Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Scott Thomas Affair at the New Republic -- maybe a different take

My agent always urges me to provide a sound bite version of any idea I put out in public. I don't actually think there are very many interesting ideas that fit into sound bites, but here's the short version for those of you without much in the way of attention spans, followed by an explanation laying it out in some detail (and including some of that scary semiotic stuff I do for business and industry, along with a bit about writing and publishing these days):

Based on a mix of semiotic analysis and my seat of the pants experience as a frequent reader of professional and near-professional writing by new writers, my guess is this: I think "Scott Thomas" is actually an MFA writing student, or a recent graduate of such a program, probably with some military experience – he may be serving in some non-combat specialty in Iraq – probably from one of the elite MFA programs, the twenty or so from which college creative writing faculty and small-press staff come disproportionately. I also think I know how his piece came to be published in New Republic, in outline if not in detail, and that story will also be somewhat instructive and revealing.

All right, that was the bite, here's the meal:

There has been a great deal of uproar in the last few days over who or what "Scott Thomas" is. (Aside from being the name of a really nice guy from my Boy Scout patrol when I was about twelve years old). I hadn't been paying much attention either, but it's the pseudonym of a writer who claims to be an American soldier currently serving in Iraq, whose byline has appeared on three articles in The New Republic in the last few months. Actually the only article by "Scott Thomas" that has drawn any real attention is the last one, "Shock Troops," about bad behavior by American troops, which has severely torqued off the right wing press and blogs for a variety of reasons.

Let me begin by stating up front that I'm fairly indifferent to the clash now embroiling The Weekly Standard, National Review, The New Republic, and swarms of mostly-conservative bloggers; I have a slightly different perspective, coming out of a background different from other people's. I think I have a pretty good guess as to who "Scott Thomas" is – not his identity but what sort of person the Thomas-hunters should be looking for -- based mainly on looking at his writing and at the social context of The New Republic from my unique perspective. I seriously doubt there is another consulting semiotician who is also a book doctor and part-time agency reader, and doubt even further that there is another one who has read "Thomas's" New Republic piece.

If you haven't read it, what all the uproar is about is that "Scott Thomas" recounts three anecdotes in "Shock Troops," in which Thomas claims to have witnessed (and perhaps participated in) three morally appalling incidents: mocking a female IED victim with severe facial burns, taking a part of an Iraqi child's skull from a mass grave and treating it as a toy or souvenir, and running over stray dogs with a Bradley for fun. Since the war currently has what the corporate types I have worked for might call a "major image problem," obviously this is very displeasing to supporters of the war, who are kicking up a fuss.

The fuss is easy to kick up and sustain because it has also become clear that in a host of factual matters, "Scott Thomas" seems to get things just slightly wrong – wrong in a way that suggests someone trying to do a good fake but without himself having the experience – and because Franklin Foer, the editor of The New Republic, has been slow and lame in his defense of the story, claiming that it is hard to get hold of corroborating sources and of "Scott Thomas" himself in Iraq.

I just like a good mystery and I think "Scott Thomas" is apt to be outed anyway; furthermore, I think in running the story, the New Republic once again demonstrates why the whole center-Democrat DLC Clintonista armada offers nothing to any genuine radical of any stripe from green to red.

Let me begin with my qualifications, such as they are. I do critiques for literary agencies, covering mostly genre fiction and some literary fiction and non-fiction as well. I get a few dollars for answering the question, "Is there anything in this manuscript that indicates we ought to think about signing the author up? Why or why not?" and quite a few more for "If we take this talented but not yet publishable writer on, what will the writer have to do to become publishable?" I have a good enough track record to keep getting work.

I have also done a fair bit of book doctoring, which is an odd occupation; every so often someone writes a book that has a great idea, some strong potential in various areas, and a great whacking raft of problems that make it unpublishable. Sometimes it's a writer who has already gotten a contract and an advance, sometimes one who is achingly close to breaking in. What the book doctor does is whatever it takes to get the book all the way to publishable – for some writers that may be a detailed, line-by-line critique and a plan for revisions, which the writer then carries out, and for others it may be an outright rewrite into a publishable draft. Sometimes a writer pays for it, sometimes a publisher, or even the writer's agent – whoever has the money to take the book from "almost" to "there."

Between these two bread-and-butter sidelines, I would guess I read about half a million words by new writers per year in very close detail, and probably skim another two million or so (since I don't take works with no potential and since finding works with potential is part of what I do for the literary agencies). That's one side of the experience.

Now, for those of you who have been dying to know what a semiotician does – come on up front, both of you – semiotics is the study of signs, signification, and semiosis, which is not a disease but the process by which meaning gets made– two simple example of semiosis:

1. if you're driving in Australia for the first time and you see a yellow diamond-shaped road sign with a black silhouette of a kangaroo on it, you know it means "slow down and watch out for kangaroos,"

2. if you're seeing your first Slobbovian movie and you always hear the Slobbovian nose-harp plunking out a few slow, sad notes every time there's a love scene, you come to realize that the nose-harp theme means "love scene." If later in the movie you get that nose-harp theme playing when a young man bumps into a girl on the bus, you know it means they're going to be involved romantically.

The word semiotics, by the way, comes from the Latin semio-, which originally meant seed, grain, or kernel and was a common metaphor for sign or symbol. It's got nothing to do with semi-trucks or semi-automatics, or rather only as much as it has to do with everything else in the universe.

Anyway, the particular variant I do, which has considerable commercial application in advertising and marketing and so forth, is statistical semiotics. I get paid to use various semiotic methods to encode enormous databases of texts (e.g. samples of hundreds or thousands of blog entries) into a processable form, and then use various kinds of math to find patterns and regularities in the way that all those messages make meaning, use signs, alter significance, and so forth. (The difference between a statistical semiotician and a regular semiotician is roughly the difference between an epidemologist or social psychologist and a doctor or counselor; there are also FrancoGerman types who call themselves semiologists, who are more like Freudian shrinkoanalysts or Tarot card readers, who helped to make sure semiotic studies would be isolated within the academy, irrelevant to life as lived, and unknown to the lay public except for occasional jokes, and I fart in their general direction).

So to sum up the angle from which I am coming at this problem: I have seen immense heaps of writing by writers at the beginnings of their careers as writers, and I have spent much of my working life staring into vast incoherent swarms of signs and learning to see the patterns in them.

Based on all that, here's how I read the text that is so far the only direct evidence most of us have about "Scott Thomas":

The text has the following characteristics –

1) Writing focused on a parade of cruelty and suffering.

2) A rigorously flat affect that refuses any sort of emotional engagement – stone-faced reportage of the sort that bad thrillers and suspense movies have taught us to associate with the mental process of sociopaths.

3) Enormous sensitivity to physical detail; a great concern with writing down what things look and sound like, to some extent the things that are apt to upset some readers' stomachs, but also in general. (As an agency reader I have seen writing of this kind in which literally more than 500 words are expended on describing drinking coffee).

4) Physical detail is mildly slanted toward the refined senses (sight and sound) rather than the vulgar senses (smell, taste, touch, and kinesthesia); the refined-sense details tend to be more specific, and the vulgar-sense details tend to be alluded to more than specifically named. (I think this is caused by a lack of actual experience; in actual experience the vulgar senses are the strong ones, but in library research the refined senses are the ones easier to paraphrase to avoid being caught in plagiarism).

5) Disinterest and senselessnes with regard to any emotional connection between people.

6) Lack of signs indicating what the intended point of any anecdote or individual story may be ("effacement of the author.")

7) Heavy use of brief, choppy, transitionless SVOs (subject-verb-object, the most basic kind of English declarative sentences), without much variation either for rhythm or for nuance, as in bad Hemingway parody or Raymond Carver or Chuck Palahniuk's fiction when either of them is badly off his game.

8) Raymond Chandler-style macabre wisecracks as the crescendo of a run of physical detail.

9) A peculiar cop-out in reported encounters with people who might be offended by the viewpoint character: the viewpoint character (who is of course the reported version of "Scott Thomas," as reported by "Scott Thomas," who reports himself to be the same soldier) is only rarely confronted with any reaction to his callousness. In the type of writing I am talking about here, mostly other characters in the narrative are struck dumb by the narrator's callousness and stare off into space. Occasionally (not in Thomas's text, except for the burn-victim woman) they may show small signs of emotional distress. The narrator thus gets a free pass on sociopathic behavior, and the narrative proceeds without empathy and hence with only the viewpoint character feeling psychologically credible. The narrator is always left with what is called, by semioticians, the "presence of an absence" in his reported feelings – after the victim or witnesses are out of the field of view there is an absolute emotional stillness in which a cold chuckle or an ostentatious yawn is implied but unstated.

I see manuscripts with all nine of these symptoms – you might think of it as one syndrome with nine common symptoms – about a half dozen times per year, generally from agents rather than as offers to book-doctor them since the creators usually have no money and the books have only limited commercial potential. And they all come from pretty much the same sort of person:

He (it is always a he) is an MFA candidate or recent graduate at one of the big-name creative writing programs in the USA, sometimes in poetry, usually in fiction, and increasingly in "creative non-fiction" (the litsy byline that "feature writing" took on when it moved uptown, became significant, and stopped having lunch with its old buds at the newspapers). Usually he is in his mid-twenties and is probably among the bright stars in the tiny constellation (and complicated pecking order) that MFA programs create. His particular niche in that social ecology will be the Big Talent With Big Balls, a role that requires some claim to a "dangerous" or "edgy" past, meaning some connection to interpersonal violence and to having seen some gruesome sights. (Being recently back from combat duty in Iraq, particularly if the young man is a reservist who will be going back for another hitch there, would certainly fit the bill nicely – at various times I have known such characters to claim to be motorcycle gang members, to have smuggled cocaine into the US in small boats, and to have competed as Ultimate Fighting professionals).

