Oot is 7 years old now, if you can believe it. He is my heart’s delight. And despite my failings, he has grown up sweet and kind and loving and full of empathy.
So. A couple months ago, we were having a little shindig at our house. Except this wasn’t an event of the sort that I would organize, not a couple people coming over for games. Sarah’s family is huge, and there are roughly eleven billionty children in it. So this isn’t a cozy little gathering. It’s going to be an event. It’s going to be a happening.
The complication? We have a relatively small house. Only about 1400 square feet, and one of the two bathrooms is only accessible through a bedroom.
And here’s the thing. It’s *my* bedroom. Which means it a fucking mess. I’ve got piles of books and detritus everywhere. You can’t hardly see the floor. Plus I have a lot of stuff on my shelves is dangerous at best, and at worst just straight-up deadly. Picture it as a more cramped version of a wizard’s lab, except instead of having a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling, there’s a mattress on the floor.
Simply said: I do not want people wandering through my bedroom. For real. I’ve mentioned this many, many times to Sarah when she has family over.
So. Anyway. We’re getting ready for the party, and I come back from an errand to discover Oot has written up some helpful signs and stuck them to my door.
(Click to Embiggen. Seriselee.)
Please, *please* click the above image and try to puzzle out what it says on your own. Oot has my genes both for penmanship and spelling, but if you click on it, you should be able to make it out with a little work. And it’s *so* much better if you read it in the original.
For those of you who can’t quite make it out, the signs say:
“Do. not. Entre.”
“i. Will. Kil. You. if. You. Trn.”
“This. Nob. (Arrow pointing to doorknob.)”
“Seriselee. Stae. The. Fukc. Out.”
Now when I see this, I am absolutely fucking delighted. I am over the moon. I could not possibly enjoy it more.
First and foremost, this is a very thoughtful thing he’s done. I ask Sarah if she put him up to it, and she said she hasn’t. All on his own, my little boy has decided to help me keep my room private because he knows it bothers me when guests wander in there. He’s heard me talk about it, and he’s trying to help.
As for the rest…. well… I’m probably reading it a little differently than you, because I know more of the backstory. (It might surprise none of you to know that I consider backstory to be pretty important.)
You see, years ago, when I discovered that here in small town Wisconsin, a mortgage is actually cheaper than renting an office. So I bought a grotty old student rental house to use as a disturbance-free writing space.
In that house, I have a writing room which nobody is allowed to enter. Because it’s my fucking writing room.
But I also use the house as a guest house where friends can stay when they’re in town. And my friends are curious people. So years and years ago I put up some signs on the door:
Oot comes to visit me at the Workhouse sometimes. And I put these signs up *years* ago. Long before he could read.
But the world keeps spinning. And things change. And our children absorb so much more than we are ever ready for. And no matter how careful we are, we are never careful enough….
So I come home from my errand to see my sweet child has carefully labeled my door. I read these signs and I laugh. And I thank Oot for being so helpful and considerate. And I tell him that I am really impressed that he has done such a good job of writing everything out. And it’s true. I am impressed.
“But I’m wondering,” I say. “We’re inviting these people over to our house for a party. Do you think it might be a little rude to threaten to kill them?” (I’m going to leave the discussion of the word ‘fuck’ for another day.)
Oot looks thoughtful, he narrows his eyes a little and nods. “You’re right,” he says, as if he’s really kind of impressed that I’d figured that out. “I’ll make a new sign.”
So I wander away, happy that I’ve so deftly fixed the problem.
Ten minutes later, I come back to see this:
I would like to point out that I’ve never heard Oot say, “Fuck.” But obviously the sign at the workhouse has made a deep and lasting impression. It occurs to me that in his mind, this might actually just be the natural way you ask people to stay out of a room. This is just a regular warning sign: “Wet Paint.” “Do not park.” “Stay the fuck out.”
So we talk again. And I tell him that he’s done a good job by getting rid of threatening to kill people… “But it’s still not really *polite* yet, is it?”
So he takes another run at it:
And these notes are still on my door to this day. I cannot think of a reason I would ever want to take them down….
