Dark Øverlord's take on charity

WARNING: This is a very long post.

Long-time Junkies will know that ARealGirl and I bust our butts to give y’all the goods. You’ve been great fans for the last seven years, and we love you for it. Those who have joined the community more recently arrive to a plethora of novels, novellas, short stories and podcasts. Maybe you haven’t seen the slow buildup of our tidal wave of content, but we’re happy to have you enjoy it as well.

As our content and backlist grows, so, too does our business. Our 2012 was the best year we’ve had yet. We’ve re-invested the moolah we’ve made into hiring designers, producers and other consultants in order to make our stuff even better. We’ve also re-invested in better video equipment, because we want to make MONSTROSITY a focal point of our 2013.

But even with our re-investment strategy, we’re still focused on giving back when we can. We wanted to show you where our charity focus is for 2013. We get a lot of requests for various causes. A lot. We can’t say yes to everything, so we thought we’d illustrate where we do say yes, so that when we say no we don’t come across like dicks. At least A doesn’t come across like one. I always will. It’s a cross I bear.

Now, don’t think we’re donating so much they will name buildings after us (at least not yet). We do what we can for causes that are most in-line with our collective beliefs: supporting our military and science education.

This a big one for us. A’s parents both retired from the military, and her brother served in Desert Storm. My uncle served in Viet Nam. My dearest high school friends paid for college with the GI Bill, one who served in the Army and was never deployed overseas, one who served as a Marine in Somalia and saw some very difficult things, and one who is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.

A and I both believe that the world is not a nice place. If left to their own devices, people will not just “be good to each other.” The world is red in tooth and claw, and for our way of life to continue someone has to shoulder a weapon and man a post. When those people are hurt in the line of duty, it impacts their ability to make a living, both for themselves and their families. The Wounded Warrior Project’s goals are:

  • To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
  • To help injured service members aid and assist each other.
  • To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

There are many charities that help Veterans, and we appreciate them all. However, we’ve decided to focus on the WWP and one other.

Among other things, I am a writer of YA books. Operation Paperback is a charity set up to help committed soldiers read, and read to their kids. It’s pretty much a no-brainer that we’d be totally down for helping this organization out. We do send our own books, sure, but we also send the work of other authors as well. It’s all about what the soldier wants, not what we want. At least until all the soldiers everywhere are united under the orange and black flag of Siglerism, that is.

From Operation Paperback’s site:

Operation Paperback is a non-profit organization … that collects gently used books nationwide and sends them to American troops overseas, as well as veterans and military families here at home. Since 1999, we have shipped over 1.9 million books to locations around the globe.

Our service members and their families make sacrifices every day for our country. It takes so little to let them know that they are appreciated. When you donate to Operation Paperback, you will let America’s military know that you appreciate their service and their sacrifices.

CosmoQuest logoCOSMOQUEST:
I have been talking smack about how I want to support science education for years, and — other than my books and speaking at a few science-related events — haven’t done jack squat to back it up. Time to change that.

A and I believe that the pathetic state of science education in the United States isn’t just a source of concern, it is damn near an emergency. The people who will run this country in the next 20-30 years are being brought up in an era where science education is downgraded, simplified, and in some instances removed altogether. Other countries are ramping up on science and math education, and if we don’t start improving the education of our youth than those countries are going to be the ones innovating this new century’s technological breakthroughs.

The goal of CosmoQuest:

Our goal is to create a community of people bent on together advancing our understanding of the universe; a community of people who are participating in doing science, who can explain why what they do matters, and what questions they are helping to answer. We want to create a community, and here is where we invite all of you to be a part of what we’re doing.

CosmoQuest is a way for us to contribute and make a difference, with subject matter and people we believe in. The project director is Dr. Pamela Gay, a friend of both A and I. The advisory team is Fraser Cain, Carol Christian, Alberto Conti and Phil “The Bad Astronomer” Plait. Phil is one my favorite people, both because he is bald (and bald is sexy, honest it is) and because he is an outspoken proponent of science education.

We believe in these people, and we believe in their cause.

