I’ve been getting Counting From Ten ready for a new edition — one to replace my dwindling stock of the original small-press edition, one that will be available both for the Kindle and via print-on-demand, so people will finally be able to order the damn thing via Amazon, instead of sending me money via PayPal and waiting for me to actually go to an actual Post Office. Pretty much a win/win situation.
I’ve been going over the text of the book — and, annoyingly, re-typing several of the stories, since I mysteriously seem to lack electronic versions of them — and doing a little light line-editing. Nothing serious. Catching a couple of typos that made it into the original edition. Tightening up the occasional word choice here and there, but mostly leaving it alone.
There are a couple of stories, though, where I’m seriously altering some of the details to bring the story up-to-date.
Mainly, it has to do with telephones. The book originally came out in 2004, and, well, things have changed since then. Here’s a for-instance: in a story entitled “The Catalog,” the lead character makes calls from his land-line phone, and at one point, from a pay-phone. Right now, I honestly don’t even know where I would go to find a pay-phone if my life depended on it.
In short, there are random details that make the stories feel like they were written in another time. Which, yeah, they were. But I had to ask myself — did I want to leave them that way?
Often, whenever someone goes back and changes something in their creative works before re-releasing them, it annoys me. I usually wish they had left well enough alone. (Case in point: Greedo shot first. End of discussion.) I would rather that creators knew when to leave well enough alone, and let a story be the product of its time.
But on the other hand — every time I tripped across something that now felt anachronistic, it jarred me a bit. I stopped and noticed it. In other words, it took me out of the story a little.
In any kind of editing, from a massive overhaul to a simple line-edit, there’s really only one question that should be paramount in the editor’s mind: What’s the best thing to do to tell the story?
And I finally decided that, in most cases, it didn’t matter to the story whether it took place in 2004 or 2012 — and if the fact that a detail made the story feel like it wasn’t taking place in the present day was at all distracting from the story itself, then out it goes. In the case of “The Catalog,” I gave the lead character a cell phone.
So that’s what’s going on with Counting From Ten — all the stories are getting pulled out, dusted off, squinted at in the sunlight, and sometimes getting a shiny new coat of paint before I put them back in the anthology.
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