Thu
Apr 22 2010 4:30pm

Tor's 30th: T-1: Into the Future

Our final Tor retrospective question before our actual birthday celebration comes to us courtesy of Kristin (again!) and Jeff Shreve:

Where do you see Tor/science fiction/themselves in another 30 years? What will be your favorite memory from the NEXT 30 years?

The results, including a genuinely science fictional scenario from Beth Meacham, and some input from the younger generation of Toroids, are beneath the cut.

Beth Meacham, Executive Editor (started February 1984):

An ancient, cranky woman wheels herself to her desk as the sun rises, and logs into her slightly old-fashioned 5G home network. She pointedly ignores the corporate devices that serve up a restricted and amazingly inefficient work environment. The morning email brings notes from a half-dozen writers. While she answers those, production sends files for approval, and the art director sends sketches. They look pretty great on the new screen. She fires back corrections and approvals. Everyone is in a different time zone, but they all try to keep the same absolute hours.

The newest Tor ebook line of Genship romances is starting to sell really well, with the extended system net allowing uploads to the Lunar miners and the Genships themselves. It’s like being back in the old days, when she started this crazy business, when mass-market books reached everywhere, and were cheap and easy to buy. With everyone carrying a networked reader of some sort, the books come to them instead of them having to go to the books. It’s made all the difference. Got an hour to kill? Buy a book! Yeah, the books are competing with websites and games and TV, but then they always did. The trick now is to place the right ad on the right sites to grab people’s attention.

The coffee cup is empty. She’s not supposed to drink it anyway. All the mail is answered, so it’s time to nap for a bit before getting to the next novel due to production. She tried retiring, once, 20 years ago. It was too boring. What’s the use of living in the future you once imagined, if you can’t play with it?

Claire Eddy, Senior Editor (started August 1985):

I am proud that most of my professional career has been at Tor. I think that we’ve done some amazing projects, and while one can’t predict what the next big thing in publishing will be, I have a feeling that we will be deep in the thick of whatever changes come our way.

As for the NEXT 30 years? Well, one of our sister companies has a wonderful editor who started her career when she was 60. She’s now over 90, still comes into work every day, and authors would walk over broken glass to have her as their editor.

As long as I have a brain, eyes, and hands that work I plan to be an editor until I drop. There are just too many good stories out there that need to be published

David Hartwell, Senior Editor (started November 1983):

Personally, I hope to be the only 99 year old editor at Tor, still doing old-fashioned hard-copy books for the market that remains for them as objects of beauty and aesthetic satisfaction. As John Milton said of his work, “fit audience, though few.” I can forsee a continuing genre audience for SF, though not necessarily fantasy (only part of which is published as genre now). I do not pretend to be able to estimate the size of that future SF audience. It is my hope that Tor remains a company, and is not collapsed into an imprint of another corporation, as has happened to so many of our distinguished competitors. And it is my hope that in that day Tom Doherty will be the only centenarian publisher.

Justin Golenbock, Senior Publicist (started February 2009):

Fully automated galley mailings! And the first “AI”-written fiction. We gotta get in their brains before the apocalypse.

Liz Gorinsky, Associate Editor (started June 2003):

It seems ridiculously presumptuous to think the book business will look anything like it does today in thirty years. I’m clinging to the vain hope that, even if our end goal no longer resembles books as we recognize them today, people will still be hungry for long-form fictional narratives, and editors will still be needed to curate the vast amounts of content being produced, get it into the hands of the right consumers, and make the books better (we do that sometimes!). Secretly, I also have a crazy fantasy of someday working from an office instead of a desk in a hallway. I’m not holding my breath, but a girl can dream.