A while back, I wrote a blog where I talked about the results of the election, and talked about how I was thinking of starting up an activism newsletter. When 2500 of y’all signed up for it in just a couple days, it let me know that people really wanted help engaging in productive activism and getting reliable news.
Since then, I’ve been assembling my team of People-Who-Are-Smarter-Than-Me (TM) to make this happen. I want the newsletter to be smart, easy-to-interact-with, and efficient. I want it to be useful and exciting. Something you’ll look forward to showing up in your inbox. Something you’ll tell your friends about.
But that takes time. And despite the fact that the newsletter isn’t up and running yet, there are important things happening.
Specifically, there are elections happening. And if you care about changing things, you have to get out and vote.
If you live in Wisconsin, like me. There are elections today. And one of the big things up for grabs is State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Given that the current secretary of education is an embarrassingly unqualified billionaire heiress who was appointed due to the fact that her family donates millions to politicians… well… it’s pretty important that we get qualified people into positions of power on the state level.
(By the way, Tony Evers is the guy who has my vote. He’s been doing the job for a while and comes highly recommended by my teacher friends.)
But it’s not just happening here in Wisconsin: there are four seats in the house of representatives up for grabs over this next month. Given what’s going on in our country right now, that’s a *huge* deal.
And here’s the thing: spring elections have *really* low turnout. You can make a huge difference with just a few votes.
How few? Well, I have a friend who was once elected to a seat on the city council. You know how many votes it took?
Eight. And she didn’t win *by* eight votes. She got Eight. Total. Votes.
But that was enough. And she got in.
That’s why I’m reaching out today. Your vote is a big deal. And if you take a step even further and clue in your friends and family, it can make a HUGE difference.
So. Below are a list of elections that are happening soon. Some of them are happening TODAY.
Most of the elections are regional, and you’ll need to look up whether or not your county or city is one of the regions. A few of them are statewide, but the provisions on each ballot will still be different depending on where you live.
ALL of them are important. People on school boards have a *huge* impact on local education. Primaries are a *big* deal.
If you’re one of the people who’s lucky enough to get the chance to vote today, take the time to look things up and do your research. My team worked hard all day to try to find government websites that would give you the information you’ll need, but I’m gonna tell you the truth: some state websites are not good. Many haven’t updated since the November election.
(We’ve added this to the list of issues we’re going to try and address in the newsletter in the future.)
For the regional elections. You’ll be much better off looking up information on your city or county website. Or you can do what I do, and call up someone who you you trust and respect, and ask their opinion. Have a conversation and become more informed. (Also it’s a nice excuse to catch up with a friend.)
We’ve done our best here on kinda short notice. But this list isn’t perfect. If you don’t see your state on this list, but you know there *is* an election coming up, drop us a line we’ll keep things updated.
3. A Second Chance…
So here’s the thing, if you signed up for the newsletter. I just sent something very similar to this to your inbox. It’s probably sitting there right now, in fact. Waiting hopefully for you to click it.
If that’s the case, why am I repeating it here?
For one, to give those of you who didn’t know about the budding mailing list another chance to sign up for it here:
I’m also repeating it here because… well… even if you didn’t sign up for the newsletter, voting is still important.
What’s more, I don’t know how many of you might have missed that blog. Or how many of you might have particularly aggressive spam filters. Or how many of you might simply ignore a kinda rando message showing up out of nowhere…
I will say this though. When we get the newsletter up and running, I won’t be duplicating what it does here. So if you want to be involved, hit that form.
One final thing: If you’d like to help us get this mailing list off the ground, send an email to us at activism[@]patrothfuss.com with “STARTUP” in the subject line and we’ll get in touch.
That’s all for now, folks.
Thanks for taking the time to go out and do good in the world.
So every year or so, there’s a website that organizes what they call a fantasy cage match, wherein they pair a bunch of fictional characters up against each other and make them fight.
