BookRiot recently put out an article that had my little faery-loving loving heart all a-flutter, an introductory reading list in the fantasy subgenre elfpunk. Hallmarks of elfpunk include a modern urban setting, new spins on old folk beliefs about the fae, fast cars, a dollop of teen angst, and lots and lots of rock and roll. Elfpunk tends to skew towards Western European folklore, and never seems to get tried of staging ballads of lost love in hazy nightclubs or pitting roving gangs of sidhe punks against each other in back alleys. I would call it my guilty pleasure but there’s nothing guilty about it; elfpunk shaped me into the writer I am today, and it’s still my favorite genre to read, full stop.
Emma Bull is among the authors on this list, and should be as one of the originators of the genre, and so is Holly Black, an author who remains almost unflaggingly loyal to stories of fae and humans in the modern day. But one huge piece was missing, the sprawling, enchanting originator of the entire genre: The Borderland Series.
The Borderland series is a collection of short story anthologies and spin-off novels set in the shared universe of Bordertown, a city on the border of Faery and a large American metropolis. Bordertown is a shifting, dangerous place full of buskers and runaway teens and rock bands looking to strike it big in clubs crawling with feuding species. The original anthologies captured the wild dirty color of youth culture in the eighties, and were so successful that a follow-up anthology was published in 2011 featuring writers who had cut their teeth reading Borderlands books as kids, heavy hitters like Catherynne Valente, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Charles DeLint.
It’s impossible to overemphasize the ripples Bordertown has made in the fantasy world; some people say it kicked off the urban fantasy genre wholesale. It’s inspired in part by Terri Winding’s experience of being a young artist in the mean streets of New York, which is an excited/terrified/starry eyed bouquet of emotion that so many of us can relate to. Everything Windling touches turns to gold, especially her anthologies, but the Bordertown Series is by far the most iconic.
So if you’re looking to get into some anachronistic, enchanted reads, don’t pass up this series. It’s really true what they say: even after all these years, Bordertown is always there waiting for you.