Thursday, October 10, 2019

Sponsor Letter, October 8th 2019

Hi Lovely Sponsors

As you can see from this note, I managed to survive the last few weeks.  It was quite a thing though.  Catch me at the next social or at the Haight St. Open house on the 20th and I'll be happy to tell you a few stories.  But, all is good in Alan-land (and Border-land).  I also had time to write a little thing this month.  You'll find it right after this and before the upcoming events list.  Let me know what you think?

All Best,
Alan

A Coda

I read something last week that tied in quite nicely to what I wrote about last month.  Without any further introduction, here it is;

"San Francisco has been for most of its 150-year existence both a refuge and an anomaly.  Soon it will be neither.  Gentrification is transforming the city by driving out the poor and working class, including those who have chosen to give their lives to unlucrative pursuits such as art, activism, social experimentation, social service.  But gentrification is just the fin above the water.  Below is the rest of the shark: a new American economy in which most of us will be poorer, and few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable.  The technology boom and the accompanying housing crisis have fast-forwarded San Francisco into the newest version of the American future, a version that also is being realized in Boston, Seattle, and other cities from New York and Atlanta to Denver and Portland."

"A decade ago Los Angeles looked like the future -- urban decay, open warfare, segregation, despair, injustice and corruption -- but the new future looks like San Francisco: a frenzy of financial speculation, covert coercions, overt erasures, a barrage of novelty-item restaurants, websites, technologies and trends, the despair of unemployment replaced by the numbness of incessant work hours and the anxiety of destabilized jobs, homes and neighborhoods.  Thirty-five percent of the venture capital in this country is in the Bay Area, along with 30 percent of the multimedia/Internet businesses, and the boom that started in Silicon Valley has produced a ripple effect throughout the region from south of San Jose to Napa and Sonoma in the north."

"San Francisco has had the most expensive housing of any major American city in the nation for two decades, but in the past few years housing prices -- both sale and rents -- have been skyrocketing, along with commercial rents.  New businesses are coming in at a hectic pace, and they in turn generate new boutiques, restaurants and bars that displace earlier businesses, particularly nonprofits, and the new industry's workers have been outbidding for rentals and buying houses out from under tenants at a breakneck pace.  Regionally, home sales and rental prices have gone up by 30 percent over the past three years, but the rates of increase is far more dramatic in San Francisco."

If you read carefully you noticed that, despite being an accurate description of right-here and right-now, there were a few things that seemed a little bit . . . off.  Phrases like, "the multimedia/Internet businesses" with its oddly capitalized "I", or perhaps the inaccurate, "rental prices have gone up by 30 percent over the past three years".

That's because it was written at the end of the last century.  It's from the opening chapter of Hollow City, by Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzinberg (Verso, 2000).

Although I lived in San Francisco through the period that they're writing about, I had forgotten just how exactly the state of San Francisco then matched our current one.  At least I had forgotten until I read that passage.  History does indeed repeat itself.

After reading that, I had two thoughts.  My first was that, at the time, my sense of disruption was much less than what I've been feeling these last few years.  That might be because I was younger and also less engaged with the overall fabric of the city.  Running a bookstore for 20 years does tend to hook you into your community.  But, it also could be because what's happening this time around is, in fact, more profound.  In 1998-1999 the real center of the action was on the mid-peninsula, whereas this time, it's right in the middle of the city.

My other thought was, "How could the people who are (notionally) in charge of the city not see the risk in where we were headed?" Mayor Ed Lee, who not only presided over the beginning of the current boom but arguably was one of its architects, was working in city government in 1999.  In fact, he was the Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission -- which is tasked with working to, "increase equality, eradicate discrimination, and to protect human rights for all people".  Wouldn't you think he would have remembered 1999 and taken some of those lessons into account before offering tax breaks that were _meant_ to create a tech boom all over again?

Or, what about our current Mayor (and former President of the Board of Supervisors from 2015-2017), London Breed?  In 1999 she was an intern at the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services.  I'm betting she had some first-hand experience with the effects of the dot-com boom on housing and displacement.  But, does it seem like she remembered those lessons?  I'd say; Nope.

If I wanted to keep digging, I'm sure that the list would go on and on.  In short, a bunch of people involved in running the city experienced _exactly_ what is happening right now but were either too dumb, too greedy, or too careless to take it into consideration this time around. And so here we are . . . .  I gotta say, it sorta pisses me off because it probably was avoidable.

Fundamentally I think that the obligation of a city's government is to look out for the best interests of the people who live there.  In that, I think that the government of San Francisco has failed us over the past eight years.  The whole story is a long one and it started around 2011, in the aftermath of the great recession, but the short version is that the Mayor and the rest of the city government made a concerted (and expensive) effort to encourage tech companies to locate in San Francisco, rather than down the peninsula in "Silicon Valley".  (If you'd like to read more about that whole story, this article is quite good - https://time.com/14335/twitter-tax-break-san-francisco/)  In doing so, they forgot or ignored the lessons of 1999.  As a result, San Francisco became a place that was very attractive to people who didn't already live here. And it worked -- far too well for the good of the people and businesses who were already here.

If the lessons of 1999 had been kept in mind, steps could have been taken to ameliorate the negative effects of drawing huge numbers of affluent professionals to SF.  But, so far as I have been able to find, there was not only no effort made, there was no thought given to it.  I don't think that it was malicious.  I think it was simply stupid and short-sighted. But, it was also essentially predictable.  In a large part because, despite its current stature, the government of San Francisco doesn't (and never has) understood how to operate like a real big city.  It still operates in the half-assed, vaguely-but-incompetently-corrupt, gee-we're-doing-the-best-we-can style of a mid-sized, Mid-Western city like Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Birmingham, Alabama.

Speaking from experience, when SF actually _was_ just a mid-sized city with nothing much major going on, not only did that system work fine -- it was kind of charming.  But, thanks to Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors, we are far, far past those days.  Sadly, San Francisco may have grown up and become a "big city" with real problems.  But, more sadly, it seems that the city government is stuck somewhere around high-school and isn't showing any signs of graduating soon.

The diminutive version:

(1) Wednesday, October 16th at 7:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by Mallory O'Meara (part of Litquake's lineup at Alamo Drafthouse).

(2) Saturday, October 19th at 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) Litquake LitCrawl Phase 2: Women Imagine Different Worlds and 8:00 pm (PUBLIC) Litquake LitCrawl Phase 3: Adventures in Crime and Time

(3) Sunday, October 20th from noon - 4:00 pm -- Borderlands Haight Street open house

(4) Thursday, October 24th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for THE BURNING WHITE by Brent Weeks

(5) Saturday, October 26th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for THE SECRET OF LIFE by Rudy Rucker

(6) Saturday, November 9th from 7:00 to 11:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social.

(7) Saturday, November 16th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- An Evening with Seanan McGuire

(8) Sunday, November 24th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for NINJA DAUGHTER by Tori Eldridge

(9) Dickens Christmas Fair -- details to follow

The multitudinous version:

(1) Wednesday, October 16th at 7:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Screening of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" and conversation and signing with Mallory O'Meera, author of THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (part of Litquake's lineup at Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission Mission Street, San Francisco).  The horror film "Creature from the Black Lagoon" released to theaters in 1954, and quickly became iconic.  But thanks to a jealous male colleague, the monster's designer Milicent Patrick received zero credit for her contribution.  Her career ended soon thereafter, and she disappeared.  Screenwriter and film producer Mallory O'Meara uncovers a fascinating story of the woman who created one of Hollywood's classic movie monsters.  THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON establishes Milicent Patrick in her rightful place in film history, while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.  Book signing at 6:00 pm, followed by 7:00 pm onstage conversation and screening of the film (in 3-D).  We especially wanted to call your attention to this super-cool event and screening!  Jude will be on hand to sell books, and if you feel like hanging out, we can grab a drink at the Bull and Bear afterwards.  Tickets $25, https://drafthouse.com/show/litquake-presents-the-lady-from-the-black-lagoon-w-mallory-omeara

(2) Saturday, October 19th at 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) Litquake LitCrawl Phase 2: Women Imagine Different Worlds with authors Lisa Goldstein, M. Luke McDonell, Pat Murphy, Madeleine Robins, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall - For over a decade SF in SF has offered readings, films, and special events in the Bay Area for readers of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. This event features women authors from the event series.
8:00 pm (PUBLIC) Litquake LitCrawl Phase 3: Adventures in Crime and Time with authors Mark Coggins, Paul Drexler, Richard Kadrey, and Annalee Newitz.  We're happy to host four fantastic authors whose work will range from noir science fiction to true & fictional crime to time-travel escapades!

