Editors: threat or menace?

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Peter D. Tillman

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Jul 30, 2007, 6:38:17 PM7/30/07
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"When I began working in publishing, I learned, to my surprise, that
editors' opinions often possess no more wisdom than those held by bus
drivers, waiters, insurance salesmen, or plumbers... They make
predictions about the success or failure of a book ‹ with no more
success than you and I would have. They are constantly disappointed,
surprised, perplexed by what happens or doesn't happen after a book
enters the world with its glossy, colorful cover."

Michael Kandel, "Being an Editor",
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Kandel-Candid.html

"Anyone in possession of common sense ‹ be that person a bus driver,
waiter, insurance salesman, or plumber ‹ can be an editor. The publisher
is right: common sense is not a skill. Editors are interchangeable,
dispensable."
.
.
.

"Editors are an annoyance, and costly, because they complicate life,
they drag out the process of producing a book, and they cause friction.
Many British publishers have no functioning editors: the manuscript goes
to the publisher in electronic form (a diskette), is forwarded directly
to the typesetter (the printer), and a freelance proofreader checks the
galleys for typos. In no time at all, the physical book is produced,
with a minimum of human intervention."

Pretty cool essay, by one of my favorite book reviewers (and editors).

Happy reading--
Pete Tillman

Catja Pafort

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Jul 31, 2007, 5:56:44 AM7/31/07
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Peter D. Tillman quoted:

> Michael Kandel, "Being an Editor",
> http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Kandel-Candid.html

> "Editors are an annoyance, and costly, because they complicate life,

> they drag out the process of producing a book, and they cause friction.
> Many British publishers have no functioning editors: the manuscript goes
> to the publisher in electronic form (a diskette), is forwarded directly
> to the typesetter (the printer), and a freelance proofreader checks the
> galleys for typos. In no time at all, the physical book is produced,
> with a minimum of human intervention."

The irony is that this is written by an editor.

To my mind, 'producing a book with a minimum of human intervention' is
not an asset.

I'd argue that one of the reasons self-published books are, as a group,
worse than published books (other than many people self-publishing
before the product is ready) is that they often contain *only* the
author's input.

A good editor sharpens a book by pointing out inconsistencies; he can
see where a tangents should be cut and which bits lack explanation. By
eliminating the structural edit as well as the copy edit (a good copy
editor will help the words to flow better) the end product will be
unpolished. Diamonds-in-the-rough are nowhere near as satisfactory to
watch than when they are cut, polished, and set to their best advantage.

I've read a number of books that would have profited from editing, and
every time a writer produces the 'uncut, this is how I wanted it to be'
version it tends to be less readable than the edited one.


Catja


--
writing blog @ http://beyond-elechan.livejournal.com

Quadibloc

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Jul 31, 2007, 8:39:21 AM7/31/07
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I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.

Why have things changed?

After all, a writer is often too close to his own work to see the
flaws.

One thing that's changed is that there is a lot more material out
there on how to write professionally. So there are enough authors out
there with a modicum of craftsmanship that editors don't need to take
the time to lead promising beginners by the hand.

And I remember a poster noting that editors are much busier nowadays,
so perhaps it is true they don't do much more than provide obstructive
opinions... editing masterpieces the wrong way.

John Savard

Nicky

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Jul 31, 2007, 10:06:13 AM7/31/07
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On Jul 31, 1:39 pm, Quadibloc <jsav...@ecn.ab.ca> wrote:
> I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
> them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>
> Why have things changed?
>
> After all, a writer is often too close to his own work to see the
> flaws.
>
> One thing that's changed is that there is a lot more material out
> there on how to write professionally. So there are enough authors out
> there with a modicum of craftsmanship that editors don't need to take
> the time to lead promising beginners by the hand.

I get a lot of editorial imput - but then I need it.
Friends of mine don't get such rigorous critiques but this is as
likely
to be because they produce a better quality mss as because they have
lazy editors. The fact that I know that I'm in for a lengthy
process also means that I leave some things to be tightened later
along with any other editorial changes so I suppose it becomes self
fulfilling.

> And I remember a poster noting that editors are much busier nowadays,
> so perhaps it is true they don't do much more than provide obstructive
> opinions... editing masterpieces the wrong way.
>

It isn't always what the editors say that helps - sometimes a comment
will spark off a particular line of thinking which encourages the
writer to make improvements that they wouldn't otherwise have thought
of.
I always do a load of things I'm not asked to do when my editorial
comments come back - often in arguing with my editor I discover a few
new inconsistencies in my own thinking - or ideas I've left out. I
hate edits but I'd hate to see a book of mine on the shelf without
them. Arguing against an editorial view is sometimes v helpful in
revealing flaws .

Nicky

Patricia C. Wrede

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Jul 31, 2007, 10:43:49 AM7/31/07
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"Quadibloc" <jsa...@ecn.ab.ca> wrote in message
news:1185885561.5...@z28g2000prd.googlegroups.com...

>I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
> them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>
> Why have things changed?
>
> After all, a writer is often too close to his own work to see the
> flaws.

What changed is that the book business has been moving steadily toward a
more big-business, corporate-management style (at the large publishing
houses, anyway) since at least the 1950s, if not before. Editors at major
houses have more and more meetings and in-house responsibilities and
crisis-fighting to do, and less and less time to actually, you know, edit
stuff. There's a book that was published in the 1970s, "In Cold Type," by
Leonard Shatzkin, that details a lot of what was wrong with things then, and
you can see that things have continued down the same road since.

> One thing that's changed is that there is a lot more material out
> there on how to write professionally. So there are enough authors out
> there with a modicum of craftsmanship that editors don't need to take
> the time to lead promising beginners by the hand.

That's more of an effect than a cause, IMO, though it's actually rather hard
to tell because the two things -- the rise of how-to-write materials,
workshops, critiqute groups, etc. and the decline of the
Maxwell-Perkins-type hands-on editor -- happened pretty much at the same
time.

> And I remember a poster noting that editors are much busier nowadays,
> so perhaps it is true they don't do much more than provide obstructive
> opinions... editing masterpieces the wrong way.

<*sigh*> If all editors ever did was provide obstructive opinions, then
logically a lack of editing should improve the quality of the output. This
is pretty demonstrably not the case.

Nobody really *likes* being told their masterpiece is deeply flawed. Some
people have a harder time accepting critical comment than others. When I'm
in the process of making revisions, I can complain as bitterly as the next
writer about the stupid things my editors want me to do, but if you actually
pin me down, I have to say that my editor was absolutely right to object to
my use of seventeen semi-colons on a single manuscript page, not to mention
the books that needed more tension at the climax, the insertion or expansion
of assorted missing or inadequate explanations for plot development, etc.

I've had my share of arguments with my editors, but when we argue it's
generally because *I* screwed up -- I didn't get the story I wanted to tell
down on the page in a sufficiently clear manner. So the editor, going by
what's on paper, hares off in a completely different direction from the way
the plot/characters were meant to go, and asks for all sorts of changes to
make the ms. fit the book in *his* head, which is not the same as the one in
*my* head. I've seen cases in which such disagreements were irreconcilable,
leading to a book being pulled, but that's extremely rare; normally, after
much, er, enthusiastic discussion, the editor and writer come to an
agreement about what the book is supposed to be like, and then the writer
fixes the ms. so that the book is clearly like that (instead of "that" being
just one of several possible readings).

Follow-ups set to rec.arts.sf.composition.

