February 27, 2015

Hoodies are back!

The Increasingly Inaccurately Dated, Formerly-Commemorative Hoodies are back!

We unfortunately can't reserve them, so come get 'em, or call & we can ship one to you.

These are good quality, black, full-zip hooded sweatshirts with our logo and the dates "1997 - 2015" printed in red on both the front left breast and full size on the back.

We have sizes S - 2XL (we're sorry -- the 3XLs didn't ship this time).  Sizes small through extra large are $50 each, 2XL are $55 each.  Shipping west of the Rockies is $8, east of the Rockies is $10.

We expect and hope these will become collectors' items, like those postage stamps with the upside-down airplane.

February 21, 2015

Made It

by Jude Feldman

Hoo-kay.  Y'all are challenging my heavily-ingrained cynicism here, people.  And I have never, ever in my life been happier to have been dead wrong, so THANK YOU.

I don't even know where to start.  Since we came to the conclusion that we would not be able to keep the bookstore open last November, I have been through all the stages of grief, and I had finally hit acceptance.  And then, just three days ago, we thought that maybe, just maybe, if the stars were right and crazy miracles occurred, we might not have to close.  I didn't want to hope too hard and be disappointed; it would be too awful.  I have said before in my editorial pieces that this is the best job I have ever had and the best I could have hoped for.  The idea that I wouldn't be able to do it any more was frankly breaking my heart, but I'm a realist as well as a dreamer, and I do understand that when things are inevitable, it's better to just deal with them.  It's my mantra when stuck in traffic: "I can be late and upset, or I can just be late".

Still, I felt like a part of me was dying.  And on top of all of the other changes and losses in this city, I felt helpless and angry.  I moved here because San Francisco was WEIRD.  It's meant to be for the dreamers and the poets and the artists and the people who think it's a great idea to unicycle naked down the street, or dress up as foliage and scare the tourists.  It's meant to champion diversity and the little guy and the crazy people who have big ideas.  Emperor Norton's city -- that's MY San Francisco, and that's Borderlands' San Francisco. I felt like it was slipping away, and there wasn't anything I could do except try to remember the good times, accept it with grace, and to ensure that our employees landed on their feet.

And then all of you spoke up.  Borderlands has always been more than just a store, or just a job, for me; I've poured heart and soul and time and even a bit of blood into it - OF COURSE it's vital to me.  But I didn't understand how vital it was to other people, too.  I didn't understand that it represented the same (or similar) things to you.  And I apologize for underestimating you.

I'm a mess right now, in the best way I can be.  The last three weeks have been literally unbelievable - if you'd described them to me in advance, I would have laughed at you.  I am extremely under-slept and hyper-emotional and thoroughly dazed.  I was joking with Alan that "The next time we're going to hit the national media, let's not, okay?" (And I _wasn't_ the one who had to talk to all the reporters, and out-fence Fox News, who were asking "Have you stopped beating your wife?" - style questions.)

I'm having a tough time being linear, let alone eloquent, right now.  I'm crying all over the keyboard.  But thank you.  Thank you so much for letting me keep doing what I love best in the world; thank you for doing your part to help keep San Francisco weird; and thank you for helping to preserve space for the dreamers.  I have never before thought that loving something as hard as you could was enough to change anything -- that sounds like something that only happens in stories -- in fantasy.  But you proved me wrong.  So thank you for letting us continue to champion imagination, because as you've proved conclusively, it really can change the world.

(Note - As of approximately 2:30pm today we reached our goal of 300 sponsors.  Borderlands will remain open until at least March 31st, 2016.  Thank you all and please feel free to keep signing up for sponsorships - there is no maximum number of sponsors. -- A.B.)

February 20, 2015

Getting There


I'm pretty much speechless.  Which, if you know me, is a strange, strange thing.  I want to write something beautiful, clever and emotive.  Something to make strong men weep and crying babes start to grin and giggle.

What I've got to offer is just this -- the last 26 hours have been some of the best and most remarkable hours that I've spent in my life.  The news about our sponsorship program went out at six yesterday evening.  By eight that evening we had over 60 people signed up.  One of them was calling from New Zealand.  Another had been married at the store.  At one point last night, Borderlands was one of the top five trending topics on Twitter.

When I woke up this morning, my email was filled with notes from people saying things like, "I'll call as soon as you open", "Mailed the check this morning" and "I knew you'd come up with something".

