Category Archives: Publishing

Mine, mine, mine!

Among the great joys of life, at least for me (I’ll admit that my joys are somewhat circumscribed), getting a nice book for free is among the chief… examples.

Today when I got home from work (late) I found three volumes like this on my porch, all the way from Norway.

Flatey Book

They are the volumes published so far of the Saga Bok translation of the Flatøy Book, which has never been translated in full before – into any language, I believe. Saga Bok is engaged in producing a Norwegian version in full, in seven volumes. But the first three volumes constitute a distinct unit, with a different writer than the rest. This is the chief historical section of the work, and invaluable for a historical novelist like me.

Flatey Book III

Written in the 14th Century, Flatøy Book was originally compiled for the last king of Norway, who died before it was finished. At that point Norway was united with Denmark. In the 17th Century the book was relocated to Copenhagen, where it remained until 1971, when Iceland got it back, to great national rejoicing. It did spend a number of years in Norway, though, in the home of the scholar Tormod Torfæus (1636-1719), who lived at Avaldsnes, Karmøy, where my great-grandfather was born. Torfæus used it as a source for his great Latin history of Norway. So I feel some kinship with the book.

An English edition is planned, but I won’t be involved in that project. An Icelandic translator will, quite properly, handle that important job. But in the course of my ongoing translating relationship with Saga Bok I employed my ninja negotiating skills to request and receive these volumes.

Booty! I got booty! And not in the hip-hop sense.

Books & Culture: “Hurry Up, Please. It’s Time.”

If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.

The strong Christian review magazine Books & Culture has announced it will close the bar and usher everyone out the door over the coming months. The next issue will be the final printed issue, and they will continue to publish online for 2017.

Alan Jacobs shares his thoughts, saying many people esteemed B&C.

“Alex Star, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine and now an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, once told me that he read every issue in full. Cullen Murphy, former editor of the Atlantic, told me that John Wilson is the best editor in the business.”

Many years ago, B&C editor John Wilson wrote for the NY Times about evangelicals as they are depicted in literature. “Charmless, ignorant, homophobic and either brazenly hypocritical or obnoxiously sincere, they quote Scripture unctuously and have bad sex.” (Get an excerpt through the link above or read the whole essay here.)

But B&C is closing, and I ask myself what shall I do now? What shall I do? I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
With my hair down, so.

What shall we do to-morrow?

Personal blather

If I understand the storm reports correctly, if I still lived where I used to live in Florida (near Melbourne-Palm Bay), I’d be evacuated by now.

I am thinking much of the people I knew down there. I pray they’ll be safe and their property will be spared. Although there were many pleasures in living on the Space Coast, fear of hurricanes nagged at me often in the wee hours of the night.

In other news, if you’re waiting for word of the book I translated, Viking Legacy, it’s been delayed again. Sometime next year, I’m told.

It will be all the better for the anticipation.

Big, Beautiful Set of Scripture

The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set — Part 1: Simply Beautiful

J. Mark Bertrand reviews a new, rather different set of God’s Word for readers. “This is a beautiful concept executed beautifully. It’s one of the best editions I have ever covered at Bible Design Blog.”

Google Is Reading to Expand Its Mind

Researchers at Google Brain are having their artificial intelligence read 11,000 novels to improve its sense of language.  At least one author thinks that a weird idea and wonders why she wasn’t asked for her permission before her book was used. The books used were supposedly unpublished and free for download. Should a company like Google be expected to pay for the books its machine reads, or does it matter since the books were all available as free downloads?

Another question we might ask is whether reading all these books will help Google drive better.  It’s language translation skills are definitely improving.

Author Sued, Internet Mocks

“Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Unholy Night (among other titles), is being sued by Hachette Book Group for breach of contract,” reports Locus Online this week. Hachette says they agreed to publish two new books from Grahame-Smith after publishing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 2010, and they did receive one manuscript, but the second one, after some months delay, was, according to The Guardian, “too short and substandard, ‘in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public domain work’ (unnamed, but presumably 1897’s Dracula).”

As a result, Twitter users are running with their own ideas for .

More examples:

Status report

I owe you an update. You know I’m done with my graduate work. That’s kind of an annoyance, in a way, because I’d gotten used to using school as an all-purpose excuse. “Gee, I’d like to help you move on Saturday, but golly, I’ve just got so much homework to do!”

Hard on the heels of that consummation, I was asked to do another edit on the Viking book I translated. I did that, and then when I had sent it in I re-considered and asked to have it back for one more pass. Because I like to do these things right. I have an idea that this translation will be a large part of the footprint I leave behind in this life.

Yesterday they sent me a draft cover for the book (to be called Viking Legacy, by Torgrim Titlestad). I’d share it with you, but I don’t have permission to. And it’ll probably change anyway. But I felt a quiet swelling of pride in my chest when I saw it. It’ll be good. Watch for it. This fall. Sometime.

Looks like I’ll be having some more translation work to do in the future too. I’m going to have to work out how to balance that with my novel writing.

I have been working on the next novel too, though. The problem is that this one’s a toughy. Of all the books in the Erling series, this will be the hardest to plot. It involves the lowest point in Erling’s life, and by extension in Father Ailill’s. I’ve got to figure out how to keep this one from combining the optimistic sparkle of Dostoevsky with the cheery fun of Game of Thrones.

Last night one of the characters did something I didn’t see coming. I’m still working out (while time is paused in his world) how Ailill will react.

So I shall not want for work to do.

Jonathan Edwards Wanted Nice, Expensive Editions

Jonathan Yeager tells Thomas Kidd about the great puritan preacher’s desires for the appearance of his work in print. No doubt, he would have loved today’s world of easy publishing.

Edwards was a meticulous author, and wanted his books to look a certain way. He was not the best judge on how his books should be printed, if the purpose was for them to sell well. Edwards wanted his books to have wide margins, generous line spacing, and to be printed on fine paper, with good type, and priced affordably. The model for Edwards was his book Misrepresentations Corrected, published in 1752. Ironically, Misrepresentations Corrected was his worst-selling book! A key reason, I believe, was that it was not economically printed. If a printer allows the use of wide margins and generous line spacing, it follows that it would require more pages, and therefore would be more costly.

Edwards vocalized his disgust with the way that his book Religious Affections was published in 1746, probably because it was concisely printed, with tightly cropped margins and line spacing. Despite his complaints, the printer for this book feared that he had not printed enough copies to meet public demand. In an advertisement at the end of the book, the Boston printer Samuel Kneeland remarked that some 1,300 subscriptions had been taken for Religious Affections, at a time when a colonial author would have rejoiced if 500 copies of a book sold.

Rejecting the Roots of Science Fiction

I know, I know, I am a broken record about this stuff. But it never ceases to amaze me (in an unhappy way) how the so-called writers of Science Fiction, seem to be in such a huge hurry to run away from the roots of the field. I’ve read and listened to all the many arguments — pro and con, from both sides — about how Campbell rescued the field from the Pulp era, but then New Wave in turn rescued the field from the Campbell era. So it might be true that we’re finally witnessing the full maturation of SF/F as a distinct arena of “serious” literature, but aren’t we taking things too far? Does anyone else think it’s a bad idea for the field to continue its fascination with cultural critique — the number of actual nutty-bolty science types, in SFWA, is dwindling, while the population of “grievance degree” lit and humanities types, in SFWA, is exploding — while the broader audience consistently demonstrates a preference for SF/F that might be termed “old fashioned” by the modern sensibilities of the mandarins of the field?

Brad R. Torgersen, “The Martian and Mad Max

Cutting Corners with Other People’s Ideas

Some Christian publishers are taking the expensive step of using plagiarism software during their editing process to guard against intentional and unintentional plagiarism, according to World Magazine. Emily Belz writes:

Most publishers think authorial self-preservation, strict contracts prohibiting plagiarism, and a good team of editors will result in a plagiarism-free book. But when plagiarism is unintentional—a missed citation or a miscopied note from a research assistant or just sloppiness—those checks can be insufficient.

I saw this kind of unintentional plagiarism or sloppiness while editing a set a workbooks a few years ago. Usually I was verifying a quotation to see if the attribution was correct, and some of them had incorrect or odd punctuation, so I tried to find an adequately sourced quotation in order to correct what my manuscript. A couple times I found the quotation and surrounded text were all quoted from another work and improperly attributed.

