So what did I do at PAX this year?
Many things, but most notably this:
And by that, I mean this.
Wait for it….
P.S. Even if you don’t care about D&D, you should really watch the intro. That’s worth the price of admission all by itself….
I just had an unexpectedly harrowing experience on the internet.
While I like to think that I’m immune to clickbait, occasionally I leave the high road and tumble gracelessly down into the muddy ditch where I roll around with all the giddy enthusiasm of a dog who’s just found a particularly feculent turd.
(Pat pauses for a moment, looking up at the sentence he just wrote, and thinks that sometimes, just maybe, he should dial the vividity of his phraseologer down from 11.)
Anyway, I stumbled onto the following webpage the other day. I can’t even remember how.
So I think, Okay, sure. I’ll vote in your little poll. I am wise in the ways of the geek. I have opinions.
The thing is set up as a series of X vs. Y pairings, and you have to vote for one or the other.
The first couple were easy. Obviously Felicia Day beats Peter Jackson. Obviously Johnathan Coulton beats out JJ Abrams. Tina Fey trumps Shatner.
You also have the option to skip voting on a particular pairing. This was first useful when I was given two people I’d never heard of before, a cosplayer and a voice actor. Rather than vote blind, you’re able to just shrug and get a completely new random pairing.
But I didn’t realize how essential the skip button was until this happened:
I saw this, and a gear slipped in my brain. How could I possibly pick? The author of the second comic I’d ever read as an adult (Watchmen). The guy who Promethia. Top Ten. Tom Strong. V for Vendetta. Someone whose work has honesty changed my perception of comic art if not storytelling as a whole. Plus, y’know, wizard.
On the other hand we have Wil: creator of Tabletop, which is a force for good in the world. Co-founder of Wootstock, a source of persistent joy in my life. The actor that played Westley Crusher, a character that made my life suck a little less as a kid. Someone who regularly speaks truth to power, and a damn fine author in his own right….
It was a flabbergasting choice. It’s not like comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing sex and videogames. I had to skip that matchup.
Then this happened:
As the poll continues, it winnows out the people you don’t know pretty quickly. Then it gets rid of the people you don’t care for. With a little more difficulty you leave behind geek celebs you are merely fond of.
Then it starts to become excruciating. You are forced to make choices no sane person would ever willingly make.
Still the grindstone turns until you are finally confronted with something like this.
Don’t. Just don’t.
So. If you want to plumb the depths of your own personal geeky faith, go ahead and check it out. I think the voting ends today.
Edit: Monday July 21st. I just googled “Sophie’s Choice” because while I knew what it meant, I didn’t know the actual etymology of the phrase.
I don’t think I would have used it as the title of this post if I’d known the original referent.
So I was at C2E2 last weekend, walking around the main hall with a friend, nodding and occationally fist-bumping readers who recognised me. (Too much hand-shaking leads to contagion at a convention.)
Eventually my friend asked, “What’s this Acquisiations Incorporated video people keep talking about?”
“I did a D&D thing with the guys from Penny Arcade and PVP last year,” I said. “We played a game at PAX Prime on stage. They taped it and put it online.”
“Why didn’t you put it up on your blog?” she said.
“I did,” I said.
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t,” she said.
I started to insist that I had, because I *remembered* doing it. I had a blast playing with them, and I even got Nate to do up some art for that blog post:
But then I closed my mouth because over the last two years I’ve come to realize that I *intend* to write about a lot of stuff on the blog. But in reality, I don’t actually get around to finishing about 80% of the blogs I mean to.
Right now, for example, I have over 200 blogs that are in their “Draft” form here on WordPress. I am the king of broken promises.
But no blog with a follow-up link to the video itself.
So, for those of you who are reluctant to go clicking around all higgledy piggledy, here’s the 8-part audio podcast that leads up to the on-stage event.
In my opinion, a lot of these are even better than what happens later in the video. The video is about 2 hours, but the podcasts all together are 4-5 hours of solid geeky fun. I’ve been role playing for more than 25 years at this point, and Mike, Jerry, and Scott are the best sort of folks to tabletop with. So funny and quick on their feet. And Chris Perkins as DM is absolutely brilliant….