I knew that people liked the store and even loved it.  But I never, in my wildest dreams, would have imagined that so many people liked it so much.

So, from me, Jude, and all the rest of the staff, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Your comments and actions over the past three weeks have truly made us feel like we've done something good and worthwhile here.

As I write this, we have already signed up over 230 sponsors.

I think we're going do this thing.  And it's all because of you.

Thank you,
Alan, Jude, Jeremy, Cary, Naamen and Scott.

February 19, 2015

An Opportunity for Borderlands to Stay Open

by Alan Beatts

Updated 2/19/15 at 9:56 pm

Note - For those of you who are hearing about all this now, here are two links to fill in the background.  http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2015/02/borderlands-books-to-close-in-march.html

As a result of the ideas suggested at the meeting we hosted last Thursday, and the emails that have been pouring in, the staff and I have come up with a plan to keep Borderlands open.  Below you'll find the details of it and following that, you'll find my reasoning behind it and some Q&A.  If it is to succeed, we will need your support -- not just right now, but every year moving forwards.  So, if you want Borderlands to continue, it is in your hands.

Prior to the events of the last two weeks, I would never have imagined that something like what follows would ever be possible.  The outpouring of affection and emotion that started the moment we announced that we were closing has changed forever the way the I and the rest of the staff see Borderlands.  This place has always meant the world to us -- that's why we work here -- but we never imagined that it meant so much to so many people.  Win or lose, open or close, we are all more grateful that we can express for your kind words, sincere compliments, and the belief that what we do matters.

The Short Version

Starting immediately we will be offering paid sponsorships of the store.  Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year.  If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015.

February 17, 2015

February News Roundup

* It's the 5th year of local Bay Area convention FOGCon: March 6th - 8th, 2015 at the Walnut Creek Mariott with Guests of Honor Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne M. Valente.  The theme this year is The Traveler and the Chair is once again Guy W. Thomas.  For more information, go to their website here: http://fogcon.org/

* R.I.P. Colleen McCullough.  The author of THE THORN BIRDS, which sold over 30 million copies has passed away at age 77.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-29/australian-author-colleen-mccullough-dies/6055952

* The non-profit We Need Diverse Books is having a short story contest for unpublished authors.  The winner will receive $1000 and publication in a upcoming anthology from Crown books.  Go here for their definition of unpublished and for more information.  http://weneeddiversebooks.org/short-story-contest/

* Treehugger.com provides three good reasons why you should be reading paper books. http://www.treehugger.com/culture/3-good-reasons-read-paper-books-year.html

* Author Jack McDevitt has won the 2015 Robert A. Heinlein Award for inspiring human exploration of space. http://www.bsfs.org/bsfsheinlein.htm

* The Edgars have announced their nominees for 2015 awards and several of them have speculative elements. http://www.theedgars.com/nominees.html

* For the GAME OF THRONES fans out there, visit beautifuldeath.com for gorgeous posters commemorating all of the deaths over the course of the show.  (Spoiler alert, of course, if you haven't watched the series or read the books.)

* See the shortlisted works for the inaugural James Herbert Award for Horror Writing here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/29/james-herbert-award-horror-writing-shortlist

* Perfect for that person you've always wanted to turn into an alien incubator!  (Warning: this is GROSS.  It's cool but it's gross.)  http://boingboing.net/2015/01/20/chest-burster-creme-egg.html

* Behind-the-scenes photos of some of the most gruesome monster movie make-up being applied.  http://www.viralnova.com/how-monsters-are-made/

* Elon Musk's SpaceX names its Drone ships in honor of ships from Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.  Which, while really awesome, doesn't seem like the smartest thing, considering the personalities of some of those ships.  http://www.tor.com/blogs/2015/01/elon-musk-iain-m-banks-just-read-the-instructions

* Another attempt to adapt RED MARS is being set into motion.  (I think this is attempt number four.)  This time Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has been tapped to adapt it for Spike TV.  http://deadline.com/2015/01/j-michael-straczynski-red-mars-series-spike-1201354875/

* Zen Cho's collection SPIRITS ABROAD and Stephanie Feldman's novel THE ANGEL OF LOSSES have tied for the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award. Congratulations to them both!  http://www.locusmag.com/News/2015/01/cho-and-feldman-win-crawford-award/

* The Horror Writers Association has revealed the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards.  http://horror.org/2014-bram-stoker-awards-preliminary-ballot-announced/