He will have a fetish for macho props and activities like guns and motorcycles or hunting and motor racing. Generally he'll have a drinking problem, or at least give a very good exhibionistic performance of having a drinking problem. (One teacher once said to me, "Some of these guys seem to think that if they can't write like F. Scott Fitzgerald, at least they can drink like him.") They swagger through their programs in a haze of raw manliness, sometimes hang around for a year or two afterward in the same town, and then vanish into the "I could've been a great writer" pose somewhere.

I can't say that all of them are fakes and pretenders in their macho credentials; I haven't met all of them and I don't want to. I can say that every single time I have been in a position to find out, the "used to be a cop," "I was a Green Beret," "I was a roof man for the Cleveland Fire Department," etc. etc. etc. has turned out to be a fake. Not that there are not guys with adventurous and romantic backgrounds around writing programs or in professional writing – I've known, among others, highly talented writers who were one-time paramedics, professional boxers, police, private eyes, back-country prospectors, and so forth.

But none of those guys wrote like "Scott Thomas". (For that matter they don't write much like each other, either).

"Scott Thomas", however, writes exactly like the mid-20s macho MFA student who is lying about an adventurous background. That list of symptoms I gave above is what every one of them I have encountered – probably around 50 in my lifetime – has written like. The point of those stylistic tics and content-fetishes is the same as the point of all the bizarre stories of mayhem, cruelty, and sheer shit-headedness that they tell in the bar after writing workshops: to confirm their role in the MFA program social system. Among the benefits of that role are free passes on certain kinds of bad behavior in class, sexual attractiveness to some other grad students (those with a thing for bad boys), and the maintenance of their interior movie in which they are played by some combination of James Dean, Bob Dylan, the younger Norman Mailer, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Or in short, since "Scott Thomas" quacks and walks in such a ducklike fashion, that is the sort of duck I think he is.

Now, I have little doubt that in MFA programs around the country, there are somewhere between twenty and a hundred of these guys pulling this routine right now, probably any place where there are not real recent combat veterans to call them on it, and that would be more than a few MFA programs. So how did "Scott Thomas" luck his way into New Republic?

I have two flavors of the same guess:

The elite MFA programs have lots of contacts and meet-and-greets with national editors. My guess is that "Scott Thomas" wrote one or more of the articles for his MFA creative nonfiction class and wowed a room full of people who had no clue (including the instructor).

Then a visiting editor from New Republic came through, and a creative writing program always trots out its 2-3 most impressive pieces of student work for a visiting editor -- possibly not even telling the student. It might be that by the time "Scott Thomas" wanted to back out, it was too late, in something like the Janet Cooke "8 year old junkie" story, where if it had run and been forgotten, which is what she thought would happen when she faked up the story to meet a deadline, she might never have been caught; but she was doomed once it was shortlisted for the Pulitzer. The story quite possibly went to the NR editors without "Scott Thomas" having the nerve (or perhaps the warning) to stop it.

Much depends on how much of the truth Franklin Foer is telling. If "Scott Thomas" really is in Iraq right now, there are plenty of military specialties where he might not have picked up the details he needed for perfect verisimilitude; he might even have been told some bullshit stories for true. (This may come as a shock to readers, but soldiers, being mostly young men, have been known to enjoy telling stories just to shock their hearers, and it's quite possible that Thomas's source is a guy out to impress Thomas with his manliness, an irony which makes me smile in a quite nasty way). But fundamentally I'm betting on an MFA program Boy Wonder Macho Man, possibly in a military specialty that let him think he could fake combat experience, who had no idea that the story would draw this much attention, and may not even have submitted it himself.

Now, how did New Republic get so badly fooled? One might point out they have rather a record of being badly fooled – they were after all the home of Stephen Glass, and one of their editors was Michael Straight who belonged to the same Soviet spy ring as Kim Philby. But I think a more proximate explanation is simply to look at Franklin Foer's biography. He's only 31, and before becoming editor, he was at The New Republic for eight years. A bit of arithmetic tells you that he hasn't done much else.

Or look at this interview from when he took the job; you're not dealing with a guy with any broad experience of life here – he's essentially had one job in his life and he thinks about policy, not news. One of his major goals as the new editor seems to be to reverse Peter Beinart's pro-Iraq War stance, and to build up readership, which even a wonk such as himself can recognize will mean talking about the world we live in rather than the policies he plays with.

So here's our boy Foer. New on the job. Trying to move away from policy, which he understands (or at least does a credible job of manipulating the signs for) to reporting and attracting an audience, which he doesn't. Hasn't been outside the little world of big thoughts, but knows he's got to go there if the magazine that has been his whole working life is to survive.

And here's the "Scott Thomas" article, and it's all about manly stuff, stuff people like to read about (at least more than they like to read about subtle adjustments at Treasury or State). And here's Foer's chance for a little bit of performative speech (semiotics-talk for "speech that causes an immediate change in the world just by being spoken" – like "I now pronounce you man and wife," "I ask Congress to declare that since yesterday at midnight the United States of America has been at war with the Empire of Japan," or a shouted racial epithet on a busy city street.) Anybody have any trouble seeing what happened?

I suppose I wish Foer well. He's got a long life ahead of him and right now he's way up a tree and that looks like a long fall. But I can't help thinking that the sooner he falls out of that tree, the better for all of us on the left, and maybe for the country as a whole.

His blindness in this is exactly the kind of specialization, the belief that to-the-faculty-senate-born think tankers are where right thoughts come from, that has gotten us into a mess that goes way beyond "Scott Thomas". It is quite possible that somewhere in Iraq American soldiers have done (or are doing right now) things fully as noxious as what "Scott Thomas" describes. With 160,000 people, mostly young men, many armed, many beyond the eyes of authority, there will be some thuggery and sadism and it is doubtful that superior officers will be devoting any large amount of time and effort to finding or suppressing it. And despite the pleas of the war's apologists, yes, it is certainly relevant that some American troops, some of the time, are behaving badly (just as it should be relevant to the war's detractors that many American troops, much of the time, are engaged in things of lasting benefit to the people of Iraq).

I just don't think "Scott Thomas" is the guy who saw any of those things, good or bad, and I don't think Foer has the judgment to avoid being fooled again, and again, and again. You might say it's the tradition he was brought up in – and it's a tradition that needs to die with this generation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Something different from the trunk: PAYBACK CITY, my "lost" thriller

Some folks know that I have actually only finished one novel that never saw print, a thriller called Payback City, which I wrote in 1997; it might have been called "How to Burn Down Detroit for Fun and the Prophet" if I'd felt a bit more facetious about it. The long salvage-and-excavation effort that went into the last couple of months resulted in my looking at it again, deciding that it still had some considerable merits but was now more of an alternate history, and so I've decided to toss it out there as an ebook. This post gives the basic details, and then in the comments I'll post two excerpts from the book and directions on how to get one if you want one. You do, you know. You can hardly hold yourself down ...

To begin with, here's the basic press release sort of story about it:

In 1997 I contracted with a British publisher to deliver a thriller titled Payback City about a terrorist attack on an American city, conducted by forces from an Islamic country, with the intent to kill a spectacular number of innocent people. By the time I finished it, the publishers had been acquired by a larger firm that ordered them to trim the list, so they let me keep the signing money (though they suggested I should give them my next science fiction novel free), but stiffed me on the delivery money. In December 1997 I finished another version of Payback City, aimed at the American market, which my agent was unable to sell in the next few years for reasons more political than literary, and then on September 11, 2001, the whole thing became obsolete.

Or so I thought.

As many of you know, in recent months I've been excavating my way through literally tons of saved notes, manuscripts, and various papers, the saved material of half a career (figuring that I have been at this professionally for about 25 years and have about 25 to go). While I was doing that I found my old boxes of research for Payback City, and asked, "Wonder whether the poor old thing was ever any good? Jeez, it's been ten years."

To my pleasant surprise, it was one of the better books I wrote in those years; many of the reasons why it didn't sell, once I opened up my file of saved rejections and read through it with a cold eye, were purely political. The book flew into the face of the conventional wisdom of the time, suggesting that the United States was in danger of attack on its own soil by terrorists originating in the Arab Muslim world.

If I worked for a publisher's marketing department I'd say Payback City was "eerily prescient," and I'd be lying. The attackers from my imaginary Maghrebi Republic are not al-Qaeda either literally or figuratively; the motives and methods are different; the Americans coping with the attack and responding to the crisis are not anything like Bush or Rumsfeld. Payback City recounts an imagined terror attack of 1997, not the world we all live in.

Is it then just alternate history, a might have been that now never will be?

