Editor's Note - You may be aware that we have a blog where this newsletter also appears <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/>. At the end of major features in this newsletter you'll find permanent links to the same item on our blog. These links can be convenient if you want to send just a single article or if you'd like to link to it from your website.
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Upcoming Author EventsBrandon Sanderson, WORDS OF RADIANCE (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, March 6th at 6:00 pm
Marie Brennan, TROPIC OF SERPENTS: A MEMOIR BY LADY TRENT (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 9th at 7:00 pm
Seanan McGuire, HALF OFF RAGNAROK (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99) Saturday, March 15th at 6:00 pm
Edith Maxwell, A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE (Kensington, Hardcover, $24.00) Sunday, March 16th at 1:00 pm
Bruce DeSilva, PROVIDENCE RAG (Forge, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 16th at 3:00 pm
Nick Mamatas, Jim Nisbet, Sin Soracco, and Ken Wishnia: PM Press Crime Writers' Short-Fire Reading and Signing, Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 pm
Dan Wells, RUINS (Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, $17.99) and Robison Wells, BLACKOUT (HarperTeen, Hardcover, $17.99), Friday, March 21st at 7:00 pm
Eileen Gunn, QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES (Small Beer Press, Trade Paperback, $16.00) Saturday, April 12th at 3:00 pm
Permalink - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2014/03/march-upcoming-events.html
News* The New York Times comments on the recent trend of series books being released more quickly in order to satisfy "binge readers": http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/books/impatience-has-its-reward-books-are-rolled-out-faster.html?_r=1
* Fans of Pat Murphy's THE CITY, NOT LONG AFTER or Michaela Roessner's VANISHING POINT will especially appreciate these eerie photos of an empty San Francisco: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/4465-heres-what-sf-would-look-like-without-cars-or-people
* Neil Gaiman and Australia's Four Play String Quartet are coming to The Warfield June 25th. Tickets are $40. http://blog.sfgate.com/bookmarks/2014/02/18/neil-gaiman-and-string-quartet-coming-to-s-f/
* Wonderful, creepy old photos out of context; especially for fans of Ransom Riggs, but haunting for everyone! http://theghostdiaries.com/old-mysterious-photos-that-will-haunt-your-dreams/
Permalink - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2014/03/february-news-roundup.html
From The Office(Editor's note: since Alan is still busy doing construction -- if you've been in the store during the last month, you've probably heard the power tools -- I've asked some other staffers to contribute From the Office pieces for the next few months. Don't worry; all the rest of us are just as opinionated as Alan, and he'll be back with his own special brand of analysis in a few months. But meanwhile, enjoy a second guest piece from Jeremy Lassen, Borderlands' first (and longest continuous) employee. (Please note that while Borderlands is probably the only bookstore in the world with its own SWAT team, and that Alan and I will personally back any of our employees in a street fight, their opinions are their own and don't necessarily represent the store. - Jude Feldman)
The Authors Who Put the “P” in “SF”
We had so much fun last time, I figured I would give it another go. And since saying “Fuck Nick Hornsby” didn’t generate enough ire, I thought I would violate one of the first rules of polite society and talk politics. Wait, wait, wait. . . . Not in the way that you think. I’m not going to bore you with MY political views, or observations about various political theories and paradigms. I’m going to bore you with observations about political thought as expressed in science fiction novels.
I’m not talking about the political views of the authors, although of course that may come up. But if the author is genuinely interesting, what you think of as “their politics” may in fact not be. Let’s start with good old Bob Heinlein as an example. It’s really easy to base your perspective of an author’s personal politics on that first novel of theirs that you read. If you read STARSHIP TROOPERS, clearly Heinlein was a fascist. If you read STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, well, he was a Leftist Cult-Hippie. If you read THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON, you would think he was a libertarian, and if you read THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, you could be pretty sure he was a bomb-throwing anarchist and revolutionary.
