st, a sci-fi short-story contest for "inspiring futures and positive alternate realities".  They have posted the winners of the most recent contest, and they're all free to read on the site (with free registration) and will be turned into audio plays this fall:

* Kate Warne, Pinkerton agent and America's first female private detective, was a pioneer in her field who also helped protect Abraham Lincoln:

* Wow.  An "Untethered Miniature Origami Robot that is able to self-assemble, walk on various surfaces, swim in shallow water, carry small items, and climb up different grades" -

* This hotel room has a secret library door that opens when you pull out a specific book in the room!

* Shut down during the pandemic, these museums are competing online for the creepiest object in their collection:

* One point scored against dystopia! A machine that sucks up smog and turns it into diamonds:

* Night of the Living Dead. . . Crickets?

* A bit of cryptographic history is up for auction: an Enigma encryption machine --

* Two terrifying trailers for the new "Candyman" movie, directed by Nia DaCosta and written by DaCosta, Jordan Peele, and Win Rosenfeld -- the theatrical trailer here: and DaCosta's haunting puppet trailer, that shows the Candyman's tragic origin story, here:

* Scientists say conspiracy theorists have a fundamental cognitive problem:

* Probably in my list of Top Ten Best Headlines Ever -- "The monstrous blobs near Earth's core may be even bigger than we thought":

* What do you call the world's only pink manta ray?  Inspector Clouseau, of course. . . .

June Bestsellers

1. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
2. Network Effect by Martha Wells
3. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
4. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
6. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
7. Angel of the Crows by Katharine Addison
8. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
9. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
10. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
2. Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisinn
3. Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger
4. The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
5. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
6. Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson
7. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
8. Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
9. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
10. City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
3. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
7. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
8. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
9. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
10. Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire

June 17, 2020

Borderlands To Open Soon

by Alan Beatts

I'm going to jump in here right at the beginning of the newsletter since I'm sure folks are wondering about our plans for this month in terms of reopening the shop.  Based on the current (but subject to change) plan for San Francisco, we will be able to allow customers into the store starting on Monday, June 15th.  As we did with curbside pickup, I think that we'll take a slightly slower approach and we'll actually open for customers on Wednesday, the 17th.  That gives us time to make sure that we have everything in place to make the process comfortable for everyone.  It also gives us time to see what other businesses are doing and spot possible problems.  Likewise, just as we did last month, I think that we'll start with only Jude and myself working and then we'll bring the rest of the staff in the following week.

I'm still in the process of working out all the details.  Obviously we'll be doing all the expected things (hand sanitizing left and right (pun intended), masks required all the time for everyone in the shop, asking everyone to stay 6' apart, and so forth) but there will be a few other steps that we'll take as well.  What has been decided so far is that we'll be using a bunch of HEPA air filters that, in total, are able to cycle the air in the shop four to five times per hour.  Though there isn't a rigorous scientific conclusion that they are effective in reducing the risks in an enclosed space, I have found no guidance that suggest that they will be harmful in any way and it's reasonable to conclude that they will be helpful, if to an unknown degree.

We'll also be restricting the total number of people in the shop.  The exact number is still to be determined, absent guidance from the SF Department of Public Health, but my sense is that it will be in the 8-10 person range, inclusive of staff.  So, if you come by the shop after we're open and, upon entry, are asked to come back later, I hope that you'll understand our reasons and be patient with us.  We will also be open by appointment outside of normal business hours.  I'm still working on the exact details of that, but it's in the works.

You can expect a mid-month update email with all the details, once they're ironed out.  I've got to say, we're all very excited at the prospect of seeing you all again.  We've missed you.

Haight Street Update

by Alan Beatts

Last month we finally got back to work on the new shop.  And we made some really great progress.  So much that I've got some pictures for you to look at -  The high points are:

The sheet rock is mostly complete.  There are still some small areas that I'll be completing (because they're tricky) but the crew from Pat Trainor Drywall <> came by and banged it out faster than I would have thought possible.  They are the same company that did the work at the cafe and they're just the best.  It took them only one day to hang the entire 1400 square foot ceiling plus 300 square feet of wall.  And then just two more days to do all the mud. The difference is like night and day.

Tile is also mostly complete.  Simon Firth of Canterbury Tile, who set the tile for the bathroom, did the work for the front wall and about half of the vestibule.  We changed the design partway through and so we needed more red tiles than we had on hand.  Once we finalize the design for the entry floor, he'll be back and we'll get the job finished off.  It looks so good. Even moreso, it's especially exciting because it's the first piece of final and finished work on the exterior.

And, finally, we have a mural.  Paint The Void <> is a cooperative effort on the part of two non-profits whose goal is, "Helping keep artists engaged and paid as guardians of hope and beauty in the wake of COVID-19".  Basically they raise funds to pay local artists to paint murals on boarded-up storefronts around town.  My friend Aaron referred me to them and, despite telling them that it was a construction site rather than someplace boarded up because of the shelter-in-place order, they said they would love to get us a mural.  A few days later I met up with Eli The Man <> who did the coolest damn thing on the front of the shop.  I think it's kind of a shame that it's temporary but, who knows, perhaps we'll figure out something neat to do, once the plywood comes down and we have windows?

This month my plan is to get the final work done on the walls in the bathroom and then I'll get the plumbers back in to finish off that job.  Beyond that, there's a tiny bit of framing in the ceiling right outside the door, followed by sheetrock and then the bathroom is done.  We'll see how getting that work done goes, with everything else that's going on.  Wish me luck!

June News

* Massive, enormous, huge "thank you"s to the wonderful folks who did incredibly successful fund-raising benefits for us over the last month -- Annalee Newitz and Short Story Club <>; Charlie Jane Anders, N.K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall via We Love Bookstores <>; and all of you who turned up virtually to show your support!  We appreciate it more than we can express, and it has made an immense difference in allowing us to continue paying our staff during the shutdown and moving forward with the construction plans for our permanent home on Haight Street.  We can't thank you all enough.

