Making Book: best of the proto-blogs

While at WorldCon last week, I had opportunity to go to dinner on two consecutive nights with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden — friends and mentors and editors of mine who are both thoroughly engaged in the business end of the field and the fannish, amateur (as in "one who loves") end of the field. On the first night, Teresa mentioned that her collection of essays (mostly collected from fanzines, APAs and the like), "Making Book," was going into its third printing. I realized that I had seen this book on innumerable bookcases at friends' writerly apartments around the world, a kind of recognition symbol of membership in a fraternity of publishing and fannish insiderdom, but that I'd never read it myself. So I rushed out and bought one of the few remaining second edition printings still available for sale, had Teresa sign it, and started to read it in bits and bites.

This is a terrific book. I mean, I had no idea. It is a convulsively funny, shrewd and sharp collection of anaecdotes well-told, observations well-observed and jokes hilariously cracked, all the while tracing secret histories of fandom, the ins and outs of being diagnosed narcoleptic at a time when such diagnoses were considered sprious and radical by the medical establishment, and of the gypsy life of a con-running, APA-publishing foremother of the blogging masses whose "personal publishing revolution" has its origins in the dim days of mimeographs and dittos.

Oh, and don't miss the "On Copyediting" piece, which began as an internal publishing memo and is a sterling example of the species of bureaucratic documentation that can become a lasting work of art.

I've been thinking about which bit I wanted to quote here, and today on the BART I nearly fell out of my seat laughing at this passage:

Unfinished letter (New York, c. 1984): Take the "A" Train

We're in New York now, living a few blocks from the 190th street "A" train stop. I want someone to do a new musical arrangement of "Take the 'A' Train." It would be played at half the normal speed, and partway through the band suddenly stops and just sits there for fifteen minutes while the conductor cups his hands around a microphone and makes muffled announcements in Mandarin Chinese and the audience groans in unison. Then the band would play a few more bars and stop again, while the conductor announces that everyone sitting to the right of the center aisle must go find a seat on the left side and vice versa. Any member of the audience not complying will be forcibly seized and carried out, to be later deposited in Far Rockaway. And all that jazz.

BTW, Teresa's blog is every bit as sharp as her book, but harder to read on the subway.