Perhaps. But once I had read it, and found myself smiling and sometimes patting myself on the back, thinking, Yeah, I did what I wanted to do right there, didn't I?, I began to make some notes about what had changed, for better and worse; and the notes grew into a mix of self-assessment, political polemic, thoughts about literature, and, well, about a 14,000 word rant, on the then-and-now. Additionally, I've worked many times as a book doctor and editor in the intervening years, and a host of small fixes itched to be made. Almost before I knew it, I had the New and Improved for 2007 Payback City, with a brand new introduction covering literature, politics, publishing history, and pretty near anything else I felt like ranting about.

It wouldn't have been possible to completely rewrite the book for the present, and I didn't try to do that; I polished what was there, and in a spirit of fairness I left some of my biggest wrong guesses lying there for you to find (and I didn't retroactively install any right ones, though I was sorely tempted).

But never mind all that.

You can skip that introduction if you like, and if you care about spoilers, you shouldn't read it till you've read the novel. There's still a great deal of stuff blowing up, races against time, derring-do being derring-done, and so on. There's a villain who I think is frankly way, way cooler than the ones the news gives us. There's a bunch of heroes (likely and un-), and a great deal about how scientific arson investigations are conducted, and a pretty in-depth view of the mean streets of Detroit. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll learn about how buildings are torched and how torches are caught, and you'll have a good time.

But if you do get curious about why I decided to drag the poor old thing back from its untimely grave, about what I think now as opposed to what I thought then, there's a 14,000 word intro – absolutely crawling with spoilers, so you might want to read the book first. And if you're the sort of political junkie who really only reads thrillers for their politics, well, there's 14,000 words there to straighten you out.

The book is in unlocked pdf format; you can reformat to whatever way you feel makes for the most comfortable reading, but as delivered, it's set up to look like a printed book with two book-style pages per 8 1/2" x 11" sheet. If you print out the file as is on 8 1/2" x 11" (American letter format) typing paper, and bind it along the top 11" side you'll get a comfortably readable text on 211 sheets (that is, as long and wide as a stack of typing paper, with two pages to a sheet; it will be about as thick as a 422 page regular paper book if you print it one-sided).

Access is deliberately fairly open because I want people to read it, so please do share a copy with a friend, but please point out the note on the front sheet to them. I'm hanging onto more than enough rights to control outright theft in quantity if I have to, and I'd love for this to be so popular that I had to. If you enjoy it (or hate it) enough to blog about it, please point people to one of the places where they can buy it!

In the comments below, I'll give you an excerpt -- the first 7000 words of Payback City itself since the intro is crawling with spoilers. If you'd like to buy a copy, you can get it directly from E-Junkie, or it's also available on eBay -- same price, $4.00 US, either place.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What exactly are you up to, Mr. Barnes? The outline of an answer

My friend Brenda Clough decided to venture an interpretation of what I am doing. Over on Usenet (I'm quoting this with her permission) she said,

"From this restriction it is obvious that Barnes intends the ultimate owners to be institutions (libraries, universities or big collectors) rather than the common or garden fan. A major university's research collection is well able to accomodate visiting scholars.

"Since the material does have research value (if not now then in future when Barnes' work will be better appreciated) it would be a mitzvah for the new owner to indicate, somewhere, a disposition of the manuscripts. Leave them to your alma mater in your will, for instance. At the very minimum, keep all the stuff together in an acid-free box in a dry room, and label it clearly so that your kids or grandkids don't just toss it after you die."

Well, alas, this isn't quite the way things are. I've mentioned before that I did academic cultural history for a long time – I was a theatre professor and taught theatre history and my research interests were in popular theatre, i.e. the stuff people went to as opposed to the stuff that was admired. Cultural history types in the various arts tend to mix and mingle a lot – because it's all one culture and it's all one people, and the same people who went to melodramas are the ones who bought broadside sheet music and penny dreadfuls and all the rest.

And here's something I'm very painfully aware of: libraries, archives, and museums are very dangerous places for pop culture collections, and can pretty much be counted on to destroy them at the earliest opportunity. There are shining exceptions – in theatre, there's the British Museum, the Harvard Theatre Collection, the Huntington, and the Musee des Arts du Spectacle – but for the most part, a collection donated to a library is going to be rather quickly either tossed or "edited" in a way that loses most of the information.

Yet if I'd just sold it through a private collector (an option I did explore), I'd have been cutting off some very important aspects with regard to my writing career, which is probably only about halfway through (I just turned fifty, my first story was published when I was twenty-five…)

Anyway, here's sort of my outline for what I'm thinking and what I'm trying to do.

1. University libraries are run by academic librarians, and for the last two generations, their focus has not been on archival of cultural materials, nor even on the support of research, but on "service," which is defined approximately as getting as many undergrad cans into as many comfy chairs as possible. Archives take up space that can be better used for desks with computer terminals so that students can check their email, or couches where students can pretend to study. As a result, there's an immense amount of throwing away even in the regular collections. Just to cite some examples I've witnessed:
a. At one time it was standard to maintain copies of older editions of books for scholars to study the changes over time. For example, when I was writing the article about lighting in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, and wanted to see how Stanley McCandless (the inventor of modern stage lighting) had changed in his thinking, I needed copies of all four editions of his basic book on lighting. This turned out to require interlibrary loan and a good deal of time, because nearly every library had thrown out the earlier editions. Furthermore the interlibrary loan people kept helpfully bringing me the fourth edition when I had asked for earlier ones, because "look, there's one that's more up to date." A friend of mine studying the thought of some recent economists tells me that situation is even worse; he's given up on libraries entirely and uses aLibris and various used book stores to try to locate earlier editions. What do you suppose that mentality will do when it finds it has six successive drafts of a book?
b. Large libraries that are the alma mater of important theatrical designers are well-known for keeping the (often not important) writings and tossing the (vital) blueprints, working drawings, renderings, and so forth; librarians are a logocentric bunch. In one case I discovered that where a collection of materials by Frank Napier (one of the developers of modern sound effects) had been donated, the library had retained a copy of the manual he'd written (which is still widely available) and of all the playscripts he'd worked from, but thrown away all his machine diagrams (utterly irreplaceable and vital to understanding his work). Now, as a science fiction writer, I find myself thinking about the table covered with butcher paper that Heinlein used to plot the orbits for Space Cadet. Do you suppose that, say, the Truman State Library would have kept that butcher paper, had it been donated there?
c. Increasingly large libraries have a policy of trashing "obsolete media" – LPs, 78s, 16 mm film, and so forth – even when there are no equivalent replacements available. I know of one collection of early opera recordings – 78s dating from the 1910-30 era – where a music school library simply noted down the titles as they threw them out, put a line into the budget for replacing those 78s with CDs, and happily pocketed the difference when many of them turned out not to have been available on CD. My department chair once spent several days dumpster diving because the library had decided to throw out all the movies-on-film, even though picture quality on VCR was of course much worse and for some movies there were no VHSreplacements available; he was sternly warned that he was "interfering with library policy" by rescuing that material, since the library had determined that VHS was just as good.
d. Or, in short, librarians often don't know what they're discarding, don't understand it, and don't want to. Maintaining archives is not "service" and service is what you get money for.
2. I need these collections to be more than just kept. I need them looked at and sought after. This is a career move, folks. Let me just explain how things look to me:
a. Over in the commercial side of my life, where I do unprompted response studies (yeah, I know that's an oxymoron, but to survey analysts a "response" is the raw data, so that's what we call spying on blogs and other e-communication), I've concentrated for a couple of years on the study of Gen Y (as marketers call them) or the Millennials (as they prefer to be called), the giant generation born 1978-95 (boundaries are always in some dispute, but those are the years I use). Now and then I get to look at their reading habits, and here's the main thing I observe:
i. For older generations asked to name favorite books, writers, etc., for example on dating sites, the list tends to be of bestselling writers, mainly commercial ones, as you would expect for any group of people that aren't professors or critics.
ii. But for gen Y, the most frequently cited favorite books, authors, etc. coincide with eerie precision to various English-teacher association lists of most-assigned books. (Certain exceptions noted, because there are some widely assigned books almost no one likes).
iii. This jibes pretty well with the observation that gen Ys who say they like to read – i.e. the actual readers among them – cite "class assignment" as the most common way they found their favorite author.
b. So, I said to myself, "Self, what causes a contemporary book to get taught, at least at the college level where you know much of anything about it?"
i. And now I shall let you all in on a small, not terribly dirty secret. Professors very often are assigned to teach classes outside their areas of expertise, and when they are, the first thing they do is go to the scholarly literature to see what the main lines of thinking about the subject is. This saves a great deal of time – you find out who you absolutely have to read, and also you avoid falling for various nut theories, and just in case your students ever do study with someone who actually knows the subject, you haven't loaded them up with things they'll have to unlearn.
ii. So the quick answer is that the ones that are assigned, to a great extent, are the ones of whom studies have been done.
c. Now, each of those collections I have been auctioning off is effectively a master's thesis or a journal paper in a box. "The search for an ending in John Barnes's THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK." "John Barnes's planned deployment of Elizabethan theatrical tropes in ONE FOR THE MORNING GLORY." "The Evolution of Teenage Slang in John Barnes's Century Next Door series." "Barnes's stock cast goes on the road: how his sci fi characters played in men's action adventure." "Elements of oral storytelling in John Barnes's FINITY and GAUDEAMUS." And so forth and so on. Any decent grad student or junior faculty member could derive half a dozen papers from any of the collections – it would be easy. And what I'm betting is that if I make it known that the collections are there – and that they are easy paths to something publishable, with everything you need in one place – that the occasional desperate-for-a-paper master's or Ph.D. candidate will give it a whirl.
d. Which means, in very brief, I get written about by scholars, which means professors looking to teach a sci fi class (that's what they'll call it, gnash though the fans may) will find my work referred to in "the literature" (by which they mean, not literature, but things about literature), and I shall be forcefed to the next generation – which seems to be the main way that writers are reaching them nowadays. (Even Harry Potter came in through the classroom initially – via the Scholastic Book Club).
3. Okay, you can argue about the effectiveness of that as a strategy, but it's not necessarily any dumber than going to conventions and trying to be charming, or logrolling to get awards. And there's one more aspect to this worth mentioning. Collectors in general profit by having the subject matter of their collections written about. Scholarly articles are a big part of why some artists are more collectible than others
a. Just to cite an example I'm familiar with, pre-World War 2 theatrical posters are insanely valuable nowadays, but in many cases fine works in better than average condition fetch less at auction because little or nothing is known of the artist – the few surviving posters are locked away in collections, so no one has ever studied them to find the achievement and significance of the artist.
b. On the other hand, of course no collector wants the inconvenience and risk of opening up the collection to outsiders. The real ideal would be to have the artists you collect be heavily studied in other people's collections.
c. This of course is the classic tragedy of the commons or n-person prisoner's dilemma – what's best for everyone is slightly more costly to the individual. And one way to solve such problems is simply to impose a rule from outside.
4. So originally I imposed the scholarly access rule out of pure self-interest, but I've been delighted to discover that the collectors who have bought various collections from me are so far unanimous in wanting to make things available to scholars, in wanting to see the materials studied. Whether I like it or not, I seem to have run into a little vein of human cooperativeness and sharing, and I treasure that experience.
a. And thanks to the web and the internet, the scholar, critic, fan historian, or whatever who wants to look at the history and development of any of my works will be able to find out where the source is quickly and easily; in some ways this is better accessibility than in many museum collections, which tend to have archaic card catalogs referring to "Box, Author Smith, paper materials, 4 of 7." (This happens even to famous people; there probably was never a set designer more famed than Gordon Craig, and the Musee des Arts du Spectacle is justly proud of their Craig collection, but even they have things cataloged as "box, papers, Craig.") With final versions of letters of provenance posted on line, along with contact info, which I'll be doing as soon as the auctions are complete, the scholar will be able to find the collection and will know what's in there.
b. And in a real sense, the collectors I've found are exactly the ones I would want to have found. They genuinely want it and will care for it and promote it. I really don't think it could be in better hands. I know Gary Thompson (your source for Meme Wars and for One for the Morning Glory, now) has expressed disappointment that the collections didn't go for more money, and I certainly like money myself, but mostly I'm overjoyed that the collections seem to be finding genuinely good homes. Certainly much better homes a university library (apt to be abusive) or mine (apt to be neglectful). For the writer who cares about preservation, anyway, this is the road I heartily recommend. I've found nothing but good on it.

