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Events and News from Borderlands Books

February, 2014

Chapter One - Event Information, News, and Special Features

Editor's Note - You may be aware that we have a blog where this newsletter also appears <>.  At the end of major features in this newsletter you'll find permanent links to the same item on our blog.  These links can be convenient if you want to send just a single article or if you'd like to link to it from your website.

Upcoming Author Events

David Edison, THE WAKING ENGINE (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, February 15th at 3:00 pm

Finish That Book! Passion and Productivity for Writers with authors Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield, Saturday, March 1st from 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Michael Blumlein, WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED (Centipede Press, Hardcover, $50.00) Sunday, March 2nd at 3:00 pm

Brandon Sanderson, WORDS OF RADIANCE (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, March 6th at 6:00 pm

Seanan McGuire, HALF OFF RAGNAROK (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99) Saturday, March 15th at 6:00 pm

Edith Maxwell, A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE (Kensington, Hardcover, $24.00 and Mass Market, $7.99) Sunday, March 16th at 1:00 pm

Bruce DeSilva, PROVIDENCE RAG (Forge, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 16th at 3:00 pm

Nick Mamatas, Jim Nisbet, Sin Soracco, and Ken Wishnia: PM Press Crime Writers' Short-Fire Reading and Signing, Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 pm

Dan Wells, RUINS (Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, $17.99) and Robison Wells, BLACKOUT (HarperTeen, Hardcover, $17.99), Friday, March 21st at 7:00 pm

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* If you missed Rudy Rucker's talk, Q&A, and "art tour" in January, you can listen to it here! . Rudy's paintings will be on display in the Cafe until March 15th.

* The Locus Poll and Survey Ballot is now online.  The deadline for voting is April 15th, 2014:

* "Boom: A Journal of California" interviews Kim Stanley Robinson, and the interview is fascinating:

* asked top authors and editors what books they'd recommend for converting friends who don't read within the genre into genre readers.  The resulting suggestions are very interesting:

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From The Office

Editor's Note: Since Alan's waist-deep in construction, and has been doing things like working 22 hours straight and then disappearing to sleep for 10 hours and then returning to work another 20 hours,  I've asked some other staffers to contribute From the Office pieces for the next few months.  Don't worry; all the rest of us are just as opinionated as Alan, and he'll be back with his own special brand of analysis in a few months.  He's even mentioned possibly doing a Screed!  (We're both kind of pissed off at Apple right now.)  But meanwhile, enjoy a guest piece from Jeremy Lassen, Borderlands' first (and longest continuous) employee.  (Please note that while Borderlands is probably the only bookstore in the world with its own SWAT team, and that I and Alan will personally back any of our employees in a street fight, their opinions are their own and don't necessarily represent those of the store.)

Just Be Glad It’s Not a Woman’s Bare Shoulder With a Tattoo, and Her Head Cut Off! (or, Code and Coding In Genre Publishing)

I had an interesting conversation on Twitter last month.  No, seriously, I did.  Someone Tweeted a jape about a book that was being described as “ENDER'S GAME meets THE HUNGER GAMES.”  The person was really unimpressed with the “jam two best-sellers together” marketing pitch.  I had read that particular book in galley a few months earlier, and absolutely loved it.  And while, plot-wise, the comparison was apt, it wasn’t perfect.
The elevator pitch for RED RISING, as embodied by the blurb on the cover, failed to convey a larger sense of history and dialogue with SF literature.  The book was smart, and savvy in a way that the facile best-seller mash  description just didn’t get across.  There was a detailed colony-society on Mars . . . there was a caste system, and a revolutionary movement to overthrow the established hierarchy.  And there was a hero whose tragic history gave him the passion to do terrible things, and at the same time filled him with a sense of doubt and inadequacy. 

From my perspective as a cranky old SF reader, this book had a bunch of Zelazny, a bit of Philip Jose Farmer, and maybe some MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, and some Vatta, (and maybe even some early, early Piers Anthony  -- CTHON or the Phaze Adept stuff -- but trying to reference the GOOD Piers Anthony versus the BAD Piers Anthony may be trying to slice the cheese a bit too thin, so I’ll stick with Zelazny and Farmer for now.)

