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

Libro.fm 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 Libro.fm are great ways to continue to support our little epicenter in the geekosphere. And right now, for independent Bookstore Week, Libro.fm 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 Libro.fm, 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 Biblio.com <https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/borderlands-books-san-francisco>.  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 orders@borderlands-books.com 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 (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces).  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 Libro.fm, so we asked her to share her thoughts about the service and some of her personal recommendations.  See more about Libro.fm 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 Libro.fm, 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 libro.fm 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 libro.fm'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.

[Libro.fm 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, Libro.fm 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 https://libro.fm/story 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: https://libro.fm/?bookstore=borderlands .)  After that, browse more that 150,00 audiobooks and either set up a monthly membership, or buy audiobooks a la carte. ]

Strange Days

by Alan Beatts

Strange days indeed are here.  I hope that you are all happy, healthy and managing the day-to-day challenges with "grace and artistry" (as Tom Lehrer put it).  Levity aside, I know that this is a difficult time for all of us.  The crew at the shop are managing pretty well but we're all quite lucky in our individual circumstances.  Others are not so lucky and our thoughts are with them.

In the scale of what is happening, Borderlands really isn't very important and so I'm not going to waste many words on our situation other than to say that, financially speaking, we're doing alright.  The financial consequences of closing up the shop are significant but, at this point, manageable.  The staff will continue to get paid and/or they'll be getting unemployment benefits that equal their usual income, which is a huge load off my mind.  For the business, money will be tight down the road but we can deal with that then.  For now though, there are a few things that we're doing that will help our situation.  You'll find details about them below.  Bottom line though - there is little risk that we'll have to close as a result of the current situation.

What is important, however, are the grimly historic events that we are caught up in.  I think we each have our own personal, "Wow.  This is serious." moments.  I don't mean the big things that you see on the news but the little, personal things.  For me it was today; I did the math and realized that I could park in front of the shop, all day long, for $4.  I know it's silly for cheap parking meters to bring home the depth of our situation but a small thing is something that my mind can really put in context.

A super-tanker sized hospital ship coming into New York harbor is just too large, both figuratively and literally, to be easily incorporated in my world-view.

But, however we get there, this truly is deeply serious.  The effects of this will be with us for a long time.  I hope that the magnitude of the measures we need to take as a society will decrease sharply in the next months.  And I also hope that, within a year or two, we will be past the destructive part of this pandemic.  But, there will be vestiges and scars of it left over for years to come.

San Francisco is strange right now, in may ways, but it's also kinder than it was a few weeks ago.  People seem to be smiling more at each other on the street (albeit while walking past each other as far apart as possible).  I talked with a postal worker today who was genuinely pleasant, helpful and accommodating.  There's a bag-piper in my neighborhood who's playing from his rooftop at sunset each evening.  In general, people are driving slower and with more courtesy.  And, across the board, the people I've dealt with have been kinder and more considerate than usual.

It's is all those little things combined with the big stuff, like the generally responsible behavior of mayors and governors around the country, that make me confident that we're going to be alright.  This is going to be hard and it's going to be long but we'll get through.

We're going to be alright.


"I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown. In the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth. That we always make it just by the skin of our teeth, but that we will always make it. Survive. Endure."
-- Robert A. Heinlein, 1952

From the Editor

by Jude Feldman

I was already knee-deep in personal complications before March 16th, when San Francisco's shelter-in-place order came down. It's pretty exciting (read: harrowing) to move your 78-year-old father and his two cats from Los Angeles to an assisted living place in Northern California in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.  It's even more exciting when they announce a shelter-in-place order just after you've passed The Grapevine.  We had planned to overnight in San Francisco, and then drive the remaining 60 miles and move Dad, his cats Nicky and Parker, and all his stuff in the next day.  When we heard about the order, we determined we had to go straight through, lest we get stuck in an untenable situation in SF.  Sixteen absolutely exhausting hours after we left LA, he and the cats were both safely installed.  The next day, the assisted living place folks told me very politely I could finish moving him in and then I needed to leave as soon as possible and not come back, since they were no longer allowing any visitors, and closing to all non-essential personnel immediately.  Given the givens, everything is as good as it can be right now but everything's also REALLY complicated.

