Kevin Andrew Murphy 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,
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.