* We're also thrilled and grateful to artist Eli the Man <> and Paint the Void for this amazing mural that now graces the temporary doors at 1377 Haight Street, our permanent-home-to-be: <>. Paint the Void is keeping artists engaged and paid during the shutdown; check out more of the stunning work they've been doing here: <>

* In very sad news, Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, the oldest independent science fiction and fantasy bookstore in the US, and Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore (which shared the building) were both completely destroyed by fire during riots at the end of May.  Owner Don Blyly has claimed the Go Fund Me page originally set up by a fan:  In addition, Greg Ketter's DreamHaven Bookstore, also in Minneapolis, "was trashed," according to Greg, but is still standing, and volunteers are coming to assist in the cleanup.  Dreamhaven is doing fine but the folks at Uncle Hugo's could really use your support.

May Bestsellers

1. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
2. Network Effect by Martha Wells
3. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
4. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
5. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
6. If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Trade Paperbacks
1. Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger
2. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
3. Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
4. Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
5. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex Harrow

Mass Market Paperbacks

(Since we've only been doing mail order and curbside pickup sales, we didn't have enough mass market sales in May to make a reasonable list.)

June 06, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, read by Orlagh Cassidy

There was a trend in the 1970's to raise chimpanzees as part of the family.  But what happens to those human children when they grow up?  What are the long-term effects on their psyche and emotional development?  And what happens to the chimps if the experiment doesn't work out?
From infancy until they were five years old, Rosemary and Fern were raised as twins.  Rosemary is now an undergrad at UC Davis, and grappling with the long-ago losses of her sister and older brother. She's trying to piece together her early childhood and understand why she's always had such difficulty making friends and fitting in with other people.  As events trigger memories of childhood, various timelines intersect and a picture of Rosemary's family comes into focus.
I absolutely devoured this book.  I listened to it in two days. If you're looking for something character-driven, compelling and bittersweet; something that explores the human condition and identity in interesting ways, then this listen is for you.

May 22, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Written and performed by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman has said that this is his most personal story; although it's not autobiographical, he channeled his seven-year-old self while writing it.  And when he reads the story, every intended emotional note comes through in a way that simply reading it off the page may not.  I read this with an online bookclub when it was new, and across the board those who listened to it enjoyed it the most.
A young boy's life is changed when a strange family moves into the farm at the end of the lane.  They are magical in a way that is all about love and understanding, and the scenes where he's talking to the mother or the grandmother are stirring.  He becomes very close with the daughter and they have adventures, sometimes into other realms.  Things go wrong, as they often do, and the children have to find a way to fix the imbalance they've created.
So much of this story is about how it feels to be seven years old; feeling powerless over changes in your life, frustrated when the adults won't believe you, and so totally open to all the magic the world has to offer, even when it's scary. There is a vulnerability and sweetness in the telling that warms my heart. It's a quick listen, only about five hours, but the story will stay with you, and it just may be the salve you're looking for right now.

May 16, 2020

Curb-Side Pickup Coming Soon

Hi Everyone,

As you've probably heard, both California and San Francisco are relaxing some of the restrictions on business operations.  Specifically, retail businesses like Borderlands will be allowed to start offering "curb-side pickups" to the public starting on Monday, the 18th.  We are, as you'd expect, very excited to start being able to handle business in a slightly more "normal" way.  It's also going to be really nice not to need to pack up every single book that we sell and send them by mail.

However, we aren't going to start immediately.

The guidance from the city Health Department has been a bit scant so far, and that is part of the reason that we're going to delay a little bit.  But, moreso, I want to have time to think through our procedures carefully and get the supplies and equipment that we'll need on hand before we start.  As I see it, there is no reason to rush headlong into this and, given the risks associated with making mistakes, there is a very good reason to move slowly and thoughtfully.

We will start a trial of doing curb-side sales on Wednesday, May 20th, from 11 am to 5 pm and we'll continue on Thursday and Friday, the 21st and 22nd.  Then we will close for the weekend, assess how it went and, assuming that we have a good system in place, we will start a regular schedule on Monday, May 25th.  For the first three days, Jude and I will be the only people working at the shop.  Starting on the 25th, I anticipate that we'll be bringing staff back to the store, opening for longer hours (probably 10 or 11 am to 6 or 7 pm), and be operating seven days per week.  Below you'll find an explanation from Jude about how the process will work.

It saddens me that we not be able to allow any customers into the store during this stage of reopening, and I also regret that we won't be able to spend much time at all socializing with you when you stop by.  But, this is much better than the circumstances that we've been working under and, although we'll only see you for a short time, it makes me very happy that we'll be able see our favorite people in the world -- you, our customers.

Warm Regards,

We're happy to be able to provide front-of-store ("curbside") pickup by appointment for your book orders!  In keeping with directives from San Francisco's Health Department, we've developed the following system to keep our customers and employees safe while getting you the books you need.

How it works: just call us (415 824-8203) or email to place your order.  If you call us, we'll ask for your book selections and credit card info for payment, and we'll set up a time for to pick up your order.  If you email, please send us your book selections and your phone number; we'll call you to get payment information and set up an appointment for pickup --  please DON'T email us credit card info -- it's not secure.

Please arrive on-time for your pick up appointment, or call us and let us know if you need to reschedule.  Once you arrive, call the store to let us know you're here.  We'll bring your bag of books and receipt outside to you and wave cheerily.  (Cheer levels may vary by employee.)  Confirm that your order is correct and you're on your way!

All Best,

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

The Down Days by Ilze Hugo

This is either the best time or the worst time to read Ilze Hugo's The Down Days, depending on how you look at things. Unless she's an incredibly fast writer with some super-highway to editing and publishing, Ms. Hugo started this story well before the current situation began. In her write-up on John Scalzi’s blog ( she talks about being fascinated with the way viruses and pandemics shape culture. In this story, it's years after a major pandemic hit Cape Town, South Africa. The residents are isolated from the rest of the world, and finding new ways to survive; some jobs have become obsolete and people are making a living in ways they wouldn't have imagined in the "before times". Wearing masks, and regular mandatory med checks have become a way of life.

