The Unprocessed Word
555 Mozart Place Eugene, Oregon 97444
Susan Allison Editor, Berkley Books The Berkley Building
1 Madison Avenue New York, New York 10010
Dear Susan, You and I have talked before about word processors, and how I'm one of the last science fiction writers who doesn't use one. Now I feel it is time to take aggressive action against the blight of computers.
What I want you to do is run the following notice right before the title page of the new book, and in all books after this, and in any re-print editions of previous books written by me. Though this kind of self-promotion is personally repugnant to me, I feel it is time to speak out before it is Too Late.
Also, it might help to sell books to people who feel the same way I do.
You may be wondering just what VarleyYarns® is. Well, I've re-organized, partly for tax purposes, partly for other reasons. I've formed a corporation called VarleyYarns, Inc., to market and promote my books. It's a step that's been long overdue. From now on, you can make out all my royalty checks to VarleyYarns.
Best, John THE UNPROCESSED WORD
seal INTRODUCING VARLEYYARNS®
This symbol is your assurance that the following yarn was composed entirely without the assistance of a word processor.
Each VarleyYarn® is created using only natural ingredients: The purest paper, carbon typewriter ribbons, pencils, ballpoint pens, thought, and creativity. Manuscript corrections are done entirely by hand. Final drafts are lovingly re-typed, word by word, in the finest typefaces available—no dotmatrix printers allowed!
The manuscript of each VarleyYarn® is then carried by the United States Postal Service—First Class!—to the good offices of the Berkley/Putnam Publishing Group in Manhattan, New York City, New York. Not a word is ever phoned in via modem.
Not One Word!
Here the VarleyYarn® is given to skilled artisans, men and woman who learned their craft from their parents, and from their parents before them... many of them using the tools and even the same offices their grandparents used. Crack teams of proofreaders pore over the manuscript, penciling corrections into the wide margins left for that purpose. Messengers hand-carry the VarleyYarn®
from floor to floor of the vast Berkley Building, delivering it to deft Editors, clever Art Directors, and lofty Vice-Presidents.
When all is in readiness, the VarleyYarn® is rushed to the typesetter, who once again re-types the manuscript—word by word!—on the typesetting machine. Then the bulky lead plates are trucked to New Jersey and given to the printer, who uses technologies essentially unchanged from the days of Gutenberg.
And the end result? The book you now hold in your hands, as fine a book as the economic climate will allow.
So look for the sign of the twin typewriter keys—your symbol of quality in:
100% guaranteed non-processed fiction!
555 Mozart Place Eugene, Oregon 97444
Dear John, You asked to hear from me as soon as we had some concrete sales figures on the new book. As you know, we ran your ''promotional'' notice as you instructed, just after the title page. The book has been out for a month now, and I'm sorry to say there's no measurable impact. It's selling about as well as the previous collection.
We have received some rather strange mail, though, which I am forwarding to you under a separate cover.
John, I'm not completely sure the public cares whether fiction was written on a typewriter, a word processor, or with a quill pen and ink. I know this is an important issue with you and I was happy to help you try and get your message across, but maybe it's best for now if we just forget it.
Unless I hear back from you soon, I'm going ahead with the twenty-eighth printing of WIZARD without the VarleyYarn seal of approval in front.
Yours, Susan Allison Susan Allison Berkley Dear Susan, Of course they care. You can't tell me people can't tell the difference when it is so obvious to any literate person. They just haven't been given the choice in recent years... and more importantly, they haven't heard the message. I'm afraid putting it in just my books was a mistake, as that is simply preaching to the converted. What I want you to do now is use the advertising budget for the new book and, instead of running the standard promo, use the following material instead. I'd like to see it in all the trade publications and as many national magazines as we can afford. And, far from letting you remove the original message from the new printing of WIZARD, I want to keep it, and run this new one on stiff paper—like you used to use for cigarette ads—somewhere in the middle of the book. Full color won't be necessary; just print the underlined parts in red caps.
John seal WHY VARLEYYARNS®?
