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February 11, 2004

Painful announcement
Posted by Teresa at 09:42 AM *

There’s probably a more graceful way to say this, but someone else will have to come up with it, because I’m the author, and the whole subject makes all the gears in my head freeze up at once.

NESFA Press, publisher of my essay collection Making Book, has given it a third printing. That’s very nice. I’m appropriately pleased and grateful. The bad news is that they accidentally shot it from the wrong copy. They used the first edition, the one with all the typos, including the really bad one in the eighth line of page 150 that I correct and initial every time I autograph a copy of that edition. There are lots of other typos, but that’s the one you can’t read past.

Some day, it will seem funnier to me that this happened to a book that’s partly about copy editing. An errata sheet is in the works. It would go through the works faster if the aforementioned gears stopped freezing up. Any day now. Really.

I was at work when I first got wind of this. I don’t know what I looked like for a while there, but people kept stopping in my doorway to ask if I were all right. “I’m being very auctorial,” I told them; meaning, approximately, I am in shock, and I observe that at the moment I have zero sense of perspective about this, and This hurts like hell. In short: I’m taking this like an author. I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. Fortunately, they understood what I meant.

I recall thinking that if I were some other author, I’d at least have that little period where you still think something might be done about the problem, and then the distraction of trying to figure out how this happened, and then the cathartic rant about how no other author in the history of the universe has ever had this abominable thing happen to them.

I’ve watched authors get over this. My turn now.

Anyway. If you buy a copy of the third printing and I’m not around, please turn to page 150, eighth line, and replace the word Silence with Silkience. Thank you.

Comments on Painful announcement:
#1 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 10:40 AM:

Oh you poor old thing!

When I read in _The Motion of Light in Water_ that Delany used to go into his local bookstore and personally hand-correct all the typos in the copies of _Dhalgren_ he saw there, I thought he was barking. Now, however, I totally understand it.

_Making Book_ is a great book, even with typos.

Are you going to Minicon?

#2 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 10:44 AM:

Ouch. My sincere sympathy.

This may be a little early for prurient curiousity, but do you have any idea how it happened?

#3 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 10:53 AM:


As if I didn't have enough reason to pick up a copy, now I have to, just to know what that word means...

#4 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 10:53 AM:

Er, well, on the one hand: ack! Because yeah, that kind of irony one can live without. Not to mention it would suck anyhow, even were the book on another topic.

But on the other hand: yay! Because, errors or not, it'll make it easier for me to get my hands on a copy, and hey, if there's an errata sheet, I can stick it in the book.

#5 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Would that be Silkience as in hair remover? Far gentler than tearing it out. (Sorry. Couldn't resist it. The rest is silence.)

#6 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:15 AM:

TNH: I was afraid, seeing the excerpt on my RSS feed ("There’s probably a more graceful way to say this, but someone else will have to come up with it, because..."), that someone had died, or Tor had folded, or you and Patrick were divorcing, or something. So this is actually a relief.

All the same, I'm sorry to hear about that. Would you rather I waited until the fourth printing to buy a copy?

(The odd thing is that last time I asked after it at a NESFA table at a con, they told me that it was being reprinted but you wanted to make revisions to it first.)

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:20 AM:


How did it happen? An easy error to make. You have two versions of the same production materials, only one's right and one's wrong, and you have them stored together or near each other. On a busy day when you're moving fast, you grab the wrong version.

When I was Tor's Mg. Ed., in cases where we saved a do-not-use version of something in the production files, my procedure was to put the incorrect version in a sealed (not brad-fastened; sealed) manila envelope, label the envelope neatly, then draw a large emphatic skull and crossbones on it. From which you may divine that we'd had Bad Things happen -- though not, thank god, in circumstances where they couldn't be corrected. That came later.

#8 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:42 AM:

I really like the skull-and-crossbones touch.

As a tech writer, I've had my share of version control snafus (It's even less fun when the snafu'ed object is a template -- or, rather, several versions of a template. Argh. But I digress.). My sympathies, to you and NESFA -- I suspect they're deeply embarrassed by this (or at least I *hope* they are). Last I knew, they had several crackerjack proofreaders and editors, and I'm sure it sticks in their respective craws as well (albeit in a non-auctorial fashion).

Will you be at Boskone? (I believe there's a "no weapons policy," but I don't think they enforce it against a rapier wit!)

#9 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:48 AM:

In my first-ever professionally-published story, when I got the proofsheets, I sat down to read through them with great excitement... and discovered that a helpful editor had corrected a word that I had deliberately mis-spelled throughout. When I rang up to discover if I could get it changed back, I was told that there was a maximum number of changes I could make, and the number was not large... I swallowed it. It was one of a number of small changes I'd made to convey the alien cognition of the human-not-quite-human people in the story, and fortunately none of the other changes had been dependent on an editor recognising a consistent mis-spelling as intentional, so they were all still there.