Patricia C. Wrede


Christopher B. Wright

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Jul 31, 2007, 12:42:32 PM7/31/07
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One of the things I think I really need is that kind of back-and-forth
from someone who has no vested interest in re-enforcing my ego. :)
It's sad to hear that this kind of editorial involvement is fading
from the business, because I always imagined that if I ever got a book
accepted by a publisher that process would probably be the single most
invaluable thing I got out of it, and would make any subsequent
attempts to sell books that much more likely to succeed.

The feedback I get from the friends and family who critique what I do
is very valuable -- it's not like I only hang around with sycophants
or anything -- but they're really close to my wavelength when it comes
to what we like and dislike, and I don't know how well those tastes
translate.

Every once and a while I go over to Lulu.com, not to consider self-
publishing (I don't think I could ever do that properly), but to
peruse the other pre-publishing services they provide access to
(http://www.lulu.com/category/106) -- specifically, there are editors-
for-hire who provide different levels of editing expertise. The
highest level of editing includes examining character/timeline
inconsistencies... it's a little pricey, but I think I'd probably
benefit from having someone I don't know do that kind of stuff...
assuming it was a good editor, of course. It's not knowing that
combined with not being able to afford it that has kept me from doing
it at the moment.

Christopher B. Wright (ubersoft -at- gmail -dot- com)

Justin Alexander

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Jul 31, 2007, 1:13:23 PM7/31/07
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Quadibloc wrote:
> I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
> them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>
> Why have things changed?

John Campbell died. ;)

Nothing has really changed. There are still editors who serve as a
useful sounding board and critic during the creative process. But 90%
of the everything is crap, and that's as true for editors as it is for
anything else.

There can also be a problem with these types of anecdotal "editors
don't do much any more" discussions in selectively choosing which
authors you're talking about. For example, I am aware of an editor who
handles books by two authors who I also know. For one of these
authors, the editor's job is essentially to forward the manuscript to
the typesetter. For the other author, the editor engages in a constant
back-and-forth process in which the plot is tweaked, the writing
revised, and the book shaped into its final form.

The difference? One of the authors needs the help. The other one
doesn't.

--
Justin Alexander
http://www.thealexandrian.net

Mike Schilling

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Jul 31, 2007, 1:38:18 PM7/31/07
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Justin Alexander wrote:
> Quadibloc wrote:
>> I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors
>> helped them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>>
>> Why have things changed?
>
> John Campbell died. ;)

As had Jim Baen. Not that I'm saying that's a good thing, but it means that
AFAIK there are no current SF publishers for whom not editing is a source of
pride.


David Friedman

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Jul 31, 2007, 2:08:01 PM7/31/07
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In article <13auiq9...@corp.supernews.com>,

"Patricia C. Wrede" <PWred...@aol.com> wrote:

> I've seen cases in which such disagreements were irreconcilable,
> leading to a book being pulled, but that's extremely rare;

I've just had the equivalent happen on a much smaller scale. I was asked
by a prominent libertarian magazine (insofar as there is such a thing)
to review a book on a subject of considerable interest to me. After a
couple of rounds of reasonable back and forth with the editor I was
dealing with I got a list of requested changes from the editor above
him--designed, so far as I could tell, to make the review more of a
"fill in the blanks" about the book I was reviewing and less an essay on
that book's subject. After considering the list and consulting my wife
for her opinion, I emailed back that if he wanted that kind of book
review he was welcome to write it, but I wasn't interested in doing so.
The review will instead come out in a different libertarian journal,
slightly less prominent but with which I have closer relations.

--
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/ http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/
Author of _Harald_, a fantasy without magic.
Published by Baen, in bookstores now

David Friedman

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Jul 31, 2007, 2:08:18 PM7/31/07
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In article <1185900152.4...@b79g2000hse.googlegroups.com>,

"Christopher B. Wright" <uber...@gmail.com> wrote:

> > <*sigh*> If all editors ever did was provide obstructive opinions, then
> > logically a lack of editing should improve the quality of the output. This
> > is pretty demonstrably not the case.
> >

For my non-fiction books I've gotten along reasonably well with my
editors, with the exception of the first. Two I would count as friends.

But the only editing I can remember ever contributing a substantial
amount to the quality of the book was by my (non-fiction) agent. She
went over the first chapter of _Hidden Order_ in detail and made a bunch
of very good suggestions.

For _Harald_ the editing was pretty light. Mostly I asked the editor to
look for particular sorts of problems and flag them for me to deal
with--and she did. Which I was happy with.

Bill Swears

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Jul 31, 2007, 2:41:03 PM7/31/07
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There are also orders of magnitude more credible manuscripts. I read
where there are something like 30K manuscripts bouncing around the New
York publishers at any one time. That simply wasn't true in the Golden
Age. So, roughly the same number of publishers, a reading public that
will not go above a certain price per book, and slushpiles that are

--
Ourdebate.com lifts free debate between writers and dilutes it with ads.
rec.arts.sf.composition is a USENET group, and can be accessed for free.
Ourdebate.com therefore sucks (the life from discourse),
and dribbles (deceit when integrity would have worked just as well).

Patricia C. Wrede

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Jul 31, 2007, 4:06:20 PM7/31/07
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"Christopher B. Wright" <uber...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1185900152.4...@b79g2000hse.googlegroups.com...

> On Jul 31, 9:43 am, "Patricia C. Wrede" <PWrede6...@aol.com> wrote:
>
>> I've had my share of arguments with my editors, but when we argue it's
>> generally because *I* screwed up -- I didn't get the story I wanted to
>> tell
>> down on the page in a sufficiently clear manner. So the editor, going by
>> what's on paper, hares off in a completely different direction from the
>> way
>> the plot/characters were meant to go, and asks for all sorts of changes
>> to
>> make the ms. fit the book in *his* head, which is not the same as the one
>> in
>> *my* head. I've seen cases in which such disagreements were
>> irreconcilable,
>> leading to a book being pulled, but that's extremely rare; normally,
>> after
>> much, er, enthusiastic discussion, the editor and writer come to an
>> agreement about what the book is supposed to be like, and then the writer
>> fixes the ms. so that the book is clearly like that (instead of "that"
>> being
>> just one of several possible readings).
>>
>> Follow-ups set to rec.arts.sf.composition.
>
> One of the things I think I really need is that kind of back-and-forth
> from someone who has no vested interest in re-enforcing my ego. :)
> It's sad to hear that this kind of editorial involvement is fading
> from the business, because I always imagined that if I ever got a book
> accepted by a publisher that process would probably be the single most
> invaluable thing I got out of it, and would make any subsequent
> attempts to sell books that much more likely to succeed.

Oh, there's still some of it left -- see earlier comments about semi-colons,
tension, and the like. What you don't get these days are editors like
Maxwell Perkins, who some say should actually have been given co-authorial
credit on some of the things he edited. Like the one where he took 800
manuscript pages of rambling and "edited" it down to 400 pages of brilliant
novel. That takes skill and talent, yes, but it wasn't back-and-forth with
the author (at least, not in that case, that I've ever heard). Possibly the
author learned something from looking at the result, but I've always found I
learn more by doing it myself.

> The feedback I get from the friends and family who critique what I do
> is very valuable -- it's not like I only hang around with sycophants
> or anything -- but they're really close to my wavelength when it comes
> to what we like and dislike, and I don't know how well those tastes
> translate.

That's what a good crit group is for, "good" in this context being defined
as one that is a) devoted to improving people's stories rather than
competing with each other and b) composed of members diverse in taste but
within a useful skill-range of each other so that everyone can get something
out of it. Sort of like rasfc.

> The
> highest level of editing includes examining character/timeline
> inconsistencies... it's a little pricey, but I think I'd probably
> benefit from having someone I don't know do that kind of stuff...
> assuming it was a good editor, of course. It's not knowing that
> combined with not being able to afford it that has kept me from doing
> it at the moment.

