Friday, January 27, 2012

Doing Charles Stross's Laundry with Style

Back in December 2010 I wrote a blog post entitled "Writing with Style (Sheets, That Is)," on my need, as an editor/copyeditor, for the author to provide a style sheet. This blog post was the result of a series of comments to a status update that Theodora Goss had posted on her Facebook page. In addition to Dora's and my comments, Robert Vardeman and Paul Witcover shared comments as well. And with their kind permissions, I included the FB comment stream in that blog post on style sheets. Dora then wrote a complementary blog post of her own, from her perspective on the subject in question. So with my post and hers, the reader is treated to the editor's and author's viewpoints regarding a single copyedit in a short story.

I won't overly bore you with repetitions from this blog post, should you choose to read it in its entirety, but as I mentioned in that post, in the nearly fifteen years that I have been in this business, I've only had two authors -- Michael A. Stackpole and Mark Teppo -- provide me with style sheets along with their manuscripts. That's two authors in nearly fifteen years. In fact, just this past September I worked on Michael's Of Limited Loyalty, the second volume in his Queen's Command series published by Night Shade Books, and once again he provided the publisher with an updated style sheet for his book.

ApocalypseCodexThe second post I want to reference was published on December 10, 2009, shortly after I finished work on Charles Stross's third Laundry Files novel, The Fuller Memorandum, for Ace Books. Entitled "Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service," this rather extensive blog post covered my working relationship with Charlie Stross: how it all came together, including the genesis of The Atrocity Archives, the first Laundry Files volume, and the Hugo Award-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle." (Which, by the way, is still available online -- as a PDF doc or as a web page -- for your reading pleasure.)

As he did in 2009, Charlie again recommended me to Ace Books to proof, line edit, and copyedit his forthcoming (fourth) Laundry Files novel, The Apocalypse Codex. I have a distinct advantage over an in-house or other freelance editor because I have worked on the first three books in the series, allowing me to maintain consistency across all the volumes. And Charlie and I work well together: I ask a multitude of questions, and he answers, often with links to reference material; I make content suggestions, and he either accepts, rejects, or modifies said suggestions. Just as it should be, between editor and author. In fact, regarding my work on The Fuller Memorandum, Charlie informed me that upon reviewing the marked up (i.e. change tracked) manuscript from his publisher, he didn't have a single STET on any of my copyedits. No STETs means I done good -- very good. No STETs also takes a lot of stress off both the author and publisher, since there is no back-and-forth dickering necessary over changes: I'll give you those three copyedits for my one STET; this inevitably speeds up the production process, too. (I don't know if I'll be as lucky with the the work I did on the latest volume, which I delivered to Ace Books in December.)

In The Apocalypse Codex, our reluctant hero, Bob Howard, skilled in the techniques of applied computational demonology -- as well as all things IT geekery, plus PowerPoint slide shows and departmental time sheets -- is once again called upon to save the world from a diabolical fanatic who plans to open a portal to call forth a nightmare from the vast reaches of spacetime, at the cost of thousands of lives. Sounds like a typical Laundry Files novel, yes? But there the typical ends. The diabolical fanatic is a reverend; and Bob must team up with a couple of "external assets": Persephone "the Duchess" Hazard (code name: Bashful Incendiary) and Jonathan "Johnny" McTavish (code name: Johnny Prince).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(Belated) December Links & Things

Whoa... hard to believe that we're in week four of January and I still have yet to post my December links and things. I do have a lot of excuses, like the holidays (and recovery from same), multiple computer, software, and network issues (some good, including a new ASUS Zenbook; most not so good; but all very time consuming), as well as a huge project -- 271,000-plus words! -- I just proofed and copyedited for Night Shade Books (The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Six, edited by Jonathan Strahan1) that took far longer than I had anticipated. And I'm still dealing with the aftermath of my mother's passing: emails, phone calls, photocopying, meetings, forms to complete and notarize, and yet another trip to Southern California planned for next week.

But, as they say -- whoever "they" are -- that's life. And better that than the alternative, to be sure.

In fact, by the time I finish typing up and posting these December links it will be time to type up January's links... sigh....

I want to remind you that February 3 is the deadline to sign up for the last Alien Contact giveaway, hosted by The giveaway is open to US residents (a print copy giveaway) and non-US residents (an ebook copy giveaway). So follow the link to, read my guest blog post entitled "Twenty-six Stories, Twenty-six Weeks..." and be sure to sign up for the giveaway.

And speaking of Alien Contact: Michael at The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review blog just posted his December Reading Log, and he had these kind words to say about the anthology:
Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern – Ranging from first contact and last contact to vacationers visiting an alien's home world and being, typically, obnoxious guests, Alien Contact compiles one of the most diverse collections of modern stories concerning the "other." Highly recommended....

Now, on to the links: This is my belated monthly wrap-up of December's Links & Things. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern; or Friending me on Facebook (FB). Note, however, that not all of my tweeted/FB links make it into these month-end posts. There is a lot of content this time around, so please return for a second visit if you need to to take full advantage of all the links. Previous month-end posts are accessible via the "Links and Things" tag in the right column.

