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I was going to say something substantive today, but 48 hours ago my editor emailed me the galley proof of SATURN'S CHILDREN. Emailed? Yes: it's a PDF, this time around, and in recognition of the fact that they've dragged their company kicking and screaming into the 1990s, they've helpfully shaved two weeks off the time allocated for the author (that's me) to grovel over the 330-odd pages in search of the typos they've helpfully concealed in it.

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it (in more senses than one).



Can you mark up a PDF?

Or, are they assuming that there are few enough typos that you can just write them separately?


No, but I can flag page/line number corrections in a separate file. It's a fairly clean galley, and there's a freelance proofreader working it over (on dead tree); my check is mostly to spot any errors that may have crept in when the copy edits were being done.


Story of my life, man. They've been doing that to indexers for a few years, now.

I SO wish I had a program which let me mark up PDFs on a table like it were paper. Even better, it'd then copy the markings out to a separate file. That'd cut the amount of work I have to do in making an index by at least half.


So this is your obligatory Heinlein pastiche? Cool.

Is this an accurate depiction of the cover?


Actually, you can mark up a PDF...if you pay (and pay, and pay) for Acrobat Full. Or you can download a pirated copy...with free extra malware.

I hate the oughts.


A cover for Saturn's Children is up on Amazon. I have to say this is one of the ugliest covers I've ever seen. So...did you piss off the art director over at Ace?


David @4: 'fraid so. Joe @6: I used up my "author throws toys out of pram, objects to cover" Brownie points on HALTING STATE (they were going to do something truly ... disturbing) so when they shoved the purple-haired cheesecake my way my protests fell on deaf ears. If you want a tasteful cover you'll need to buy the British hardcover (which is due out within a couple of weeks of the US one).

Randolph: I am a Linux/OS/X user, and not terribly interested in giving Adobe money when there's a perfectly good PDF renderer built into the GUI of my desktop.


Gee, that's a fabulous cover. I'll look for it in the "Men's Interest" section of the bookshop rather than "Science Fiction". Way to go for the thinking girl market. Way to get me NOT to read this one on the train ... unless of course I'm wearing my "I'm an utter dickhead" t-shirt. Embarrassing.

I'll bet they've also organised a cringeingly trite author endorsement:

"An exciting novel full of intrigue and surprises. I loved it!" - Leo Tolstoy


Andrew @8: as I noted, (a) Orbit are doing a much less, ahem, exciting cover for the UK edition, and (b) it's a dust jacket; you can leave it at home. (Although I wonder what they're going to do with the mass market paperback ...?)


I don't think it's so bad, really. Although as the difference in publication is only few weeks, I'll wait for the UK one anyway.

The best cover of yours still has to be the softback UK Halting State one, Charlie..


If I saw that cover, and didn't know who you were, I wouldn't even bother picking the book up to page through it. Leaving aside the subject matter, the execution is something I'd expect to see from a high school art student.


I think I'll have the UK one. It does remind me of at least one Heinlein cover though.


Regarding the cover, after my recent SF binge, it strikes me that Orbit usually do a very good job on yours, even if HALTING STATE's cover is a bit of a MICROSERFS pastiche. SF in general suffers from dire covers, the sort you don't want to bring on public transport.


Robert @11, the execution is actually a high-end 3D rendering that's designed to look cheesy, I'm told. (I suspect they blew a whole hunk of dosh on it.) I think the problem you've got is with the aesthetic concept.


Is it me, or does the purple haired young lady on the US cover have a squint?


Well, yes, it's clearly designed to be cheesy. The cheescake babe with jumpsuity thing open down to her navel was a pretty dang common motif on SF covers a while back; I'd have to go paw through my paperbacks for examples, but it really wasn't uncommon.

Perhaps most pointedly, I think some of the late Heinlein covers like Friday did this.

The problem, of course, is that there is a very, very fine line between parodying old-style SF cover cheesecake and simply putting cheesecake on the cover. Actually, I'm not sure how to make it work. I know what they were trying to do and it fits the book but there is no obvious marker for "THIS IS A JOKE" on that cover.

I used to buy most UKian authors from It wasn't actually too bad if I bought 6-8 books at a time to save on shipping. But now that the US Dollar is worth approximately the same amount as toilet paper I'm going to have to buy the US version.