Last three collection auctions for some months -- letters of provenance for TIMELINE WARS, TIME RAIDER, and GAUDEAMUS

Rather than post those big honking links, this time I'll just steer you to my ebay store, where you can see all the auctions still ongoing. That url is:


I liked writing men's action adventure way too much; if it had made money for me I might have settled into it forever. Part of my problem is that it's hard for me to imagine anyone being as violent as the typical men's a/a hero, so I tend to explain them as being 1) so dumb they can't think of anything else to do except violence, or 2) so crazy they prefer violence. TIME RAIDER -- the Dan Samson books -- is the former, and basically the books are men's a/a with an overlap of New Ageish fantasy (and a link to Atlantis and the Wisdom of the East and the Matter of America and all sorts of stuff -- just not much of that in the three books that started the series, because Dan Samson didn't know much yet. Of course in a real sense Dan Samson was unlikely ever to know much).

Anyway, Harlequin liked TIME RAIDER but didn't want to continue it, so they asked for another series, "more sci fi," which they then paid for but decided not to publish because it was "too sci fi." That was TIMELINE WARS -- which was Chron Wars while it was at Harlequin -- which my agent later resold to Harper Collins. By the time he did I'd destroyed a lot of material I should've kept, so that collection is priced a little lower. Mark Strang, the TIMELINE WARS hero, used to be an art historian but now he basically goes to alternate histories and blows stuff up because he's on a vendetta against about a million timelines.

So one big amiable doofus, and one psychotic intellectual, and neither one worked out. If I ever do men's a/a again (doubtful, the field is dying), I plan to call that series PSYCHO MORON.

GAUDEAMUS is one of my Edmunds -- I got that useful term from John Boyd, who used it to refer to his wonderful THE RAKEHELLS OF HEAVEN, still my favorite sf novel. An Edmund is a book that is like Edmund in King Lear -- "a whoreson, but there was great sport in his making." I've had three Edmunds in my writing career -- One for the Morning Glory, Finity, and Gaudeamus -- and while they've distinguished themselves by a lack of sales (and a surfeit of fanmail -- as far as I can tell, everyone who does read them writes to me), I can't think of them in any way other than fondly. So I suppose whoever ends up as the Keeper of Gaudeamus should be warned -- there's a little extra piece of my heart in the box.

And now the letters of provenance --

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Time Raider (Dan Samson) Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 11, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my three book series, TIME RAIDER:
1. Wartide
2. Battlecry
3. Union Fires
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 March 11, 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 March 11, 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: This collection is 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: Besides the titles listed above, the following other titles occur in this collection:
Wartide was originally The Guns of Time, and in a proposal to revive the series it was suggested it be titled Soldier of Time
Battlecry was originally The Way To Dusty Death and in a proposal to revive the series it was suggested that that title should be revived
Caesar's Bicycle was originally A Mind Divided, and in a proposal to revive the series it was suggested it be titled Castle Thunder

ABOUT MISSING MATERIAL: There are no copy edits or page proofs here because Harlequin did not allow a writer to do a courtesy check of the copy edit or the page proofs. The editor did send an extensive list of line-edit type questions, to which I responded by email, and the finished books are very close to my drafts as originally turned in.
PRINT QUALITY: Except for Item E, the professionally produced publisher materials, and the research photocopies, all the drafts produced by me are "draft quality" dot matrix – i.e. gray not black, on fanfold paper. I was broke in those days and the objective was to get something I could mark up, since the books were submitted on disk anyway. They're all quite readable but not particularly pretty. Most are unburst fanfold.

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A Rushes/Rough draft of the THE GUNS OF TIME July 15-July 22, 1990, inclusive First draft in eight days flat; monetary and divorce emergency caused that. First few pages (from 7-15) are hand numbered because I hadn't figured out how to make Word do page numbers yet. All other pages are dated.
B "safety copy" of A MIND DIVIDED Probably June 1991 Copy printed out as a backup, unmarked, very close to the final printed version, on one unburst fanfold.
C Photocopied research used to prepare an outline for the next three books (if the series had continued) October 1992 There's not much of this; it was used to prepare a document which is now apparently lost, but which was one of the sources of Item E about a decade later
D Second draft of THE GUNS OF TIME July 1990 Prepared from Item A. Many hand markings on this copy for corrections entered before it was sent to my agent and the publisher. THE GUNS OF TIME was published as WARTIDE.
E 5 page outline for continuing Time Raider for another dozen books or indefinitely Summer 2001 There was actually publisher interest in re-launching and continuing Daniel Samson's adventures in August 1991, so I spent one day in the library and another day speed-re-reading the books, and drafted this. The publisher decided it was too much of a gamble after all.
F Outline for proposed "Guns of Time" Written July 1990, these prints are probably later Prints have been extensively marked up. Many penciled notes about how many words to take to accomplish an event; I worked with this at my side and tried to hit or exceed word counts on every event while writing Item D. The Guns of Time was published as Wartide.
G Mixed rushes for The Way to Dusty Death Earliest, Dec. 26, 1990; last, 5/29/91 These rushes occurred off and on, mostly over Christmas break and then after grad school let out; I finished the book in early June 1991. Many duplicated pages, lots of rewriting and markings. Contemporaneous with Item L. The Way to Dusty Death was published as Battlecry.
H Mind Divided daily rushes June 14-24, 1991 Draft of the book, partly rough and partly transcribed from handwritten, done in ten days (which is practical in a short book if one pays no attention to quality). Very rough draft, each page dated on the day it was written. A Mind Divided was published as Union Fires.
I Research for Time Raider Spring 1991 There wasn't much; these were the things I kept on my desk, mostly pictures of horse tack and Civil War era weapons. In men's action adventure, you have to get the hardware right (but not much else).
J Catalog flyer for Gold Eagle 1992 Publishing Program with promotions for Time Raider November or December 1991 This is what Gold Eagle sent to bookstores, distributors, and its own sales force. You'll discover that the very unsuccessful Time Raider books had a "big brother" that suceeded brilliantly – the Deathlands saga began in the same program
K Promotional cover flats for Battlecry and Union Fires December 1991 Mint condition except for one hole punched in each. Sales and promo info on back
L 144 page green steno pad with about 45 pages of rough draft and some research notes for The Way to Dusty Death. May 1991 in the same pad there are numerous apartment hunting notes and some rough beginnings of my short story "Bang On!" The Way to Dusty Death was published as Battlecry.
M 80 page steno pad with 27 pages of handwritten first draft of The Way to Dusty Death August 1990 Also contains a bunch of notes to myself about the Intro to Theatre course I was about to start teaching at Pitt. I wrote most of this during lunches and breaks while driving from Missoula to Pittsburgh. The Way to Dusty Death was published as Battlecry.