The truth about Heinlein’s politics is probably slightly more complicated than “He’s X.” (Go ahead and read the recent biography, ROBERT A. HEINLEIN IN DIALOGUE WITH HIS CENTURY: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY by William H. Patterson, Jr. if you want to get a detailed, nuanced view of the man.) What the above spread of novels really demonstrates is Heinlein’s willingness to take a political idea or conceit and run with it, creating a whole narrative around its bones. He wasn’t the only one doing this of course. "Astounding" editor John W. Campbell famously would provide his “top producers” with a seed of an idea, telling them to “write me a story based on X.” If you look really closely science fiction’s Golden Age fix-up novels, you can see the parallel novels that Heinlein, Clark, Asimov, and others wrote at Campbell’s behest, exploring the seed of an idea in very different ways.
The opposite of Heinlein is the author who mines one political idea or conceit repeatedly. And I don’t mean that as an author being repetitive or simplistic. I mean he or she dreams up a detailed political structure, and then runs it through the grinder a few dozen times, exploring it, and its relationship to other systems in exquisite detail. The author who stands out in this regard is the recently deceased Iain M. Banks. His series of Culture books share a single “post scarcity utopia” setting ruled by benevolent AI's. Banks is probably the most prolific utopianist of the late 20th century, in that he was constantly picking at the edges of his detailed utopia, seeing were and how it breaks down and why, or what morality is or should be, in different contexts.
He was very much concerned with ideas of free will, and the conflict between that, and state power. He was interested in the lies individuals and states tell themselves about the use of power and violence, both on an individual level (USE OF WEAPONS) and on a broader cultural level (PLAYER OF GAMES). Where does “white man’s burden” begin, if you are a culture of all-knowing, all-seeing AI’s, and when does the carefully crafted “non-intervention” rule (ala "Star Trek"’s Prime Directive) get violated and thrown out the window? It helps that despite all the teeth-gnashing and gaming of political theory and power, at his core, Banks is a really fun, and funny writer. So when things get too grim or serious, there’s always a wise-cracking spaceship to lighten things up.
The polar opposite of Banks may be Neal Asher. If you ever want to see how an author’s individual politics inform their fictional exercises in world building, one should compare the post scarcity utopias of Banks with the post scarcity utopias of Asher’s Polity series. They are both ruled by benevolent AI's. But the questions they pose, and what is defined in opposition to this setting couldn’t be more different. The misguided revolutionary often serves as the plot point or fulcrum that tips the narrative in a Polity book. And much like Banks, Asher has a secret weapon that prevents his narratives from bogging down in polemic. Asher has an incredible sense of pacing, and does really incredible action set pieces. You may sometimes catch glimpses of the author’s true political views while reading his books, but shit is blowing up so spectacularly, you usually don’t have time to notice.
Speaking of Asher, and forms. . . . His recent Owner series puts the metaphorical shoe on the other foot. It's dystopic in nature instead of utopian, and focus on revolution and overthrowing an established order. This revolutionary narrative is a classic one in science fiction -- THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS was mentioned above, and Roger Zelazny’s LORD OF LIGHT is another early work that comes to mind. Some of the questioning of power and methods that were so prevalent in Banks' Culture series probably had some roots in Zelazny’s novel.
Sometimes, these revolutionary narratives can span multiple volumes, as is the case with Pierce Brown’s recent debut, RED RISING. Piers Anthony repeatedly played around with revolutionary narratives, from his early Cthon novels, to Phaze series, to his Bio of A Space Tyrant series. (Incidentally, and as a warning, I think it’s easy to say that Anthony’s work is sometimes weirdly focused on issues of forced servitude, and nudity, amongst other things. I mean, he was no John Norman, but holy crap -- my shorthand name for the Space Tyrant series is “Bio of a Rape Tyrant” -- EVERYBODY is raped in the first book of that series.)
Some might consider Zelazny’s Amber series or Herbert’s DUNE to be revolutionary narratives, but those tend more towards changing the protagonists' place in the established political order, rather than overthrowing it altogether. I think the thing that is most interesting about these revolutionary narratives is how they have evolved as part of the long science fiction conversation. While early revolutionary narratives are often simple dystopian settings with revolutionary heroes, later works examine the problems associated with revolutionary movements and leaders.
Richard Morgan comes to mind with his third Takashi Kovacs novel, WOKEN FURIES. I think the gangster/surfer/revolutionaries in that novel are some of the most iconic in science fiction, and the type of ambivalent exploration of their charisma and violence in pursuit of political goals is positively Banksian in its nuance and thoughtfulness. Morgan had earlier covered similar territory with his novel MARKET FORCES, which followed the dystopian setting/revolutionary hero narrative, but ultimately turned it on its head. The alternatives to the hyper-capitalism of MARKET FORCES were presented as ineffectual, and the idea of charismatic revolutionary leaders was undermined in a stunning narrative turn.
Another contemporary SF author who has exploded the charismatic revolutionary leader motif is China Miéville. His Bas Lag novels THE SCAR and IRON COUNCIL are different but equally powerful examinations of revolutionary movements. China's work is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, he’s using a fantasy motif. Admittedly Banks and Zelazny ostensibly used fantasy motifs in science fictional settings, so this doesn’t place Miéville's work too far outside of the discussion.
The other thing that stands out with China is that he's oftentimes referred to as a POLITICAL author, and explicitly a leftist author. Which is ultimately kind of funny, as his fiction isn’t any more overtly political than that of either his contemporaries, or his antecedents. There been far bigger leftists in the genre (Eric Flint, Steven Brust and Will Shetterly immediately spring to mind, although obviously there are others), and many conservative authors' political or economic views are presented in significantly more overt terms. I think China is a victim of both timing and a really good marketing campaign by his publishers -- much was made of his nascent political aspirations as a Communist Party candidate for Parliament by his publishers, and this was during the rule of two extremely conservative governments in the US and UK, when leftists were being overtly marginalized in the political discourse. If you didn’t like the Bush Regime, or the Blair administration, China Miéville was your science fiction guy, so to speak.
Another author who has used fantasy motifs to explore political systems and ideology in a really interesting way is Peter Higgins. His fantasy police procedural WOLFHOUND CENTURY is a stunning debut. What sets his world building apart is that instead of using a traditional feudalistic fantasy setting, he sets up a Stalanistic-style authoritarian regime. I’ve seen some sources mistakenly characterize this as alternate history, which it explicitly is not. It’s fantasy, with a social and political system that you’ve never seen in fantasy pages before. I’m eagerly looking forward to the 2nd book in this series, TRUTH AND FEAR.
Oddly enough, Glen Cook has also written some really great revolutionary narratives, using fantasy and SF-inal setups. That’s right. The Garrett Files and Black Company guy has some serious revolution going on. Actually, his Darkwar Trilogy is an incredibly interesting explosion of the genre. It’s a science fiction novel with a fantasy motif, and it tells the story from the point of view of (SPOILER ALERT) the evil dictator. About halfway through the second book, one begins to suspect that our protagonist isn’t the hero who will release her people from bondage. . . she’s actually the dark overlord that needs to be overthrown. I think this early Cook trilogy stands as one of his most fascinating and nuanced narratives. Plus, it's about a matriarchal society of anthropomorphic dog people who fly through space in psionically powered wooden space ships. I mean, seriously, go back and read that sentence again. I’m not kidding. And it works. Really, really well. The Darkwar Trilogy. Oh, so good.
Cook's other fantasy/revolutionary work is the two-book Dread Empire prequel, collected in A FORTRESS IN SHADOW. This follows the rise of a theocratic revolutionary movement in a desert setting, amongst a group of feudal nomadic tribes. It also plays around with the idea of charismatic leaders, and, specifically, religious fundamentalism. This one is quite amazing as well.
Finally, I want to touch one of science fiction’s greatest political movements. The feminist science fiction novels of the 60’s, 70's, and 80's are one of the genre’s very important contributions to society and literature. Like other forms of popular entertainment, and entertainment for “kids”, SF was allowed to explore issues and take up agendas that were incredibly socially divisive. Polite society often didn’t talk about these things, or only talked about them in very circumspect terms. And at a time when really overt and detailed examinations of the patriarchy and gender relationships were completely marginalized, the science fiction genre was putting them in front of 12-year-old girls and boys alike. It’s easy to under-appreciate how subversive these novels were, and to fail to recognize what a big part of the science fiction genre they were. They were mainstream, and sitting on the newsstand racks, and being printed in 100,000+ copy print runs. They were not marginalized or off in a ghetto. They were at the center of science fiction.
