Forgotten Books, Remembered (For Now)

I suppose it was inevitable: I discovered a that I am listed as a contributor to a book that I was not aware existed. It’s a 2009 book from the National Geographic Society called The Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, credited to Howard Schneider, and for which I am listed as contributing essays. And when it was brought to my attention, I was all, “I did what now?” I had no memory of contributing to this book at all.

Mind you, I don’t think the National Geographic Society was trying to pull a fast one. The far more likely explanation is that I did contributed to the book and then, over the course of a decade, I had simply forgotten anything about it. And indeed, that was the explanation — a quick look through my email archives from the time unearthed not only the correspondence trail between me an an editor at NatGeo, but also the essays in question, about constellations, telescopes and UFOs (and all the things that are not them).

These essays were a throwback to a time where I was writing a lot more non-fiction than I do now, and also taking freelance writing assignments from folks for quick pieces on, well, just about anything. It wasn’t entirely out of my remit to write articles on astronomy, since by that time I had written an entire book on the subject and it had even gone into a second printing. Which may be why I don’t remember too much about these pieces; I could pretty much write them without effort.

In any event it’s nice to have this book back in my memory banks. Amazon informs me that there is a second edition of the book coming out in exactly a month; it has a new primary author, who has no doubt updated the book from stem to stern. I wonder if what I contributed will make the cut ten years on. I guess we’ll find out. And now I wonder what other books are out there that I’ve forgotten I was a part of.

16 thoughts on “Forgotten Books, Remembered (For Now)

  1. How mercenary are compendium authors, usually? Because were I that new author I would absolutely preserve work from someone with your profile for the sake of showing up in Amazon (and other) listings. Particularly when it presumably is paid for and any new payments are based on rates negotiated at your ten-years-ago level of celebrity.

    Unless is really blows, of course, which I feel confident is not the case with your work.

  2. I imagine one reason that you’d forgotten is that it doesn’t generate any identifiable income for you. If you were receiving ongoing payments for it, that would sort of jog the memory. That suggests that either (a) you got paid a flat fee, thus no residuals; (b) it doesn’t/hasn’t sold enough to pay any; (c) residuals are lumped in with other things – with the same publisher, perhaps – and aren’t separately identified (and are such a small component that they aren’t apparent), or (d) something else. If you don’t mind saying so, am I on the right track here? Feel free to say “It’s none of your damned business”, which is, of course, true, and I won’t be in the least offended.

  3. Wow, I’ll have to go to my quite used copy and see if I can sniff out the essays that you wrote by the style! ;)

  4. I knew I was getting old(er) when I started trying to find my car keys . . . and then forgot what it was I was supposed to be looking for . . . and then I needed my glasses but could not remember where I had laid them down (they were in my pocket.)

  5. I recently did something similar. I was checking the USPTO website for the status of a patent application from my previous job and found an application that I had completely forgotten about. Which is funny since I’m the one who worked with patent counsel on the claims and what data to include. I added the forgotten patent application to my cv…

  6. I myself can hardly find the moon. I can find the big dipper. Sort of sad for a sailor.
    You are to amazing!##!

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