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June 20, 2011

Michael Swanwick’s modest proposal
Posted by Patrick at 09:16 AM *

Mr. Michael Swanwick (of the East Hobbledehoy Swanwicks) writes with an Idea addressing certain Vexations and Dilemmas of the Modern Writer’s life:

I have an idea—a good one, I believe.

Whenever I do a public reading, I finish by signing and dating the typescript and leaving it behind for whoever wants it. I thought I’d invented this practice, but of course there were others before me. Mike Resnick is one and Rob Sawyer another. Rob told me he used to simply discard his typescript. Then, after a reading, he forgot his jacket and, returning for it, discovered two fans, arms deep in the trash basket, fighting over his story. Out of simple respect for his readers, he adopted the more dignified practice.

I think we should make this practice universal. It costs the writer nothing and it makes at least one reader happy.

But there’s a less obvious benefit: It gives people an incentive to attend readings by new and unknown writers. A story autographed this year by Mike or Rob or me is a pleasant thing to possess. But an autographed typescript—particularly one dated before the actual publication—by the next Connie Willis or Jonathan Lethem would be worth serious money to a collector.

Let’s do it. Spread the word. Let every new and gonna-be writer know that this is the new industry standard. With a little luck, we can ensure that all readings are at least adequately attended.

Last week, a fan told me he’d picked up a typescript at one of my readings, and showed me a snapshot of it. He’d framed it and hung it on his wall.

Imagine how good that made me feel.

Comments on Michael Swanwick's modest proposal:
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:07 AM:

Secondary market:

"I'll give you a Greer Gilman manuscript and a Swanwick draft for three Brins and a Vernor Vinge."

"No, I'll give you two Swanwicks and a Gene Wolfe for two Benfords at least ten years apart."

"How about the Hartwell/Cramer Lovercraft pastiche for a 20 copyedited pages of American Psycho?"


The storage requirements are horrifying.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:08 AM:

A friend of mine has (or had) on her wall a sheet of music hand written and autographed by the composer, one Edward Elgar. He'd been sweet on a great-aunt of hers.

#3 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:14 AM:

Nice idea. But how many writers are now reading from ebook readers?

#4 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:22 AM:

I read off my iPad. I don't have to waste paper and ink/toner and I don't have travel with all that extra paper. I can read in low-light conditions so everyone can fall asleep.

I might be willing to sign the iPad but I'm not leaving it behind.

#5 ::: Alex Washoe ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:23 AM:

I think this is a great idea. And even if you're going to read from an e-reader, how hard would it be to print out a typescript before you go? If I knew that was common practice, it would make me even more interested in readings than I already am.

#6 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:23 AM:

Great idea, although having had a reading that was a bust because nobody showed up, the author must promote their readings.

#7 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 03:17 PM:

Actually, leaving it for the reading people to auction off sounds like a good idea.

Hey Kressel, you reading this? If so, consider it a suggestion for the KGB readings.

#8 ::: Sue Burke ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:20 PM:

I am doing a reading tomorrow. I will do this. Thanks.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:26 PM:

Steven Gould @ 4... Did someone ask Silverberg to autograph an e*reader?

#10 ::: Marilee J. Layman ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:18 PM:

OT: Yesterday's WashPost had a double-page in their summer Bookworld that had "four beloved genres of fiction," (which is not online) one of which is Science Fiction & Fantasy. I don't agree with all of the bits there, but there's this:

Mothership: Tor books (a division of Macmillan) releases more than 100 new titles a year. For more than two decades, Tor has been named the best science fiction publisher by industry magazine Locus.

#11 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:23 AM:

Ken @1: And then there's the CCG.

"My Scalzi does 5 points do you."

"Nuh uh. I block with Mamatas, which is a Steel/Normal type."

"You don't have enough red mana to bring out Mamatas!"

It writes itself.

#12 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:29 AM:

Fragano Ledgister: A friend of mine has (or had) on her wall a sheet of music hand written and autographed by the composer, one Edward Elgar.

I knew a guy whose mother had been A Hollywood Starlet that had turned down a marriage proposal from Spike Jones because "he was too ugly." Jones gave her an autographed set of his version of The Nutcracker Suite, presumably as a parting gift. I've never been sure how to characterize that...

#13 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:38 AM:

Those transcripts could be good for convention charity auctions, too.

#14 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:08 AM:

What's a typescript?

I read from an iPad these days. (Before that, I experimented with an e-ink device.) Paper annoys me, so much that the first place a novel of mine gets printed out these days is probably at my agent's or editor's office.

I'd love to be rich enough to sign and leave an iPad after every signing (and I guess I'd be unaccountably popular) ...

#15 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 08:28 AM:

I sometimes give away my reading copy when I read at an academic conference, but most people are happier if I just email them a clean copy afterwards. Most recently, I just post them on and tell people to go there.

The Popular Culture Association does an interesting thing -- they ask presenters to bring 5-10 copies of their paper and sell them for $1 each in the dealer's room. This helps fund the society's scholarship program for graduate students. And it helps with the "unable to clone myself and attend two papers at once" problem.

#16 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 09:24 AM:

"The Popular Culture Association does an interesting thing -- they ask presenters to bring 5-10 copies of their paper and sell them for $1 each in the dealer's room."

And the dark side of The mythago Continuation (#11) emerges:

"Look, it's John Crowley's presentation on how he edited The Bride of Frankenstein for schools!"

"I'd buy that for $1!"

"And there's Cat Valente's 'How I Wrote Six Bestsellers in Three Weeks But No One Noticed' talk."

"I'd buy that for $1."

"Oh, look. Here's ********'s 'Why Your Awl WRONG about My Writing Not Being Good.'"


"Come on, it's For The Graduate Students!"


"Think of it as a Sympathy Buck."

"*Sigh.* All right."

#17 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:46 PM:

Oooh, here's another paper - 'The Mythago Continuation: Robert Ludlum thriller, or unauthorized Robert Holdstock sequel?'

#18 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:02 PM:

Well, I still have setlists from Maiden Calgary '85 and Triumph Calgary '84 in my "memorabilia" file; so I see this as a good idea for those who, as has been noted, still speak from deadtree.

#19 ::: Rhonda Eudaly ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 04:01 PM:

I read from published pieces that people can actually buy. I've not been a person who reads from something that hasn't been published yet.

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