Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands Books working on his new shop at 1377 Haight St in March 2019. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Former girlfriend alleges she was held at knifepoint


The owner of Borderlands Books, Alan Beatts, is under fire and losing support in the genre fiction community as allegations have been publicly leveled that Beatts attempted to have sex with his daughter in 2012 when she was 19, and that he physically assaulted his ex-girlfriend by knifepoint at a hotel in New Orleans in 2016. 

The incidents were thrown into the spotlight during last Thursday’s episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, a podcast that features news and discussions with prominent authors in the horror fiction industry. 

Borderlands Books, which Beatts founded in 1997, has been a hub in the fiction world of horror, sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Fans came to Beatts’ rescue in 2015 when he raised $30,000 from 300 supporters in less than two days and again in 2017 when 49 individuals loaned him $1.9 million to purchase a new location on Haight Street. 

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Keene is himself a Borderlands fan who had long gone to book signings at the Valencia Street location. He said the airing of the allegations on his podcast was prompted by fiction author Sarah Read posting an account told by Beatts’ ex-girlfriend on Facebook this month. She tweeted out the post on June 20. 

“Friends, my childhood friend is speaking out against a predator in the genre book world,” Read tweeted with a screenshot of her Facebook post, which details the assault allegations made by Beatts’ ex-girlfriend, whom she did not name. Mission Local spoke independently with the ex-girlfriend, who requested anonymity, and she confirmed the allegation. 

The post also mentions Beatts’ daughter, “DoveStep” Beatts, who provided both Keene and Mission Local with a written account in which she detailed the alleged 2012 incident.

The two women, whom Mission Local has spoken to, are no longer in contact with Beatts. Beatts’ daughter preferred to go by “DoveStep” Beatts, a name she uses on social media. 

Reached by phone, Alan Beatts declined to comment. He said he knew of the allegations that were leveled against him in the podcast, and after being told Mission Local independently contacted the women making the allegations, he said: “I don’t think I want to comment.” 

He also declined to comment for Keene’s podcast.  

Allegations 

“DoveStep” Beatts, Alan Beatts’ 27-year-old daughter, alleged in a written account she shared with Mission Local that Beatts tried to have sex with her in her apartment on June 24, 2012, following the San Francisco Pride Parade. In the post, Beatts recounts an escalating encounter with her father following a day of heavy drinking. A friend, who asked not to be named, said they were with Alan and his daughter that day, and confirmed that Alan was “really pushing her to drink.”

On a walk back to her apartment, the younger Beatts remembers talking to her father about wanting to get into BDSM culture with her boyfriend. Her father had a negative reaction to that, and she wondered why. 

“If you weren’t my daughter, I would just take you myself and make sure you were okay,” she remembers her father telling her. 

The younger Beatts said she understood what he was implying and “felt her stomach drop.” But she brushed it off and her father continued. 

“You realize I’m saying that I would want to have sex with you,” he said eventually. 

The younger Beatts said she laughed off the comment. When the two of them reached her apartment, “we kissed,” DoveStep wrote. “He came into the apartment with me and we began making out.” 

When her father then allegedly led her over to her couch and attempted to take off her clothes,  DoveStep immediately tried to slide away, she wrote. “When his advances didn’t stop, I pushed myself onto the floor,” the younger Beatts wrote. “He came after me, off the couch on hands and knees as I began pushing myself backwards towards the wall.” 

With her back against her closet door, she wrote, she held her foot to his shoulder to prevent him from advancing. “Looking into his eyes, I didn’t see Alan anymore,” DoveStep wrote. “I saw a total stranger and I finally realized with blood curdling clarity, if I didn’t do something now I was going to lose a piece of myself I would never be able to get back.” 

She then mentioned her father’s partner, Jude, with whom she said Alan Beatts shared an open relationship. To buy herself time, she recalled telling her father, “I wouldn’t feel right doing anything further unless you talk to Jude first.” 

She recalled that the comment stopped her father, who told her that he would speak to Jude about it, but it would be a “difficult conversation.” DoveStep said that was fine, and she showed her father out, she said.  