For those of you who aren’t into the whole podcast thing, here’s a vastly abridged, somewhat bowdlerized animated version of the podcast.
And here’s the video of the PAX game itself.
[Warning: I sing.]
If you want to see *all* the delightful, shiny geekery, you can head over to the D&D website. Acquisitions Inc has been going strong for several seasons, and it’s all archived over there. So there’s plenty to keep you busy until May 15th when the next episode of Nightvale comes out….
So here’s the news:
I have a book coming out around November-ish.
It’s not book three. It’s not a mammoth tome that you can use to threaten people and hold open doors.
It’s a short, sweet story about one of my favorite characters.
It’s a book about Auri.
That’s the news. The short version. If you’d like the long version, I’ll give that below….
* * *
I didn’t set out to write a book about Auri. I really didn’t.
What happened was this: a while back, I was invited to contribute something to George Martin’s Rogues anthology. I mentioned it a while back on the blog…
Wow. I just went looking for the blog post where I mentioned the Rogues anthology, only to discover that I kinda never wrote it.
Well. Okay. I guess y’all get a little side order of news with your news today:
I’m in this book too. It’s coming out in June.
What happened was this: a couple years back, George Martin and Gardner Dozois invited me to be in an anthology called Rogues. I said yes, because back in 2009, when I was working on The Wise Man’s Fear, they’d invited me to participate in a different anthology: Star Crossed Lovers.
But in 2009 I was behind deadline and freaked out about it. So I said “No” and went back to struggling with WMF. It broke my heart a little. Because it’s one of those anthologies you dream about being invited to. It was the anthology equivalent of getting invited to the cool-kid party back in high-school.
Anyway, when they asked me to contribute a story to Rogues back in 2012, I said yes for two reasons.
1. Because how fucking cool is it to be in this anthology? Look at my name up there, right next to Neil Gaiman’s. Seriously. Look at that. My name is almost touching Neil Gaiman’s name….
I know I should be cooler about this. I should pretend that I’m a professional and a grown-up and everything. But I’m really not. I’m still the same person who read Neverwhere back in the late 90′s and went, “What? Seriously? You can do that?”
And now I’m anthology-buddies with him. In fact, Gaiman’s story is “How the Marquis Got his Coat Back.” It’s about the Marquis De Carabas from Neverwhere.
The other reason I said yes was…
2. I’d had a story idea about Auri tickling around my head for a while. What’s more, I thought she would make a nice counterpoint to some of the other classic rogue-type characters in the anthology. Sort of a trickster rogue, as opposed to a thief, swashbuckler, or a con man.
“Besides,” I thought to myself. “It’s just a short story. Three or four thousand words. Maybe 6 or 7 thousand if I run long. That’s about two week’s writing, tops.”
So I started writing about Auri. But as it unfolded, it went in directions I hadn’t expected. The story was… strange. I hit 3000 words and I was barely started. Writing about the Underthing was more complicated than I’d anticipated.
So the story got longer. I hit 7ooo words without even realizing it. I kept going, unearthing more secrets about Auri and the Underthing.
Eventually I hit about 15,000 words and forced myself to stop. It wasn’t going to work for the anthology, it was too long, and it wasn’t a trickster tale of the sort I initially expected it to be. Honestly didn’t know what the hell kind of story it was, but it wasn’t going to work for the anthology.
I e-mailed George and Gardner and begged for an extension on my deadline. They were very kind and understanding. I tried a few different things that failed miserably, then I realized who *really* belonged in an anthology about Rogues: Bast. Once I figured that out, I wrote “The Lightning Tree” for the anthology, and it worked out really well.
But I was stuck with half a story. Half a strange story. Half a strange, too-long story that wasn’t doing the things a story is supposed to do.
Reluctantly, I walked away from it and went back to working on book three. I love Auri, and the story had an odd sweetness to it. But I had work to do.
But the Auri story kept tickling at me. And let me tell you this, having a half-finished story stuck in your head is ten times worse than having a song stuck in there.
And there’s only one way to get it out. So when I came to a good stopping point in my revisions, I went back to the Auri story. It just wouldn’t leave me alone.