There are several main characters, and the audiobook splits up the narration in an interesting way, with Gideon Emery reading the male POV's and Bianca Amato reading the female POV's. Both performers are excellent, and it works well with the pacing of the story, which takes place over one week.  The narration switches rapidly between the characters whose lives all end up intersecting, as they solve mysteries of missing persons while questioning reality. It culminates in a dramatic and surprising climax.

This is not exactly an uplifting story, as everyone is carrying around a deep sense of loss and fear, but it does have elements of hope and redemption. And it may well be the relatable disaster cozy you've been looking for.

May 08, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

Becoming Bulletproof written and read by Evy Poumpouras

I received this as an advanced listening copy, and it stood out to me because you don't see many women in this author's line of work, and I thought it would be an interesting perspective.  Evy was a secret service agent through several administrations, and interweaves her experiences in the field with how the skills she learned can be applied to everyday life.  It's a memoir with lots of practical advice.  Some may call it a self-help book, but it's more personal than that.
Evy starts off with her story of September 11, 2001.  She was at the federal offices of the World Trade Center when the towers were hit.  She talks about the people she helped, the people who helped her, and what it means to be someone who runs back into a burning, collapsing building.
And it goes from there, talking about finding strength in difficult situations, and how to be prepared for whatever life throws your way.  I found her story intriguing and the information useful.
There's bonus content for the audiobook only; conversations between her and her husband after each major section.  The dynamic is endearing, and it gives her a chance to go a little deeper into some aspects of her story.  I really appreciate it when authors take advantage of working in a different medium.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in the security business, or are interested in learning how to move through the world with more strength and confidence, this is the listen for you.

Upcoming Event - N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse

N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse read and chat, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall -- a virtual event to benefit Borderlands Books, thanks to Charlie Jane Anders and the wonderful I Love Bookstores Folks! Wednesday, May 27th at 12:00 pm PST  - We Love Bookstores is the brain-child of our friend Charlie Jane Anders, the author of The City In The Middle Of The Night, and was set up in response to concerns about the effects of the economic shut-down on Bay Area bookstores.  They're doing weekly events on Zoom and each event benefits a specific bookstore.  The two best parts of these events is that We Love Bookstores does all the work and all the proceeds from the ticket sales go to the specified bookstore.  It's a wonderful and completely spontaneous "happening" (in the very much 60's sense of the word) and we're just speechless with gratitude for what they're doing.

The event that they're doing to benefit Borderlands is on May 27th and will feature N.K. Jemisin, Hugo Award winning author of The City We Became, and Rebecca Roanhorse, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of Trail Of Lightening, in conversation, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall.  This promises to be a really wonderful exchange between two hugely influential modern writers in our field and one super-talented up-and-comer!  You can get tickets here -

(Given the current circumstances, all of our in-person events have been cancelled indefinitely.  We'll let you know as soon as it's safe to restart them!)

How are we doing at Borderlands?

by Alan Beatts

A lot has happened since my last update, a month ago.  Or was it two years ago?  I'm not sure because corona-time is strange and elastic. Regardless, much has happened.  Jude and I have been filling mail-orders as fast as we can (and that is fast indeed) but it's been hectic.  Selling 20-40 books over the counter is a moderately busy day but not at all a strain.  Processing, packing and shipping out 20-40 books in a day, however, is an awful lot of work.  We've been thrilled to do it -- both serving our customers and getting a little income makes us very happy -- but it's been busy. We'll be continuing to fill mail-orders for the duration and we're happy to send you anything you'd like.  You can check out our inventory at -

This is a good time to mention that Martha Wells' much anticipated Murderbot novel, Network Effect, just arrived today and we expect to be shipping out a lot of copies of that.  We're also going to have our first socially-distanced, drop-in signing with Christopher Moore on Friday.  He'll be signing copies of his newest, Shakespeare For Squirrels.  If you'd like to get a copy of that, or any of Chris' other novels, inscribed to you, just drop us a line at and we'll be happy to take care of you.

While Jude and I have been being the mail-order-monkeys, the rest of the staff have been working from home on various things, many of which I'm excited to announce today.

Thanks to a bunch of outstanding work on the part of Amy (with help from Jeremy), we have a new website.  It seems that 2005 called recently and wanted its website back, so we made a new one.  Please do check it out and let me know what you think -

We've also improved some other parts of our presence on-line.  Maddy has set up and is managing an Instagram account for us at borderlands_books so, if that's your thing, please do follow us there.  Maddy is also in the process of producing a series of videos that we'll be posting on our channel at YouTube.  The first should be up this Friday and we're hoping to post on a weekly basis thereafter.  If you want to be sure to hear when the video is up, please subscribe to our channel at

The final major thing that we've been working on is setting up our own shopping cart / ecommerce system.  As good as is and as great to work with as they are; our own system will work better, since it'll be specifically matched to our business, and we'll also save on the commission that Biblio charges.  Jeremy's been working on that and it's getting close to ready for a test run.  We hope to have it ready for ordering specific new releases within a week or two and to offer our entire inventory by next month.

Finally, I have been working on getting one of the Small Business Administration's Payroll Protection Program loans.  If you've been following the news about that, you won't be surprised that it's been a complicated and frustrating process.  However, despite my expectations, we did receive the loan on Sunday.  Granted, we applied on the 8th of April but, better late than never, as they say.  Thankfully, the decision about whether to accept the loan was simpler for us than it was for many others because we had kept the whole staff on payroll from the outset of the shelter-in-place order. Consequently, we didn't have to make the hard decision about whether to bring people back from furlough while still very unsure what the coming months would hold.

Thanks to that loan, we are currently in much the same financial position that we were in at the end of February.  Depending on what the next six to twelve months hold, it is still possible that we will be in a tricky financial situation at some point but, for now, things are looking relatively good. Not great, mind you, but pretty good. Certainly, we are not at risk of going out of business.

