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Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the Star Fleet Universe.

1. One day last June, Simone, Jean, and I were looking over JagdPanther #7 (a magazine I published in 1974) which Simone was to scan so Jean could upload it to the PDF stores. Jean took great delight (and great pain at the same time) pointing out my rather silly spelling, formatting, and punctuation mistakes. (I actually hyphenated the word "rules" at one point. Ok, it was a fanzine, but I was a 23-year-old college senior and you'd have thought that I'd have known better.) Simone found the graphics laughable. I told Simone that 40 years from that day, she would be showing some of her 2014 work to a 23-year-old intern who would be laughing at how primitive it was compared to 3D holograms that sang and danced.

2. As we were finishing the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, somebody asked me what percentage of the book was new and what percentage had been printed before. I had no idea, and also noted that some articles were reprints, some where new, and some were older material rewritten to one extent or another, so it would be hard to calculate a percentage anyway. But the original question brought up an underlying concept, that of publishing stuff more than once. To an extent, it's inevitable. We often print articles in Captain's Log not even thinking that there might be a future book where that article should also appear. When we do the new book, we have a choice of reprinting the articles (often updating them), leaving gaps in the coverage of the new book, or writing entirely new articles that cover the same subjects. (No matter how those new articles are written, they're more or less reprints, as they cover the same ground.) We cannot do Captain's Log without tactics articles, and when we later do a major tactics book, it would be folly to do anything other than gather up the previous material and include it. If nothing else, we make it more convenient to reference as it is all in one place.

3. Something that causes no end of confusion is that every project involves multiple steps, and some people are involved in more than one step. So, on a given day, does Jean (for example) proofread a second draft, check the changes on a third draft of an earlier chapter, or (when SVC is not here) go get on his computer and MAKE changes to the fourth draft of an earlier chapter? Take the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, a project that was a single flow of work (from a single author to press). Patrick Doyle sent the files. Steve Cole laid them out, one article at a time, making a bunch of typography change (punctuation, capitalization, bold, italics, etc.) and some editing and clarifying and expanding as he went. Whenever he finished a chapter, he gave it to Jean, who proofread it (the first time). Then Steve Cole (when he was not doing the layout on a later chapter) made the Jean Round One fixes to a chapter (or even just a few pages) that Jean had proofread once. Then Jean had to compare the "first draft mark-ups" to the second "fixed" draft and see if the changes got made correctly. Doing so, she discovered that there were so many things wrong with the original draft that SVC and she had missed that she had to add a second round of proofreading, marking changes, and marking previous fixes that had been missed or done wrong. Then SVC made those changes and Jean checked them (or, sometimes, Jean made those changes and SVC checked them). At that point, the finished "third draft" went to Steven Petrick for "blind reading" which means that having never seen the document before, he has "fresh eyes" and catches things nobody else caught. Jean checked his marks, SVC made the changes, then put the "Petrick marks third draft" into a stack. Note that SVC or Jean might simultaneously have different chapters of three different drafts on their desk. Picking which to do first is a challenge, and the usual choice is whatever will give anyone without something to do pages to work on. (While all of that was going on, lots of other things were happening, mostly to do with the creation and insertion of art. There were also things like suddenly noticing some bylines had dashes, others had dashes and spaces, and others had nothing. All of that had to be marked and standardized.) Finally, the "finished" draft is printed out and the three principle designers (SVC, Steven Petrick, and Jean) sit down with the "third draft that Petrick marked on and SVC fixed" and checked the changes. Every problem found means SVC gets up, goes to his office, fixes it, and prints a replacement page. Once that is done, we keep paging through the book for an hour or two, looking for problems. At some point, we check every picture to make sure it's not accidentally on the wrong layer covering up text. At another point, we check every title (and every byline, and lots of other things) to be sure they are consistently formatted. Again, every thing we find means SVC gets up and goes and prints a fixed page. Then the chapters are turned into PDFs, stitched together, and a whole book is printed. Now, we start over, with the three principles turning through the book for an hour or two, looking for things missed earlier, and looking for anything that went wrong in the PDF process. (Sometimes fonts go a little wonky, or graphics print wrong, or something else.) Again, every time we find something, SVC gets up and goes and fixes it but now he has to produce a PDF replacement page and insert that into the stitched-together PDF. Finally, it's all done, and we start printing and binding. Then somebody notices something we never saw. Stop the presses! The page has to be fixed, a replacement PDF created and inserted, and replacement pages hand inserted into any unbound books on the assembly line.