Perhaps you asked yourself: "Why should I buy and read Berkley's VarleyYarns® when cheaper, more plentiful 'processed' fiction puts me to sleep just as quickly?"
Here are some things we at VarleyYarns® think you should know: Processed fiction can contain harmful additives.
When fiction is produced on a Word Processor each keystroke is first converted to a series of "on" and "off" signals in the microprocessor unit. Some of these signals go to the video screen and are displayed. The rest are "tagged" by various electronic additives and stored in the "memory" for later retrieval. Inevitably, these tags cling to the words themselves, and no amount of further processing can wash them away. Even worse, while in the memory these words are subject to outside interference such as power surges, changes in the Earth's magnetic field, sun spots, lightning discharges, and the passage of Halley's Comet—due back in 1986... and every 76 years thereafter!
VarleyYarns® are guaranteed to contain no sorting codes, assemblers, inelegant "languages" like FORTRAN or C.O.B.O.L., and to be free of the fuzzy edges caused by too much handling (more commonly known as "hacker's marks").
Floppy disks lack sincerity.
Think about it. When the "word processor" turns off his or her machine... the words all go away!
The screen goes blank. The words no longer exist except as encoded messages on a piece of plastic known as a floppy disk. These words cannot be retrieved except by whirling the disk at great speed—a process that can itself damage the words. Words on a floppy disk are un-loved words, living a forlorn half-life in the memory until they are suddenly spewed forth at great and debilitating speed by a dot-matrix printer that actually burns them into the page!
VarleyYarn® words go directly from the writer's mind onto the printed page, with no harmful intermediate steps. At night, when the typewriter is turned off, they repose peacefully in cozy stacks of paper on the writer's desk, secure in the knowledge they are cherished as words.
Microprocessors are Un-American.
That's right, we said Un-American. At the heart of every word processor is something called a microchip. Due to cheap labor costs, these chips are made in places like Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Now, we at VarleyYarns® have nothing against the Japanese (though Pearl Harbor was a pretty cowardly attack, don't you think?), but ask yourself this: Do you want to entrust your precious fiction to a machine that doesn't even speak English?
So ask your grocer, druggist, airport manager, and bookseller to stock up on Berkley's VarleyYarns® today. And next time someone offers to let you read processed fiction, you can say:
"No thanks! I'd rather read a VarleyYarn®!"
555 Mozart Place Eugene, Oregon 97444
Dear John, As you must have seen by now, I did as you asked.
But let me tell you, it was a struggle. I fought pretty hard for that ad budget, such as it was, and it was quite a trick to turn around and tell everyone you now want this other material to run in place of the ads we'd prepared.
A word to the wise, my friend. You're not the only author on the Berkley list. I called in a lot of favors on this one. And I'm sorry to tell you it doesn't seem to have worked. All of them—The Times, Rolling Stone, Publishers Weekly, Variety, USA Today, Locus—report negative responses to the ad as run. Maybe this will convince you that people really aren't concerned—as I know you are—about the spread of word processors.
One more thing you might not have considered. All the other Berkley authors use word processors.
More than a few of them have called or written about your ad. So far the tone has been more puzzled than anything else, but I'm afraid that if we went on with this it could only get worse. See, they're beginning to think you're saying something negative about their fiction.
For this reason, if for no other, I'm pulling your ad from all the printed media, and canceling the upcoming radio and television campaign. The fortythird printing of TITAN goes to the presses next week, and it will do so without either the VarleyYarns ''symbol of quality'' or the two-color slick paper insert.
Yours truly, Susan Dear Susan, You can't do this to me! You're simply not giving this a chance to work. Naturally there's going to be some initial resistance. It's a new idea to most people out there that word additives can be harmful to one's fiction. Remember how people fought the idea of ecology in the late 60's? Remember how the AEC used to tell us that radiation was good for you? This is just like that. The word has to get out now, before it's too late.
So here's what I want you to do. Forget all the book advertising. I want to go right on to direct mail.