I was recently in an online discussion with a woman who felt that the written science fiction genre was just a boy's club, and that Gene Rodenberry and his feminist-influenced utopian "Star Trek" series didn’t really come out of that written science fiction tradition. I was gobsmacked by this. Perhaps this perception is reflective of a regression that took place in science fiction, and society at large. Feminism was turned into a dirty word and SF’s feminism was glossed over or ignored, and the genre did become a bit of a boy's club in the 80's and afterwards. Because of this, its easy to see why SF fans of a certain age might think that SF is “just a boy's club.”
I will probably go on at length in some future forum, but let me throw out some names. Some of the earliest pioneers include writers like Leigh Brackett, Judith Merril, and Kit Reed. Ursula K. Le Guin is a recognized giant; others like Pamela Sargent and James Tiptree, Jr. came out of that New Wave era of feminist SF, and writers like Sheri S. Tepper and Octavia Butler continued on with the tradition through the 80’s. Marion Zimmer Bradely’s Darkover fiction, as well as her more broadly known Mists of Avalon series also stand out as works that are explicitly part of the feminist tradition. And currently there is a whole new generation of writers who are embracing and exploring this science fiction tradition.
Science fiction has never followed the dictum that one doesn’t talk about politics. It’s almost always been about politics, one way or the other. And our oft-divided, (does anyone remember the great WorldCon schism over the Vietnam War? That makes today’s Twitter fights look like schoolyard bickering by comparison) big-tent community of readers and writers will always be looking at political ideas -- they way they were, the way they are, the way they can be, and the way they should be. That’s one of the strengths of the genre.
Permalink - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-authors-who-put-p-in-sf.html
Top Sellers At BorderlandsHardcovers
1. The Waking Engine by David Edison
2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
3. Pandemic by Scott Sigler
4. The Martian by Andy Weir
5. A Darkling Sea by James Cambias
6. What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
7. Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman
8. V-S Day by Allen Steele
9. Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint
10. Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
3. The Long War by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett
4. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
5. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
6. Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor
7. Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
8. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
9. Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
10. Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
1. Annihilation by Jeff Vadermeer
2. Hyperbolye and a Half by Allie Brosh
3. Miss Peregrin'e Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
4. Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
5. Indexing by Seanan McGuire
Permalink - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2014/03/february-bestsellers.html
Book Club InfoThe QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, March 9th at 5 pm to discuss EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville. Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at email@example.com, for more information.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, March 16th at 6 pm to discuss AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton. The book for April is THE GODS THEMSELVES by Isaac Asimov. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Upcoming Event DetailsBrandon Sanderson, WORDS OF RADIANCE (Tor, Hardcover, $27.99) Thursday, March 6th at 6:00 pm - Join us to meet one of our very favorite fantasy writers, the incredibly talented Brandon Sanderson! Having done the seemingly impossible and completed Robert Jordan's near-legendary Wheel of Time series, Brandon's now hard at work on his own massive epic, The Stormlight Archive. WORDS OF RADIANCE is volume 2, the followup to WAY OF KINGS, and in it the story grows even more complex and compelling. Don't miss this event! (Please note, this event begins at 6pm, an hour earlier than usual.)
Marie Brennan, TROPIC OF SERPENTS: A MEMOIR BY LADY TRENT (Tor, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 9th at 7:00 pm - Don't miss this opportunity to meet Marie Brennan and enjoy the continuing adventures of the remarkable Victorian naturalist Lady Trent! From the book description: "Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career."
Seanan McGuire, HALF OFF RAGNAROK (DAW, Mass Market, $7.99) Saturday, March 15th at 6:00 pm - Seanan McGuire's events are always a wild party, and you're invited! We're happy to host the super-prolific author as she presents the newest InCryptid novel. This one's narrated by Verity's brother Alex, and includes a whole host of new characters and also some old friends. "When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn't expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend--Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats--is starting to get suspicious. Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone . . . . The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner. Of course, so do the talking mice."