It’s a fun concept, very tongue and cheek, and my characters have ended up involved in various ways over the years. I think it was the very first year they did it when Kvothe went up against Aslan. I was so tickled by the idea, that I wrote up how I thought the match would go. (And a couple years later, I posted it up on the blog.)
It’s funny. I can remember where I was when I wrote that. I was in a hotel lobby down in… Iowa? I was traveling down to Virginia Beach for a signing, and Sarah and Oot were still sleeping in the hotel room. He was so tiny then. I think he was barely even one year old…
That was a tricky time for me. In some ways, I was in a great place: After more than a decade of work, my book was finally published, and people liked it. I had a beautiful son, a successful book, money in my pocket, and fans who loved my work. I got invited to conventions, and when I did a signing, as many as a hundred people would show up….
But in other ways, things were a real shitshow. I hadn’t finished book two yet, and I was a mess of self-recrimination and guilt about that. I was trying to come to grips with being a professional writer, and adult, a father, and a minor celebrity. Though I didn’t yet know it, my mood disorder was becoming more prominent, and my writing was not going well.
Then I sat down in that hotel lobby and wrote what turned out to be a lovely, fun, sweet little scene between Kvothe and Aslan. It only took two hours, and it came out nice and clean. It was startling how easy it was, because working on book two was excruciating.
Anyway. There’s another cage match going on, and this time it’s Devi in the mix. She made it to round four, where she’s going head-to-head with Tom Bombadil.
The thought of them in a confrontation tickled me, so this Sunday I sat down to write it up.
And as I write this it’s interesting how similar things are right now. Viewed from one angle, my life could not be better. I’ve got a movie and tv deal going. Lin-Manuel Fucking Miranda is involved. I have several successful books out. Translated in 35 languages. Millions of books sold. TWO lovely children….
But I’m a mess. I’m such a mess. And I’m behind on everything. And the writing isn’t going well.
But on Sunday I wrote this thing. And it was fun. And easy. And for the space of about 10 hours I felt really good.
So. Anyway. I’m sharing it with you now with the hope that you’ll enjoy it.
Also, I’d like to note that in writing something like this, I’m not hoping to tip the Scales toward Devi. I’m not trying to rig this voting thing. If you prefer to think of this as a straight-up fight and you think Tom should win, because… well… he’s Eldest and Fatherless. Probably one of the Valar. That’s cool. Vote for him. Vote ten times.
Even if you read my alternate take on events, (no spoilers here) and still decide that Tom would win the alternate competition that ends up getting proposed there. That’s cool. And rather reasonable, too. As Tom still has the home field advantage in that scenario. Great. Vote for him. I’d honestly love to see him go up against Ragnar in the final round.
I’ll eventually post it up here on the blog just to archive it. Because I never know when some other site will move or change or a link will go dead. It will also be nice to get a chance to edit the piece a little bit, as I wrote it in a single day, and I usually like to tweak and massage my writing a lot more than that. Even if it’s just a little something that I do for fun.
Even if you’re not a fan of Neil Gaiman, it’s worth watching. If you are a fan, it’s hugely funny. And if you’ve listened to Neil’s Audiobooks as much as I have (Which is to say obsessively) the above video is AMAZING.
My third time watching it, I started wondering, “Could we do something like this, but for my writing?”
At first I dismissed the thought as silly. For one thing, I don’t have Gaiman’s gorgeous voice and accent. I don’t think my writing style is as distinctive as his, either.
But the idea kept tickling at me. And the truth is, when I go to conventions, or events, or signings, I’m always looking for fun, bite-sized things I can read in front of a crowd.
So I’m finally saying “What the hell” and giving it a try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t. But if it does work, this could be a lot of fun. I could read a couple on the JocoCruise next week, or when I’m out at Gencon. If nothing else, I’ll read the best of them on my twitch channel so everyone can see them, then upload them to youtube later for archival purposes.
So… yeah. If this is something that appeals to you, give me your best Bad Rothfuss style piece of writing in the form below. It should be NO MORE THAN 1800 characters (which is around 300 words).
