Mechanics Institute Library
Francisco Public Library
at the Dark Garden in Hayes Valley
times when everyone longs for something a little different on their reading
table. Something a little... edgier. Stranger. Fantastic. You could go
to a megavolume store, where stacks of the latest horror or science fiction
from the big publishers are stacked high, and the clerk might have read
some of that speculative fiction, maybe...
Or you could go someplace where they know what weird really can be. Know
the whole depths and breadths (not to mention the shallows...) of Horror,
Fantasy, and Science Fiction. Someplace where they celebrate the intoxication
of books, their smell, feel, and a page's ability to not only contain
the words an author endowed it with but whole rafts of our own memories,
fears, and sorrows. This place stocks the books we read because we desired
to know the limits of the mind; because, deep down, we LIKED
being scared; because we had evidence that the world was more than we
thought it was...or is that just more uncertain that we thought it was?
Like songs on the radio, books are powerful containers of time and place,
evokers of deja vu. If you know what I am talking about, and enjoy the
genres of horror, fantasy, or science fiction, you should head to the
Hayes Valley, and Borderlands
The shop has both new and used books, leaning towards the used. Need a
copy of the British hardback first edition of Stephen King's latest? Canadian
or Australian Science Fiction releases? The incredible short stories of
Kathe Koja or John Shirley? This year's Stoker Award winners/nominees?
A beautiful hardback of Tolkien for a friend? An ancient edition of Lovecraft?
Borderlands has all of these, and whatever your taste within their genres,
if they do not have it - they can find it for you. Stock turns over fairly
well, and the staff makes a point of keeping the place interesting enough
make customers want to come back frequently. This place appreciates everything
from antique pulp to neo noirotica, from paperback thrills to eloquence.
There is a community feel about the place - one that is carefully fostered
by the store's owner, Alan Beatts, and his enormously knowledgeable staff,
Jeremy and Liza. They make recommendations, talk about the merits of the
chapbooks they stock, (try finding small press chapbooks at Barnes and
Noble...) and know the latest lowdown on what is being published. They'll
buy the books you are finished with, or trade them for ones you haven't
read yet. And on Wednesday night at 7:00pm, there is The Movie: SF, horror,
or fantasy - with bowls of free popcorn and free beverages. There are
two large televisions in two separate rooms - one room for those who want
to watch the movie seriously, and the other room is for those who wish
to hone their MST3K heckling skills. The movie schedule is posted on the
stores bulletin board, and is also distributed in the store's newsletter
(which also showcases Horror fiction from recognised authors), and the
staff takes suggestions on what to show. Amazon.com cannot come close
to this, no matter how many reader reviews they put up. Having someone
you just shared popcorn and a movie with recommend an author that becomes
one of your favorites is a wonderful, surreal experience all by itself.
Also on the bulletin board are news of future readings, which take place
in the store's atmospheric basement reading vault. Recent readers have
included John Shirley, Michael Marano, and a group reading from contributors
to the (non-fiction) magazine Morbid Curiosity. Did I mention that Borderlands
stocks very interesting periodicals?
If you want to drive, there are parking lots nearby on Gough Street; but
the store is a short three-block walk down Grove from the Civic Center
BART. The store is also less than a block from the 21 Hayes Muni Line.
I love this place. I am there nearly every week for the movies, and the
readings that take place there have been nothing short of incredible.
I thought I knew the genre until I started coming to this store - and
was rocketed to the awareness of exactly how much there still was to discover.
I have made friends here among the bookstacks, and at times simply had
a quiet place to sit, read a few pages of an old, favorite story, and
savor it in the atmosphere that only a place full of books has: the magic
convergence, of my memories and mind with the mind of another. Kurt Vonnegut
calls reading one of the most profound methods of meditation even conceived.
They know what that means here. For that, I am not only their customer
but somewhat in their debt. Thanks.