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Tabula Rasa

The Yattering

Tabula Rasa#5, January 1995

You know, it's different writing these days to what it was, oh, fifty years ago. And for once I'm not talking about people's attitudes. You see, for whatever is classed as horror, they don't seem to change much.

Perhaps fewer people (outside the genre anyway), are likely to use the term 'blasphemous'; although they might rephrase that overwhelming feeling of shocked rightness in any number of ways.

Having said so much, I state I'm actually thinking of the mechanics. Remember that horrible moment at the end of Barton Fink when you realise the paper he's handed over is the only copy of his work? That he hasn't got it backed up somewhere, or even a photocopy? I'm not even certain carbon paper was around in the 20's -- gives a whole lot of clout to the phrase 'manuscript'. And there would have been even more only a few decades earlier, when it would inevitably have been in the author's handwriting. We're still a society that puts a great deal of value on signatures, and collects autographs for goodness' sake. But do we still have original manuscripts? If you're looking for the 'manuscript' of, I would say the majority of books written today, you'd better hope the author was real untidy about their hard drive. In most cases, there is no 'original', there is only the finished product; already formatted, already 'produced'.

And this can then be duplicated with a facility unimaginable outside the electronic system. Of course, the electronic media have a whole pantheon of disasters of their own, in keeping with the deity principle, ie. there's nothing humankind has built that can't be fucked up by a good bolt of lightning. But what does this mean for the work?

Probably nothing. What most of the new technologies, at least by the time they reach the Grace Brothers Home Entertainment section, actually provide are the tools for more people to produce professional 'quality' - but the fact is that not everyone can write, just as not everyone can take a decent photo or do anything with a video camera. I think the status and the myth of 'author' has a kudos that will have to remain.


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