Welcome to Bordertown – The Shared World Interview!

The 1980s brought us big hair, big movies, and big possibilities. Rock ‘n Roll ruled the day. Fantasy fiction began shedding its traditional castles and bearded sorcerers in lieu of modern settings and characters, which included elves, punk rock, and everything in between. If you were looking for something new to read – something hip, something unique, something with a touch of magic – your literary compass would have sent you straight to Bordertown.

The path to that modern, magical place has opened again with the new anthology Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black.

Since the series originally appeared, edited and conceived of by Terri Windling, dozens of writers have contributed to this unique shared world. Even more writers were influenced by the ground breaking stories that came out of Bordertown, and some of those writers now appear in this latest edition of the series. Following in the steps of Bordertown’s editors, Underwords has created a shared world interview, featuring eight contributors from Welcome to Bordertown.

We’re also going to be giving away an ARC of Welcome to Bordertown via Book Club on Facebook. Find out how to enter by checking their Facebook page on Saturday, May 21st! In the meantime, you can read “Shannon’s Law” by Cory Doctorow, which is posted online at Tor.com, or listen to the podcast, which is available now at Escape Pod. Also, be sure to enter the “Bordertown Lives!” Sweeptakes for your chance to win some amazing prizes.

Special thanks to all of the authors who participated in the special Welcome to Bordertown shared world interview. Enjoy!


What was it about the Bordertown Series that first captured your imagination?

Holly Black: There were a couple of things that struck me about Bordertown when I first read it, but the most important for me was that it suddenly felt possible to run away to a place where there were people like me, where we all loved the same books and took care of one another and where magic was finally real.  I longed for that place and my longing for it helped me to steer my way toward finding a life I’m pretty happy with.

Charles de Lint: I’m a musician and when Terri first brought up the idea of Bordertown I saw it as the literary equivelent of jamming with a group of people whose work I greatly admired. And of course the concept was a killer.

You have to remember that at the time of the first book the idea of a city full of rock’n’roll, punk elves and runaways was completely innovative. And given the paramaters of the idea I knew it would be possible to have fun as well as be able to address some serious concerns. That first book was a wonderful experience but by the second we had all hit our stride and I think it’s my favourite because everything came together in a way that’s never quite been repeated…until this new anthology.

Jane Yolen: I come out of the 60s and counter culture, live in Greenwich Village, toured around Europe and the Middle East in the mid 60’s in a VW bus, so Bordertown sounded real to me!

Sara Ryan: Outcasts carving out a place for themselves somewhere that is itself outcast. The relationships in Bordertown make me think of the chosen families constructed by people whose birth families have rejected or abandoned them, and how those families sometimes — often? — form in sketchy surroundings.

Tim Pratt: I first encountered Bordertown as a young teenager (pretty much the perfect demographic target), and was thrilled to read about a world where people around my own age had *agency* — they went off on their own, and learned about the world, and had adventures, and learned about magic, and experienced wonder and loss. There’s lots of fantasy with teen protagonists, but they often end with the teens returning to their “normal” lives — Bordertown was all about changing your life forever, and I found that tremendously exciting.

Janni Lee Simner: I got pulled in less by Bordertown itself than by the other urban fantasy books being written by Bordertown writers such as Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, and Megan Lindholm in the late 80s and early 90s. By the time I began reading Bordertown itself, the idea of bringing magic into our world–the thing that drew me to urban fantasy in the first place–was something I’d come to take for granted. So for me Bordertown was a place to find more of the sort of story I already loved, rather than something new.

Christopher Barzak: The first thing that captured my imagination in the original Bordertown Series was the complexity of the relationships between humans, the fae, and those who were born between those two worlds.  For a lot of readers, I think it was the grittiness of street life that stood out–life on the run from a world that doesn’t understand you–but in my case I was captured by the racial and class tensions that occurred on the streets of Bordertown.  Having grown up in a rural area of Ohio, where the racial and class make-up was standardized white, working class, reading about a place where race and class was more diverse sparked my interest.

Which is what made writing my story “We Do Not Come In Peace” so much fun.  I got to add to that particular thread of life in Bordertown.  My narrator comes from a white working class human background.  He’s someone who left home in the 1990s, when the border was still open, but in this anthology, because the way closed for 13 days/years, when it reopens and is filled with an influx of teenagers who have grown up in 2010 and beyond with all of their tech and coolness, he feels displaced in the one place he’d thought he could call home.  And one of those new teenagers teaches him how to fight for his place in that chaotic jumbling for power in Bordertown.

What did you enjoy most about writing your piece for Welcome to Bordertown?