Steven Padnick, Editorial Assistant (started November 2007):

Honestly, selfishly, I’m excited that Tor is getting into graphic novel publishing. Not just because that’s literally what I am working on, but also because I feel that comics is, still, an underdeveloped area of publishing, an audience that hasn’t been served by traditional book publishers (who haven’t done them) and traditional comic book publishers (who have focused on superheroes and other genres aimed at adolescent-ish men). I think it’s great in that it gives science fiction and fantasy writers a new medium to tell their stories, and play word against image to create new art. And I think it’s great for comics writers and artists, providing them a new audience and new genres to explore.

On a similar note, I’m looking forward to Tor winning its first Eisner. Or the robot invasion. It’s a toss-up.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Senior Editor and Manager of Science Fiction (started September 1988):

I look forward to publishers getting better at connecting directly with readers. Including us.

More 30th Birthday Musings: Earliest Memories * Funniest Memories * Professional Fans

3 comments
James Frenkel
2. James Frenkel
Thirty years from now I suspect I will be nearing the end of my career.

Tor, I expect, will still be the largest and best SF and fantasy publisher in the U.S., but I also think the formats in which we publish will have gone through a number of changes between now and then. Considering the number of electronic different formats we've seen come and go
in just the past ten years, it seems inevitable that there will be a number of hardware upgrades and consequent new types of display and download software between now and 2040.

In terms of the kinds of books we'll be publishing,
I'm thinking retro-cyberpunk starting to bloom in the post-boomer gen Y nostalgia market, and perhaps a revival of the hard-SF/New Space Opera classics line that faltered when it was tried in the abortive micro-graphics novel line.

Three-D Graphic novels, however, will be flourishing, especially the 30D Paranormal Graphic Novels series, with a number of different levels of heat.

On the production side, we may finally start to see the first chips imported from the asteroid belt by then; that should bring down plant costs, and also help the fulfilment of our ebooks.

There will doubtless be new formats for our hardcopy books, but what they will be like, I have no clue. Maybe some of the changes in wifi, virtual reality and other electronic media that Vernor Vinge suggests in his novel RAINBOWS END will be around then.

I'd like to think people will still read mass-market paperbacks, hardcovers, trade paperbacks. Only time will tell . . .
James Frenkel
3. mcharity
Thirty years from now? Let's see. A third of a lifetime. A human generation and a bit. A few presidents. A few wars. Some improved tech. For guidance, we can look back on a similar period of change. 2010 minus 30. Say the period from 1980 to present?

30 years. Of quickening humanity. More than 200 billion person-years total. Little of it subsistence agriculture, the main occupation of the 20th C. So not 1980. What period might be less misleading? Now minus n cumulative person-years? Say a period from the mid-1800's to present?

30 fraking years! Of advanced and accelerating technology. Here in the future. Google vs paper card catalogs and tiny local stacks. Students doing in weeks what a few years earlier would have taken professionals a decade. Things becoming possible which earlier simply weren't. Communities of support growing across the world. How large an analogical impact does all that, combined, have? 10x? 100x? More? So when does that put us? The period since sometime first millennium? BC? Earlier? How much has changed since then?

Thirty years from this current present. A present where science fiction struggles to reflect even technologies already in mass deployment. A present with pervasive science illiteracy. A present where current research results, for work already done, almost never appears in the societal dialog, or even in science fiction. Not even current R&D efforts, let alone research in progress, or anticipated. A science fiction which sometimes declares "anticipating the future, and helping society come to grips with it? That's not our problem. SF is just a setting to explore timeless human behavior".

Timeless, maybe. Certainly many people in 1900, at the the dawn of the 'sure to be amazing and different' 20th C, misunderstood how in many ways not different it would be.

But it seems clear a great many choices will be made in these next 30 years. Important choices. By a society still dreamingly unaware they are coming. A society prone to violent panic when startled.

So, in answer to your question, perhaps thirty years from now, the people and institution of Tor will look back with profound pride. Pride at having tried... to become less dreamingly unaware. Pride at working with insight and dedication, to help humanity understand itself, its coming choices, and to meet them well. Or perhaps not. The choice, as they say, is yours.

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