But if I ever get it reprinted, I'm going to add a post-it to the MS to say "Yes, I do know how to spell 'citizen', but the people in this city say 'citzen'...")

#10 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:07 PM:

... oh, to have been a fly on the wall when you first heard this news.

#11 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:29 PM:

Much sympathy, Teresa, but I'm sort of with Tina in the "well, now I'll be able to find a copy" happiness overwhelming my sense of agony-on-your-behalf.

I've wanted to get a copy of my own since you lent the thing to me in my interny days. And I still pull out my printed-off-your-site copy of "God and I" to chuckle at every few months.

#12 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:35 PM:

It seems to me that the proper thing to do with the old film is either destroy it, or to mark, on the film itself "Do Not Use -- replaced by blah blah blah."

It seems to me the only reason you'd want to save that film is as a copy-of-last resort -- there's no other mss. available. If it's stored next to the good films, then there's no real protection. The same fire that burns the good films burns the bad films.

If you are saving it for that, or for historical record, that's fine -- but you still mark it as "do not use for mastering." It may be of interest to historians, or someone may rekey off the film. But using that film to master another print run should never be considered. It's marred by the typos.

I'm all for saving data, and even saving superceded versions. But you flag those, in some way that is difficult to impossible to remove, that this is an old version, go find the new version.

I think your version is close to ideal -- but someone can separate the film from the envelope.

I presume the third printing was to have no changes from the second -- otherwise, you would have gotten a proof, right? And this would have stopped there, not gone through mumble-thousand pressings.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:39 PM:

Bill Blum! I trust, sir, that you so wish because you want to hear the harsher end of Teresa's extensive vocabulary, and not because you would glory in watching her suffer. Else, it's off to Weehawken, Mr Hamilton.

Teresa, I'm very sorry to hear it. I have a question, though: once you have a corrected version, and it's been blessed by the author and whatever other authorities may take an interest, why keep the old, wrong version? I personally would tear it into little bits and stomp on the bits. Or at least archive it (file 13).

And re Yonmei's story, how can an author mark bits that are intended to be spelt wrong? Could Yonmei have sent a table of non-error errors with the manuscript?

#14 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:42 PM:

Teresa: I feel your pain.

I'll mention here just three of the very worst copyediting horrors in my 900 or so publications.

(1) Most painful of all: I had a story in an obscure market. It had a twist ending. The magazine, never having sent me galleys, ran the story with a single word missing. That was in the last sentence in the story. The word was "not." That unravelled the twist ending, and made the story meaningless.

(2) In my cover article: "Star Power for Supersocieties", Omni, April 1980 (1st popular article to predict giant black hole in the center of Milky Way galaxy; 1st popular discussion of J. Post invention "gravity wave telegraph") -- I gave the speed of light in miles per second to six significant digits. It was printed with four of them wrong. I got letters from around the world saying "interesting article, but when I saw you didn't know the speed of light, I lost any sense that you knew any science."

(3) The paperback of "Project Solar Sail" -- edited by Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, and myself -- had the galley proofs sent to me 24 hours before their editorial deadline. I marked it up HEAVILY in red pen with standard editorial symbols.

Unfortunately, I gave it back to the head of the project, then the youngest Project Manager at JPL, who either gave it to his editorially ignorant secretary who translated my markings into a confused cover letter; or simply delayed FedExing the manuscript to Roc.

As a result, my name disappeared from the title page, my bio was as in someone else's wrong first draft, the photos were in the wrong places and captioned with the instructions to the art editor, the end-notes by Clarke were de-italicized and set in the same font as the articles and stories that preceded them, running story and comment together, and the long poem I'd coauthored with Ray Bradbury was drastically cut. SFWA intervened, getting Clarke's superagent Russ Galen to threaten a boycott by Clarke of the publisher (Penguin) until a corrected edition was published. But then the President of the parent project wrote directly to the president of the publisher, and SFWA had to drop out of the loop.

Jonathan V. Post and Ray Bradbury, "To Sail Beyond the Sun: A Luminous Collage", pp.33-39, in Project Solar Sail, ed. Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, and Jonathan V. Post; New York: Roc Books (Penguin USA), April 1990 [poem was finalist for Rhysling Award]

#15 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 01:54 PM:

And yet the good news predominates: There is a new edition of Making Book. This means that my months-long outstanding order, and all my dreams, are about to be fulfilled.

And not only that, but I get a one-of-a-kind reproduction of the vintage first edition, with all the mistakes lovingly hand-restored. Some people would pay good extra money for that.

#16 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:08 PM:

At the risk of repeating what others have said, I had three reactions while reading this post --

First, tremendous relief that the slightly ominous title did not signal some dire calamity but the availability of a book I have coveted for a while.

