Book Formatting Review: Mirabile

Okay, this is going to be a slightly odd one. I love the setting. But I give the paperback 5 stars, and the Kindle version 4, or 4.5 at best.

I’ve read both the original paperback put out in the 90s, and now the Kindle version. And while the stories in both are good, if you want to see how to put a bunch of short stories together as a novel, you’re going to have to track down the old paperback version.

Mirabile started out as separate short stories all in the same setting in an SF magazine. As far as I can tell, the Kindle version simply collects those stories together. The older paperback version, on the other hand, edited said stories in three important ways. It added bits of a framing story around all the original short stories to tie them all together; bits that portray Mama Jason telling all of these stories to her friends and relatives as life goes on. It edited out the repeated information on chimeras and Dragon’s Teeth, so we get an explanation in the first story and just added details in the others. (The original short stories have an explanation in each story – necessary for readers who might be finding this setting for the first time picking up a new magazine, annoying if you’re reading it all together.) And it edited punctuation and italics alllll over the place, along with a few other word choices, making the dialogue sound more emotional and like natural speech.

If you want a book to work coherently, these are crucial edits.

I don’t know why the Kindle version has the “magazine version” of the stories. Possibly a copyright problem? Or someone not having access to the paperback text? Something else? But it was a shock, and not one I could have anticipated from the sample, given samples typically cover about 12%, the first story covers about 15%, and the first framing bits would have come after that. But jumping directly from the first story to “Return of the Kangaroo Rex”, without the little bits of family teasing each other about what was and wasn’t true, was jarring.

Also one minor continuity problem. While in the paperback Susan’s age isn’t mentioned much beyond late teenager, the magazine stories state her to be 16, then 18, then 16 again in later stories. You’d think, even if someone were putting the magazine stories all together in one spot, they’d catch that little detail and make a few discreet snips. Oy.

So. That’s what I’ve got. Just so you know what you’re looking at, when you find one version or the other!

12 thoughts on “Book Formatting Review: Mirabile

  1. Sometimes, as you mention, that sort of situation’s a result of copyright limitations. Sometimes, it’s because of which texts the people putting the thing together had available to them (this is a thing with some of the reprints of Heinlein’s works, where he had multiple versions of some of his short stories and some of them are rare enough even the library of congress gets confused over the source anthologies having the same name…). Sometimes, however, it’s snobishness “we’re using the _canon_/original-printed version, not some ‘fixed’ version, so there!”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It also might be a procedural thing.

    If they had a digital copy of thousands of magazines and put together a program to collate stories out of them, they might not feel it’s worth it to edit them individually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Expanding on this idea, it’s also possible there was a gap in the workflow.

      Some random intern was responsible for scanning/typing/transferring the stories, but they don’t have the authority to change things. (Every once in a while you’ll see a “correction” that’s… not.)

      Then it’s handed to a project manager who delivers it.
      If nobody was in charge of editing…

      One of the common issues I run into with my job is that we will find things that are obviously wrong, but they aren’t wrong *enough* to be sent back for corrections, and we aren’t allowed to fix them.

      Figuring out who is responsible for any given correction is a process in itself.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Mirabile started out as separate short stories all in the same setting in an SF magazine.

    Only faintly related, but I was amused to realize that I “heard” this in text form, and you “said” it in verbal form. 😀

    Which is a completely different consideration for formatting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s how I got around my disgraphia; I can “speak” in text without difficulty, even if I can’t easily _write_, but that comes at the cost of different formatting.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Heh. I am much better “speaking” in text myself – in person I trip over my tongue and sometimes stutter, and need more time to think than most people to talk.

        And yes, some of that is near literal tripping-over-tongue. Coordinating all the muscles needed for clear speech is a lot harder than most people think….


      2. So kinda the mirror of mine. For me, the “tripping” is when I try to write as writing. Whether that’s with keyboard, or with pen and paper, doesn’t matter. It still trips me up. But I found that if I speak, I have no problem with converting my thoughts to external symbols, and that it doesn’t seem to matter if I’m speaking with sound, or with gesture, or with “writing”, so long as it is in the form of speech. Which is why I write with “spoken english” rather than “written english” rules. Different brain pathways for “writing” than for “speech” at much earlier steps in the process than the ones for the actual physical output manipulation. To use computer terms, the drivers for the peripherals like the printer are fine, I just don’t have the full set of office software, so I have to use powerpoint instead of word to make documents, and then route the output to the printer instead of the screen…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The editor/publishing house of the original paperback might have had some flavor of copyright over those decisions, that the kindle version didn’t want to pay for too.

    Those kinds of differences between types always seems to come down to money.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The blurb for the Kindle version should have mentioned it, given that Kagan is dead and cannot comment….

    Ah. The 1991 novel edition was by Tor, and the short story reprint was by Baen. During Tor’s period of grabbiness for rights, in the first place; and in their period of not deigning to sell back rights to authors, in the second place. Since many staffers at Tor now regard Barn as the antichrist, I imagine that reprinting the short stories, with the simpler rights situation, was the better option.

    Liked by 1 person

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