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The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: K_A_Opperman (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2011 02:05AM
In poring over the Smith correspondence on this site, a stange and somewhat horrifying realization occurred to me...in all probability, future scholars will have no correspondence to study between the writers of today. Now that email has largely replaced letter writing, deleted correspondence simply vanishes in the irremeable void of cyberspace--unlike physical letters, of course, which tend to float around for decades. What is to be done about this? Should famous writers print out their emails to each other? Should they revert to writing physical letters? Is it hopeless? I have always mistrusted the non-tangible aspect of computer-stored information. What if Smith and Lovecraft had email? Would we then have missed out on their infinitely amusing letters to one another? I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts. This is my first topic...I hope others find it an issue worth considering.

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: Gill Avila (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2011 04:44AM
I've often wondered the same thing. What will an author do when her/his heirs want to donate their papers to a library or college? I once had the pleasure of going to the John Hay library and handling and reading Lovecraft's original manuscripts. Somehow I'm sure that I wouldn't get the same frisson running my hands over a PC's hard drive.

Damn that sounded perverse...

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2011 03:46PM
How many emails written today are actually worth preserving? (for literary content, I mean). A very small percentage, I'd wager--less than 5%, if that. Still, it's an important question. Preservation of ephemera is always a race against time and there are rarely enough funds or manpower available.

It's heartening to hear about isolated successes. The rapidly fading thermographic copies of Jack Kirby's penciled pages have been digitally scanned and saved for posterity. So have many of the Worldcon guest of honor speeches, transcribed from old tapes or rescued from crumbling fanzines by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari.

Any writers out there who are listening in--how do you save your correspondence?

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: K_A_Opperman (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2011 09:47PM
Part of the trouble is that most writers will have no clue in their lifetimes whether or not their correspondence will ever be of interest to anyone--and of course, it's a little egocentric to assume such. I don't currently save what little correspondence I send and receive (via email, of course); I read it through maybe two or three times, depending on the content, leave it in my inbox for maybe a few months, then ultimately delete it (I suppose if the email were particularly interesting, for whatever reason, I'd print it out).

I myself do tend to write very, very long emails, and they do often contain my thoughts on my own writing, and snipets of literary ideas, etc.--but I'm just a nobody! (for now, heh heh heh). In all probability, I will never be famous, and no one will ever care to read my correspondence. I've got no reason to save it--but then if, against the odds, I somehow did make it into the weird literary pantheon, there'd be no trove of manuscripts to scour for miscellaneous biographical info! I hate to think of a world in which we didn't have Smith and Lovecraft's letters...I don't think they ever expected anyone else to want to read them, but because of the mode of the day, their letters ultimately were available for people like us to read--thank Cthulhu and Tsathoggua! But now...now things have changed...

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 7 August, 2011 08:18PM
K_A_Opperman Wrote: obviously, to alleviate this concern, everything on this site should be backed up on a disc - there is a great deal of highly insightful and valuable first-hand data on this forum - just print it fellas -
-------------------------------------------------------
> Part of the trouble is that most writers will have
> no clue in their lifetimes whether or not their
> correspondence will ever be of interest to
> anyone--and of course, it's a little egocentric to
> assume such. I don't currently save what little
> correspondence I send and receive (via email, of
> course); I read it through maybe two or three
> times, depending on the content, leave it in my
> inbox for maybe a few months, then ultimately
> delete it (I suppose if the email were
> particularly interesting, for whatever reason, I'd
> print it out).
>
> I myself do tend to write very, very long emails,
> and they do often contain my thoughts on my own
> writing, and snipets of literary ideas, etc.--but
> I'm just a nobody! (for now, heh heh heh). In all
> probability, I will never be famous, and no one
> will ever care to read my correspondence. I've got
> no reason to save it--but then if, against the
> odds, I somehow did make it into the weird
> literary pantheon, there'd be no trove of
> manuscripts to scour for miscellaneous
> biographical info! I hate to think of a world in
> which we didn't have Smith and Lovecraft's
> letters...I don't think they ever expected anyone
> else to want to read them, but because of the mode
> of the day, their letters ultimately were
> available for people like us to read--thank
> Cthulhu and Tsathoggua! But now...now things have
> changed...

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: K_A_Opperman (IP Logged)
Date: 7 August, 2011 10:21PM
Dr. Farmer is absolutely right--everything on this site needs to be backed up on at least one disc (have the admin. done this, I wonder?). And certainly, it would not hurt to print out a great deal of what's here. In particular, just about everything Dr. Farmer says should be printed out! They call him 'doctor' for a reason...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 7 Aug 11 | 10:21PM by K_A_Opperman.

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 12 December, 2019 01:11PM
Interesting topic.

I correspond by mail, about once a month, with an old-time fan of Tolkien and Lovecraft (he's 80, I believe). I save his letters, and since I compose my letters on computer usually, I save the text there, but some of my letters I've printed for myself as well as for him, and have saved my replies thus with his letters. There were a few times when I was away from my computer, staying at the house where I grew up, and I used a manual typewriter there. (This was the very one on which I'd written innumerable fannish letters and apazines many years ago.) It seemed to me that my friend particularly liked some of those typed, as opposed to word-processed, letters.

So postal correspondence can, obviously, be done, and is being done here and there. How many of you folks have files of letters you have saved over the years? I have the equivalent of about three or four steel filing cabinets' worth, with some letters dating back to the late 1960s. But I imagine the letters, or most of them, will be thrown away when I become incapacitated or die.

Do you have any letters from writers? Many years ago, I wrote to Richard Adams (Watership Down, etc.) care of his American publisher, I think -- and he wrote back with a personal return address. So there were a few exchanges over the years. What a gentleman. In my very limited experience, it's not necessarily the biggest-name authors who don't write back and the "smaller"-named ones who do.

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: GreenFedora (IP Logged)
Date: 17 December, 2019 06:39PM
K_A_Opperman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> What if Smith and Lovecraft had
> email? Would we then have missed out on their
> infinitely amusing letters to one another?

I don't know about CAS, but Lovecraft would never have taken to email, since he detested typing. However, I make my own counter-argument: HPL was highly critical of his own fiction writing, but he obviously reveled in epistolary self-expression; would his keen enthusiasm for letter writing have been incentive enough to learn and master touch typing? At least he wouldn't have had to deal with paper, ribbons, platens, and carriage returns.

Re: The future of literary correspondence?
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 17 December, 2019 09:53PM
GreenFedora Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I don't know about CAS,

Based on some posts I've read by Smith's dear friend Dr. Farmer, it sounds like CAS wouldn't have cared much for email, or the internet for that matter. I won't say this with authority, but from what I've read Smith either disliked new technology or just didn't care enough about it to accommodate all the newfangled things. He lived without any electricity for decades of his life and was supposedly fine with that.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 17 Dec 19 | 09:59PM by kojootti.



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