Life on The Border was the third and last of the Borderlands series until The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller’s Guide to the Edge came out some seven years later. It was a fat little paperback with two weird looking individuals, one of whom might have pointed ears. I think they’re meant to be Bordertown elven punks.
Now before you run off to get a copy of this book, be advised that it, like the other early Borderland anthologies, are rather rare. I’ve found but two copies in the past twenty years, both in bookstores that no longer exist. It’s actually somewhat reasonable online with near fine copies costing about fifty dollars, not bad considering what Borderland, the first anthology in the series, fetches these days.
And oh my does it have a lot of really great reading! Windling pens a series of letters (‘Lost in the Mail’) that give us a look at what life is like for one young runaway. There’s also a short piece on Bordertown written by a staffer of the Global News Service which sounds a bit dated these days in how it talks about young people. There was a real Global News Service but Windling was unaware of its existence.
Will Sherterly has a story called ‘Nevernever’ which he will later expand into a novel of the same name; Midori Snyder offers a unique look at a Child Ballad, ‘Allison Gross’; Michael Korolenko likewise makes superb use of ‘Reynardine’, an old English ballad found in the Roud Folk Song Concordance. If you can track it down, Mr. Fox, an English group that released just two albums, did a splendid look at the Reynardine story in their ‘Mr. Fox’ song.
If you’re looking for stories not based on English ballads, try Charles de Lint’s ‘Berlin’ which is of Bordertown gangs, the music scene there, and what true friendship costs. Or if a look at banshee mythology interests you, check out Kara Dalkey’s ‘Nightwail’.
(Digression for a bit. You might wonder why these stories haven’t shown up elsewhere. A few have but most are tied up by the contracts signed nigh unto a quarter century ago. One author told me he can’t place them up online as single tales, nor can he bundle them into a Borderland set either. I assume other authors are likewise restrained. It has been rumored that an anthology collecting all the material from the first three anthology has been in the works, but there’s no sign of it happening in the near future.)
There’s lots more here, all of it great. In its way, Bordertown is every bit as Sanctuary, the city created by the late Robert Lynn Asprin as the setting for his Thieves’ World anthologies, as a place to set interesting stories.