You have my sympathy Charlie. I know writers generally have very little control over cover art. It must be frustrating to pour yourself into a book and then have it saddled with an albatross.

I agree with Robert @11; if I didn�t know who you were I would never consider picking up this book because the plastic space-bimbo with antigravity breasts factor is too high.

It�s embarrassing to think someone actually thought this was going to encourage book sales. What a shame.


David @16: I yelled at them to do something to signal "this is a joke" -- if nothing else, just matt in a moonscape and a domed city over that flat plane behind her (so that she's clearly looking extremely comfortable in an inappropriate environment) -- but no ...


It's embarrassing to think someone actually thought this was going to encourage book sales. What a shame.

Actually it may well encourage book sales. I have it on decent authority that babes, exploding spaceships, dragons, and nazis really do sell books.


David: s/someone/committee/

And yes, Marketing loved it. So I am told. And so did my agent.


I always thought there should be an anti-marketing jihad in literature somewhere. Some story where everyone turns on the snivelling little liars and nails them to a wall with something to the point.

"Absolute Power" was akin to "Yes, Minister" - more documentary than farce.


Ian, there are two types of publishing house (among the large ones, that is): those where Editorial answers to Marketing, and those where Marketing answers to Editorial.

At Ace, Editorial answers to Marketing. At Orbit, I think Marketing answers to Editorial (although they have a tendency to promote folks from Marketing into Editorial). And at Tor, who the hell knows? (Tor confuses me. But I gather they confuse everyone, so that's okay.)


Charlie@14: Maybe it's just the photo, but it looks like a last-generation Poser rendering. The skin has the same plastic texture (or lack thereof). Likewise the hair and clothes. The specularity is wrong (if I've got the right technical term -- it's been almost a decade since I've worked on a proper 3d modelling platform).

That may have been what the publisher wanted, but it doesn't look like they needed to spend a lot of money to get it. Leaving aside the pose and the clothing (and yes, I recognize the similarity to the paperback cover of Friday), the technical details scream "low budget" to me.


Robert: All of what you mention strikes me as deliberate. The protagonist, who I assume is pictured, is an artificial femmebot. I'm guessing that's a sex android, like a Real Doll that walks and talks. So the artificiality is likely deliberate and, again, reminiscent of cheesy SF covers of yesteryear.

Dunno why I'm defending it; like I said, I don't think the cover works either. But it doesn't work not because it is rendered poorly but because they've too closely copied what they are trying to parody to the point that it isn't a parody anymore.


(somewhat long)

The free Adobe Reader can be used to annotate pdf files. Instructions excerpted below:

To view, print and annotate your article you will need Adobe Reader version 7 (or higher). This program is freely available for a whole series of platforms that include PC, Mac, and UNIX and can be downloaded from The exact system requirements are given at the Adobe site:

PDF ANNOTATIONS (for this you will need Adobe Reader version 7 or higher) To make annotations in the PDF file, go to the main Adobe toolbar and change the cursor from a hand symbol to the normal cursor by clicking on the "Select" button in the menu bar at the top. When you open the PDF file using Adobe Reader, the Commenting toolbar should be displayed automatically; if not, click on "Tools", select "Commenting" (or "Comment & Markup"), then click on "Commenting toolbar" (or Show Comment & Markup toolbar in Acrobat Reader 8, or Show Commenting Bar on the Mac). If these options are not available in your Adobe Reader menus then it is possible that your Adobe version is lower than version 7 or the PDF has not been prepared properly....