It ended up over 30,000 words long. An odd length for me. Much too long for a short story. Much shorter than my usual novels. (For a frame of reference, 30,000 words is about the same length as Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.)
What’s more, the story had unfurled into something full of secrets and mysteries. Something sweet and strange. Not a normal sort of story at all. I suppose it was silly of me to assume a story about Auri would be usual in any way.
The problem was, I had no idea what to do with it. I liked the story, but I like strange things. And I’m fond of Auri. And most importantly, I’m the author. Asking me if I like my story is like asking a mom if she likes her baby….
I showed it to a few people, and they seemed to like it pretty well. But they were friends, you can only trust them to be so honest with you.
I revised it a couple times, then showed it to a few authors. They liked it, but they agreed, it was an odd story.
Then I took a big risk and showed it to Vi Hart. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog where she put some of my lyrics to music, we are now Best Friends.
So I knew her, and respected her opinion, but since we haven’t known each other very long, I trusted her to tell me the truth.
She read it, and we talked about the story. She pointed out some things she thought were problematic. I agreed. She pointed out some things she liked, and I was flattered.
We were in a bar in San Fransisco at this point. The Casanova. We’d spent a lovely evening together, and I was drinking a little bit, which is unusual for me. And it might be because of that that I started to lament the fact that the story was kind of a hot mess. Good stories are supposed to contain certain elements, I explained, and my story didn’t have those things.
Vi said she liked it.
I told her I liked it too, but that didn’t change the fact that people expect certain things from a story. If people read this story looking for those things, they wouldn’t get them, they’d be dissatisfied. Disappointed.
And Vi said something I hope she’ll forgive me for paraphrasing here without asking her first. She said, “Fuck those people. Those people get all the other stories in the world. Everyone writes stories for them. This story is for people like me. We deserve stories too.”
That shut me up. Because she’s right. It might not be for everyone. But not every story has to be for everyone. Maybe this was just a story for people like me and Vi. People who are curious about Auri and the life she leads. People who are, perhaps, not entirely normal.
Vi said a few other things that gave me enough confidence to send the story to my agent. He liked it, and said we should show it to Betsy, my editor at DAW. Betsy liked it. Really liked it. The people in her office liked it.
That made me think that maybe it *was* a story for everyone. Or maybe there are more people like me and Vi in the world than either of us expected.
Anyway, the end result is this:
I’ll have more details about it later. Exact dates. If and when I’m touring. Those things are still up in the air a bit right now.
But today’s the day we’re officially announcing the cover, showing it off to people at C2E2 and letting it out onto the internet. I’ve been holding off on this post so y’all could be some of the very first people to see it.
I think a lot of you are going to like it.
As I write this, Worldbuilders has raised $617,000, crushing last year’s total.
Because of this maelstrom of support from the geek community, we blew through every stretch goal we had posted.
So yesterday I spent some time on the phone to see who else might be willing to help out. Brian Brushwood offered to teach me to eat fire. (Which is going to make for a great video not matter how it works out.) John Kovalic offered to make a mockery of me in his comic. Nate Taylor was willing to help me develop a new, more detailed map of the Four Corners world.
We posted up those new stretch goals… and passed them almost immediately.
So today we’re doing three things:
This last one shouldn’t come as a *huge* surprise for those of you who have followed our fundraiser in the past. Over the last couple years, it’s become kind of a tradition. In 2012 we extended things a week. In 2011, we extended things *two* weeks.
The difference is, in previous years we needed the extra time because… well… because I was trying to do everything myself, and I suck at organization. This year I was smarter. I’ve let the Worldbuilders team handle more and more. As a result, the fundraiser has been running smoothly and raising a ton of money….
And, because of *that* we’ve been getting media coverage over the last couple days. Which means folk are finding out about us just how and jumping onboard. We’re raising, on average, about $1,500 dollars an hour. Stopping our fundraiser right now, just as so many folks are hearing about it, seems a little silly.
So we’re extending it two days. Worldbuilders now ends the night of Feb 4th, midnight.
Just long enough for disorganized people like me to make last-minute donations.
