I found the first book in this anthology series in the UNM bookstore. Perusing the general fiction shelf, I saw it sitting in the corner. The cover was so black, I couldn’t make out the title. But when I turned it over and read the back blurb, it hooked me.
“No ghosts. No maniacal slashers. Nothing that goes bump in the night. Borderlands is a horror anthology series not concerned with traditional elements of horror fiction. Borderlands is about breaking the mold and pushing the genre and its finest writers to the edge. Hailed as the anthology series of the 90’s, Borderlands will remind you that horror can indeed be horrific. Discover a vampire of an altogether different sort… a man who sows the seeds of his doom in his lawn… a dutiful son whose last duty is his parent’s murder… and more.”
I spent a good part of my teenage years reading Stephen King and Anne Rice, but I wasn’t really familiar with the complete horror world. This was in the 90’s before the internet and you had to go the the bookstore to find a new author. The small bookstores in my area barely had a horror section. I tended to pick up whatever looked interesting or, if the person was famous, whatever seemed to be their latest tale.
This anthology opened me up to a whole new world of authors. Although the first one came out in 1991, I didn’t find it until that day in Albuquerque in 1998. It was the only copy on the shelf and I consider it a blessing that I found it.
That semester, Spring 1998, was a real turning point in my writing career. The previous semester, I had my first creative writing class… and it was a disaster. The professor acted more interested in writing his own work rather than teach us anything. I left that class dejected and thinking that I had no business being a writer. For the first time in my life I wanted to quit. I jetted off to New Mexico (I studied in Maryland for most of my degree.) on an exchange program and figured I would just enjoy my experience and not worry about writing. After all, I wasn’t a writer anymore.
In New Mexico, I took another creative writing class (It was too much of a hassle to drop the class.) and it opened my eyes. This was a real class, with assignments and homework and a professor who worked with the students. She was so kind and thoughtful that to this day, I think she pulled me back from the edge. Finding Borderlands became another stepping stone in my growth as a writer.
For the first time I read works by Harlan Ellison, Bentley Little, Elizabeth Massie, Poppey Z. Brite, etc. This anthology showed me what the horror genre could become. What a story could become. The stories weren’t scary, they were horrific in the old fashioned sense of the world. What truly horrifies us? A run of the mill serial killer? Or maybe a lady who buys a purse made of human skin and likes it? (That’s in volume 2.) None of these stories scared me, but they stuck with me. Even today, I think about some of them, turning them over in my mind at odd moments.
After I read the first book, I toted it back with me to Maryland. A few years later in 2000, I was living in Virginia and found Book 2 in a dusty corner of Borders (remember them?). A couple years later, I ordered Book 3 and 4 off the internet. As I said above, the first four came out in the early 90’s, but the last edition, From the Borderlands, came out in 2005. Unfortunately, I think most of them are out of print. But if you can get your hands on one or all of them, I would snatch them up. They have sat on my bookshelf for years and I do reread some of the stories from time to time. Answering the Call by Brian James Freeman (Book 5) is one of my favorite short stories of all time.
Once a year, I go over to Borderlands Press website to see if there are any forthcoming. Sadly, there haven’t been any more. Maybe one day, they will put together another collection. Still, I am happy there were these five. They made a difference in my writing life and I am grateful.