A Cold Day, A Warm Fuzzy, and a Familiar Book….

Well folks, as many of you know, we’re having a bit of a cold snap here in Wisconsin.

It’s not the coldest weather I’ve ever seen. But it is cold. -20 something Fahrenheit. Or, if you’re part of the logistically consistent world, -30 degrees Celsius.

If you count the windchill, we’re closer to -40. Which, interestingly enough, is that magical place where both Celsius and Fahrenheit shake hands and agree on a number.

We’re no strangers to the cold here in Wisconsin, but this is enough to catch even our jaded attention. It’s cold enough that we’re having to make some concessions. For one thing, I actually put on gloves earlier this evening, and I buttoned up my coat.

The other thing I’ve done is to give everyone at Worldbuilders the day off. Some of them have to commute to work, and not to sound all sissy, but this *is* the sort of cold that can kill you pretty easily if your car quits on some back road.

You see, while I may be a tyrannical dictator of a boss, I like to think of myself as a benevolent tyrannical dictator. The sort that stops just short of risking my employees’ lives.

Lastly, something in the cold brings out the storyteller in me. So I’m going to tell you a story. A story about a book. Some of you might have heard it before, but it bears repeating.

And there’s a new chapter this year. Read on, my friend.

*     *     *

If you’ve been following Worldbuilders for the last couple years, you probably know about our now-mythical Stardust ARC. It’s a book that has been with the fundraiser since the beginning, since 2008….

2008: A Gift from Gaiman.

In 2008 I was still a newbie author, barely published for a year. On a whim, I decided to try raising money for Heifer International on my blog. As you can guess, things quickly spiraled out of control as other authors pitched in, helping spread the word and donating books for us to give away.

The pinnacle of the coolness/madness came when Neil Gaiman mentioned us to his vast legion of readers. He also donated a rare ARC of Stardust to the cause. Unfortunately, mail was delayed because of the holidays, so we couldn’t use the book until….

2009: Stardust for the People.

So we had this book. This beautiful book. This beautiful, *rare* book. And I was having a hard time deciding how best to use it. I knew we could auction it off and raise at least a thousand dollars, maybe a couple thousand, but that didn’t seem right somehow.

So I decided to put it into the lottery, where anyone who donated to Heifer International on our team page would have a chance at winning it. That seemed fair to me, more egalitarian.

But then something strange happened. At the end of the fundraiser the person who won the book gave it back to us. Their one stipulation is that we auction it off next year, so it will bring in more money for Heifer. So….

2010: Stardust on the Auction Block.

During year three of Worldbuilders, we auctioned off all manner of things. And, as the previous winner requested, we put Gaiman’s Stardust ARC up on eBay too.

After some fierce bidding it sold for over $2500 to a lovely guy named Dan. There were many high-fives in Worldbuilders central. We were sad to see the book go, but $2500 bucks buys a lot of goats.

But when I e-mailed Dan to arrange shipping, he said he wanted to donate the book back to Worldbuilders.

I asked Dan if he was sure. He said he was sure. I asked Dan how he got to be so cool, and he said he was inspired by the story of how last year’s winner re-donated the book.

But most of the credit, he said, should go to his mom. She always made a point of donating to charity even though she never had a lot of money. Not only that, but she was a dyed-in-the-wool geek like the rest of us: she read fantasy and sci-fi, she played Infocom games…

From everything I’ve heard, she sounds like my kind of lady.

Dan told me she had passed away recently, and that most of the money he inherited from her went into buying this book. He thinks she would be proud and happy to know that the money will go to helping as many people as possible through Heifer.

Dan also said that he was a big Gaiman fan, and that he hoped that this whole exchange didn’t give Gaiman a complex because nobody would keep his book….

His only stipulation was that we put the book back into the lottery next year, so anyone can win it….

2011: Stardust Full Circle.

We put the ARC back into the lottery with much cheering. After picking the prizes, I called the winner, Maayan, to set up shipping (because you don’t want something like this to be a surprise on a doorstep).

