Boxen

by wjw on July 6, 2020

One thing that lockdown permits is time for a lot of big projects, provided that the projects can be carried out at home.   So right now I’m involved in boxing up a lot of original manuscripts, which I’m donating to the archives at Texas A&M, where they will spend eternity in a climate-controlled bunker, just a shelf or two away from George RR Martin’s huge archive, which includes (among other things) his Greek fisherman’s cap.  (I wore one before he did, but had to give it up when he got famous.)

Going through the files I discovered that I had a lot more unsold material than I remembered, and that much of it exists only as single typewritten manuscripts.  (If there were ever carbons or xeroxes, they’re gone now.)  I’m going to have to scan those before I send them on, just so that I can access them without a trip to Bryan/College Station.

Once the manuscripts are sent away, I’ll be sending books, literary contracts, games, toys, and any other damn thing I feel like sending.

I’m a little conflicted about the juvenilia.  Does anyone really want to read the terrible fantasy novel I wrote when I was 13, which was not only derivative, but derivative of what I was reading that particular day.  (I think you can go through it and chant: “Kipling, Kipling, Tolkien, Talbot Mundy, Moorcock,  some damn article about ninja, and more Moorcock.”)

I wrote more or less constantly from a very early age, and I hope it shows more promise than I think it does.

I have to wonder who exactly will travel to College Station to view my literary remains, let alone hang out there for months to troll through the archives searching for insight as to my process.  But then that’s TAMU’s problem now, isn’t it?

I’ve been sent Fed Ex mailing labels to put on the boxes, which I have done, but I can’t seem to get Federal Express to schedule a pickup.  Their web site didn’t remember my account, which always happens— I think I’ve got three by now— so I got a new one, but it wouldn’t accept some of my data, so I spent 50 minutes on the phone with customer assistance until I got my new account, and now that won’t work, either.  I anticipate more time on the phone to schedule the pickup, and hope the accompanying increase in my blood pressure doesn’t send the top of my skull rocketing toward the ceiling.

But anyway, soon there will be shelves of Me in Abundance, for whoever cares to travel there and admire them.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Derek July 7, 2020 at 12:06 am

Interesting, I can’t find a mention of the WJW archives yet, but this
https://archon.library.tamu.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=86&q=&rootcontentid=339
Is apparently GRRM’s collection, 306 boxes worth.
UT apparently has at least one WJW manuscript
https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tamucush/00237/tamu-00237.html

Walter, when the Drake Maijstral movies take off, or the Shaa/Khosalikh invade and ennoble the deserving, surely there will be a stampede :-) I would certainly find the evolution of Aristoi, Maijstral, Constantine (who should be played by Laurence Fishburne) and most everything else WJW fascinating.

pecooper July 7, 2020 at 11:22 am

You would be surprised who is going to want to look at your stuff. Eight years ago, I was involved in help a Bulgarian girl, who was studying at a university in France, get access to the Clifford D. Simak archives at the University of Minnesota.

It’s a great example of the six degrees of separation you find on the Internet. I met her on a Clifford D. Simak board. Because I was also on the Jack Vance board, I was also able to arrange a meeting with one of the members of the French Simak society, where she got access to a lot of French scholarship.

She is teaching, now, in a university in the United Arab Emirates.

Who knows who is writing a thesis about you in Latvia or Cameroon.

Etaoin Shrdlu July 8, 2020 at 3:07 am

No Lovecraftian tentacle ninjas from beyond the stars?

Anonymous July 8, 2020 at 9:25 pm

306 boxes of George? That’s several lifetimes’ work for anyone so inclined.

My stuff, you’ll be able to absorb a lot quicker, leading to publishing, jobs, tenure, and possibly even the Pulitzer Prize.

—Walter, here inexplicably called Anonymous.

Etaoin Shrdlu July 9, 2020 at 8:30 am

Looks like we finally caught the hacker known as Anonymous, guys!

Jos'h July 11, 2020 at 7:22 am

It’s good that you’re making the drafts and documents available — as opposed to the “Pratchett Method”… And I think even something (that you find in hindsight to be) so unpolished will be useful for someone tracing influences and such.

Fortunately, a lot of archives and libraries have people to help out when one can’t make a pilgrimage. Once on a random search for something else, I ran across an abstract of a paper by Jef Raskin (originator of the Macintosh project at Apple) about how he taught computer programming to humanities students, who were considered (at best) unpromising candidates for that honour. Among other things, there was a reference to a simple computer language he developed, called FLOW. I was curious, so after chasing down different rabbit holes, I finally found his archives at the Stanford University Library.

One of the Special Collections librarians, Nan Mehan, cheerfully went through *everything* and sent me a two inch thick envelope with copies of all the references to it. This included several draft papers, a language specification and even facsimiles of pages in his notebooks where he considered it.

This was a treasure trove of good stuff which revealed a his early orientation towards the user interface, even during the days of greenscreens and big iron. Among other things, the language featured the first implementation (I know about) of the feature that today we would call “autocomplete”, which I had no idea anyone was even thinking about back then. I was later able to use this information to create a reconstruction of the language for modern hardware.

In light of his other achievements (model airplanes! Macintosh! etc…), FLOW might be considered a mere bagatelle, but it and the circumstances surrounding his creation (detailed in some of the other information I got) helped reveal the deeply humane place where the GUI’s came from.

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