When I pointed out to the original Twitt-ee (not sure what the proper term is . . . but whatever) what RED RISING reminded ME of, my Twitter correspondent indicated they would check it out, and asked why the publisher didn't just say THAT. . . instead of “HUNGER GAMES meets ENDER'S GAME.”  To which I replied, "Because that would sell the book to you and me. . . but not to most book buyers and not to most casual readers.”  Which in retrospect may have sounded kind of elitist.  Which is NOT what I was trying to imply or suggest.  Just because I read a lot of really good (and really bad) 60’s and 70’s New Wave SF doesn’t mean I’m BETTER than other readers.  It just means I have a different perspective than most, and I use different code to describe things.

Another example of code and coding in the genre, before I try and make my point; in my previous life as Art Director for Night Shade Books, I had a lot of time to think about the role and purpose of cover art.  Covers DO matter, despite how much readers might protest.  Covers don’t function as wholly discrete pieces of independent art.  Covers are meant to convey the type of experience that you are likely to get from reading a given book. Does it LOOK like a fantasy book?  Or a military SF book?  Habitual readers of genre fiction associate certain cover types or styles with their favorite books, or genres.  And if they are looking for a David Drake-esque military SF thriller, they look for books that LOOK like that earlier book.  Same goes for urban fantasy or paranormal romance.  Thus the tattooed lady parts, referred to in the title.  For about a decade, all urban fantasy looked pretty similar.  For the simple reason that, THAT’S WHAT READERS EXPECTED IT TO LOOK LIKE. 

I can speak from personal, and costly experience (see Art Director role above) . . . if you package a book counter to its contents . . . you are simply setting up an author and a reader for disappointment.  I mean, if you want to TRICK a mainstream reader into reading that fantasy book by putting a mainstream cover on it, that's fine . . . but no fantasy readers are going to pick it up, and btw, if that book is in the fantasy section, no mainstream readers are going to pick it up either.  If you want to sell a fantasy book to a mainstream audience, it better be in the mainstream section of the store, published by a mainstream publishing house, and reviewed by a bunch of mainstream periodicals. 

For example, when JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORELL was published, it was published with a “best seller” cover, from a mainstream publishing house.  And it sold far and wide.  Even though it was fantasy.  If that book had come out from, say, Tor, with a painted-fairies genre cover, it wouldn’t have reached that mainstream audience.  But it's a double-edged sword.  JONATHAN STRANGE is one of the few examples of a package that had its cake and ate it too . . . .  Because clearly a lot of genre readers also picked up that JONATHAN STRANGE . . . .  It doesn’t always happen that way.  Publishers tried a similar trick with John Crowley, and pretty much nobody bought his books on either side of the genre line.

Back to the personal experience.  I had an author complain to me about a “hooded man” fantasy cover.  If you’re reading this, you probably know the type of cover I mean.  Sometime in the last 5 years, the default look for a Big Fat Fantasy novel changed, from a painted fantasy SCENE (ala Robert Jordan’s covers), to a closeup of a single character.  Often that character is in a robe or hooded cloak of some kind, so the face is in shadow, and all you can see is that BIG ASS knife/sword/whatever in his or her hand.  Orbit pioneered this type of cover, and now it's the go-to standard when a publisher is trying to convey “Grim/Dark” fantasy.  My author felt the hooded man covers were overdone, and we should go with a different motif.  After all, that author had spoken with a dozen or so other authors online and they all felt that the hooded man motif was overdone.  At which point, I tried to explain the point I’m trying to make here . . . of course it's overdone. THAT’S THE POINT!  That’s why it works as a visual shorthand, or code, for “That type of fantasy book I like to read.”  What I left unsaid was “Just be happy you didn’t write an urban fantasy book . . . have you seen what THOSE overdone motifs look like?”

So anyway, back to my point. Which is that oftentimes a publisher's choice of packaging or blurbs or descriptions or whatever may seem to be a misfire.  Sometimes it actually IS a misfire.  If you’re an old coot like me and you read GRRM’s  GAME OF THRONES in its first hardcover printing, you can see that Bantam slapped a “best seller” cover on it.  No painted wolves or snowy medieval scene.  It was a foil cover with a designed image that looked like a throne, under the author's name, which was bigger than the title.  And man, did GAME OF THRONES tank in hardcover.  It failed miserably.  That first hardcover ended up on the remainder tables in less than 6 months.  All the genre buyers passed on it, and no mainstream readers picked it up from its shelf in the SF section.  Which is really funny, considering how things turned out.  The publisher went back to a traditional painted fantasy cover for the paperback, it became really popular, and then the publisher went back to the bestseller covers without any of the painted scenes, as originally envisioned.  (It just took an extra 10 years to make those best seller covers work.)

