Hey there everyone. I’d like to take a brief break from our Worldbuilders fundraiser to talk about… a fundraiser.
No! Wait! Don’t run off!
I’m well aware that this is insane behavior. But hear me out. You guys know how much I love Heifer International. I wouldn’t take time away from my own fundraiser to encourage you to put money somewhere else unless it was a good cause.
Here’s the thing. A couple months ago, I got an e-mail about something called The Game Of Books. It seemed like someone was putting together some sort of grand project, and he was a fan of my books and was wondering if I’d like to be involved. It was something about libraries… and reading… and games….
All things I like. But honestly? It was a long e-mail, and I didn’t have time to give it any serious attention, so I forwarded it to my lovely assistant Amanda with the instructions, “Figure out if this is bullshit or not.”
A couple weeks later, she comes back to me and says, “I’ve e-mailed with the guy in charge, and that Game of Books thing looks like it might be pretty cool.”
This really isn’t what I was expecting. And it’s not what I wanted to hear, either. Because I need another project like I need to be punched in the neck.
Still, Amanda is smart. I wouldn’t have hired her if she wasn’t smart. What’s more, she was a teacher. So she knows about education. And she likes my books, so she obviously has good taste as well.
“Fine,” I say, sitting down by the computer. “Show me.”
So she pulls up a website and starts to explain about the Book Genome Project. About how they’re going to take all this information and turn it into a card game that will help people find books they like, and get kids reading, and….
“Wait.” I said. “I’ve seen this before. It’s bullshit. It said my book was about firefighting.” I’m irritated. I’ve got so many things to do, I can’t waste time with this…
(Click to Embiggen.)
But Amanda is enthusiastic. She points out that this guy has some heavy hitters on his side, like the American Library Association.
“Do we have a number for him?” I ask.
We do. So I dial him up. (His name’s Aaron Stanton, by the way.)
I plan on spending no more than ten minutes on the phone with this guy. I’m going to be polite, thank him for wanting to involve me with the project, and ask a few questions that will confirm my suspicions that this whole project is well-intentioned but ill-conceived bullshit.
Some of you may not know this, but in addition to being a writer, I was an English teacher for a goodly while. I’ve taken entire graduate classes that centered around the critical assessment of writing. I was a writing tutor for fifteen years. I used to *train* writing tutors.
What I’m saying is that I know how complicated interpreting a piece of text can be. It is something that computers suck at, because while computers are meticulous, they are in no way intelligent. I don’t care how good your algorithm is. A computer cannot grade a paper. It cannot give substantive editorial advice. It cannot understand a text.
So I call up Aaron, and I’m very up-front with him. I tell him my doubts in no uncertain terms. I call bullshit on seven distinct levels. I point out that a computer cannot tell the difference between the sentence “The tiger is ready to eat” and “The roast is ready to eat.”
We talked for two hours. And he sold me on the project.
Please believe me when I say, I am *not* an easy person to sell to….
What was the deal about my book being about fires and firefighting? Well, the truth is, my book is kinda about fires and firefighting. Fire is really a big deal in the first book, and it’s central to a lot of the key chapters and scenes. The scene where the Chandrian first show up. The demonstration that he gives in Hemme’s class. His sympathy duel. (Almost all of his sympathy, actually.) The fire in the Fishery. The blue fire at the wedding. The Draccus. All of Trebon….
There’s a lot of fire. Now that I think about it, one of the titles I had for the first book LONG ago was “Kindlings and Beginnings.”
And if you look past the fire and firefighting part, there’s actually some pretty impressive things there. Any algorithm that can correctly identify that my book is about “Secrets and Truthseeking” has something going for it.
Now don’t get me wrong, Aaron didn’t convince me that the whole thing was perfect and beautiful. As with most cutting edge stuff, it has the *potential* to be brilliant.
The big thing he’s interested in is helping people find books that *don’t* have hundreds of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. He wants to level the playing field. He’s trying to create tools that will help people find books they’ll like even if they don’t have a ton of marketing money behind them, or even if the author is new. He wants to give libraries tools to keep people reading, and to encourage people to broaden their reading habits….
So… Yeah. This thing has my seal of approval. And I say that as someone that hated the idea at first.
So if you’re interested. If you like games, and books, and libraries. Why don’t you wander over to their kickstarter and watch the video they’ve put together.
There’s only 3 days left in the kickstarter, but since I posted about this on facebook two days ago, they’ve raised more than 40,000 dollars. I honestly think we have a chance to close the gap these last couple days if everyone helps spread the word….
And, as an added bonus, Aaron has agreed to answer any questions you might have.
So if there’s anything you’re curious about after watching the video and reading the description, feel free to post your questions down in the comments. He’ll swing by and give us a clue-in when he gets a chance…