I don't know anything about lulu's editorial services, but I do know there
are at least some professional editors who occasionally hire out as book
doctors to some degree, and I've known at least one writer who used to work
as a (reputable, legitimate, worth-paying-for) book doctor. The trouble is
finding them.

It seems a little odd to me that lulu classifies character/timeline
inconsistencies as something to be done at the "highest level" of editing.
To me, that's maybe the highest level of *copyediting*, but it's most
definitely not what I expect my regular editor to do. The most I've had, on
that score, from my regular editor was a question along the lines of "You
have an awful lot of dates and things here -- are you *sure* they're all in
the right order?" which was enough to send me back to prune and rearrange
and clarify, because if they were making the editor uneasy there were
probably too many specific references that weren't properly grounded. What
does lulu offer to do at their lower levels of editing?

Patricia C. Wrede


Christopher B. Wright

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Jul 31, 2007, 4:32:41 PM7/31/07
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On Jul 31, 3:06 pm, "Patricia C. Wrede" <PWrede6...@aol.com> wrote:


> I don't know anything about lulu's editorial services, but I do know there
> are at least some professional editors who occasionally hire out as book
> doctors to some degree, and I've known at least one writer who used to work
> as a (reputable, legitimate, worth-paying-for) book doctor. The trouble is
> finding them.

Ay, there's the rub!

>
> It seems a little odd to me that lulu classifies character/timeline
> inconsistencies as something to be done at the "highest level" of editing.
> To me, that's maybe the highest level of *copyediting*, but it's most
> definitely not what I expect my regular editor to do. The most I've had, on
> that score, from my regular editor was a question along the lines of "You
> have an awful lot of dates and things here -- are you *sure* they're all in
> the right order?" which was enough to send me back to prune and rearrange
> and clarify, because if they were making the editor uneasy there were
> probably too many specific references that weren't properly grounded. What
> does lulu offer to do at their lower levels of editing?

Here are the three top listings on their services page:

Editing, Basic Level:

Editing at this level will consist of one reading for basic
grammatical errors and typographical errors

Editing, Intermediate level:

Editing at this level will consist of one reading for all grammatical
and typographical errors, and also character inconsistencies

Editing, Advanced Level

An intensive and thorough Edit, that includes everything from
grammatical and typographical errors to character and timeframe
inconsistencies

...

There are many different variations of these services scattered
through their pages, but that seems to be the basic gist. There's also
an "Editorial Evaluation" service that will look over your manuscript
to "determine the level of editing appropriate for yoru title."

On this latest pass, however, I noticed that most of these services
specifically list 80,000 words as their word cap, so at 115K I don't
think I'd have much luck trying to use them...

Catja Pafort

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Jul 31, 2007, 5:48:11 PM7/31/07
to
Patricia C. Wrede wrote:

> I don't know anything about lulu's editorial services, but I do know there
> are at least some professional editors who occasionally hire out as book
> doctors to some degree, and I've known at least one writer who used to work
> as a (reputable, legitimate, worth-paying-for) book doctor. The trouble is
> finding them.

There are freelance organisations and I know of one UK ex-high level
editor who is offering an editing service.

I think the point is that you want someone who has lots of professional
experience in your genre.

And that service doesn't come cheap. $975 for up to 100K is the quote I
have at hand - but that would appear to be nearer the bottom of the
range.


> It seems a little odd to me that lulu classifies character/timeline
> inconsistencies as something to be done at the "highest level" of editing.

It appears that lulu merely has a directory listing and those
descriptions belong to a particular provider. Who is not unlikely to be
someone like me - single person, half a clue, but more balls than I have
in hanging out a shingle.

Kat R

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Jul 31, 2007, 8:52:49 PM7/31/07
to
Quadibloc wrote:
> I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
> them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>
> Why have things changed?

Business. Publishing has always been a business, but it is now a big
corporate business and that means bottom lines rule. Editors,
copyeditors (not the same thing), proofers, checkers, and assistants are
overworked and underpaid to the closest inch that doesn't bring down the
house of cards, which means less time and luxury to work with authors
beyond the merest once-over in many cases. The closer the publisher is
to the bone, the less editing any given manuscript is _on average- going
to get.

I used to be an editor back in the 90s and it was pretty tight then.
Trust me when I say it's only gotten worse.

>
> After all, a writer is often too close to his own work to see the
> flaws.
>

Not necessarily too close to see "flaws" but too close or too tired to
figure out what's wrong _specifically_ and how to fix it quickly and easily.


> One thing that's changed is that there is a lot more material out
> there on how to write professionally. So there are enough authors out
> there with a modicum of craftsmanship that editors don't need to take
> the time to lead promising beginners by the hand.

Editors have never been in the business of leading newbies by the hand.
All publications and publishers have standards below which they simply
will not purchase a piece. In rare cases a book may be unfinished or
deeply messed up due to bizarre circumstances (like the death of authors
or sudden illness, or mental deterioration, or alcoholism) that causes
the publisher to bring in a specialist to finish up the work. But that
is VERY rare. Otherwise, the editor makes the best suggestions they can
and that's the end.


>
> And I remember a poster noting that editors are much busier nowadays,
> so perhaps it is true they don't do much more than provide obstructive
> opinions... editing masterpieces the wrong way.

Yes, they are busy, but the rest is codswallop. Most of the writers who
claim their editor "ruined" their masterpiece have overinflated egos or
very bad contracts with bass-ackward companies who hired idiots to do
the editing and didn't include the writer in the process. The few times
I've had poor directions from an editor, it was the result of my having
plans for the rest of the series, or thoughts in my head that didn't
make it onto the page, that the editor knew nothing about. Once those
things were discussed, the revision requests were changed and things
improved over all by my taking them.

I LOVE my editor. She and my copyeditor and my proofer make me look
*good* when I'm too tired to figure out how. I _know_ my books benefit
from my editor's intervention (even if I bitch about it at the time.)

--
Kat Richardson
Greywalker (2006), Poltergeist (2007)
Website: http://www.katrichardson.com/
Bloggery: http://katrich.wordpress.com/

Joe Bednorz

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Jul 31, 2007, 9:47:29 PM7/31/07
to
On Tue, 31 Jul 2007 17:52:49 -0700, Kat R wrote in
<rbudnXHw1qb9RDLb...@comcast.com>:

>Quadibloc wrote:
>> I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
>> them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
>>
>> Why have things changed?
>
>Business. Publishing has always been a business, but it is now a big
>corporate business and that means bottom lines rule. Editors,
>copyeditors (not the same thing), proofers, checkers, and assistants are
>overworked and underpaid to the closest inch that doesn't bring down the
>house of cards, which means less time and luxury to work with authors
>beyond the merest once-over in many cases. The closer the publisher is
>to the bone, the less editing any given manuscript is _on average- going
>to get.
>
>I used to be an editor back in the 90s and it was pretty tight then.
>Trust me when I say it's only gotten worse.
>

"Where have all the proofreaders gone?" by Robert McHenry,
Chronical[sic] of Higher Education, november[sic] 15, 2002.
<http://pot-pourri.fltr.ucl.ac.be/pathfinder/donnees_textuelles/CHE_november_15_2002_proofreaders.txt>

One quotation, annotated simply as a "legal maxim,"
reads thus: "De minitas non curat lox".

The law does not concern itself with trifles like
smoked salmon.

Think what Jackie Mason could do with that line.

The Scribe's Problem Child - by Robert McHenry,
Tech Central Station Daily 03 Jan 2006
<http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010206D>

"The reason for having an editorial process is to minimize
the number of mistakes that get published by having many
persons look at any given piece of copy beforehand. One of
the consultants I had to deal with opined we should aim for
99.95% accuracy in copy, using a number he had picked up in
some class on quality control in manufacturing. He changed
the subject after we pointed out that this would translate
to an average of 5 typographic errors per page."