I know. I know. How can you satirize my effluvient verbosity in only 300 words? Well… I don’t know. Maybe you’ll just have to pick some other element of my style to lovingly satirize. All I know is that if I don’t put a cap on these, we’ll end up with several hundred thousand words submitted and this will go from a fun little activity to a horrifying millstone around my neck. (And by my neck, I mean Amanda’s neck. Because she’s one of the folks who will be helping to winnow these down.)
Anyway. Be aware that the form is set to cut you off before you start to bloviate. What’s more, I let Amanda write her own sassy response that will pop up as an error if you go over the character count.
We’ve included a place in there for your name and e-mail, too. That way, I can give you credit if I read yours….
So… yeah. Here you go. I’m curious to see what comes in, and read some of them in my best audio narrator voice….
(Dear Andrew, I’d like you to be the official Tak spokesmodel. And I’m not just saying that because you’re way *way* pretty. It’s because your presentation here is absolutely flawless.)
The vast majority of you who backed the kickstarter have your goodies now. And while a few of you might not yet, that’s mostly due to international shipping, or because some people never answered their Kickstarter surveys. (Imagine me giving you a disappointed-but-still-loving dad look here.)
But yeah. The big news is that games have been showing up at people’s houses for months. It’s exciting for me to see people finally getting to have their own copies. And not just playing it, but really kinda loving it.
(I have to say, the companion book turned out pretty nice as well.)
If you’ve been enjoying Tak, feel free to share your pictures and stories in the comments below. You can also review the game on BoardGameGeek. It’s the biggest game review website out there, so a good rating there will do a lot to help get the word about Tak out to people.
Thanks for a successful Q&A a couple of weeks ago. I had a surprisingly good time on the livestream, with more than 3500 people watching at one point, which beats my previous best livestream by a factor of three.
For those of you who don’t have any real desire to watch a video where I talk almost non-stop for over two hours, (and I can’t blame you, really) I’ll mention that I made an announcement at the end of the session. Specifically, that we’ll be releasing a 10th Anniversary Edition of The Name of the Wind later this year. If you really want more details, well…. *glances up at link to the video.*
I’ll do an official blog about that at some point in the future. Hopefully showing off the new cover and talking in more detail about what will be included in the edition. But that’s probably down the road a bit. Today, I thought I’d let you know about two other things.
Problem was, I didn’t know if that’s something people really wanted, so I put up a google form, and… well… And as of right now about 2100 folks have signed up. So it looks like I’ll be putting a team together to make that happen.
For those of you who don’t know, Humble Bundle lets you pay what you want for a bunch of cool DRM-Free books. The more money you donate, the more books you get. And if you donate over 15 bucks, you ALL the books in the bundle.
And this is good stuff too. Books by Jim Butcher, Tim Powers, Mira Grant and Kevin Hearn. Not to mention plucky up-and-comers like John Scalzi and Clive Barker….
So it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog since the fundraiser ended. Partly that’s because I’ve been trying to focus my energy on laying in some infrastructure in my life so that I can be more productive (and that tends to be boring to blog about.)
But don’t assume that silence means inactivity. Home office here has been a whirlwind as my team has been working on fulfilling the Tak kickstarter, drawing prizes for the worldbuilders lottery, and shipping the everyday store orders in the Tinker’s packs.
(And because I know people will ask in the comments: if you missed the kickstarter, you can order Tak over here in the Tinker’s Packs and yours will ship as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled. Which will be super soon.)
Does that sound like a lot of packaging? Because it is.
(Seriously, you can barely move in HQ right now)
But while some of our quiet is due to things being busy, it’s not the entire reason for our silence over here. The truth is, pretty much everyone I know is pretty emotionally distraught over things happening in the world right now, Worldbuilders employees included.
I’ve collected a good team over the years. They’re intelligent, empathetic, good-smelling people. They’re socially aware, and politically active. They wouldn’t work here if they didn’t care about making the world a better place.
And… well… not to bullshit around. But we’re all kind of scared right now. There are things happening the the US and around the world that make us very worried for our country and our people.
But when everything seems awful, what do you do?
Well recently, someone sent me a link to this, telling me that it’s helped them recently.
