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September 17, 2015

Helping Larry Smith, Bookseller
Posted by Patrick at 04:43 PM * 20 comments

Larry Smith has sold SF and fantasy books at more conventions than some of us have had hot meals. At nearly every con I attend, Larry and his wife and bookselling partner Sally Kobee have the largest all-new book installation in the dealer’s room, offering just about every single title released in the previous few months, including plenty of material from publishers not part of the Big Five. They’re part of the infrastructure of our community. I once (only partly jokingly) defined traditional SF fandom as that set of people who (1) subscribe to Locus, (2) read somebody else’s copy of Locus, or (3) will tell you at some length just how thoroughly they don’t care about Locus. You could as easily define us as “that set of people who buy a new hardcover from Larry Smith at least once a year.”

As widely reported, on 8 Sep 2015, Larry was driving his van full of books home from DragonCon, when he was involved in a freeway accident that rolled the van. His passenger was unscathed, but Larry is reportedly pretty banged up. He was released from the hospital yesterday but it’ll be a while before he’s completely healed, and meanwhile insurance is covering only part of what it will cost to replace the all-important van, to say nothing of the many damaged and destroyed books. There’s a GoFundMe for Larry and Sally that aims to raise $10,000; it’s about halfway there. We’re going to donate to it and we hope some of you do too. Truly great booksellers are never in plentiful supply.

Comments on Helping Larry Smith, Bookseller:
#2 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 06:46 PM:

Done. Larry's booth has been a staple of many of my favorite conventions over the years, and right now I'm in a position to be able to help.

#3 ::: Tim Illingworth ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 09:06 PM:

Well done!

$10,050 of $10k
Raised by 193 people in 11 hours

#4 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 09:44 PM:

FWIW, just because it's made doesn't mean that you shouldn't donate, if you were thinking about doing so. They've still got living expenses and lost business while Larry heals.

#5 ::: Rob Wynne ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 10:45 PM:

Indeed. Especially since the target goal was just a stab in the dark at the amount needed.

#6 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 10:52 PM:

And, from what's been said so far, it looks as if it's definitely on the low end (car replacement alone sounds as if it'll eat most of that up).

#7 ::: Walt Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 01:43 PM:

Thanks for mentioning it, Patrick. Widely reported though it may have been, Marjorie & I hadn't seen anything about it.

#8 ::: Deb Geisler ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 02:10 PM:

I love my tribe.

#9 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 02:43 PM:

I didn't get there until after the mark had been reached, but I tossed a bit into the pot anyway.

#10 ::: Marcia Kelly Illingworth ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 03:50 PM:

Thanks to the many folks who have contributed to the fund to help Larry and Sally. So many of you encouraged us to raise the goal, that we did just that. The new goal is $20,000.00. The expenses are going to be great. As Patrick said, they are part of the infrastructure of fandom. They are so grateful for, and humbled by the terrific response in their time of need. And thank you all from the bottom of my heart as well. I told them that they had more friends than they realized, and you guys have certainly proved it.

#11 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 05:19 PM:

To wax slightly philosophical -- this is a form of insurance, a way of spreading the risk and dealing with it when something catastrophic happens to someone in our network. Larry spent a long time paying in, in work and care and being part; now he gets a payout. We'd all rather not have to take a payout for this sort of event.

#12 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 08:47 PM:

Tom Whitmore #11: I would say rather that personal insurance is a substitute for this sort of community support -- which goes way further back than insurance policies.

#13 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 09:11 PM:

More accurate indeed, David Harmon. And the paid-for kind is a bit more predictable. But the relationship with insurance is ... interesting.

#14 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 11:01 PM:

The whole point of insurance is that one shouldn't have to have this kind of personal support network against the event of a catastrophe. That we still do is (1) a major failure of our social systems and (2) yet another thing for a lot of people like us to fear. What happens when it's J. Random Fan who hasn't spent 40 years "paying in" and doesn't have that widespread pool of friendship and good will to draw on?

#15 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 03:01 PM:

Lee @ 14

I have similar qualms. (Hmm, I also have qualms about possibly derailing this thread. Please object if you think I'm doing so.)

Crowd-funding what should be considered basic social services (especially health care) should be (and I think largely is) considered a horrifying failure of the fabric of society. Yes, in a way it's a hearkening back to the days of friends, neighbors, and kin pulling together in times of trouble. But those days were similarly crappy for the people that the friends/neighbors/kin had decided weren't worthy of charity.

Crowd-funding via social media or piggybacking on social organizations (such as clubs, churches, etc.) inevitably means that people are supported not so much according to their needs but according to their charisma, their connections, and the charisma of their connections. If you have friends who can "get out the vote", you're in luck. But there's a very tight balance point between the ability of a particular social venue to muster support, and the likelihood that the venue will be swamped by requests for support that drive away potential supporters.

There's a parallel in looking at which minor local tragedies/everyday-heros get a media blitz that funnels philanthropy, versus all the exactly parallel cases that don't get the blitz because they didn't have all the right factors aligned perfectly. And even when people are there pointing it out, it doesn't change the fact that we the pubic have only so much attention to spend. (E.g., people supporting Ahmed Mohammed while pointing out that he represents a vast, less visible class of people just as vulnerable and just as deserving.)

It is both a triumph and a failure of human nature that we can both go all-out in support of a stranger who is made "real" to us in a concrete, focused, dramatic way, and we can pass by hundreds of people in exactly the same situation without a thought because they haven't been made "real" to us. And because we *can't* go all-out all the time for everyone.

No overarching story or moral here. That's kind of the point.

#16 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 08:49 PM:

HRJ, #15: You have neatly expressed everything that I was thinking when I wrote my post, better than I could have done. And no, I don't think it was hijacking, but I also don't think there's much need for further discussion. I merely wanted people to think about those points as well when someone brings up the warm-fuzzy aspects of the process.

And yes, it's absolutely true that a "personalized" aspect changes things. I think that's a part of human nature which really is built-in via evolution, and it holds true for situations ranging from disaster relief to selling handmade goods.

#17 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 09:39 PM:

Do Larry and Sally have an online shop of any kind? An abe page, ebay shop, or the like? I have a handful of SF&F books I need to buy for an upcoming project, and I'd much rather buy from a small business that needs support.

#18 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 10:18 PM:

Heather Rose Jones #15: Crowd-funding what should be considered basic social services (especially health care) should be (and I think largely is) considered a horrifying failure of the fabric of society.

Indeed -- but then, so is requiring people to cover those services through insurance at their own expense -- because that insurance is basically trying to run crowdfunding through a complex commercial system which is fundamentally subject to perverse incentives.

#19 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 07:49 AM:

There are two things being conflated here.

The first is health care. It's a risk everyone has to face. The costs should be born socially.

The second is business risk. It's different from disability or unemployment. That's an economic choice not borne by everyone and which people choose to face.

For that, crowdfunding is one way that makes a lot of sense. If you are doing something people want and need and which satisfies them, folks chipping is a good way to prove that. This is clearly one of those cases. I looked at the donor list while I was trying to figure out if I could afford to kick a little in and saw a lot of names I knew, people very different from each other.

Or because you're fond of the people. If this had happened to Lee and her partner, I'd've figured out a way to kick in. We've never met and I've never bought anything from them. But I'd give.

There's a band I follow very closely which has an active community surrounding it. There are two slogans that go with it: Always go to the show and We take care of our own.

You can live a pretty good life with not much more than those two rules to guide you.

#20 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2015, 12:45 PM:

Leah Miller @17: None that I could find; it seems their business model is completely offline. But I guess it's worth asking through the Illingworths to be completely sure.

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