January Bestsellers

1. THE PERIPHERAL by William Gibson
3. THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
4. CLARIEL by Garth Nix
5. WHAT IF? by Randall Munroe
7. THE GETAWAY GOD by Richard Kadrey
8. SYMBIONT by Mira Grant
9. THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS by Peter F. Hamilton
10. COMING HOME by Jack McDevitt

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. FOXGLOVE SUMMER by Ben Aaronovitch
2. WISE MAN'S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss
3. NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss
4. GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin
6. A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin
7. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT by Seanan McGuire
8. KEEPER OF THE CASTLE by Juliet Blackwell
9. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
10. DANGEROUS WOMEN VOL. 1 edited by Geroge R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Trade Paperbacks
2. OUR LADY OF THE ISLANDS by Shannon Page & Jay Lake
3. THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
5. ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie

Upcoming Events

Randy Henderson, FINN FANCY NECROMANCY (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, February 22nd at 3:00 pm

Seanan McGuire, POCKET APOCALYPSE (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99) Friday, March 13th at 6:00 pm

Gail Carriger, PRUDENCE (Orbit, Hardcover, $20.00) Sunday, March 22nd at 3:00 pm

February 11, 2015

Commemorative Hooded Sweatshirts

 After several delays, our commemorative hoodies are here, and we think they came out great!  They are black, with our logo in red on the front left breast and the back, and they read "1997 - 2015" underneath.  We have sizes from Small to 3XL.  The cost for sizes S - XL is $50, and 2XL and 3XL are $55.  You can pick them up in the store or we're happy to ship them anywhere you'd like.  Shipping within the US (west of the Rockies) is $8, and within the US (east of the Rockies) is $10.  Shipping to Canada will be $15, and shipping to the UK $22.  If you're located elsewhere, just call or email us and we'll get you a quote.  To order by mail, drop us a line at office@borderlands-books.com and we'll get you set up.

Petition to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors

One of Borderlands' former employees has started a petition over at Change.org, asking the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to explore possibilities that will help support small businesses in San Francisco.  While we didn't author this petition, we do agree with it.  While we unfortunately don't believe that this petition will change the outcome for Borderlands Books, it could potentially be invaluable to other small businesses that contribute to San Francisco's diversity, quirkiness, and charm.  If you wish to add your signature, you can do that here:  https://www.change.org/p/san-francisco-board-of-supervisors-mayor-ed-lee-save-our-small-businesses

February 08, 2015

All the Media

To our great surprise Borderlands has gotten a lot of media attention over the past week.  Much of it has just been retreads of what you've read here already (or, worse, retreads of other news stories that were retreads themselves -- oh, the state of journalism).  But there have been a few articles that add depth to the story and so we thought you might like to see them.

The New Yorker -- http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/minimum-wage-dilemma-san-francisco

San Francisco Magazine -

Finally, if you'd like to see Alan live on a network morning show, you can see it here - http://mediaoneservices.com/alan-beatts-2515/ .  If he seems really stern, it is just because he was terrified and it was 4:20 am at the time.  And, does it seem that the hosts are bad at math?

February 07, 2015

What's Going to Happen Now?

Now that everyone knows that we're closing, I'm sure that people are wondering about the details of how the process is going to work.  But, before I get into that, I want to apologize on my part and on part of the staff for having been deliberately deceptive.  The decision to close was made in mid-November, but we couldn't let anyone know about it until just recently. There were a several reasons for that but the biggest by far was that I was concerned that our suppliers would get nervous and be difficult about continuing to honor our credit limits.  As you can imagine, something like that happening right before the holiday season would have been very bad for us.  The other major reason we waited was that we knew that there would be many, many questions to answer as well as a huge amount of work that would start as soon as we let people know.  We waited until we were past the holiday season and until we'd had time to get all of our plans in place.

Although the reasons for keeping this to ourselves were good and necessary ones, it has pained me and the rest of the staff to imply by our actions and our words that everything was fine and that we were going to continue to do business as usual for the foreseeable future.  We are all very sorry that circumstances required it and we hope that you'll understand why it was necessary.

