Saturday, February 17, 2007

Document auctions are underway and here's what's up

A collection of all of the manuscripts, notes, audio tapes, handmade charts, and everything else that went into making my Century Next Door series (which some fans call "The Meme Wars" series) is up for auction on eBay, at

and the auction closes on Wednesday night, Feb. 21.
Those four novels are
and although I haven't found any materials yet, I expect I'll be adding some things for "Delicate Stuff," the only short story set in that universe.
Right now there are 31 pieces in the collection, but the number of pieces will almost certainly increase because I'm still digging through my old files and records, and what a winning bid gets you is not just what I've found so far, but everything that I find that fits into the collection, even after the auction closes. No kidding, this is open-ended – but I expect to be done going through the files by the end of this month.
A Letter of Provenance, listing the entire collection to date, will be posted in this space shortly. You'll notice that many of the items are in my handwriting and that there's also some hours of audiotape – I often do rough drafts by talking them into a tape recorder while driving. If you don't mind the story being interrupted by "uh, er," and engine noises that may go on for a couple of minutes, the occasional random comment on someone's driving, and some caffeine-induced rants from late-night driving, they can provide hours of entertainment that should be kept away from children. There's also some hand-drawn charts and graphs that may or may not be readable to anyone else, and you can check my calculations for the design of the Flying Dutchman and find out just how bogus the whole thing really is, or watch me be rude to copy editors (in my younger and more fiery days).
I'm doing this for a lot of reasons. Some of them are trivial personal ones like letting go of my past creations (I've noticed I spend too much time thinking about books I've already written) and bluntly campaigning for a place in the academic and critical literature (which influences what is taught in the schools, and one thing my Generation-Y research has taught me is that school assignments are vital to most writers who are not Chuck Palahniuk or J.K. Rowling. I checked my driver's license, and I'm not).
Others are more political ones; as a culture historian who studies a different branch of the culture, I know that the library and museum system is failing as a cultural archive when it comes to popular culture, and I'm trying to develop a new, better way to make sure that materials are both preserved and available to scholars.
But most of all, I'm tired of lugging forty bankers boxes of stuff around behind me, and of having what amounts to a small room of space taken up wherever I live or work, and I'd rather have money than these documents.
For those of you afraid that this sale means the end of the Century Next Door, you may be right; the four books (and one short story) were all I ever actually intended to write. Yes, it ended with many unfinished threads – so do all centuries. But on the other hand, any of those threads may be picked up at some future time; I don't rule out doing The Century After the Century Next Door, or some epic set in the same future. I just have no idea when I would do it, or what it might be about, and won't know for some years. Meanwhile, I'm done with these documents, and they pass to the scholars and collectors.
For those of you wondering about other auctions coming up, the next four collections likely to reach the auction block, probably within days, will be
probably in that order. After those, I expect to be auctioning materials for:
the Time Raider series (Dan Samson – WARTIDE, BATTLECRY, and UNION FIRES. I've already found some materials for what would have been books 4-6 if the series had been picked up)
the Timeline Wars series (Mark Strang – PATTON'S SPACESHIP, WASHINGTON'S DIRIGIBLE, and CAESAR'S BICYCLE, plus the short story "Upon Their Backs, to Bite'em". I'm hoping to find my notes for NIXON'S FROZEN HEAD.)
Short stories up through 1990 or so; not sure whether to do those as a collection or individually, and what to do with early unpublished work.
My objective is to have all these auctions complete by the first week of March, ideally by Feb 28, which will be my fiftieth birthday, and seems like a good time to have my past all crated up and shipped out.
Two groups of material will probably NOT be offered for auction this year – the Thousand Cultures, and Jak Jinnaka – because in both cases there's a good-to-excellent chance that the series will be continuing.


John Barnes said...

And here, folks, is what exactly is in that collection -- as of right now. Stay tuned, I'll try to keep this blog updated on what's in that collection as well.

