175K Stretch Goal – Music with Vi Hart

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?

She would.

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.

She replied:

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.

This entry was posted in fanmail, geeking out, meeting famous people, music, Oot, Worldbuilders 2013. By Pat42 Responses


  1. fuzzbinn
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Permalink

    One. This whole thing is amazing. Love the song, huge fan of Rothfuss and Vi Hart and it’s amazing to see them working together.

    Two. Wow. We were *this* close to having a Vi Hart/Rothfuss official Tinker Tanner, weren’t we…

  2. Posted January 9, 2014 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    This blog…LOL….too funny and full of awesome today.

    Would love Vi to do some more of your songs since you are best friends now.

  3. cageo
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    Well that gave me the shivers. I got so caught up in the music I only began to catch the meaning of the lyrics near the end of the song. Listened a second time and experienced the full awesomeness. Now it is playing in rounds in my head. Well played, both of you.

    • Zeppe
      Posted January 9, 2014 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

      Not sure I get double meaning (if any?) of the lyrics, would you care to give a hint?

      • likeashadow
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 12:42 AM | Permalink

        Do you know what a knacker is? Tallow? Knowing those will help.

        Give me your heart…

        • Zeppe
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

          I hope I do. English is not my first language. Thanks for the hint =)

          • Kali
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

            The most important double meaning is in the idiomatic phrase of “give me your heart”.

            Figuratively, it means to give someone your love and affection. Aww, how cute!

            Literally, it’s handing over a bloody vital organ. Aww! How — nutritious?

            Conveniently, any organ with fat can be rendered for tallow.

            A similar double meaning could work with “give me your hand”.

            Let’s get married! Or proffer me an amputated appendage!

            In fact, in a real, living folk song there might be regional variations where some places sing a version with the “heart” and some with the “hand”. Tavern brawls over the “right” version could undoubtedly ensue.

            I really dig the heart, though; it has a nicely visceral quality (ifyaknowwhatimean).

  4. Laila
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 3:59 PM | Permalink

    This is really great! I’m always longing to hear the songs in books being played as actual music as I’m a music geek as well as book geek.
    Well…I don’t want to nag or anything but could you please please make Tinker Tanner happen as well? That would be like even more awesomer than this which is really very awesome already!
    You could make a whole CD of Kingkiller songs. I would totally buy it and I think I don’t stand alone with this. But yeah not nagging ;)

  5. jchutch9
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps there will be a Tinker Tanner song?

  6. anchiel
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    It’s like Pat is a magnet for magnificent people… How I wish I could even watch from outside that door. The song was wonderful – wild, folksy… A beautiful product of two talented people working together. Thank you.

    • cynrtst
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

      I had a mind flash/vision of all sorts of miniature famous people statically charged and stuck to Pat’s beard. Kind of like the animal magnetism t-shirt. Not enough sleep perhaps….

  7. Club Neon
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    I love it when my geek worlds collide on Twitter. Since I follow both Pat and Vi, I’d see their tweets at each other. I’ve seen this happen before, with others from different fields of entertainment saying hello or whatnot, but never has it resulted in anything this amazing.

  8. Daate
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:31 PM | Permalink

    This is amazing!! Love seeing the two of you collaborating. And I know nothing about music but this reminds me so much of some old German holiday songs. Beautiful.

  9. Robo
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    Does anyone know if the auction will include rings this year? I’ve always been hoping to get a bone from Pat.

    Ring. Bone Ring. As in a ring that appears as if it’s made from bone.

    You know what I’m saying.

  10. Jsherry
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    a) Awesome awesomeness abounds above.

    b) The way to do Tinker Tanner is to get one of your musical friends to come up with the melody and a basic rhythm for the verse, set a guideline for the content (what the song is about overall, and what a typical verse should do), and then have your OTHER musical friends each compose a verse, and then musical fans can compose their own verses…and then Tinker Tanner will function in our world as it does in the book’s.

  11. 17thSharder
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 9:54 PM | Permalink

    Throw in a few copies of Words of Radiance, signed and with hints about the Cosmere, then stand back and watch your fundraiser race past one million dollars.

  12. Grails
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 11:57 PM | Permalink

    I, that, who… MIND BLOWN! That was so good! First, as I was reading the blog, my head almost exploded when I thought he got her to do Tinker Tanner, then I sank when it wasn’t, but then I heard the song and it was SOOOOOO good! It gets me excited that we may hear that kind of stuff in the upcoming show? That is a thing right? Last I heard there was rumored news and there was going to be official news but then I never saw it confirmed.

  13. likeashadow
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 12:40 AM | Permalink

    Just lovely.

  14. Boneman
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:07 AM | Permalink

    Don’t you just hate people with that much talent? Okay, envy, then? Okay, feel jealous? Okay, sit back in awe at what she did? And hate her just a little bit for doing it so effortlessly…? No you don’t, actually, you just shake your head in wonder, and enjoyment.