Our general plan is to sell all of the store's inventory along with most of the bookshelves and other fixtures.  Once we're done with that (which will not be later than March 31st and could be sooner), I'll be looking for good places to donate or sell any books that are left over.  At that point the bookstore will be mostly empty and we'll start using it as extra seating and meeting space for the cafe (which will be staying open until at least October, 2015).  I'm not exactly sure how long we'll be using the old bookstore space in that way.  I've got a few ideas of things we might do in the bookstore (pop-up retail space for local folks trying to get their businesses started is one thing that I'm considering) but I'll be playing that part by ear.  I also might be open to renting the space out for special events or, possibly, sub-leasing the entire space.  That said, please don't contact me now about sub-leasing and so forth.  Those decisions won't be made until late March at the earliest.

Shelves for Sale!

The first lot of shelves that we have available for sale are folding, stackable bookshelves.  They have three shelves sized for hardcovers and are 38" high, 27 1/2" wide, and 10 1/2" deep.  Made of fruitwood (probably apple), they are lightweight, easy to move, and are a pale honey color.  We have about a dozen of them available. They have served us with distinction at many, many conventions, (including the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, where we created a 500 sq. ft. temporary bookstore) as well as in the store at 866 Valencia.  They are $50 each, and come stickered with a letter of provenance signed by Alan and Jude.  They will need to be picked up at the store because they are too awkward to ship.  If you would like one, please email us or come in before noon on Monday, the 9th.  After that we will be placing them on sale to the general public.  If you reserve one, it will need to be picked up by 8 pm on Sunday, February 15th.

Brief Note of Thanks

We'd like to extend our most sincere thanks to the hundreds of customers, authors, and friends who have sent us marvelous, touching, sweet, and supportive emails over the last week. We have read all of them, (and cried over a few) but haven't had time to respond to many of them in the fashion that they deserve.  We hope to be able to reply to you as thoughtfully as you have written to us, but it will take us a while to catch up.  We wanted you to know that we appreciate you more than we can say, and we're working to get personal replies to each of you.

Thank You,
Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman

February 05, 2015

A Personal Note

Updated 2/6/15 at 8:34 pm

by Alan Beatts

For the sake of clarity, there are three things I want to say up front --

1)  If you don't believe that small, locally-owned businesses are an important part of the fabric of a community and that they are worth preserving, you and I will not agree about much of what follows.  That's fine with me and, though I disagree with you, I think that your opinion is perfectly valid.  But, there may not be much point in you continuing to read this.

So, I believe that small, local businesses are valuable and worthy of support.

2)  I don't know if the changes to San Francisco's minimum wage are objectively good or bad.  I know that those changes mean I'm going to close my store and, personally, that is a bad thing.  But I don't believe just because something is bad for me, that is it objectively "bad".  The question of whether a minimum wage is "good" or "bad" (and what amount it should be) seems to me a hugely complex issue.  And I'm not an economist or any other sort of expert on the subject; I just sell books.  I've read arguments on both sides of the issue and, on the face of them, they all seem to have some valid points.  I just don't know.  I do believe, however, if tens of thousands of people are going to benefit from the increase, their well being is much more important than the continued existence of my bookstore.

So, I don't know if the higher minimum wage in San Francisco is, objectively, good or bad.

3)  My complaint is, despite knowing that this change would be hard for small retail stores, especially bookstores, the city government did nothing in drafting the law to alleviate the negative effects on those businesses, despite giving lip-service to the idea that they are important.  When the law passed, Mayor Ed Lee said, "We can give a well-deserved raise to our lowest-wage workers, and we can do it in a way that protects jobs and small business."  Scott Wiener, the city supervisor for the district where Borderlands is located, said last Monday night on the news, "I know that bookstores are in a tough position, and this did come up during the discussions on minimum wage".  But there are no elements in the wage ordinance or any other ordinance, that offer any new protections or assistance for small businesses.  All businesses are treated the same, regardless of size or ownership, despite the acknowledgement that at least some of us are in "a tough position".

So, I see no sign the people responsible for drafting the law took steps to "protect" small businesses.

And so, without a way I can see to make Borderlands financially viable over the long term, we're going to close the store.  And it sucks.  I've already talked about all the things I considered doing to avoid closing, along with the reasons that they won't work.  I've also explained what it would take to stay open (by the way, no phone calls yet from Elon Musk or those other guys).  But I haven't really said much about how I feel about all of this and what I, personally, think.

It blows, it sucks, and I hate it.  It has made me miserable for months, and it's still scaring the crap out of me.  I've been a bookseller for more than a third of my life and I loved it.  It was the best, most fun, happiest-making thing I've ever done.  Because of it, I've not only made a ton of wonderful friends but I also met the person that I suspect I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.