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Century Next Door Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On February 21, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my inter-related series of books:
1. Orbital Resonance
2. Kaleidoscope Century
3. Candle
4. The Sky So Big and Black)

which I refer to as "The Century Next Door." To the best of my knowledge, this letter enumerates what each item is, its date of creation when known or an estimate when not known, its condition on February 22, 2007, and other information which may be pertinent to scholars and collectors.
If at some future time I discover further materials which would have been included in this collection if they had been found before February 21, 2007, they will be shipped to [NEW OWNER] at my expense, and with a similar letter of provenance, plus a revised version of this full letter.
PREAMBLE: Because the Century Next Door series was originally created as a series, with a specific intent to do four books, some materials such as future histories, sketches, etc. will overlap between different books; the collection is therefore sold as a unit. It is recommended that it be kept intact rather than broken up, particularly in light of [NEW OWNER]'s obligation to assist in scholarly access to these materials. (See the LETTER OF UNDERSTANDING).
DEFINITIONS: Two novels in the series had different titles during their working phase. ORBITAL RESONANCE was THE PUBLIC HEART up through acceptance at Tor; I knew it was a lousy title and after Tor bought the book and asked Ashley (my agent) to make me retitle it, we jammed on ideas until we hit on the title you see today. CANDLE was WITH HIS CANDLE LIT INTO THE SUN until copyedit began at Tor; that was the title I wanted, they wanted a short title because it would allow more room for cover art, we had been informally calling it CANDLE, and at the last moment the informal title became the title for the book.
TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A 80 page stenopad, 3 handwritten scenes from The Public Heart First page dated 7-20-88, last dated page 10-13-88 Some pages were torn out. The pad was flipped and about 10 pages at the back have been written on both sides. Other material includes rough drafts of columns for Computerworld, general outline and think pad material about THE PUBLIC HEART, and proprietary material from meetings with consultancy clients.
B 144 page Cambridge stenopad, all THE PUBLIC HEART, handwritten Only internal date is 12-3; memory and internal evidence indicate this was successor to pad A Pages may have been torn out. This is mostly sustained scenes from the last third of the book, all in my handwriting in a variety of ball point pens. Other material is about a dozen pages of scattered "Think-padding" as I figured out where the plot was going to wind up
C 50 page red steno pad, PUBLIC HEART material for 2nd draft No internal date but must have been early spring 1988 from internal evidence 9 pages of an expanded scene plus about ten pages of notes for revisions to draft 2. One page of orbital velocity calculations. Most of pad is empty. Last page contains a few scribbled notes about a design for a piece of weight-loss software I was working up at the time
D 14 5 1/4" 2s 2d floppy disks containing drafts and partial drafts of THE PUBLIC HEART and KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY Pre 1989 since I switched from a Kaypro 4 to a Mac SE in the fall of 1988 The Public Heart began in handwriting and was transcribed into Perfect Writer (CP/M, for Kaypro) but was also worked on in DOS (with file conversion later), and was completed on Mac SE. Kaleidoscope Century began on the Kaypro and was finished on the Mac SE.
E Draft before the submission draft of KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY, paper Printed March 1994 Frequent marginal notes in my handwriting, changing or tweaking paragraphs; most common note is EXPAND where a paragraph later became a scene. First page is epigram material that I was not able to use in the finished edition due to sluggish rights and permissions people. Carries my then-standard warning that this was for editorial acceptance only, not for copyediting, but this draft was not submitted.
F Pages 60-62 of WITH HIS CANDLE LIT INTO THE SUN – VRD, typescript Fall 1997, probably VRD stands for VERY ROUGH DRAFT and it's what I produce when I'm typing directly from listening to an audiotape. There are several errors from my touch-typing too fast. Most of CANDLE was taped improvisationally in the summer and fall of 1995.
G Photocopy of the copyedit of WITH HIS CANDLE LIT INTO THE SUN, along with copyeditor notes and return copy of cover letter Spring or early summer 1999 The cover letter shows me still trying to salvage the reference in WITH HIS CANDLE LIT INTO THE SUN. Tor wasn't having it, as there had just been major problems with Bob Dylan's lawyers over a George Alec Effinger book.
H Pre-copyedited version of KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY, along with 23 pages of typescript notes to the copy editor Late summer 1994 I was having so many problems with copy editors that I resolved to try pre-marking manuscripts, covering everything I thought a diligent but not imaginative copy editor might trip over. This proved to be a complete failure and waste of time (see item V)
I Spiralbound 90 pp 8 1/2x11" notebook, contains first (short story) version of THE PUBLIC HEART in several sections June through August 1987 This was my general notebook in the early part of that summer, when I thought I was going to write about a dozen short stories set in the Century Next Door. Melpomene, Randy, and Theo are recognizably themselves; narrative is in 3rd person. There's also a page of ideation about a story set in 2072 (I remember nothing about that story) and quite a few outline notes in which I complain to myself that THE PUBLIC HEART just keeps going on and on. Also some early notes for my drama masters thesis, business and consulting notes, class notes for a performance art class I was taking
J Photocopy on 4 sheets (8 1/2" by 11") of the original draft of the future history chart for the Century Next Door, made after original (on fanfold paper) began to fall apart Early March 1987 The series actually diverged wildly from this chart, but this is what I thought I was going to do. At least half the entries on it don't make any sense to me anymore, can't remember what I thought would happen in that outline.
