Borderlands Books is a fantastic otherworldly experience in the heart of San Francisco. A specialty store that focuses on science-fiction, fantasy and horror novels, this is a bookstore for a true connoisseur of speculative fiction. I’m not sure if I qualify entirely, as I’m not as well read in the field as I’d like to be. But I do love me some Tim Powers and Ursula Le Guin, and I’m truly deeply madly in love with Nisi Shawl and Octavia Butler’s writing, so sign me up as a fan of Borderlands Books.
In fact, I did just that back in 2015. I signed up to be a sponsor of Borderlands Books, and you can do the same thing. In the hot real estate market of San Francisco, bookstores are hardly viable. So literate people of goodwill have signed up to ensure that a great bookstore like this can stay in the city.
right now, they need new sponsors by March 31st of this year —
You can sign up right here as a sponsor.
You might wonder how all of this came about.
In 1997 Alan Beatts opened Borderlands Books in Hayes Valley as a used-only bookstore consisting of his personal collection and a selection of books from Know Knew Books in Palo Alto.
Bookstore owner Beatts had done a lot of things before opening his new and used science fiction bookstore. Private Investigator, night club manager, and briefly a used clothing salesman. But he’s stuck to it with Borderlands Books — which is now the largest science fiction bookstore in the United States, carrying 14,000 titles specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Borderlands Books is important in SF and fantasy circles, with many author events per year and international tourists popping in daily during busy months. Borderlands Books makes appearances at horror and science-fiction conventions, and has hosted numerous events with a variety of SF/F luminaries, including Lou Anders, Chris Roberson, John Varley, Jacqueline Carey, John Picacio, Graham Joyce, Patricia McKillip, Paolo Bacigalupi, David Drake, Randall Munroe, Steven Erikson, and Cory Doctorow.
Here’s another nice twist — the café attached to Borderlands Books serves coffee or tea, but they never play music and there is no wi-fi, so that you can simply read books. You can sit and read a new book, or nosh on café treats and read one of the SF magazines also sold at Borderlands. I’ve always thought reading is the point of having a bookstore café, so I’m glad that Borderlands agrees with me.
Borderlands Books also hosts the Tachyon Publications anniversary party with the associated Emperor Norton Awards, given for “extraordinary invention and creativity unhindered by the constraints of paltry reason”. The first award is given to a single work of science fiction, fantasy, or horror, or to an author in these genres, and the second to any creation, creator, or service relating to those genres. In 2008, Borderlands’ owner Alan Beatts and general manager Jude Feldman were jointly nominated for a World Fantasy Award under the World Fantasy Special Award: Professional category.
Despite all this awesomeness, Borderlands couldn’t survive on its own.
On February 2, 2015, in an open letter posted on Borderlands Books website, the owners Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman, announced they would close the store on March 31, 2015. The Valencia Street store — one of the largest of its kind in the world, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror titles — drew widespread coverage (including a New Yorker piece) after it said the city’s increase in the minimum wage to $15 would not allow it to continue as “a financially viable business” (for the record, the owners support the minimum wage increase).
Then, thanks to a public meeting at which customers proposed ideas for saving the store, a new sponsorship plan was hatched.
Borderlands Books announced a plan to remain open by relying on sponsorships. Soon it seemed that every fan of speculative fiction in the known universe was willing to help out. People from Peter Straub to Neil Gaiman to Joe Hill all sounded the alarm on their social media channels.
“It’s been incredible,” Beatts said. “I had no idea that this would get so much attention from the press, from the public. I was astonished by how many people wanted to get involved.”
The initial goal was merely 300 private sponsors at $100 apiece. This goal was soon surpassed. In fact, the first cohort maxed out at 844 sponsors!
Every year since then, people have signed up to support Borderlands Books, and perhaps the bookstore will even buy their building! (here are some details about the building)
I am proud to say that I was an early supporter of Borderlands Bookstore — here I am, listed under my SF moniker “Nicholas Hallum” as sponsor #214 — one of the first 300 to stand in the gap and defend the bookstore against the forces of avarice and illiteracy! Have I mentioned that you can join us?
Visit Borderlands Books right here.
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