Roundtable: The Silliest Thing…

Brian Evenson

On editorial obtuseness, when I was selling my novel The Open Curtain, which is set firmly in Mormon Utah (except for a number of hallucinatory bits) and which has a plot that hinges very specifically on weirdnesses from Mormon ceremonies and on an actual Mormon ritual murder, I got a very enthusiastic note from an editor saying he wanted to do the book, but only wanted to make one change:  instead of Mormonism, could the religion be Catholicism?

Stacie Hanes

Okay, okay. Fourth grade Tennessee history.

We had been drilled that “cavalry” was defined as “soldiers on horseback.” Right.

Only my family had been to an event at the Memphis Equestrian Grounds, so when the test came around, I thought, “I can make that one word SHORTER.”

It was the only question I got wrong…

Karen Burnham

I do ‘fondly’ recall my junior English teacher who believed that literature should be divorced from its historical context. She tried to teach The Grapes of Wrath without mentioning the Great Depression, which was impressive. But what really put it over the top was when she asked: “Now, was Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address given before or after the Civil War?” ::headdesk::, I believe was my response, especially since my father dabbled in Civil War history.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

And thereby hangs an alternate history saga.

Elizabeth Hand

My freshman HS social studies teacher had a joke exam question after we did a unit on the Arab world:

What color was the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite white horse?

And yep, some students got it wrong.  (Extra credit: The white horse was named Barack, Lightning.)

Gardner Dozois

That’s like the very old joke about the farmer who had two horses and never could tell them apart, until one day he carefully measured them and found that the black one was a foot taller than the white one.

4 thoughts on “Roundtable: The Silliest Thing…

  • December 21, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I once wrote to a famous author and offered to bring several of his early books back into print. Since I proposed to reset rather than photo-reproduce the texts, I indicated this would give him the chance to make any changes he felt desirable. He wrote back outraged I should think any of his work would need changes. All his books were perfect as they stood and he would rather not allow a philistine like me to publish any of them.

  • December 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    I once had a physics student argue that gravity on Venus had to be stronger than Earth’s because it was closer to the sun.

  • December 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    As a neophyte writer I am at the mercy of editors. I recently submitted a story in which the subtext dealt with college level math and included an alien name with a superscript number in it. The editor suggested that it just looked sloppy and that words should only contain letters. When I provided several examples of similar words by some giants in the field he replied that he had dozens of stories to edit and didn’t have time to argue over a single word that really wasn’t that important anyway.

  • December 25, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    If you’re discussing teachers…when I was in grade school, the teacher wrote “PENISULA” on the blackboard and we took turns mispronouncing it. It was over twenty years before I realized is was supposed to be “PENINSULA” with another “N”…

    As for editors…well, probably the silliest thing an editor told me is that I have talent.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *