Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Astonishing Pile of Manuscripts

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I was in the Asimov's offices yesterday to meet Sheila Williams, who was taking Tom Purdom and me out to dinner.  And, while there, I took the above photo of a stack of story manuscripts on Sheila's desk.

Would you care to guess their significance?

I'll give you a second to ponder and then, in the very next paragraph, give you the answer.

Made your guesses?  Good.  What you see above is all the paper manuscripts that Asimov's received in the past month.  Every single one of them.  The other manuscripts, something like five hundred of them, were all submitted electronically.

The world is changing fast these days.

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5 comments:

Richard Parks said...

Even Realms of Fantasy is going to electronic subs. Soon there won't be any hardcopy submissions left.

Zachary Jernigan said...

What a beautifully small pile. It'll be even more beautiful when there's no pile at all.

Thanks for posting this, a very welcome development.

JJM said...

I would argue it's not really a welcome development. While the word processor and the Internet have made writing and submitting a manuscript easier, we are fast losing the ability to go back and see earlier drafts of a work, as opposed to what was actually published, for good or for ill.

A whole chapter omitted from Huckleberry Finn showed up in someone's attic once; and there are several versions and drafts of The Mysterious Stranger, none finished, showing clearly how Twain was struggling with his basic idea. (One version even involved Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. That would have been interesting -- Tom, Huck, and young Satan ... ) Having read both the lost chapter (reinserted in a later edition) and all the drafts of Stranger, I am very grateful for the privilege and opportunity.

Will we have the same chance with the literature of the future? Highly unlikely, if everything goes digital. Much too great a chance that original drafts are overwritten in the revision processes, and that, once a book is published, all the drafts and revisions either are deleted or become unreadable over time. And I consider that a loss.--Mario

Michael Swanwick said...

It's wisest to print out drafts of a work as it's in progress, because sometimes you'll take out something that you'll later realize is exactly what the work needs.

So I think most of us will still be leaving a paper trail, even though we needn't.

JJM said...

Glad to hear that, Michael. I'm delighted by the ease of the new media, but the instinctive archivist in me inevitably worries ... Which, I suppose, is why I've got too much stuff lying around, too.--Mario