The first thing that matters: I am a child of the eighties. I grew up in a neon wonderland of talking horses, compassionate bears, hair that didn’t move in a stiff wind, and the constant threat of nuclear war.* Take a look at the stories we were telling then: children and teens were constantly finding the secret door that led them to the land of multi-colored dimension-hopping dogs, or being carried over the rainbow by smart-mouthed pegasi who needed them to save the world. Girls wished their baby brothers into the custody of goblin kings, boys were whisked away by spaceships, and anything was possible. All you had to do to find the magic was keep your eyes open, and keep looking.
*My Little Ponies, the Care Bears, every teenage girl at the mall, and, well, nukes. We also had talking dogs, frogs, pigs, and lots of other things, but for me, it was the horses and bears that did the most long-term psychological damage.
Time passed, and I stopped looking quite so hard for the candy-colored magic door to the land of Anywhere But Here. Meanwhile, trends changed, and a little of the neon started rubbing away. That was only the surface layer, after all.
I don’t remember anymore who handed me my first Bordertown anthology. It may have been a friend, or a school librarian, or one of my local bookstore clerks. I was that kid with the glasses and the hungry expression who haunted every library book sale and used bookstore in town, the one who always has a book in one hand and is reaching for the next book with the other. There’s one in every town. There are quite a few in Bordertown. So no, I don’t know who gave me that first map, but whoever it was, I thank them forever, because they showed me that the magic doesn’t have to be neon to be real.
Bordertown was the natural evolution of the fantasy worlds of my childhood—and I know, saying “Bordertown is what comes after the Care Bears” sounds a little weird, but hear me out. The magic exists. The magic isn’t good, and it isn’t bad, it’s just magic, and what matters is how you choose to utilize it…or how it chooses to utilize you. In a weird way, all the colorful cartoon worlds are romanticized looks at the world beyond the Border, places where the long-term bad is blunted, and the long-term good is enhanced. Bordertown was Ponyland and Care-A-Lot and Rose Petal Place with the training wheels off, and it was there when I needed it to be.
Borders are always magical things. We find them in the strangest places. I found Bordertown when I was standing on the border between childhood and my teens, and it carried me past that transition. In the process, it helped to create the next step of its own evolution: the modern urban fantasy owes a lot more to Bordertown than many people will ever know. Bordertown gave us the first maps to our post-neon modern fairyland, and no matter how much they’ve changed since then, we still needed a cartographer to create them. Bordertown was a bridge and a model and a miracle of timing, and when the Border itself closed, it didn’t mean it wasn’t needed anymore. It just meant it was time to let a little absence make the heart grow fonder.
I didn’t literally cry when I heard that the Border was opening again, but I came close, because a visitor’s pass to Bordertown is something amazing, and something that everyone should have the chance to have. Everything has a Border; places, concepts, lives. Bordertown is the first, embodies the second, and has been a big part of the third, at least for me. If part of my teen years was going to come back and open itself again, I’m glad it was this one.
Not that I wouldn’t also take the talking pink pegasus, if she wanted to show up. Just saying.
Seanan McGuire lives in Northern California, loves haunted corn mazes, venomous snakes, and viruses, and is terrified of weather. She writes urban fantasy as herself and science fiction as Mira Grant, which is a handy division of labor. Her home contains three gargantuan blue cats, every horror movie made in the 1980s, and a large assortment of creepy dolls.