Guest Post: Cosmic Restoration Blues

COSMIC RESTORATION BLUES

BY ROBERT ALLEN LUPTON

I’ve never written an article about restoring and publishing a “Lost” novel. There’s a reason. I’ve never participated in a project like this before.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine, Michael Tierney, publisher of “Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology,” posted the cover illustration of a 1917 issue of “All-Story Magazine.” The illustration by Fred W. Small was for the first installment of “Cosmic Courtship,” a novel by Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “Tanglewood Tales’ and “The Scarlet Letter.”

I was intrigued and tried to find a copy of the novel to read. I contacted Michael for help. We discovered that the novel had never seen print since its appearance in the now crumbling pages of 104 year old pulp magazine, where it had been serialized in four consecutive issues.

A little correspondence back and forth and we decided to save the novel by publishing it in book form for the first time. We partnered with ‘Alex’ P. Alexander, publisher of Cirsova Magazine and divided up responsibilities. Alex had previously restored and published the John Stark novels and stories by Leigh Brackett.

So here are the steps we took and the lessons we learned – presented in an order that hopefully make sense to the reader.

Obtain Rights: In this case, the novel, ‘Cosmic Courtship,” was in the public domain. Be sure that you have rights before you proceed. Don’t do the work for nothing. Verification of public domain availability can be complicated. I am not an attorney; I only watch them on TV, and therefore, make no recommendations about this step. Just simple advice – do your homework. Here’s a link that discusses this issue:  https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/public-domain/#:~:text=If%20a%20book%2C%20song%2C%20movie,domain%20because%20of%20old%20age.

If the work isn’t in public domain, find out who owns the rights, contact them, and hope for the best.

Finding the rights owner can be as simple as finding currently published work by the writer in question and working backwards. It can also be quite complicated. Take your time. Better safe than sorry.

Obtain The Work: Michael had two of the All-Story issues and was able to find copies of the other two. This can be expensive. Pulp magazine issues are available for prices ranging from less than $10.00 a copy to several hundreds of dollars. The day after listed this project on Kickstarter, the issue with the Fred Small cover was listed online for $750.00. Murphy’s Law applies here. The more you want a particular issue, the harder it is to find and the more expensive it will be.

Put The Work In Usable Format: “Cosmic Courtship” was published in four parts – four issues of 1917 All Story Magazine. They were called pulp magazines for a reason. They were printed on the cheapest paper available at the time. They flake and discolor while you watch. Dismantling the magazine and running the pages through a printer has the same result as running them through a paper shredder. Sometimes even opening the magazine far enough to copy the pages will destroy the book. Michael carefully scanned the pages (over 100 of them) one at a time, opening the All-Story issues just far enough to make the text legible, being careful not to destroy the spine or to press the pages hard against the copier and destroy the individual pages. He sent the scans to me. Most were legible, but a few had to be enhanced before they could be read. I rekeyed the entire story, word by word, line by line. During the process, I consulted regularly with my co-workers and we came up with the following guidelines. 

Respect the Writer

The story was written over a hundred years ago. Spelling and word usage has changed. For example, Julian regularly used “so” instead of “as,” and “till” instead of “until.” Scimitar was spelled simitar. Resist the urge to change the spelling and word usage. Occasionally, I had battle with spellcheck to keep my computer from automatically making changes.

Leave the Punctuation alone – no matter how much you want to change it. Julian used sentences that were very long. A single sentence would contain a full colon, several semi-colons, and a scattering of commas. I was especially troubled by sentences that began with a quote, followed by a description of the speaker and his actions, and then another quotation. Seemed like a period somewhere would be a good idea.

Edit with Care:

The original story appeared in four consecutive issues of All-Story Weekly in 1917. The process in those days was that an editor, employed by the magazine, would edit the manuscript, and deliver it to the typesetter, an individual who sat in front of a Linotype or Monotype machine and input the text and created printing plates – that would be used to actually print the magazine. The typesetter functioned as a final editor and his edits were essentially never reviewed before publication. After all, they published several magazines a week. It is not only possible, but likely that the four installments were prepared by four different typesetters, and their individual preferences were reflected in the final text. The third installment almost never used full colons. There were some spelling inconsistencies between issues. No matter how a word was spelled, if the spelling was consistent throughout the book, we left it unchanged. When the spelling of the same word varied, we picked the spelling we were most comfortable with, and went with it. 

In two of the installments, close quotation marks were regularly omitted when the quotation ended a paragraph. We replaced those for consistency throughout.

Consider the Times:

The book was written with the science, knowledge, political and social standards, customs, and beliefs that were prevalent prior to World War One. We know that Saturn has more rings and moons than Julian knew about in 1916. In one area, we were fortunate. Julian’s book empowered women with strength of purpose and put them on an equal footing with his male characters. While his science reflected the time, His treatment of women and minorities was remarkably enlightened. Some of his characters were of Irish and Scottish descent, and their speech is portrayed as a strong brogue. We didn’t change the brogue or modify their behavior. 

The Process:

At first, I printed the pages and used a clip to hold them upright next to my laptop, like I learned to do in typing class in the 1960s. This proved to be both cumbersome and uncomfortable. I settled on a split screen method, placing the photocopied text on the top half of my screen and the working document on the bottom. Using that method, I could keep my eyes on the screen. It was necessary to move the photocopy three times as I moved though each page. That was good. I used each movement as an opportunity to review my input for accuracy. 

The novel was about 65,000 words long and my initial goal was to complete 5,000 words a day. I didn’t quite reach it. I averaged a little over 4,000 words. Anything more than that, and I began to make too many input errors and the time to review and correct grew exponentially. 

I did the same thing I do when I’m writing. The first step of the day is to edit yesterday’s work, and then, begin the day’s new work. That way, once the first draft is completed, it’s really a second draft – it’s already been edited one time. Once I finished an entire “All-Story Magazine” installment, I sent it to my co-workers, Michael and Alex, for final verification and formatting. 

The Cover:

When doing a cover restoration, Michael Tierney always uses elements from the original material to rebuild any missing pieces, or in this case to remove the masthead and title that obscured the artwork. For his Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology he often went down to the single pixel range to do this–spending as much as 40 hours repairing a single image. Having to also compensate for over a hundred years of age, wear, and tear, it was good that he has that restoration experience, He’s had to develop many new skills to address the myriad problems that occur during this process. Owning two copies of “The Cosmic Courtship” meant that he didn’t have to do any guesswork or spend nearly as much time in on this project, completing it in a single evening. 

Michael said, “It was almost as though the original artist, Fred W. Small, stood at my shoulder, and guided my hand to restore his artwork to the full color and vibrant glory with which it was first presented to the publisher.

Publishing:

“Alex” P. Alexander and his team at Cirsova Press coordinated a Kickstarter program and prepared the manuscript for publication in five formats: small paperback, magazine, trade paperback, hardcover, and electronic. 

The Kickstarter was an immediate success, exceeding our minimum goal for publication by 1200% in the first nine days. I can’t wait to see the books.

Robert Allen Lupton

Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. He has been published in several anthologies and his short stories are online at www.horrortree.com and www.crimsonstreets.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April. His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventures stories, Running Into Trouble, was published in October, Dragonborn, the Foxborn sequel will be released in April, 2018.

www.amazon.com/author/luptonra

www.goodreads.com/author/show/15292457.Robert_Allen_Lupton

https://www.hometownreads.com/books/foxborn

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Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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1 Response

  1. March 31, 2021

    […] Guest Post: Cosmic Restoration Blues […]

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