Holly Black: It was amazing to get to play in this world that I had loved from the outside. My characters got to bump shoulders with the characters I’d read about and travel to the spots I felt like I knew.  Plus, since I was writing it with a friend, we got to share the experience.

Charles de Lint: Having already written a pair of novellas and a short story set in Bordertown, what I appreciated most with my piece for the new anthology was the chance to explore the events, mindset, and eventually magic that would bring a person to Bordertown.

Jane Yolen: Being able to revisit the place in a different way. I’d never written any Bordertown stories myself, but as an editor I’d edited Will Shetterly’s two Bordertown novels–Elsewhere and Never Never.

Tim Pratt: The character of Allie Land. I’ve been thinking about writing a story with her as a protagonist for literally a decade, but could never find quite the right tale for her. Turns out — that’s because she belonged in Bordertown! I just needed the opportunity to write in that world, and she sprang fully to life. I’m so grateful to Holly and Ellen for the chance.

Alaya Dawn Johnson: It took me a long time to come up with an idea I could work with, actually. Partly because everyone in the anthology had to make sure they weren’t duplicating each other’s ideas, and my first plot arc was too similar to one someone else was already working on. That was a blessing in disguise, because it led me deeper into the interesting process of rediscovering Bordertown and relating to it again as an adult. And eventually, I hit upon this exploration of family dynamics.

I love the runaways-as-family aspect of the Bordertown stories, but I kept wondering about whether I could tweak that tradition to working with something that was an *actual* family unit, albeit very non-traditional. I mean, people grow up in Bordertown, and the runaways of yesterday will eventually have children of their own. How does the child of a runaway find her own voice in the world, when she’s already living in the place disenchanted and desperate kids dream of going? When her family can be frustrating, but there’s a lot of love there, also? Writing about that felt true to Bordertown and also like my own special place in it, which was very rewarding.

Janni Lee Simner: I enjoyed so many things it’s hard to know where to begin! It was fun getting to see what happens when current urban fantasy meets the urban fantasy of 10 or 20 years ago (among other things, they go out dancing together); it was fun imagining what Bordertown mean to those yearning for fantasy in my own city (which is just an hour from a border of its own); it was fun collaborating with all the other Bordertown writers and finding all the intersections among our stories (one of my newbie characters does some serious–if fleeting–crushing on Wolfboy).

What do you hope new Bordertown readers will take away from their experience with Welcome to Bordertown?

Holly Black: I hope they’ll love it the way that I do and be inspired by it the way that I was.  I hope they see themselves there.

Charles de Lint: The joy with which we all approached our stories. I’m not sure who had more fun: the old-timers returning to familiar haunts to find that, while some things had changed, the essence of Bordertown hadn’t; or the newcomers arriving for their first visit. Dark or light, complicated or simple, I think these stories brought out the best in us and I know that I thoroughly enjoyed reading each offering whether it was prose, poetry or comic book.

Jane Yolen: I hope it becomes an indelible and iconic place for them, their generation’s Narnia or MiddleEarth.

Janni Lee Simner: Well, first I hope they have fun! But beyond that, the sense that maybe the world really is filled with magic, and the hope that–like the characters in the stories, each of whom gets to Bordertown in his or her own way–we can each find our own magic in our own ways, too.

Christopher Barzak: I hope readers can take away something similar to what I did as a teenager discovering the series for the first time:  a piece of themselves that they hadn’t recognized until they saw it lying in the streets of Bordertown.


For more Bordertown fun, be sure to check out the Bordertown Web Site.
Welcome to Bordertown will be released on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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5 Responses to Welcome to Bordertown – The Shared World Interview!

  1. The WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN giveaway is live at Book Club on Facebook. It’s a one day contest (today only). So go now and see how to enter.

  2. Em says:

    I went to the facebook link and didn’t see anything or any way to try to get in on the contest.

    This is a lovely post. Thank you.

    • Hi Em,

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the interview! 🙂

      If you go to this URL https://www.facebook.com/bookclubbooks and look for the post from “Book Club” post that mentions the contest. (Note: Book Club’s Facebook icon features a red book and a green worm coming out of it). The post has a question that you need to answer. All you have to do to enter is to copy and paste the answer into the comments section under the “Book Club” contest post. I hope this helps.


  3. Thanks for a fantastic interview, Erin. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta ask the right questions . . . I really enjoyed reading this, as there were things about the authors & their stories they never told us humble editors!

    We’ve put a link up on the Bordertown Blog: http://bordertownseries.com/blog/
    and hope that people will join us there to check out our magical sweepstakes, too – help spread the word that BORDERTOWN LIVES! . . . and win some crazy good prizes.

  4. Beyonce says:

    If not for your writing this topic could be very coltnouved and oblique.

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