See if you can obtain the lists of everyone who ever voted for Eugene McCarthy, and send them all a copy of the enclosed expose. It's time their eyes were really opened.
I have gone to a great deal of trouble obtaining these testimonials. I expect you to do your part. And, oh, sure, I know the lawyers on your end are going to give you a hard time about some of this, but you'll notice I've concealed the names of the people involved.
Here's to an unprocessed future...
John The Shame of MacWrite Brought To You By seal VarleyYarns®
Home Of The Unprocessed Word Almost without our realizing it, a generation has grown up in America that has never read an unprocessed word, never heard an unprocessed line of dialogue. This is tragic enough... but have you ever considered the effect of the Word Processor upon today's writers? Many of them have never seen a typewriter. Their familiarity with pen and ink extends only to the writing of checks to pay for a new addition to their computer systems.
And now, slowly, insidiously, hidden from public view, the results of their new toys are beginning to be felt.
We at VarleyYarns® feel it is time for someone to speak out, to rip away the veil of secrecy that has, until now, prevented these writers from coming forward to speak of their shame, their anguish, their heartbreak. You probably don't know any writers personally. Most people don't. Here are some facts you should know: Fact #1: Writers can't handle money, and are suckers for shiny new toys.
Writers are a simple folk, by and large. Awkward in social situations, easily deceived, childishly eager to please, the typical writer never had the advantages of a normal childhood. He was the dreamy one, the friendless one, object of scorn and ridicule to his classmates. Living in his own fantasy world, writing his "fiction," he is ill-equipped for the pitfalls of money or technology.
Fact #2: Writers come in two types—compulsives, and procrastinators.
The Type A writer will labor endlessly without food, water, or sleep. His output of fiction is prodigious. Many claim they would write fiction even if they were not being paid for it—a sure danger signal.
Type B writers live to sharpen pencils, straighten their desks, create elaborate filing systems, and answer the telephone and the doorbell. A productive day for the Type B writer consists of half a paragraph—which may end up in the wastepaper basket at the end of the day. This writer will work only under deadline pressure. Any excuse to leave the typewriter is welcomed.
Conclusion: The Word Processor is precisely the wrong tool to put into a writer's hands!!
If you don't believe it, listen to these unsolicited testimonials from some of the most pitiful cases of computaholism:
"SK," Jerusalem's Lot, Maine I was one of the first writers to get a word processor. My God, if only I had known... if only... I was always prolific. I write every day but Guy Fawkes Day, Bastille Day, and the anniversary of the St.
Valentine's Day Massacre. When I got my computer my output increased dramatically. My family didn't see me for days at a time... then weeks at a time! I was sending in novels at the rate of three a month... and in addition, was writing and selling dozens of short stories every day. Thinking of pseudonyms became a major task in itself, a task I faced with a deepening sense of horror. Have you ever heard of John Jakes? That's really me! And what about Arthur Hailey, I'll bet you've heard of him. That's me, too! And Colleen McCullough, and William Goldman, and Richard Bachman... John D. MacDonald really died in 1976... but nobody knows it, because I took over his name! Soon I was writing movie scripts. (Have you heard of Steven Spielberg? That's me, too.) In 1980 I began writing the entire line of Harlequin Romances. I was making money faster than General Dynamics... but my kids didn't know me. As I sat at my Word Processor, a strange change would come over me. I would become these other people. Friends would mistake me for Truman Capote, or J. D. Salinger. But I could have lived with that... if not for the children. I can hear them now, crying in the kitchen.
"Mommy, mommy," they weep. "Who is daddy today?" If only I could save another writer from this nightmare... if only... if only...
"SR," Halifax, Nova Scotia I used to write with a pencil and paper—I never even used a typewriter for my first drafts... until the day someone convinced me to buy a Macintosh Computer, known in the industry as a Fat Mac. I loved it! In only three or four months I taught myself to type and wrote seventy or eighty letters. I purchased a MacPaint program, and soon was turning out wonderful dot-matrix artwork to amuse my friends. Then I brought a MacAlien program and had hours of fun every day eluding the space monsters that tried to eat me alive. (The MacWrite program still had a few glitches, but I knew I'd work them out... one of these days... when I got around to it... manana... what's the rush?) In the meantime, I was having too much fun...
Well, you've probably guessed I'm a Type B writer. It was always easy enough to find an excuse not to write... and the Mac made it even easier! Now winter is coming on, I've missed a dozen deadlines, my family is starving, and bill collectors are pounding on the door.
Thank God for the people at VarleyYarns®!
When they heard of my plight they rushed over with a typewriter, reams of paper, and a package of pencils.
I know it will be a long hard path back to sanity...... but with the help of VarleyYarns®, I think I can lick it!
"DT" Oakland, California Born Again!
That's what I told my friends when I finally "made the switch" to a word processor. The ease, the speed, the versatility... I began buying new programs as quickly as they came out. I even got to
"road-test" a few of them, developed by friends in the industry, before they were available to the general public. I really liked the MacPlot at first. When you "Booted it up," MacPlot would suggest alternate story lines... while at the same time conducting a global search of all stories written by anyone, anywhere, at any time, to see if an idea was "old hat." Soon all my friends had copied it and were using it, too. Then came MacClimax!, which analyzed your prose for the "high points," and added words and phrases here and there to "punch it up." You've all heard how a word processor can aid you if you decide to change a character's name in the course of a story. With MacCharacter, I was able to change a whimp into a hero, a Presbyterian into an alien suffering from existential despair, or a fourteenth century warlord into a Mexican grape-picker... all with only a few keys... all without lapses in story logic! Before long I had them all: MacConflict, MacDialogue, MacMystery, MacWestern, Adverb-Away. VisiTheme, MacDeal-With-The-Devil...
Then I noticed a strange thing.
I'm a Type A writer, like Mr. "SK/Bachman/Goldman/ETC." I'm not happy unless I'm writing most of the day. And now, writing was so easy I could simply write a first line, punch a few keys, and sit back and watch the story write itself. It was so easy, I was miserable. Now, in today's mail, comes MacFirstline, but I don't think I'll run it. I think I'll kill myself instead.
Now where's the MacHara-Kiri suicide-note-writing program...?
Sad, isn't it? And there isn't even enough time to tell you of the incalculable amounts of money squandered by writers on expensive systems that were obsolete within a few weeks' time, or to print the countless other testimonials that have been pouring into VarleyYarns® since this crusade of salvation began.
We're trying to help. Won't you? Only with your support can we stamp out this dread killer, this hidden disease called Computaholism. Write your Congress-person today. Form a committee. Give generously. Be sure to vote.
And don't forget... to buy and read Berkley's VarleyYarns®.
Dear John, All right, enough is enough. I don't think you realize it, but I put my career on the line over your last insane request. If you think I'm going to publish and mail that diatribe, you've got another think coming.
I went so far as to show it to our lawyers. You said you disguised the names, but how many writers do you think there are in Halifax, Nova Scotia? Or in Maine, for that matter. And do you have any idea how much money that guy has? Enough to keep you in court for the next twenty years.
Maybe I'll regret this later, but there are a few things I've been dying to get off my chest, so here goes. First... was that some kind of crack, back in your first ad? Something like ''as fine a book as the economic climate will allow''? Let me tell you, we editors work hard and we do the best job we can. So we don't usually have much of an advertising budget. So DEMON was printed on newsprint. So sue me, okay?
As for your horror stories about excessively prolific authors... boy, don't I wish! I could say a thing or two about missed deadlines, that's for sure. And did you read what Norman Spinrad and Algis Budrys had to say about your last two epics?
So much for the inherent superiority of the typewriter.
TITAN parts four, five, and six are due at the end of the month, don't forget. You may not find the editors here at Berkley quite so forgiving the next time you ask for a deadline extension.
