Saturday, December 30, 2006

Plugging right along

The Fillmore Memorabilia cases -- basically all that mess originating in Bill Graham's estate -- is doing a very nice job of convincing me that I'm right that there needs to be some model way for the collector, scholar, and creative artist to all have the access (and the income) that they need.

Speaking of income in a roundabout way, those of you who know my fascination with languages -- or better yet share it -- might want to check out the current auctions at

where I'm selling off paired editions of English + some other language editions of my books. Collectors get a shot at something otherwise very hard to get, but language students get invaluable practice reading superb science fiction (by a fellow of quite charming modesty) in two different languages. Not to mention that in a few cases I suspect my French translators of being better writers than myself.

And finally, TA-DA! It's up and it's there. Rush right over to

to find my latest short story, "Rod Rapid and His Electric Chair." And right next to that fine story, you will find a way you can donate money to Helix -- a very convenient way, since while you were all buying those foreign editions on eBay, you probably did it with your PayPal account.

Just below that fine story, you'll find a number of other fine stories ... read the whole issue, it's free except that your conscience will insist on your donating a bit to the cause. Listen carefully, you can hear your conscience now ...

And that was all the plugging for a while. Next post I hope will be about the Bill Graham estate, and we'll get back to the high-falutin' stuff then. Meanwhile, a guy -- and a magazine -- has got to eat ...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

And while I'm at it, I'm in phase 2 of the sell-off

Been neglecting to mention this but as I get eBay experience with selling off various closet-clutterers, before tackling the Really Big Job of the foul papers, I'm now doing what I said I'd be doing, selling off various foreign translations, paired with American or British editions of the same book, for language students and for the more eccentric or completist sort of collector. I've listed about half of them so far, with more to come in the next couple of weeks (I like to set them up mostly as ten-day auctions spanning two weekends, to give people time enough). if you're curious.

It's also resulted in my getting a lot of very pleasant correspondence from the collector community, which is helping me a great deal in seeing how the issues look to them. I must say, they're awfully nice people. (Or maybe I'm just biased toward people who like my stuff). Still, it's a strange impulse to me; I would dearly love to be able to look at Shakespeare's foul papers, but if I owned them, I'd sell them or donate them to a museum (as long as I'd still have access to them). The good feeling people get from having things in their hands is sort of foreign to me, but clearly very important to the collector community. I wonder if that's some of the source of tension between scholar and collector? The scholar figures that, well, the spine cracked a little, but all the words are still there and the information isn't lost; the collector sees something she treasured that will never be quite the same again. Just imagining that situation tends to pit them against each other.

Hey, writers -- since I know some of you are out there -- how do you feel about paper you've written on? Meh, it's good for cleaning the kitchen floor, or THAT'S MY HEART?

Thoughts after some more experience

Well, it's been a while and the first flurry of interest has died out, so let's see if I can revive it a bit. Now that I'm selling books to collectors and talking to them more, I'm finding some more thoughts about how to make this work for everyone.

I think I really underestimated how important the physical artifact is to collectors; they like to be able to touch the book, manuscript, file card, or whatever, maybe even more than they enjoy the slow exploration of the crossouts and the blots, the coffee stains and the little tears and pasted in labels, that is a pleasure they share with scholars.

Ages ago, at the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal in Paris, I found an article from about 1830 that quoted the correspondence of Cuvelier de Trie and Pixerecourt (forgotten now, but around 1800 among the highest paid writers in the world). A couple of weeks later I found the packet of letters that the writer in 1830 had obviously used, and discovered he'd pretty much quoted all of that. There was a weird little chill from realizing I was looking at pages that Pixerecourt and Cuvelier themeselves had written upon and read and saved, that my cotton gloves were handling that original material – but most of my excitement came before, when I found the previously uncited and unstudied correspondence (which the previous historian had been quite scrupulous about, as it turned out). Knowing what was in the letters mattered to me much more than the letters themselves.

This leads to another thought about the right way to do this. Suppose I remove any restrictions about publishing the foul papers except that they may not be published in a way intended to compete with my commercial works (i.e. you can't bring out the next-to-last draft and sell it for $5 less than my final draft), and instead specify that I get some small royalty (hey, I did the work, I want a cut, though it might be a flat fee), and that the collector may insist on reasonable compensation for his/her trouble in making it available? I don't really think that the long excised sections of MOTHER OF STORMS or of EARTH MADE OF GLASS, or even the many endings of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK (the published edition combines endings 4, 5, and 7) would ever be of interest to any great number of people other than the occasional odd scholar.

This does mean that now and then something or other may turn up to embarrass me a bit; my old assistant swears she will acquire the tape, rough draft of Finity, that contains the sentence, "I kissed her, and she looked into my eyes and said, 'Learn to drive, you son of a bitch!'" (I dictated the rough of Finity as I drove to and from the ASTR meeting in San Antonio). I may have gotten a bit maudlin here and there or sometimes late at night, while looking for the next available hotel, I will get the creeps and it gets a little weird, but … what the hell, that's what would make it interesting, right?

On the other hand the other insight I seem to be getting is that the collectors who buy the foul papers will probably insist on allowing inspection only on their premises, or under very tightly controlled conditions; it matters to them that those file cards are the real file cards, not just what's on them.
So I'm thinking for Version 2, redraft to lift most restrictions on publication, but allow collectors to take more steps to physically protect their property? Anyone else have any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Comment from a writer ...

This note from Jane Yolen, over on, is posted with her permission, and I think it's another good one to think about. If you have kids and you don't know who Jane Yolen is, you want to fix that real soon! Anyway, here's an admirable thought from Jane, and I'll post my reply to that in the comments:

Hmmm--children's book mss and illustration collections don't seem to have that kind of fate: the Kerlan at the U of Minn has its own building, Friends, gallery,library, and scholars use it all the time. Ditto the collections at UConn, and the De Grummond Collection at the Un of Southern Missippi. Keene State's collection is small but growing.

I wonder why the sf collections are treated badly, or at least badly in your eyes.


From the collector community ....

Here's a comment from Robert Corey, who as you will see truly knows the collecting side, which he was gracious enough to let me port over from the eBay blog. I'll attach some notes from me as a comment; I do think the issues Robert raises are right at the heart of things.

And here's Robert:

Yah -- reading the first post does make the second seem less grandiose. I'm your basic occasional reader of Heinlein and Asimov. Not in any way drawn to science fiction, so no surprise this is the first I see your name.

I'm not certain how you can enforce the covenants you place upon the buyers. I just know that as an occasional non-profit accountant that conditional accessions are recorded in the books as a liability, until the conditions are satisfied. I've not encountered conditions of perpetuity -- they are more for gifts-in-kind than monetary -- more a museum concern than a human services concern. My museum work was never in accounting, but as a curatorial/coservation assistant. And the standard line there was "don't accept conditional accessions." -- Demand a no-strings letter of transmittal. If conditions are this onerous for gifts -- imagine how much more for purchases. I'm sure it's done. I doubt it's done gladly.
Dec-10-06 21:27:37 PST

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Coordinating the discussions ...

I'm expecting there will be more to discuss very shortly, like as soon as I actually get my emails and BB postings out to the fan, academic, collector, and writer communities, which I'm about to do. Meanwhile, I've decided to maintain this blog in parallel with one on ebay; I rather expect this one will have more scholars/writers/fans/troublemakers, and the one on eBay will have more collectors, but feel free to converse in either location or even to post your comments both places. The eBay blog can be found at

Again, if you say anything cool in either place, I'll port it over for discussion; I'm just trying to make the conversation as accessible as possible.

First announcement about auctions in progress

If you're here for the intellectual property discussions, drop down to the first message in the blog to find out what it's all about, then look at the one just above it to see the current subject of discussion. This post is just an advisory to collectors.

If happen to be a collector of books and manuscripts, this is one of those brief announcements I promised about John Barnes collectible stuff as it becomes available. I'm auctioning the last few numbered signatures (I number the first 100 signatures on the first hardcover edition) for Armies of Memory and the last even-fewer for Gaudeamus. Details can be found at

and at

Sorry about the split URLs above; you'll have to paste them together and then paste into your browser to make them work, or you can look it up under ebay's JohnBarnesSFWriter "about the seller" section. Anyway, if it's of interest, get over there and bid, but after you do get right back here and start talking about the foul papers conditions. My guess is the first box of foul papers will be ready to auction sometime in January, and I want this stuff thoroughly picked over by then!

Version 1 of conditions for Foul Papers Buyers

All right, now, one mildly annoying feature of blogs is that "most recent post first" thing, so please go down to the preceding message to see what this is all about. Then come back and read this list of conditions I am thinking of imposing on anyone buying collections of my foul papers. And then, I hope, talk about them -- is this fair to collectors, feasible for scholars, good for writers, good for literature? But do get the context from that first post, before wading in here, please.

1. For purposes of these rules, the "owner" is the person who has purchased the collectible materials from John Barnes, or who has purchased the materials from a previous owner. A "scholar" is
anyone who is working on any work documenting or studying John Barnes's work; this includes university, museum, and institute faculty, but also hobbyists and students.
a. No requirement is made that the scholar be professional or previously published.
b. No requirement is made that the scholar's work be intended for publication; study for the purpose of finding a project is explicitly allowed as a scholarly purpose
c. No requirement is made for publication or intended publication in hard copy or in scholarly media. Preparation of speeches, slide shows, web pages, IM discussions, etc. are all explicitly endorsed as possible projects qualifying the person as a scholar.

2. The owner of the physical objects listed in this permission must permit study by scholars of all the listed objects. To this end:
a. The owner will permit scholars to examine the objects for sufficient time and under reasonably comfortable conditions for the scholars to complete the work necessary to their research.
b. The owner may limit the place for such examination, restricting it to the owner's premises or some mutually acceptable location, with travel costs to be borne by the scholar, or may make arrangements for shipping or transporting the objects, entirely at the owner's discretion except that the location for the scholar's work must be reasonably comfortable and adequately lighted, and not inordinately difficult to reach or work in.
c. All non-damaging, non-destructive forms of copying must be permitted, normally one copy per scholar, with copies not to be sold for profit or distributed in greater than Fair Use quantities.
d. The owner may prohibit any form of copying or study which is destructive, potentially damaging, risky, or may lower the value of the objects as collectibles.
e. The owner may require reasonable insurance to be paid by the scholar.
f. The owner may deny permission if he has reasonable grounds to think that the scholar intends vandalism or theft.
g. The owner may deny permission if the material requested is freely and easily available elsewhere; for example, if a letter or set of notes has already been published. This does not apply to the availability of summaries or of documentation by other scholars in any case where reference to the original is important, and comparison of the actual original with reported versions is always to be permitted.
h. The owner must make copies of the letter of provenance received with the box of collectible materials freely available, including answering reasonable questions about its content, providing copies (for which expenses may be charged), and so forth. Maintaining a copy of the letter of provenance on the web, along with contact information for the collector, will completely fulfill this obligation.

3. Scholars are explicitly granted permission to quote extensively from all these materials, but commercial distribution without negotiated payment is prohibited. Specifically:
a. Limited permission to quote is granted for any scholarly or research publication, including online publication and including publications by and for amateur aficionados and fans as well as academic scholars. The limitations are:
b. No single quote may be more than 30% of the text; the "text" is defined as anything listed as a single item in the letter of provenance.
c. No more than 50%, or 700 words, whichever is greater, of any text may be quoted in any single scholarly work.
d. Quotes from the John Barnes documents may not total more than 60% of the scholarly work.
e. Because some drafts and notes are printed on the backs of other materials, some of which may be proprietary, if the letter of provenance does not list the material on the back, it may not be quoted. This restriction does not apply to, e.g., notes continuing on the back from the front.
f. Where proprietary material has been identified in the letter of provenance, the restrictions listed in the letter of provenance supercede these conditions; these conditions remain in force for anything not covered in notes about proprietary material.

4. Until John Barnes's death all intellectual property rights in the collectible materials, including publication for profit, remain solely the property of John Barnes, and all permissions for commercial use and publication (except as discussed above) will require his permission.

5. Following John Barnes's death, intellectual property rights to all the collectible materials are to be licensed by the owner non-exclusively, with license fee set at 10% of the lowest price on a new copy of any then-extant in-copyright version of the work. If there is no associated work in copyright, royalty per copy will be set at 5% of the average price of works of prose fiction for commercial sale in the single most popular medium for prose fiction then extant. Two thirds of any money received from licensing publication of collectible materials shall be kept by the owner, with the other one third being given to John Barnes's estate.

6. Licensing of collectible materials is in no way to impair the scholarly access rules described above.

7. Where the licensing procedures described in 4 and 5 would interfere with rights already licensed by John Barnes or his estate to publishers, the publishers' rights will take precedence.

8. The owner will not re-sell these collectible materials, or any part of them, without imposing all of these conditions contractually and in full upon the next owner.