“My father was a grown man at the time, but I had just turned 19,” the younger Beatts wrote. “He was my father; I was a teenager. It was not my responsibility to defuse a situation like this, it was his responsibility to never put me there in the first place.” 

DoveStep Beatts, whom Mission Local contacted after hearing the statements on the Thursday podcast, confirmed that she made the allegations about her father and independently shared her allegations. 

Keene said during the podcast that DoveStep Beatts additionally said that she did not want to “cancel” her father “who has done a lot of good in her life” and who was “her best friend” growing up. She told Keene that speaking out was not meant to ruin his life or get revenge. 

“But through my own experiences with Alan I know he’s a predator,” she told Keene, “he uses the bookstore paired with his standing in the community to find and prey on people who are vulnerable. It’s a pattern of behavior that I’d seen glimpses of but never fully understood when I was a child, and experienced first hand as a teenager.”

Years later, on May 12, 2016, Beatts allegedly assaulted his girlfriend in a New Orleans hotel room, Alan Beatts’ ex-girlfriend told Keene and later reiterated to Mission Local. 

The ex-girlfriend wrote this to Keene and verified with Mission Local that the statements were hers: 

“Alan and I stayed out late bar-hopping. Alan ended up getting shitfaced. I was drunk but still alert and functional. We arrived back at the room and I managed to get Alan to the couch before he collapsed. 

When I leaned in to check on him, his eyes snapped open and he grabbed a handful of hair at the back of my head. He removed his large folding knife from his belt, snapped it open, and pressed it against my throat. I froze, thinking he’d realize it was me and would stop. 

Instead he sat up and began yanking me back and forth by the hair. He moved the knife, pressing it against my ribs, thighs, arms, stomach, narrating what he would do to make me bleed out before help arrived. 

I started crying and he let go of my hair, folded the knife, and put it on the coffee table. I moved the knife away. He demanded I move it back. He picked it up and held it while we talked. I don’t remember much of the conversation afterwards, just that I said anything to calm him down. He started crying and I ended up soothing him until he stumbled to the bed and fell asleep. The next morning he claimed not to remember what had happened and said he wasn’t ready to quit drinking.”

She did not report the incident to the police because she was the only sober witness and she didn’t trust that the justice system in Louisiana would help her, she told Mission Local. Sarah Read, who originally shared the allegation on social media last month, said she was not told of that specific incident then, but she had heard the ex-girlfriend “speak of an abusive relationship.”  

Furthermore, the ex-girlfriend told Keene for his podcast that the incident, while the most concrete story, was illustrative of a pattern of behavior she’d seen throughout their relationship, which ended in October 2018. 

A former longtime Borderlands employee, who requested anonymity, told Mission Local that they did not know about the specific incidents at the time but said the allegations fit into what the employee viewed as a pattern of abuse.

Beatts, the person observed during their time at Borderlands, was “a herder of outcasts and misfits. People who had no family. People who had been bullied. Weak people he could brainwash. Smart people he could mold to his liking. He loved the power over you and the manipulation, as long as you were of use to him.”

Blowback 

Read, who won a 2019 Bram Stoker Award for her novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, said she helped make the accusations public because many writers seek out Borderlands as an events venue.  Having heard these stories from my friend, I didn’t want any writers to find themselves in a dangerous situation,” she told Mission Local. 

She added she felt bad for the bookstore itself, explaining that she “grew up in independent bookstores” and recognizes how important they are in their communities. “But no business is more important than these women’s trauma.”

“The horror author community doesn’t tolerate abuse, harassment, or assault,” she added. “I’m glad they heard my friend’s story and listened.”

During his podcast, Keene sounded anguished as the aired accusations against Beatts, with whom he said he’s had a 20-year “professional and personal relationship.” 

“He is one of the first people to give me a legitimate chance,” Keene said, noting that The Rising, Keene’s first book that won him a 2003 Bram Stoker award, “would not have hit the bestseller list without Alan’s help.” 

Then he read the allegations against his friend, stating that he “thought long and hard” about amplifying them though his podcast, but ultimately decided to do so because Read, who originally brought attention to the accusations, was prominent in the industry and the allegations were being aired publicly on social media. “It is news that impacts the genre,” Keene said. 

