A Volunteer Story from #GeeksDoingGood

Hello!  My name is Karl Thornton

and I was a volunteer for this year’s #GeeksDoingGood capacity fundraiser. About a month ago I’d been struggling (along with everyone else recovering from the past year) and the person I was talking to recommended volunteering to get more active and out of my head. I told them that I knew a guy who worked for a non-profit, and then I emailed my friend Gray at Worldbuilders.

I’d already participated in their writer meetings a couple of times at that point, mostly serving as an extra pair of eyes for social posts. We’ve known each other for a long time and written together before so the email basically said “Hey, I’m looking for something else to work on, here’s when I’m available and what I’m interested in, need help with anything?” And Gray replied that yes, he had just the thing.

There was this upcoming fundraiser.

He started me out helping to write product descriptions, which had a pretty daunting list. When I came on there were about 75-ish perks / offerings, which eventually reached over 100 with new ones added almost every day. As I started working through the items, my main stumbling block quickly revealed itself. As a team, everyone in Worldbuilders is intimately familiar with their communities and fandoms, and the offerings created around them. So they could get away with short simple names of items for context and write accordingly. But I was new to a lot of it. 

Now, I proudly consider myself a geek.

An older geek to be sure, but I’d be an asset on any pop culture trivia team. But going through the listings highlighted huge holes in my geek knowledge and the research I had to do exposed me to artists and creators I normally wouldn’t have run across. For example, there’s a Uhuru t-shirt I wrote the description for.

Did they misspell Uhura? I don’t remember the Star Trek episode where she was a pirate, but maybe it was one of the animated ones and in fandom anything is possible. Instead I browsed the OneShot podcast website and later James D’Amato’s Amazon page to learn more about the Skyjacks podcast and the many RPG books James has written. 

This next part is tough to admit.

I’m only familiar with “The Name of the Wind” via audiobook. I remember it being a great story and performance. However, I don’t tend to retain as much with audiobooks and had to dive headfirst into the Kingkiller Chronicles online fandom to learn what an Auri’s Gear was and other points of interest for the many, many things Worldbuilders offers that community. I’d already followed Pat Rothfuss on Twitch (gaming geek dad for the win!) and caught some of his streams so The Name of the Wind and its sequels were already on my reading list, but this experience has bumped it up considerably. 

Speaking of Pat and Twitch, I watched as many of the streams and GDG panels as I could during the fundraiser (hey, I was busy writing!), and the connection Patrick and Worldbuilders have with their contributors really showed through in those live sessions. Books on teenage superheroes with PTSD and webcomics seem like outliers compared to most of Worldbuilders’ offerings. But seeing the discussion about mental health with C R Saxon or hearing Pat talk about how Max Overacts was a comic he loves sharing with his boys brought it home.

Watching Gray and Zay talk with authors about issues and their work in a way that’s so much more than an overview and writing process discussion made the context clear.

These are things they care about. Things that matter to them. 

On a quick sidenote,

Have you seen the list of artists that contributed to the fundraiser? I saw so many fantastic illustrations and paintings of fantasy and sci-fi worlds as I visited the websites of Tess Fowler, Nate Taylor, Larry Dixon, and Marc Simonetti among others for additional frames of reference on their contributions and then had to drag myself away to work after many minutes of open mouthed fascination over their luscious art. 

There’s so much I got to see for the first time and learn more about. Australian game designers. VR fantasy dungeons. Gangster card games. Valdemar. Murderbots. Fantasy currency.

 Scrolling through Shire Post Mint’s site with my 7 yr old to show her that yes, there’s an actual pizza coin that you can break into slices and worry stones made from upcycled bowling balls (she liked the purple ones.)

It comes with its own pizza box!

And I could go on about the week. I helped write social content and update the story page on IndieGoGo. I got to know the Worldbuilders team in daily meetings, and talk about new babies (congrats Mike!), ferrets, geeking over Twitch, and hair coloring emergencies.

I was part of a production where everything’s normal onstage, but backstage there’s a constant scramble to adjust to new information, additions, and changing circumstances.

But generally speaking, the generosity and variety of the perks and the chance to learn about new worlds and fandoms is what impressed upon me the most during all this, so that’s the blog post you got. 

To finish up

(and pad my word count, sorry Gray!), I went through my browser history and copied a list of the many creator, artist, and store websites I visited to help write for this fundraiser. I probably missed some, if I did I apologize.

If you’re able, it’d be great if you contributed and purchased a perk at the GDG fundraiser first, or through the Worldbuilders Market if you’re reading this later. But afterwards, if you’re curious about any of the creators and contributors from this year’s event, definitely check out their websites and wander through their worlds. You will find incredible works of brilliance, craft, and beauty.

Thanks to everyone at Worldbuilders for the chance to help with this, it’s been great. 

~ Karl

GDG Research Links (in no particular order):