Long enough to show you our newly unlocked stretch goals…
When Trey told us he’d take a selfie for his stretch goal, we thought it was a brilliant idea. After all, he’s a world-famous photographer. Seven million people follow him on Google+ to look at his pictures.
Then we saw what he did, and it was so much better than what we’d imagined.
(Click to enbiggen. Seriously.)
He also shot a video about his adventures setting up the shot. It’s a fabulous story that involves, among other things, the taxidermied sheep you see in the photo.
Scott and Elizabeth did not hold back on their true feelings on the second Hobbit film. As you can tell from the fact that their rage-filled video is well over an hour long.
If you needed another reason to love John Scalzi, here it is….
I swear, Hank came up with this on his own.
When Mary come up to Stevens Point to film this, I hadn’t yet read the erotic fanfic she’d written for our 175K stretch goal.
That’s right, I read it cold. So if I’m blushing there, you know why.
The truly amazing thing is how much she *nailed* my writing style.
This is the most dramatic thing I’ve seen in… maybe ever.
Brad filmed himself reading the riddle scene from The Hobbit out in the snow… in shorts and a t-shirt. Now, I’m a Wisconsinite… but honestly, even I probably would have worn pants for this.
In keeping with our Hobbit theme, Molly did an amazing cover of The Greatest Adventure.
It also got this song stuck in my head. For days.
It’s still there. But in all honesty, I don’t really mind.
This is a stretch goal Amber and I dared each other into during an interview.
We hit it, so now Amber and I will write the story of Deuteronomy Jones a “transsexual, plucky, red-headed vampire hunter.” And Lance Franklin. “Rogue warlock-in-hiding. Half-succubus. (On his mother’s side.) And also, a Calvin Klein model.”
I’ll be writing the female character. Amber’s doing the male.
Yeah. It’s going to be a thing….
The title here tells you everything you need to know….
* * *
If these acts of whimsy have amused you, you can help spread the word about Worldbuilders by sharing them around to your friends.
Feel free to let people know that every ten bucks they donate on the Worldbuilders Team Page, makes the world a better place AND gives you the chance to win a truly staggering number of rare, signed, or otherwise valuable books.
You can see *all* of our stretch goals here, including our new unlocked ones…..
So there you go.
Now, when you head into work tomorrow, and everyone is having the same boring conversation about Superbowl commercials, you can let your geek flag fly by saying, “That’s nothing, I saw Hank Green seduce a tree.” Or “Have you watched the video of Neil Gaiman reading Green Eggs and ham?”
Thanks for everything, folks. You’re all amazing.
When I started Worldbuilders, my main goal was getting people to donate books. I’ve always considered that the heart of the fundraiser, and I spent a lot of time approaching authors and publishers, trying to bring them onboard.
But these days that’s not a problem any more. We’ve got a lot of authors who send us stuff every year. We’ve got publishers and collectors and bookstores that send us hundreds of books. Signed stuff. Rare stuff. Out of print stuff.
If I had to guess, I’d say this year we’re going to be giving away more than 50 or 60 thousand dollars worth of books to people who donate on our Team Heifer page.
That means these days, our problem isn’t getting more books (though more books is always nice). These days the challenge is getting the word out to people. Letting them know Worldbuilders exists. That’s why this year, we’ve been bringing in some geek celebrities to do some stretch goals
But here’s the thing, I know a lot of cool bookish geeks, because that’s the world I live in. But I don’t know many music-type geeks. And as for the video/youtube geeks… I know barely any at all.
So I called up Paul and Storm to see if they’d be willing to put me in contact with some folks who might be willing to help us spread the word. They agreed, and named a few names like The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis.
“Is there anyone else you have in mind?” they asked.
“Well…” I said. “I know you’ve worked with Vi Hart in the past. If you’d be willing to introduce us….”
And I’ll be honest here. This last one wasn’t very much about Worldbuilders at all. It was more about the fact that I’ve had a huge geeky crush on Vi Hart for years now. Ever since I saw some of her videos….
So was I viciously exploiting my charity with the hope of making a connection with her? Yeah. A little bit. I’m not proud of the fact, but I won’t deny it either. I can occasionally be kind of an awful person.