Then, sympathy for your situation. Of all the things to have happen to this particular book . . .

Finally, just the respectful and gentle hope that you are considering a sister to this book. All the various posts on publishing, vanity presses, slush piles and such would, to me, be a great foundation for a companion volume that would be of great help to many.

#17 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:14 PM:


I'm sorry they messed things up, but am glad that it isn't anything more horrible (I too immediately imagine death, divorce and destruction when I see things like "painful announcement")

How about instead of crossing out the word when my copy comes, I instead print off this post and stick it in the book between the correct pages. Would that also be okay?

#18 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:25 PM:

> The word was "not." That unravelled the twist
> ending, and made the story meaningless.

A friend of my wife's with a tendency towards careless self-editing once dropped the word "not" from an email saying "We just learned that my mother does not have cancer."

#19 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:28 PM:

May I just say, "Ouch!" ?

#20 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:43 PM:

So it is available already, then, or is it coming in the near future? I'd like to schedule my rushing out and buying it.

And I too was momentarily foreboded by the title, but it did work as an attention-grabber, so more power to it. And to you Teresa.

#21 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:17 PM:

Wasn't it Isaac Newton who when asked for an errata sheet for The Principia told his publisher he'd moved on, anybody smart enough to really get it would make his own corrections?

#22 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:21 PM:

I, like so many, have mixed emotions.

Horror, on your behalf, for what has transpired, and uncertainty over what to do.

You see I have a copy of the second edition, which I lent to a friend (who enjoyed immensely, despite being a non-fan... she said the odd bits were pretty self-explanatory). I had intended to buy her a copy, since the battered edition I lent her has sentimental value to me, being the last book I bought from Bruce Pelz.

But I don't want to give her, who knows you not, the error-filled edition.


Terry K

#23 ::: Sean ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Wow. That's a bummer.

My very first published article was in Scholastic's Scope Magazine. They spelled my name wrong in the byline. I was so bummed.

#24 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Teresa, so sorry to hear of the rebirth of your typos. I take it the second printing was corrected? In that case I must have the first printing, so I too would desire the upcoming errata sheet.

And I take it from context that the word "Silkience" must be an attempt to pronounce the word "Science" by a person who doesn't recognize the word upon seeing it. Reminds me of fond memories of students pronouncing "Colonel" as "Colonial".

Sean, having your name misspelled in the byline is bad enough. Even worse is having your works - one piece with the wrong byline and two with the right - turn up in some bibliography, and the bibliographer has decided that the wrong spelling of your surname is the right one, and "fixed" the others. That happened to me. And not online, either, where it could have been re-fixed. Aargh!

I'm sure that "Theresa Neilsen-Hayden" or various other alternative personae could sympathize with that one.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 04:51 PM:

Silkience is a brand of hair products. "The science of silkening your hair." As if 'silkening' wasn't bad enough.

#26 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 05:39 PM:

Bugger. My condolences.

(I just barely ordered it from Amazon too. On Sunday or Saturday, I forget which. Maybe one day I'll be able to say that I own a flawed third edition and my children will bicker about who gets it when I'm dead.)

#27 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 05:58 PM:

Teresa, my sincerest condolences for the terrible happening (but with congratulations for getting re-printed (and some Heh! because I have a second edition))

In an attempt to raise a smile, you reminded me of the story of the youthfull author who began her book by writing the errata slip......

p.52 for sausage, read hostage

#28 ::: Nancy C. Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:03 PM:

Condolences. It's still a marvelous book, and contains one of the best descriptions of how one tries to work when one has a chronic disease -- my book wouldn't be the same without that excerpt from your book. Again, thank for that permission.

And Elric and I hope to see you and Patrick at Boskone. I deliberately am not on programming in order to conserve energy; let's do a knit & talk & tea session again, eh?

#29 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:20 PM:

Ow. Ow. Ow.


#30 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:21 PM:

Another horrified voice adding to the chorus of condolences.

#31 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:22 PM:

Does this mean my second edition is now a collector's item? :)

I think the folks at NESFA owe you some good stiff drinks.

For those ordering Making Book, you're in for a treat. I bought a copy at Worldcon a couple years ago and made the mistake of "just checking out the first few pages" back in my hotel room. Needless to say I got little sleep that night when the first few pages ended with the last one.

#32 ::: Merav Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:55 PM:

The irony of the situation is staggering.

That being said, you now have a unique way to sign this edition of the book; by making a game of it. Simply tell new readers that they must find the errors in the copy. That should provide fun and games for amateur proofreaders for years to come.

#33 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 07:04 PM:

So very sorry! That sinking, horrid, "There's been an irretrievable error...." feeling in the stomach. What a shame.