K 6 sheets of notebook paper, original ideation and worldbuilding for THE PUBLIC HEART, including design notes for the Flying Dutchman Early March 1987 2 pages of the clustering method that I often used for short stories, one about the year 2024 and the other about Melpomene; 3 sheets, front and back, working out size/scope/scale of the Flying Dutchman; one page of very rough outline
L Cover flats for paperback of Kaleidoscope Century, in Tor envelope postmarked 4/15/96 none
M Five microcassettes on which I dictated the first draft of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK August 2001-early November 2001. Very often I dictate rough drafts while driving. In this case I actually dictated some of the outline and working notes before getting into the story. Quite different from the published version. The microcassettes are packed in an old jewelry box, more to keep them from getting lost than to protect them from breakage. Recording speed 1.2 ips. New and revised scenes on tapes were added, transcribed, and edited throughout the fall during successive run-ups (see items Q, Last tape is the one where I drafted a seventh ending to the book; endings 4, 6, and 7 are fused in the published version.
N Two standard size cassettes with portions of the rough draft of CANDLE on them January 1998 I dictated a large part of CANDLE while driving to and from the ACTF regionals in Kansas City, over the MLK holiday. So far I have found two of the cassettes. Cassette 3 is in the box labeled cassette 5 and is recorded on both sides; Cassette 4 is in the right box and is recorded on only one side. Packed in a Mountain Man Nut and Fruit box to keep them together and because, if you know the book, it's just perfect. I expect to find the other tapes eventually and will ship them to the winning bidder as part of this package.
O Typescript original of THE PUBLIC HEART September 1988 Printed on a daisy wheel printer; good quality photocopy was sent to agent.
P 13 pages of notes for revision about KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY Probably February 1994 Page numbers seem to refer to Feb 1994 draft (item R below). Much of this is in my personal shorthand, abbreviation, and crit language, and may not be intelligible to anyone else
Q First run-up of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK (partial ms, heavily marked, 121 pp) Printed September 2001, probably worked on till early October A run-up is a revised draft written to get back into a book after being away. After finishing the Duke of Uranium on Sept 10th, I printed out the pages I had so far and marked them up
R First printed draft of KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY, in plastic bag from Pitt, single spaced, for reading to prepare revision notes (see item P) 2/15/94 Stops abruptly on page 126; this was just a file dump to take to the coffee house while I worked on the graph pad on it
S Clean photocopy of final draft of THE PUBLIC HEART September 1988 Probably a backup copy
T Rough draft of THE PUBLIC HEART, novella version about 110 pp long, heavily marked No earlier than November 1987 Dated by looking at proprietary documents it was printed on the back of. First attempt to get it into some sort of coherent shape. Divided into scenes and beats according to my usual marking system, so a line between 1,5 and 2,1 means that this is where scene 1 beat 5 ends and scene 2 beat 1 begins.
U intermediate draft of THE PUBLIC HEART, daisy wheel on fanfold paper date on front is 8-6-88 Very few markings and only runs through page 110. Contains some material rough drafted in item A
V Copy edit (original+ photocopy) and copy editor notes with my responses on KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY December 1994 A very heavy-handed copy edit that resulted in my going really ballistic, more so when it turned out that through a Tor misunderstanding, they hadn't waited for either the copyeditor or me and had set type from an uncopyedited manuscript. If you like fulminations you really shouldn't miss my notes back to the copyeditor.
W Page proofs of KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY, original Jan 25, 1995 These were sent late, with a short deadline, while I was away at an academic conference, so Murphy struck a second time, and most of the revisions marked here did not make it into the extremely bad first printing; it's interesting to compare it with Item U
X Photocopies of SKY SO BIG AND BLACK copyedit and page proofs, in a manuscript box. Includes editor notes and my responses, quite a bit of marking by myself and editors Feb-March 2002 Backup/safety copy
Y Second run-up of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK, typescript, handmarked on many pages, somewhat scrambled Early november 2001 183 pages long, not yet long enough, and features the extreme downer Ending Number Three
Z Outline for SKY SO BIG AND BLACK – just chapter headings – on one sheet of steno paper July or August 2001 Mentions Ending 1, and then revised to go to Ending 2, both of which can be found on the first and second tape (in item M)
AA notes to self during revisions of CANDLE Fall 1999 or 1998 Fragmentary outline, but this is the second plot of the book so it's not 1997 or early 1998
BB Original copyedit of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK March 2002 Copyeditor queries and my notes NOT included, but copies of those can be found in item X
CC Promotional materials – cover flat of Pb of ORBITAL RESONANCE, agent pamphlet for KALEIDOSCOPE CENTURY About 1993 and early 1995 Hypertext was a big word at the time so my agent tried to attach it to KC. Cover flat includes basic sales pitch used for the book.
DD Run-up three of THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK (missing pages 1-12 and possibly others) Early December 2001 Last run-up, first one with the ending that appears in the finished book. Mostly the run-up was to get ready for a submission draft that would fix numerous continuity glitches
EE Recipe box of about 40-50 3x5 cards, revision notes for THE PUBLIC HEART December 1988 File cards are often my basic way to think about anything; this is the set of notes from which a later revision plan was prepared. All the cards are in my handwriting.

