Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
On the border between our world and the realm of Faerie is a city where magic and technology collide. A gritty urban landscape full of runaways from the world and the realm seeking freedom, magic and mystery, making music, love and war. The Borderland series of shared-world stories was created for teen readers by Terri Windling in the mid-80s. Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Ellen Kushner, Will Shetterly, and Midori Snyder authored some of the early Borderland stories.
Four anthologies of short stories were published: Borderland and Bordertown in 1986, Life on the Border in 1991, and The Essential Bordertown in 1996. Three novels were set in Bordertown as well: Elsewhere (1991) and Never Never (1993) both by Will Shetterly and Finder by Emma Bull (1994).
After that, Bordertown disappeared.
Welcome to Bordertown is a return to the shared-world series with stories by some of the original Bordertown writers, and some new authors who grew up reading about Bordertown. The lapse in time is cleverly accounted for with the conceit that the Way to Bordrtown closed for 13 years in our world and 13 days in Bordertown itself. Now a new generation of teen wanderers, full of Internet savvy and all new cultural references, are finding their way to Bordertown.
There are two stories that will resonate particularly well with today’s visitors to Bordertown. In Shannon’s Law by Cory Doctorow, a young entrepreneur attempts to bring the Internet to Faerie. Doctorow’s imagination and easy to grasp explanations of all things technical are applied here to the various ways one might attempt to send data packets in a world where magic and technology have collided. Carrier pigeons, morse code, chirping crickets, magic outhouses, strings of numbers embedded in paintings and poems are some of the solutions. In Crossings by Janni Lee Simner, two fantasy fangirls go to Bordertown in search of vampire and werewolf boyfriends. Things do not go as planned. The strength of the girls’ friendship becomes the only hope for saving their lives.
Fans of current young adult fantasy will also be interested to know that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare co-wrote a story in this anthology called The Rowan Gentleman.
In addition to these more obvious draws, two stories that particularly struck me were A Prince of Thirteen Days by Alaya Dawn Johnson and Our Stars, Our Selves by Tim Pratt. Both illustrate the breadth and unpredictability of the Border’s magic. In the first, a statue gets a chance to live, and graffiti is exchanged between characters on opposite sides of the border. In the second, it is revealed that the Borderland has its own constellations, and that they might grant a powerful wish now and then.
The shared-world setting creates connections between stories. The same coffeehouses, bookstores, theaters and night spots appear again and again. Characters wander the fringes of each others’ tales. The place itself takes on a compelling personality that is revealed and confirmed in each story.
If you are not yet convinced that you should go in search of Bordertown, news reports, by which I mean this book trailer, are showing that many teens are flocking there now that the Way is open again.
For more information on books of Bordertown old and new, advice for your travels there, a few preview stories and a bunch of other fun things, check out the Bordertown Series website.
-Erin Daly, currently re-reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (again)