Following Jonathan's post, another proofing horror story. The galleys of the Episcopal Hymnal 1982, with many many misprints, typos, and complex musical notation errors noted (at the Publisher's request) on an early version of Post-it notes - placed hurridly in an overnight package and air shipped across the country.
The climate change in the air cargo caused ALL the notes to drop out of the galleys and uselessly into the bottom of the package. No time to go back and correct, and so the first enormous printing of a national resource is rife with error, some of them not at all appropriate for an ecclesiastical book!

#34 ::: Cassandra Phillips-Sears ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 08:09 PM:

Clark: I'm not sure if that particular story is true or not, but in that time period most people were still expected to make their own corrections. I've just finished reading a great book about it: Print, Manuscript, and the Search for Order.

I never knew reading about catalouging processes could be engrossing.

#35 ::: Lucy ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 08:33 PM:

I am so sorry to hear of this misfortune, but I am pleased to hear they are reprinting it. I must check to see if you autographed my copy, and which edition it is.

#36 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 09:47 PM:

Look at it this way: at least you didn't get a letter from NESFA Press that started:

"Dear Ms. Hayden,

"Thank you for your submission. While your story showed some very strong writing, it just didn't hold my interest..."

#37 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 12:24 AM:

p.52 for sausage, read hostage

That's from 1066 And All That.

p. 50 For Pheasant read Peasant, throughout.

#38 ::: DesertJo ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 12:39 AM:

wow... so my finding a new 2nd printing copy last week in Changing Hands (a cool new/used store in Tempe AZ) was a stroke of amazing timing and luck?


#39 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 02:07 AM:

TNH: Like Kate Nepveu, I was alarmed when I saw the excerpt in my RSS feed, and now I'm feeling much relieved. Still, I'm sorry to hear about the errors, but congratulations on the book being in the third printing.

Christopher: A friend of my wife's with a tendency towards careless self-editing once dropped the word "not" from an email saying "We just learned that my mother does not have cancer."

And now you know why I was taught in journalism school that you should never, ever say that the defendant was found "not guilty." Say he was "acquitted" instead.

Also: Don't put little jokes for your editor inside the text of the story itself. Send them in a separate e-mail or - better yet - just tell him in person.

Simon: And I take it from context that the word "Silkience" must be an attempt to pronounce the word "Science" by a person who doesn't recognize the word upon seeing it. Reminds me of fond memories of students pronouncing "Colonel" as "Colonial".

Up until I was 20 or so, I though the word "aficionado" was prounounced "affy condo."

#40 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 02:53 AM:

"We'll fix it in the fourth printing...."

You're aware, of course, that depending on how their production is set up, an actual set of film for the second printing may not exist... Did they inform you they were going back to press, or did you simply find out after the fact?

Look at the bright side: this could mean a royalty check...

#41 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 07:57 AM:

Up until an embarrassingly late age, I thought "goal" and "gaol" were the same word, so for example I always thought that Oscar Wilde's famous ballad was about Reading Goal.

#42 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 09:46 AM:

My very first published story, in my high school's literary magazine, had the pages out of order. The first and last pages were correct, but the inside ones were scrambled. And since each page began with a fresh paragraph, a number of people just thought I had written a very, very confusing story. (The original story was more Edgar Rice Burroughs in style, but it ended up Wiliam Burroughs, *sigh*.)

And other people have already noted that the good news is that "painful announcement" could have meant something so much worse.

(For me, that was being told, three and a half years ago, that Hilde might only have two weeks to live. And even though she survived the surgery -- if anyone needs the name of a really, really good neurosurgeon, see me -- that sense of overwhelming dread, the realization that you and your loved ones are NOT going to live forever or possibly even to a ripe old age, never completely goes away again.)

#43 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 10:35 AM:

Mitch Wagner: And now you know why I was taught in journalism school that you should never, ever say that the defendant was found "not guilty." Say he was "acquitted" instead.

Except these days journalists seem to use "innocent" as well, which drives me batty--"acquitted" is at least _accurate_.

#44 ::: Mim ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 01:57 PM:

Just thinking about typos and proofreading mistakes... It's truly bad design that in the English language "now" and "not" are one letter apart. Many the interesting miscommunication that has caused.

Anyhow, I can imagine how maddening this new edition snafu must feel!

#45 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Mim: very true, and the exact nature of a particularly aggravating typo in Brust's The Phoenix Guards, as I recall.

#46 ::: kevin ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 04:21 PM:

First: ouch, and I am sorry.

Second: I am glad their is another printing coming available, as the praise for the book on this site has sent me searching for it, fruitlessly so far.

Third: I know nothing about the editing or publishing business, so i was wondering if someone could explain why an obviously incorrect copy is kept if it has been replaced by a corrected copy?

#48 ::: kevin ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 05:05 PM:


I am sorry, I missed your question when I read through the comments.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 05:42 PM:

No, that wasn't the point...I'm glad you (re)asked it; perhaps one of our industry friends will now answer.

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 06:02 PM:

Ers, I'm already here. Maybe it's superstitious of me to not want to say it any more explicitly than that. Maybe next time I'll get them to leave the home address off our all too identifiable listing in the phone book.

NESFA has George Flynn. Back when I was hiring freelance proofreaders for Tor, I'd have taken him in a second -- if I could have afforded him. George is very, very good.

Bill Blum, you wouldn't have seen or heard much. It was more like an implosionl. I couldn't talk about it for days.

Erik, it was more complicated than that. I thought M&P were dealing with my agent. I now suspect they thought I was joking when I referred to him that way.

Claude, I've been getting that suggestion. I'm trying to think about it constructively.

Christopher, I don't know, except for the part about how to indicate that you meant to spell it that way: draw a little row of dots underneath the letters. For added emphasis, you can write "STET" in the margin next to it. Mind, this only works if the editor agrees with you.

I'm still not going to explicitly say where I am, but I'm going to end this for now because Patrick wants to go get a bowl of chowder at Legal Seafoods, and then come back here and make an early night of itl.

#51 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 06:18 PM:

I'm still not going to explicitly say where I am, but I'm going to end this for now because Patrick wants to go get a bowl of chowder at Legal Seafoods, and then come back here and make an early night of it

This would have been so much easier before they became a chain.

#52 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 07:01 PM:

As for printing-process typos, I started using a nom de plume when my first ever paid byline read: "Alyce Serrano." I wanted to kill myself or somebody for days.

Even better, I once wrote a piece on the Apple Newton in which I accidentally left in a bit slamming the software for lacking a feature -- I'd thought it was missing but I did finally find it. My editor, not knowing the Newton, not only left it in but turned it into a paragraph -- he should have done a fact check on it but he didn't because he trusted me. Then I failed to notice the mistake at the galley stage because I was busy with a larger piece that needed 250 lines removed and wasn't concentrating. I got lots of letters on that one. I still sometimes feel queasy when I happen to see that clip in my portfolio.

#53 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 07:08 PM:

Ayse: On the other hand, "Alyce Serrano" is a pretty cool-sounding name.

Teresa, enjoy your seafood, and I hope you are feeling better. May comfort food and good company grace your evening.

#54 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 08:39 PM:

On the other hand, "Alyce Serrano" is a pretty cool-sounding name.

Hee hee. I briefly considered using it as a nom de plume (I mean, she already had had a byline, right?), but rejected it in favour of a slightly less weird-sounding poetic Anglicization of my first and last names ("moonlight" and "priest" becomes "Claire Abbot"). I knew I would not be writing filler for fashion magazines for the rest of my life, so I kind of wanted something disposable. "Alyce Serrano" seemed like the kind of name that would stay with you for a while.

#55 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2004, 09:09 PM:

If I ever use a pen name, it will be Norm D. Plume.

#56 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 12:38 AM:

Teresa, you have my deepest sympathy. That is truly an unhappy thing. My accounts:

1) My very first short story, Kayli's Dragon, which I'm very proud of and made a lot of dough for me and was also stolen and published in Eastern Bloc countries..... the first publication in the first edition of Sword & Sorceress IV, had me, in the most important place where people read the name of the author -- the top of the story -- as Paul Helm Murray. It was fixed on subsequent printings. It was right in all the places, like the "copyright to" and front index area, just not where people would actually read it. The lead girl at the place I was working at the time (really, she was a 50-year-old girl, still wore a jiffy-pop hair do, mini skirts and heels to please an a-hole boss) looked at it when I brought it in and asked, "Paula, did you INTEND to do that to your name?"

2) I don't usually re-read things once I actually sell them and sign off on them. I sold a story to the first issue of a now-defunct magazine (editor passed away), I thought it was a pretty good story, but never heard anything about it after it hit print. Then a few years later I actually read it in the magazine -- it turned out to have apparently edited by the layout artist, big unnatural chunks of the story were missing and it had ceased to make sense. I went, "Whew, how did I get this past the editor?", went back to my original manuscript and re-read it. Just Yikes! The result is what was published was a story that looked like the writer was smoking crack or something. It didn't really make any kind of sense as a short story...

On my way to better and brighter writing, though. I've got the passion back, and am producing stuff. So we'll see if anything produces (maybe it will help pay off the sewage line replacement we had to do....).

#57 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 01:45 AM:

Teresa - All I can say is: There, there...

(and Xopher, I'm so glad someone else knew what Silkience is, I was feeling unnaturally femme for a moment there)

#58 ::: Anne Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 08:25 AM:

I'll chime in with sympathies and parrot other people's comments that this thread left me much relieved after reading the title of the LJ feed, amd also more aware of how lucky I am to have a copy of the second edition.

