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Bordertown, Behind-the-Scenes


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Bordertown, Behind-the-Scenes

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Published on April 17, 2012

Will Shetterly: My wife, Emma Bull, and I read the first Borderland anthology when it was published and loved it, but we didn’t expect to be invited to play in that universe. Then Bordertown series creator Terri Windling asked if we were planning to visit Boskone, we said we had no money, and she said if we wrote a Borderlands story, she could get a check to us that would cover our trip.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s the Bordertown way: we made something we loved; in return, we got to hang with people we loved.

I’m sure that writing our story, “Danceland Blood,” had moments of agony, but I remember it as several days of pure fun. I created Wolfboy and Emma created Orient, two kids with curses, and we took turns exploring a corner of Bordertown.

A year or three later, Jane Yolen asked me to write a story for her imprint, Jane Yolen Books. I can’t remember which of us suggested it be Wolfboy’s origin, but I was glad to go back to B-town and learn who Wolfboy had been when he came to the Borderlands.

The city of Bordertown was born in the 1980s when Terri Windling created the Borderlands anthologies, and its setting was vague: Present day? Near future? All we knew was that the Elflands had returned to the world, and Bordertown was the nexus between two realms.

If you ask me when the city began—and I must stress that this answer is mine, and not the least bit more valid than anyone else’s—I’ll say it’s older than it seems. I’m sure there was a Bordertown when I was fourteen in 1969 and I wanted to run off to New York or San Francisco. When I was first thinking about the origin of the city, I wanted to glibly say it was invented with the teenager in the 1950s. James Dean may have died on his way there.

But teenagers weren’t invented in the ’50s; they were simply given a name then. There’ve always been people in the borderland between childhood and adulthood. That state is not a matter of chronological age. It’s a matter of understanding that you can accept a future that has been defined by the previous generation, or you can reject it and make something new.

In my mind, there was a Bordertown for the beats and the zoot suiters and the flappers. Shakespeare and Marlowe sensed its presence, the place where Romeo and Juliet would have been happy, if only they could have gone there. Prometheus probably went there before he returned with fire.

In Bordertown, what the World and the Elflands are doesn’t matter. What matters is what you become when you accept that the world is stranger than you dreamed.

Jane Yolen: Back in the Eocene, when I was the editor of fantasy novels at Harcourt’s children’s books department—and by that I mean the 1990s—I’d asked Will Shetterly if he would write a Bordertown novel for teens as long as we got Terri Windling’s blessing. It seemed to me a match made in—well—Faerie, I suppose.

Will obtained legal permission from Terri to use the Bordertown world, and set to work, and one Bordertown novel turned into two: Elsewhere and Nevernever.

Because the books were part of a shared-world series, Will then had two editors to contend with: me at Harcourt, and Terri as the series’ editor. I can’t speak for Terri, but from my side of the project, there was not a lot of actual editing needed. He’s a careful writer whose knowledge of setting scenes and letting them play out within the larger arc of a book is second to none. And every time I reread the books, (editors usually go over things 5-10 readings’ worth) I found new things that surprised, moved,  and delighted me.

But I remember one…interesting…bit of difficult editing that we had to work through. Over the years, I had fussed and fumed over the brilliant folklorist Alan Dundes’ coined phrase “fakelore” which he used in opposition to the real stuff, i.e. “folklore.” He meant the sort of stuff that Will and I and Angela Carter and Isak Dinesen and anyone else on the fantasy scale wrote. He meant it sniffingly, dismissingly, tarring us all with the same brush.

I’m sure I’d subjected Will and his equally wonderful writer wife Emma Bull to my rant about the Dundes word often enough. And so Will, borrowed it in describing the shelves of the bookstore, Elsewhere. He wrote that those shelves contained—along with a long list of stunning inventions—”folklore, fakelore, fucklore.”

A marvelously funny and quirky line, only this was 1990 and the book was looking for a YA audience and you Just Didn’t Do That in The Eocene. Besides, it was the only instance in the book where such a word was used. So I wrote and told Will, I would uphold his right to use it in the book if he insisted, but did want to mention that it would probably keep it off the shelves in middle schools across America. In those days, our biggest sales were in school libraries.

As Will and I both knew, we already had a paperback publisher dying to bring the books out (hi, Tor!) and they’d restore the line because the books would be coming out for adults more than kids, Will took it out in the hardcover edition. But if you are dying to find it—get the paperback edition! (Linked above.) That, at least, is still in print (now as a paperback in the Harcourt Magic Carpet line – and as an eBook from the author himself…

Will Shetterly is best known for his novel Dogland (1997). He has written short stories for various Borderland anthologies, and he won the Minnesota Book Award for Fantasy & Science Fiction for his novel Elsewhere (1991), and was a finalist with NeverNever (1993); both  are set in Terri Windling’s The Borderland Series shared universe and are now available as eBooks.

Jane Yolen is an award-winning author who has written more than 300 books for children (and 25 for adults), is known for her beautiful poetry and has even been called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America.” She has three wonderful poems in Welcome to Bordertown, the latest installment in the shared world series first created by Terri Windling in the 1990s, and now continued by editors Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. 

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Jane Yolen


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Will Shetterly


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