Thursday, March 14, 2019

Charles Town and the Internet



Bookworm's delightful post on her visit to Charleston reminded me of another way in which life has become much easier in this century -- at least for writers. Way back in the twentieth century I wrote a historical novel set in, I think, the early eighteenth century. (Oh, okay, to be precise it was a bodice-ripper; that's what was paying the mortgage back then. But I did my research!) I shipped off the manuscript (a big stack of paper. Remember those things?) and eventually it went past the editor and stalled out with the copyeditor. We had a somewhat acrimonious exchange that went roughly like this:

Copyeditor: There's no such place as Charles Town. Did you mean to write Charleston?

Me: This is a historical novel. At the time of the book there was no such place as Charleston. My characters refer to the town by its original name, Charles Town.

Copyeditor: No. There is no "Charles Town" in my atlas.

Me: Of course there isn't, you idiot, it's a modern atlas I suggest you consult an eighteenth-century atlas.

We went a few more rounds in this style. Eventually I trudged over to the university library, xeroxed a solid pound of contemporary documents referring to Charles Town, highlighted the references and sent the papers to the copyeditor. The argument ended; I don't have any illusion that I had persuaded her I was right, more likely she simply decided I was too insane to be worth arguing with. (In retrospect, there were a number of incidents in my younger days where I thought I'd won an argument with facts and reason, and now suspect my opponents concededed just to get me to stop talking.)

Nowadays, this particular argument wouldn't have happened at all... or if it did, it could have been resolved by a few clicks in a search engine.

For at least the next week, I swear that I will not grumble about the deleterious effects of the Internet on our social fabric without at least adding But I don't have to go through stupid fights with copyeditors any more!


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