Tales of Horror From Years Gone By
In a column in Asimov’s magazine, science fiction writer Robert Silverberg regales us with stories of the bad old days of writing, when there were no computers, you made copies of what you wrote with carbon paper, retyping your manuscript to get it clean enough to send to your publisher took a month, and Silverberg protected his retyped manuscript by storing it in an old refridgerator, where he assumed it would be able to survive a fire.
Contrast this, if you will, with my experience of writing The Last Colony, in which I finished the book on a Tuesday and by Wednesday afternoon had to my editor via e-mail. No “first draft,” no retyping, no storing the original in a disused kitchen appliance to protect it from the flames. As soon as it was done, click, off it went. The experience of writing a book is mechanically so incredibly different than it was twenty five years ago that I actually hesitate to call it the same process at all. I constantly marvel that anyone ever wrote anything before computers.
I marvel about enough that I genuinely wonder if I would have been a writer if I had been born in the 1930s rather than in 1969, which allowed my desire to become a writer to coincide with the advent of the personal computer, and therefore, with the sort of ease of creation I have now. I suspect that I would have indeed become a writer, because I like to tell stories and because lacking a time machine, I wouldn’t know that in the future the practice of writing would become almost absurdly simpler. But looking back, I’m appalled and terrified in precisely the same way I am about the practice of bleeding a sick person the relieve the phlegmatic humors vexing their bodies rather than, you know, giving them antibiotics. We live in an age of miracles and wonders, people.