Bordertown was one of my favorite set of stories back when I was a teen. The writing was often a little clunky, and once I started going to night clubs and having adventures of my own the stories became much less exciting. I wouldn't really recommend the majority of it anymore--it's just too self-consciously trying to be hip. But I still have a soft spot for the concept of Bordertown, and a few of the stories have stuck with me.
"Welcome to Bordertown" by Ellen Kushner and Terri Windling. These two stateswomen of the first Bordertown collections set up the overall plot for the reboot. One day, Bordertown became disconnected from the human world, and though 13 years passed for most of humanity, only 13 days passed for Bordertown. A teenage runaway arrives in Bordertown just before the disconnect. When her younger brother comes looking for her, only days have passed for her, but he has grown up. Fairy-tale lover Trish realizes that she'd rather go to college than be a runaway, while her engineering-minded brother decides to stay in Bordertown to play with the odd mixture of tech&magic.
Trish feels like a retread of all the starry-eyed runaway teenagers who read a lot of fairy tales but have little street knowledge, and for much of the story she's quite boring. But the path she chooses is a novel one.
"Shannon's Law" by Cory Doctorow. Doctorow decides to bring the internet to Bordertown. Of course he does. I really liked the ways the main character tried to make magic work like technology, but mostly I was just annoyed at the smarmy, ain't-I-the-smartest feel of this story.
"A Voice Like a Hole" by Catherynne M Valente. Fig runs away, but she knows she's not going to fairyland. That's for older, prettier girls. She just wants to get through each day and maybe eat bacon for breakfast. Perfect and fabulous until the last paragraph, which is pure cheese.
"Incunabulum" by Emma Bull. Like a fairy tale happening in a small run-down city. An elf passes through the Border not knowing his name, nor anything about himself, and decides what kind of man he's going to be. Very good.
"A Prince of Thirteen Days" by Alaya Dawn Johnson. This was one of most surprising stories in here. I expected human teens running away to meet elves in Bordertown, discovering that magic alone won't bring them happiness, and then realizing that their own inner strength. Instead, this is the story of Peya, who grew up in Bordertown with a magic-wielding grandmother who says "the Lord is my shepherd" like someone else might say 'Don't fuck up" and a beautiful street-busking mother who's still hung up on the man she left back in the World. Peya likes the magic all round her, but mostly just wants to have sex. I really liked this! The characters felt very real, and very unique.
"The Sages of Elsewhere" by Will Shetterly. Shetterly brings back his old character Wolfboy, who's running a bookstore named Elsewhere these days. He fires an elven assistant who was plotting to steal a magical book from him, and she and her nefarious confederates pretend he's racist against elves to pressure him to give up the book. Sample text: "The small print said we had fired our elfin staff and we refused to do business with stores owned by elves. I began laughing when I got to the part about Elsewhere carrying kids' books that literally belittled elves, and fantasy novels that made elves into 'noble elf' wish-fulfillment figures." A boycott starts, then a mob forms, and Wolfboy and his ladylove (who does literally nothing the entire book) are nearly killed when the mob starts a fire. But wait! The mob was just riled up by evil-doers' magic and lies, and Wolfboy quickly proves that he's not a racist after all, and is in fact much more high-minded and generous than everyone else. It's written in a very basic, kinda clunky style.
Jane Yolen's "Soulja Grrrl: A Long Line Rap" is a "modern" retelling of Tamlin. Every verse is worse than the one before it. Just to give you a taste, it begins,
"I am a single Soulja Grrl, I've got gold in my hair,
A rose is at my boobies, and my feet are always bare.
And no one else can tell me that I can't go here or there.
'Cause a single Soulja Grrl goes anywhere."
Jane Yolen's poems are clearly in the collection only because of her name--they're all awful (like everything else she writes nowadays).
"Crossings" by Janni Lee Simner. Analise and Miranda are seventh-grade bffs who run away to find werewolves and vampires in Bordertown. Unfortunately, they find a blood-drinking elf, and Miranda has to save her friend from being overcome with glamor. Not good.
"Fair Trade" is a graphic short story written by Sara Ryan, drawn by Dylan Meconis. A teenager tries to find her mother, lost in Bordertown 13 years ago. I love the art, which is clear but has a style of its own, and I wish there was more to the story, because what is there is written well.
"Our Stars, Our Selves" by Tim Pratt. Allie comes to Bordertown to become a rockstar. There, she is given one wish, to do whatever she pleases, and decides whether to use it to become the star she dreams of being. The dialog tries too hard ("'When you put it that way, I can see your point.' 'Sure you can,'Allie said. 'My point is the pointiest.'"), the plot non-existent, and it doesn't expand Bordertown in the slightest. Forgettable.
"Elf Blood" by Annette Curtis Klause. Lizzie traveled to Bordertown in order to feed on an elf to cure her. She picks Sky, a beautiful musician, to be her next meal, but he's always surrounded by groupies. Instead, his bookish brother Moss befriends her. This was one of my favorites of the collection.
"Ours Is the Prettiest" by Nalo Hopkinson. Damy tries to keep her ex's new girlfriend safe from her ex. But though the new girlfriend is new to Bordertown, she's not new to magic. Probably my favorite story in the collection, both because I like the main character and because it opens Bordertown up so much more. A sense of menace and imininent danger creeps into the story as a children's rhyme follows the characters around, and the magic is just barely-comprehensible.
"We Do Not Come in Peace" by Christopher Barzak. A washed-up street musician helps a young runaway find his feet--but then the runaway starts a movement against the elves. I liked the inner voice of the musician, who has had to compromise a great deal to survive and, a final indignity, has lost his gift for music. But I don't get the plot. Alek leads a mob to burn down Oberon House, and as he walks there Marius plays him a song. Alek turns away from the mob to join Marius and says, "Seems like I have to go to extremes to get your attention. I knew you would come through for me, Marius." In what way has Marius come through for him? I don't get iiiiiiiiit.
"The Rowan Gentleman" by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Ashley is part of the troupe that acts out movies at the Magic Lantern, so when the movie stops playing (as it inevitably does) the actors can fill in the gaps. Her biggest problem is that her lazy elf boss is courting her, and she fears he wants more than she'll give. But then a street kid stumbles in and dies on the floor of the theatre, and Ashley is swept up in the Rowan Gentleman's story. This is like an urban fantasy retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The plot is a bit thin, and the ending a little abrupt, but overall it's a fun, readable story.
Neil Gaiman's "The Song of the Song" is the only poem I actually like in this collection. It's witty and a little edged but not that weighty.
"A Tangle of Green Men" by Charles de Lint is the tale of an alcoholic juvenile delinquint named Joey who finds new life with a pretty blind girl who teaches him about magic. Unrealistic dialog, personalities, a nearly non-existent plot, and a terrible ending. Cheesey and pandering all round.
Overall, a few great short stories and a few very enjoyable ones.