--
"Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Captured Koala"
<http://adamcadre.ac/content/brown/> - Parody.
<http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=49192#49192> - Reality.
All the Best, Joe Bednorz

Matt Hughes

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Jul 31, 2007, 9:54:21 PM7/31/07
to
On Jul 30, 3:38 pm, "Peter D. Tillman"
<Till...@toast.net_DIESPAMMERSDIE> wrote:

> Pretty cool essay, by one of my favorite book reviewers (and editors).

I've worked with editors at large houses and small, in Canada, the US
and Britain. I've never been heavily edited, so I can't say if it
would be a wrenching experience or not. I've learned to be happy to
get an editor's notes, because most of the suggestions I've received
have ended up improving a book or story, or at least helping to
clarify my mind as to what I'm trying to achieve, and whether or not
I'm achieving it.

Matt Hughes
http://www.archonate.com/spiral-labyrinth

Dan Goodman

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Jul 31, 2007, 11:31:29 PM7/31/07
to
Patricia C. Wrede wrote:

> Oh, there's still some of it left -- see earlier comments about
> semi-colons, tension, and the like. What you don't get these days
> are editors like Maxwell Perkins, who some say should actually have
> been given co-authorial credit on some of the things he edited. Like
> the one where he took 800 manuscript pages of rambling and "edited"
> it down to 400 pages of brilliant novel. That takes skill and
> talent, yes, but it wasn't back-and-forth with the author (at least,
> not in that case, that I've ever heard). Possibly the author learned
> something from looking at the result, but I've always found I learn
> more by doing it myself.

What I had heard of him doing was taking a manuscript from Tom Wolfe
and cutting out the first 200,000 words for a start on carving a novel
out of it.

--
Dan Goodman
"You, each of you, have some special wild cards. Play with them.
Find out what makes you different and better. Because it is there,
if only you can find it." Vernor Vinge, _Rainbows End_
Journal http://dsgood.livejournal.com
Futures http://dangoodman.livejournal.com
Links http://del.icio.us/dsgood

Brooks Moses

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 12:23:09 AM8/1/07
to
Christopher B. Wright wrote:
> Here are the three top listings on their services page:
>
> Editing, Basic Level:
>
> Editing at this level will consist of one reading for basic
> grammatical errors and typographical errors
>
> Editing, Intermediate level:
>
> Editing at this level will consist of one reading for all grammatical
> and typographical errors, and also character inconsistencies
>
> Editing, Advanced Level
>
> An intensive and thorough Edit, that includes everything from
> grammatical and typographical errors to character and timeframe
> inconsistencies

It strikes me that these pretty much cover all of the editing that one
can do without being on the hook for whether or not the work is crap
when one's done editing it. Beyond these, I suspect an editor pretty
much needs freedom to say, "I can't work with this," for a lot of their
potential clients.

I'd also guess that "character inconsistencies" is likely to have more
to do with things like "You say she has blonde hair here, and then you
refer to dark tresses there" rather than ones like "This person is
intelligent and clearly completely on the hero's side, but here and here
he intentionally withholds some information from the hero that would
have short-circuited half the plot and kept the hero from risking life
and limb in pursuit of a wild goose."

- Brooks


--
The "bmoses-nospam" address is valid; no unmunging needed.

Crowfoot

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 2:41:45 AM8/1/07
to
In article <rbudnXHw1qb9RDLb...@comcast.com>,
Kat R <null....@lycos.com> wrote:

> Quadibloc wrote:
> > I know that some of the Golden Age authors wrote of how editors helped
> > them greatly in the earlier stages of their careers.
> >
> > Why have things changed?
>
> Business. Publishing has always been a business, but it is now a big
> corporate business and that means bottom lines rule.

Yup. When Bertilsman buys you, the bean counters move in
and they rule. Corporate HQ, whatever it may be, believes that
a 20% pofit is bottom line; publishing as once known in small houses
made maybe 8% on a good day. But corporate only saw Stephen King
and Danielle Steele, and wants *every* author to produce exactly like
that, and if not, over the side with them, and with the expense of
seasoned, knowledgeable editorial staff as well (too expensive).

Do the math and follow the money. It's all crystal clear and totally
miserable and horrific.

SMC

Patricia C. Wrede

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 9:11:40 AM8/1/07
to

"Christopher B. Wright" <uber...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1185913961.3...@x40g2000prg.googlegroups.com...

> On Jul 31, 3:06 pm, "Patricia C. Wrede" <PWrede6...@aol.com> wrote:
>> It seems a little odd to me that lulu classifies character/timeline
>> inconsistencies as something to be done at the "highest level" of
>> editing.
>> To me, that's maybe the highest level of *copyediting*, but it's most
>> definitely not what I expect my regular editor to do. The most I've had,
>> on
>> that score, from my regular editor was a question along the lines of "You
>> have an awful lot of dates and things here -- are you *sure* they're all
>> in
>> the right order?" which was enough to send me back to prune and rearrange
>> and clarify, because if they were making the editor uneasy there were
>> probably too many specific references that weren't properly grounded.
>> What
>> does lulu offer to do at their lower levels of editing?
>
> Here are the three top listings on their services page:
>
> Editing, Basic Level:
>
> Editing at this level will consist of one reading for basic
> grammatical errors and typographical errors

That's not even copy-editing; it's just proofreading. Learn to do it
yourself -- the grammar is an essential basic writer's tool, and the typos
are a waste to pay to have done, unless you tend to lots of homonym-type
typos that a spell checker won't catch.

> Editing, Intermediate level:
>
> Editing at this level will consist of one reading for all grammatical
> and typographical errors, and also character inconsistencies
>
> Editing, Advanced Level
>
> An intensive and thorough Edit, that includes everything from
> grammatical and typographical errors to character and timeframe
> inconsistencies

That sounds like copy-editing to me, though "character inconsistencies"
might possibly include some of what I think of as typical editorial
review/direction, depending on how deeply into it they go. But based on
their description, I wouldn't pay for this without seeing a sample of what
they do.

> On this latest pass, however, I noticed that most of these services
> specifically list 80,000 words as their word cap, so at 115K I don't
> think I'd have much luck trying to use them...

Find yourself a good crit group, or at least a circle of good beta readers
who aren't so excited by seeing things in manuscript that they skim blithely
past stuff they'd never ignore in a published novel. They won't reassure
you about your marketing worries, but that's not something lulu can *really*
do, either. Seriously, *nothing* does that except the actual market test,
i.e., publishing the book, and sometimes not even that (c.f. the publishing
history of "Sorcery and Cecelia"). If your friends like it, you worry that
they're too much on your wavelength; if an editor buys it and likes it, you
worry that you hit her blind spot or that she's too busy to be paying proper
attention; if the marketing department goes wild, you worry that they had a
little too much champagne at the sales conference. It's not until the thing
is on the shelves and actual readers are buying it that you kind of relax,
and even then you worry that people are going to get it home and hate it.
It's a normal part of the job. Ignore it, and focus on fixing the stuff you
*can* do something about.

Patricia C. Wrede


R.L.

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 2:16:49 PM8/1/07
to
On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 01:47:29 GMT, Joe Bednorz wrote:
/snip/

>
> The Scribe's Problem Child - by Robert McHenry,
> Tech Central Station Daily 03 Jan 2006
> <http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010206D>
>
> "The reason for having an editorial process is to minimize
> the number of mistakes that get published by having many
> persons look at any given piece of copy beforehand. One of
> the consultants I had to deal with opined we should aim for
> 99.95% accuracy in copy, using a number he had picked up in
> some class on quality control in manufacturing. He changed
> the subject after we pointed out that this would translate
> to an average of 5 typographic errors per page."


<snerk>


R.L.
--
del...@sonic.net works, emails welcome
http://houseboatonstyx.livejournal.com/

R.L.

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 2:22:40 PM8/1/07
to
On Tue, 31 Jul 2007 20:32:41 -0000, Christopher B. Wright wrote:
/snip/

> On this latest pass, however, I noticed that most of these services
> specifically list 80,000 words as their word cap, so at 115K I don't
> think I'd have much luck trying to use them...


On a quick scroll of one page, I saw some higher wordage figures further
down, at higher prices. I'm not impressed by how they describe their
services, though.

Matt Hughes

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 2:37:30 PM8/1/07
to
On Jul 31, 11:41 pm, Crowfoot <pagem...@swcp.com> wrote:
> In article <rbudnXHw1qb9RDLbnZ2dnUVZ_gGdn...@comcast.com>,

> Yup. When Bertilsman buys you, the bean counters move in
> and they rule. Corporate HQ, whatever it may be, believes that
> a 20% pofit is bottom line; publishing as once known in small houses
> made maybe 8% on a good day. But corporate only saw Stephen King
> and Danielle Steele, and wants *every* author to produce exactly like
> that, and if not, over the side with them, and with the expense of
> seasoned, knowledgeable editorial staff as well (too expensive).

Yes, indeed. Before I started writing fiction, I was a freelance
corporate speechwriter and got to see many a CEO close up in its
natural environment. For all their macho posturing, the thing they
can't stand is risk. That's because investors impose a premium for
increased risk, which can hold down the share price over the short
term, which is the only term that anyone now cares about. Management
is footloose, and will move on, so the long term will be someone
else's problem.

But publishing is an inherently risky business. Nobody really knows
what's going to happen with a given book. You can't guarantee a
bestseller; no matter how many factors you control, the great herd of
book-buying readers out there are liable to stampede in someone else's
direction. But the modern, corporate rulers of the publishing have
tried their best -- hence all the series, and celebrity knock-offs --
while inadvertently doing their worst to a business that they have
never really understood.

Eventually, like the apocryphal dinosaur that took a long time to
acknowledge a wound in its tail, corporations will realize that their
risk-averse business model does not suit publishing. They will then
return the field to those to whom it must belong: word-addicted
dreamers and romantics who care, fundamentally, more for the product
than for the bottom line.

I just hope I last long enough to see the dawning of that day.

Matt Hughes
http://www.archonate.com/spiral-labyrinth

Jack Tingle

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 5:14:46 PM8/1/07
to
On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:37:30 -0700, Matt Hughes <mhu...@mars.ark.com>
wrote:

>On Jul 31, 11:41 pm, Crowfoot <pagem...@swcp.com> wrote:
>> In article <rbudnXHw1qb9RDLbnZ2dnUVZ_gGdn...@comcast.com>,
>
>> Yup. When Bertilsman buys you, the bean counters move in
>> and they rule. Corporate HQ, whatever it may be, believes that
>> a 20% pofit is bottom line; publishing as once known in small houses
>> made maybe 8% on a good day. But corporate only saw Stephen King
>> and Danielle Steele, and wants *every* author to produce exactly like
>> that, and if not, over the side with them, and with the expense of
>> seasoned, knowledgeable editorial staff as well (too expensive).

[snip]


>Eventually, like the apocryphal dinosaur that took a long time to
>acknowledge a wound in its tail, corporations will realize that their
>risk-averse business model does not suit publishing. They will then
>return the field to those to whom it must belong: word-addicted
>dreamers and romantics who care, fundamentally, more for the product
>than for the bottom line.

Pray for private equity to take over publishing then, because public
equity markets won't let that happen. You need [vast
overgeneralization] at least a 14 P/E ratio to stay afloat in almost
any market, otherwise, your investors will defect for the bond market
and the company goes Tango Uniform.

Perfect knowledge and fair markets are neither perfect nor fair if you
care about anything other than making money.*

Sadly,
Jack Tingle

* I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
market gets restricted. The same effect applies elsewhere, often in
reverse. Newsweek this week quoted a film where abortion protesters
were asked how many years in jail the woman should serve for getting
an abortion, or was the death penalty more appropriate. Same effect.

Howard Brazee

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 9:18:35 PM8/1/07
to
One thing I notice is that there are lots of best selling authors who
would have better books with more editing.

Mike Schilling

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 10:00:16 PM8/1/07
to
Howard Brazee wrote:
> One thing I notice is that there are lots of best selling authors who
> would have better books with more editing.

But would better-edited versions be even better sellers? If not, publishers
have no real incentive to produce them.


Joy Beeson

unread,
Aug 1, 2007, 11:43:03 PM8/1/07
to
On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 17:14:46 -0400, Jack Tingle <wjti...@hotmail.com>
wrote:

> "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
> human chattel slavery! Yipee!"

Anyone in favor of restricting drugs should be staked to an anthill
while I dance around him holding a bottle of ant-repellant just out of
his reach.

As for chattel slavery, people aren't property. How do you get from
the right to buy and sell to the right to kidnap? How do you decide
who has the right to kidnap, and which people are fair game?

Joy Beeson
--
joy beeson at comcast dot net
http://roughsewing.home.comcast.net/ -- sewing
http://n3f.home.comcast.net/ -- Writers' Exchange
The above message is a Usenet post.
I don't recall having given anyone permission to use it on a Web site.

Ric Locke

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 7:53:34 AM8/2/07
to
On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 23:43:03 -0400, Joy Beeson wrote:

> On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 17:14:46 -0400, Jack Tingle <wjti...@hotmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
>> human chattel slavery! Yipee!"
>
> Anyone in favor of restricting drugs should be staked to an anthill
> while I dance around him holding a bottle of ant-repellant just out of
> his reach.
>
> As for chattel slavery, people aren't property. How do you get from
> the right to buy and sell to the right to kidnap? How do you decide
> who has the right to kidnap, and which people are fair game?
>
> Joy Beeson

Which brings up a philosophical question.

When my plans and schemes come to fruition and I take my proper seat as
Absolute Overlord of all within the heliopause, it will be legal for any
/person/ to /have/ any /thing/, where the word "have" subsumes all its
synonyms and corollaries, including "acquire", "transport", "store",
"dispose of", and the full thesaurus of all of those -- but not "use",
which will continue to be regulated. It will be perfectly legal to own a
gun, but not to shoot anybody or anything with it except in restricted
circumstances.

There will, however, be condign penalties for people attempting to
define "person" as "thing" in that context, which leads to a puzzle.

It turns out that treating at least some organizations as "persons" is
an extraordinarily useful simplification. I would like to preserve that
convention because it is useful, but I think a distinction should be
made between real persons, of which the only current example is human
beings, and artificial persons such as "General Motors Corporation" and
"La Bahia Schutzen Verein". My problem is phrasing that. I need a way to
specify the difference without treating either children and people with
mental disorders or (putative) octopoid aliens as "artificial". It
needn't be perfect -- in fact, it can't be; these are lawyers we're
referring to here -- but it does need to be relatively short and not
subject to non-wilful misunderstanding.

Discuss.

Regards,
Ric

--
Posted via a free Usenet account from http://www.teranews.com

Howard Brazee

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 7:56:03 AM8/2/07
to

And they can charge more for more bloated books.

But I'd rather have better books.

Andrew Stephenson

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 8:48:12 AM8/2/07
to
In article <3eiiejnx0e20$.1182eid0...@40tude.net>
warl...@hyperusa.com "Ric Locke" writes:

> [...]


>
> It turns out that treating at least some organizations as "persons" is
> an extraordinarily useful simplification. I would like to preserve that
> convention because it is useful, but I think a distinction should be
> made between real persons, of which the only current example is human
> beings, and artificial persons such as "General Motors Corporation" and

> "La Bahia Schutzen Verein". My problem is phrasing that. [...]

Being Absolute Overlord, you will of course also be able to make
(have?) words mean whatever you choose them to mean, rather like
Humpty Dumpty. But: how about "consuetudinary persons"? Almost
sounds like it means something, has that waffly longwindedness a
lawyer loves, could have evolved from a committee's dreary late-
night deliberations.
--
Andrew Stephenson

David Friedman

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:03:25 AM8/2/07
to
In article <ckk2b35d8qpuvvrl4...@4ax.com>,
Joy Beeson <jbe...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:

> As for chattel slavery, people aren't property. How do you get from
> the right to buy and sell to the right to kidnap? How do you decide
> who has the right to kidnap, and which people are fair game?

More generally, the right to own property and transfer property doesn't
imply the right to steal property.

The hard problem is vountary chattel slavery, where someone sells
himself. An interesting real world example would be the indentured
servitude contracts by which a lot of immigrants to the New World in the
early years--I think into the early 19th century--paid the cost of
immigrating.

The ship captain is charging, say, ten pounds to transport you to the
New World. You want to go but don't have the money. So you agree that
when you arrive he can auction you off, with the winner being the person
willing to accept the shortest term of indentured service in exchange
for paying the ten pounds.

Pretty clearly a system of (temporary) slavery. But if it had been
banned, a lot of people who wanted to come wouldn't have been able to.

Ric Locke

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:49:03 AM8/2/07
to


Actually, I'm considering the advantages of not trying to nail down the
exact meanings. The nitpickers who survive will build a working set of
definitions from example.

Michelle Bottorff

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:05:22 AM8/2/07
to
Ric Locke <warl...@hyperusa.com> wrote:

> My problem is phrasing that. I need a way to
> specify the difference without treating either children and people with
> mental disorders or (putative) octopoid aliens as "artificial".

What about intelligent machines? Do they need to be excluded also?

--
Michelle Bottorff -> Chelle B. -> Shelby
L. Shelby, Writer http://www.lshelby.com/
Livejournal http://lavenderbard.livejournal.com/
rec.arts.sf.composition FAQ http://www.lshelby.com/rasfcFAQ.html

Richard R. Hershberger

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 11:21:14 AM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 7:56 am, Howard Brazee <how...@brazee.net> wrote:
> On Wed, 1 Aug 2007 19:00:16 -0700, "Mike Schilling"
>
> <mscottschill...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >> One thing I notice is that there are lots of best selling authors who
> >> would have better books with more editing.
>
> >But would better-edited versions be even better sellers? If not, publishers
> >have no real incentive to produce them.
>
> And they can charge more for more bloated books.
>
> But I'd rather have better books.

Case study: I used to read Tom Clancy eagerly, even buying his books
in hardback the day of release. There was a gradual decrease in
writing quality: a combination of too much Mary Sue and political
bloviating, but mostly too much sloppy repetition and bloat. I gave
up on him years ago because of this.

Richard R. Hershberger

Ric Locke

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 11:38:46 AM8/2/07
to
On Thu, 2 Aug 2007 10:05:22 -0400, Michelle Bottorff wrote:

> Ric Locke <warl...@hyperusa.com> wrote:
>
>> My problem is phrasing that. I need a way to
>> specify the difference without treating either children and people with
>> mental disorders or (putative) octopoid aliens as "artificial".
>
> What about intelligent machines? Do they need to be excluded also?

Another case of the survivors working it out.

Basically, the robot civilization of Eta Cassiopaea IV(3) is in. If
Earth people build them, it's not so clear. At minimum the builders
deserve compensation for their efforts; nobody should /have/ to work for
free (another basic principle of my benign rule)

Brian M. Scott

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 3:43:28 PM8/2/07
to
On Thu, 2 Aug 2007 06:53:34 -0500, Ric Locke
<warl...@hyperusa.com> wrote in
<news:3eiiejnx0e20$.1182eid0...@40tude.net> in
rec.arts.sf.composition:

[...]

> the heliopause,

Long may it be postponed!

[...]

Brian

Ric Locke

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 4:11:29 PM8/2/07
to

Thhhbbpppt!

J.Pascal

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 4:19:27 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 01 Aug 2007 11:37:30 -0700, Matt Hughes <mhug...@mars.ark.com>

Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
to kidnap or imprison.

> The same effect applies elsewhere, often in
> reverse. Newsweek this week quoted a film where abortion protesters
> were asked how many years in jail the woman should serve for getting
> an abortion, or was the death penalty more appropriate. Same effect.

I'm sure.

And likely the same sort of error.

-Julie


Suzanne Blom

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 4:20:32 PM8/2/07
to

"David Friedman" <dd...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com> wrote in message
news:ddfr-3DB3D7.0...@news.isp.giganews.com...

> In article <ckk2b35d8qpuvvrl4...@4ax.com>,
> Joy Beeson <jbe...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:
>
>> As for chattel slavery, people aren't property. How do you get from
>> the right to buy and sell to the right to kidnap? How do you decide
>> who has the right to kidnap, and which people are fair game?
>
> More generally, the right to own property and transfer property doesn't
> imply the right to steal property.
>
> The hard problem is vountary chattel slavery, where someone sells
> himself. An interesting real world example would be the indentured
> servitude contracts by which a lot of immigrants to the New World in the
> early years--I think into the early 19th century--paid the cost of
> immigrating.
>
> The ship captain is charging, say, ten pounds to transport you to the
> New World. You want to go but don't have the money. So you agree that
> when you arrive he can auction you off, with the winner being the person
> willing to accept the shortest term of indentured service in exchange
> for paying the ten pounds.
>
> Pretty clearly a system of (temporary) slavery. But if it had been
> banned, a lot of people who wanted to come wouldn't have been able to.
>
The difference between that & slavery is similar to the difference between
consensual sex & rape, or giving something to charity & having it stolen.
Not the same thing at all.


Gene Ward Smith

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 4:22:49 PM8/2/07
to
"Richard R. Hershberger" <rrh...@acme.com> wrote in
news:1186068074.0...@m37g2000prh.googlegroups.com:

> Case study: I used to read Tom Clancy eagerly, even buying his books
> in hardback the day of release. There was a gradual decrease in
> writing quality: a combination of too much Mary Sue and political
> bloviating, but mostly too much sloppy repetition and bloat. I gave
> up on him years ago because of this.
>

He hasn't written anything in five years anyway.

Brian M. Scott

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 4:44:04 PM8/2/07
to
[rasfw dropped]

On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 13:19:27 -0700, "J.Pascal"
<ju...@pascal.org> wrote in
<news:1186085967.8...@i38g2000prf.googlegroups.com>
in rec.arts.sf.written,rec.arts.sf.composition:

> On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:

[...]

>> * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
>> any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
>> human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
>> market gets restricted.

> Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods".

In objective fact that's a matter of local law and custom
(which may not agree): in many places and times human beings
-- or some human beings -- have been goods. Presumably you
mean that you don't think that human beings ought to be
goods; I certainly don't disagree.

[...]

>> The same effect applies elsewhere, often in reverse.
>> Newsweek this week quoted a film where abortion
>> protesters were asked how many years in jail the woman
>> should serve for getting an abortion, or was the death
>> penalty more appropriate. Same effect.

> I'm sure.

> And likely the same sort of error.