I continue not to know if there's anything useful I can do when I find typos in books. Especially when they are books by people I'm fond of, I don't want to hurt their feelings by saying "On the bottom of page 213 of the first paperback edition, 'dropping' is spelled with three 'p's, on page 305 one character's name is substituted for that of another character in the scene, and there are 14 other jarring typos." I mean, that just feels mean if there's nothing they can do to change it. And if I can just as productively write to their editor I'd rather skip pointing issues out to the author.

I like how Donald Knuth actually offers a reward for reporting errata in his Art of Computer Science Series - not only does it offer possible monetary advantage and a signed letter from him to put on your wall, it also gives the average reader a productive path of action when an error is identified. And it encourages early careful reading, since only the first report of the error is rewarded.

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 10:39 AM:

I never planned on using a nom-de-plume, but it turns out that someone with my same name wrote a (couple of?) Star Trek TNG episodes. So to avoid confusion...I don't know if that's necessary, though, since I'm unlikely to write for TV, where no one pays attention to the writers anyway.

#60 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 03:54 PM:

Anne Murphy is right on target, in writing:

"I like how Donald Knuth actually offers a reward for reporting errata in his Art of Computer Science Series - not only does it offer possible monetary advantage and a signed letter from him to put on your wall, it also gives the average reader a productive path of action when an error is identified. And it encourages early careful reading, since only the first report of the error is rewarded."

Even the White House should applaud this Free Market approach to editorial perfection...

Knuth is a hero of mine, whom I had the pleasure of meeting before he left Caltech. He'd sold a great piece to Mad Magazine while still in High School, which puts him on the same plane as David Gerrold selling "The Trouble with Tribbles" while in High School.

I am very close to emailing Donald Knuth (whose FAQ says is pronounced "Kuh-Nooth", if you were wondering) about how close I am to proving a conjecture he had published in 1964. The details are all in my page:

The Four Nines Puzzle

I cannot afford, however, to offer a cash prize to the first person who can build 286, and/or 287, out of four nines plus the allowed math symbols. For the non-mathematicians lurking, the traditional [1900 A.D.] sub-puzzle is to make 100 out of four nines.

#61 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 07:31 PM:


At least you have a new story to tell at cons...

#62 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 08:04 PM:


since 10 can be made from a single 9, then:
287 = 99*sqrt(9) - |_ sqrt (|_ sqrt(sqrt((sqrt 9)!!)) _|!) _|

I'll have a look at 286 later.

#63 ::: jeffy ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 08:32 PM:

Me too (should a reader attempt to report discovered errors to someone, or just shake it off?)

And condolences.

#64 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 08:37 PM:

286 = sqrt(9)!!/sqrt(9) + |_ sqrt(sqrt(9)!! * sqrt(9))) _|

*realises how far off topic he is*
Sorry people. I got enthused.

#65 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 05:26 AM:

Virge and jeffy:

You guys are VERY good at this!

Those are much better than the two I came up with since posting.

280 = |_ sqrt(sqrt((9-to-the-9))) _|
+ |_ sqrt(sqrt((9-to-the-9))) _|

so, to put it a short way,

286 = {280 as above} + sqrt 9 + sqrt 9

287 = {280 as above} + 9 - |- sqrt sqrt 9 -|

similar things based on that awkward 280 include 316, and then the even more complicated 323, 325, 326, 328, 329, 330, 332, and 334 which also use the horrendous {43 with a single 9}.

The theory near the bottom of the page shows what armamentarium I have collected for my assault of Knuth's Conjecture of 40 years ago.

Yes, I apologize for leading you astray into the offtopic zone.

But I got distracted, and have also, today, started the

The Four Pi Puzzle

page. I got every integer up to 223 with four pi's, except 171. I'll probably get that after some sleep.

The math challenged may wonder WHY we do this sort of thing.

I insist that mathematics is a performing art, but that few but other mathematicians can appreciate the aesthetics...

#66 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 10:48 AM:


Few things are more satisfying than solving a problem via the fine art of mathematical overkill.

After taking a math proofs course, I thought that was the heaviest piece of intellectual artillery I could bring to bear on my problems... then, I wound up getting an internship doing radar signal processing.

Now, my life revolves around the Fast Fourier Transform, wavelets, and MATLAB.

#67 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 09:45 PM:

I am so sorry to hear of this. I will still endeavor to find a copy, though, and think correction-thoughts at the book, knowing that it wasn't the book's fault or yours, and that it still deserves love.

#68 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 11:04 PM:

I hope you don't take this too hard, and quickly move on to the Hilarious Story phase. Frankly, I'm quite satisfied with my copy of the (flawed) first edition. After all, most of my favorite books (and other friends) contain a few such trival defects.

#69 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 01:26 AM:

Virge and Bill Blum:

As John Dryden wrote in "The Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus, Prologue to the First Satyr":

Heedless of verse, and hopeless of the crown,
scarce half a Wit, and more than half a Clown,
Before the shrine I lay my rugged Numbers down.

To accomodate the wishes of the math-gifted such as yourselves, but to avoid distracting the math-indifferent on this blog, and thus to be polite to Teresa, I've built a new page which links to all my other math pages extant and in the near future. Feel free to check it out and reply to me offline.

Jonathan's Math Pages

Back on one of the pages it links to, I now have constructed every integer up to 326 with four pi's, and will probably add more tomorrow. I just started the page the day before yesterday, after all.

#70 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 02:09 AM:

286 = sqrt(9)!!/sqrt(9) + |_ sqrt(sqrt(9)!! * sqrt(9))) _|

I know! I know! It's six hamburgers and an almost empty mustard squeeze bottle.

What'd I win, eh?

(More topically, that's a nasty bit of news to have buzzing round one's skull and obscuring the view. But I promise I'll fix my copy. And any others I see, using my Secret Pen™ so I don't get into trouble with booksellers. And I bet other people will, too, though they'll have to supply their own Secret Pens©, they're not cheap, it's because they're wireless, that's what the pen guy told me, and pretty soon it'll be a movement, hundreds and hundreds of Secret Pen° wielding copy-correcters fixing every one we can find, selling t-shirts and raffling corrected copies to pay for our pens while recruiting on Letterman, and pretty soon after that we'll have all the copies fixed right up, probably just in time for the fourth printing.)

#71 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 09:02 AM:

"Silence like a cancer grows" - Paul Simon.
I hope the grieving period is over now.
I know how it feels to release a product and then find that it is shipping with the wrong version of a driver or with beta time-out code still active. It is a lot less painful with software since there is always a chance to release patches and updates.

I tried sending you a message but your email accounts seem to be overflowing.

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 11:54 AM:


Yes, the default email address (Earthlink) from my web site regularly fills up to quota. That's the downside of getting over 1,000,000 hits per month.

The snailmail address I use to register with Making Light is (minus SPAMs):

As a former manager in the Web Services department at Earthlink, I am not happy about their laying off most of the people I knew there, nor of their wiping over 600 emails to my wife unexpected from her account. And doing that to me twice in past 8 years.

Even so, they suck less than AOL or MSN...

They also screwed me out of 100 shares when I left, but I did sell the other 100 I'd earned on the absolute maximum day, at $90/share.

With 4 pi's I'm up to 371 now.

But it becomes urgent for me to update my Science Fiction top page again. The Google cached version is so old (8 Feb 04) that it's ranking for keyword "Science Fiction" has slipped to #11 in the world. Off the first page, yipes!

The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide

#73 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 03:55 AM:

Clicking on your linnk produced:
Not Found

The requested URL /Ultimate SF/SF-Index.html was not found on this server.

A typo, perhaps?

#74 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Robert L:

Yes, typo. Thank you for the debug.

Somehow, a space slipped in between the "Ultimate" and the "SF" ...

Try again:

(this time not as a hotlink, but just the naked URL)

Possibly a linebreak ensued as the URL wrapped to fit the form box, or possibly the lead was too cold in the linotype, or the monkeys I hire through a jobshop in Bangalore jammed their typewriters again...

Hey! I just saw this string at the bottom of making Lighht:

MT::App::Comments=HASH(0x810ab8c) Use of uninitialized value in sprintf at lib/MT/Template/ line 1187.

#75 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 10:19 PM:

Coming in late (as usual): Teresa, I'm so sorry! There's a nasty Cosmic HoHo flavor to this that would make one believe in malign gods. It's still a lovely book, you know. Even with Silence instead of Silkience. Honest.

"A poet can survive anything but a misprint." -- Oscar Wilde.

#76 ::: KTM in OZ ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 03:08 AM:


(Long time reader, first time poster. Your site is always entertaining and often educational)

My sympathies are with you but I am delighted to hear that a new edition of your book is coming out nicely timed with my imminent trip to NYC on business.

As I will only be free to explore on the weekend, could you advise some likely stores that will have the book in stock in the next two weeks? A store that also stocks DVDs would be perfect as I am also on a mission to acquire Carl Sagan's Cosmos series on DVD.

#77 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 03:18 AM:

Am building up courage to tell (also belatedly) my story about painful discoveries about books and other publications I've been associated with.
But in the meantime perhaps I might just tangentially mention that the ABC Radio National (sort of like NPR) current bookreading is a work called Resilience ... and the reader has a nicely silky voice :)

#78 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 10:16 AM:

Mitch Wagner: If I ever use a pen name, it will be Norm D. Plume...

In case it leads you to reconsider your choice, I should mention that "Norm DePloom" is a prolific Internet author of "stories of tortures used by debauchers" as Tom Lehrer put it. Don't Google it if you're easily squicked.

A lot of pen names have been snapped up. "Sue D. Nym" is another porn writer, and I expect "Anna Nimity" and "Jörn Emir" are out there somewhere. I bags "X Hismark" but someone will probably tell me I'm too late.

Recalling Lehrer reminded me of the next line: lurid, licentious, and vile. That sounds like it was borrowed from somewhere, but I haven't found a source. Anyone?

#79 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 11:20 AM:


Excerpt from "Smut" by Tom Lehrer:

"I do have a cause though. It is obscenity. I'm for it. Unfortunately the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it owing to the nature of the laws as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on but we no what's really involved: dirty books are fun. That's all there is to it. But you can't get up in a court and say that I suppose. It's simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the Constitution unfortunately. Anyway, since people seem to be marching for their causes these days I have here a march for mine. It's called..."

"...Stories of tortures
Used by debauchers,
Lurid, licentious, and vile,
Make me smile.
Novels that pander
To my taste for candor
Give me a pleasure sublime.
(Let's face it, I love slime.)..."

Smut... and other lyrics from That Was the Week That Was"

#80 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 07:04 PM:

Jonathan: Excerpt from "Smut" by Tom Lehrer: ...

I probably didn't make myself clear. I knew the Lehrer lyrics, but I was speculating about whether the phrase lurid, licentious, and vile might be a reference to a court decision, as utterly without redeeming social importance is lifted from Roth v. US (1957). I searched through Supreme Court decisions to see if I could find anything. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find the case that Lehrer was singing about: Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966). I found it by searching for "lurid", but it is a treasure trove of words that made up the song--debauchery, licentious, vile, candor, orgy--and some other words and concepts that you couldn't even suggest on TV back then. There's even a long discussion on whether "pandering" is a criterion that can be used in determining obscenity. It looks probable that Tom Lehrer made up lurid, licentious, and vile as a reference to this case, but not to a specific phrase.

#81 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 12:42 AM:

it has come to my attention that I have been unobservant and unintentionally rude by spelling your given name with an 'h'. Please accept my apologies.

#82 ::: jim frenkel ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:50 PM:

My profound sympothies on what NESFA Press did to the third printing. Especially, as you say, a book that has a good bit about copyediting. Argh.
It's clearly a shining example of Murphy's Law operating at peak efficiency.

#83 ::: Alex Roston ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 05:10 PM:



Oh bummer. That's terrible. (On the other hand, maybe I'll show up at a convention one day, and you can hand correct it for me.)

On the subject of Tom Lehrer, I tentatively agree with Dan's statement, "It looks probable that Tom Lehrer made up lurid, licentious, and vile as a reference to this case, but not to a specific phrase." I Googled the phrase, "lurid, licentious, and vile" and only found the phrase where it was associated with the song.


#84 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:00 PM:

The internet has come to the rescue again. Here is a solution to all one's publishing woes.

They even have a "Make a Book" wizard.

#85 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Yikes! How did I miss this book 'til now, as a longtime Tor fan and a working copyeditor .... any chance of buying a 2nd edition anywhere, or paying you for a copy of it photocopied? I very much want the book -- the corrected edition. Or a complete errata, if I must take the 3rd?
Over my desk, to remind the lawyers:

"[P]roofread with a passion. You cannot imagine how disquieting it is to find several spelling or grammatical errors in an otherwise competent brief. It makes the judge go back to square one in evaluating the counsel." -- Patricial M. Wald, from "Tips from 19 Years on the Appellate Bench" (1 J. App. Prac. 7, 22 (1999).

"When proofreading DNA sequences in patent filings, one typo may create a monster." -- Me.

#86 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:47 PM:
any chance of buying a 2nd edition anywhere, or paying you for a copy of it photocopied?

As I bought a copy of the 2nd edition three weeks ago, there's certainly some chance of finding one. I bought it at Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis (being there on a business trip) - they had only the one copy on the shelf, but it couldn't hurt to ask if there's another one lurking in the back.

Failing that, I'd check DreamHaven (also in Minneapolis) and Pandemonium (in Cambridge, MA). There are other specialty stores that are worth checking, but I'm not familiar with which ones where are still extant.

NESFA Press itself is presumably out of 2nd edition copies, although that's not guaranteed to be the case...

#87 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 07:03 PM:

3rd edition copy arrived today. Silence duly replaced with silkience.

Only on page 18, and I am already convinced that this book should come with a caveat lector:

CAUTION: This book should not be read while carrying a baby around the house in hopes of getting her to fall asleep, as loud and uncontrollable guffaws will prove counterproductive to the stated goal....

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