The story of a beloved book…

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, 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, spreading the word and donating books for me to use as donation incentives.

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.

So the second year of the fundraiser rolled around, 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, 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 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 told me 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.

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 a look loaded with grim, fatherly disapproval, telling them in the gentlest of terms that they’ve fucked up and are obviously using last year’s spreadsheets.

She assures me that isn’t the case. She shows me the sheets, and the ticket numbers.

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

In 2014 Jeff’s name was drawn 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.

The more we do this library card thing, the more I love it.

2015: Stardust Returns Again

In 2015, Stardust went to a wonderful supporter named Don.

It was the first year Amanda called the winner. She had a great conversation with him, he told us to keep it, and we sent him a box of goodies and his library card as a sign of what he won. He has his library card, and we still have a beautiful, signed Stardust ARC.

2016: Stardust ALMOST goes to France

Last year, our winner was a lovely guy named Lucas. He lives in France, and had a lovely phone call and email exchange with the Worldbuilders team, and they sent him a box full of books, including the French editions of a couple of books from The Tinker’s Packs.

He has his library card, and we still have a beautiful, signed Stardust ARC.

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 the fundraiser you have a chance of winning not only this book, but also thousands of other books and games 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.

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.

This entry was posted in Stardust ARC, Worldbuilders 2017By Pat9 Responses


  1. Posted November 20, 2017 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

    Next time you’re on tour, I will have to swing by so I can sign the library card. :)

  2. lykashii
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    I love this story. I love for it every year!

  3. Posted November 20, 2017 at 4:31 PM | Permalink

    While the story is sweet, I worry that an obligation has been created- that anyone who won it would feel like they HAD to donate it back or else be the uncool, selfish person who ruined the story for everyone.

    While I’m sure Pat and his people wouldn’t try to influence anyone to give it back, or approve of harassing a winner who kept it, keeping it would mean that if you showed it off in your excitement, people would find out. There are a lot of overzealous people, especially on the internet, and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they had to keep a really cool prize secret or risk bullying.

    And even if a person kept it and said nothing, they’d have to see the inevitable conversations when no post about the ongoing story popped up the following year. They’d have to see people calling them selfish and wondering why the nameless winner didn’t continue the tradition.

    It’s not winning a book anymore. It’s winning an obligation to re-donate. And that’s great for a lot of people! …but what if the winner really did want that copy of this book? Keep with guilt or return with wistfulness?

    • setsights
      Posted November 20, 2017 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

      That’s what I thought last year and it becomes more of a problem each year. I think that’s why it’s good that Pat mentions that the winners get sent a big box of books instead!

    • GreatDarkSpot
      Posted November 21, 2017 at 10:46 PM | Permalink

      I am sort imagining if Vox Day won it. Though the idea of Vox Day donating in the first place seems rather far fetched….

  4. Haay
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    This story really touched my heart and I immediately ran to the Worldbuilders donations site to drop a donation as well.

  5. Forrest G. Emerson
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 1:44 PM | Permalink

    This is awesome!

    I’m just continually impressed and inspired by the Worldbuilders community.

  6. landlouper
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 1:09 AM | Permalink

    The “post to facebook” page at the end of the donation thread (to share and celebrate Worldbuilders with my friends) kept minimizing. I couldn’t get the window to stay maxed so that I could share.

  7. xjm
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:04 PM | Permalink

    Oh the library cards. Beautiful. They also fill me with a fierce joy. They remind me of everything from the Bobbsey Twins and Roald Dahl to Le Guin to high school history research. And that trail of connection to strangers who read the book before me. I miss that.

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