Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Richard Wheeler; Gardner Fox

From Richard Wheeler:

I've been doing some reviewing recently and have concluded that the country is suffering an epidemic of shoddy publication. I have never seen editing, copyediting, and proofreading sink so low. This is even true of the University of New Mexico Press (a particularly gross offender), as well as the little presses that have sprung up.

I have started to say so in reviews. In my reviewing for Roundup Magazine, of Western Writers of America, I am pointing to shoddy editing and proofing and copyediting. Why bother? Because incorrect usage detracts from meaning and obscures what is being said. Simply failing to include a closing quotation mark at the end of dialogue forces the reader to stop and interpret and pick up the thread. Punctuation has reached anarchic levels. Editors can't tell the difference between its and it's. They permit such howlers as "the Clark's" even though "the Clarks" is obviously plural. Where are the editors? Semi-literate authors are bad enough, but I am going after semi-literate editors and copyeditors and proofreaders now. Badly produced books are a national scandal.

Story editing has disintegrated also. I just read two University of New Mexico short story anthologies that would have profited greatly if the editor had imposed some serious blue-pencil discipline on the meandering and sometimes confusing stories. That is a paradigm for most of the publishing industry just now.

I am reading a book right now that has a name misspelled on a cover blurb ("Deborah Moran" instead of Deborah Morgan). The text is loaded with howlers.

In forty years of association with book publishing, I have never seen such editorial mayhem, and I plan to say what needs saying in any reviews I do henceforth.



Ed here: I grew up reading comic books. Many of my favorite stories were written by Gardner Fox. Mark Evanier, a fine writer and a fine website editor (News From Me), headed up the group that decided which living and which deceased comics figure would received the Bill Finger awards this year. Fox won in the latter category. Here's Mark's description of Gardner Fox's astonishing career:

Gardner Fox received a law degree in 1935 but instead opted for comics, writing his first stories in 1938 for the pre-Batman Detective Comics. He was also the first writer after Bill Finger to contribute to Batman's adventures and was responsible for several components of the character's mythology. Perhaps more notably, he created or co-created a bevy of important characters in comics' so-called "Golden Age," including The Flash, Hawkman, The Sandman, Starman, and Doctor Fate, and he launched what some call the first-ever superhero team, The Justice Society of America. In the late fifties and sixties, he worked on the revivals of most of those features, including the Justice League of America, and also co-created new characters such as Adam Strange. In his amazing career, he wrote an estimated 4,000 comic book scripts and also found time to author more than 100 novels, many of them under other names. Fox passed away in 1986.


Unknown said...

He even wrote a few books for Gold Medal.

Anonymous said...

Who or what is to blame for the shoddy work noted by Richard? The education system? Penny-pinching publishers who've dispensed with editorial departments? Arrogant writers who refuse to allow anyone to touch their copy? Could be it's a combination of all of these. I hope the more critical reviewing will help.

Steve Malley said...

Several of those old Fox comics were reprinted in the early 70's, and I still pick them up now and again.

Even sixty and seventy years later, they stand head and shoulders above the work coming out today...

Larry D. Sweazy said...

I freelance in the production side of publishing. Mostly non-fiction and technical books. The going rate for freelance proofreaders has dropped in the last few years to $1.50 to $2.00 a page. To make a decent living, a proofreader, and I'm not one, has to be able to proof a lot of pages in an hour to make a decent living. Same goes with copy-editors. Their pay has dropped, too.

I'm assuming the same thing has occurred in the fiction field as well.

It's a mandate from the top, and a lot of this work is now being done overseas.

Books are widgets, and every cent must be accounted for. Too bad CEOs aren't readers...

James Reasoner said...

I remember being shocked when I found out that some of those sexy spy novels I was reading in the Sixties ("The Lady From L.U.S.T.", anyone?) were actually written by the same guy who was writing a lot of the comics I was reading, too. Gardner Fox wrote some pretty good stories for the SF pulps, too.

John Emerson said...

Not just the U.S. Oxford and Cambridge university presses too. My guess is that it's partly the result of layoffs resulting from electronic composition, spellcheck, etc.