In 1999, as the VIE was being founded, the Paul Allen Foundation contacted the fledgling organization and asked “what can we do to help?” “Easy enough,” I thought. “Give us words of encouragement, tell us what a fine and selfless task we are embarking on, provide us with access to cranial CAT scans so that the tumors can be located…” No, that’s not true. We asked, “can we have money?” Herman Melville observes, in Moby Dick, that although it is generally agreed that money is the root of all evil, we nevertheless flock to perdition… hence, “can we have money?”
This wasn’t an unreasonable request. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has tons of it. It was earned, I dare to say, according to the best means and methods of American Capitalism, not that I cared where he obtained it. Further, Jack Vance was one of his favorite authors. (Mr. Allen took Jack and Norma Vance on an Alaskan cruise at one time.) And the money was forthcoming, in the following form: the grant provided for the purchase of a number of sets of the VIE to be donated to libraries and similar institutions which would make the sets available to the public.
Probably, we could have gotten off the ground without the grant, but let me tell you: the thought that Paul Allen would underwrite our initial efforts gave me, at least, the confidence to go out and help a group of mostly 40 to 60 year old non-publishers expend about 400,000 man hours, while holding almost three quarters of a million dollars of other peoples’ money, and get the job done. Hm. Come to think of it, more than one key figure in this project was named “Paul”. Hm.
At this time, a number of sets have been donated to a variety of libraries, many of which are internationally known. A few sets remain, and therefore, we invite interested Vance fans to help place these sets in worthy institutions. Note that I do not say “nominate worthy institutions” or “suggest to Bob Lacovara that he track down the 3rd assistant librarian in charge of acquisitions from unknown agencies in upper Estonia” or “send us some library suggestions at random and Bob Lacovara will do a bunch of scut work and try to place the books” … no, interested (read: interested in doing the ground work) parties should contact a worthy institution and find out (a) if they are interested in the donation of a set, and (b) if they will actually shelve these 5’ of books and (c) who the appropriate individual is at the library in question.
Once you do all this, there is a letter somewhere around here on the web site which you can pass to the librarian. It explains that:
That last one isn’t a sticky point, libraries do that routinely. What is tougher is getting them to actually shelve the books. Shelf space in most libraries is harder to get than space on a supermarket shelf for a new sugar-loaded kids’ cereal. Wait until you try.
Please pick a substantial library to which you have some entre or real interest, either as patron, or alumni, or what have you. Skip the Triumphant Wicca Women’s Freedom Hearth Resource of Upper Dumptruck, New Jersey, and the like. It’s not that I don’t love liberals (I don’t love liberals) but merely that we want people with a reasonable probability of sanity to read these books.
Let me summarize: