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Fantastic Books and Pennterra: Interim Update 
16th-May-2009 11:02 am
Pennterra cover
Two and a half weeks ago I got an email from Warren Lapine with a PDF of the scanned Pennterra attached (please refer to my blog entries of April 9 and 23 if this isn't ringing a bell). Marty Halpern, who acquired the novel for Fantastic Books, and whose job it is to copyedit the file, also got the PDF and immediately made a printout he could mark up. I live in Darkest East Central Kentucky, a rural area innocent of copy shops, so I drove to Frankfort and paid $15 to make my own copy. Four eyes are better than two.

The print is pretty small, and the scan is pretty flawed in the usual ways of scanned documents: reversed single and double quote marks, m scanned as rn and a forward slash as 1, hyphens in the middle of words that had been broken at the ends of lines in the original hardcover, paragraphs run together, missing line feeds, italics rendered as Roman and vice versa, and so on. My aliens' names came out in a variety of funny ways. There are several poems in the book, all scrambled entertainingly. The file comes to 283 pages, very few of which were clean and many of which had several copyedits scribbled in the margins. Marty is a professional copyeditor and caught a lot more of the glitches than I did, but I feel the time I put in was justified, since I found maybe a dozen errors he had missed. I also took the opportunity to correct some mistakes that got by us in the earlier editions, and to change the word Amerindian--a PC term of the early and mid-80s, when the book was written--to Native American.

To proofread the whole thing took two people many hours--I didn't keep track, but "many" is fair. Add to those the six and a half hours Marty and I spent on the phone, divided among four separate occasions, going through our copies page by page to be sure as possible that we'd caught everything, and you begin to see that while it doesn't cost the author any money to have a backlist book reprinted by Fantastic Books (I don't count the fifteen bucks and gas to make the printout), it's not quite the walk in the park that I had kind of hoped it would be, going in.

On the other hand, this will be the most accurate version of my first novel ever published. I've seen the cover and it's very attractive. I also reread the book for the first time in upwards of twenty years; and after groaning my way through the first 75 pages (slow; talking heads) I gradually started to be wowed. Pennterra is my only venture into world-building, and I can see why: to do this seriously and effectively is hard! My aliens, the hrossa, along with all the other life-forms on the planet, have a very different evolutionary history than ours, and I'd forgotten how I sweated to get all that worked out. I'd also forgotten a lot of the plot--with the result that after a certain point I couldn't put the damn thing down! Finally I was no longer "proofreading" but just plain reading, turning pages as fast as I could (and, I fear, missing a lot of reversed quotation marks along the way).

So let me say right here and now that the last 75 pages just sweep you along, that the ending is original and terrific, and in conclusion that this novel richly deserves to be republished and read--and please feel free to quote me! A big plus of having to proof that file has been rediscovering how good the book is.

That's where we are as of today. I'll report again when I've got a finished copy in hand.
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