(3) Sunday, October 20th from noon - 4:00 pm -- Borderlands Haight Street Construction Project Open House at our location-to-be, 1377 Haight St. at Masonic St. -- See the legendary Beam of Eye!  Enjoy the crazy stories of the stuff we found when we took over the place!  Anticipate just how beautiful it's going to be!  Marvel at the sheer amount of dust!  We do hope you'll drop by to check out the bookstore's future Forever Home and see the work in progress.  Alan will be on hand to show you around and answer questions.

(4) Thursday, October 24th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for THE BURNING WHITE by Brent Weeks. We're are always excited to welcome the delightful Brent Weeks back to Borderlands, and particularly this time -- for the long-awaited fifth and final volume of the Lightbringer sequence, THE BURNING WHITE! We hope you'll join us to meet Brent and celebrate the last installment of this epic series!

(5) Saturday, October 26th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- It's always a treat to welcome the quirky and irrepressible genius Rudy Rucker to the store!  Rudy is an author, artist, mathematician and one of the godfathers of Cyberpunk.  Join us to check out the release of his new novels THE SECRET OF LIFE and MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP, and celebrate the reprints of a few other titles! Here's the summary of SECRET from the author's website, and we urge you to check it out! "A 60s college student learns he's a saucer alien.  As if he hadn't suspected it all along.  As Conrad Bunger faces his true nature, he takes on a series of awesome powers. He can change his face, shrink to the size of a thumb, fly around the Eiffel tower -- and hand out joints to everyone at his college's annual student assembly.  And this is important because government snipers are out to kill him.  Why did youth rebel in the 60s? This transreal book will help you understand how it happened, and what the underlying feelings were."

(6) Saturday, November 9th 7:00 to 11:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social.  Join us for food, drink, and merriment as we talk about books, buy books, and maybe even win some oddities in the raffle! Lots of great food and great conversation with great people.  Doesn't that sound great? C'mon down for the last Sponsor Social of 2019; bring your favorite treat or drink to share, be super-social, or simply find a book and a quiet corner to commune -- we're just delighted to have you.

(7) Saturday, November 16th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- An Evening with Seanan McGuire.  We're always thrilled to welcome formerly-local author Seanan McGuire to Borderlands! The astonishingly prolific Seanan has FOUR recent books out -- IN THE SHADOW OF SPINDRIFT HOUSE (as Mira Grant); THE UNKINDEST TIDE (the newest October Daye book); the fancy tenth anniversary (!) hardcover edition of ROSEMARY AND RUE; and the incredible new short story collection LAUGHTER AT THE ACADEMY.  Join us to meet Seanan, have books signed, and be regaled with tales funny, strange, and distressing.  Feel free to bring baked goods to share if you like!

(8) Sunday, November 24th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for NINJA DAUGHTER by Tori Eldridge. We're happy to welcome author Tori Eldridge to Borderlands for her debut novel!  "THE NINJA DAUGHTER is an action-packed thriller about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja with Joy Luck Club family issues who fights the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob, sex traffickers, and her own family to save two desperate women and an innocent child."  Tori's own history is fascinating. . . from her bio, she is "a Honolulu-born thriller writer who challenges perspective and empowers the spirit. She holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do Ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection."  We hope you'll join us to meet Tori and check out this new thriller!

(9) Dickens Christmas Fair -- details to follow

Sponsor Letter, September 10th 2019

Hi Dear Sponsors,

It's been a busy couple of months.  In case you were wondering, you didn't miss last month's sponsor note -- there wasn't one.  I kept hoping that I'd have time to write a followup to the article about local businesses that I wrote back in July but the chance kept slipping past me.  And then I looked up and it was the 24th of August, so I figured that it didn't make sense to send a note for August.  So I planned to send one out right at the beginning of September.  You see how that worked out.

On the bright side, the hectic pace isn't the result of a problem, per se.  I've had a lot of work to do at the new building and so it's been a bit all-consuming.  Not to mention tiring.  I'm pleased to say that I can still do just about as much construction work in a day as I could when I was 40.  It's just that I'm much (much!) more sore and tired at the end of it.  That makes it hard to write something clever (or write something at all, really) at the end of the day.

It's looking like this month is going to be more of the same, which is why I realized this morning that I'd better go into work later so I can get this and the following article written _before_ I've spent a day framing walls.

Speaking of framing walls, what's making this month extra-plus busy is that the city is going to be replacing the sidewalk all along our block on Haight St.  Based on the work they've done, it's going to look great and the existing paving surely needs to be replaced.

The catch for me is that the front of the store there doesn't exist yet.  We tore out the old, crummy one months ago to put up temporary framing and plywood.  You may have seen the punchline to this story coming by now -- the temporary covering is resting on the sidewalk that is going to be replaced.  Granted, we could remove it all, build a new, temporary wall at the property line, and then put it all back once the sidewalk was done.  But, all together, that's several days of work that I'd rather not waste.  The other option is to get the framing for the new storefront in place before the sidewalk work.  Once the framing is there, we can cover it with plywood and do the finishing work at our leisure.

When the city sent the notice and schedule for the work on the sidewalk, it was supposed to happen in front of our shop in five weeks.  "Oh my," I thought, "I guess we'll have to jump right on that after the asbestos guys have removed the floor."

Then I talked with the job foreman yesterday.  It seems that the local merchants have put pressure on the city to get the work done faster.  So they're going to be at our shop by the END OF NEXT WEEK.

"Oh hell," I thought, "I guess that I know what I'm doing every waking moment between now and the 17th."

Bottom line is this -- the followup to my July article is going to be shorter and less comprehensive than I planned.  It's a damn shame because I got some great comments back from my first piece that improved my understanding, both of the problem and the breadth of it. (Side note - Thank you Bruno, Trudy, Lisa, Jayson, Lydia, Eloise, and Donald.  I didn't have time to reply to all of you but I really appreciated your comments.)  But I figure it's better to write something short than to have a plan for something long that never gets written.  I hope to come back to the topic sometime.

The other bottom line is . . . I'm not getting a whole lot of rest for the next week.  Seriously though, this isn't going to be impossible to get done.  I've got a clear idea what I'm building and it's not even close to as tricky as the bathroom.  It shouldn't be too hard -- just long and tiring.

Good thing I can still work like a 40 year-old, eh?  And also I good thing that I have _a lot_ of ibuprofen.

All Best,
Alan

PS  Like last time, I'm going to put the article at the end of this note.

PPS  Despite the construction work, I will be at the social this Saturday.  I hope to see you there.

Upcoming Events

The Ebenezer Place version:

(1) Thursday, September 12th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Informal signing with D.J. Butler (WITCHY KINGDOM) Christopher Husberg (FEAR THE STARS) and Christopher Ruocchio (THE HOWLING DARK)

(2) Saturday, September 14th 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- In conversation with Fonda Lee (JADE WAR) and Megan O'Keefe (VELOCITY WEAPON)

(3) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books

(4) Sunday, September 15th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading, signing and Q&A with Chad Stroup, author of SEXY LEPER

(5) September 15th at 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) -- SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina, San Francisco) with authors Christopher Brown and Hannu Rajaniemi

(6) Sunday, September 22nd, 12:00 noon -- Picnic and BBQ at Table #15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park

(7) Saturday. September 28th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for SHATTER WAR by Dana Fredsti and Dave Fitzgerald

(8) Sunday, September 29th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing for THE FUTURE OF ANOTHER TIMELINE by Annalee Newitz

(9) Wednesday, October 2nd, 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) -- SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina, San Francisco) with authors Garth Nix and E. Lily Yu

(10) Saturday, October 5th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) --  Reading and signing for TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT by Marie Brennan

The Yonge Street version:

(1) Thursday, September 12th at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Informal signing with D.J. Butler (WITCHY KINGDOM, Baen, Hardcover, $25.00) Christopher Husberg (FEAR THE STARS, Titan Books, Trade Paperback, $14.95) and Christopher Ruocchio (THE HOWLING DARK, DAW, Hardcover, $27.00) - Join us for a meet-and-greet signing with three fantastic up and coming authors!