That said, your support is still very welcome and needed.  Ordering books from us to be shipped has made a huge difference over the past month and will continue to do so for as long as we keep the shop closed.  It's looking like we will be able to start offering curb-side pickup of books sometime in the coming weeks.  When that happens, continuing to shop with us would be a huge help in these trying times.

Though our original opening date at the new shop on Haight Street is now a thing of the past, I will be starting work there again this week.  The sheet rock crew will be starting on Monday, the 11th, and I hope to keep the work there moving forward at a good pace.  Perhaps by next month I'll have some idea of an opening date.  Sadly, I fear that we will have to wait for the opening party extravaganza that I had planned but, that will just make it even sweeter when it happens.  Because it will not only celebrate our new location but will also celebrate the existence of a vaccine for COVID-19!

So, until I see you again at the store -- whether it be outside the window, picking up a bag of books, or inside the shop, peering at me over a mask -- take care of yourself, your people and your world, be kind and patient, and stay safe.

by Alan Beatts

A number of people have asked me about over the last month.  Specifically, they've been drawing my attention to it because they think that it would be really useful to us, especially given the current situation.  If you haven't heard about, the super-short version is that they're offering an almost effortless way that bookstores can sell books on-line and get a very nice percentage of the sales (30% right now).  Further, they're offering a much larger percentage of affiliate sales than Amazon (10% vs. 4.5%).  And, finally, they're giving a substantial portion of those sales to local bookstores.  So far they've raised $1,271,387.61.

So, what's not to like?  And, where can Borderlands sign up?

The first one is a complicated question but the second one, that's easy -- Borderlands _can't_ sign up.

The American Booksellers Association has a very long history (it was founded in 1900) and my history with the ABA is long as well.  Borderlands became a member in, I dunno, 1998?

The ABA has done some great things.  It was the kernel for The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (founded in 1990), an outstanding organization that supports freedom of speech and has mounted highly effective opposition to banning books.  It has also worked closely with the BINC Foundation, which provides aid to individual booksellers in financial distress.  And it has been a tireless advocate for independent booksellers by providing extensive education opportunities, acting as an advocate, and working in opposition to, initially, the threat posed by large chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble and, later, Amazon's domination of the market.

It's also a wealthy, often clueless, organization that see itself as the embodiment of independent bookselling.  Perhaps its greatest failing, probably due to institutional blinders, is that when the ABA _thinks_ "bookstore" what it _sees_ is a large, general interest, new bookshop.  Problem is; that doesn't describe most of the bookstores in the US.  Consequently much of what the ABA does ends up being a Procrustean bed.  Everything that doesn't fit gets cut off or distorted.  Please bear with me while I dig into the ABA for a bit.

The ABA is wealthy.  Per the last federal tax filing in 2018, the ABA has assets of a bit over $34 million and revenue of $3.9 million.  In the real world, that's not much for a national trade organization, but we're talking about bookselling here -- that's a lot of cash.  In comparison, the average bookstore in the US has an annual revenue of around $225,000 (1).  As would suit a wealthy organization, the ABA is generous.  Salaries and other compensation in 2018 were $2.4 million.  Oren Teicher, the former CEO, pulled down a salary of $379,859 plus $65,367 in other compensation.  Remember that average bookstore?  Teicher's compensation is just shy of double that amount.  It's probably a good thing that the ABA is sitting on so many assets since, in 2018, they had an operating loss of more than three-quarters of a million dollars (2).

The ABA is clueless.  I'll just give a single example because I could go on and on.  Since the early 2000s, the ABA has flailed around trying to figure out how to provide access to ebook revenue for indy bookstores.  After various false starts (i.e. partnering with Sony and their walled-garden ebook reader), they settled on Kobo.  Which is not a bad eReader platform but, the deal that is supposed to make ebook sales have some value for stores nets a participating store around fifty cents per sale (3).  That's a fine model.  If a store moved 25% of its business to ebooks they could look forward to going right the hell out of business.  So, why the deal in the first place?  Every bookseller I've talked to about it has, at best, said, "Well, at least we can sell ebooks.  But, it's not really worthwhile."   One of the booksellers was an ABA board member at the time!  So, in a desire to seem relevant, the ABA chose a solution so bad that, if all their members embraced it and supported it, it would put them out of business (both the members and the ABA).  What makes it even better is that, though they didn't come up with a solution, they did create a perception on the part of customers that buying ebooks would support their local store.  If that doesn't sufficiently demonstrate the cluelessness of the ABA, just go visit the ABA's ecommerce site -  Never heard of it?  That's because it's awful and has always been awful.

Bottom line, the ABA is composed of well-meaning people who care about books, readers and bookstores.  I would never dispute that.  But, as an organization, they're not very competent and they're seriously out of touch with what bookselling is actually like.  Here's a secret about bookstores - many of the big, well-known stores are run by people who don't need to survive on their profits.  To my certain knowledge there are big bookshops owned by: venture capitalists who did very well during the dot-com boom; people who are well-enough-off to own a villa in Italy for vacations; the heir of a family that owns a significant portion of the downtown of a major city; and a landlord who owns a nice strip of top-end retail buildings in another major city (actually, there are two like that).  It is booksellers like that who have the time to serve as board members of the ABA.  I certainly have neither the time nor money to do it.  No bookseller who is really scrabbling does.  It's also booksellers like that who give the ABA the endowments that allow it to function.  And, finally, because ABA dues work on a sliding scale, it's the big stores that pay the most in annual dues.

So, you've got an organization steered by booksellers who are complete outliers in their field and headed by an officer whose compensation is almost double the gross sales of the average member store.  What could possibly make it better?  How about this?  The ABA, as an organization, is habitually less than honest in its public communication.  The first time I ran into that was a write-up in their newsletter years ago about a town-hall meeting with the CEO.  It was described as a pleasant discussion with Northern California booksellers.  In fact, it included an exchange between myself and the CEO that was so unpleasant that the president of our local booksellers association apologized to me for the CEO's conduct.  Over the years I've seen that pattern of spin-doctoring over and over again.  In that case, it wasn't particularly harmful, but it can be.  Take the ABA's recent riff, for example.  Over the past few years a big talking point for the ABA has been that indy bookselling is doing well and that new stores are opening.  It's treated as serious news by places like NPR (4), The Harvard Business School (5), and The Voice of America (6).

