The Ur Texts — Library for Ziggurat Con

April 21st, 2007

Back during the 1st Gulf War, there was a call for folk to send letters and care packages to soldiers, with a note that letters addressed to “any soldier” were especially appreciated, because it’s particularly awful to be stuck in a war zone with no family or friends who remember you’re there. I packed up a few books I’d enjoyed and sent them off, adding the extra flourish of addressing them to “any soldier who likes science fiction and fantasy,” since that would likely describe someone in any given company and you might as well make sure you send someone a present they’ll enjoy. When my first novel came out, I took a copy and did the same.

Some years later, I got an email thanking me for my first novel — from Bosnia. The last care package had somehow made its way to the next international conflict and the soldiers there were grateful for something to read. I’d made some fans, but more than that, I’d help make the world a little brighter for people in a dark place (ironically with a dark fantasy set in Europe.)

Then came 9/11 and before I could think about getting some books together for “any soldier who like F&SF (and horror),” some jerk put anthrax in the mail and everything got restricted to mothers of soldiers and other people who actually knew someone, and since I was fortunate enough to not have any family or friends serving, the whole idea of kindness from strangers got buried.

Then I read a post by Cory Doctorow on Boing-Boing, mentioning that Iraq is having its first fantasy roleplaying convention, Ziggurat Con, being held June 9 from 1200 to 2100 hours at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, open to all allied military personnel and civilian contractors in Iraq. There’s a call for donations of roleplaying game books for prizes, as well as for things such as dice, because d20s are in rather short supply in Iraq.

However, all my spare game books are either not current or I’m currently using them, so I dropped the con’s organizer, SPC David Amberson, an email (david.amberson (at) iraq.centcom.mil), asking him if he might like novels for prizes as well, and also if I should pass along the request to other authors I know. Here’s his response:

As for Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books, YES PLEASE!!!!! We have a loaner library here, but few books in it. People borrow and never bring them back. Books are the keys to understanding the world, and how it really works. By understanding other worlds and how they work, we can learn how to change our thinking and progress.

My address is as follows:
SPC David Amberson
A Co 86th Sig Bn
APO, AE 09331

Thank you so much for your support,

Dave

Building a library in the shadows of ancient Ur is a worthy cause, and while we should of course keep sending signed copies of our various works to all the local conventions in our own countries, sending them somewhere where there’s a scarcity of books in English and a whole lot of people who want to read them is a good thing. And we can even sneak in a letter to “any soldier” on the flyleaf.

Those of us with new novels about to come out might also drop a note to the publicity department at our publishers as to where to send the spare review copy or even a promotional case. Just think of it–review copies and promos that actually get read.

And of course boxing up some of those works by other authors that we’ve read and enjoyed (or promos we were sent that we didn’t have time to read) is also a good thing.

11 Responses to “The Ur Texts — Library for Ziggurat Con”

  1. Debbie Whiteon 21 Apr 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for the information.

    The “Any Soldier” concept is still in place, by the way. Enterprising people figured how to get around the restrictions. I send stuff to the addresses provided on the website http://www.anysoldier.com/ . There are other websites for this as well.

  2. Katharine Kerron 22 Apr 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Great post, Kevin! I shall box up some stuff tonight and send it off, for sure!

  3. Karen Williamson 22 Apr 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Great idea! I just culled my fiction shelves, and have books needing a home.

  4. kateelliotton 22 Apr 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks, Kevin. I’ll pack up some stuff and send it off.

  5. Carol Bergon 23 Apr 2007 at 7:10 pm

    I had a fellow come up to me at a convention last year and say he’d pulled one of my books out of a box of books sent to Iraq. He said it made a difference for him at a rough time. Who can ask more than that?

    We can touch these brave men and women. Thanks for the reminder.

    Carol

  6. Alison Croggonon 30 Apr 2007 at 12:31 am

    I have no problem with the humanitarian motive behind sending books to soldiers on horrible missions. All the same, I find this troubling; there seems something obscene in the idea of “building a library in the shadows of ancient Ur”, without even thinking about what those “shadows” actually are: say, how so much of that region’s precious and irreplacable archeological heritage has been (literally) crushed under concrete or bulldozed by the building of US military bases, an act of cultural vandalism that will never be repaired…or when you think of the sacking and burning of the library in Baghdad in 2003, when no effort was made to protect the vast literary and historical heritage of the cradle of not just their, but our, civilisation. I mean, isn’t there something a but wonky here?

  7. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 30 Apr 2007 at 1:33 am

    Alison,

    Honestly, when originally posting this, I thought to say something about the burning of the Baghdad Library, the neighboring Q’uranic library, and the general smashing and scattering of archaeological treasures but it just got me depressed. And I wanted to keep this upbeat and nonpartisan and do something more constructive than designing Dantean punishments for Donald Rumsfeld and not coming up with anything more fitting than having him star in live-action remakes of certain scenes from Farenheit 451.

    As it stands, the only constructive approach I can take to the destruction of several libraries is the building of another. Obviously this can neither restore nor replace what has been lost, but speaking as an author, if some evil warlord burned my works–Genghis Khan, Donald Rumsfeld, other assholes yet to be born–I think other authors sending their works in that general direction would be the best answer.