Upon seeking to be collected...

I'm John Barnes; I'm mainly known as a science fiction writer. I've written and published more than 25 books in the last 20 years; the quickest place to find a full listing is in my Amazon profile:

Maybe it's because my fiftieth birthday is coming up and I'm feeling mortal, or perhaps I'm just tired of having crowded storage space; anyway, over the next few months I intend to convert most of the collectible stuff in my closets and storage space into cash, by selling them to people who might want to collect them. I've never won a major award but I do seem to be well-regarded in the field and there have been many favorable reviews of even my least-praised books.

Book collecting is a dicey business, and manuscript collecting doubly or triply so; once you buy something to hold it as a collectible, you'll have to hope I win a couple major awards, sell a book or two to the movies, and then fall over dead shortly afterwards. I hope you'll pardon me if I only go part way with you in those hopes.

This blog is dedicated to discussing an issue that interests me a great deal: the right way, not just the most profitable way, to sell off my "foul papers," which is not nearly anything so unattractive as it sounds like. Foul papers were originally called that by collectors to distinguish from the "fair copy," the copy from which type was set. My foul papers are all the stuff I do on the way to the finished book. (I'm borrowing the term "foul papers" from the collectors of Elizabethan texts and other works from the first couple centuries of printing; I like the term because it embraces a wide range of possibile media and content, and gives a wide scope to my ego.)

As a theatre historian (you can find 53 articles by me about theatre history at

sorry about the split URL, you'll have to paste it if you want to get there), I am painfully aware that libraries and museums simply can't be counted upon to preserve artists' books and papers as you might think. Many of the new generation of academic librarians are oriented toward "service" which as far as I am able to tell means buying couches and putting in computers to turn the library into a social and internet center, and archive space is often coveted for other purposes; cataloging of special collections is best described as haphazard, varying from near-perfect brilliance to "Yeah, we have six boxes of stuff with that guy's name on them, someplace." In the past few decades some fairly important stuff by many writers and artists – including some early drafts and studies – has been thrown out by the new breed of librarian and museologist. In particular, I suspect that some of the drawings, graphs, charts, etc. that I use in working out my imagined futures might suffer the same fate as some unfortunate set models and costume renderings have, i.e. being tossed for looking messy, by people who don't know that they are core parts of the creative process.

I rather like the idea of being studied by scholars, particularly after I am dead (for example, I'm leaving my body to a scientific foundation) and would therefore like my foul papers to continue to fester in a well-documented archive somewhere.

Private collectors take infinitely better care of things they buy than public institutions do of things which are donated. What I'm planning to do is to sell the boxes of foul papers under a condition that specifies that the collector will 1) maintain public notice somewhere that the collector has them, and 2) make them available for study under certain reasonable conditions. For the foreseeable future I'd like to limit publication of the foul papers or excerpts from them as well, partly because some materials are embarrassing and also because for most non-scholarly readers, I prefer the published version, but clearly if I'm to be studied, I must be quoted, so I hope to make it easy for scholars to do so. (I intend to define "scholar" as anyone interested in studying the foul papers and publicly analyzing, describing, or critiquing them; the fannish and the academic scholar are on equal footing here).

What I'd like scholars, collectors, and any old other folk willing to discuss this to do, is to review this set of conditions – I'll hire a lawyer and get them turned into legalese once I have some foul paper collections in shape to auction – with an eye toward three questions:

1. If you're a collector, would this pose an intolerable burden, or severely inconvenience you, so that you'd be less likely to bid?
2. If you're a scholar, would a collector who gave you as much access as I specify here be making it reasonably easy for you to work?
3. If you are just interested in intellectual property issues, as many writers and scholars are, what do you see as the pluses and minuses of these arrangements?

I don't think that the interests of scholars, collectors, publishers, writers,and the rest necessarily conflict at all; I think there is some excellent balance to be struck, and I'd like to strike it. There is a commonality of interests; scholarly attention to a subject is apt to enhance the value of a collection, and of course collectors preserve things for scholars to work on; such a circle of attention can keep the backlist in print, which is another good thing, particularly for the publisher and writer. So the goal is an agreement that will require the buyer of the foul papers, scholars wanting access to them, and everyone else, to act in the interests of the long-run common good. Look over the conditions and terms, and leave me comments to improve them; I'd like to set a good solid precedent for everyone.