But what the ABA has actually been saying is that _their membership_ is growing.  If you look at the US Census figures, it's a different story --"For 1992, the Census Bureau reported 13,136 bookstore establishments, consisting of small "independent" stores as well as larger chain stores. As of 2016, the number of stores tallied in the Census Bureau survey had fallen to less than half that figure, to an all-time low of 6,448."  Furthermore -- "The bookstore workforce increased by more than 54% from 1992 to 2008. The number of employees then declined substantially, with 45% fewer people (83,319) working in these establishments in 2016 than eight years earlier." (7)  Even adjusted for the closure of Borders and the downsizing of Barnes & Noble, that is still a steady decline.

That kind of spin-doctoring is actually damaging because it gives people a false sense that everything is fine for bookstores.  Why does the ABA do it?  First, I think it's to maintain the fiction that bookstores are vibrant and important (and, by extension, that the ABA is important and going a good job).  Based on what I've seen over the years, that fiction is very important to the ABA.  Second, I think it's a function of the institutional blinders that I mentioned earlier.  The ABA has a hard time conceiving that bookselling is much bigger than their members.

Last point, and speaking of members.  Notice that the census figure for number of bookstores in 2016 was 6,448?   The ABA has gotten pretty clever of late and doesn't clearly list their total number of members.  But, searching their online list of members without any limit returns 2,817 stores (8).  They do list how many new stores join each year (while omitting the number of stores that stop being members -- perhaps no-one ever leaves?).  Per their website, they added 75 members in 2017 and 99 members in 2018.  Backtracking from that information suggests that they had 2643 members in 2016.  So, the ABA actually represents significantly less than half of bookstores in the US.  But you'd never imagine that from either their public statements or the amount of credibility they enjoy.

We haven't been a member since around 2000 or so.  I just wasn't willing to participate in an organization like the ABA.  I haven't regretted it for one moment.

By now, you're probably wondering what in the world the ABA has to do with, yeah?

Fair question. exists because a guy named Andy Hunter went to the ABA with some suggestions about what they could / should do to correct the problems with the ABA's ecommerce site -  The catch was that the ABA couldn't do it.  His suggestions would have meant that they were actually selling books, which they can't do.  (Rightly, I think. The ABA is a trade organization.  It's not cool for an organization that represents businesses to set up as a competitor.)

I talked to Mr. Hunter yesterday.  He's a good guy.  I think he really cares about bookstores.  Actually, I know he cares about bookstores because, when he couldn't work with the ABA to make something that would be really functional for indy stores, he went and did it himself; in consultation and with the support of the ABA.  At the time, he told me, he didn't know about issues with the ABA.  In fact, he said he had no idea that any booksellers had problems with the ABA.

So, to participate in, as a bookseller, you have to be a member of the ABA.  Granted, any bookstore can be an affiliate (just like anyone else on the planet) and get a little cut of referred sales but; that is neither financially nor practically the same thing.

Further, part of's plan is sharing a portion of their profits with independent bookstores.  From their website -- "If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they'll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don't use Bookshop)."(9)

The stores that get a piece of that "earnings pool".  It's the members of the ABA.  No-one else.

Which makes the counter at the top of their site reading, as of this moment, "$1,271,387.61 raised for local bookstores", a bit inaccurate.  Might be more honest if it said, "$1,271,387.61 raised for the membership of the American Booksellers Association".  Perhaps the ABA's fondness for less-than-straight speech rubbed off?  I hope not.  But, as my dad used to say, "You can't touch pitch and not be defiled".

The question I had was; Why ABA members only?  Since then, I've spoken with Sarah High,'s Partnership's Manager, and with Andy Hunter, the founder. Initially the only answer I got was, "Our reasoning for the ABA requirement is because of our partnership with their organization."  But, at the end of a really lovely conversation with Ms. High, she said that it was because of an agreement that they had made with the ABA.  An agreement that the ABA requested.  No surprise there, really.  But then, during my conversation with Mr. Hunter, it turned out that there actually is not a binding agreement in place nor does the ABA have a controlling ownership stake or board position.  In an email followup to our call, Mr. Hunter pointed out that, from the very beginning, his understanding with the ABA was that only their members would be participants and that the ABA had been very helpful through the process. But, when all is said and done, the only conclusion that I can come to is that the requirement is there because the folks who run want it there.  Which, I guess, is fine.  It's their company, after all.  Perhaps they don't want to piss off the ABA.  That's never been something that's concerned me very much (shocking, eh?) but I'd hardly suggest that my way of doing business is well suited to most other companies.

I find myself very conflicted about  It is obviously run by people who share values with me.  Most importantly, they both care about independent bookselling and are competent enough to actually do something effective.  I absolutely love that they're playing Robin Hood to Amazon's Sheriff of Nottingham; with the greater affiliate percentage and their pass-along-the-profit scheme, they're taking sales away from Amazon and giving the money to bookstores and the people who are generating the sales.  During my conversation with Mr. Hunter he genuinely listened to my perception of the problems with the ABA and said he would bring them up.  I was left with the feeling that he really would like to see things work out well.

On the other hand, their catering to the ABA doesn't sit very well with me.  And, especially at a time like this, when _all_ bookstores are struggling and people are so happy to help, the misdirection in using a phrase like, "XXX dollars raised for local bookstores" and avoiding almost any mention of the ABA on their website is . . . upsetting.

The ultimate feeling I'm left with is that I just wish it were different. is something that I'm thrilled to see and I would love to support wholeheartedly.  I just wish they would support me.

