August 16, 2002

Making Book

I am, at long last, reading Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Book. It's very good. It's highly recommended. It is even better than I would have expected had I expected it to be better than I expected it to be.

Two highlights:

  • ...Joe Student, proud holder of a substantial financial aid award, preregisters for fall classes and then, let's say, moves without filing a change of address. One of his classes is full, so Registration's computer doesn't list him as taking it. Financial Aid's computer notices his subminimal course load and places a temporary stop-payment on his student aid. Meanwhile Joe Student, unaware of the interesting stack of notices piling up at his former address, goes on in the serene belief that his aid has paid his tuition. The tuition deadline passes. Admissions' computer notices this unpaid tuition and tells Registration's computer to cancel all his classes. The Financial Aid computer, finding that the student's courseload has now dropped below half-time, cancels his whole award. One day Joe Student realizes that he hasn't gotten any mail in weeks and looks in at his previous address. The four pieces of correspondence on top of the stack are a letter from Registration telling him all his classes are cancelled and he's getting no credit from this semester's work, a letter from our office saying that he's getting no money this year, a letter from Admissions announcing that he's no longer a student at the University of Washington, and a letter from the Bursar asking him to please settle his dorm fees.... We find ourselves constantly exhorting students to file change-of-address notices, for what it's worth...
  • ...Remember that while you may be up to your elbows in a manuscript, the author and editor maynot have given it more than a passing thought for weeks.... Make your queries explain themselves.... Writing "Is this okay?" in the margin is much less useful than "Didn't this alien have five heads, not three, back on page 114?" It also keeps the author and/or editor from thinking that you object to the idea that the three- or five-headed alien could ever achieve a truly satisfying primary emotional relationship with the Queen Mother, thereby entirely missing the more prosaic question...

And there's the Snoopy-style Happy Dance she and her husband do when they receive the news that her detailed brain scans are, in fact, what Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein would call "Abby Normal"...

Posted by DeLong at August 16, 2002 01:49 PM | TrackBack


Hayden's cautionary tale of the student who failed to keep his address updated reminds me of an incident from my own education. Some years ago, I graduated from undergraduate school in New York City without having been admitted to any of the law schools to which I had applied. After graduation, I returned to my parents' house in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., while deciding what to do next. In early summer, I received an advertisement in the mail from a bookstore in Berkeley, California. After a bit of puzzlement, I called the UC registrar and learned that I had been admitted to Boult Hall, but that the admission letter had been mailed to my now abandoned New York address. (I never did attend Boult; I, no doubt foolishly, chose another law school that admitted me in August.)

Posted by: Martin on August 17, 2002 01:27 AM
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