It's actually a reasonable question: after all, the woman is
almost always complicit. A parallel would be asking those
who favor criminalizing prostitution what penalties should
be levied against the johns.

Brian

David Friedman

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 5:05:30 PM8/2/07
to
In article <13b4f4i...@corp.supernews.com>,
"Suzanne Blom" <sue...@execpc.com> wrote:

And where do you fit in the pattern in classical antiquity of someone
selling himself into (permanent) slavery?

What I described differs in two ways from our usual picture of chattel
slavery--it's temporary and it's voluntary. I think both contribute to
our feeling that it doesn't count as slavery. I don't think many people
would be happy with a legal system that enforced permanent ownership of
people, even if they had sold themselves. Our current legal system
wouldn't permit indentured servitude either--the closest I can think of
is the sort of employment contract where the employee agrees that if he
leaves the firm he won't work for any of its competitors for some number
of years.

Darkhawk (H. Nicoll)

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 5:27:34 PM8/2/07
to
Brian M. Scott <b.s...@csuohio.edu> wrote:
> It's actually a reasonable question: after all, the woman is
> almost always complicit. A parallel would be asking those
> who favor criminalizing prostitution what penalties should
> be levied against the johns.

There are actually systems in which the _johns_ are prosecuted while the
prostitutes are not (I believe one of them is referred to by people
familiar with the sex industry as 'the Swedish model').


--
Darkhawk - K. H. A. Nicoll - http://aelfhame.net/~darkhawk/
Come, take my body (Allelu--)
Come, take my soul (Take my soul--) "Dark Time"
Come, take me over, I want to be whole. October Project

J.Pascal

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 6:08:02 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 2:44 pm, "Brian M. Scott" <b.sc...@csuohio.edu> wrote:
> [rasfw dropped]
>
> On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 13:19:27 -0700, "J.Pascal"
> <ju...@pascal.org> wrote in
> <news:1186085967.8...@i38g2000prf.googlegroups.com>
> in rec.arts.sf.written,rec.arts.sf.composition:
>
> > On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> [...]
>
> >> * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
> >> any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
> >> human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
> >> market gets restricted.
> > Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods".
>
> In objective fact that's a matter of local law and custom
> (which may not agree): in many places and times human beings
> -- or some human beings -- have been goods. Presumably you
> mean that you don't think that human beings ought to be
> goods; I certainly don't disagree.

True enough. I think that for the sort of "gotcha" that was
described
to work, however, it would have to be in that sort of "human beings
are goods" culture and I'm pretty sure that it was supposed to be
portrayed as an adequate "gotcha" in *this* culture, where people are
not goods.

> [...]
>
> >> The same effect applies elsewhere, often in reverse.
> >> Newsweek this week quoted a film where abortion
> >> protesters were asked how many years in jail the woman
> >> should serve for getting an abortion, or was the death
> >> penalty more appropriate. Same effect.
> > I'm sure.
> > And likely the same sort of error.
>
> It's actually a reasonable question: after all, the woman is
> almost always complicit. A parallel would be asking those
> who favor criminalizing prostitution what penalties should
> be levied against the johns.

If the question was, "Should women who get an abortion be
punished and if so what punishment should be levied?" then
it would be more similar. I realize that I'm assuming a bit
of context here but it sounds like an either/or question, years
in jail or the death penalty. It ignores the fact that our laws
do not treat all "murders" the same. Not even slightly. It's
an attempt at a "gotcha" that restricts the question in a way
that it can't be properly answered. We don't just determine
fault, we also put a heavy emphasis on motivation. We
entirely excuse some and assign the death penalty for others.
Of several people involved in the same death they won't necessarily
be charged with the same crime.

But because the question is framed so that it can't
be answered in a reasonable way the person asking shouts
"gotcha" and goes on feeling very clever.

-Julie

Erol K. Bayburt

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 7:29:43 PM8/2/07
to
On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:05:30 -0400, David Friedman
<dd...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com> wrote:

>Our current legal system
>wouldn't permit indentured servitude either--the closest I can think of
>is the sort of employment contract where the employee agrees that if he
>leaves the firm he won't work for any of its competitors for some number
>of years.

Joining the Army for X years in exchange for having ones college paid
for is something I'd count as modern indentured servitude. (Not saying
it's bad, just that it meets the definition.)

--
Erol K. Bayburt
Ero...@aol.com

David Friedman

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 8:32:27 PM8/2/07
to
In article <70q4b31imq15ci0av...@4ax.com>,

Fair enough. And the draft was involuntary (temporary) slavery.

What's the penalty if you quite in fewer than X years? Do they jail you?

Message has been deleted

Andrew Wheeler

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:35:14 PM8/2/07
to
"J.Pascal" wrote:
>
> On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> > * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
> > any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
> > human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
> > market gets restricted.
>
> Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
> mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
> steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
> to kidnap or imprison.

In a completely unrestricted market, *everything* is a good -- that's
what "unrestricted" means: there are no restrictions.

Saying that humans are not goods is a restriction, and you are thus
describing a different market.

One could similarly argue than any rules for honest conduct are also
restrictions -- when you come right down to it, everyone wants *some*
level of restrictions on what is economically permissible. It's just
that some people believe that their preferred level is inherent in the
workings of the universe or otherwise specially privileged.

--
Andrew Wheeler: Professional Editor, Amateur Wise-Acre
--
Also available in blog form!
http://antickmusings.blogspot.com

David Friedman

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:40:53 PM8/2/07
to
In article <46B28652...@optonline.net>,
Andrew Wheeler <acwh...@optonline.net> wrote:

> "J.Pascal" wrote:
> >
> > On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
> > > any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
> > > human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
> > > market gets restricted.
> >
> > Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
> > mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
> > steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
> > to kidnap or imprison.
>
> In a completely unrestricted market, *everything* is a good -- that's
> what "unrestricted" means: there are no restrictions.

People who are arguing for what you called "an unrestricted market" are
arguing for a system of property rights and free exchange. That isn't
consistent with a system where you are free to grab my property.

For instance, me.

David Friedman

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:43:17 PM8/2/07
to
In article <1jxxns0dc2yok$.f1gdk825...@40tude.net>,
Ric Locke <warl...@hyperusa.com> wrote:

> On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 20:32:27 -0400, David Friedman wrote:
>
> > In article <70q4b31imq15ci0av...@4ax.com>,
> > Erol K. Bayburt <Ero...@comcast.net> wrote:
> >
> >> On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:05:30 -0400, David Friedman
> >> <dd...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com> wrote:
> >>
> >>>Our current legal system
> >>>wouldn't permit indentured servitude either--the closest I can think of
> >>>is the sort of employment contract where the employee agrees that if he
> >>>leaves the firm he won't work for any of its competitors for some number
> >>>of years.
> >>
> >> Joining the Army for X years in exchange for having ones college paid
> >> for is something I'd count as modern indentured servitude. (Not saying
> >> it's bad, just that it meets the definition.)
> >
> > Fair enough. And the draft was involuntary (temporary) slavery.
>

> That argument is made, yes, and is plausible on the face of it. It's
> also been argued that it's a form of tax. Would you regard an
> arrangement whereby people could work off their tax obligations as
> "slavery"?

I think a system where people have tax obligations but are free to earn
the money in any way they can is not slavery, although I have moral
reservations about it. But a system where the "tax" is "for the next two
years you work for us on terms we have set, and if you refuse we jail
you" is (temporary) (state) slavery.