It’s a part of a blog I wrote years ago. At the time I was talking about charity, but that particular quote rings even more true these days than it did then.
Because the simple truth is this: When things are bad, all you can do is what you can do.
Which is perfectly accurate but also kinda useless in terms of a strategy.
As I mentioned before, pretty much everyone I know is freaked out right now and feeling some version of, “I have to do something, but what?”
Part of what I’m doing to help is that I reach out to my friends to see how they’re doing. I try to console or comfort if I can. I give them someone to talk to. And if they’re looking for it, I give some advice….
But honestly? I’m calling because desperately looking for help myself. So if my friends have good strategies, I steal them or pass them along. I pick their brains because most of the people I know are smarter than me in at least two or three different ways.
So with the hope that it might be helpful to some of you out there, here’s what some of my crew is doing these days….
Brett – Do Research & Talk to People
One of the frustrating things about media today is that most people tend to filter their news through Facebook and Twitter, neither of which are ideal venues for nuanced discussion or information dissemination. It drives me nuts to see bad, lopsided, or blatantly spun “news” get shared and retweeted without a second thought. I know I can’t change minds, but at least I can try to get people thinking about the news they share.
I’ve been researching quotes, statistics, and claims put forth in memes and shared blog posts from both sides of the partisan divide since before the election, posting links to reliable sources that either support or refute the information. Snopes is a good, easy-to-digest source (yes, I know, “scandal” and all that, but it doesn’t affect the reliability of the data they compile), but links to the Associated Press and Reuters are solid, as is NPR. If there are several sources that have the same information, find and link to all of them. I usually have several browser tabs open on my phone, just in case I need to look something up.
People will argue with you. They’ll post their own sources and memes to persuade or deflect you, or just to assert their point of view. That’s great–you get to do more research, and you’ll have a better understanding of how they view the issue.
Stuff to watch out for:
1. Topic drift. Stay on target, address only the claims put forth in the original article or meme. If someone tries to argue with you by bringing up something that’s tangentially related or used to deflect (“Trump will release his taxes when Clinton releases her emails”), remind them that you are discussing only the original topic. Stick to your guns, but stay calm.
2. Be patient. Don’t devolve into name calling or one-upmanship. You are trying to give accurate information, not start an argument.
3. Ask for counter-arguments from other valid sources. This will start a dialogue and give others a chance to defend their beliefs with their own evidence. Encourage them to keep explaining their point. If it turns out they’re right about something, let them know.
4. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. If you’re wrong, it’s not a character flaw. You might not have the whole story. You might be too close to the argument to see it objectively. These are emotionally-charged times, and we’re all human. If someone you disagree with turns out to be right, admit it and thank them.
5. See things from their perspective. It’s very likely that you both agree on the big picture, but disagree on the source of the problem and the solution needed. The more you listen to someone explain their position, the better understanding you get of how they reached it.
6. Be cool. Be Zaphod Beeblebrox cool. Don’t resort to name calling. Don’t start your own topic drift. Don’t bring up old stuff. You’re better than that. You have access to facts and data the likes of which we’ve never had before this day, and you can use it to build your platform, argue your case, and–probably not change anyone’s mind, but get them thinking. And that’s what we want: we want people to start really thinking about stuff.
TL;DR: Fight “alternative truth” with solid facts from reputable sources. Stay cool about it. Understand that you probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but you might get them to start looking up facts for themselves before they click Like, Share, or Retweet.
Amanda – Write Letters to Your Representatives
I’ve been feeling very helpless for the last few days, and most of my coping mechanisms haven’t been all that great.
But there’s a lot of productive things that can be done, and while I’m kind of exhausted these days, it’s important to funnel this destructive energy into the policies I disagree with, and not, you know, myself.
I remembered a video I watched from Hank Green this last summer, and I’m using it to have a system to write to my representatives.
This video was made shortly after the Pulse shootings this summer, so it’s focused on LGBT and gun control issues, but you can use this script to write about anything that’s important to you.