Hell, they seem smart enough.  Perhaps they could solve the problem of how to get indy bookstores a good enough margin on ebooks that we could sell them, and not go out of business in the process.  That would be cooler than skates on a rattlesnake.


Battles, Science, and Zombies -- Recommendations

by Melinda Rose

I've been writing weekly audiobook recommendations for the Borderlands Blog, and it's been a lot of fun.  I've rounded up and refreshed the past month's reviews for you here. We've got an epic battle for the soul of a city, a character-driven military drama, armchair science, and of course a zombie apocalypse.

The City We Became by NK Jemisin, Narrated by Robin Miles.
Just, Wow! This audiobook was an experience. I've never listened to a book so well-produced, and it's set a new standard in my mind.  Miles' performance is stellar.  She nails the accents of each individual borough, and every character has a distinctive voice - not an easy feat considering all the different cultures, backgrounds, and ages represented.  There are sound effects and music woven throughout the story - at just the right point below the narration so as to enhance but not distract.
There's a lot that resonated with me in this book.  Not only does Jemisin tackle issues of racism, gentrification, and toxic masculinity; she does it with a diverse group of characters whose race and sexual orientations are important, but don't define them. I find that refreshing.
In this story, every major city has a soul, and New York City is fighting for its life.  In order to fend off the powers that want to prevent it from becoming truly alive, it selects one person from each borough to be a physical manifestation of that part of The City.  The story follows each of their journeys as they come to understand who they are, what they stand for, and what's at stake if they don't join forces and fight for the city they love.
Each character is strong on their own.  There are wonderful  'oh hell no, not today'  moments when they feel backed against a wall and have to fight, but none of them are exactly eager to trust each other.  They're used to being self-reliant, and thinking of their own boroughs as distinct, but this can be isolating.  Since listening to this book I've been thinking a lot about isolation versus community, and the strength in vulnerability.  I like it when a story stays with me and inspires me to ponder things on a deeper level.
Plus, as a San Franciscan, I completely relate to the struggle against the forces that would chip away at the very things that make a city unique, and I loved seeing that fight made as personal as it feels.

The Light Brigade By Kameron Hurley, Narrated by Cara Gee
I was already a fan of Cara Gee, who plays OPA Captain Drummer on The Expanse.  No, she doesn't use her Belter accent here, but the performance is equally strong.
The story is told in first person by Dietz, who volunteers for the army after her home is destroyed by aliens.  She's idealistic and stubborn, but as she progresses through training and then into fighting, she discovers things aren't exactly what they seem. Through a glitch in the way travel at the speed of light is made possible in her world, she ends up jumping around through time and spends most of the story trying to catch up with herself so she can figure what the hell is going on.  The non-linear timeline is confusing, because you're experiencing it in the same way Dietz is, but the way all the strands end up weaving together is quite compelling.

Have some extra time on your hands and looking for something you can really sink your teeth into?
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, and narrated by Edward Herrmann is a great way to go.  Part biography, part history of science, and part exploration of Einstein's contributions to the fields of mathematics and physics, it all adds up to a wonderful listen.
There was a lot in here I didn't know about Einstein's personal life or his earlier, less famous but still deeply important theories.  It's interesting to put his discoveries in the context of the world events at the time.  I also enjoyed the crash course in theoretical physics, which was neither too dense nor dumbed down, the perfect balance for an armchair science nerd.

World War Z by Max Brooks is a great listen. It's a series of interviews with a myriad of survivors of the Zombie War from all over the world.  Each conversation features a different voice actor, with Max Brooks playing the role of the interviewer, so it really feels like you're listening in on the interviews themselves.  This book is eerily poignant at this time, what a friend of mine might refer to as a "disaster cozy".  The first interviews are about the beginning of the global pandemic, as governments try to cover it up or ignore the severity, until it gets completely out of hand. And then of course, chaos ensues.
There are several versions, all abridged, but the ‘Complete Movie Tie In Edition' has the most content. (Note, the book and the movie are related in name only)

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you find some great listens of your own.

A Word About State Senator Scott Wiener

by Alan Beatts

Right now there are so many people behaving wonderfully that the ones that behave badly and deceptively are especially irritating.  Which is why I really feel the need to mention that our State Senator, Scott Wiener, said something in his April Newsletter that was deliberately misleading.  And it was about Borderlands.

In his newsletter he said, in part. "I know I'm biased, but I think that San Francisco has the best small businesses in the world. Some, like my personal favorite dim sum restaurant Mama Ji's, are still open for takeout. Others, like one of my favorite bookstores, Borderlands Books — a fantasy and sci-fi bookstore in the Mission -- have closed for now. "

Nice, huh?  Except I dunno why we would be one of his favorite bookstore since I'm absolutely certain that he's only set foot in the shop once.  It was back in 2015 and the occasion was to talk with me about some highly critical things that I had said.  I hadn't appreciated his position on the minimum wage increase that almost put us out of business and the cavalier way that he had dismissed a reporter's question about our closure by saying words to the effect of -- I love Borderlands but we knew that there would be some negative consequences from the wage increase.

At the time of his comment to the reporter, I asked all the staff if they had ever seen him in the shop.  They were all sure that they hadn't.  For some people, that recollection might not be authoritative but -- Scott Wiener is over six and a half feet tall, has red hair, and is even scrawnier than I am. He's not a person you can miss.

That conclusion was further supported by his one (and, I'm pretty damn sure) only visit to the shop.  He walked in and looked around in exactly the same way I've seen thousands of people do; the first time they come in.  He came to the counter and we had the following conversation.
Him, "Hi.  I'm Scott Wiener."
Me, "Yup."
Him, "I'm sorry to hear that you're closing."
Me, "Yeah, me too."
Him, " . . . . "

And then he left.

Not what I would say is the best possible example of reaching out to your constituents (at the time, Wiener was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and represented the district that both the store and my home are located in).  But, to be fair, I've been told that I can be a bit intimidating, especially if I'm not in a very good mood.