    Knackerman: “I’m knackered” in England means “I’m very tired”. And a swift kick in the knackers (known colloquially as a ‘single-leg arkwright’) will render any man speechless for a very long time. Bit that that song, really.

  15. Boneman
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

    See, my brain’s affected – can’t even type “Bit LIKE that song, really” without feeling knackered…

  16. SporkTastic
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:21 AM | Permalink

    Vi Hart’s brain is a magical place.

  17. Locket
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    Haunting and earthy – fantasic combination. Love the pairing of the voices and the medieval ’round’ becoming increasingly complicated. Fascinating. Thank you. Donating now.

  18. AGRooster
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    This makes me want to.. Buy a candle and get things written for me. And listen to it on mP3 in my headphones forever. Will you be releasing an official mp3 download link?

    • Brett
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:45 AM | Permalink

      Vi’s plan was to wait a bit for folks to absorb the video, then release the song on SoundCloud.

      Her SoundCloud page is: https://soundcloud.com/vihartvihart

      Careful–there may be more head-sticky music there.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

        I’m partial to “Ain’t No Thing to Climb.”

  19. pjmintz
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    WARNING: Clicking the above link may get this tune stuck in your head for a minimum of 24 hours. (At least that’s been my experience… knackerman, knackerman… sigh)

  20. dingbat
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    If you’re looking to spread the word a bit more broadly via YouTube, I can facilitate a connection with the Gregory Brothers. They’re mostly known for their auto-tuning work, but they also have a band with a bluegrassy-type feel (see their recent cover of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball). I can’t guarantee that they’d be up for it, but I can vouch for their geekiness.

  21. Ktheah
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat, this isn’t apropos of this particular post, but I have to tell you this…The only presents under our tree this year came courtesy of Worldbuilders. My husband ordered a book pack and we ended up with 21 books, none of which either of us had ever read, and some by authors we’d never even heard of. I am now about halfway through Elizabeth Bear’s book of short stories, Shoggoths in Bloom. Wow. Understatement, but wow.

    I will be looking into any- and everything else this woman has written. The short stories are eclectic in theme but consistently well written. Amazingly well written. And weird because I learned from the preface, written by Scott Lynch, that she and Lynch are an item. Which is weird because I only just finished reading Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series on the strength of someone who is a fan of your books. And I know you mentioned recently that you’d been reading them too. So this seems like a peek into a very small literary world, and I’m loving it.

    Anyway, thank you for contributing in oh-s0-many ways to my literary diet, which has been excellent of late.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

      Ah. That warms my bitter old heart.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying both the books in general, and Elizabeth Bear’s writing in particular.

  22. bookwyrmpoet
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

    I thought Knackerman, Knackerman was fantastic, but apparently I was playing it “too loud” on my computer speakers, according to the roommates, so I restarted it with headphones, and it was even better! Hearing a separate voice in each ear was a really cool trick.

  23. sixthsynse
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

    if you’re looking for other music acts i have a friend who has a “nerdcrunk” series on youtube. he makes raps out of anime/video games and also has produced some stuff with Toonami. you can check him out here:

  24. radynski
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    Wow, that was just ridiculously awesome. I can completely picture people sitting around a campfire singing that song.

  25. LaneRendell
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

    Man that is just one of those songs that sears onto your brain and plays on repeat for days.

  26. Linnet
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    It is brilliant.

  27. AlainRoy
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    If you get the song onto iTunes, I’ll buy it. One more way to raise money?

  28. MatrixM
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Permalink

    Not that you could possibly have any doubt by now, but this was awesome.

    How can she just have that in her head from reading lyrics?

    I kind of wish I didn’t skip over the poem parts as a child. >.>

  29. MRK
    Posted January 12, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    *Sad, desperate geek seeking immediate assistance*

    If I open the books to skim for “Knackerman,” I’ll lose 3 days or so of my life. I’m moving, my apartment is a wreck, paperwork has to happen, flights have to be booked… You get it. Much as I’d love to lose 3 glorious days, I just can’t afford to.

    So I ask you for help: where’s “Knackerman, Knackerman” mentioned? Please? Help me?

  30. Camelica
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    Oh, Pat! You guys should always stay bestest of friends!

    Putting music to lyrics like that can really ruin stuff but this was just great!!! I could see the whole scene in front of me. Two barmaids and the whole bar is clapping and singing along.

    Give us more of this magic, pretty please!

  31. slemay2003
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    Great song, LOVE IT!

    Has the “Song that never ends” feel to it, you start, and you never stop singing. It just keep going…and going…Knackerman, knackerman render me, render me… Ah shit!

  32. Posted May 4, 2014 at 1:38 AM | Permalink

    Pat’s talents are many, as everyone knows. But as I’ve said before.. Pat’s true talent is cursing. I have never been more entertained by words, countless times on this blog and in the books…

    “And I thought. What the hell? What the serious hell?”

    Explosive laughter frothed right out of me.

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