John Barnes Date

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Timeline Wars Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 1, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my three book series, TIMELINE WARS:
1. Patton's Spaceship
2. Washington's Dirigible
3. Caesar's Bicycle
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 March 11, 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 March 11, 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: This collection is 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: Besides the titles listed above, the following other titles occur in this collection:
Patton's Spaceship was variously titled Crux, Crux of War, and Crux of Battle
Washington's Dirigible was at one time titled Flying Yankee
Caesar's Bicycle was titled Kill Caesar!
While the Timeline Wars series was at Harlequin, before it was re-sold to Harper Collins, it was called Chron Wars.
The fourth title in the series, which Harper Collins said they did not want, was to be Nixon's Frozen Head. (For anyone who is wondering, I have no idea how the same conceit cropped up on Futurama some years later, but strongly suspect pure coincidence. Anyway, what they did with it and what I would have done with it are utterly different).
The Timeline Wars materials also include material from a short story, "Upon Their Backs, to Bite'em," which was published in the anthology Drakas! from Baen Books.

ABOUT MISSING MATERIAL: When Harlequin paid for the books and then canceled the series in 1993, I had thought that was the end, and disposed of most of the materials (I'm surprised that Items A, B, G, I, and K survived) but thanks to my never-give-up agent, Harper Collins picked the books up in 1996 and issued them in 1997.
Harper Collins did not return my manuscripts because at the time they were experimenting with a new electronic submission system, where they accepted word files from me on disk and printed out "editable" copy edited copy which showed all the changes they had made to make it easy for me to approve or disapprove. The system worked very well, by the way. So there is no "final draft" in my typescript of any of the three books, but there is my hand correction of each of the three copy-edits, and my further hand-correction of each of the three sets of page proofs, as well as the usual mix of handwritten drafts, partially typed drafts, promo materials and so on.

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A 144 page green steno pad, general notepad with several scenes from FLYING YANKEE including a rough draft of first chapter, in handwriting September through November 1993 Pad I was carrying around for general creative work. Many scribbles and ideas for other creative projects as well, some notes toward my dissertation and toward a research trip to Cologne and Paris
B Rough draft of CRUX handwritten in green 144 page steno pad First page dated 4-13, has to have been 4-13-1993 Crux was the original title of Patton's Spaceship. The draft occurs in several separate runs of pages, with numbering 1-55, 1-4, 1-2, along with about ten pages of detailed outlining. A couple of pages from (43-44) from an early typescript are folded in the notebook
C Page proofs of PATTON'S SPACESHIP, on loose 8 1/2 x 11 sheets Sept 19, 1996 (handwritten note says "Author 10/1", probably when they sent them) Perfectly normal page proofs with very few markings; this came out of copy edit and typesetting in very good shape. In excellent condition. Probably there are few markings because this was delivered simultaneously with the copy edit and most corrections were made on that rather than here.
D Page proofs of WASHINGTON'S DIRIGIBLE, on loose 8 1/2 x 11 sheets Nov 27, 1996 The pages all seem to be here but there's no markings I can find; this is in accord with the generally high quality copy edit and typesetting these books received. In excellent condition. Probably there are few markings because this was delivered simultaneously with the copy edit and most corrections were made on that rather than here.
E Page proofs of CAESAR'S BICYCLE, on loose 8 1/2 x 11 sheets April 8, 1997 More markings here than in Items D and C, but still a very clean copy. Markings in blue ball point are in my handwriting. In very good condition – somewhat more rumpling probably because it needed somewhat more work. Probably there are few markings because this was delivered simultaneously with the copy edit and most corrections were made on that rather than here.
F Book proposal for NIXON'S FROZEN HEAD May 1997 (from diary) My attempt to sell Harper Collins the fourth book in the series; obviously it didn't succeed.
G 51 page singlespaced typescript, early draft of Kill Caesar! Spring 1993 Kill Caesar! became Caesar's Bicycle. This typescript has no handwritten marks and is in excellent shape so probably it was supposed to be a carry around copy and then never got used as one
H Publicity cover flats for CRUX OF BATTLE, PATTON'S SPACESHIP, and CAESAR'S BICYCLE Late fall 1996 CRUX OF BATTLE was the title of PATTON'S SPACESHIP up to almost the very last minute; we were unable to devise two more "Crux" titles so it was decided to go with the alternate "Famous General's Name in the Possessive Case Plus Anachronistic Device" titles.
I Four handwritten steno pad pages, abortive start on CRUX OF WAR October 1992 (from surrounding notes in notebook, which mostly contained Mother of Storms material) CRUX OF WAR eventually became Patton's Spaceship. I often try out a few pages of an opening to see how the story might start to sound, or find a first-person voice; I don't think I used much from these few pages in the eventual book. There's a good chance I did this waiting in line or riding a city bus, just as an exercise.
J Copyedit of Patton's Spaceship 9/19/1996 See details above about this unusual mark-up version of a copyedit. Includes full set of copyeditor notes. Many corrections in my handwriting
K Research materials on .45 automatic July 1992 I got a lot of help from Bruce Bethke on getting the Model 1911 right; these are some articles he gave me, which I carried around in my bag while I worked on the early drafts of Patton's Spaceship.
L Final typescript of "Upon Their Backs to Bite'Em" Summer 1999 Short story for S.M. Stirling's DRAKAS! anthology, brough Mark Strang over for a visit into the Draka universe
M Copyedit of Washington's Dirigible 11/23/1996 See details above about this unusual mark-up version of a copyedit. Includes full set of copyeditor notes. Many corrections in my handwriting

John Barnes Date

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Gaudeamus Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 12, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the items listed below which were used in the preparation of my novel GAUDEAMUS:
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 March 12, 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 March 12, 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: This collection is 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).

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A Large deck of 4x6 cards used for a matrix method to reorganize the novel March 2002 I've played around with various randomizing and "matrix creativity" methods for a long time; I was having a hard time getting the book to re-start (after taking more than a year out to finish some others) and was hoping this would help. Most of the cards now make no sense at all to me
B Research note cards, 3x5 December 2002 and January 2003 Prepared by my research assistant Jessica Tate, part of planning a research trip to the San Luis Valley
C Steno pad labeled Gaudeamus notebook 1 March or April 2000 first draft of what turned out to be the opening of the finished book. In the same pad, if you flip it over, there's a lot of proprietary material from the consulting business, on the flip side, because this was the only notebook I happened to carry to a conference on voting machines (I'd already entered the text, I just grabbed the wrong pad from the pile). That conference was in fall 2002, and everything about it is proprietary.
D Page proofs with my handwritten corrections of Gaudeamus June 1, 2004 Very clean proofs. Only about 35 pages have any marks, and mostly those are last minute changes of mind
E Research file on UFO sightings in the San Luis Valley September 2002 File assembled by my assistant Jes for planning further research and to get a sense of just how big the UFO thing was in the San Luis (answer, it's a major industry!)
F Tor's copyedit of GAUDEAMUS November 2003 Good copyedit. Very smart notes from copyeditor and lots of marks from both me and the c.e. In pretty rumpled shape since it spent some months bouncing back and forth in the mail and around a publishing office.
G Second draft of full version of Gaudeamus (just prior to final draft) 4/19/03 and 4/20/03 were date of printout Markings in my handwriting on many pages but mostly minor fixes because it was pretty close to done
H Rough outline drafting of GAUDEAMUS Mostly summer 1999 Several pages are duplicated; this outline/proposal got a lot of re-writing because at the time I thought it would be written while dictating/driving, as FINITY had been, and I needed a really clear outline. If this outline had been written GAUDEAMUS would have been about 4x the length it came out (and I suspect not at all funny).
I Run-up of about the first 152 pages of Gaudeamus Internal heading date is June 3, 2000. Probably this copy was printed after August 2002 and handwritten corrections probably entered before February 2003. A run-up is an edited printout that I use to get back into a book, in this case after a 2-year layover. One thing that's very noticeable is that I'm purposely very vague about much of the action in locations like Albuquerque, where I hadn't actually gone, driven the roads, explored the neighborhoods, and taken the photos yet. Corrections don't include research corrections so it was marked up sometime before the research trip in Jan/Feb 2003.
J Four page typewritten letter setting up research work for my assistant, Jes August 2002 Notes in my handwriting and hers; there was a huge amount to find and decide about, and this letter basically functioned as our checklist/communication system. Very worn from all the times it passed back and forth
K 60 min Microcassette (recorded at 1.2 ips): Gaudeamus, II February 2003 Gaudeamus II contains a note for revisions on the June 3, 2000, run-up (Item I), but it's clearly made after the January 2003 research tape, and material in it is included in the April draft. First draft of the scene where Hale tries to extract Travis from the bad situation in the hotel (up to about where Trav gets beaten up). There's only about ten minutes of this and the B side is blank
L Interview with Judy Messoline at UFO ranch recorded on 60 min microcassette (1.2 ips) January 2003 The UFO Ranch outside Hooper, Colorado, is a fascinating place; Judy still raises legacy breeds of cattle but she makes more money from UFO enthusiasts. The interview was conducted by me and my assistant Jes, who is a much better interviewer than I am (leaving me free to listen and take notes). Some material on both sides (turned tape over early to make sure we didn't lose anything, this was such a great interview). PLEASE NOTE: Judy's comments are proprietary to her and she gave the interview for the purpose of this book. Quotation beyond Fair Use would require her authorization (on the other hand, she's pretty pleasant and cooperative and not at all hard to contact)
M CD of UFO research trip photos Copy of material from Jan-Feb 2003 Not strictly part of the collection, just a copy, but likely to be of some use to scholars; pictures from the research trip down to San Luis Valley in January/February 2003, taken by me and Jes and later edited by Jes (who may be held responsible for some of the silly captions). I wrote the last 2 1/2 drafts while playing these photos in rotation on my screensaver, a different set in rotation for different parts of the book obviously. Directory/folder structure is in Mac OS X format, pictures are jpgs.
N 60 min microcassete (recorded at 1.2 ips), Gaudeamus I May 21, 2000 (established by memory+tax record) Made this tape while driving back from a research trip to Boulder (research for other purposes). First part is me doing vocal improv as Travis Bismarck. Material on pretty much all of A side and first 1/5 or so of B side. Material from this appears in the June 2000 run-up (Item I).