Edith Maxwell, A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE (Kensington, Hardcover, $24.00) Sunday, March 16th at 1:00 pm - We're delighted to welcome Edith Maxwell to the store! This is a new cozy series to die for: "It's harvest time in Westbury, Massachusetts, and novice farmer Cameron Flaherty hopes to make a killing selling organic produce. A colorful Locavore Club belongs to Cam's farm-share program. But when a killer strikes on her property, her first foray into the world of organic farming yields a bumper crop of locally sourced murder. To clear her name, Cam has to dig up secrets buried deep beneath the soil of Produce Plus Farm. And when the police don't make progress in the case, she has to catch a murderer whose motto seems to be, 'Eat Local. Kill Local.'"
Bruce DeSilva, PROVIDENCE RAG (Forge, Hardcover, $25.99) Sunday, March 16th at 3:00 pm - We're eagerly anticipating meeting Bruce DeSilva, a rising talent whose new novel asks a very difficult ethical question. . . "Inspired by a true story, PROVIDENCE RAG finds Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island's antiquated criminal statutes --never intended for someone like him -- required that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with it -- if the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody. As Mason sets out to prove officials are perverting the justice system, Mulligan searches frantically for some legal way to keep the monster behind bars. The dueling investigations pit the friends against each other in a high-stakes race against time -- and snares them in an ethical dilemma that has no right answer."
Nick Mamatas, Jim Nisbet, Sin Soracco, and Ken Wishnia: PM Press Crime Writers' Short-Fire Reading and Signing, Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 pm - We love stimulating, subversive, and local PM Press! PM tends toward the outstanding, radical, activist, and experimental (Terry Bisson edits their Outspoken Authors Series) and their crime fiction is no different. We're happy to welcome a bunch of PM's crime writers for an evening of rapid-fire reading and signing. We know you'll want to meet Nick, Jim, Sin, and Ken! RSVP on the Facebook events page if you like: https://www.facebook.com/events/498491736940077/
Dan Wells, RUINS (Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, $17.99) and Robison Wells, BLACKOUT (HarperTeen, Hardcover, $17.99), Friday, March 21st at 7:00 pm - We're excited to welcome the Wells brothers to Borderlands! Dan's newest book is RUINS, the followup to FRAGMENTS, and the end of the Partials Sequence. "Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of THE HUNGER GAMES with the provocative themes of BLADE RUNNER and THE STAND." Joining Dan this time around is Robison Wells, whose new book is BLACKOUT. From the book description: "Laura and Alec are highly trained teenage terrorists. Jack and Aubrey are small-town high school students. There was no reason for their paths to ever cross. But now a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible superpowers -- and all teens are being rounded up, dragged to government testing facilities, and drafted into the army to fight terrorism. Suddenly, Jack, Laura, Aubrey, and Alec find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger -- where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all."
Eileen Gunn, QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES (Small Beer Press, Trade Paperback, $16.00) Saturday, April 12th at 3:00 pm - We are always thrilled to welcome the talented Eileen Gunn to the store! QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES is her new short story collection. From the book description: "Good intentions aren’t everything. Sometimes things don’t quite go the way you planned. And sometimes you don’t plan. . . . This collection of sixteen stories (and one lonely poem) wittily chart the ways trouble can ensue. No actual human beings were harmed in the creation of this book. Stories from Eileen Gunn are always a cause for celebration. Where will she lead us? “Up the Fire Road” to a slightly alternate world. Four stories into steampunk’s heart. Into the golem’s heart. Yet never where we might expect."
Borderlands event policy - all events are free of charge unless otherwise stated. You are welcome to bring copies of an author's books purchased elsewhere to be autographed (but we do appreciate it if you purchase something while at the event). For most events you are welcome to bring as many books as you wish for autographs. If you are unable to attend the event we will be happy to have a copy of any of the author's available books signed or inscribed for you. We can then either hold the book(s) until you can come in to pick them up or we can ship to you. Just give us a call or drop us an email. If you live out of town, you can also ship us books from your collection to be signed for a nominal fee. Call or email for details.
Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts
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