Luckily Paul and Storm don’t know this. So they send a gracious e-mail introducing me to Vi. They briefly explain who I am, and mention Worldbuilders….
As soon as I read their introduction, I begin to obsess about my response. I start to think about how to be appropriately complimentary without coming across as a deranged fan. I start planning the tone of the e-mail, agonizing over how I will attempt to be enthusiastic about the fundraiser without being boring or self-indulgent.
But most of all, I’m desperately trying to think of something I can say that will make me look cool to Vi Hart.
Then, before I manage to write a single sentence, I see Vi has already replied to Paul and Storm’s e-mail. I click on the message, and it says:
The yellow edition of The Name of the Wind that I won in the lottery a couple Worldbuilders ago is right here on my desk. I may have heard of you.
And I just sit there, stupefied. I think, “Wait. She knows who I am?”
And then I think, “Wait. She knows about Worldbuilders, too? She already knows about Worldbuilders and *donated* in the past? And won something?”
Then I think. “Hold on. Did she actually maybe just reference my book in her e-mail to me?”
And I am suddenly filled with a warm, glowy joy.
We’ve had several conversations since then, both on the phone and over e-mail. She is every bit as sharp and fun as I’d imagined. Simply said, even the few too-brief conversations I’ve had with her have changed the way I think about certain things. Which is about the nicest thing I can think to say about anyone.
To cut to the end of the story, Vi and I have decided to be bestest forever friends.
* * *
In the course of talking about stretch goal stuff, I mentioned to Vi that I had some lyrics lying around from the book. Songs that weren’t really songs, so to speak. Because a song without words is still music. But a song without music is just irritatingly formatted text.
I’d written the lyrics for Knackerman Knackerman a decade ago. It was kind of a round. Kind of dark with some layered meanings. I’d always thought of it as a duet for two female voices, and I remember the lyrics being pretty cool. Would she be interested in turning one of those into, y’know…. music?
So I went digging through my archives. And I found the lyrics. I remembered them being cool. They weren’t cool.
I e-mailed Vi and said I didn’t know if I’d be able to find them. Would she maybe be interested in taking a crack at Tinker Tanner?
She said she’d wait. She really liked the idea of Knackerman.
I e-mailed back and explained that I’d found the lyrics, but they weren’t any good. That they were, in fact, quite bad.
She said she’d still like to see them.
I explained I was afraid to send her these lyrics. I worried that they might make her lose respect for me. I worried that the lyrics might actually make her dumber. They might, in fact kill a piece of her brain. Maybe an important piece. Like the piece that stores the memory of fluffy kittens or the ability to taste pie.
She reminded me that we were best friends now, that it was okay.
I tidied up the lyrics a bit and sent them. I apologized for the fact that I shifted verse forms and pointed out the meter was uneven. I told her I was sorry for recklessly endangering her future ability to enjoy kittens and pie.
Oh Rothfriend you lovely creature you don’t understand, this is a DUET, for two female voices, and it is a song, and songs that people sing do things, they grow their own special lumps and become unique, and what a lovely creature to wake up next to. Sometimes when I read a poem I can simply hear it in my head (I think I got this skill reading fantasy books. Hooray Tolkien!) and, well, ok, I’m just going to make a very quick recording so you get why the verse form isn’t a problem and then you can make edits if you want.
And the e-mail had an attachment. It was a song. She’d just… y’know… Done it.
And I thought. What the hell? What the serious hell?
About a year ago, I did a really bad magic trick for my 3 year old son. I used slight of hand and misdirection so clumsy that it would have made Pen and Teller weep tears of blood.
But it was enough to fool my son, and when he saw that I had made three blueberries disappear, he looked up at me with unalloyed awe in his expression. He looked at me and said, “Dad, you are quite a wizard!”
That’s how I felt just then, as I opened the e-mail and listened to the song. I felt awe and confusion and an almost holy fear. What sort of person can do this? I thought. Who can just look at some words and then make music out of them? Who does that?
My new best friend, Vi Hart, that’s who.
We talked more, and it changed my understanding of music. And I tweaked the lyrics again, because I’m me.
And here we are.
Thanks so much, Vi. I can’t say that big enough or loud enough.