Maayan tells me no.  She wants it back in the fundraiser. It’s sort of a thing now.

I send her a box of books as a “Thanks for being cool” present.

And Stardust goes back on the shelf…

2012: Stardust as Statistical Anomaly.

In 2012, we put Stardust back in the lottery again. Mostly because I like the idea of this amazingly cool prize being something anyone can win.

At the end of the fundraiser, we run our numbers. We cross-reference our list of prizes with our list of winners.

Amanda ran through the house yelling, after she checked it three times.

When I’m told, I look at the assistant holding the handful of papers with grim, fatherly disapproval, telling them in the gentlest of terms that they’ve fucked up and are obviously using last year’s spreadsheets.

But no. The truth is, Maayan won it *again*. For the second year in row.

This is bizarre math, people. This is like Heart-of-Gold level improbability.

I called her. She was shocked, amused, and flustered. So we sent her the book.

And she sent us back a picture.


Here’s what she had to say:

I was really extremely surprised to win the Stardust ARC two years ago, because I don’t think I’ve ever won any kind of online contest before. I was actually sitting in a hot tub on a ski trip to Colorado when Pat called, and my friends got to watch me make the craziest faces while on the phone. A few weeks later, Neil Gaiman sent me a little card with a picture he had drawn in it, which was so nice of him.

When Pat called me this year to say that I had won again, I’m pretty sure my first words were, “No, I did not!” Surprised doesn’t begin to describe it. If I win again this year, I’m going to start to be suspicious of your randomization algorithm.

Worldbuilders is such a great fundraiser, and Heifer International is an outstanding organization. I’m thrilled to take part. Thank you to Pat Rothfuss for putting it together, and thank you to all of the authors and artists who donate the prizes! I’ve enjoyed reading the fruits of your generosity.

That’s right, Maayan sent it back to us again.

Thanks so much, Maayan. We’re glad you at least got to touch the book that seems so desperate to meet you.

And without further ado, we’re putting it back in the lottery.

  • A numbered, limited edition ARC of Stardust in its own slipcase. Signed by Neil Gaiman.

Stardust (6)

Not much remains to be said here. It’s a beautiful book with its own slipcase. Numbered 28 out of 250. Signed by Gaiman.

If you donate to Heifer International on our team page, you have a chance of winning not only this book, but hundreds upon hundreds of other books donated by other authors, publishers, collectors and fans.

If you’d like to see some of the auctions we’re running, you can head over to our eBay page.

If you’d like more details about Worldbuilders itself, you can hit our Website, or read my blog.

You can also see all the items in the lottery here.

Stay warm everyone,


This entry was posted in cool things, Neil Gaiman, Stardust ARC, Worldbuilders 2013. By Pat61 Responses


  1. Mephy
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    A wonderful object lesson from ‘Unlikely Maths’…

    Also: keep warm over there guys :)

  2. Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing the latest chapter in the Stardust ARC – how crazy is it to win it twice in a row!
    Even though I’ve read it on your blog before, how the auction panned out is extremely cool as well.

  3. pwalsh33
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    Did you guys get loaded up on giftcards for the holidays? I just went over to Worldbuilders and unloaded all of mine. Great way to not buy useless junk and help out Heifer. I had no problems using ones from Amex.

  4. Constance
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    One of the cardinal rules of Faery Stories is to act with kindness and generocity. Such things hold a magic all of their own which cannot be matched. A gift, freely given without lein or let, is a powerful thing.

    This book is a thing of power and beauty. It holds hope and kindness and love between its’ pages.

    But why am I bothering to wax poetic like this? Fans of Rothfuss and Gaiman know these things.

  5. Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    What a fantastic, inspiring wonderful thing! There is nothing making me want to donate on payday more than the possibility that I could win that book and make sure it gets re-donated!

  6. kyfty
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    That’s an amazing story! Love it :)

    As for the weather, a quick PSA from a Canadian about driving in cold like this: Make sure to have a little survival kit in your car at all times. A sleeping bag, winter gear, shovel, etc. The most important things to have though are a few candles and some matches. A couple candles can warm up your car to survival levels if you wind up stranded, matches don’t go bad or run out of lighter fluid, it’s foolproof!