John Barnes Date

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Two more Letters of Provenance up -- FINITY and MOTHER OF STORMS

Each of these collections has some unusual features.

FINITY was a mostly-on-screen production so there's less stuff, but there's one feature that seems to be drawing a little collector attention, and that's that the rough draft was all done on one phenomenally long drive (to and from San Antonio from Gunnison CO) on audio tape, and all those tapes are in there.

MOTHER OF STORMS seems to be my most popular book over the long run, and there's a lot of computer modeling that went into it, but because back in those days before the Web when 20 meg was big hard drive, 10,000 cells was a huge spreadsheet, and human beings still had tails, much of the modeling had a by-hand component, so there's quite a lot of handwritten and hand-developed stuff in there.

FINITY auction closes on March 7; MOTHER OF STORMS on March 8; the urls for them are:



And the letters of provenance:

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Finity Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 7, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my novel, FINITY. 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 March 7, 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 March 7, 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: This collection is 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).

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A Ten standard audio cassette tapes, the entire rough draft of FINITY November 1997 Taped on my way from my home in Gunnison, CO, to the ASTR meeting in San Antonio. I needed to get a book done soon so I printed out the outline in one-sentence-or-clause-to-a-page 48 point type, masking-taped successive pages to the dashboard in tear-off order, and taped each scene as I drove, tossing the outline sheets into the back seat over my shoulder. (That's why none of them appear in this collection; every time I stopped for gas or a burger I cleared out the back seat). Thus FINITY is the novel of mine that most closely follows its original outline, and the whole rough draft is on tape. Most tapes and tape sides include at least some asides on other people's driving, odd confessions and rants triggered by driving on too much coffee, discussions of which little towns in central Texas are really nice and which are not,and so on. I went out of Gunnison via the southern, Saguache road during a heavy snowstorm, so there's a certain amount of raw fear in there too.
B Original corrected copyedit of FINITY Last week of September, 1998 First few pages are various set-ups for the printer, which are interesting if you like to see how manuscripts become books. The envelope in which it's enclosed carries the date 10/00, which is the date when it was returned to me. The main body of this is the material from which the main body of Item D was copied; front material differs between the two manuscripts.
C Very rough draft of FINITY, typed while transcribing tapes from Item A November and December 1998 When I got home, I just put the tapes, one after another, into my Walkman, and typed what was on them, rewriting and modifying as I went, and sometimes filling in where I didn't notice a tape had run out
D Backup photocopy of corrected copyedit of Finity Last week of September, 1998 Contains faint but legible copy of my responses to the copyeditor queries, which Item B does not. Nice lighthanded touch by the copyeditor on this one; this is about the point where I stopped fighting wars with copyeditors and simply tried to find ones I got along with (or maybe Tor got so tired of the battles that they only allocated my books to really courteous copyeditors)
E Corrected page proofs of FINITY First week of November, 1998 The pages that were actually corrected were returned to the publisher, but in those long ago affluent days, I used to make a backup copy of them, so those are the pages on top, followed by the originals that didn't require corrections. It's really quite surprising how many things need fixing even at the page proof stage.
F About 110 pages (of 379) of a cleanup draft of Finity March 1998 This is very close to the finished version (which is in items B and D), looks like leftover pages from the clean-up of the last awkward spots, inconsistencies, and typos. Not very many markings, so probably these are the pages I did not throw out; others were probably folded and discarded as I went.

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "Mother of Storms Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 8, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my novel, MOTHER OF STORMS. 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 March 8, 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 March 8, 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: This collection is 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).

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A Audio microcassette on which I taped rough drafts of scenes from MOTHER OF STORMS June 1993 Taped on my way from Pittsburgh to my then-fiancee's home in Minneapolis. Sound quality is very poor – I had a hard time typing from this, volume was way too low and background noise much too high
B First full rough draft of MOTHER OF STORMS in manuscript form March 9, 1993 (print date) Wandering, odd, lots of loose plot threads, and contains many scenes and subplots cut from the final book. Just under 800 pages long. Many markings by me in the early pages but then fewer and fewer, probably because I gave up on it and started another draft
C Space saving format printout of Mother of Storms April through June 1993 (most pages have print dates) I printed these pages, or reprinted them, every time I had marked up some of them so thoroughly that I was on the verge of re-reading notes. So the later dates are probably the most-rewritten scenes. A more compact manuscript I could carry in a plastic bag (in rainy Pittsburgh spring) was much better for working on in coffee houses, grad student office, etc.
D Unmarked page proofs from Mother of Storms Print Date 2/7/94 These are the page proofs that did NOT have errors, and were therefore not marked and returned to the publisher. I noted as I was packing that I missed at least two pages that I had marked, so quite possibly they correspond to typos in the final version
E Notes from my agent for revisions. Also on the back of the pink cover sheet, my own notes to myself for revisions. 9/24/93 Printed copy of a memo from my agent that we passed through CompuServe. Usual mixture of spelling errors, blocking mistakes (people being in 2 places at same time and so on) and requests for more about the technology
F First draft of shorter version of MOTHER OF STORMS, including modifications requested by Tor editors sept 24, 1993 Actually typed and entered by Melissa Gibson, who did a great job on this and was really an extra editor, while I wrote the supplementary scenes that were then folded in to make this "first complete final". Very few markings on this copy; seems to have been purely archival (the book was delivered via email, my first book to go that way).
G Tor's copyedited and reconciled printout of shorter draft of MOTHER OF STORMS (this is the one the finished book was prepared from) Early October 1993 Extensive handwritten notes from nearly everyone involved in the production process, and of course copyediting marks. Similar to Item F but includes notes made in Item E.
H 144 page steno pad, green cover, smeared label says "Mother of storms nb-1, 8/10/92" 8-10-92 to at least July 1993 This was my basic working pad for most of the first nine months or more on the book. It traveled with me in Mexico while I was trying to get caught in a hurricane and looking over the little towns where much of the action happens. There's around 40 pages of rough drafts in my handwriting, maybe another 30 pages of outlining, and about 20 pages of notes and calculations toward building the weather model. There's also some scrawled notes from theatre history class and a couple of pages with notes about my then-upcoming wedding. Loose pages at the back from some other notebook are my notes on travel in Mexico (like plane/train/bus schedules, hotels, etc.) More or less this notebook lived in my pack or under my arm for most of the time between the dates; it's quite battered but all very legible.
I Editing copy of the long version of Mother of Storms Mid august 1993 This was the version to which I applied Patrick Nielsen Hayden's editorial notes (Item ) in preparation for putting together the short version. (Long version was about 207,000 words, short version about 186,000, and Patrick was right, by the way, the 10% cut in length was a very good idea – I prefer the short version myself). Pages are in somewhat scrambled order because I was sending part of them off with Melissa Gibson to have corrections entered, and writing supplementary material (mostly bridges to cover the cuts) at home with the others. Most of the pages seem to be there but there may be a few missing. Some are very battered, having made a few too many trips in grad student backpacks, while others are in pretty good shape.
J Printout of cover art for 1st British paperback, with art director notes Early 1996 I was getting along very well with Millenium/Orion in those days, and they very nicely sent this copy for my comments. The art director had already made notes to fix everything that wasn't quite perfect. This cover was later replaced with one that showed a tornado; I always preferred this one.
`K Red steno pad, 80 pages, written on front and back of many sheets June 1993 Road pad for working on Mother of Storms on an extended consulting trip to California. Lots of editorial notes (many of which were transcribed into Item C). It had become clear that the original outlined ending to the novel – and then just as the storms subside in the northern hemisphere, they start in the southern, and everyone wearily turns to coping some more – was totally unacceptable to Tor, so I had written a draft (Items C and B) in which the highly improbable space mission turned Louis Tynan into a god and saved the Earth. I wrote the mission first and then did the calculations, in this notebook, making them work out plausibly (imagine my relief that they did). There are also some consulting notes which are proprietary and would require permission other than mine to quote, and a few scribbled notes – nothing significant – pertaining to a meeting with Buzz Aldrin, which would also require permission besides mine to quote (there's nothing written or drawn by Buzz in this item)
L Bookmark and brochure to promote the initial release of Mother of Storms May 1994 Announces the July 1994 release. Amusingly 1990s in its graphic style, and boldly proclaims that Mother of Storms will be promoted NOT JUST ONLINE BUT ON THE INTERNET!
M three pages torn from a steno pad that are the earliest notes I have about Mother of Storms Probably October 1991 The initial list was just some research that had to be done to establish feasibility, and a list of topics to be addressed. All this was prompted by NOAA having released some of its simpler weather models for general use, but there's nothing about that in these notes
N Patrick Nielsen Hayden's notes toward cutting the long draft to the short draft for Mother of Storms August 17, 1993 These may be the best set of editorial notes I ever got from anyone; detailed and very thoughtful. I worked with them at my elbow as I prepared the final, shorter draft, and in many cases scribbled notes on this copy, so that there are many marginal entries in my handwriting
O old mixed research file 1992-93 Mostly this is stuff I kept around, I think because I used it off and on – a receipt from a hotel that was fictionalized into the book (the receipt brought back memories somehow), map of the city of Oaxaca, a couple of scientific papers with bearings on seabed clathrates
P Page proofs for paperback edition of Mother of Storms January 1995 I don't see any missing pages so I guess I had no corrections; copy is unmarked
Q Cover flats for the German edition with a note from my agent In envelope postmarked 11/21/95 Eventually this did become the German cover
R Monthly planner book used to schedule the events of 2028 for Mother of Storms early summer 1993 Eventually the whole thing got so complex I just laid it out on a calendar by hand; this gives a quick summary of who is where when and doing what
S Map of the Pacific Ocean with successive daily positions of Hurricane Clem and a few daughter hurricanes penciled in January 1993 Done using the modeling output from Items T and U. This was how I kept track of the day by day events for the imaginary summer of 2028; hand plotted because I didn't have any graphics software that could do this sort of thing
T Hand pasted chart (assembled from 8 1/2 x 11 paper) giving position and strength of Hurricane Clem from model output December 1992 or January 1993 This was the master chart I used in conjunction with the map (Item S). As you can see from the picture, it's about half by-hand and about half spreadsheet calculations, all pasted together on a sheet of layout paper. Very worn – it got carried everywhere and used constantly – but mostly intact. Gives wind velocities at eyewall, and then radii at which various Beaufort scale winds occur, plus position of hurricane and various other stuff; geographic data is pencilled in
U About 15 pages of modeling output from various preliminary models November through December 1992 Numeric weather models are built like any other models, as series of modules that feed each other. My little Mac SE wasn't up to processing one big Excel spreadsheet, so I would build a preliminary model, export the data, and then put that into the next stage of the model. These models cover ocean surface temperature, wind force, and some other thermodynamic stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One for the Morning Provenance...