My collected complications are now feeling closer to neck-deep.  While I'm thrilled that we're going to be able to serve our customers, even in this quite limited capacity, I am way, way behind on everything.  So this is a little PS to let you know that I'm trying to catch up but it is super slow going.  Both Alan and I do read every single (non-spam) email we receive and we try to reply to all of them, but replies are going to be slower than usual while we both get ourselves unburied.

More generally, we look forward to providing you with great books during this bizarre and uncertain period.  I said earlier today that these are really strange times, but it's also fascinating to know you're living history as it happens, as opposed to recognizing it in hindsight as usual.  I feel like genre fiction readers are better equipped than the general population to handle it when things get Deeply Weird, and indeed they have.

We'll get through this together, even while we're at least six feet apart.

Sponsorships Still Available

As you may know, Borderlands has been supported by a sponsorship program since 2015.  Under normal circumstances, our sponsors' annual contribution of $100 allows us to offset the difference between our annual sales and the higher wages in San Francisco.  In the current crises, that program is what has allowed us to continue paying our staff, despite the store being closed.  It is also what is allowing us to manage our expenses despite having almost no income.

There are a number of benefits to being a sponsor (most of which, sadly, are meaningless right now since our operations are so terribly curtailed) but the important thing is that being a sponsor is a crucial support for one of the few stores remaining in the United States that represents our specialties.

Any support that you wish to give Borderlands in these challenging times -- be it mail order purchases, a subscription to Libro.fm, or just rushing to the store to buy books when we can reopen -- is hugely appreciated by all of us here.  If you would like to become a sponsor as well, that would be wonderful and we'd love to have you as a member of this very special group of people.

You can get your sponsorship on-line via secure credit card payment at https://borderlands-books.com/buysponsorship.html .  You are also welcome to mail a check or call us during our limited office hours to pay by credit card.  Sponsorships are $100 per year for one individual, are good for one calendar year, and are available throughout the year.  When you get your sponsorship you'll also have the option of making an additional contribution to help cover the cost of our current operations as well as our moving costs when we relocate to our new building on Haight St. later this year.

Information about sponsor benefits - http://borderlands-sponsors.blogspot.com/p/sponsor-benefits-and-privilidges.html
The story of how the sponsor program came to be - http://borderlands-sponsors.blogspot.com/p/why-sponsorships.html

April News

* Overheard in the Store/ at the Con/ at Writers With Drinks:

"It's a writing prompt: 'A lending library. . .*of* children.  Maybe a Redbox too.'"

"Hey, have you heard of this Robert Heinlein guy?"
"Wasn't he the one who wrote TWILIGHT?"

"Sadly I've had to put the whole cannibal thing on hiatus indefinitely."

"People will totally pay double to get drunk in a collapsing multiverse."

"It's completely legal to ship axolotls in the US, so at one point I received a box that said 'Contains Live Salamanders -- Hopefully'."

"That's A LOT of finger food for a pandemic."

"Their first mistake was assuming I was a harmless old woman. They didn't get a chance at another mistake."

"Eeney, meeney, mine-y, . . . . Both!"

"A bunch of great people. . .   great, supportive, and REALLY weird."

"We're vertical, on the right side of the sod, and sending telemetry. We're good!"