Professor Collin Garbarino gives World this explanation for this persistent problem. “We’ve got some pastors writing books on topics that they only superficially understand. If you haven’t mastered the subject matter, you’re going to have to rely on someone else for your ideas. If you’re under a deadline, you might cut corners.”

How Significant Is a Book’s Truth Claim?

According to Geoff Dyer, who says his next book is “a mixture of both fiction and non- but will be published as non-”, the strength of the distinction in anglophone culture has waxed and waned. “Orwell’s biographer Bernard Crick points out that ‘12 of the 14 pieces in Penguin New Writing in 1940’ – which included Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant – ‘were of a then fashionable genre that blurred the line between fact and fiction,’” Dyer explains. The nonfiction novels of Truman Capote and Norman Mailer blurred the lines again in the 1960s, he continues, and the boundary is “perhaps going through another porous phase right now.”

At first glance, this article on the demerits of the labels “fiction” and “non-fiction” seems to disparage the need to state whether a book claims to reflect reality or to be a work of imagination. Quoting  a translator, Richard Lea writes:

The division between “the writing of imagination and the writing of fact” that seems so obvious to the anglophone readers “doesn’t seem straightforward at all to much of the rest of the world.”

But how many non-fiction books do not represent the truth, because of shoddy research or editorial bias? How many fiction works have taught us profoundly deep truths (isn’t that what we love so much about some novels)? Perhaps claims of truthfulness should be done in ways other than publisher brands or bookseller shelving, but the reason we say truth is stranger than fiction is because when something bizarre actually happens, it doesn’t have to be as believable as something we make up. You might say, “That could never happen,” but if it in fact happened, that’s all the rationale you need.

Melville’s Lost Novel

What manuscripts by accomplished authors have been lost to us over the years, snatched by bibliophilic Huns or discarded as immature? The Smithsonian has a list of ten of would likely be the best lost books. The Shakespearean play on a character in Don Quixote is incredible to imagine, but here’s a good story of the great Melville doing his normal thing and finding a dead end.

On a trip to Nantucket in July 1852, Herman Melville was told the tragic story of Agatha Hatch— the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who saved a shipwrecked sailor named James Robertson, then married him, only later to be abandoned by him.

The tale would serve as inspiration for a manuscript titled The Isle of the Cross, which Melville presented to Harper & Brothers in 1853. But the publisher, for reasons unknown, turned it down. And no copy of the manuscript has ever been found. In an essay in a 1990 issue of the journal American Literature, Hershel Parker, a biographer of Melville’s, claims, “The most plausible suggestion is that the Harpers feared that their firm would be criminally liable if anyone recognized the originals of the characters in The Isle of the Cross.”

“Please Keep Silence”

Gui Minhai, a naturalized Sweden, originally Chinese, has worked with four other men in “publishing books about political intrigue among China’s Communist Party leaders; now they are in the custody of mainland Chinese authorities, apparently charged with selling illicit books.”

In January on state-controlled TV, Gui “confessed” to being convicted and paroled for vehicular homicide. Now he is emprisoned for having broken that parole. His daughter, Angela, doesn’t believe it. She’d never heard of any wreck, killing, or conviction until the newscast. What won’t be confessed is the government’s rounding up everyone in Gui’s publishing company to stop them from writing criticism of the government.

Angela Gui said she received a Skype text message from her father’s account a day or so after his TV confession on Jan. 18, when she was widely quoted in foreign media as saying she had never heard of the vehicular homicide case he cited. The message told her to “please keep silence.” Judging from the grammatical errors, Gui said she didn’t believe her father was the author.

New Film Award: The Duranty

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) has announced a new film award “to highlight Hollywood’s feats of cluelessness, naïveté, and deceit when telling the history of socialism, communism, and the Cold War.” The Duranty Award is named for reporter Walter Duranty, who took what Stalin said as gospel and used his reports as PR for the Soviets.

“With each passing year, Hollywood’s historical amnesia about communism and the Cold War grows more disturbing,” said Marion Smith, VOC’s executive director. “The film Trumbo portrayed Hollywood’s most influential communist as an American martyr for free speech, ignoring the fact that communist regimes were—and from China to Cuba, still are—serial abusers of human rights and freedom of conscience.”

The award is an attractive chunk of fool’s gold to be given this year to Trumbo, a film about a communist screenwriter, and that film’s lead actor.