Geek As Citizen / Make It So: Banned Book Giveaway

Book Shelf And More

Awhile ago, I heard about how the Merdian, Idaho School district removed the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian” from its curriculum.  So a student helped give away the books as part of an event called World Book Night.

So some parent called the cops on them.  Really.

Now this got me thinking. Not just that some people really need to get boundaries, or that it seem son one realizes that banning something makes teenagers want it more.  It made me think about banned books and geekdom.

Geeks in general don’t like censorship and we’ll regularly read things that will melt people’s brains.  We’re also pro-literacy in many cases, and we’re organized.

Also, frankly, I’m anti-censorship.  Good citizenship is about the intelligent handling of ideas.

So I’m thinking we geeks ought to get in on this Making Banned Books available thing.


So my basic idea is this.

Appropriate conventions (those with a heavy literary element and that are large enough) should host a banned book giveaway.  Have a room, open with donated copies of various banned books that would be available to all comers.  Perhaps there would be donation boxes (or purchased donation slips allowing entrances) that would fund worthy causes – or you just give the books away.

Now this would have to be done carefully as some books may, say, be age-inappropriate and there may be local legal issues.  But careful checking and thought would make this relatively easy to handle.

Such an event would:

  • Promote literacy.  Always good.
  • Promote awareness of banned books and censorship.  Also important – and indeed something I feel we geeks should pay more attention to as awareness fits our “cultural portfolio.”
  • Get people to read books – some banned or controversial books are often damned good (it seems that makes them more controversial).
  • Would act as good publicity – properly handled.  Poorly handled it could be a mess, of course, but I trust you.

I wouldn’t be surprised if other conventions have done this, but I haven’t heard of it before.  So I promote this as an idea.

But I’m not done yet . . .


See, this is just the basic idea.  The more I think of it, the more I think there’s other things we could try.

  • Many conventions, such as anime cons, draw on media from other countries.  There could also be a focus on controversial literature from source countries. That’d be extra educational.  Speaking of . .
  •  . . . an event like this could be paired with discussion of the relevant literature or literature relevant to the convention theme.  That would be educational.
  • Discussions or panels about censorship and laws, especially in history and perhaps other counties would be interesting.  This could also be useful in areas, like video games.
  • This could easily go beyond books with things like games, movies, films, and so on.  Even banned nonfiction is relevant.
  • Some conventions, those focused heavily on media producers, could also pair this with panels on dealing with laws and censorship, becoming very educational.
  • Entire sub-conventions or conventions could spring up around the idea of dealing with censored and controversial works.  Just noting.
  • Conventions doing this could partner with existing organizations as appropriate.
  • Go crazy with cosplay of infamous characters, etc.  That might be too silly – or pretty neat.

There’s many ways to take this.


So, just an idea that struck me for we geek citizens to consider.  It fits what we do, our love of media, and we’ve got a social structure to do it within.

Any thoughts?

– Steven Savage

Make It So: The World Archive

When I last posted about the Abandonment Archive, a place to leave fan works anonymously, I was focusing on fan works. But a few comments on “Recording your World” by newcomer Marek Tarnawski got me thinking that this basic idea of a “dumping ground” (in the good sense) should be expanded.  Let’s face it there’s probably a lot more things we should be saving with the power of the internet, easy technology, and fan power.

In this case, I’m realizing that we need an archive for abandoned, unused, and previously used worlds.

Many a gamer, writer, and so on has a few worlds in their back pockets. They have the game they never made, or the RPG campaign they haven’t played in fifteen years. There’s that Livejournal RPG that everyone loved but which then faded away, or the wiki that you set up and never used for your novel. There’s plenty of unused worlds out there.

People love good worlds. Settings are important, and though we love to build them, some are so intriguing we want to play with them.  Also sometimes we need new ideas.

So let’s put all those unused worlds to use.

The World Archive

Imagine a world archive for half-done, abandoned, previously used, or unused worlds. People could leave behind their creations for others to use, along with notes, historical documents, and contact information. This way their creations would live on and could inspire and be used for others.

The benefits I see are:

  • People are able to let their creations live on – and maybe even get comments on them and sync up with other enthusiasts.
  • Other people can get ideas or whole settings from the “donated worlds.”
  • Even if people don’t use a whole world, they’ll be able to use ideas (I suspect many people wouldn’t use entire worlds).
  • It would provide some interesting historical records of games, game systems, writing plans, and more.  Think of what these worldbuilding efforts say about the people and their times.
  • It may help remind people of past games and gaming systems – and would be great as a supplement to those beloved systems and what can be done with them.

The Methods To Get A World Archive

On the other hand this gets to be a bit challenging because people’s notes, worlds, and so forth are in a variety of formats. Some may be in a wiki, some may be a text document, others may be in a dead RPG system, etc.  Many are just on paper.  It’s not like it’s going to be straightforward.

