The Dewey Donation System

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Since 2003, my friend, fellow author and blogger Pamela Ribon has done an annual charity drive wherein she picks a group of libraries who are in need of some timely donations and encourages all her readers (and others) to make a donation of books or cash to the libraries. This year she had gussied up her donation drive and found some co-sponsors (including Television Without Pity and Glarkware) and is debuting the donation drive under its new name and Web site, the Dewey Donation System.

This year’s donation drive focus is the Harrison County Library System, in Mississippi. Harrison County’s libraries were incredibly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, with its two largest libraries, in Biloxi and Gulfport, gutted by the tidal surge created by the storm. These libraries lost all of their childrens’ books and much of their fiction and audiovisual offerings. Other libraries in the system lost some or all of their collections as well. Many of these libraries are still closed; all of them need to rebuild their collections.

The Dewey Donation System site makes it easy for you to pitch in: The site links you to the Amazon wish lists of the individual libraries in the Harrison County Library System. Browse through the things they need, and when you find something that tickles your fancy (and fits your budget), buy it. Amazon takes care of sending it to the library — no need for you to worry about how it’s going to get there. Then once you’ve made your donation, swing back by the Dewey Donation System site and let them know what you’ve donated. You’ll get your props for encouraging the cause of literacy, and maybe that will encourage others to donate as well.

I’ve been a big fan of this annual book drive since it began, not only because it’s helping preserve literacy — a big cause of mine, as you can guess — but also because it makes it so simple for me to do the right thing and send a book or two. Pick, click, done. I’ve donated this year like I always do (a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast to the Gulfport branch), and I encourage you to do the same — and to let other folks know this donation drive is going on. The Dewey Donation System site has PSAs and ad banners you can add to your own site if you like, but I think what would be even more effective, if you’re a blogger, is to do an entry and say, “hey, I donated. How about you?”

I wasn’t approached by Pamie or anyone else involved to do an entry about this, incidentally. I’m just happy she keeps doing it every year, and I’m happy to call attention to her good works when she does them. I hope you’ll join me in thanking her and the other sponsors of this drive, join me in donating to this cause, and join me in letting other folks know it’s happening.

So, to Pamie: Thanks. And to everyone else: Hey, I donated. How about you?

Subterranean Magazine To Press

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For those of you wondering when Subterranean Magazine issue #4 would go to press: Today is that day. Even as I type these words, the mighty presses are whirring and clanking and making whatever other noises presses make, and then the copies will be sent to subscribers, people who have purchased single copies, and to the contributors. This doesn’t mean it’s too late to order your own copy, however. Hey, all the cool kids are doing it.

Odds/Ends, 06/12/06

Little things that are happening to me and/or I’m thinking about:

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* Look who’s come crawling back. It’s my cell phone, making its return to me after two weeks of solo adventures about which it apparently chooses not to speak. Fine, be that way, you little clamshelled bastard. I’ll find out, one way or another. Actually, it was finally found at the hotel that Wiscon was at by one of the convention volunteers, who kindly popped it in the mail and sent it back to me. Overall it appears none the worse for wear, and I’m pleased to have it back. This is the sort of above and beyond service from Wisconites that will keep me coming back to the convention on an annual basis.

* Since I wrote about the Fermi Paradox a couple of weeks ago, I’ve run across a couple more reviews of Old Man’s War which complain about me totally ignoring the paradox, as if it were a genuine irrefutable physical law rather than a product of some late night bull session under the squash stands at the University of Chicago, just another conversation while Ricky and the boys were playing with the fission pile. Note to geeks: It’s not a law. It’s not even a theory. Hell, it’s not even a hypothesis. I even doubt it’s a real paradox. However, it’s annoyed me enough that in The Last Colony, I now have a character talk about Fermi’s Paradox, and offer the true explanation of how the aliens can be out there and not have visited here. So for those of you whose world view rests on the resolution of that particular “paradox,” now you’ll have something to live for until May 2007. And then, I suspect, you’ll probably hate me, because I don’t think you’ll like the answer. I like it just fine, however.

* An interesting quote from Orson Scott Card from an interview in a Roanoke, Va., newspaper, on whether he considers himself to be a conservative:

Believe me, I can infuriate a room full of Republicans and seize every opportunity to do so, since I have little patience with their worship for the free market or their opposition to civilized control of weaponry. I am disgusted by the short-sightedness of leaders of both parties. But the fact that I find George W. Bush to be the most moderate, thoughtful, rational and responsible president since Dwight D. Eisenhower makes me look conservative to those who think “conservative” is a dirty word and George W. Bush is the devil.

This makes me very much want to visit the alternate universe in which OSC resides, because the GWB we have in this universe is pretty much the exact opposite of the adjectives Card uses to describe the president. Perhaps we can arrange a swap. I would agree that liking Bush doesn’t make one conservative, however, since at the moment I don’t know many genuine conservatives who are glowingly happy with the man.

Aside from this, however, a really sharp observation from OSC about injecting his personal politics into his fiction:

My characters have political opinions, but they are rarely my political views… If I ever let my fiction be propaganda, then my career as a fiction writer is over.

This is something I think OSC and I have very much in common. I save my personal politics for the real world, and let the fictional politics of the worlds I create go where the story needs them to go. This does of course create the occasional misunderstanding of my own political views, but in some ways I find those misunderstandings perversely satisfying from a craftsmanship point of view. It means as a writer I’ve succeded in creating a worldview separate from my own (or at least appears separate through the lens of current politics), and that’s a skill to have, particularly in science fiction.

OSC makes the salient point that is values are still likely to come through, and in my own reading of his work I think that’s true; I find it most notable in his Alvin Maker series. I think some of my own personal values are evident in Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades as well, although less in the direction of the books’ political structures and more in the way the characters deal with each other.

This is not to say the political structures in the books don’t have their effect. One of the challenging things about The Last Colony is that it deals with the political set-up I’ve developed over the last couple of books, with the Colonial Union being the way it is, and the aliens being the way they are. Dealing with all that and still having the characters have room to be recognizably their own people is the challenge here. If this book had its way, it would be 800 pages long, but the book is a fool and doesn’t know what’s good for it. That’s why I’m around. What we’re hoping is that I’m not a fool, too.