(2) Saturday, September 14th 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- In conversation with Fonda Lee.  We're happy to welcome World Fantasy Award winner Fonda Lee to Borderlands! Ms. Lee will be presenting JADE WAR, the second novel in the Green Bone Series. (The first book in the series, JADE CITY, won that World Fantasy Award, and "was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Syfy Wire, and others".) Ms. Lee will be in conversation with fabulous local author Megan E. O'Keefe.  We hope you'll join us to meet both authors and explore this epic and magical fantasy series!

(3) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.  Join us for food, drink, and merriment as we talk about books, buy books, and maybe even win some free books in the raffle!  Our Fall sponsor social is usually the busiest one of the year, and we hope you'll come by to meet fellow sponsors and toast the absolutely incredible fact that YOU made it possible for the store to survive.  Bring your favorite treat or drink to share, be super-social, or simply find a book and a quiet corner to commune -- we're just delighted to have you.

(4) Sunday, September 15th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading, signing and Q&A with Chad Stroup, author of SEXY LEPER. From the book description, "It's Halloween in the Hollywood Hills, and Kat Dyer's going to have the sexiest costume for a night of shameless debauchery. However, Kat's plan is derailed when the costume shop screws up her order and gives her a costume that is the polar-opposite of sexy. Deciding it's better to be temporarily ugly and seen than beautiful and quickly forgotten, Kat attends the biggest party of the year, only to awaken with the strangest post-Halloween hangover ever: partygoers are transforming into the likenesses of the costumes they wore the night before. Meanwhile, a mysterious force begins to stalk and pick them off on by one. Kat and her friends must discover the cause of the horror, and what they find will haunt them forever."

(5) Sunday, September 15th at 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) -- SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina, San Francisco) with authors Christopher Brown and Hannu Rajaniemi - (Suggested donation $10.)  Doors and bar at 6:00 pm, event begins at 6:30 pm.  We're so happy to participate in the Science Fiction in San Francisco reading series!  This month we're joined by fabulous authors Christopher Brown and Hannu Rajaniemi.  The authors will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by Terry Bisson. Authors will schmooze & sign books after.  Books will be available for sale.  Seating is limited, so first come, first seated.  Bar proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Museum. Questions? Email sfinsfevents@gmail.com.

(6) Sunday, September 22nd, 12:00 noon (PUBLIC) -- Picnic and BBQ at Table 15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park.  Located near the western-most end of Lindley Meadow, join the crew of Borderlands as we soak up the (hopefully) warm San Francisco Fall sunshine and grill our favorite picnic treats.  We're actually leaving the store and venturing into the outside world for a potluck cookout in Golden Gate Park!  And, since it's September, it'll be the height of San Francisco summertime. We've reserved table #15 (as close to the bathrooms as we could get!) at Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the TL;DR version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park. (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.) http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and toys and games if you want them, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome, so please do bring 'em along.

(7) Saturday, September 28th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald, Reading, Q & A, and signing for TIME SHARDS: SHATTER WAR - Hometown favorites Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald present: SHATTER WAR, the thrilling sequel to TIME SHARDS!  Earth's past, present, and future have shattered in "the Event," yielding a terrifying new world of prehistoric monsters, lost cultures, strange technologies, and displaced armies.  Coming from different points throughout history, a desperate band of survivors join "Merlin," a mysterious figure who may be their only hope to save the world -- if he can be trusted.  When their twenty-third-century ship the Vanuatu is sabotaged by an unknown enemy and thrown far off its course, the team must discover who is responsible, even as they are split apart and fight to survive in the war-torn Shard world. . . .

(8) Sunday, September 29th, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Reading and signing from THE FUTURE OF ANOTHER TIMELINE by Annalee Newitz.  We're always thrilled to welcome local author Annalee Newitz to the store! Here's some info about the new novel from the publisher: "In a modern-day United States just a step away from our own, time travel is possible -- in fact, it has existed for as long as humanity itself. Jumping into the past is simple, and scientists say that altering the timeline is almost impossible. But Tess, an idealistic geology professor, has figured out how to use time travel to try to undo a horrible injustice in the past whose effects are still being felt in her own time. Meanwhile, in 1992, teenage riot grrl Beth's ordinary life is about to become a tangle of toxic friendship and murder. And across the timeline, a secret war is brewing as a group of men attempt to destroy time travel. If they succeed, only a small elite will have the power to shape past, present, and future. Tess and Beth are part of this hidden war that stretches back millions of years. But with the help of unlikely allies from times past and times yet to come, they may be able to save each other -- and build a different future." We do hope you'll join us to meet Annalee and check out this awesome book!

(9) Wednesday, October 2nd, 6:30 pm (PUBLIC) -- SF in SF (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina, San Francisco) with authors Garth Nix and E. Lily Yu. (Suggested donation $10.)  Doors and bar at 6:00 pm, event begins at 6:30 pm.  A special mid-week SF in SF!  We're so happy to participate in the Science Fiction in San Francisco reading series!  This time we're thrilled to welcome Garth Nix and E. Lily Yu!  The authors will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by Terry Bisson.  Authors will schmooze & sign books after.  Books will be available for sale.  Seating is limited, so first come, first seated.  Bar proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Museum. Questions? Email sfinsfevents@gmail.com.

(10) Saturday, October 5th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -- Marie Brennan, TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT  - We're always happy to welcome local author Marie Brennan to Borderlands!  Here's the cover copy from her new  novel (featuring Lady Trent's granddaughter!), which she'll be showing off October 5th: "As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.  When Lord Gleinleigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, she must find proof of the conspiracy before it's too late.  TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT is a delightful fantasy of manners, the heir to the award-winning Natural History of Dragons series, a perfect stepping stone into an alternate Victorian-esque fantasy landscape."


Further Thoughts about Small and Local Businesses

After publishing the first part of this article, I received a number of comments via email.  The overall content of them supported a conclusion that I had arrived at already but also made me realize that the extent of the problem was larger than I thought.

What I expected was this: the people who wrote me all support local businesses in a conscious and systematic way.  Given the composition of the group that gets these monthly letters, that wasn't a surprise.  After all, you all support Borderlands.

What I didn't expect was how broadly the environment in the Bay Area is hard on local businesses of _all_ types.  I heard from a contractor who mentors high school students and suggests to them that they'd be well advised to look for union work because it's too hard to make a living working as an independent contractor.  I heard from a martial arts instructor who hasn't been able to find a viable space in the East Bay to use for classes.  And I heard about multiple professional chefs who have closed or sold their restaurants and who now work as personal cooks for wealthy individuals.

I don't want to sound too dire, but it seems that San Francisco is turning into a city in which there are only three types of people: employees, managers, and a tiny pool of landlords. I suppose there are children and students as well but, if this goes on, they're just employees and managers to-be.  Damn few of them will ever become landlords or, for that matter, own their own home.  (As a matter of clarification: even the CEO or Director of the Board of a corporation is only a manager.  "Ownership" almost never clearly attaches to an individual.)  Imagine that: no business owners.  Just employees reporting to managers who report to other managers who eventually report to a top manager who then reports to a pool of "owners" who are profoundly uninvolved with what happens at the company week-to-week or even month-to-month.

And, I fear, this is a pattern that is happening all over the country.  Just not as fast as in San Francisco.

What to do?

More specifically, what to do at an individual and local level?  There are bigger movements taking place (Ecommerce, corporate mergers and acquisitions, reduced enforcement of anti-trust laws, limited appetite for labor protections, and so on) but that's far outside the scope of what I feel qualified to discuss.