But while sometimes a package may be a complete misfire, sometimes you just aren’t the target audience for the package.  Mainstream readers have this happen all the time, when they look at a genre cover.   I’ve seen a lot of  mundanes sneer at what I think is a really good cover . . . because they don’t get the coded messages embedded in a given style of cover.  All they see is “something I’ve never had a good experience reading” or worse, “something I would never frame and put on my wall.” 

For a classic example of this, check out the essay that Nick Hornby wrote in an earlier issue of "The Believer", where he sneers for several thousand words about how he was embarrassed to be seen in a bookstore, buying an Iain M.  Banks book, because, “WTF was that sci-fi stuff all about . . . I tried . . . but really, fuck this geekery”.  (For the record, fuck Nick Hornby and his mainstream snobbery.)

So back to RED RISING and the best-seller elevator pitch comp.  The perfect elevator pitch isn’t for YOU.  It’s for the buyers.  Or for the reviewers.  Or for other gatekeepers who are going to make a decision based on that pitch (or blurb or whatever) and then end up putting it in front of you, hopefully with a bit more context or explanation (in the case of a reviewer) or on the shelf where you can stumble across it, in the case of a buyer.  Because the elevator pitches to YOU, the habitual reader of genre fiction, who subscribes to this newsletter?  Your frame of reference is a bit more rarified, and a bit different than the vast majority of readers.

So yes . . . I feel your pain every time a publisher does the “best seller mashup pitch.”  And I really feel it when the mashup isn’t even very accurate.  But the alternative is me coming up with THE PERFECT blurb for RED RISING . . . “It’s like Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept, meets Roger Zelazny’s LORD OF LIGHT with a hint of Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta series.”  I mean, who would buy a book with a blurb like that?*  I mean, aside from me or you**.

*Seriously.  I tried that whole “keeping it real” elevator pitch once. You should have seen the look on the buyer’s face when I said “Sheri S. Tepper meets Neal Stephenson (and kicks his ass!) in a feminist-cyberpunk-thriller by Clarke Award-winner Tricia Sullivan.”  I should have just said “'Outbreak meets SNOW CRASH,” and called it a day.

**Books I referenced that you should read if you haven’t already: I’m going to assume you’ve read (or at least heard of and dismissed) GAME OF THRONES and JONATHAN STRANGE…. But have you read LITTLE BIG by John Crowley?  Or LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelazny?  Or World of Tiers by Philip Jose Farmer?  How about Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta series?  Been there, done all that?  Try and see past years of bad Piers Anthony books, and read The Adept Apprentice Series, or even CTHON, his first novel.  There’s a reason he was in Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS anthology.  And of course, if you haven’t read MAUL, by Tricia Sullivan, you should run out and do so.  And finally, run, don’t walk, and pick up RED RISING by Pierce Brown.

-Jeremy Lassen

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Top Sellers At Borderlands


1) Pandemic by Scott Sigler
2) Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
3) The Princess and Mr. Whiffle vol. 1 by Patrick Rothfuss
4) Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
5) The Princess and Mr. Whiffle vol. 2 by Patrick Rothfuss
6) Dead Set by Richard Kadrey
7) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
8) Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
9) Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
10) The Abominable by Dan Simmons


1) Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
2) Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
3) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
4) Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
5) Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
6) Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
7) 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
8) Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
9) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
10) Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Trade Paperbacks

1) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
2) Shadowplay by Laura Lam
3) Pantomime by Laura Lam
4) The Big Aha! by Rudy Rucker
5) NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Book Club Info

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, March 9th, at 5 pm to discuss EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, February 16th, at 6 pm to discuss READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.  The book for March 16th is AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

David Edison, THE WAKING ENGINE (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Saturday, February 15th at 3:00 pm - We are pleased to welcome David Edison, presenting his mind-blowing debut novel THE WAKING ENGINE!  From the book jacket: "Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new.  All are born only once, but die many times. . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to true Death can be found.  Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls. . . and one very confused New Yorker."  Join us to meet David and check out this stunning first novel.

Finish That Book! Passion and Productivity for Writers with authors Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield, Saturday, March 1st from 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm - Best-selling Bay Area authors Sophie Littlefield and Juliet Blackwell to lead a stimulating, creative and fun craft workshop: FINISH THAT BOOK! PASSION & PRODUCTIVITY FOR WRITERS!  Whether you're stuck in your first chapter or somewhere around the sagging middle, you can go from frustrated to finished faster than you imagined. Handouts and exercises included.  Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series. As Hailey Lind she writes the Agatha-nominated Art Lover's Mystery Series. When not writing, painting, or haranguing her funny but cynical teenaged son, Juliet spends a lot of time restoring her happily haunted house and gardening.  Sophie Littlefield's novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women's fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter.  This event is presented by Sisters in Crime-NorCal. Open to the public.

