Tuesday, May 22, 2012

(Mis-) Predicting the Future

It's the job that won't die. I worked for Marion Zimmer Bradley for twenty years, and now–more than twelve years after her death–I'm still working for her. Technically, I'm working for the Trust she set up to hold her copyrights, but the changes in my duties have been due to technology, not to Marion's absence. There are still days when it feels as though she's in Europe on another research trip.

The current major project is getting her backlist republished. We started with Fictionwise, then added KDP, which allows us to change things like cover art and doesn't have Fictionwise's set-up charges. Barnes & Noble now has Pubit, which is similar to Kindle's KDP, except that we put up our first two titles four days ago and they're still "processing"–whatever that means. Now we've gone from just eBooks to dead-tree editions (paperbacks), using CreateSpace and LSI.

What this means is that I get to proofread Marion's old science-fiction and see what's different from what she thought would happen when she wrote the books. Recently I've been working on SURVEY SHIP, which she originally wrote in 1980. (At least by then she knew that computers of the future wouldn't have vacuum tubes.) I usually don't change what she wrote, which is why the spaceship has Mylar sails (Mylar is a registered trademark of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company). Fortunately Marion was usually fairly vague about technology–both in her writing and in real life.

But while nobody really expects to predict technology accurately, in 1980 Marion apparently could not visualize an end to apartheid, despite the fact that the United Nations had established the Special Committee Against Apartheid in 1962 and people had been protesting it throughout the 1970s. Perhaps spending the 1950s in small towns in Texas and having a husband who belonged to the KKK gave her a pessimistic view of human nature in this particular area. So I did tweak the origins of one character, making him come from some small unspecified village in Africa, rather than from a reserve in South Africa. Having him come from a poverty-stricken background wasn't a problem. Over 2,000 years ago Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. Unfortunately, that saying isn't anachronistic yet, but we can hope and work for the day when it is.

SURVEY SHIP is available from:
CreateSpace eStore