The first thing is to support local businesses.  But you all know that and are doing it to the degree that works for you.  I'm not going to spend much time on that topic except to point out two things:

1)  Supporting local business doesn't mean turning your life inside-out to _only_ shop local.  For most people, shopping exclusively at local businesses is just not practical.  And not just in terms of cost; there are some sorts of businesses that just don't exist locally anymore (or they're hard to find and hard to get to).  For example, I go to Walgreens for prescription drugs because there are no local pharmacies anywhere near me.  The goal should be to shop local _first_.  Make local businesses your preferred choice.  That's all you've got to do.

2)  The foregoing is especially important to keep in mind because the other part of supporting local businesses is encouraging other people to do so.  All of you reading this already know why it's important to shop and spend local.  You might be able to make small changes to your habits, but you've already had most of the effect you're going to have.  But, if you can get other people to do it to, that makes a difference (possibly a big difference).  I'm not suggesting that you start shaming your friends for going to Starbucks or for shopping at Amazon. That'll just make you a jerk.  But, you can point out to them that shifting their habits even a little bit matters.  Local businesses are generally pretty small-scale operations.  One extra full table a night can make or break a restaurant.  One more hardcover book sold every day would pay our insurance at Borderlands.  You get the idea.

But, as we've seen over the past years, it doesn't seem that individuals making an effort to support local business is going to be enough.  That idea has been around for a while now and it hasn't fixed the problem.  Perhaps more education about it might make the difference but, at this point, I doubt it.

I believe that what it's going to take is for government and our elected officials to put their money where their mouths are; make the health and viability of local business a real priority rather than something that is merely given lip-service.

On a nuts-and-bolts level, what would that be like?  Here's one suggestion, but it's far from the only way.

First, define what "local" and "small" business means.  Let's say that "local" means that it is either physically within San Francisco or, if it doesn't have a physical location (think contractors and gardeners), the majority owner of the business resides in San Francisco.  "Small" can be based on annual gross receipts and should probably vary by business type (for example, a small landscaping company probably has lower expenses relative to its income than a mid-sized restaurant).  However, here's a hint -- the reasonable gross receipts threshold for a "small" business that maintains a physical location and a staff (for example, a corner store, a restaurant or a bookstore) is likely in the millions of dollars.  The expenses for a business like that are shockingly high in SF right now and not likely to go down much.  Which means that two million dollars in annual sales doesn't actually represent either much profit or that a business is particularly large.  I don't want to spend much time getting into minute detail about the math here but, if you doubt me, drop me a note and I'll put together an explanation for you.

(Fun fact - as of 2018, the small business exemption threshold for payroll tax was $300,000.  That's roughly the payroll for 11 employees working full time at _minimum_ wage.  When the cafe was open, we often edged close to that limit and one year we passed it.  The gross receipts threshold was $1,120,000.  I'm pretty sure that most of the corner stores in San Francisco do that much business in a year.  If a business is over either of those thresholds, it has to pay tax.)

Keep the two qualifications separate.  Just because a business isn't "small", the fact that it's "local" still matters.

Then, make doing business easier, faster, and less expensive in any way possible.  Every delay, problem, and expense makes running a business more difficult, especially if it's a small one, because at the end the cost is paid with the same resources -- time and energy.

(A side note: if you're serious about accomplishing that, don't make those goals something that "should be taken into consideration" by a department whose main job is doing something else, like planning, issuing permits, levying taxes and so forth.  Make it someone's job to do nothing other than make things better for local businesses.  Hopefully several "someones", or even an actual office.  And no, the SF Department of Small Business is not it -- not enough power and not enough information.)

Here are some specific examples:

Easier:
Dedicated assistance with building permits
A local commercial parking permit exempting the holder from parking meter fees and residential street parking time limits
Assistance with city tax returns, especially business property tax returns
Free legal advice, especially on commercial leases and disputes

Faster:
Accelerated review of conditional use permits (they can take 9-12 months and you can't really start without _already_ having a signed lease)
A one-stop registration center for new businesses, including highly informed advisors
Something similar to the existing 311 service to act as a clearing house specifically for small business concerns and questions

Less Expensive:
Fee waivers for any and all city fees, be they construction permits, business licenses, sign permits, health department permits, and so on.
Reduced or eliminated taxes for payroll/gross receipts and business property (there are exemptions for the payroll/gross receipts taxes but they are too low - i.e. corner stores often have to pay them despite the exemption)
Reduced electrical fees from the city-owned electrical generation system

That is just a short, off-the-top of my head list.  I'm sure that there are many other and better ideas that could be implemented.  I'm also positive that I'm completely failed to consider problems that are major issues for other type of businesses, since I can only view this from the perspective of a bookseller.

Granted, some of these ideas would cost money.  Moreso, some of them would deprive the city of income.  But, local business are a truly tiny part of the commercial environment in San Francisco (or any other city, for that matter).  That's part of the problem that we face - little of the money that moves around the city even touches us.  I suspect that there are single companies in SF that produce more revenue for the city than all the small local businesses put together.  Waiving parking meter income or the $375 in business property tax I paid this year . . . it's just a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to SF's annual budget (12.3 billion dollars for 2019).  I have a hard time believing that, for example, giving every contractor who lives in SF free parking would make any damn difference at all to the bottom line.  So why not do it?  Even if it pinches the city's budget; wouldn't you prefer that the budget get pinched by supporting local business than by any of the other dumb-ass things that money gets wasted on?

In closing, for all that small businesses represent just a tiny slice of the commercial activity in a city, we do so much to give the city its character, shape, and reputation.  City Lights Bookstore, Cafe Trieste, Twin Peaks Tavern, the whole of Chinatown, Foreign Cinema, Body Manipulations, The DNA Lounge, The Pork Store Cafe, Arizmendi Bakery, Bi Rite . . . the list goes on and on.  On a profound level, local businesses are what define San Francisco for both we who live here and for those who visit.

Beyond the many social and financial benefits that local businesses bring -- can you imagine what SF (or New York, Portland, or even Chapel Hill, North Carolina) would be like if even half of the local businesses were to close and be replaced by their national chain substitutes?

I don't even want to imagine what that would be like.  And I really, really don't want to see it happen.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sponsor Letter, July 17th 2019

Hi You All,

I've got something a little thoughtful for you this month but, before I get into that -- a quick reminder.  This Saturday we'll be doing a San Francisco Ghost Walk for you guys.  All the details are below but, the tl;dr version is, 1)  It's cool.  2)  Starts at 7 pm.  3)  Costs $21.  And 4) We extended the deadline to sign up 'til this Friday.  So, if you feel like an evening stroll around the city with Jude and your fellow sponsors, please do get signed up for it.  I wish I could come but I'll be working at Haight St. that day and, after running up and down ladders, I'm not going to be up for much walking.

*****

In the wake of several pieces of recent news and along with the decision to close the Cafe, I've been wondering where our city is heading.  And, more than that, I'm not just thinking about San Francisco but about all cities.  Granted, because of the local tech economy and the support it's received from city government, SF is an extreme example but the increasing flow of people back into cities is something that is affecting the whole country.  In 2015 I wrote a piece about the history of urban demographics in the US.  The bottom line was that, starting in the 1950s people started leaving cites and, starting in the 90s, people started moving back.  In that article, I speculated about the possible effects.  Now, almost four years later, it seems like my guesses back then were accurate.  (If you like, you can read the whole thing here - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2015/08/urban-conservation.html)

Regarding small businesses, the first stage of the process was marginally profitable business closing their doors because of increasing rent and payroll costs.  That stage hasn't stopped yet but now I think we're seeing a second stage in which stable existing businesses are closing because of less direct pressures.  In one case, a nearly century-old family deli and pasta company, Lucca Ravioli, closed when the family decided to sell their real estate (which included the business location) and shut down. (https://missionlocal.org/2019/01/lucca-ravioli-co-slated-to-close-as-old-san-francisco-family-divests-its-real-estate-holdings/)  In another case, a bakery and cafe, Mission Pie, will be closing because they cannot accomplish the three fundamental goals of their business; pay a truly living wage, provide a top-quality product at an accessible price, and make a modest profit.  (https://missionlocal.org/2019/06/last-meal-mission-pie-will-soon-close-its-doors/).  Finally, a small restaurant, Ali Baba's Cave, will be sold after 36 years after the owner realized that the market in the neighborhood had changed and, to keep sales up, he would need to re-imagine the business and menu.  (https://missionlocal.org/2019/06/ali-babas-cave-closing-after-36-years-on-valencia/)

Of course, there is also the example of Borderlands Cafe, which also needed a makeover.  But, even then, Z'ev (the manager), Jude, and I weren't convinced that we would be able to hire staff at the wages we could afford to pay.  I'd call that a combination of Mission Pie's and Ali Baba's Cave's problem.