    • Amanda
      Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

      Thanks for the advice – I have the sleeping bag, shovel, road salt, but not candles. Clever – very clever :)

      • Linnet
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 7:25 PM | Permalink

        And the candles give you are source for a bit of useful sympathy.

  7. jordi643
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    If i won that book, I don’t know what would I do. I mean, it would be awesome and I would really like to have it, but I wouldn’t want to break the circle. It would be a huge dilemma, worse than the two pills in matrix.

    • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure Amanda has openly stated that if she wins it, she’s keeping it.

      • Amanda
        Posted January 7, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

        Hell yes I am.

  8. PHXDale
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

    In the decades to come this will no doubt be the most sought-after-but-never-owned book ever printed. May it ever stand as a symbol of goodness and generosity, and never get lost in the mail. Long live Worldbuilders, the Pantless King and all his generous minions!

  9. M.Fenwick
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

    Oh man. Now I DON’T want to win it. After all these awesome people redonating it back, the person who finally keeps it is going to inherit some BAD karma!

  10. ChaosAthena
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    “First came Gaiman, who shaped me in fire for an unknown purpose. He carried me then cast me aside.

    Next came ‘Etaine’ [of the unknown name]…

    Next came Dan of the clear and shining eye, much beloved of his mother…”

    I quite like the Atas of this book. Hopefully, it will continue. =)

    • Amanda
      Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

      I don’t have the words for how much I love this.

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:09 AM | Permalink

        I’m pretty fond of it myself….

  11. ali rahemtulla
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

    Sooo… Is the book cursed? Like a reverse One Ring? “One book to rule them all, and in the blogosphere bind them”. I like that. It should be a thing.

  12. Prufrock
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

    OK. Celsius and Fahrenheit and Kelvin. Fahrenheit wins for humans, Celsius for phases of water, and Kelvin for science. (I’m a physicist IRL). Any of the relative scales are equally “logistically” challenged and arbitrary – Kelvin at least has a basis in physical reality instead of being woefully Earth/water-centric.

    So if you’re going to be arbitrary, at least be arbitrary in a useful way.

    As has been pointed out (in human terms):
    ºF: 0º is pretty darned cold outside, 100º is pretty darned hot outside.
    ºC: 0º is jacket weather, 100º is dead.
    ºK: 0º is dead, 100º is dead.

    So that’s your day’s pedantry. Cheers.

    • Eledhwen
      Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

      I like your pedantry. But then, I’m a bit morbid.

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:10 AM | Permalink

        It makes me feel better about still being Fahrenheit-centric.

  13. Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

    Whoa, that is nuts she won it twice in a row.
    I love how everyone donates this book back, it’s a great tradition in my opinion. No question would I do the same. The story of this book is more rewarding every year than having it sit on a shelf as it would no doubt do at my house. LOL.

  14. ericturner29
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    I just made my annual donation.

    Something additional I did this year: After donating, I called up Heifer (888.548.6437) and asked to be added to their “do not solicit” list. It took about 60 seconds, and now (a) they won’t be wasting money on postage mailing me stuff when they’re going to get my money anyway, and (b) it might save a tree.

    • Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:31 PM | Permalink

      Thanks for this, I have to remember to do that when I get home tonight.

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:11 AM | Permalink

        Let’s add this to the FAQ, shall we Team? I know it’s been an issue with a lot of people…

  15. Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    So cold! It’s hard for a Brit to conceive of such temps. Stay warm!

    And I love the saga of the Stardust signed ARC. It would be such a responsibility to win!

    • christie
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

      “The Stardust Saga” is a great name for this book’s journey!

  16. Stormy Peterson
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Permalink

    I love this! How often do we truly own something, anyway? We’re really just temporary caretakers throughout this journey.

    • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:12 AM | Permalink

      Stormy? Were you one of my students out in Washington State about a decade ago?

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

        I was, indeed! You taught me everything I needed to know about English 101, student loans, and Penguin Mints.

