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At some point in the near future Faerie returns to earth, landing on Los Angeles and the vicinity (Wolfboy encounters a sign in the ruined Nevernever). There is a brief, abortive war between the Fey and the governments of the "real world" which tails out when both sides realise that their weapons won't work on the other side of the Border. After this formal diplomacy opens up, and meanwhile teenage runaways from both sides of The Wall populate the (now mostly empty) town on the edge and christen it Border Town.
Bordertown is a semi-dystopian Urban Fantasy setting where technology and magic each work half the time in an unpredictable fashion. Outside the city, there is the magical wasteland called the Nevernever, and through it runs the Mad River, the water of which is an addictive drug to humans.
The series consists of five multi-author anthologies--Borderland, Bordertown, Life on the Border, The Essential Bordertown, and Welcome to Bordertown--and three novels--Elsewhere and Nevernever by Will Shetterly, and Finder by Emma Bull.
Borderland contains examples of:
- Ambiguous Gender: Florida, due to being prepubescent.
- Animorphism: Wolfboy, Gray
- Big Brother Instinct: Stick and Manda
- Birthmark of Destiny: Florida has a birthmark which identifies her as the missing heir to the throne of Elfland.
- Cryptic Conversation: The protagonist of "Prodigy" points out that "what you make belongs to you" is a vastly unhelpful way to warn someone that they can accidentally create magical monsters.
- Cute Monster Girl: Lizzie in "Elf Blood" is a vampire, the victim of the predations of a rogue Lankin in the World
- Cute Mute: Florida, although Ron eventually gets her to speak.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Joey Green remarks that the term "Trueblood" sounds somewhat white supremacisty
- Epistolary Story: "Lost in the Mail" is told via a runaway's (mostly unmailed) letters.
- Fair Cop: Sunny Rico.
- Fantastic Drug - Mad River water for humans, Dragon's Milk for elves.
- Mooner in Elsewhere drinks a 50/50 mix of both because he's a halfie.
- Fairie dust works for both. It makes humans act stoned, and elves act hyper.
- Fantastic Racism: All over the place, usually between humans and elves (and halfies, who get it from both sides).
- Fatal Attractor: It's implied that Orient is one of these:
Tick-Tick: Didn't I say, not so long ago, that your preference was for women that any reasonable man would ward off with garlic and crucifixes?
- Half-Human Hybrid: Half-elves, or halfies.
- Just Between You and Me: Invoked and lampshaded at the end of Finder.
- Land of Faerie
- Magic Music: In the Borderlands, ordinary music can get this way.
- F'rexample, there's a self-perpetuating Endless Rave at the edge of town which is constantly replenished with new dancers and musicians as people get tired and leave.
- Magic Versus Science
- Make a Wish: the ending of "Hot Water" reveals that the magical events in the story have been a result of this.
- Mysterious Waif: Florida.
- Narnia Time: Time does not flow the same in Bordertown as it does in either the world or Faerie, though there's no consistency to it.
- This is worse in the Nevernever.
- "Welcome To Bordertown" has the time differences between Bordertown and the World get more pronounced, as the way between closes for 13 days on the Bordertown side, and 13 years on the World side
- Only Known by Their Nickname: At least half the cast; runaway characters are particularly prone to it. This is partially because of the belief that if an elf has your whole name, they can control you
- Wolfboy, on the way to becoming Wolfboy, is known as "RonJustRon" and "Gone" during his just-fresh-out-of-the-World and Mad River-addict phases respectively.
- Our Banshees Are Louder: In "Nightwail", a dead elven girl becomes one. And then so does the protagonist.
- Our Elves Are Different: they prefer to refer to themselves as "Truebloods"
- Our Vampires Are Different: they're called Lankins and are elves who want to live forever (as opposed to the naturally long lives they already have) and who use blood magic to do it
- Pimped-Out Dress: Everything in Screaming Lord Neville's wardrobe.
- The Plague: Much of the plot of Finder.
- Platonic Life Partners: Orient and Tick-Tick
- Refugee From TV Land: In "Light and Shadow", magic gone awry sets several characters from The Maltese Falcon loose in Bordertown.
- Retcon: Certain events in the short stories happened differently when they were expanded into novels.
- Screw You, Elves: Quite often.
- Sequel Gap: Welcome to Bordertown was published in 2011, thirteen years after the last book. Thirteen years have also passed in the World--although only thirteen days have passed in Bordertown.
- Shared Universe
- Tear Jerker: The death of Tick-Tick in Finder.
- Tongue-Tied: Elves are magically prevented from discussing Faerie in much detail.
- Too Dumb to Live: Orient, very nearly literally. His tendency to wander into dangerous situations without backup is lampshaded several times.
Orient: I know, I know. Any reasonable person (and even I, now) will look at the decision to go find the bike and think, "Hey, what was that funny noise? Guess I'll go down into the dark basement alone and check it out." And that's not the only decision I've ever made that would cause one to think that.
- Truce Zone: Anyone who causes trouble at the Hard Luck Cafe is not welcome anywhere in Bordertown.
- Tuckerization: Milo Chevrolet, who has cameos in several stories, is John Milo Ford.
- Urban Fantasy
- The Wall Around the World
- Wish Fulfillment / Be Careful What You Wish For: comes up a lot
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Comes up several times; Orient in particular got this one pretty hard.
- Wrench Wench: Tick-Tick