The last piece that got me thinking about this essay was meeting the operating partner of a small hotel in town.  We talked about how hard is was to hire people right now and he gave me this shocking figure -- they are paying dishwashers (traditionally the lowest of the low in the restaurant business) $22 an hour, plus health insurance, 401K matching and paid vacation.  But they still can't hire enough staff!

What I've been thinking about is what cities are going to be like if these trends continue.  The first answer I get is, obviously, very godsdamn expensive.  All the costs of running a business eventually have to trickle down to the customers.  If you need to pay a dishwasher $30 an hour, then a cup of coffee is not going to cost $3.  And that, in turn, raises the cost of just living in a city, which in turn increases the amount you need to pay people.  It's not a never-ending spiral, because the effects start to dampen out as you go but . . . it's still quite a thing.

But, that has been discussed at length already.  It's the second thing that's been on my mind.  How many small business are going to exist in cities a decade or two from now?  Larger business both have efficiencies of scale, which reduce their operating costs, and they have the advantage of letting more profitable locations subsidize less profitable ones.  For example, as long as Starbucks is making good profits right outside the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, they can afford to lose money in downtown SF.  In fact, as a matter of making sure that their brand is properly visible, Starbucks _must_ have a location in downtown SF.  Another consideration for a large business is that there isn't a single individual (or family) making their living and trying to have a good life by running that business.

Consider the family that owned Lucca.  Given the value of their real estate and the profitability of making pasta; with some reasonably prudent investing, they can probably earn more money per year,  _without working at all_, from the proceeds of the sale then they got from the business.  On the other hand, at the end of the day, the purpose of Starbucks is . . . to run Starbucks. If the people in charge of Starbucks don't do that, they are out of a job.

So, the big question on my mind is -- given all that, will anyone be willing and able to run a small business in a city like San Francisco in 20 years?

I think that I will.  Or, the person who follows me in running Borderlands will.  But we're in a unique situation due to you sponsors and having bought a building.  There is, to my knowledge, no other business in SF in that position.  Nor in any other city for that matter.

So, what about the business that just can't stomach charging people $50 for a pie?  Or the business run by an older owner who is just tired of hustling so hard to make less and less money and then sells it to a beginner who can't manage because it's so hard to break even?  Or the business that worked because in was in an owner/operator building that, once sold, is so expensive to rent that no small business can afford it?

The question that follows is: How can we, as residents of cities (or even just people who like to visit cities), improve the chances that unique, quirky, and unusual businesses will still exist in the decades to come?

I've got some thoughts about that, which I'll share next month (work allowing).  But I'd like to hear your thoughts as well.

All Best,
Alan

The Buford, WY version:

(1) Saturday, July 20th, 7:00 pm - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour.  Cost is $21.00, payable with your RSVP by July 19th.

(2) Saturday, August 3rd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Charlie Jane Anders, Meg Elison, Shaenon K. Garrity, and Richard Kadrey (WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE) at Borderlands Books.

(3) Tuesday, August 6th, at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Gail Carriger (RETICENCE) at Borderlands Books.

(4) Saturday, August 10th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Michael Blumlein (LONGER) and Paul Park (A CITY MADE OF WORDS) at Borderlands Books.

(5) Saturday, August 10th, 9:30pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) -- Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's.  $10 cover at the door.

(6) Saturday, September 7th, 5:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Seanan McGuire (THE UNKINDEST TIDE) at Borderlands Books.

(7) Saturday, September 14th 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Conversation, reading & Q&A with Fonda Lee (JADE WAR) and Megan O'Keefe (VELOCITY WEAPON).

(8) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm - Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.

(9) Sunday, September 15th, 3:00 pm - (PUBLIC) Reading, signing and Q&A with Chad Stroup, author of SEXY LEPER.

(10) September 22nd, 12:00 noon - Picnic and BBQ at Table #15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park.


The New York City version:

(1) Saturday, July 20, 2019, 7:00 p.m. - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour: From their website <https://www.sfghosthunt.com/>, "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture.  You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco -- how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it.  You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"  Please RSVP with payment before July 19th so that we might give final numbers to our guide, who will meet us in front of the Healing Arts Center, 1801 Bush Street (corner of Bush and Octavia) under the tall trees.  You may pay in-store or call with credit card information.  (We've done this walking tour before and had a fantastic time, and even some unexplained, goose-bump invoking occurrences!)

(2) Saturday, August 3rd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Charlie Jane Anders, Meg Elison, Shaenon K. Garrity, and Richard Kadrey, WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE at Borderlands Books - From editor John Joseph Adam's site: "In WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE, veteran anthology editor John Joseph Adams is once again our guide through the wastelands using his genre and editorial expertise to curate his finest collection of post-apocalyptic short fiction yet.  Whether the end comes via nuclear war, pandemic, climate change, or cosmological disaster, these stories explore the extraordinary trials and tribulations of those who survive." We're delighted to welcome four fabulous local authors who contributed to the anthology!  Charlie Jane and Shaenon have amazing reprints, and Richard and Meg's stories are original to this collection.  Don't miss this event; we know it's going to be magnificently apocalyptic!

(3) Tuesday, August 6th, at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Gail Carriger (RETICENCE) at Borderlands Books - Join us in welcoming author Gail Carriger back to Borderlands! This event, which celebrates the final book in the Custard Protocol series, is a touch bittersweet and also a bit mind-boggling, because TEN YEARS ago Gail did her first signing for SOULLESS here. Where does the time go? What is the meaning of it all? Is Percy really, finally done with hats? The answers to these and so many other questions can be found at the store on August 6th. We hope to see you here! https://gailcarriger.com/books/reticence/

(4) Saturday, August 10th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Michael Blumlein (LONGER) and Paul Park (A CITY MADE OF WORDS) at Borderlands Books - We're very happy to host authors Michael Blumlein and Paul Park! Michael's gorgeous new novel LONGER is a science fiction study on mortality, consciousness and intimacy, and Paul's work is described by the publisher thus: "[w]ith exotic settings and characters truly alien and disturbingly normal, his novels and stories explore the shifting interface between traditional narrative and luminous dream, all in the service of a deeper humanism." Join us to meet these two fascinating authors and have the best time you've ever had gaining a deeper understanding of humanity!

(5)  Saturday, August 10th, 9:00pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) - Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's, 243 O'Farrell St, San Francisco (b/t Cyril Magnin St & Powell St. at Union Square) $10 cover at the door.  We thought we'd try something a bit different this time 'round.  From their website: "Our entertainers will have you dancing, laughing and singing along to your favorite songs from every era.  You control the show!  Our typical audience brings together both tourists and locals alike, so you're sure to walk away with new friends, great stories and happy memories!!  Come join the fun!  We do not accept reservations for the room, as seating is limited.  To ensure your party is accommodated, we recommend you arrive as soon as the doors open to secure an area (usually an hour before show time).  Food menus are available, with a Full Bar offering a list of "lyrical" cocktails." <http://www.duelingpianosatfoleys.com/about.html>

(6) Saturday, September 7th, 5:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Seanan McGuire (THE UNKINDEST TIDE) at Borderlands Books. Details TK.

(7) Saturday, September 14th 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) -  In conversation with Fonda Lee. We're happy to welcome World Fantasy Award winner Fonda Lee to Borderlands! Ms. Lee will be presenting JADE WAR, the second novel in the Green Bone Series. (The first book in the series, JADE CITY, won that World Fantasy Award, and "was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Syfy Wire, and others".) Ms. Lee will be in conversation with fabulous local author Megan E. O'Keefe. We hope you'll join us to meet both authors and explore this epic and magical fantasy series!

(8) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm - Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.  Join us for food, drink, and merriment as we talk about books, buy books, and maybe even win some free books in the raffle. . . . more details to come!