        I’m kind of kicking myself for not being more involved with the writing group you wanted to start at the time …

  17. saintburns
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    I feel like the section hearders are how we should always talk about Stardust. STARDUST FOR THE PEOPLE! STARDUST AS A STATISTICAL ANOMALY! It sounds like some unlikely political candidate.

  18. Jonathan Jay
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    This leaves me feeling concerned. Perhaps a gentleman, woefully ignorant to the history of the book, should win it and decide to keep it without thinking twice. How many people would be sad-faced?

    • Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

      While I love the story of the traveling book that keeps returning to Worldbuilders every year, I wouldn’t judge someone who won it and decided to keep it instead. I’d hope that if someone did win it and didn’t return it, people wouldn’t think badly of them. It’s an awfully tempting book, after all, and if it fell into my hands I’d seriously be torn between wanting to continue the tradition and wanting to keep it for myself.

  19. carolyn walker
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:10 PM | Permalink

    I really think that someone should write down this book’s Atas (in whatever form) in some way that it goes with the book. I’ve noticed some of the people here are concerned that someday someone will win or in some other way take ownership of this book without knowing its history.
    Whether it’s written on/in the book itself (like an old family Bible) or just on a piece of paper that travels with the book in its slipcase, this history should stay with its story.

  20. ehchilds
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

    Can someone please run the numbers and figure out exactly how much money has been raised by this book alone. That would be awesome!

    • ehchilds
      Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

      (That first sentence was supposed to end with a question mark.)

  21. Cissus
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

    This book is so beautiful and I want it so much that if I won it I would cry while refusing it.

  22. pacifist
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    and here we just had the warmest 6th of january in the history of recorded temperatures….. pretty soon all the birds will think it’s spring again

    I always look forward to the next installment of the arc saga, it’s starting to be a tradition. Imagine the book getting lost in the mail

    • Posted January 6, 2014 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

      LOL, you must be near the West Coast too.
      My loquat trees are starting to bloom and full of bees today.
      I also wore shorts to work.

      I think I’d probably just die if I lived on the East Coast.

      • Posted January 6, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

        It’s -1 here today with a wind chill of -30. I wore two coats when I went outside today (my heavy winter coat and my husband’s heavy winter coat over that) and I still froze my butt off.

        • Posted January 6, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Permalink

          Oh bleck, that just sounds awful.
          I love the weather we’re having right now, but we could use a good rain just for the agriculture.

          • Posted January 7, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

            It is pretty danged nasty. I live in Kentucky and while we’re used to some degree of cold winter weather, the temperature dropping into the negative is rare for us. For it to be this cold is just brutal. It hasn’t been this cold in over 18 years and no one is really prepared for it at all.

      • twif
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

        ah, the fickle nature of new england weather. today, it was nearly 60&degF and all my snow melted. tonight, it’s going down to 9&degF and tomorrow looks to top out at around 14&degF, with wind chills in the -10s or so. not wisconsin cold, but those 50 degree swings screw with you.

      • pacifist
        Posted January 7, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

        Actually I live in the Netherlands (about twice as far to the east of the east coast as you live to the west of it, I think?)

        weather around here is pretty mellow thanks to a nifty ocean current. with warm (and wet) winters and cool (and wet) summers.

        yesterday was 14 ºC (which is uhm… 57.2 ºF)
        bear in mind that we’re a little farther north than you freezing lot though ^.^

  23. Sparkuus
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    If I won this, I’d read it VERY CAREFULLY once (maybe with surgical gloves on) and send it back!

  24. flotiste
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    Any chance for a paypal donation option for us losers frugal folk without a credit card?

    • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:14 AM | Permalink

      We’re working on it. But it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to pull it off this year….

      You can donate to Heifer over the phone using a check (I think.)

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:14 AM | Permalink

        BTW, I heartily endorse the credit-card free life. More power to you…

        • kdculb
          Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

          I tried a credit card free life and then me and my car were smashed 1000 miles from home. Rental car companies won’t rent you a car no matter how much cash you have, fortunately hospitals take insurance. I now have a credit card, but auto pay my balance every month.