I've really been behind the 8-ball getting other stuff done for deadline, so I put up the auction but am only getting around to hanging the notice here about it now. So here's the letter of provenance for the ONE FOR THE MORNING GLORY collection, which you can find at


where the auction will be closing on Thursday March 1.

Go ahead and ask all about the long stories relating to Item E. Go right ahead. Big hint -- some of them are also referred to in GAUDEAMUS ... any Pittsburghers around, can you tell me, is the Star of India still there?

And now, folks, the letter of provenance:

LETTER OF PROVENANCE regarding Materials Sold as the "One For the Morning Glory Collection"
To whom it may concern:
On March 1, 2007, I sold to [NEW OWNER] the following items which were used in the preparation of my novel, ONE FOR THE MORNING GLORY. 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 March 1, 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 March 1, 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: This collection is 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: Besides ONE FOR THE MORNING GLORY, one other title occurs in this collection. The characters of Golias, Psyche, Mortis and the Twisted Man originated in a piece of performance art given by me in March of 1988 in Missoula, Montana, titled FOUR FACES AND A GRID. During that performance I drew a chalk grid on the floor of the performance space, recruited four members of the audience to sit on the compass points of that grid, and asked that they watch my performance through those masks. The masks are in surprisingly good shape. During most of 1992, while I worked on the novel at my desk at 5434 Howe Street in Pittsburgh, the four masks hung above the desk.
ABOUT MISSING MATERIAL: Much of the physical manuscripts of earlier drafts of One For the Morning Glory, including one in which I reset it into a blank-verse like structure to check cadences, were produced while I was doing consulting work in California in late July 1992. When I departed for a research trip to Mexico (the one behind MOTHER OF STORMS), I did not want to take along all those pages, or ship them back to Pittsburgh, so I threw away about one complete and two partial drafts of One for the Morning Glory at that time.

TAG Short description Dating (as much as is known) Long description and commentary
A Mask of Mortis, from FOUR FACES AND A GRID March 1988 Wood stick, styrofoam backing, hard surface drawing paper covered with mixed media (mainly oil pastel and gloss medium), yarn, and what looks like part of a plastic plate
B Mask of Psyche, from FOUR FACES AND A GRID March 1988 Wood stick, styrofoam backing, hard surface drawing paper covered with mixed media (mainly oil pastel and gloss medium), yarn.
C Mask of Golias, from FOUR FACES AND A GRID March 1988 Wood stick, styrofoam backing, hard surface drawing paper covered with mixed media (mainly oil pastel and gloss medium), yarn. Still has the wire attachment for hanging it on a wall.
D Mask of the Twisted Man, from FOUR FACES AND A GRID March 1988 Wood stick, styrofoam backing, hard surface drawing paper covered with mixed media (mainly oil pastel and gloss medium). Very different from the iron face described in the book.
E Purple steno pad, 80 pp, rough draft in handwriting of the first couple of chapters of One for the Morning Glory November 1990 Water stains on cover but the interior is fine. I got stood up for a date I had been dreading (long story there) at the Star of India restaurant on Craig Street in Pittsburgh. Actually there are several long stories associated with that evening. Anyway, I had hours to kill before going to Friday Night Improv, so I ducked down the street, bought this notepad, and began One for the Morning Glory.
F Green steno pad, 80 pages, many notes, partial scenes, outlines, ideas for One for the Morning Glory Late spring 1992 Seems to have been a general "think pad" – contains notes from several different classes, drawings, project ideas, etc.
G copyedit of One for the Morning Glory July 1995 A great copyedit; also includes a good deal of commenting and questioning back and forth to clarify my intentions
H submission copy of One for the Morning Glory October 1992 By this time we could send files electronically easily, so this is no longer a camera-ready copy for the agent to use; it's simply a paper copy of the final draft I sent to him. In excellent condition
I photocopy of first 63 pp of copyedit of One for the Morning Glory July 1995 I honestly have no recollection of making this copy or of why I did so, but it's a copy of the first part of Item G
J Corrected page proofs of One for the Morning Glory Fall 1982 Don Keller was the one who came up with the "etc." page headings; you can see our correspondence about that. Very nice page proofs, almost no problems, but some marks in my handwriting
K Pre-copyedited version of One for the Morning Glory submitted for copyedit May 1995 Has my somewhat fulminous notes to the copy editor; I was pretty paranoid about having this come out right. Those notes include a glossary of all the malapropisms. The notes are somewhat worn with some letters peeling off, apparently due to a shoddy printer; on request I can email a copy of the text if need be.
L Maps of the Kingdom and the City Probably November or December 1990 I did this about the time I first began to work on the novel. The maps are sloppy and crude and don't match the book; eventually I realized I preferred to use a map in my head that would be subject to drift and error, as more in keeping with the world of the book
M Reconciliation copy of One for the Morning Glory July or August 1995 This was the copy from which type was actually set for the finished book. In very good shape, lots of printer's marks; based off the copyedit you'll find in Item G

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Man Who Pulled Down Even More Old Manuscripts

Once again, I didn't get the additional material cataloged before there were bids, so here's the rest of what will be in the Man Who Pulled Down the Sky collection -- again, this is almost certainly complete now. You can find the auction at

where it still has a little time to run (closes just before midnight, mountain time, on Sat the 24th).