  • Since I'm encouraging you to follow me on Twitter, here are teasers from Angela James's (@angelajames) "10 things authors should know about Twitter": 1) When you start your tweet with the @ symbol... 2) If you have your tweets protected... 3) You should not, really ever, I mean never, query or pitch an editor or agent on Twitter... 4) Please don't use Twitter DMs (or Facebook messages) to do business... 5) Just because the editor/agent is on Twitter at 11pm on a Friday night... 6) When we say you should "engage" on Twitter... 7) You should be talking about other people's books... 8) And while we're on the subject of promotion... 9) It's a good idea to be mindful... and 10) Twitter should be fun. For all the details: Angela James's blog. (via @ColleenLindsay)
  • In 1963, at the ripe old age of sixteen, Bruce McAllister (1988 Hugo and Nebula awards finalist for "Dream Baby"; 2007 Hugo Award finalist for "Kin") sent out a 4-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors to learn if "they consciously planted symbols in their work." Remember, this was long before the internet and email: the authors had to be tracked down, envelopes addressed and mailed, etc. He hoped the surveys would "settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren't lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery." Bruce has been sitting on 65 of those responses for all these years, and thanks to the Paris Review, we can now view many of these questionnaire responses from the likes of Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer. This is amazing stuff! Not to be missed! The PR article was posted on December 5; on December 17, less than two weeks later, PR Online reported that they had 120,000 page views of the McAllister survey article -- the most page views they've ever had!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Close to the EDGE....

Kilian Melloy, Assistant Arts Editor for EDGE, poses some difficult questions for me in this Alien Contact interview, originally posted on EDGE:Boston.

When Kilian asked:
As a follow-up to last year's Is Anybody Out There? (which you co-edited with Nick Gevers for Daw Books), Alien Contact is a logical theme. Both books pose big philosophical questions. Is Anybody Out There? examined the paradox of why, if there is alien intelligence in the galaxy (as, mathematically, there ought to be) no extraterrestrial race has yet, to our knowledge, paid Earth a visit. Do you have a personal opinion on the best explanation for this conundrum?

I responded:
There are others who are far more qualified to respond to this question than I am... I would have to agree with Paul Davies1, whose book The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) was published nearly simultaneously with Is Anybody Out There? Davies states that focusing on radio signals for 50 years of the SETI project has been to no avail; we need to start thinking out of the box. One suggestion Davies makes is that ET might use biological organisms as a means of sending information, so we should dispatch retroviruses that would insert DNA into any found DNA-based organism. Coincidentally, the British edition of The Eerie Silence from Allen Lane Publishers is subtitled Are We Alone in the Universe?

You can read the full interview, including my response to this, the last question:
The collection includes a story by a well-known anti-gay writer, as well as one whose remarks on a blog got her disinvited as Guest of Honor from a convention a couple of years ago because some people saw her remarks as bigoted. When it comes to publishing a story by a writer who has generated such controversy, do you simply ignore his politics and rely on the quality of his work? Or do you have to weigh the political against the artistic when making your choices?


1. My previous blog post, just prior to the publication of Is Anybody Out There? on Paul Davies and his book The Eerie Silence.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To the Core...

Keith Soltys reviews Alien Contact on his blog Core Dump 2.0. Here's the concluding paragraph to Keith's review, which I believe speaks to the heart (the core!) of Alien Contact:

Alien Contact is a strong anthology that showcases the diversity of modern SF. Given how central the idea of alien contact is to science fiction, you might think that all of the good ideas were taken long ago, but this anthology demonstrates clearly that that's not the case.

Keith isn't a book blogger, per se; his blog is subtitled "Things that interest me," in which he blogs "about science and technology, music, technical communication, computers and software, science fiction, and whatever else I feel like writing about." Hopefully his review of Alien Contact will reach a wider audience than just strictly book readers, and science fiction book readers at that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Twenty-six Stories, Twenty-six Weeks... the title of my guest blog post on, whom I would like to thank for providing me the opportunity -- and the space -- to share with a new group of readers some background on my Alien Contact anthology.

Here's an excerpt from my blog post:

By April 2011, I had finalized the story order for my Alien Contact anthology. So I was ready to announce the contents list. Most anthologists accomplish this by simply posting a list of the stories. SF news sites pick it up, as do SF bloggers and tweeters, and that's how readers learn of an anthology's contents. But a list is, well, a list — and boring.

I had already invested more than two years in putting together this anthology, and I was determined to maintain that energy level until the book was published. So, after a bit of brainstorming, I decided to blog about each of the stories — one story each week, in their order of appearance — over the course of twenty-six weeks, concluding by the end of October, just in time for the book's publication.


...if the reader thinks of Alien Contact as a DVD, then these twenty-six weeks of blog posts serve as the DVD extras....

Following my guest blog post is yet another Alien Contact giveaway: An opportunity for a US reader to win a signed/inscribed print edition, and for a non-US reader to win an ebook edition. The deadline to enter this giveaway is February 4. [Note: This is the final Alien Contact giveaway!]

Please check out, read my guest blog post while you're there, and be sure to sign up for the giveaway if you don't already own a copy of Alien Contact. (And if you don't, why not?)

Thursday, January 5, 2012