          • Posted January 7, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Permalink


            Credit cards are just tools, like hammers. Used correctly they can accomplish much good. Used incorrectly and you’ll end up in pain (or used with malice and it could be the end of a life).

            It’s unfortunate that the Game of Credit is worse than one for Thrones, but it’s something we all are forced to play. Credit Cards are one of those simple tools that Can achieve so much good when used responsibly.

  25. durroth
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

    Okay, at this point, you need to get a library check out slip for the book. Get all the previous winners to sign that card and then have each year after that sign it.

    • Little My
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 4:45 AM | Permalink

      I really miss library checkout slips.

  26. Laelaps
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:43 AM | Permalink

    I see we passed our 250k goal again this year. That’s awesome. I started donating since i found out about this three years ago, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s weird, I’ve donated something to charity every year since i joined the military, but it wasn’t until i found this charity that i felt any kind of satisfaction from doing so. All in all, I’m just glad i could be apart of this for the past three years now and want to thank you for the opportunity. Thanks Pat.

  27. christie
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

    Love the story of this book! I enjoyed the unexpected twist this year.

    Wow. So strange she won twice. Nice she got a photo with it.

    My work had a white elephant gift of an orange hat that held 2 drinks with a straw. The tradition became to take a photo while wearing it and pass it on the following year. Maybe this book needs a little album with photos ( or drawings) of the owners and an area to write their thoughts. Even Pat or Neil could add to it as they enjoy writing a bit. I love the idea of the library slip too.

    Congratulations on a successful fundraiser so far… I’m curious about what the final numbers might be.

  28. Redwulf
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

    /Slow-Citizen-Kane-Golf-Clap for Maayan

    I was just looking around the other day to see what had happened with the Stardust ARC this year, and my heart is embiggened to see that some people continue to be amazing…. Thanks for being another shining example that there is still plenty of Good in the world.

  29. Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:37 AM | Permalink


  30. Posted January 8, 2014 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

    The Daily Telegraph newspaper here in the UK has picked up the http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10556027/Rare-Neil-Gaiman-book-re-donated-to-charity-for-fourth-time.html I don’t know whether it was in the print edition, or only online, but pretty cool either way (and they included the link, so people who see it may follow and donate) Pretty cool, don’t you think?

  31. Steve MC
    Posted March 13, 2014 at 1:47 AM | Permalink

    Such a great story. It reminds me of this tale from Mark Twain’s Roughing It:

    …and there was not another grand universal outburst till the famous “Sanitary Flour Sack” came our way. Its history is peculiar and interesting. A former schoolmate of mine, by the name of Reuel Gridley, was living at the little city of Austin, in the Reese river country, at this time, and was the Democratic candidate for mayor. He and the Republican candidate made an agreement that the defeated man should be publicly presented with a fifty-pound sack of flour by the successful one, and should carry it home on his shoulder. Gridley was defeated. The new mayor gave him the sack of flour, and he shouldered it and carried it a mile or two, from Lower Austin to his home in Upper Austin, attended by a band of music and the whole population. Arrived there, he said he did not need the flour, and asked what the people thought he had better do with it. A voice said:

    “Sell it to the highest bidder, for the benefit of the Sanitary fund.”

    The suggestion was greeted with a round of applause, and Gridley mounted a dry-goods box and assumed the role of auctioneer. The bids went higher and higher, as the sympathies of the pioneers awoke and expanded, till at last the sack was knocked down to a mill man at two hundred and fifty dollars, and his check taken. He was asked where he would have the flour delivered, and he said:

    “Nowhere–sell it again.”

    Now the cheers went up royally, and the multitude were fairly in the spirit of the thing. So Gridley stood there and shouted and perspired till the sun went down; and when the crowd dispersed he had sold the sack to three hundred different people, and had taken in eight thousand dollars in gold. And still the flour sack was in his possession.

    The news came to Virginia, and a telegram went back: “Fetch along your flour sack!”

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