* Welcome to our new neighbors, indie comic shop Silver Sprocket!  https://missionlocal.org/2020/02/sliver-sprocket-punk-rock-indie-comic-disneyland-opens-on-valencia-street/

* Meet the mad scientist who wrote the book on hunting hackers: https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-mad-scientist-who-wrote-the-book-on-how-to-hunt-hackers/

* Black History Month is over, but these authors deserve to be read all year 'round: https://theportalist.com/black-science-fiction-and-fantasy-authors

* Beer in Space!  Author Arkady Martine gives us the low-down on deep-space home brewing: https://www.tor.com/2020/01/24/how-to-brew-beer-in-the-confines-of-a-generation-ship/#more-544311

* A victim of the 79 A.D. volcanic blast at Herculaneum was found with an exploded skull and glass-like brain tissue . . .  https://www.livescience.com/vitrified-brain-of-vesuvius-victim-found.html

* A gallery of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" paintings: https://dangerousminds.net/comments/a_gallery_of_the_paintings_from_rod_serlings_night_gallery

* Riddle us this: What has the head of a vulture, the body of a parrot, is the size of a small child -- oh, and is TOTALLY REAL?  This isn't a fantasy creature, this is the Dracula Parrot. https://mysticalraven.com/adventures/17554/the-dracula-parrot-is-scary-and-beautiful-all-at-once

* In today's real-life Lovecraftian-Horrors news: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/newly-discovered-underwater-volcanic-range-teeming-bizarre-tiny-fanged-fish

* From the Hogwarts school to the Wall in "Game of Thrones," here's how different buildings from fiction measure up: https://www.digg.com/video/comparison-sizes-of-fictional-buildings

* A 16th-century assassin's (or perhaps just an herbalist's?) cabinet discovered in a hollowed-out book: https://mymodernmet.com/poison-cabinet/

* Once again, reality and science fiction are neck and neck: scientists build "first living robots" from frog stem cells: "It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism." https://futurism.com/scientists-worlds-first-living-robots-stem-cells

* What every mystery fan needs -- a thorough guide to not getting murdered in a quaint English village: https://crimereads.com/your-guide-to-not-getting-murdered-in-a-quaint-english-village/

* Is Belukha Mountain (Siberia's highest peak) haunted by the color out of space?  https://mymodernmet.com/clouds-belukha-mountain-siberia/

* Forget chess - the real challenge is teaching AI to play D&D.  Some artificial intelligence experts think role playing adventure games will help machines learn to be as clever as we are: https://www.wired.com/story/forget-chess-real-challenge-teaching-ai-play-dandd/

* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42! https://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2020/02/28/45518/the_hitchhiker%E2%80%99s_guide_to_the_galaxy_is_42%21

* It was just a matter of time.  Creepy abandoned dollhouses for your inner demon child: https://www.messynessychic.com/2020/02/27/and-now-abandoned-dollhouses-for-your-inner-demon-child/

* Akira Kurosawa's spectacular hand-painted storyboards: https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/akira-kurosawa-hand-painted-storyboards/

* "Medieval wall made of bones".  How can you resist a phrase like that? https://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/medieval-wall-made-of-human-bones-discovered-in-belgium/

* NOT Dr. Seuss creations . . . 10 amazing and beautiful houseplants you never knew existed: https://mysticalraven.com/art/11803/top-10-amazing-but-also-beautiful-houseplants-you-never-knew-existed

* Metal, Dude! Astronomers have discovered a planet where it rains iron: https://www.cnet.com/news/astronomers-discovered-a-giant-planet-where-it-rains-iron/

* David insisted I HAD to include this in a newsletter ASAP -- detailed 3D illustrations of anatomically correct cartoon character skulls labeled as scientific specimens: https://laughingsquid.com/cartoon-skulls/

Upcoming Events

At this point, due to the San Francisco shelter-in-place order, we have canceled all our upcoming events.  As soon as this changes, we'll let you know.

February Bestsellers


1. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
2. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
3. Agency by William Gibson
4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
5. Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
6. Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr
7. Penric's Progress by Lois McMaster Bujold
8. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
9. Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
10. Dune: Deluxe Edition by Frank Herbert

Trade Paperbacks

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. A People's Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
3. City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
4. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
5. Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
6. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
7. The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes
8. Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
9. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
10. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Mass Market Paperbacks

1. Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
2. Neuromancer by William Gibson
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
5. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
6. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
7. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
8. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
9.  Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10. Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson