Borderlands Books Owner Accused of Sexual Assault

Deeply disturbing charges from two women about being abused by Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands Books, were aired by The Horror Show With Brian Keene on July 2.

Content warning for physical and sexual assault, and incest.

The charges were initially shared by Sarah Read on June 20, when she tweeted a screencap of the account posted by Beatts’ ex-girlfriend on Facebook. (The source post either is not public, or has since been removed.) 

“Alan Beatts is the owner of Borderlands Books in San Francisco and my ex-boyfriend. He grabbed me by the hair and threatened to kill me with a knife to my throat. He tried his damndest to rape DoveStep Beatts. I know there are others he assaulted and abused. It feels weird to ask for people not to support an indie bookstore right now, but please don’t support Borderlands Books,”

DoveStep refers to Beatts’ daughter.

Brian Keene spoke to the daughter and the unnamed ex-girlfriend, and his podcast reports their allegations in graphic detail. (A transcript of that podcast segment is available here. Content warnings apply for the podcast, and today’s Mission Local article: “Borderlands Books owner publicly accused of sexual assault by daughter, domestic violence by ex-girlfriend”.)

Keene also spoke to Alan Beatts in an off-the-record conversation – disclosing that Beatts is someone he had a 20-year professional and personal relationship with, that he is not only “intricately tied to,” but is the subject of an entire chapter in Keene’s recently-published memoir End of the Road.

The Beatts charges are not only toxic to hear about, they are shattering to the community that supports Borderlands Books. When Beatts announced in February 2015 he could stay in business if 300 people bought sponsorships for a hundred dollars apiece, the number of sponsors needed to underwrite the store’s survival plan came forward in less than 48 hours, and by May he had 800. This overwhelming response allowed the store to envision buying its own building, and in 2017, 49 individuals loaned $1.9 million to purchase a new location on Haight Street. 

Keene said on the podcast: “This is the one that broke me, folks. …All I can say is I’m sorry to everyone involved. …I will not be doing any more signings at Borderlands Books.” 

Author Christopher Golden tweeted a link to Keene’s podcast with the comment that these allegations are “stomach-turning” and that “I love the store but as long as he’s connected to it, I couldn’t support them.” 

And the store’s Events calendar indicates several virtual items which had been scheduled for this week have been called off, with only the explanation — “Due to unforseen circumstances, this event has been cancelled.” This includes virtual appearances by Katherine Addison, Jo Walton, Mike Chen, Kelly McWilliams, Kate Elliott, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

19 thoughts on “Borderlands Books Owner Accused of Sexual Assault

  1. Has Alan Beatts been charged, or commented on the a llegation? Do we now automatically assume guilt? What exactly did he say to Brian Keene?

  2. I’m not finding any report of files actually being filed yet, but I do note that Brian Keene is a longtime friend and supporter of Beatts, and does appear to believe it. The ex-girlfriend says that her incident happened when they went to Mardi Gras together, that she was the only sober witness, and that she didn’t think the police there would believe her.

    Women often don’t believe the police will believe us or take us seriously, and that’s in part because they very often don’t.

    Borderlands Books owner publicly accused of sexual assault by daughter, domestic violence by ex-girlfriend

  3. @HowardB

    I don’t assume guilt, but I do assume there needs to be an investigation. And I don’t see a problem with authors deciding to wait for the results of said investigation before having an event at that location.

  4. @HowardB: let me put it this way: if my university receives a report of a guy with a gun on campus, should we wait to do the lockdown for the guy to be arrested, tried and convicted?

    (Note that the last two lockdowns we dealt with involved no arrests. We did it on warning just the same. )

    Whatever legal ramifications may be involved at some point, the community’s need to know about a potential threat is an immediate thing.

  5. @HowardB: All we know about what Beatts said to Brian Keene is that Beatts asked for it to be off the record.

    Given the opportunity to respond publicly to these accusations, he didn’t take it, not even to say “this would be horrible if true” or try to shift the focus to his own emotional state.

    We aren’t a court of law, and “I’m not giving business to someone who is accused of sexual assault by at least two women, one of them his own daughter” is nothing like a jury voting to convict someone of a violent crime.

    You don’t need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to shop at a different bookstore . This isn’t even the question of whether to keep giving your money to a writer who has done something objectionable, because the author gets the same royalties for their book whether you buy it at Borderlands, Powell’s, or Porter Square Books.

  6. The secondary tragedy of this sort of thing (well after the tragedy of the assaults, of course) is that Borderlands-as-a-social-institution also exists alongside Borderlands-as-a-business-benefitting-its-owner. One can buy books by mail from other SFF bookstores, but there really isn’t any other SF Bay Area bookstore that supports the SFF community through launch parties, readings, and other events in the same way. We’ve lost them one by one. It’s a slightly different case than the connection between an artist and their work. Because Borderlands-as-a-social-institution has been created by the work (and money) of a large number of people who believe in the importance of having a vibrant local SFF bookstore. I don’t know Beatty personally–wouldn’t recognize him if I bumped into him on the street. (I’ve only ever really interacted with Jude.) So I’m not in any way invested in his life and career. But I am invested in the existence of Borderlands-as-a-social-institution and hope that it survives Beatty’s actions.

  7. What Heather said. The accusations are awful, first and foremost. The secondary betrayal of destroying something that is important for so many is not the main point, but on a personal level it hits close to home. I used to live in SF and followed Borderlands from back when it was still in Hayes Valley, it’s been central to the genre life of the city, and as far as I can tell pretty important to the book community generally. I do know Alan, not super well but well enough for a friendly chat if I ran into him at a con. I applied for a job there once, went to their Halloween parties, attended tons of events, and know so many people – authors, publishers, artists, fans – whose careers or social lives were made better by its existence. It wasn’t him alone who built it, I really hope he doesn’t bring it down.

  8. I’m not local to Borderlands, but I’ve ordered through them because several authors I like sign stock there/support the store. This is hard news to read. I’ve cancelled a pre-order I had with them, and I’m remembering now that I have Borderlands linked to my LibroFM account, so I’ll have to find a different store to patronize that way.

    John Scalzi has a statement up on his website about the whole mess:
    https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/07/10/a-note-about-borderlands-books-and-alan-beatts/

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  10. Article about this in Publishers Weekly’s e-edition, which also links to a Bay Area newspaper.

    If it was reported in PW, that means everyone in publishing—and bookselling—should be aware of it.

  11. This “statement” was posted recently. Or, as some have called it, “abuser bingo.”

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  13. So Beatts says he’s not stepping away from the bookstore, because he’s sure it couldn’t survive without him. The article describing this points out that Beatts hasn’t denied the allegations, and is instead asking his friends “am I the kind of person who would do that?” which is a standard abuser/rape culture move.

    This is a San Francisco local publication, pointed to on sfgate.com, where I was looking for coronavirus information: https://missionlocal.org/2020/07/alan-beatts-to-remain-at-borderlands-books-following-sexual-assault-and-domestic-violence-allegations/

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