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Zer Netmouse
August 21st, 2005
04:57 pm


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Copyediting question regarding reprinted stories
I am reading The World Turned Upside Down, an anthology edited by David Drake, Eric Flint, and Jim Baen. It's generally a very interesting collection - science fiction stories that had a high impact on the editors, mostly from when they were growing up in the '50s and '60s.

One of the stories, "The Aliens," by Murray Leinster, made me wonder what editing rules Jim and David and Eric had set for doing this collection, and in general how one should go about copyediting reprinted stories, especially if the author is now unavailable for consultation. Near as I can tell, "The Aliens" has a continuity error in it - the progression of ship's time in a time series that is reported to be exactly 12 hours goes from to 06 hours, 50 minutes (p 291) to 08 hours 10 minutes (p 301) and back to 07 hours 40 minutes (p 306) without any hint of flashback or other intentional time jumping.

"The Aliens" was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in August, 1959. Assuming the text has been copied faithfully from that edition, what is your philosophy on whether or not the continuity error should be edited out?

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:August 21st, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
A fascinating question. I'd say that for an academic or historical anthology, the story should be reprinted exactly as it appeared, typos and all.

However, despite the historic nature of this anthology, it sounds like the editors meant for it to be read as entertainment. In that case, I'd try to contact the author, explain the error, and publish his preferred version. In this case, with Leinster being dead, I'd look to see if the story had been reprinted beforehand and find out what corrections had been made. If there were corrections made, I'd use that version. If corrections hadn't been made, I'd contact the estate and get their opinion. (And to reprint the story, they presumably had already been in touch with the estate.)
[User Picture]
Date:August 22nd, 2005 06:58 am (UTC)
I can't really improve on this-- that's about what I think. I'd check with the author. If the author was dead but left notes saying he wanted to correct it, I would correct the time discrepancy.

I know fun pulpy fiction doesn't usually have footnotes, but another option would be to correct the error in the text and put in a footnote or appendix explaining the problems in the original text.
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