(9) Sunday, September 15th, 3:00 pm  (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Chad Stroup, author of SEXY LEPER. From the author's description, "It’s Halloween in the Hollywood Hills, and Kat Dyer's going to have the sexiest costume for a night of shameless debauchery. However, Kat’s plan is derailed when the costume shop screws up her order and gives her a costume that is the polar-opposite of sexy. Deciding it’s better to be temporarily ugly and seen than beautiful and quickly forgotten, Kat attends the biggest party of the year, only to awaken with the strangest post-Halloween hangover ever: partygoers are transforming into the likenesses of the costumes they wore the night before. Meanwhile, a mysterious force begins to stalk and pick them off on by one. Kat and her friends must discover the cause of the horror, and what they find will haunt them forever."

(10) September 22nd, 12:00 noon -- Picnic and BBQ at Table 15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park.  Located near the western-most end of Lindley Meadow, join the crew of Borderlands as we soak up the (hopefully) warm San Francisco Fall sunshine and grill our favorite picnic treats.  We're actually leaving the store and venturing into the outside world for a potluck cookout in Golden Gate Park!  And, since it's September, it'll be the height of San Francisco summertime.  We've reserved table #15 (as close to the bathrooms as we could get!) at Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the TL;DR version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park. (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.)  http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ .
Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and toys and games if you want them, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome, so please do bring 'em along.

Sponsor Letter, June 17th 2019

Because of requests from several sponsors, we have begun to include our public events in our events listings.  Please note that general public events will be noted with a (PUBLIC) in the description.  And, to help us plan, please RSVP to any sponsor event that you are planning to attend, so that we might best accommodate y'all!

The shot-glass version:

(1) Saturday, June 22nd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Ferrett Steinmetz (THE SOL MAJESTIC) at Borderlands Books.

(2) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.

(3) Saturday, July 20th, 7:00 pm - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour.  Cost is $21.00, payable with your RSVP by July 12th.

(4) Saturday, August 3rd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Charlie Jane Anders, Meg Elison, Shaenon K. Garrity, and Richard Kadrey (WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE) at Borderlands Books.

(5) Tuesday, August 6th, at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Gail Carriger (RETICENCE) at Borderlands Books.

(6) Saturday, August 10th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Michael Blumlein (LONGER) and Paul Park (A CITY MADE OF WORDS) at Borderlands Books.

(7) Saturday, August 10th, 9:30pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) -- Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's.  $10 cover at the door.

(8) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.

(9) September 22nd, 12:00 noon -- Picnic and BBQ at Table #15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park.



The Big-gulp version:

(1) Saturday, June 22nd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Ferrett Steinmetz (THE SOL MAJESTIC) at Borderlands Books - (This event is open to the general public, but sponsors may RSVP to reserve seats.)  The Sol Majestic is the most prestigious restaurant in the galaxy, located at Savor Station -- and 16-year-old Kenna comes to it starving, both physically and spiritually.  He's a member of a dying religion, and his parents have been dragging him from station to station as long as he can remember, seeking backing for their faith, the Inevitable Philosophy.  Kenna is pretty far overdue for finding his expected Inevitable Philosopy until he wins a free meal at the Sol Majestic, and its genius creator makes a project out of Kenna, changing everything.  Jude just won't shut up about how much she loves this book, which is about finding your guiding passion, the dignity of work, and so much more.  We definitely hope you'll join us to meet Ferrett Steinmetz and check out this fabulous new novel!

(2) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.  This will be the first sponsor social ever in "just the bookstore"!  We hope you'll make time for our annual summertime soiree with yummy food, yummy conversation and especially yummy door prizes.  And, thanks to publishers Harper Collins and Tor, we've got some fantastic advance reading copies to give away!  Bring some food or drink to share and join us for a great time.

(3) Saturday, July 20, 2019, 7:00 p.m. -- San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour: From their website <https://www.sfghosthunt.com/>, "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture.  You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco -- how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it.  You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"  Please RSVP with payment before July 12th so that we might give final numbers to our guide, who will meet us in front of the Healing Arts Center, 1801 Bush Street (corner of Bush and Octavia) under the tall trees.  You may pay in store or call with credit card information.  (We've done this walking tour before and had a fantastic time, and even some unexplained, goose-bump invoking occurrences!)

(4) Saturday, August 3rd, 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Charlie Jane Anders, Meg Elison, Shaenon K. Garrity, and Richard Kadrey, WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE at Borderlands Books - From editor John Joseph Adam's site: "In WASTELANDS: THE NEW APOCALYPSE, veteran anthology editor John Joseph Adams is once again our guide through the wastelands using his genre and editorial expertise to curate his finest collection of post-apocalyptic short fiction yet.  Whether the end comes via nuclear war, pandemic, climate change, or cosmological disaster, these stories explore the extraordinary trials and tribulations of those who survive." We're delighted to welcome four fabulous local authors who contributed to the anthology!  Charlie Jane and Shaenon have amazing reprints, and Richard and Meg's stories are original to this collection.  Don't miss this event; we know it's going to be magnificently apocalyptic!

(5) Tuesday, August 6th, at 6:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Gail Carriger (RETICENCE) at Borderlands Books - Details TK.

(6) Saturday, August 10th at 3:00 pm (PUBLIC) - Reading, signing and Q&A with Michael Blumlein (LONGER) and Paul Park (A CITY MADE OF WORDS) at Borderlands Books - Details TK.

(7)  Saturday, August 10th, 9:00pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) - Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's, 243 O'Farrell St, San Francisco (b/t Cyril Magnin St & Powell St. at Union Square) $10 cover at the door.  We thought we'd try something a bit different this time 'round.  From their website: "Our entertainers will have you dancing, laughing and singing along to your favorite songs from every era.  You control the show!  Our typical audience brings together both tourists and locals alike, so you're sure to walk away with new friends, great stories and happy memories!!  Come join the fun!  We do not accept reservations for the room, as seating is limited.  To ensure your party is accommodated, we recommend you arrive as soon as the doors open to secure an area (usually an hour before show time).  Food menus are available, with a Full Bar offering a list of "lyrical" cocktails." <http://www.duelingpianosatfoleys.com/about.html>

(8) Saturday, September 14th, 7:00 pm -- Fall Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.  Join us for food, drink, and merriment as we talk about books, buy books, and maybe even win some free books in the raffle. . . . more details to come!

(9) September 22nd, 12:00 noon -- Picnic and BBQ at Table 15 in Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park.  Located near the western-most end of Lindley Meadow, join the crew of Borderlands as we soak up the (hopefully) warm San Francisco Fall sunshine and grill our favorite picnic treats.  We're actually leaving the store and venturing into the outside world for a potluck cookout in Golden Gate Park!  And, since it's September, it'll be the height of San Francisco summertime.  We've reserved table #15 (as close to the bathrooms as we could get!) at Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the TL;DR version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park. (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.)  http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ .
Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and toys and games if you want them, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome, so please do bring 'em along.

*****

What the Sponsors of Borderlands Mean To Me
by Jeremy Lassen

Some of you may see me around the store occasionally. My name is Jeremy Lassen, and I am a bookseller. I'm STILL a bookseller, because you, the sponsors, have allowed me to continue to be one. And that fact is a pretty big deal to me.

When I first moved to San Francisco, the first thing I did when I got here was buy a map, and figure out where Corona Heights was, and make a pilgrimage to that lonely crag in the center of The City, because I was a huge Fritz Leiber fan, and loved the novel Our Lady of Darkness.  But it wasn’t until I became a bookseller at Borderlands Books that I was able to connect with others who knew EXACTLY HOW COOL that pilgrimage was.

Working at Borderlands not only allowed me to find a like-minded tribe of people who shared my passion for books, but it also allowed me to discover new passions and new things to obsess over in the science fiction genre . . . .

One thing that happened to me while working at Borderlands was that I met my future business partner and, because of that meeting, I ended up becoming a science fiction editor and publisher (the details of that little adventure are for another time). Suffice it to say that my little obsession with the science fiction genre became a full-time job, and my entire sense of identity became entwined with my job as publisher. I was the face of Night Shade Books, and Night Shade was my face. During that time as a publisher, I still worked regularly at Borderlands, and that experience of working the bookstore counter week after week definitely influenced me, and helped me succeed as a publisher.

