A Familiar Story About a Well-Loved Book

Over the last two weeks, authors, publishers and fans have been sending us box after box of signed books, cool games, and geeky miscellany have been showing up at WB headquarters. So many new items it’s caused a bit of a problem: There’s no way we can show all of it off in the five days remaining in the fundraiser.

It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.

I talked things over with the Worldbuilders team, and they’ve said they’re willing to put in the extra hours. So we’re going to extend the fundraiser for one more week. Seven extra days will give us enough time to process and organize these new donations, then show them off to proper effect.

That means the new end date will be December 15, 11:59pm. 

And now a story about a familiar friend….

* * *

If you’ve been following Worldbuilders for the last couple years, you probably know about this:

It’s a book that has been with the fundraiser since the beginning….

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. 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 would raise 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 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 could 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 show up as a surprise on someone’s 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.

Then Maayan sent it back to us again.

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

2013: Stardust In the Lottery Again.

Last year, Stardust chose a new person to love. It chose Jennifer.

She was overjoyed, happy to have won it, and just as happy to return it.

We sent her a care package full of goodies as a thank you.

And this year, we had a cool idea – we’ve instituted a Library Card system for the Stardust ARC.


When I was a kid, every single library book had one of these. Even now, all these years later, the sight of one fills me with an indescribable joy.

Neil graciously agreed to sign the library cards for us.


What’s more, we are currently having all the previous winners signing the cards and passing them after keeping one for themselves of course (or two, in the case of Maayan).

That means this year, if the winner chooses to return the book, they will still have a keepsake to remember it by: signed by all the people who have loved the book before them, and the original donor, Neil Gaiman.

So, without further ado allow me to add today’s book to the lottery.

  • A numbered, 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 the Worldbuilders team page, you have a chance of winning not only this book, but hundreds upon hundreds of other books and game donated by authors, publishers, collectors and fans.

Every $10 you donate gets you a chance to win. So if you donate enough for honeybees ($30) you get three chances to win. Donate enough for a goat along with the training and materials to care for it ($120) and you get twelve chances to win. Donate enough to provide clean water for a village ($300) you get 30 chances to win.

And if that wasn’t enough by itself, this year Neil has agreed to do an Act of Whimsy, too. When we reach $600,000, he’s going to read a book for us, and if you donate, you get to vote on what he’s going to read.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.58.01 PM

So far, the voting is pretty close, but there is a title in the lead:

#NeilReads 12.2

Where the Wild Things Are and Jabberwocky were tied earlier in the week, but since then Jabberwocky has re-taken the lead.

For those of you who feels strongly one way or the other, we made Facebook cover photos for each team you might be interested. So, if you’re Team Jabberwocky, Team Wild Things, Team Goodnight Moon, or Team Fox in Socks, you can let your geek flag fly on and promote it with the hope of converting your friends to your cause.

Thanks for being the greatest, people. Let’s make these last days count.

This entry was posted in Neil Gaiman, Stardust ARC, Worldbuilders 2014. By Pat24 Responses


  1. Posted December 3, 2014 at 3:23 AM | Permalink

    Nice to read the latest installment of the Stardust Arc! Hopefully that library card will become a new tradition with a new round of signatures each year (this is how I interpreted it anyway), instead of just being a one off for this year.

    • Posted December 3, 2014 at 4:37 AM | Permalink

      Yup. We’ll have a bunch of them, so it will happen every year from now on….

      Assuming people keep re-donating it, that is. It’s possible that someone might decide to keep it. In the past, Amanda has said that if she wins it, she’s not giving it back….

  2. compelledorphan
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 3:41 AM | Permalink

    A quick heads up that the donate link above the gaiman graph points to last years heifer page :D

  3. lykashii
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 7:44 AM | Permalink

    Hi guys, I’m trying to donate, and every other year I haven’t had a problem, but this time it’s saying I must enter a valid phone number.
    I’m entering my mobile number, I’m British, does this mean I can’t take part this year?! D:

    • BJE
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

      I’m not able to confirm this, but on a previous blog post from Nov 18 (Three Threes: The Return) someone said they had a similar issue due to a Danish cell number.
      That poster said the phone number wasn’t mandatory. Have you tried just not putting it in?

    • Holmelund
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

      I had the same issue and then noticed that it is not mandatory to include your phonenumber. So just leave the field blank and everything should work out fine for you :)

      • Posted December 4, 2014 at 3:56 AM | Permalink

        Yup. Make sure your e-mail is valid though. So we can contact you if we need to….

        • lykashii
          Posted December 5, 2014 at 9:56 AM | Permalink

          Okay thank you! :)

  4. imnosuperhero
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM | Permalink

    Sweet, the fact that you extended a week means I actually get to donate this year! Previously I’ve been too broke but this time I just got promoted and my first check will be (yep) December 15th. I’m buying a goat!

    • Posted December 3, 2014 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

      Yeah. More than a few people have mentioned that the tighter time frame of this year’s fundraiser was making it more difficult for them to donate this year. That made the decition to extend things another week a little easier for us….

  5. knnn
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 9:24 AM | Permalink

    Out of curiosity, does every donation equal exactly one vote, or do you get one vote per $10 donated? I ask because if you are using the first method, someone who really cared about the vote could potentially try to influence things more by splitting up their donation into $10 increments.

    • Holmelund
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

      He answered that earlier. Each 10 $ is one vote, so if you donate 100 it will automaticly count as 10 votes on whatever animal you choose.

    • kdculb
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

      Each $10 of your donation is a vote, so a goat ($120) would count as 12 votes.

  6. Halogen.Josh
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    Thanks, Pat, for putting Worldbuilders together. It’s a beautiful thing – you make it very easy for other people to do some good in this world and, if you never write another word about the Four Corners, you’ve done something wonderful for the people in this world. Also, I want to see you kiss a llama smack on the lips. :-P

  7. smgorden
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

    +1 for “the book that seemed so desperate to meet you.” Love that personification.
    Side note: I will be speaking to the missus about this fundraiser shortly.

  8. nathangarner
    Posted December 3, 2014 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

    Howdy, I downloaded the Team Wild Things Facebook cover photo with the hopes of properly and dutifully showing my allegiance. Sadly, I discovered that my Facebook profile picture will cover a portion of the link to donate in the Team Wild Things cover photo! Perhaps some cunning geek on your Worldbuilders team can edit the cover photos so the text is positioned entirely above the Facebook profile picture?

    • Amanda
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

      Thanks for catching that! It’s updated.

      • valentine
        Posted December 3, 2014 at 8:35 PM | Permalink

        My profile picture is still covering up the link.

      • SporkTastic
        Posted December 4, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Permalink

        The Team Jabberwocky is likewise not aligned quite right; the “bit.ly” part of the link is being covered up.

        • Amanda
          Posted December 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

          Yup, looks like they were all a little off. We fixed all of them, so they won’t be blocked anymore!

          • SporkTastic
            Posted December 4, 2014 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

            Thanks! I was trying to fix it, but ultimately realized that it’d be way, way easier with the text as a separate layer…which your files probably already had. So, waiting was. :-P

  9. julieanngrasso
    Posted December 4, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    You just made me cry at work. Thanks :)

  10. Vera
    Posted December 5, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    Man, I want this! I want so much stuff in the lottery and I want to help Heifer! :(
    This makes me realize I need to graduate from school and get a great job….then I can freely donate what I want to donate and not have my hands tied by not having more money.

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