Your new bestie,
* * *
Please remember that these stretch goals are designed to promote Worldbuilders.
If you liked this awesome thing, please consider donating on our Heifer International Team Page. The more money we raise, the more cool things we do.
For more details about Worldbuilders, including a list of our past and future stretch goals, you can head on over here.
So in just a couple days, I’m going to be heading out to PAX to play as a swashbuckling rogue named Viari in their D&D Campaign.
Mike, Jerry, Scott and I got together a couple months back and did our initial adventure, which are available as podcasts over here….
While I’m out at PAX, we’ll be playing again, live onstage.
I’ll be doing a few other things at the convention too. Here’s the schedule for my official events.
Friday August 30
11:30-12:30 – Does Story Matter in Video Games? – Kraken Theatre
3:30-4:30 – An Afternoon with Pat Rothfuss – The Pegasus Theatre
Saturday August 31
3:30-6:00 Acquisitions, Inc. – Main Theatre
I’ll be doing other stuff around the convention too. Checking out games and lurking around the Geek Chic booth at Skybridge 3.
And while I’m in Seattle, I’ll be doing TWO events outside of PAX.
Thursday August 29
7 pm Reading at University Bookstore
4326 University Way NE Seattle, WA98105
This event is going to be extra awesome because Terry Brooks, Peter Orullian, and Shawn Speakman will all be there to sign copies of Unfettered, which will be available for sale.
A very important note: Apparently there’s some sportsball game going on the day of this signing. This means, according to Shawn, that traffic getting to the event will be AWFUL. Be sure to account for that if you’re traveling.
Friday August 30
7 pm Reading at Barnes and Noble Pacific Place
600 Pine Street Suite 107
Seattle, WA 98101
I set up this signing for those of you who will be in town for PAX, as it’s right next door to the convention. Literally a block or so away.
Because, you see, I’m going to be at the convention, but my books won’t.
And I don’t want to have this conversation 200 times:
Person: Hey, are you Pat Rothfuss?
Person: Cool. I didn’t know you were going to be here!
Me: Yeah. I’m playing D&D with Acquisitions Incorporated.
Person: [Looks around.] Where can I get one of your books?
Me: Sorry. No bookdealers here. It’s a gaming convention.
Person: Are you doing a booksigning?
Me: Fraid not. I’m on a couple panels….
Person: Damn. I really wanted to get a signed copy of your book for my sister. She’d lose it….
[And then we just look at each other awkwardly.]
So, in an effort to avoid having this conversation roughly a billion times at the convention, we called Barnes and Noble to see if they could have books available for people, and hopefully schedule an event.
And you know what? They made us a *much* cooler offer than that.
When we called B&N to see if they’d be willing to carry a bunch of my books for folks who want them, they offered to do it AND do a Book Fair, meaning that if people show up and buy my book using our Bookfair code (11162161) a percentage of the sales will be given to Worldbuilders.
But that’s not all…
It turns out that *any* book people buy with the Bookfair code (11162161) will send some extra money to Worldbuilders.
But that’s not all, either…
This code is good at all Barnes and Noble stores between now and September 2nd. Any book you buy, at any B&N helps Worldbuilders.
AND it works on their online store too. In fact, it works longer. You can you use the code 11162161 on their website through September 7th.
I have to say, this is really cool of them. And I think we should make the most of it.
So let’s say you’ve never read any Terry Pratchett, but you’ve heard he’s good. You could jump in at Guards Guards, which is one of the best entry points, in my opinion.
Or maybe you read my great gushy review of Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, but you haven’t picked it up yet.
Now would be the perfect time for that.
Or it could be you didn’t realize that the sequel to Libriomancer just came out a couple weeks back. You could grab that too.
Or buy a copy of Carniepunk, if you weren’t able to get one of the signed copies we put up in our store.
Or you could pre-order a copy of Stonecast, which means Worldbuilders would get money from the author (Anton Strout), the publisher (Penguin), AND Barnes and Noble.
It’s like a charity hat-trick.
Here’s a printable voucher if you’re planning on bringing one in to a store.
Look forward to seeing some of you out in Seattle.
Me, I’m off to buy some books….