But this gratefulness for Borderlands and my long-running experience as a bookseller doesn't address how important the *sponsorship* program has been for me. This has been the setup, and I'm going to get to the *point*, but before I do, I'm going to take a little narrative detour, and share another anecdote from Borderlands, to help contextualize my feelings.

Very early in the history of Borderlands, a regular customer started showing up. He was socially awkward, and he often was challenged, from a hygienic standpoint. He was scruffy, to put it kindly.  But he was a book scout and a huge science fiction fan. He would walk across the city, and the entire Bay Area . . . and wherever public transit could take him. He would find books in free bins, and on discount racks, and in thrift stores, and he would buy up things that he knew had value to somebody, somewhere, and resell them to other bookstores, where he knew he could get a better price, and turn a profit.

He took his specialized knowledge of the industry and the genre, and he made a living off of it; turning trash into someone else's treasure.  He made most of his living from this book trade. Needless to say, he didn't make a great living. He lived in SRO hotels around the city and in the East Bay. But he always had stories about the different people he had met, as a book scout, and as a science fiction fan. He would often tell me about the times he met with and talked with Fritz Leiber, for example.  And he loved Ripley, our store cat. He would come in and sit with Ripley on his lap for hours, and he would always bring Ripley little treats.

After many years, this customer, who was getting older, moved away from the Bay Area to live with his brother. And not long after he moved away, Borderlands received a letter from him.  In the letter he shared that he had an inoperable brain tumor and that the doctor indicated that he had probably had the tumor for many years, and that the tumor had probably been affecting his behavior.  In the letter, he apologized for any inconvenience his behavior might have caused, and thanked the staff for their kindness, and for the opportunity to spend time with Ripley.

During the course of his life, when he didn't have much else, this man had Borderlands. In the letter, he told us that without Borderlands and Ripley, he would likely have died much sooner.  And I get choked up every time I think about Michael, who, while facing his imminent death, took time to express gratitude to those of us at Borderlands.  I feel lucky to have known him, and I am glad that I was able to be a part of his life when he needed people the most. And I am grateful that he shared his gratitude with us.

I bring up this story not to try and get you weepy-eyed. But to work up to admit that, in the wake of selling my publishing company . . . in the wake of losing that thing that had come to define me for over a decade . . . I was lost. Adrift. Extremely depressed. And one of the only things that gave me any kind of solace was that I still had this tenuous connection to the genre community. I was still a bookseller . . . .

(I'm going to be extremely blunt, and want to give a trigger warning.)

. . . if it weren't for the existence of my daughters, and the existence of Borderlands, and my connection to the store's shared community, I would have very likely committed suicide. I was in a very, very bad place. And was for a while.

Just as I was crawling out of that bad place, I was told that Borderlands was closing.  I heard about the impending closing long before any of the customers of Borderlands. I had to live with the knowledge that another huge part of my identity, and social safety net was going away. I soldiered on, and I sold books with a smile for four or five months, all the while mourning the store's impending death.

And then all you subscribers swooped in and saved the day. Not all superheroes wear capes. Some just put their money where their mouths (and hearts) are. And I am forever grateful. As it was for Michael, Borderlands was here for me, when I desperately needed it. And it was here for me, *when* I needed it most, because of you, the store sponsors.

I am in a much better place, emotionally, now. Please don't concern yourself with that.

But I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you - the sponsors - for your support of the store. You very rarely get an opportunity to know . . . to really *know* . . . what kind of impact you have on other people. I treasure the letter that Michael shared with us. I treasure the knowledge that I had an impact on his life.  I hope you will find something of value in the knowledge that your support of Borderlands was absolutely critical for me, personally, at a time in my life when Borderlands was what I needed.  Thank you for that.

Afterword
by Alan Beatts

Jeremy Lassen was the first person I hired to work at Borderlands, way back in 1998.  Despite various careers, two children, and many intervening years, he still works with me.  Much of the essential shape of Borderlands was set by him in the early days, and he taught me more about books & publishing than anyone else in the world.  Which makes sense since he's the most experienced bookseller here (Jeremy started in 1994, Jude in 1996, and me in 1997 -- of course we're all just kids by the standards of "real" booksellers).

Much more than just being my longest serving employee, he's also one of my oldest and best friends.  This month he offered to write something for the sponsor note.  I'm very glad he did.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sponsor Letter, April 27th 2019

The micro version:

(1) Friday, May 31st, 7:00 pm - New Horizons talk with sponsor (and NASA geologist) Orkan Umurhan, Borderlands Cafe

(2) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books

(3) July 2019, date to be determined - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour

(4) Saturday, August 10th, 9:30pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) -- Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's.

(5) September brings a social and picnic with details coming soon.

The macro version:

(1) Friday, May 31st, 7:00 pm - New Horizons talk with Orkan Umurhan, Borderlands Cafe.  Please come and join us for a return visit from our very own resident NASA geologist (and sponsor!), Orkan Umurhan, as he regales us with the latest and greatest from the New Horizons Mission to Pluto!  Among other things, Orkan says "Talk will include -- the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule.  I will describe all the preparations that went into discovering and then flying by an object the size of SF.  I will describe what we saw, how we saw it and what it the object means about the origins of the solar system."  For a sneak peek at what New Horizons is about, feel free to check out NASA's website: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

(2) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books.  Our annual summertime soiree with yummy food, yummy conversation and especially yummy door prizes.  And, thanks to publishers Harper Collins and Tor, we've got some fantastic advance reading copies to give away!  Bring some food or drink to share and join us for a great time!

(3) July 2019, date to be determined - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour: From their website <https://www.sfghosthunt.com/>, "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture. You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco — how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it. You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"   We'll have more details about this event soon.

(4)  Saturday, August 10th, 9:30pm (recommend arrival at 8:30 to secure a table) - Drinks with Dueling Pianos at Johnny Foley's. 243 O'Farrell St, San Francisco (b/t Cyril Magnin St & Powell St. at Union Square) We thought we'd try something a bit different this time 'round.  From their website: "Our entertainers will have you dancing, laughing and singing along to your favorite songs from every era.  You control the show!  Our typical audience brings together both tourists and locals alike, so you're sure to walk away with new friends, great stories and happy memories!!  Come join the fun!  We do not accept reservations for the room, as seating is limited.  To ensure your party is accommodated, we recommend you arrive as soon as the doors open to secure an area (usually an hour before show time).  Food menus are available, with a Full Bar offering a list of "lyrical" cocktails." <http://www.duelingpianosatfoleys.com/about.html>

(5) September brings a social and picnic with details coming soon.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Sponsor Letter, April 12th 2019

Hi Dear Sponsors,

First off, we made our goal of 300 sponsors by March 31st!  In fact, on the 31st we had exactly 500 sponsors.  Thank you all so very, very much for continuing to support Borderlands in 2019!

Second, and perhaps equally importantly, I handled something badly in the last note that I sent and I want to apologize.  The first line of that note was, "We're heading up to the March 31st deadline to have 300 sponsors and I'm confident we will make it."

That was deceptive and I feel badly about it.  The implication was that there was some question whether we would make it to 300 or not.  That wasn't the case.  After having done this for five years now, by March 7th (when I sent that note) I knew damn well that we were going to hit 300 by the 31st.

Since the beginning of all this in 2015, I've always steered clear of turning sponsorships into something that we're trying to "sell" to people.  Sponsoring Borderlands has always been a matter of choice and preference.  Really, at heart, it's been a matter of belief; belief that what we do here is something valuable and worthy of support.

My opening line last month wasn't consistent with that.  Nor was it consistent with my ideal of being upfront and direct with you all.  On one hand, my position at Borderlands is that of a small business owner, just like any other.  But, on the other hand (and in a way that I'm still figuring out how to quantify), I feel that I'm responsible for a private trust.  You and the hundreds of people like you are only reason that Borderlands still exists and, every year, you put your trust in me to keep Borderlands going, not just in the physical sense but also in the intangible ways that make it unique.  An essential honesty and lack of salesmanship is one of those intangibles.

And, on the gripping hand, I sure as hell shouldn't try to manipulate you into being a sponsor.*

None of the foregoing is anything I wasn't aware of, in a general way, but now I have better understanding of what is right and appropriate action on my part.  With that understanding, I don't believe that I'll make this sort of mistake again.  I truly hope you'll accept my apology for it this time.