Gary Thompson said...

Nothing from your collaborations with Buzz Aldrin, huh? Too much of a rights-issue? It's a shame, though, as they would probably have the most draw outside SF, and net you quite a premium.

John Barnes said...

Of course you're right, Gary, the rights hassles would be immense. Also at least half the material is physically in Buzz's possession.

If these auctions I'm doing here turn out well, then it might be worth opening a discussion with Buzz about doing such an auction, but someone would have to sort through the papers at his end and that's a pretty big job, one that would not be worth his time (though if we ever come up with a third idea for a book that we both like, I suppose it might be worth mine while we work on it).

In a way the irony is that because Buzz was a real author on those two books -- not just a celeb putting his name on, but involved literally with every sentence and in constant interaction -- the papers involved are much more hopelessly entangled than is normal in a celebrity book. Many pages have both our handwriting on them, it's not always even possible to identify who found a given bit of research, some of the more epigrammatic parts of the text were reworked by both of us so often that I doubt we could ever figure out who did what on them, etc.

Furthermore, some of what we originally explored for Tiber became key bits of The Return, and some blind alleys (a couple tries at a Tiber movie, a couple other ideas for a seconf book other than The Return) created quite a bit of paperwork not attributable to either but involved in both. So any collected papers would probably have to cover both books and the whole period of collaboration, 1992-2000.

So again, ironically, exactly because he really did do so much work on both books, such a collection of documents would be very hard to put together, and it's simply not in the offing for the next few months at least.

And finally, Buzz has a much more intense sense of personal privacy than I have, partly because as a public figure he has to, and partly because he's just a more naturally reserved person. Though we remained on good terms, at times we quarreled rather vociferously and there might be letters he'd rather not have people see (some of mine and some of his) still there in the files. I'm not shy at all -- some of the tapes I'll be auctioning probably have periods of my freaking a bit while driving too late on too much caffeine, or may contain various other things that would embarrass a more embarrasable man, and I really don't care if collectors or scholars find those or even publish them. But Buzz values his privacy much more than I do mine, and any sale of the collection would have to respect that, and that too would take time and effort to negotiate.

(Dividing the proceeds would not be nearly as difficult as assembling the collection in the first place; he's a very fair man, and I never had the slightest complaint about compensation).

Anyway, must get back to sorting and classifying, hoping to get 2-3 more auctions up in the next day or so.