I think the only way to do this is:

  • Have a basic upload system to just store raw files.
  • The upload system should have some basic viral scanning for the sake of sanity.
  • Over time get members to work out formats and conversion tools (that could make the site great for career skill development).
  • Post resources like character sheets and the like to help people convert information over – and post them on the site as well (anything to help out).
  • Accept uploads as JPGs so people can scan. If you can get any cheap OCR software or point people at things it’d be a godsend.

On top of a standard posting, credit, and combination system, it should be reasonably easy, as long as it’s allowed to evolve.

There would, however, need to be a pretty extensive search and classification system so people can mark their creations for easy access.  People amy search for game system, era, theme, etc.  Your tags are going to need to be extensive enough to classify things, and organized (and limited enough) to keep them from being overwhelming.

Likely there’d need to be feedback as well to catch misclassified works.  Some works may be tagged wrong, others may be falsely tagged, and there’s always the concern of people playing pranks.  A simple feedback system for review would probably be easy.

In time I see such project evolving – and probably sharing its formats and technology. A good wiki converter, a character sheet parsing macro, etc. would all be useful.

Of course there are challenges . .

The Challenges of The World Archive

There’s going to be a few challenges facing any ambitious archivists.  They’ll need to deal with:

  • Who owns what. Like the Abandonment Archive, it probably needs some way to do ownership checks.  A passive “alert us if this is inappropriate” system would probably work.
  • Stability. If a site like this gets lots of uploads and downloads It should be very carefully written for stability’s sake.
  • Backup.  Seems obvious, but seriously, this thing needs to be well backed up or the point quickly becomes moot.
  • Ensuring that entires are actually useful. There;s dumping grounds and dumping grounds, if you get my drift.
  • Updating. If it’s just a place to add things and it doesn’t adapt and grow, if new features aren’t added to make it easier to use, it could become useless. The site needs to evolve to meet people’s needs – which may not be apparent until running it.
  • Paying for it. Pretty obvious, though I imagine ad sales and such may work out, and there’s a chance for merchandise. It might work as part of a larger initiative or supported by certain companies (who get a nice promotional out of it).
  • Long-term existence. Something like this sound great but might peter out – it should probably have Death Of Site plans built in just in case.

Worlds For All

I think there’s potential here – if not on a large scale perhaps on a small scale for specific worlds, or settings, or types of game systems. It could even evolve as a series of specific sites coming together.  People would get a lot out of it – and it’d be fun.

It might even branch out into more world building resources and archives, collaborative works and the like.

Anyone feel up for it?

– Steven Savage

Make It So: The Abandonment Archive

Awhile ago I confronted the citizen/ethical issue of what fans should do with our historical, and perhaps even relevant yet ultimately really awful works. What to do with bad fan art, embarrassing fan fiction, and so on? Hiding and never speaking of it is appealing, but let’s face it some of that is rather relevant to our culture, our development, and the historical record.

Awful, but relevant. Indeed I still wish someone had saved a copy of the delightfully named “Final Pottermon VII” from a decade ago just so I had proof it existed.

Jokes aside, I don’t want stuff saved to find the next Eye of Argon. Really some fanfic, fan art, embarrassing websites, half-baked games and the like are pieces of geek history. They say something about people, time, and technology.

It’s just some people don’t want it said about them. But these are history.

Come to think of it, there’s also a lot of great work out there that’s just abandoned, left on rotting sites and old hard drives. There’s things we’ve forgotten or overlooked from our years and decades of geeky participation. There’s half-finished or unpublished novels. That too is out there, not being analyzed, understood, or applied, and it too is part of our history.

I have a theory. We need an Abandonment Archive.

The Abandonment Archive

My idea would be an archive where people could leave complete works very, very anonymously. So left, with relevant information, they’d be archived and accessible. The emphasis would not just be on access per se, but for research, understanding, and historical record.

So people would leave:

  • The work in question.
  • Comments on where the work was posted, time, etc.
  • Historical reference and information – “This was inspired by Battle of the Planets before I knew about Gatchaman.”
  • Any relevant critique, information, or notes.

It would also not focus on things that are “bad” but things that people sort of want to wash their hands of or want to preserve and make public. It may be written during “a phase,” is out of date, or is just not something they care for any more. The Abandonment Archive lets them put it to rest for whatever reasons – and let people find it anew.

Some works that are original could even be made public domain or put up for “adoption” in some cases.

Of course such an archive would then have to be curated. There’s a chance people would leave things out of vengeance, spite, mockery, or troublemaking. There’s a chance of people leaving a few minor pieces that might not be worth curating. There’s also just people who won’t fill the forms out.

I have the feeling the right group of fans, writers, acafen, and so forth would find this an ideal job.

Done properly, you’d get an archive of history of fannish activities. Some may be old, distant, obscure, or embarrassing, but history is history – and a little anonymity would be quite helpful.

From here you could add even more features:

  • An anonymous 3rd party email correspondence system for people to coordinate archival information about what they’re abandoning.
  • “Triage” contests to salvage or improve works.
  • Newsletters or even physical books when appropriate, or other releases to help pay for the thing.
  • Historical research and analysis posts on culture.
  • Posts to share memories.

Will it work? I have no idea. But I’m throwing it out there to see what you think . . .

– Steven Savage