Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi:'Libraries are a core part of the democratization process.'

'Libraries are a core part of the democratization process.'

Well honestly, one of my favorite memories of a library was - I used to work at one. I used to work at University of Denver's library and the best thing about working in a university library is that undergraduates never check out any books.

And so, when I was doing research to write my novels, it meant that I could go into the stacks and I could check out entire sections. And so everything about Shondheim in the 1920s, I could check it all out, I could take it home and I could read all these books that I could never have access to any other way.

And that informed my writing it informed my understanding of the world around me, and you know, it's too bad the undergrads didn't know what they were missing. But that is actually one of the things that I remember most clearly about libraries was having access to vast amounts of information and having access to it without having to buy it.

We have a public library in my very small town and either through interlibrary loan or through the books that are already on the shelves that means that my son has access to books, it means that students, my wife students, my wife is a teacher, and her students have access to books, huge numbers of books and we are not rich there.

And so to say that each one of these students should buy, for example, a copy of my book, might be fabulous,because it would make me so rich and famous, but in reality I want to see my books on the shelves, because I want them to have access to those ideas.

And one of the things that I think is really important about us living in a democracy is we need informed people, and we need informed people regardless of their economic status.

And so one of the things that I really, really value about libraries is I feel like they are a core part of the democratization process and are making us a better society.

Now it is a resource for me and my family and I can take my son there and he can go through all these different books.  He pulls out all these different books. He's a drawer. He really likes to draw. And so he'll pull out all these picture books with the different styles that he likes.  He's exposed to all of these different, wonderful styles and he can sort of select those.

[On budget cuts] Honestly, I feel like we're hitting a decision point for ourselves as a society, where we're deciding what we value and what we don't value in our world.

And we're perfectly happy to spend a great deal of money bombing places we never even knew the names of home, but we aren't so interested in spending the relatively small amount of money it takes to actually maintain and educate our citizenry.

I'm a science fiction writer. What I do is I extrapolate. And so when I look at data points like that, when I see us deciding not to find our education, not to fund our libraries, to say that, well if you have access information, you have to pay for it, you have to be wealthy. What that looks like to me is the beginning of an oligarchy.  Where not only wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, but also information is concentrated in the hands of a few. And that doesn't look like a good road for democracy to go down.

[On censorship] What most concerns me about people trying to ban books is the assumption that I know best for you over here is the beginning of a cascade of events and a kind of a group think that I don't think is a good thing in any society.

The societies that I'm familiar with, I used to spend a lot of time over in China and they control a lot of information over there. They control what gets blogged about, they control what gets published, they control all sorts of things and what it means is that the public discussion, the public debate is always askew. It's not reflective of the realities around us, the holistic set of realities. 

And when a group of people decide that this is the only piece of reality that you get to connect to, this is the only piece of information you get connect to...

We don't want to talk about kids who are gay. We don't want to talk about sex in books, we don't want to talk about global warming. Whatever those things are.

You can choose any number of things. We don't like this book because we call it racist. Whatever those things are, I feel like we as a people are better off being able to see and touch all of the the world rather than pretending that part of it doesn't exist and that's, I think, the thing that's really of most concern about banning books, is that idea that we shouldn't look at the world.

My latest project is actually called "The Drowned Cities."It's a follow-up book to "Shipbreaker." It's all about children who are growing up in an area torn by perpetual war. And broadly the thing that was most interesting to me about was the idea of thinking about what happens when politics becomes so divisive and so destructive that that we vilify one another and destroy one another.

Creative Commons LicenseAll author videos are available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. We encourage libraries and library supporters to reuse this content and ask only that you provide a link back to the website. To request a copy of an author video contact the ALA Office for Library Advocacy at

Book Title: 

Ship Breaker

Library Name: 

University of Denver Library