And after reading the allegations, Keene said: “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.” 

Following the podcast’s publication, other prominent genre fiction authors said they’d also stop supporting Beatts.

Meg Elison, a Bay Area-based author and winner of the 2014 Philip K. Dick award, tweeted that Borderlands “was my home bookstore.” 

“I’ve launched and read there, and attended the launches and readings of others,” Elison wrote. “… I’ve had some of the best moments of my life inside. But I can’t support Alan Beatts, so I am done supporting Borderlands.” 

Christopher Golden, a New York Times best-selling author, said on Twitter that he found the allegations “stomach-turning.” He wrote: “I love the store but as long as he’s connected to it, I couldn’t support them.” 

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

Join the Conversation

25 Comments

    1. Wow, did not know about MZB until now. Reading about what she and her husband did…ugh. That’s the thing about misfit / outcast communities / schools of thought…sometimes your transgressive thoughts are before its time, sometimes they remain just plain wrong. I remember reading Heinlein’s To Sail into the Sunset as a teenager, I was and still am creeped out by the incestuous free love in that.

  1. Hey I just wanted to say- thank you for researching and publishing this thing that I hate has happened. Borderlands has been close to my heart for years. My name is on the sponsor wall. But I guess it’s time for something new. I believe survivors and I hope that they can find healing.

  2. Has Mission Local contacted “Jude” and asked whether Mr. Beatts actually had a “difficult conversation” with him (her?) in 2012?

      1. It would strengthen the credibility of DoveStep’s story (and the case against her father) if such a conversation actually took place.

        My guess is that the conversation didn’t happen—even assuming Beatts’ guilt, I’d be amazed if he worked up the nerve to ask his partner for permission to have sex with his daughter. But it’s an avenue to explore.

  3. Borderlands was my favorite bookstore, and I’m devastated by this. I will not go back as long as Beatts remains the owner. I don’t know if Borderlands would have the same magic under a different owner, but right is right. Not only are the women’s accounts damning in themselves, it’s very concerning to read that he used the bookstore to find people to victimize. I can’t possibly support that.

    1. Very wise give it some time and see what new people come when there is a vacuum
      There usually is someone to fill it

  4. Oh please, so he has an ex girlfriend and a daughter who don’t like him, want to hurt him, and make up unsubstantiated stories and Mission Local publishes them, then begs me to donate to their “journalism”. I hope you don’t talk to any of my exes, when there’s no consequences whatsoever, other than garnering sympathy, I’m sure a few of mine would wing a few stories my way.

    There’s no trial being conducted, but Mission Local feels the need to spread this sort of unsubstantiated BS as ‘news’. It’s just sickening, and no I don’t know the man or anyone else in the story, but before publishing such unsubstantiated BS, I think you’d need more than ‘we contacted him and he wisely didn’t want to talk to us’.

    1. John — 

      You seem confused. The accusations have been leveled publicly, and Mission Local did its due diligence speaking with the principals.

      Regarding donations to this site, nobody’s begging. Keep your money. If you require further instruction, I can tell you where to put it.

      JE

    2. There are many people who dislike their parents, or even hate them, but they don’t make up allegations of sexual assault. Also, the daughter gave a very detailed and clear explanation, and one where she did not 100% look good. If she were truly interested in just making up a story, she would simply say he threw her to the ground and tried to rape her, not give some detailed account about how her dad tried to seduce her and then continued his advances after she tried to stop him.

      And, the paper does not have any obligation beyond contacting the other party and giving him the opportunity to comment. He declined to comment, and that is on him.

      As for your remark about “unsubstantiated BS,” unless you were in the room where it happened, you are just making unsubstantiated allegations yourself.

  5. The actions described in the two women’s allegations are horrifying. They’re a shock to sit with the 20 years of kindnesses I’ve observed from Alan – and from Jude. I think I would need an investigation before I could know what to think.

    1. Can’t agree with you more, John. I encourage people not to jump on a bandwagon of hate when they have not heard both sides of a full story themselves. And I might add that if Joe works for Mission Local, his snarkiness is incredibly unprofessional.

      1. Why should he be “professional” to some troll making snarky comments? And, Mr. Beatts was given an opportunity to respond and instead he simply said, “I don’t think I want to comment.” Who the hell says that in a response to such allegations? At the very least, you state they are untrue. The only investigation that needs to occur is one by the police, and it cannot happen soon enough. In the meantime, I will not patronize Borderlands Books or any business venture associated with Mr. Beatts.

        1. Yeah, Chris, just jump on the hate bandwagon without knowing what really happened! (Gawd, do NONE of these people believe in ‘innocent until proven guilty’?! I think it’s hideous how everyone thinks they know everything without any facts! An anonymous, unnamed ex and an anonymous employee – what a story, Mission Local! (Pffft!)…

          1. Sadly, in the age of social media, there is no more innocent until proven guilty. It makes one realize how easily a war could start in the world at large, if this is all people need to go on when they decide to start something as relatively small as a hate campaign against an individual presumed evil. It can also be true that the justice system is faulty, so personal stories are important, but there does need to be a balance when people approach these situations.

  6. I know several of the people involved. These stories are absolutely true. If you choose not to believe, that is up to you, but coming forward like this was unbelievably hard for them. Breaking out of the cycle of abuse was wrenching. Remember that your comments pass judgment on these women as well. You are not neutral when you imply that both of these women coming forward with stories of horrific abuse are lying because… what? It’s so fun being targeted for retribution by adoring fans of the bookstore or…? They’re not involving law enforcement and they’re not suing for money. There is no reasonable motive for them to make up these stories.

  7. People are complicated creatures, and they are not constant. They don’t need to be total monsters in and out, to do monstrous things. What I’m trying to say is, it is very much possible for someone to be truly warm and caring most of the time – and then all that warmth and care can be erased away in the right situation, and they do something horrible. And that your experience of someone warm and caring need not be false, when someone else’s experience of them as a soulless monster is true. Or your lifetime experience of someone as warm and caring need not be false, for your experience of that exact same person in a specific situation to be that of a monster. I mean, look at what his daughter said. Why is it that the worst things someone is capable of, is who they ‘really’ are?
    To make myself completely clear: what he did was wrong; I have no reason to suspect the allegations (even he himself didn’t defend himself against them); and I hope he didn’t end up hurting more than those two people. But what I try to say here also means that even if you know someone as warm and caring, they might still have done something very bad.

  8. every1 who works with this brian keene guy ends up getting cancelled. theres an unmistakable pattern of everyone this guy covers in his podcast is someone he worked with before. makes u wonder how pure his motivations are.

    these are two stories told by two people who could very likely have bad blood with this man. an ex-girlfriend should not immediately be trusted as being an arbiter of truth. it’s clear that this group including brian keene and his yesmen inner circle get off on ‘cancelling’ people, if you look at their social media profiles they are attacking someone new every week. this isnt justice, this is a social media rendition of the salem witch trials.

    i believe in rule of law and due process and innocent until proven guilty. these 2 stories are really bad but they are only stories. twitter is not a proper justice system.

    1. Ah yes, victims of abuse coming forward to warn people about violent, powerful men is exactly the same as the state-sanctioned public murder of disobedient women.

  9. I really want to know where all the naysayers are when someone talks about trauma that happened to them when it isn’t to do with rape culture. If you get in a car accident, no one questions whether it was really an accident until they’ve heard from both drivers. No one casts aspersions on your character for talking about it. I have no idea where people get the notion that abused women are inherently untrustworthy when talking about their abuse, or that there’s a flood of false accusations out there and that is what we must be vigilant against. How about we lock down the instances of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse, and concern ourselves with keeping as many people as possible unraped and unassaulted, and -then- we can start clutching pearls about whether or not some man is being unfairly accused?

    1. I actually mentioned something like this to someone the other day via e-mail: it’s like the reverse of GamerGate. Zoe Quinn is a talented designer who made a critically-acclaimed game. But because they (Quinn IDs as non-bin) present as female, all the incels figured must have fucked “her” way to success. Enter: one of Quinn’s vengeful exes (who was proven to be a chronic liar) to talk shit about her and the incels now had “evidence” with which to burn Quinn in effigy.

      Because guys get the benefit of the doubt. THAT is rape culture.

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