Michael Blumlein, WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED (Centipede Press, Hardcover, $50.00) Sunday, March 2nd at 3:00 pm - Medical science has had a triumphant history, and one that has been tarnished by tyranny, often at the hands of scientists themselves.  Using recent advances in the field of genetics as a launching pad, and his nearly 40 years as a practicing physician as a backdrop, Dr. Blumlein will wax poetic on the promise and the perils of science and scientific thinking.  And the future?  Stick around while he reads from his new collection, WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED.

Brandon Sanderson, WORDS OF RADIANCE (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, March 6th at 6:00 pm - Join us to meet one of our very favorite fantasy writers, the incredibly talented Brandon Sanderson!  Having done the seemingly impossible and completed Robert Jordan's near-legendary Wheel of Time series, Brandon's now hard at work on his own massive epic, The Stormlight Archive.  WORDS OF RADIANCE is volume 2, the followup to WAY OF KINGS, and in it the story grows even more complex and compelling.  Don't miss this event! (Please note, this event begins at 6pm, an hour earlier than usual.)

Seanan McGuire, HALF OFF RAGNAROK (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99) Saturday, March 15th at 6:00 pm - Seanan McGuire's events are always a wild party, and you're invited!  We're happy to host the super-prolific author as she presents the newest InCryptid novel.  This one's narrated by Verity's brother Alex, and includes a whole host of new characters and also some old friends. "When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn't expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend--Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats--is starting to get suspicious.  Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone . . . . The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.  Of course, so do the talking mice."

Edith Maxwell, A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE (Kensington, Hardcover, $24.00 and Mass Market, $7.99) Sunday, March 16th at 1:00 pm - We're delighted to welcome Edith Maxwell to the store!  This is a new cozy series to die for: "It's harvest time in Westbury, Massachusetts, and novice farmer Cameron Flaherty hopes to make a killing selling organic produce. A colorful Locavore Club belongs to Cam's farm-share program. But when a killer strikes on her property, her first foray into the world of organic farming yields a bumper crop of locally sourced murder.  To clear her name, Cam has to dig up secrets buried deep beneath the soil of Produce Plus Farm. And when the police don't make progress in the case, she has to catch a murderer whose motto seems to be, 'Eat Local. Kill Local.'"

Bruce DeSilva, PROVIDENCE RAG (Forge, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 16th at 3:00 pm - We're eagerly anticipating meeting Bruce DeSilva, a rising talent whose new novel asks a very difficult ethical question. . . "Inspired by a true story, PROVIDENCE RAG finds Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island's antiquated criminal statutes --never intended for someone like him -- required that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with it -- if the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody. As Mason sets out to prove officials are perverting the  justice system, Mulligan searches frantically for some legal way to keep the monster behind bars. The dueling investigations pit the friends against each other in a high-stakes race against time -- and snares them in an ethical dilemma that has no right answer."

Nick Mamatas, Jim Nisbet, Sin Soracco, and Ken Wishnia: PM Press Crime Writers' Short-Fire Reading and Signing, Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 pm - We love stimulating, subversive, and local PM Press!  PM tends toward the outstanding, radical, activist, and experimental (Terry Bisson edits their Outspoken Authors Series) and their crime fiction is no different.  We're happy to welcome a bunch of PM's crime writers for an evening of rapid-fire reading and signing.  We know you'll want to meet Nick, Jim, Sin, and Ken!

Dan Wells, RUINS (Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, $17.99) and Robison Wells, BLACKOUT (HarperTeen, Hardcover, $17.99), Friday, March 21st at 7:00 pm - Details to come about our event with the Wells brothers!

Borderlands event policy - all events are free of charge unless otherwise stated.  You are welcome to bring copies of an author's books purchased elsewhere to be autographed (but we do appreciate it if you purchase something while at the event).  For most events you are welcome to bring as many books as you wish for autographs.  If you are unable to attend the event we will be happy to have a copy of any of the author's available books signed or inscribed for you.  We can then either hold the book(s) until you can come in to pick them up or we can ship to you.  Just give us a call or drop us an email.  If you live out of town, you can also ship us books from your collection to be signed for a nominal fee.  Call or email for details.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA  94110

Comments and suggestions should be directed to



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