TO INDICATE INSERT, REPLACE, OR REMOVE TEXT o Insert text Click the "Text Edits" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Click to set the cursor location in the text and simply start typing. The text will appear in a commenting box. You may also cut-and-paste text from another file into the commenting box. Close the box by clicking on "x" in the top right-hand corner. It can be deleted by right clicking (for the PC, ctrl-click on the Mac) on it and selecting "Delete". o Replace text Click the "Text Edits" button on the Commenting Toolbar. To highlight the text to be replaced, click and drag the cursor over the text. Then simply type in the replacement text. The replacement text will appear in a commenting box. You may also cut-and-paste text from another file into this box. To replace formatted text (an equation for example) please Attach a file (see below). o Remove text Click the "Text Edits" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Click and drag over the text to be deleted. Then press the delete button on your keyboard. The text to be deleted will then be struck through. HIGHLIGHT TEXT / MAKE A COMMENT Click on the "Highlight" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Click and drag over the text. To make a comment, double click on the highlighted text and simply start typing. ATTACH A FILE Click on the "Attach a File" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Click on the figure, table or formatted text to be replaced. A window will automatically open allowing you to attach the file. To make a comment, go to "General" and then "Description" in the "Properties" window. A graphic will appear indicating the insertion of a file. LEAVE A NOTE / COMMENT Click on the "Note Tool" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Click to set the location of the note on the document and simply start typing. Do not use this feature to make text edits. REVIEW To review your changes, click on the "Show" button on the Commenting Toolbar. Choose "Show Comments List". Navigate by clicking on a correction in the list. Alternatively, double click on any mark-up to open the commenting box. UNDO / DELETE CHANGE To undo any changes made, use the right click button on your mouse (for PCs, Ctrl-Click for the Mac). Alternatively click on "Edit" in the main Adobe menu and then "Undo". You can also delete edits using the right click (Ctrl-click on the Mac) and selecting "Delete"."


The cover looks weird 'n cheesy now, but in a few years time when they're fitting Angelia Jolie for a purple wig and Stross is out buying a restored Aston Martin DB5 with the film rights it may look different. Hopefully anyway...


David@24: Still doesn't work for me. I see what you're getting at, but the problem is that I've seen too many pictures that have used similar art to try to represent real people. So it doesn't say "artificial femmebot" to me, it says "poorly rendered woman".

Anyway, it's Charlie's book, and his argument with the publisher. I'm just saying why I would have left the book sitting on the shelf…


If you have a Tablet PC, use PDF Annotator to mark up PDFs in ink.


Mike, that's a Windows app, isn't it? I gather you didn't read comment #7. Here is a helpful hint: before making helpful suggestions read the earlier comments. (Yes, I am mildly hung-over and irritable this morning.)


Charlie, you may want to look at the linux programs "PDFedit" and "Xournal". They should be in your distro's repositories. Xournal requires a stylus, I believe.

Via googling "linux pdf annotate". No experience with any of them.


Femmebot or gynoid? The latter was an inspired pointer to the mistake SF had been making for at least one generation, at least in naming.


Lighten up, people. If it's really a Heinlein homage then two-dimensional references to sex are pretty much part of the territory.

Friday was wearing something pretty similar on the front of the hardcover edition, too. And leaning on a flying car IIRC.


Why hasn't anyone metioned that Friday is one of the worst books, SF or otherwise, EVER published.


gmilton @33: methinks you exaggerate a little. Ever read anything by Lionel Fanthorpe?


Fortean bloke? No. I liked the late-night C4 programme though. I know I exaggerate somewhat but I read Friday & some other late Heinlein when I was in my early teens & it was so abominable that it put me off his stuff for years. I have since read some of his supposedly better stuff but it hasn't overcome my initial hatred of him. Put me off red-headed girls too but I came to my senses there. He still sounds like a smug, arrogant git to me.


Charlie, #7: sorry; my response was intended for Ed Davies.


So it was Americans who picked the purple girl cover? What were they thinking? Actually you explained what they were thinking which seems to boil down to "ohh....Purple...Big Breasts...My Brain is Broken..." I can't read this book in public or in front of my children because the cover is not ironic, it's just tasteless. On behalf of all Americans, I apologize for our Marketing people - They are descended from Puritans which is probably why they don't have a good grasp on what is real humor. This book cover is really only the tip of the marketing iceberg. Will the Marketing Atrocities over here ever end?! Dear Lord, won't somebody think of the children? Do you think Canada takes in refugees from Marketing Campaigns gone bad?


Paula, that's the dust jacket for the hardcover. It comes off. There is time for them to see sense before it goes on the mass market paperback a year down the line. Meanwhile, the British cover (from Orbit) is cheescake-free (but not on the web yet, and the cost of importing from might prove unpalatable at the current exchange rate).



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 14, 2008 9:59 PM.

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