Here, then, are the 11 more items I found, bringing the total to an even 30:

T Rough spec for a program for figuring out the populations of the space colonies for MEMOIRS OF A PAWN Jan 1984 Notation might only make sense to me but this was to be a program in BASIC; as I recall the submodules never did run well, and I abandoned it in favor of pen and paper calculation
U Short note on one page of graph paper about the makeup of the Orbital Republics (the bad guys in MEMOIRS OF A PAWN) Jan 1984 List of their names and of which nations founded them
V 80-sheet steno pad from Middle South Services; contains outline of Memoirs of a Pawn, title noodling, and pen and paper calculations of population of Orbital Republics Date in biz/proprietary material is 11/22/83 A few blank pages after the routine business material from development of a test generator, there are several pages labeled "Cats Away Dept." which contain extensive work on Memoirs of a Pawn – probably the outline written sometime before I began work in January 1984
W Yellow 8 1/2 x 11 notebook with revision plans for first 4 chapters of Memoirs of a Pawn Almost certainly July 1984; this was probably prepared just before packing up to move from New Orleans to Missoula. Letter found in notebook dates from August 1984 and there are some notes about the house-hunting trip to Missoula in the notepad. One set of notes dated 7/24 About half of notebook is empty. Many of the notes are research notes; as I recall, after we found an apartment in Missoula we had some days left, and besides hiking and exploring the town, I did some library work there (call numbers tend to indicate this was done at Missoula, not at Tulane). Other notes are questions about plot, characters, etc. for myself. Page numbers are consistent with Item X and Item R
X Heavily marked up partial draft (pages 1-79) of Memoirs of a Pawn July 1984 Page numbers are consistent with Item W and Item R. Very heavily marked by my standards in those days (I mark even more now)
Y Chart of units (Kaypro 4 required small units of text, no long files) and what happens in them up through Chapter 3 in rough draft of Memoirs of a Pawn May or June 1984 The plot was going badly astray and I was far into the book with nothing happening yet, so I tried to analyze my way out of the situation, with mixed results. I apparently meant to do more of a chart than this but stopped at Unit 140. I no longer have any idea what the column labeled "things communicated (see list)" refers to
Z Agency copy of THE MAN WHO PULLED DOWN THE SKY (hand-relabeled) July 1985 This was the copy my agent used to prepare photocopies to send to publishers
AA Markup copies of heavy rewrite units May or June 1985 A few units were almost totally re-written in the draft prepared after my agent gave me notes; I kept track of which those were, printed them out, and did an especially close going-over for typos of them (again, trying to deliver perfect copy in those long-ago days when it mattered)
BB Failed printer experiments with very first draft of MEMOIRS OF A PAWN Jan-Feb 1984 It took me a long time to get an answer back from Radio Shack and Kaypro about how to set the dip switches to make a TRS80 printer work with a Kaypro 4 properly; meanwhile I didn't trust disks, so I made these printouts, which were mostly a mess. But they're the very earliest typewritten forms of any part of the book. Most are labeled by unit and page numbering starts again at the beginning of each unit. Maybe 65 pages in all
CC Stray extra copies of pages 36-41 and 259-260 from final draft Unsure, but after June 1985 These may have been printer overruns or the tails and heads that I printed to make sure I got all the pages I needed for a draft. They are unmarked and identical to the text of the equivalent pages in Item Z and Item O
DD New front material – Mendenhall's economic/politics memo, early draft May 1985 Rough draft of the only table of marginal rates of return I've ever seen in a science fiction novel; I wrote in Mendenhall's voice as the economist. This became part of the prologue of the finished book.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Even more SIN for your money!

I discovered that trying to maintain catalogs of each collection while unpacking all the boxes was just too much for one me to get accomplished, so I got done with the unpacking and sorting today, and now I'm cataloging collections. SIN OF ORIGIN turned out to have twelve more items in addition to the 16 already in the collection. Bidding is still open as I write, and you can find full details at


But meanwhile, here's what else I found (check a few messages back for the original list that ended with Item P)

Q MFA Thesis version of Sin of Origin May 1988 Sin of Origin was my MFA thesis in creative writing at U of Montana. Actually it was a last desperate way to claim the thesis after a series of catastrophes; being able to ask "Will you take a published novel?" saved my degree
R Cutting draft of THE LIMIT OF VISION August or September 1987 This is a draft on fanfold of Part I of Sin of Origin, which I edited very tightly to get it down to acceptable length for Asimov's SF Magazine, where it ran as the novella "The Limit of Vision"
S Agency copy of Sin of Origin (stamped by agent) January 1987 This was the master hardcopy my agent used to prep and mail copies of the novel (we weren't tied in to the Asimov Presents series so he submitted it some other places as well)
T Draft 3.1 of Sin of Origin, unburst fanfold, some duplicated pages Late November 1986 I remember this thing grinding away in the background (on a noisy daisy wheel printer) while we had guests over for Thanksgiving. This is the copy I marked up and edited to create the final draft from.
U Pages 1-19 of second draft of Limit of Vision October 1987 Only pages of this version I found, unburst fanfold, incorporates marked changes from Item R, occasionally marked in my handwriting
V Photos of South Dakota Badlands, visual research for Sin of Origin Summer 1985 When I can I often take pictures as research; the Spens Desert, where much of the action takes place, was based of the South Dakota Badlands, which I drove through that summer
W one page note, torn from notebookl, about novel structure for Sin of Origin May 1986 Dated by other material around it (the notebook mostly contained other material for other books)
X Final draft of SIN OF ORIGIN December 1986 Draft from which agent draft (Item S) was photocopied; the original. No hand markings, this was basically the "camera copy" in those long ago days when printing was expensive
Y Final draft of THE LIMIT OF VISION November 1987 Photocopy of this was submitted to Gardner Dozois
Z Photocopy of the original SIN OF ORIGIN, reduced to 70% (2 pages to a sheet), copy used to prepare copies for my MFA Thesis committee April 1988 Unmarked. This is what the members of the committee read in order to approve my MFA thesis; their copies were shot from this
AA Davis Publications (Asimov's SF) galleys for THE LIMIT OF VISION Postmarked Feb 3, 1988 photocopy, many corrections in my handwriting
BB Revised galleys of SIN OF ORIGIN Jan 7, 1988 The first page proofs (Item L) were such a mess that we had to make a second pass; this copy too is very heavily marked; it's the security photocopy, not the original

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More new discoveries and some very good questions

I don't know whether eBay doesn't let me revise after the bids are up, or because it's so close to closing time, but the Century Next Door collection became considerably more complete today. First of all, the missing CANDLE tapes were located, so there are now five tapes, all from Jan 1998, of me dictating the first draft of CANDLE. Secondly, you can add to the letter of provenance:

HH Cover letter and the NON-corrected galley pages for ORBITAL RESONANCE Letter is dated 4/20/91 No copy of the corrected pages found, so these are only the pages that did not have errors and consequently don't have my handwriting on them

II Backup photocopy of copyedit of ORBITAL RESONANCE with my cover letter 2/8/91 Photocopy of my letter returning the copyedit of ORBITAL RESONANCE, with which I was very pleased

JJ Folder with all drafts of "Delicate Stuff", only short story set in the Century Next Door Spring 1987 Contents are 5 pages of ideation (scribblings and notes), handwritten draft ripped from notebook, first typed draft, "corrections" draft, final draft as sent, and copyedit returned from Amazing Stories

So all that makes it even cooler and I wish the people bidding were seeing this right now!

Now, for the other item for tonight, one fan/potential bidder who is also a longtime occasional correspondent sent me several questions that I thought were very good ones about how the scholarly access would work. With his permission, here are his questions and my answers:

1. if high-resolution scans (probably pdf) were made available via
the web of the materials, would that cover the majority of the
accessibility/copying requirements specified? do the actual materials
have to be available for scholarly study or just reasonable
duplications? scanning this stuff once and making it available
somewhere (password protected) is a lot easier than shipping stuff
around the world. i have no complaints if the occasional scholar
requires direct access but it seems so much easier to distribute a
digital copy if that is satisfactory and agreeable with the scholar.

That seems like an absolutely brilliant solution if you're willing to put the time in. The occasional scholar may want to look at backs of documents (for dating) or at other notebook contents (to see what else I was thinking about), but what you're describing would be absolutely great.

2. would requiring people to 'sign up' (provide a unique e-mail
address or postal address or some sort of personal identifier) to
access said web site be authorized or is anonymous access a
requirement (i am not in the giving-away-bandwidth business, however
i'm not sure what a fair access fee would be).

Considering access would have to be much cheaper than their making photocopies (or hiring someone at your end to do it), then yes, absolutely. It is not my intention that the collector ever bear the cost of scholarly access.

3. would the people that accessed the materials (or copied them) be
free to redistribute them? this doesn't seem to me to be addressed
and if they are granted rights to reproduce materials there is a
potential dilution of value of the materials for the owner.

Redistribution would be up to me, and after my death, up to you or your heirs; what the Letter of Provenance grants is freedom to quote for scholarly purposes, along the (admittedly murky) Fair Use lines. So, for example, putting three different unpublished drafts of a short story next to each other in columnar form, iwth extensive notes and comments, might be okay (but any academic press will make them ask me first), but simply reproducing them in an anthology for reading would not. Sales of reproductions -- e.g. some of my silly cartoons -- would not be Fair Use but commercial use, for which no license is granted.

To be very fussy about this, what I grant the collector is ownership of the physical materials, with a requirement that scholars be allowed to look at and communicate about the content. I retain the copyright, and normal permissions are required for that. I intend to be liberal for scholars and tightfisted for commercial ventures; wholesale reproduction would be in the same class with a commercial venture.

4. 'contact information for the collector' - what does this consist
of? an e-mail address? is a telephone number required? i do value
my privacy.

For the time being I'll be happy to be the go-between; academics, scholars, critics, etc. can contact me and I can forward their emails. If I become unable to do this, an email address would more than suffice. There is no reason for you to have to receive voice mail for this.

And for those coming late, once again, the auction (which closes in just a couple hours as I type this) can be found at