Corrections, Amendments and Other Real Work

Kage Baker occasionally made errors in her writing. Her grasp of grammar was phenomenal, by modern standards, and she competently used punctuation marks that are becoming extinct. But even she, maven of dialect and relict word-play that she was, could slip up.

She even made spelling errors on occasion. I clearly recall every one the 11 times that happened in a manuscript, too.

I always expected – and dreaded – that the first time she got a proof-reader’s notes an epic tantrum would result. This did not happen. Kage would double check each change or objection, weigh its merits, and either politely disagree, or make the appropriate change. She was utterly calm and professional in her reactions; and if there were outraged comments made around our kitchen table – well, only Harry and I know. All the editor saw was the courteous instruction “Stet”.

The only time she ever got incensed was one editor who objected to a character being able to look up and see the Milky Way from the surface of the Earth: because (he said) Earth is in the Milky Way galaxy. Which is true, but the rest of our home galaxy is nonetheless visible. He had evidently been raised in a Skinner box. Kage declined to alter the facts of galactic placement and optics, and left the Milky Way visible.

Today, I am engaged in proof-reading for the up-and-coming Ancient Rockets, which of necessity will somewhat truncate this entry. There are no real spelling errors, just a few explanations. Most of the grammar changes are just to align Kage’s free and easy essays with Tachyon’s house rules; Kage wasn’t thinking of publication when she wrote these essays. Some of her more convoluted references need to be explained –  yes, slavey is a real word – but all in all the task is easy, if lengthy.

To which end, I must return. As is the natural law of all publishing, the manuscript is due back to the publisher within a day or two. They always are, no matter how much time has been allocated to the process. There must be something like Maxwell’s Demon, regulating the movement of manuscripts between editors and authors with unseen purpose …

So, time for another cup of coffee and back to the proofing! It’s all for you, Dear Readers, it really is.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to Corrections, Amendments and Other Real Work

  1. Mary Lynn says:

    A couple of years ago I was appalled to learn that many rules of grammar had changed—it’s now okay to splint infinitives, dangle participles and misplace modifiers. All that effort by Bill Brockmeier (my freshman English teacher) to insure that I could write competently gone to waste.


  2. Kate says:

    Yeah, and all those years diagramming sentences. I loved diagramming sentences! So did Kage. She maintained the older rules as much as she could, unless some copy editor was insanely insistent or she wanted to emphasize a modern voice. But I’m never comfortable, for instance, ending a sentence with a proposition – makes me itch.


  3. Tom says:

    Nor all the Monkey-Butt Powder in China will make the affliction to cease. If it’s written wrong, it reads wrong.


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