    Obviously the Ziggurat Con library is not going to be a permanent thing. Some of the books will be lost and worn out, others will wander to private hands and used book dealers and with time filter into the antiquarian trade, and some remnant of what’s sent may form a collection that languishes in a corner somewhere until donated or otherwise acquired by a library who finds the flyleaf inscriptions an interesting historical documents. They may even be correlated with this post if there’s some graduate student working on his or her thesis and some archive of this blog survives. Hard to know. The immortality of Sappho is a tricky thing.

    But I do know that some things survive, and while I can’t unburn a library, I can at least write more books and hope that the ones lost weren’t the only copies.

  8. Debbie Whiteon 30 Apr 2007 at 11:53 am

    Alison,

    Hmm. Yes, well, media outlets aren’t always as accurate as we’d like to think they are. They often neglect to say, “opps, the damage wasn’t as bad as we said” or “oh, the people that worked there hid most of the stuff to keep it safe–it wasn’t missing at all.” Probably “it’s all destroyed!” sells better. But, yes, precious, irreplaceable things of all sorts get destroyed when there’s fighting going on. But locals fighting things out or stealing things to sell on the black market have done more damage than our people. Not to mention ancient armies duking things out and razing places. Heck, I’ve even seen tourists destroying the very places they came to see so that they can ‘take a piece home’…and I’ve yelled at them about it. And weather and time do their share of damage. That doesn’t change the fact that physical heritage get destroyed, but I think it’s silly to put all the blame or one person or one nation or whatever.

    As Kevin said, all we can really do is try to rebuild what was lost, and donating books is one way to do that.

  9. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 30 Apr 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Hmm. Yes, well, media outlets aren’t always as accurate as we’d like to think they are. They often neglect to say, “opps, the damage wasn’t as bad as we said” or “oh, the people that worked there hid most of the stuff to keep it safe–it wasn’t missing at all.” Probably “it’s all destroyed!” sells better. But, yes, precious, irreplaceable things of all sorts get destroyed when there’s fighting going on. But locals fighting things out or stealing things to sell on the black market have done more damage than our people.

    Remarkably chirpy there, Debbie.

    As for “our people,” the Geneva convention rather explicitly states the occupying forces have the responsibility to maintain order and safeguard lives and property, including cultural treasures. Since this happened on our watch, then it’s our bad, as per the rules, and neither you nor Donald Rumsfeld gets to dodge blame by saying “Oh, those awful Iraqis!” Everything that’s happened since the invasion is our responsibility, so suck it up.

    As for the books and other cultural treasures, yes, some were destroyed, some were stolen, some were hidden by people with more foresight than Donald Rumsfeld and recovered afterwards. But I’ll raise an eyebrow at “most of” anything being recovered, which is I think a lie on the order of saying “all of” anything has been destroyed.

    The plain fact is that significant portions of the library and museum collections were destroyed or scattered, and the way libraries and museums are, there’s no way of knowing what all was lost or destroyed. Librarians and currators are always finding amazing things tucked away in uncatologued or misfiled portions of the collection, so even saying “They saved the most important stuff!” rings false because as any librarian or currator can tell you, the best you can do is to save “the most important stuff that you know about.” An otherwise dumpy Book of Hours can be discovered to be the Archimedes Palimpsest.

    But anyway, let’s step aside from the partisan rancor and get back to the point of the exercise which is sending more books.

  10. Debbie Whiteon 30 Apr 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Kevin,

    *confused look* Maybe you need to re-read my post. You might justifiably say that I have news-outlet rancor, but I fail to see where I showed any partisan rancor.

    I’m confused because I don’t see where, exactly, I said that The US troops and Donald Rumsfeld or whoever else was NOT responsible for the damage done on their watch. I’m all for preserving heritage (as long as preserving humans lives comes first) and for taking responsibility for ones actions. Where did I say that Iraqis as a people group were awful people and are to blame for everything? All I said was that that area of the world has a long history of fighting…especially fighting without regard to preserving what we modern westerners would consider valuable historical objects and sites.

    Kevin said: “Everything that’s happened since the invasion is our responsibility, so suck it up.”

    Actually, we are only responsible for the things we did, not for what other people have done. That’s rather my point. However, the main thing that I was trying to say to Alison is that damage to these things is a hard thing to prevent since there are so many ways that damage is occurring. There’s not much that I, personally, can do to stop it from where I live. However, I can help build a new library (of sorts). Building is a logical response to destruction, in my opinion, not an obscene response (to use Alison’s word).

    To be honest, though, I’m sending books because I have friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and know how much they enjoy the books. I’ll shut up about the subject now.

  11. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 30 Apr 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Debbie,

    I read the partisan rancor in faulting news outlets for not saying things that are patently false, such as “oh, the people that worked there hid most of the stuff to keep it safe–it wasn’t missing at all.”

    The only case so far as I know that the “most of” might approach anything near the truth is in the case of the Basra library, where the librarian Alia managed to get 70% of the collection out before the rest was bombed and burned during the invasion. The full story is here. The losses from the national library in Baghdad were far larger and its fate far grimmer. Read the details here.

    More than that, you also said:

    Actually, we are only responsible for the things we did, not for what other people have done. That’s rather my point.

    My point is that I disagree with that strongly. If you shoot the guard and smash a hole into the wall of the bank, you don’t get to say you’re blameless for the subsequent looting.

    Of course Rumsfeld even pish-toshed that, saying, and I quote, “Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it’s the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, ‘My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?’”

    If there’s any justice, he’ll have that engraved on his tombstone. I’d prefer his forehead, of course, but the tombstone will do.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply