Stardust ARC: Many Happy Returns

Today I’d like to tell you a story about a book. Some of you might not have met it before. But to many of us here at Worldbuilders, it is an old, familiar friend….

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

2008: A Gift from Gaiman.

In 2008 I’d only been published for a year when, 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, numbered, slipcased 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.

It was the second year of the fundraiser, and I had this book. This beautiful book. This beautiful, *rare* book. I was still doing the fundraiser pretty much by myself then, and I was having a really hard time deciding how best to use it.

I knew we could auction it off and raise at least a thousand dollars, maybe even a couple thousand, but that didn’t seem right somehow.

So I decided to put it into the lottery, where anyone who donated at least 10 bucks to Heifer International on our team page would have a chance of winning it. That seemed fair to me, more egalitarian.

Then something strange happened: 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.

Year 3 of Worlbuilders, 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.

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

2011: Stardust Full Circle.

Year Four of Worldbuilders, 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.

Stardust (3)

I thanked her kindly, and sent along a box of books as as “Thanks for being cool” present.

Then something weird happened….

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 pick the prizes and when I’m told who the winner is, I give the assistant holding the 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.

This is bizarre math, people. This is like Heart-of-Gold level improbability. Maayan had won again.

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.

Year six of Worldbuilders, 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.

That was the year we had a cool idea – we instituted a Library Card system for the Stardust ARC.


When I was a kid, every library book had one of these. Even now, all these years later, seeing one fills me with a strange joy.

Neil graciously agreed to sign the cards for us.


What’s more, we had all the previous winners sign the cards and pass them on after keeping one for themselves of course (Maayan got to keep two).


This way, if the winner chooses to return the book, they still get a memento of the experience: signed by all the people who have loved the book before them as well as the original donor, Neil Gaiman.

2014: Stardust Makes a New Friend

Last year, we drew Jeff’s name as the winner of the Stardust ARC. He donated it back again, and we sent him much love in return as well as his own signed Library Card.

Jef Neil Geiman

He’s the 5th person to sign them for us since Neil. And it’s a beautiful thing.

This year’s winner will get their very own library card signed by Neil Gaiman and the other winners.

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.

As an added bonus, all donations will get us closer to Neil Gaiman’s $550,000 stretch goal of singing “Gorn Dahn the Plug’ole” to his baby.

So. If you’d like to be part of a fine tradition of people being awesome, winning books, and making the world a better place, you can head over and donate right now.

* * *

In other news, if you’re in a Cyber Monday sort of mood, we’re currently having a sale in the Tinker’s Packs (All proceeds from that go to Worldbuilders as well.)

Also, we’re launching a new event tonight. The subreddit r/Fantasy is having Worldbuilders Week, where 36 different authors who have worked with us over the years are doing AMAs every night. It will be a good time. You should stop by….

This entry was posted in Stardust ARC, Worldbuilders 2015By Pat17 Responses


  1. bldysabba
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

    Nice. I was wondering just a couple of days ago if this book would be donated back to the fundraiser. Went and read every previous post about it, which makes me wonder, might it not be a good idea to give this post a tag which would allow someone to connect it to the series of posts about this book?

  2. boborchard
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:40 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat – it looks like your link for “Heifer International on the Worldbuilders team page” is broken (found out when I tried to donate). I did find the URL, but wanted to let you know.

    Cheers, mate!

    • Amanda
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

      I took care of it, thanks for catching it :)

      • sdlibrarian
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:50 PM | Permalink

        still not working for me.

        • Amanda
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

          Gah, more than one – I’ve fixed it now.

  3. cynrtst
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

    I always thought in previous years that I would keep the yoyoing book but after such a long tradition of being altruistic, I would feel like a heel if I kept it. Here’s a toast to generousity!

    • tap836
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Permalink

      Makes me almost fear winning in, as I would have to make that tough decision myself :)

      • Posted December 1, 2015 at 3:39 AM | Permalink

        Amanda said at one point that she’d keep it. I don’t know if she’s changed her mind since then….

  4. lykashii
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    This story makes me tear up every year. So glad that it’s still going! <3

  5. jbeauspeaks
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    I do love this community we’ve got here. Thank you for spreading the love in such a cool way!

  6. beckrms
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    This link does not work for me. So. If you’d like to be part of a fine tradition of people being awesome, winning books, and making the world a better place, you can head over and donate right now.

  7. He without a clever name
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    Yeah, this is a super cool tradition. I remember wanting to win it in year one…then again when it was put back in the auction…but yeah, at this point, I couldn’t keep it. Maybe I’d write a note and put it in the book before sending it back (Written on an old library card, perhaps…)

    I feel like we need to come up with something different to do with this book next year, perhaps some sort of game to add to this geeky bit of hot potato…Think-think-think…

  8. Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

    Link “..and making the world a better place, you can head over and donate right now.” broken. Looks like you don’t have the full url – you have
    href=” missing http:// does correctly redirect in case anyone is looking for it (until fixed).

  9. Checkmonkey
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    Is worldbuilders set up as a non-profit? My company does corporate matching for “qualifying charitable organizations”, and I was hoping they might be able to add to the cause.

    • Amanda
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:14 PM | Permalink

      We are! There’s usually some paperwork that needs filling out, so if you need that, email us at [email protected] and we’ll get it taken care of :)

  10. SporkTastic
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 12:34 AM | Permalink

    This is a (very) lean year, but for a chance at this? Worth it.

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