The third thing I want to mention is the annual General Meeting last month.  It was shorter than usual (to the great pleasure of those attending) but we covered some interesting stuff.  Unfortunately, it's not going to be practical for me to give a full brief this year.  But, I can share some of the hard figures about sponsorships this year and some of the other high points.  For any of you who like to keep track of trends, here are a few figures.  On March 31st last year we had 532 sponsors, in 2017 it was 634 and in 2016 it was 613.  So, it looks like the total number of sponsors is dropping but not, to me, by a concerning amount.  Also for comparison, last year the total number was 635; 2017 was 699, and 2016 was 679.  Again, a downwards trend the last two years and, again, not concerning.  It'll be interesting to see what happens next year.

Another interesting number is that, of the current 507 sponsors, 318 of them have been sponsors every single year since 2015.  That figure is part of the reason that I'm not so concerned with the downward trend of overall numbers.  Barring any big surprises, I'll keep doing this as long as we've got 300.  And it doesn't look like we're going to drop under that number for a long while.

I mentioned last month that we've got the sponsors' forum about ready to go.  We discussed a bunch of details about it at the meeting and we're just about to sign up the first group of people to play around with it.  We'll be sending out invitations to all of your either this month or the next.  If you're not interested, please feel free to just delete the invitation.  But, if you're at all inclined, please give it a try.  I think that it'll be a nice and fun element of sponsorship for everyone.  Oh, and if you have privacy concerns (like me) - your email will not be viewable by other users, the whole thing is invite-only and password protected so it won't be searchable on Google, and there is no requirement that you use your real name (though I'd encourage it since this is meant to be an addition to meat-space interactions, rather than a substitute).

Again, thank you all for supporting Borderlands into 2019.  I hope that it will be a great year for us all.

All Best,
Alan

PS  If you don't know what the hell I mean by "on the gripping hand" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gripping_Hand .

Upcoming Sponsor Events

The truncated version:

(1) Thursday, April 25th, 7:00 pm - Sponsor preview of "Avengers: Endgame" courtesy of SF in SF: Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

(2) Friday, April 26th, 8:00 pm - Roller Skating at The Church of 8 Wheels, 554 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117

(3) Friday, May 31st, 7:00 pm - New Horizons talk with sponsor (and NASA geologist) Orkan Umurhan, Borderlands Cafe

(4) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books and Cafe

(5) July 2019, date to be determined - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour

The expatiated version:

(1) Thursday, April 25th, 7:00 pm - Sponsor preview of "Avengers: Endgame" courtesy of SF in SF, Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121 - SF in SF is hosting a sneak preview of "Avengers: Endgame"! <snip>

(2) Friday, April 26th, 8:00 pm - Roller Skating at Church of 8 Wheels, 554 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117.  As you may have guessed, we have LOVED our past two outings to the Church of 8 Wheels.  We're back again and we'll be renting the private corner in the rear so we will have a place to congregate and leave our belongings. Housed in the 119-year-old former location of Sacred Heart Church, The Church of 8 Wheels welcomes anyone over the age of 18 to Friday night disco.  Admission is $10.00 and skate rentals are an additional $5.00.  Personal skates and roller blades are allowed and should weather dictate layering, there is a coat check at the door.  There is also a snack bar within the Church.  Please feel free to bring as many friends as you would like.   http://www.churchof8wheels.com/.

(3) Friday, May 31st, 7:00 pm - New Horizons talk with Orkan Umurhan, Borderlands Cafe.  Please come and join us for a return visit from our very own resident NASA geologist (and sponsor!), Orkan Umurhan, as he regales us with the latest and greatest from the New Horizons Mission to Pluto!  Among other things, Orkan says "Talk will include -- the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule.  I will describe all the preparations that went into discovering and then flying by an object the size of SF.  I will describe what we saw, how we saw it and what it the object means about the origins of the solar system."  For a sneak peek at what New Horizons is about, feel free to check out NASA's website: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

(4) Saturday, June 22nd, 7:00 pm - Sponsor Social at Borderlands Books and Cafe.  Our annual summertime soiree with yummy food, yummy conversation and especially yummy door prizes.  Bring some food or drink to share and join us for a great time!

(5) July 2019, date to be determined - San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour: From their website <https://www.sfghosthunt.com/>, "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture. You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco — how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it. You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"   We'll have more details about this event soon.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sponsor Letter, March 7th 2019

Hello All,

We're heading up to the March 31st deadline to have 300 sponsors and I'm confident we will make it.  So, thank you to all of the folks who have supported and continue to support the store!  If you haven't renewed yet this year, you're certainly welcome to do so now . . . or later if you like.  Although the deadline to make the determination about whether to continue to operate the store is March 31st, we're happy to accept sponsorship throughout the year.  You can renew on-line at https://borderlands-books.com/buysponsorship.html or you can call, mail, or visit the store in person.

Moving into our fifth year of sponsorships, I've got a couple of neat things planned for our out-of-town sponsors.  The first will be launching in April -- after talking about it for two years, we finally have a message board / forum set up for you.  It should be a nice place to chat with fellow sponsors, share information, and communicate with us at the store.  Look for details about that in the next sponsor note.

The other thing I have planned is a secret for now, but I should have the details together in a month or two.

One last piece of business: if you haven't already, or don't renew your sponsorship, this Sponsor note will be the last one that you'll get (because I'm very much against spamming people).  If you've decided not to renew this year, please don't feel any pressure to change your mind -- there are a hundred and one reasons why it might not work for you.  I'm just terribly grateful that you were willing to support us last year.  On the other hand, if it slipped your mind or something of the sort, I'll be sending out one email to everyone who didn't renew reminding them that they have not.  I hope that you won't find that intrusive.

Our sincerest thanks to all of you -- without you, we literally wouldn't be here.

All Best,
Alan

The Wee Version:

(1) Friday, March 8th (please note date change) - Meet up at FOGCon 9, Walnut Creek Marriott, 2355 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

(2) Sunday, March 31st, 7:00 pm - Sponsors' General Meeting, Borderlands Cafe.

(3) Friday, April 26th, 8:00 pm - Roller Skating at Church of 8 Wheels, 554 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117

The Whopping Version:

(1) Friday, March 8th (please note date change) - Meet up at FOGCon 9, Walnut Creek Marriott, 2355 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.  FOGCon is one of the more intimate of the genre-focused conventions, but they always pull off a great weekend of talks and local vendors selling their wares.  This year's honored guests include Karen Joy Fowler and Becky Chambers.  When the Dealers' Room closes at 7 pm, we'll be meeting up in the hotel bar (because there isn't any other gin-joint in reasonable walking distance - we've checked).  It's called Atrio, and there will be live jazz until 9:00 pm.  Alan probably won't be able to make it, but the much better half of "management", Jude, will be there.  Stop by, have a beer and swap some first-day-of-the-con stories.

(2) Sunday, March 31st, 7:00 pm - Sponsors' General Meeting, Borderlands Cafe.  If you've never attended, the General Meeting is sort of like a cross between a share-holders meeting and a big advisory board.  Alan will outline where Borderlands and the Sponsor Program stand, and then ask for comments, opinions and ideas.  We hope to see as many of you there as possible, because this is where we get guidance on where we should go with the sponsor program, and Alan would love to hear your thoughts.  If you can't attend in person, feel free to email with your comments; we'll email a report on the meeting a week or two afterwards.

(3) Friday, April 26th, 8:00 pm - Roller Skating at Church of 8 Wheels, 554 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117.  As you may have guessed, we have LOVED our past two outings to the Church of 8 Wheels.  We're back again and we'll be renting the private corner in the rear so we will have a place to congregate and leave our belongings. Housed in the 119-year-old former location of Sacred Heart Church, The Church of 8 Wheels welcomes anyone over the age of 18 to Friday night roller disco.  Admission is $10.00 and skate rentals are an additional $5.00.  Personal skates and roller blades are allowed and should weather dictate layering, there is a coat check at the door.  There is also a snack bar within the Church.  Please feel free to bring as many friends as you would like.   http://www.churchof8wheels.com/.