And now it's about to be over.

February 03, 2015

How Could Borderlands Stay Open?

by Alan Beatts

Since April of last year, when it started looking likely that a higher minimum wage ordinance would pass in San Francisco, I've been thinking (racking my brain, actually) about ways to keep the store open in the face of a 39% increase in wages.  I'm going to start with what was my final conclusion and then I'm going to go back and touch on several of the other things that I considered.

First though, the basic facts:

1)  The bookselling side of Borderlands has never been terribly profitable.
2)  Based on current business, the new minimum wage, once fully in effect ($15 per hour in 2018) would move the bookstore from being modestly profitable (roughly $3000 in 2013 before depreciation) to showing a yearly loss of roughly $25,000.
3)  It is reasonable to expect that the best-case, long term sales trend for a brick-and-mortar bookstore is relatively flat.
4)  Making 50-60 hours of work, per week, with no real holidays on my part an intrinsic part of our business plan is neither viable long-term nor something I am going to do.
5)  Any solution would need to have a very good chance of working.  Closing now is a straightforward process and doesn't require any money and a limited amount of frantic work.  Pouring money and / or time into a solution that might work is not something that I'm willing to do at this point in my life.

The only solution that I can see would be to reduce expenses by an amount at least equal to our projected yearly loss.  The only expense that is large enough to reduce by that much is our rent.  So, the only viable solution I can see would be to substantially reduce or eliminate the amount we pay to house the store.  The problem is that I can't see any realistic way to achieve that.  If I had the money, I would buy a building, move the store there and stop paying rent.  It would be a terrible investment, since I'd be losing out on the income from that money, but if I were driven by profits or money, I wouldn't be running a bookstore to start with.  On the other hand, I would own a building that would appreciate over time, even in the current over-heated real estate market in SF, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

However, I don't have even a fraction of the money that would be required for that.  Based on the current market and the sort of building we would need, the price tag would probably be somewhere between 1.5 and 3 million dollars.  So, what it gets down to is -- if someone (or a group of someones) out there wants to buy us a building, I'll be happy to move the store and stay in business.  But, otherwise, I cannot see any solution that will allow us an even half-way reasonable chance to make the business work at a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Do I seriously think that someone will buy us a permanent home for the store?  Not at all.  I would do it for my store, but I don't think I'd do it for anybody else's.  On the other hand, if I had as much cash as Ron Conway, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, I guess I might do something like that.  But, realistically, it's not going to happen.

But, if it did, I would keep running Borderlands 'til someone carried me out feet first.  I really don't want to close.  But I can't see any real, sane alternative.

Here's the list of the not-completely-insane things that I considered (I'm leaving out the old-school-bus-as-bookmobile and other, crazier things).  I'll also going to give a thumbnail sketch of the reasons they won't work.

February 01, 2015

Borderlands Books to Close in March

Updated 2/1/15 at 1:16 pm

In 18 years of business, Borderlands has faced a number of challenges.  The first and clearest was in 2000, when our landlord increased our rent by 100% and we had to move to our current location on Valencia Street.  All of the subsequent ones have been less clear-cut but more difficult.  The steady movement towards online shopping, mostly with Amazon, has taken a steady toll on bookstores throughout the world and Borderlands was no exception.  After that and related to it, has been the shift towards ebooks and electronic reading devices.  And finally the Great Recession of 2009 hit us very hard, especially since we had just opened a new aspect to the business in the form of our cafe.

But, through all those challenges, we've managed to find a way forward and 2014 was the best year we've ever had.  The credit for that achievement goes to the fine and extraordinary group of people who have come together to work here.  Their hard work, combined with the flawless execution and attention to detail provided by Jude Feldman, Borderlands' General Manager, is the reason we've succeeded for these past 18 years.

Throughout the years we've managed to plan for the problems that we could predict and, when we couldn't plan for them, we've just worked our asses off to get through.  Overall, Borderlands has managed to defeat every problem that has come our way.  At the beginning of 2014, the future of the business looked, if not rosy, at least stable and very positive.  We were not in debt, sales were meeting expenses and even allowing a small profit, and, perhaps most importantly, the staff and procedures at both the bookstore and the cafe were well established and working smoothly.

So it fills us with sorrow and horror to say that we will be closing very soon.

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it's possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco -- Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.  The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.