Friday, September 8, 2017

Blast from the Past

My book Last Gentleman Standing is just out. It’s a refurbished version of an early work of mine, Bluestocking, and I’ve been thinking about what a different world it is for a writer now than when I first composed the story. This book was written on an electric typewriter. I think it was an IBM Selectric. Have you even heard of them?
If I wanted to make changes (beyond some minimal typo correction), I had to re-type the whole manuscript – hundreds of pages. There was no cut and paste and edit on screen. There just barely were screens, and most writers (outside CERN) didn’t have them. Of course you could literally cut up the pages and rearrange them with actual paste. Messy.
My editors and copyeditors added their comments with pencils, and I responded in the same mode. Then the typesetters took over. I read and, if necessary corrected, paper galley proofs, using a whole vocabulary of proofreaders’ marks that hardly exist any more. Then typesetters came back and fixed things for the printer. No ebooks, because what would you read them on?

Readers who wanted to get in touch had to write letters to the publisher, with pens, which the publisher would then forward to me. It could take weeks from start to finish. Snailmail indeed.
And yet I am not so very ancient! Technology has zoomed like a rocket in these years, so that I can sit in a café (as I am right now) and watch everyone else interact with their phones, and only their phones. And why I can say things that would have made zero sense when I was young. (Your age may differ.) For example: IM me the directions. Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency. Please delete that Tweet. Can I stream that movie?  
Or – find me on my website and Facebook. And I hope you will!

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