“We Do Not Come in Peace” by Christopher Barzak from Wilde Stories 2012 (Lethe Press). Edited by Steve Berman. Originally published in Welcome to Bordertown: More Stories and Poems of the Borderlands (Bluefire 2012).
I was not familiar with the Borderland anthologies, novels (and games?) before reading this story, but while reading it I did not feel deprived or in the dark in the least. In fact, I cannot see how I could have enjoyed this story any more than I did.
You have to dig a little bit, because quite a few people have used the word “Borderland” in their storytelling, but once you find it the official spiel seems to be that the Borderland is the place between The World and The Elflands. There’s been, probably literally, a ton of material written about it already. As I said, I haven’t read any part of it before this, though (and this shouldn’t be a shock, considering the players) I was reminded very much of Steve Berman’s Fallen Area, and that was a pleasant surprise.
It must be said, however, that I saw this particular story as anything but fantasy. The Borderland described here is real. I know this place. I know these people. This isn’t a delightful yarn, it’s an allegory. I highlighted every sentence that leapt off the page at me, and by the end half the text was illuminated. If you are at all interested in artistic pursuits, if you are called to create, if you have made your living by your art or pay even the least little bit of attention to the dichotomy between making and selling art, you will find much gold to mine in the veins of this tale.
I’m tempted to start pulling out passages, but you really should just go read it. Now.