Since 2015, as far as I know, he's never set foot inside the shop again.  He's also not one of our mail-order customers (I checked).  Amusingly enough, we do have a sponsor named Scott Wiener, but it's not the same guy (I also checked).

So, why are we one of his favorite bookstores?  I truly don't know.  Unless it's because he likes being able to tie himself, as a supporter, to a business that enjoys a huge amount of support. Perhaps he thinks that he'll get the people who support us to support him?  As I said, I dunno and I don't really care.  But, I'm not going to let him act like he cares a bit about us when, at the time we needed help, all he could say was that -- there would be some negative consequences -- and then run away when he was face to face with the person who was suffering that consequence.

(Oh, and of course, he also said we were closed on April 3rd when, at the time, we had begun doing mail-orders again.)

April Bestsellers

1) The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
2) The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
3) Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
4) The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5) Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
6) Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
7) Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
8) Agency by William Gibson
9) When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
10) Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Trade Paperbacks
1) This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
2) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
3) Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4)  City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
5) Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
6) A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
7) The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
8) Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole
9) Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara West
10) Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Mass Market Paperbacks

(Since we've only been doing mail order sales, we didn't have enough mass market sales in April to make a reasonable list.)

May News

* The brilliant Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Mars Trilogy, NEW YORK 2140, and many other seminal works, examines our current pandemic:

* Two enlightening links about what our bookshelves say about us: and

* Check out the gorgeous relaunch of The Fabulist Magazine! They're running an open call for fantastical art, with more fiction, poetry, and reviews to come:

* Cozy up with book-themed socks, and help out the bookseller community at the same time!

May 01, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, Narrated by Cara Gee, (who you may know as the OPA’s Captain Drummer on "The Expanse".  No, she doesn't use her Belter accent here, but the performance is equally strong.)

Dietz volunteers for the military after her home is destroyed by rebels from Mars, but as she progresses through training and then into fighting, she discovers things aren't what they seem. She ends jumping around through time and trying to figure out what's going on. The non-linear timeline is confusing, but you're experiencing it in the same way Dietz does. This is, at heart, a very human military drama, and one that has stayed with me even weeks after listening.

April 24, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommedation

by Melinda Rose

Have some extra time on your hands and looking for something you can really sink your teeth into? Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, and narrated by Edward Herrmann is a great way to go.  Part biography, part history of science, and part exploration of Einstein's contributions to the fields of mathematics and physics, it all adds up to a wonderful listen.
There was a lot in here I didn't know about Einstein's personal life or his earlier, less famous but still deeply important theories.  It's interesting to put his discoveries in the context of the world events at the time.  I also enjoyed the crash course in theoretical physics, which was neither too dense nor dumbed down, the perfect balance for an armchair science nerd.

April 20, 2020 promotion for the Week Long #VirtualBookstoreParty

by Melinda Rose

I know we’re all going a little stir crazy right about now, and craving a trip to the bookstore. 
Until Borderlands can reopen, mail orders and purchasing audiobooks at are great ways to continue to support our little epicenter in the geekosphere. And right now, for independent Bookstore Week, is running a promotion for new members. Not only will you get two books for the price of one, 100% of the proceeds will go to Borderlands. This promotion is running from April 19th - 25th, and for extra fun, you can sign up to receive two free audiobooks on Saturday April 25th. 

So enjoy perusing the selections at, and let someone tell you a story. 

April 17, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

THE CITY WE BECAME by N.K. Jemisin, Narrated by Robin Miles.

Just, Wow! This audiobook was an experience.  I've never listened to a book so well produced, and it's set a new standard in my mind. Miles' performance is stellar.  She nails the accents of each individual borough, and every character has a distinctive voice - not an easy feat considering all the different cultures, backgrounds, and ages represented.  There are sound effects and music woven throughout the story - at just the right point below the narration so as to enhance but not distract.

Fortunately, I also loved this story of a city fighting for its identity in a very human way. I cared about all the main characters, even the villains.  Jemisin tackles issues of racism, gentrification, and toxic masculinity through the lens of characters that become manifestations of New York City and the individual boroughs they live in and love.  As a San Franciscan I completely relate to the struggle of fighting the forces that would chip away at the very things that make a city unique, and I loved seeing this fight made as personal as it feels.

Come back next week as long-time customer (and audiobook junkie) Melinda Rose continues to share her weekly audiobook recommendations.

April 10, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks is a great listen. It's a series of interviews with a myriad of survivors of the Zombie War from all over the world.  Each conversation features a different voice actor, with Max Brooks playing the role of the interviewer, so it really feels like you're listening in on the interviews themselves.  There are several versions, all abridged, but the 'Complete Movie Tie In Edition' has the most content.  (Note, the book and the movie are related in title only.)

Come back next week as long-time customer (and audiobook junkie) Melinda Rose continues to share her weekly audiobook recommendations.

April 04, 2020

Borderlands Open for Mail Orders

This week, the San Francisco Health Department revised the shelter-in-place order.  The revised order states that non-essential businesses (which is us) can continue "Minimum Basic Operations" which are described, in part, as "provide for the delivery of existing inventory directly to residences or businesses" (Section 13.g.i.). That change, along with the shift of most of the bookstores in the city to doing mail order services, means that we feel that we can start fulfilling mail orders, effective immediately.

(To be perfectly clear, we wouldn't be doing this if we weren't confident that we can ship books without putting the staff, our customers, or the mail carriers at risk. Likewise, to maintain social distancing, the only staff that will be working in the store will be Alan and Jude, who share a household.  No other staff will be present.)

So, if there's anything you'd like, please feel free to place some orders.  There are three ways you can go about that -

1)  Biblio - Our entire book inventory is listed online at <>.  It's easy and intuitive to use, and is the simplest way to order books from us securely online.

2)  Email - You can always email us at with any orders, questions, comments, or preorders.  We'll need to know the item(s) you'd like, your shipping address and phone number, and a good time to call you so we can get payment info.

3)  Call - If you're really anxious to speak to a human to place your order, we'll be available to answer calls and happy to speak with you from noon until six pm PST on Mondays. The phone number is 415 824-8203.