Yours, Susan SUSAN ALLISON
DEAR SUSAN, HOLD EVERYTHING! NO NEED TO GET UPSET. HELL, YOU
DIDN'T THINK I WAS SERIOUS, DID YOU? THE THING
IS, SEE, I WAS TALKING TO HARLAN ELLISON THE
OTHER DAY, AND WHILE HE AGREED WITH MY STAND
AGAINST THE WORD PROCESSOR, HE FELT THE WHOLE
VARLEYYARNS BUSINESS SMACKED OF TOO MUCH SELFPROMOTION.
BUT BEYOND THAT, AS YOU MIGHT HAVE GUESSED FROM
THE HOLES ALONG THE SIDE OF THE PAPER, I'VE
BOUGHT A WORD PROCESSOR. (SORRY ABOUT THIS
TYPEFACE: MY LETTER-QUALITY PRINTER IS ''DOWN''
AGAIN. I'M USING AN OLD ''WORDSPITTER'' PRINTER
I BORROWED FROM THE ESTATE OF ''DT'' IN
I'M WRITING THIS ON AN EXXON OFFICE SYSTEMS
''ANNIE'' COMPUTER. AS YOU MAY HAVE HEARD, EXXON
GOT OUT OF THE COMPUTER BUSINESS AFTER A FEW
YEARS OF POOR SALES, SO I GOT THIS MACHINE AT A
BARGAIN-BASEMENT PRICE! FOR ONLY $5000 I GOT A
MAINFRAME MORE POWERFUL. THAN THE ONE NASA USED
TO SEND MEN TO THE MOON IN 1969, A DISK DRIVE, A
''SANDY'' PRINTER, A ''PUNJAB'S CRYSTAL''
MONITOR SCREEN, AND A LITTLE DEVICE SIMILAR TO
THE APPLE MOUSE, WHICH EXXON CALLS AN ''ASP.''
I'VE BEEN TOLD THIS IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS AN
ORPHAN COMPUTER, BUT IT SHOULDN'T MATTER, AS IT
WILL RUN SOME OF THE APPLE SOFTWARE, AND THE
SALESMAN--A MR. PANGLOSS--ASSURES ME EXXON WILL
CONTINUE TO SERVICE IT AND PRODUCE MORE
SO FAR HE'S BEEN AS GOOD AS HIS WORD. THE LASERDRIVEN
HYPERSPEED WHIRL-WRITE ''SANDY'' PRINTER
HAS BROKEN DOWN EIGHT TIMES SO FAR, AND THE
SERVICE MANAGER, MR. GOLDBERG, IS ALWAYS HERE
WITHIN A WEEK OR TWO. (HE'S HERE RIGHT NOW--HEY, RUBE!--SO PRETTY SOON I CAN PUT THE PRINTER ''ONLINE''
AGAIN. HE SAYS IT'S JUST RUN OUT OF
I'VE BEEN HAVING A BALL. I'VE USED THE
MACWARBUCKS PROGRAM TO BALANCE MY CHECKBOOK AND
PLAN MY FINANCIAL FUTURE. MY OUTPUT OF FICTION
HAS REALLY INCREASED. YOU'LL RECEIVE SHORTLY, UNDER SEPARATE COVER, TWO TRILOGIES AND FIVE
OTHER NOVELS. JUST THIS MORNING I TRIED PHONING
ANOTHER NOVEL TO YOUR OFFICE VIA MODEM, BUT
EITHER MY MACHINE OR YOUR COMPUTER ROOM OR POOR
OLD MA BELL SEEM TO HAVE LOST IT. OH, WELL, NO
BIG DEAL, THERE'S PLENTY MORE WHERE THAT ONE
TO FACILITATE YOUR ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT'S
WRITING OF MY CHECKS, IN THE FUTURE I SHALL SIGN
MYSELF WITH THE UNIVERSAL WRITERS CODE (UWC)
SYMBOL YOU SEE BELOW, RECENTLY APPROVED BY THE
WRITERS GUILD. SO IT'S GOODBYE, JOHN VARLEY, HELLO 2100061161... BUT YOU CAN CALL ME 210, IF
WE'RE STILL FRIENDS.