> > What's the penalty if you quite in fewer than X years? Do they jail you?
>

> "General" discharge, which may or may not entail loss of benefits. (If
> you get too sick to continue you might get a "General discharge under
> honorable conditions"; depending on time served, the benefits may or may
> not be credited.)
>
> If you just quit and walk away, yes, jail time is possible. Nowadays
> they mostly catch people and boot them out before it comes to that, with
> a "dishonorable" discharge that definitely cancels the benefits.

In which case it isn't really indentured servitude.

Matt Hughes

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 9:58:50 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 6:35 pm, Andrew Wheeler <acwhe...@optonline.net> wrote:

> One could similarly argue than any rules for honest conduct are also
> restrictions -- when you come right down to it, everyone wants *some*
> level of restrictions on what is economically permissible. It's just
> that some people believe that their preferred level is inherent in the
> workings of the universe or otherwise specially privileged.

Somewhere in here we should be able to fit the Oscar Wilde quote about
people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
When I encounter dedicated free-marketers (which are, admittedly,
rarer in Canada), I'm always tempted to do my John Belushi imitation,
squinting and rubbing my hands as I say, "So, how much you want for ze
leetle girls?"

After all, in many lightly regulated economies, even today, parents
are free to sell their children for whatever the market will bear.
Why should entrepreneurially minded North Americans be at a
competitive disadvantage?

Matt Hughes
http://www.archonate.com/spiral-labyrinth

J.Pascal

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:03:39 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 6:32 pm, David Friedman <d...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com>
wrote:
> In article <70q4b31imq15ci0avfmi1t2qk72p79t...@4ax.com>,

> Erol K. Bayburt <Ero...@comcast.net> wrote:
>
> > On Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:05:30 -0400, David Friedman
> > <d...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com> wrote:
>
> > >Our current legal system
> > >wouldn't permit indentured servitude either--the closest I can think of
> > >is the sort of employment contract where the employee agrees that if he
> > >leaves the firm he won't work for any of its competitors for some number
> > >of years.
>
> > Joining the Army for X years in exchange for having ones college paid
> > for is something I'd count as modern indentured servitude. (Not saying
> > it's bad, just that it meets the definition.)
>
> Fair enough. And the draft was involuntary (temporary) slavery.
>
> What's the penalty if you quite in fewer than X years? Do they jail you?

>From the military?

Unless you got permission to go it would be desertion and you could be
locked up for it. However, even during war, they don't seem to have
done that to anyone that I'm aware of. The military has a certain
number
of people who simply "quit" each year. (As far as I know, that number
hasn't gone up either.)

-Julie

J.Pascal

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:06:31 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 7:40 pm, David Friedman <d...@daviddfriedman.nopsam.com>
wrote:
> In article <46B28652.7FD5...@optonline.net>,

> Andrew Wheeler <acwhe...@optonline.net> wrote:
>
>
>
> > "J.Pascal" wrote:
>
> > > On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > > * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
> > > > any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
> > > > human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
> > > > market gets restricted.
>
> > > Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
> > > mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
> > > steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
> > > to kidnap or imprison.
>
> > In a completely unrestricted market, *everything* is a good -- that's
> > what "unrestricted" means: there are no restrictions.
>
> People who are arguing for what you called "an unrestricted market" are
> arguing for a system of property rights and free exchange. That isn't
> consistent with a system where you are free to grab my property.
>
> For instance, me.

Yes, I think that was what I was trying to get at.

The people who *say* unrestricted market or who argue for a free
market
or whatever aren't arguing for anarchy, generally. Pretending that
they
are arguing for anarchy and then making a case against anarchy is not
particularly clever.

-Julie

Robert Hutchinson

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:08:02 PM8/2/07
to
Andrew Wheeler wrote:
> "J.Pascal" wrote:

>> Jack Tingle wrote:
>>> * I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market in
>>> any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted drugs, and
>>> human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast the unrestricted
>>> market gets restricted.
>> Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
>> mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
>> steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
>> to kidnap or imprison.
>
> In a completely unrestricted market, *everything* is a good -- that's
> what "unrestricted" means: there are no restrictions.

This came up before, and just like then, I am having trouble not being irked by
the semantics game being played. Let's expand our definitions visually, so that
we might spot where the adjectives are being bounced around. First, just a market:

A market consists of the trading of goods.

Now, an unrestricted market. When J.Pascal, and myself, and many others talk
about such a thing, we are referring to:

An unrestricted market consists of the _unrestricted trading_ of goods.

However, the alternate definition that, while not useless, is for some reason
being used as an airtight rebuttal, is:

An unrestricted market consists of the trading of _unrestricted goods_.

This ambiguity can reasonably result in requests for clarification. But yelling
"Gotcha!", especially after the clarification is provided ... not so much.

--
Robert Hutchinson

"The cake is ticking loudly: tock tock, tock tock. Puzzled, the cat holds it
up to one ear. He listens closely. A terrible knowledge dawns in his eyes."
<http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/04/19/040419fi_fiction?printable=true>

William December Starr

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:12:45 PM8/2/07
to
In article <1186085967.8...@i38g2000prf.googlegroups.com>,
"J.Pascal" <ju...@pascal.org> said:

> On Aug 1, 3:14 pm, Jack Tingle <wjtin...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>> I always ask free marketers if they means an unrestricted market
>> in any goods. They say yes, and I say, "Great, unrestricted
>> drugs, and human chattel slavery! Yipee!" It's amazing how fast
>> the unrestricted market gets restricted.
>
> Drugs, yes. But humans are not "goods". And as someone else
> mentioned, an unrestricted market also does not imply the right to
> steal. Even if humans *were* goods it would not imply the right
> to kidnap or imprison.

But what about the right to collect debts by seizing the debtor's
assets?

--
William December Starr <wds...@panix.com>

Mike Schilling

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:07:26 PM8/2/07
to
David Friedman wrote:
> In article <46B28652...@optonline.net>,
> Andrew Wheeler <acwh...@optonline.net> wrote:
>

>> In a completely unrestricted market, *everything* is a good -- that's
>> what "unrestricted" means: there are no restrictions.
>
> People who are arguing for what you called "an unrestricted market"
> are arguing for a system of property rights and free exchange. That
> isn't consistent with a system where you are free to grab my property.
>
> For instance, me.

I don't have to "grab" you; I bought you from that fellow over there. Got a
receipt and everything. Now, come along quietly. If there's one thing I
hate, it's talky property.


William December Starr

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:16:40 PM8/2/07
to
In article <5cwsi.1181$qa3...@nlpi069.nbdc.sbc.com>,
"Mike Schilling" <mscotts...@hotmail.com> said:

> I don't have to "grab" you; I bought you from that fellow over
> there. Got a receipt and everything. Now, come along quietly.
> If there's one thing I hate, it's talky property.

"Would you like some toast with that?"

Mike Schilling

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:16:52 PM8/2/07
to
Matt Hughes wrote:
>
> After all, in many lightly regulated economies, even today, parents
> are free to sell their children for whatever the market will bear.
> Why should entrepreneurially minded North Americans be at a
> competitive disadvantage?

The same filthy socialism that prevents eight-year-olds from selling their
labor. And their kidneys.


J.Pascal

unread,
Aug 2, 2007, 10:19:38 PM8/2/07
to
On Aug 2, 8:12 pm, wdst...@panix.com (William December Starr) wrote:
> In article <1186085967.828174.158...@i38g2000prf.googlegroups.com>,

Don't allow borrowing and the problem doesn't exist. ;-)

More seriously, I don't see that it's the same issue at all.
Someone
who doesn't pay their debts has stolen from the person they owe.
So a court finds a way to solve the problem.

To put it in the same context as humans as goods (or in this
case "assets") we'd be talking about the right (or lack of right)
to sell a person in order to pay their debts or to seize family
members for the non-payment of a debt.

-Julie