Diversity and Equality in Rationalism:
This one is a bit different, and has come about due to my growing awareness of a problem that needs attention. If you’re not familiar with the skeptical or rationalist movement, activist Skeptic and awesome guy Steven Novella offers this definition:

“A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.”

We at Dark Øverlord are committed to helping increase diversity and equality in this movement. Over the past few years, there have been multiple ugly incidents of Skeptics being attacked online by other Skeptics, often for reasons that primarily seem to be based on gender. When I say “ugly incidents,” that’s putting it mildly: people I know personally have received threats of violence, rape and even death for their views within the community. A group I know well receives these threats on a daily basis. That’s not exaggeration: it’s a daily burden that they must deal with while they are trying to do good and increase science education understanding, and information critical to the health of people everywhere.

As one might expect, this has an impact on participation. As a man, I have a certain “go fuck yourself” attitude if someone threatens me online. Also, as a man, people do not often threaten me online; it’s something we don’t have to deal with all that often. While there are exceptions, women, by and large, can’t just shrug off online threats of rape and murder. Not only do outspoken women receive more threats than outspoken men, women need to take those threats seriously because the cost of not believing in what might be a real threat is far too high. Can women threaten men? Absolutely, and it does happen. Can women hurt men? Absolutely, and it does happen. The fact of life, however, is that most men are physically stronger and more aggressive than most women, and have the capacity to inflict their will upon just about any woman they see.

That’s a hard thing for many men to understand. I know it was hard for me. I blew it off as women “over reacting” more times than I can count. “Get a thicker skin,” “don’t pay attention to assholes,” “don’t feed the trolls” and other phrases were part of my daily outlook. Only by working closely with a female partner who was receiving these threats did I come to understand the impact they have, and finally realize that, yeah, if you’re a woman, you need to be on-point and take every one of these things seriously.

So, A and I will be contributing to causes that promote diversity, equality and understanding within the world of rationalism and Skepticism. The cause is directly linked with our “Science Education” beliefs. The cause is too important for any person, male or female, to be driven into silence for fear of their safety.

Skeptic fund-rasier SurliesOur way of doing this is by contributing to the efforts of Amy Davis Roth, a Skeptic who manages a grant campaign that sends men and women to science-based secular events. You can learn more about Amy’s efforts at this Surly Grant site. Her goal:

To encourage participation, equality and rationalism in the secular community.

Amy is also the creator of Surly Ramics. She has built a successful small business, and makes the Sigler Surlies we have talked about on this site and in the podcast. More than that, she is my friend: I believe in her and what she is doing.

Electronic Frontiers Foundation:
I am a monthly contributor to EFF. Not much, mind you, but I’m contributing.This organization is dedicated to protecting online freedoms against corporate and governmental efforts to restrict and control the Internet, copyright law, and other areas of digital rights.

I’m not an expert in this area. But, I know enough to realize that the EFF knows way more than I do, and is out to protect the rights of everyone as opposed to lining the pockets of the few, or allowing governments to use the technology to control and manipulate the people. Just take a look at their Victories Page to see what kind of work this organization does.

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people’s radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

About The Author


  1. Beth_Ailis

    These are all great charities and I wholheartedly support your/their goals. Wounded Warrior does alot for those who have given more than most of us can imagine.

    I’m very glad you addressed the situation in the Skeptics community (also happening in the Atheist community, sadly). It has really had a chilling effect on women’s voices and participation. I, for one, have been reluctant to get more involved in those areas because of what I’ve seen happen to Amy and others. I think I’ll go buy one of the special Surlies she’s offering to raise money for her grants.

  2. 573ph4n13_84rn35

    Major hugs to the FDO! So glad to know I am supprting an author who is not only a talented writer, but who is in line with so many grear and worthy charities.

  3. Gatorrock

    Fantastic Scott & A!!

    Great views and great charities!!!!


    Keep up the Fantasitc work and extra cheers for the Love and Support of Science!!!!

    — From one of your faithul Scientists and [not so] “Secret Agents”!!!