Representatives are much more likely to respond to a hand-written letter than an email or signature on an online petition. I actually got a letter back from one of my representatives, and while he didn’t change his vote, he thanked me for my honesty and he gave me a genuine and thoughtful response. He really read my letter (or a staffer did, but still, *someone* did), and it had an impact.
So imagine if he had been inundated with these letters. Maybe we can make a real difference. And making your voice heard is what democracy is about.
Though, honestly, a letter is great, but a call is better.
Nicole – Call Your Representatives
It seems like there’s something new happening every day that needs our attention, and with the list of points to discuss with your representatives only growing longer, it’s getting harder to keep it all straight.
It’s overwhelming, to be sure, and while it’s got me feeling like this uphill battle may never be over, I realize now more than ever that giving up is not an option. The more issues that need to be discussed, the more important it is that we discuss them.
I’ve started using 5calls.org to help me stay organized in my effort. While their list of issues that need attention may not be 100% complete, it’s a great place to start, and a great resource for phone numbers and even provides talking points and scripts.
The best part of this site is that it prompts me to make another call immediately after I finish one, which helps me maintain my momentum once I get started.
Amanda Again – Take Care of Yourself
The hardest part of this whole thing, for me, has been the incredible desire to disengage. Bad news just keeps coming through, and we need to be constantly vigilant to stay on top of it.
But then my beloved Jenn tweeted something out that I really needed to hear.
So I’ve had a game night or two where we’re not allowed to look at our phones. I’ve been reading a book and watching TV in the evenings rather than going on social media. I play Stardew Valley and revel in the simple living in that little town, flirting with every.damn.body.
I don’t take whole days off yet, but I’m considering it. One a week maybe.
And then, once I’m feeling a little bit better, I see what else needs doing. I look up phone numbers, I read multiple stories from a variety of sources, and I try to make sure I’m informed by more than the inflammatory stories that happen to line up with my beliefs.
My people are good people. I love them with big love.
But the fact remains, I don’t know what *I* should be doing.
Part of the problem is that I have a lot of resources, and that gives me a lot of options. I have money. I have a platform from which to speak to many people. (This blog, for example.) I admire the hell out of the folks who call and write letters. But I wonder if that’s the best thing for *me* to do with my time and energy.
I feel like there are a lot of people out there that want do do something. They want to make a difference, but don’t know the best way to do that. I feel like there are people out there who want to stay informed, but who are becoming emotionally exhausted by Twitter. People who want to want to be active, who want to help… But who aren’t sure how. They don’t know where to start. Or once they start, they don’t know where to go next….
For over a month now, I’ve been wanting to start a newsletter for people who want to be activists, but could use some help getting started. Or people who *are* activists but want to up their game. People who only have thirty minutes a week to spare, and want to use that time to the best effect. People who want help staying informed without burning out and being overwhelmed.
This idea keeps rolling around in my head. A mailing list that gives people tools and tricks for effective activism.
I have a list of people I’ve already been reaching out to, just exploring. Just seeing if they might be interested in helping me put this together. Folks who are smarter, more informed, and more organized than I am. People with good brains and kind hearts. Experienced activists of many stripes.
And yeah. I don’t need another project. Believe me. Nobody knows that better than I do. I’m too busy. I’ve got too many irons in too many fires.
But what’s happening right now is really important. And besides, I wouldn’t do this myself, I’d bring someone in to orchestrate it, because I suck at organization.
So. Here’s the question. Is this something y’all might be interested in?
If so, enter your e-mail into the form below. If only 8 people sign up, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, send everyone a polite thank-you, and walk away from the idea.
But if 500 people are interested… well then I might start putting my team together. A 1000 people? Well, that means there’s a pressing need for activism advice out there. And I could help make that available to people…
So… yeah. If you’d be interested in a mailing list about political activism and things going on in the world, drop your e-mail here. Rest assured that if this moves forward, you’ll be able to choose your level of engagement. I can’t imagine sending out more than one email a week at the most…
So… yeah. There’s that. If you’re interested.
I hope y’all are doing okay. Take care of yourselves….