We're going to be doing one thing different from some of the other stores in town by not offering "curb-side pickup" -- all our orders are going to be sent through the post office, even if you just live right around the corner from the store.  We know it's a pain in the butt and seems completely ridiculous but, first off, the Health Department Order doesn't say anything about having customers come to pick up their items, and secondly, we believe that passing paper bags between us and you, even if we remain separated by six feet or more, isn't consistent with the sort of social distancing that we, as a community, need.

Also, unlike other stores in the city, we're going to have to charge shipping on all orders.  The cost of shipping is high enough ($2.80 to $3.33 for media mail shipping on one book), that it would seriously eat into our margin on a sale.  However, for the duration of the store closure, we are going to reduce our shipping charges to $3 for the first book, and $1.50 each for additional books.

We expect that, even within San Francisco, it will take a few days for your order to arrive.  In part this is because, based on what we've seen, the postal service is overloaded right now.  But, there will also be a delay built into our shipping process.  Per the NIH, the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic (  Since book covers are often treated with a plastic-like substance, it's possible that the virus could last for up to 72 hours on books that we pack.  Of course, neither Jude nor Alan will be packing up books if they're sick but that's beside the point.

To ensure that we don't mail you a box full of germ-y books (wrapped in germ-y bubble wraps like some sort of tasty garnish), we will be packing books on the first day after we get the order (or thereabouts) but they'll spend the second day all boxed up at the shop.  The third day we'll drop them at the post office and they'll arrive no sooner than the fourth day after we get the order.  As a result, though we can't make any promises about the exterior of the packaging, all of the contents should be perfectly safe.  So, just like anything you get delivered, open the outside packaging, wash your hands, unpack it, wash your hands again and enjoy.  Granted, the risk of infection from a contaminated surface is considered low by the CDC but, we want to take all possible steps to protect the health of our customers.  (And that is why we're not doing curb-side pickup).

Read Me A Story

[Editor's note: Long-time customer Melinda Rose is a big audio book fan and a recent convert to, so we asked her to share her thoughts about the service and some of her personal recommendations.  See more about at the end of this article.]

By Melinda Rose

I love books, I love stories, and I love being read to. Growing up my parents read to us almost every night, and it's always felt like such a loving, nurturing thing when a partner reads to me.

I'm a longtime fan of audiobooks, and pretty much always have one going. The right performance can bring so much life and texture to a story, and I can get lost in a book while doing chores around the house, exercising, driving, or simply relaxing. Plus it's a great way to work through that never ending, ever increasing, to-read pile. Between all the fabulous new books coming out on the regular, recommendations from friends of great books I've somehow never read, all the books I've meaning to read, and the impulse buys when browsing my favorite bookstores, well, the sad truth is I'll never get to everything I want to read.

I've had an audible account since 2007, and I was thrilled when I found out there was an alternative that supports independent book stores. I recently made the switch to, and it's been wonderful. It's easy to set up an account and choose which independent bookstore you'd like to support. The company splits the profits with the bookstore, and they have a huge selection. You can set up a monthly membership to automatically buy one credit a month (good for any book in their collection) or just buy as you go a la carte style. You can listen to a sample before you buy to make sure you like the narrator (and believe me, that really makes or breaks the experience).

If you want to listen on your smartphone or other device, download the app and your purchases automatically show up in your library. The app's interface is basically the same as Audibles, and it's very intuitive, so if you're switching over it's an easy transition, and if you're new to the world of audiobooks you’ll find it pretty easy to navigate. They also have a very human, responsive, and helpful customer service team.

It's all about the performance!
Here are some of my favorite listens

* Erin Morgenstern's latest novel THE STARLESS SEA is a story about stories, and the way the stories we love shape our lives. It has love, adventure, and hidden doorways to a secret world. There are multiple narrators and it's very effective. There's the main story arc, and then there are the books and stories the characters come across and those are read by different voice actors. This is one of the most beautiful books I've encountered, and the audio version really brings the intersecting stories to life.

* Warren Ellis's CROOKED LITTLE VEIN performed by Todd McLaren perfectly captures the twisted noir tone of the story, told in first person by a private detective reluctantly exploring the debaucherous underbelly of American culture. Sex, drugs, and plot twists galore!

* If you're a fan of The Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss reading his novella "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" is an absolute treat.  It follows the adventures of Auri -- her life in the forgotten, underground halls and rooms of the university. It's an achingly beautiful character study.

* "Aliens suck at music" is the first line in YEAR ZERO by Rob Reid (performed by John Hodgman). Basically the galaxy is filled with intelligent, creative, and evolved life forms who had no intention of contacting the primitive Earthlings, until they discovered our pop music. . . . And downloaded and listened to it for decades before reading our copyright laws. Delegates from the intergalactic society descend upon a low-level entertainment lawyer to try and negotiate down the huge sum of money the rest of the galaxy collectively owes Earth.

* Neil Gaiman is as brilliant a voice performer as he is a writer, and he narrates most of his books. I've only listened to a few, but I've loved them all, and honestly I don't think you can go wrong in selecting one of his works.

I encourage you to go to's website and explore the options. Their catalog is not quite as extensive as Audible's, but it's still a huge collection and they're helping the small independent guys, which is wonderful. I know many of us could use an extra diversion right about now.

[ is an audiobook purchase platform specifically designed to support independent bookstores. Unlike all of the e-book sites that have offered us partnerships, and in direct contrast to Amazon's audiobook platform, Audible, make it practical and seamless to support Borderlands (or another indie of your choice) with your online audiobook purchases.  It's easy to sign up and easy to use, moreso, we've been blown away by their extraordinary customer service and dedication to helping bookstores. Just go to to learn more about them and create your free account. As part of the account set-up process, you designate an independent bookstore that you want your purchases to support. (You can use this link if you want to choose Borderlands to support right out of the gate: .)  After that, browse more that 150,00 audiobooks and either set up a monthly membership, or buy audiobooks a la carte. ]