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Requesting Submissions for Sevagram Site

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All of the covers and most of the items appearing on the old Earthlink A.E. van Vogt website were done by myself. Most of this was due to the severe lack of hosting space and my very limited web-designing skills. Now, however, I have unlimited web space, and am using a much more modern array of web technologies. These two factors together make it much, much easier to add new material and update existing pages. So I’m taking this opportunity to ask for you to submit material for the A.E. van Vogt Sevagram site on Icshi.net.

But what does this mean, exactly? Basically, I’d like for all interested parties to submit contributions to the site. To date I’ve already featured a handful of contributions by others, namely Alexander Martin Pfleger, Mark McSherry, Denis Dubé, and Daniele Bitossi. I’ve been extremely pleased to be able to host these, and I must say they’ve whetted my appetite (and, I dare say, many of you as well) for additional contributions.

There are several areas I’m particularly keen to see more participation by others:

  • Reviews
  • Summaries
  • Articles
  • Bibliographic Information (especially for foreign editions)
  • Book Covers (again, especially foreign editions)

Previously, the Reviews section only contained reviews on newly-released items related to van Vogt. Now, I’d like to invite anyone to submit reviews on anything written by van Vogt at any stage of his career. All I ask is that reviews be around 500 words minimum (with no maximum limit!), and that they be reasonably well-written and fair-minded. Novels lend themselves best to reviews, but I will also accept reviews of short stories and non-fiction works. Also, there is no limit on how many reviews can be written about a single work. Are there already five dozen reviews of Slan on the website? No problem! I’d always be happy to add more. Every perspective is interesting in its own right.

The same holds true for Summaries of van Vogt’s work, as well as Articles discussing any vanvogtian topic. You should first take a close, hard look at all of the summaries currently online, to give you a good idea of how to write one yourself. Similarly, a small portion of the new Articles section will come online later this week, which should give you a better idea of what kinds of things I have in mind for this new area of the site.

As some of you know, I have plans on creating an all-new web-based bibliography to replace the monstrously outdated Storysource bibliography (which is in the rather cumbersome PDF format). Well, at long last I’ve started work on it. After some experimentation, I’ve come to the conclusion that this new bibliography should have a radically different format than what you’ve previously seen on my website. Instead of the bibliography, covers, and illustrations being scattered across three different pages of the site, with this new bibliography each literary work will have a page of its own. Each page will feature general information about the work in question, along with a gallery-style list of all editions and printings, complete with cover images and any internal illustrations. There will also be a slew of various index pages for quick-and-easy access to specific types of information. This is quite a departure from what you’re used to, but I really do think this new system will work much better than the old one, and will be incalculably easier to update with new information. (Sadly, at present I’m still far short of possessing the technical skills required to create a proper searchable database. Nonetheless, this new bibliography will be a considerable improvement over the old site.)

(At the moment, this new bibliography has the working title The Sevagram Index, though this is subject to change. Also, creating this new bibliography is a huge job, and its completion is still several months away — so don’t hold your breath!)

One of my goals with the new bibliography is to finally begin including information on all foreign-language editions of van Vogt’s works. My coverage of his works published in English is nearly complete, but reliable first-hand information regarding foreign editions is desperately needed. Most information I have access to in this area is extremely patchy and unreliable. The best way you can help out is this: if you own a physical copy of, say, a French edition of Quest for the Future, you could write me an email telling me all about it — the page-count, ISBN, stated printing date (where given), cover price, cover artist (where given), etc. etc. I cannot over-emphasize how helpful even a handful of such references will be. And if you could also include a picture of that edition — either scanned by yourself, or found elsewhere that matches that edition exactly — that would be the icing on the cake. And if you can’t send me an image, even a rough description of the front cover would be much appreciated.

And speaking of images… Previously, I’ve only used scans made from my own book collection. However, there are innumerable editions of van Vogt books that I still do not have in my collection, and indeed never will. In order to expand the site as I would like, I am going to start using images submitted by others.

As many of you have probably already noticed, thanks to the generosity of Magnus Axelsson (creator of the venerable Weird Worlds of A.E. van Vogt website), he’s given me permission to draw upon his vast wealth of van Vogt book covers to use on my own site, since he will no longer be updating his. He also has a large collection of images which he never got around to adding to his site, so it should be exciting to see what’s in store there.

(It should be noted that I will not be using all of these images at once. I’ll just use them one-by-one as I need them, until the rest of the site — particularly the new bibliography — has been renovated.)

You can help out in this regard in a couple of ways: (1) sending me images of van Vogt items you’ve found on the web; or (2) sending me scans of books in your own collection.

Obviously, I prefer the latter — sending me scans. For one thing, images found on the web are often of very low quality, and have little or no accompanying bibliographic information. A scan you make yourself, on the other hand, will be of higher quality and have some good, solid, reliable information with it.

I should note that I am extremely persnickety about the quality of cover scans. Some might even say it borders on the realm of insane perfectionism. Although I will accept a scan of a cover that is not already present on the site, in an ideal situation the raw scan you send me should be done at around 300 dpi, with no scan lines or other artifacts, and with good color-quality and color-accuracy. For the final on-site image, I usually then shrink this huge image down a tiny bit to sharpen details, and to smooth-out pixel clusters. But all things considered, 300 dpi really is the best size for raw scans. I understand that this is not always practical or possible, or if you’re you’re not exactly a whiz at making scans. That’s fine, I understand — this was a skill I myself struggled with and slowly developed over the course of several years before I finally got the hang of it. So please submit whatever you can, but please don’t put yourself through the meat-grinder trying to create the “perfect” scan in an attempt to satisfy my irrational image-quality criteria. All help in this area, done at whatever skill level, is welcome!

But if scanning isn’t something you can do, submitting images found on the web has its uses too. Do you trawl the internet every now and then looking for nifty van Vogt covers? Have you built up a collection of such images? I’d love to see them, and could undoubtedly also use many of them, either by posting them on the website (when the information about it is reliable enough to pin down to a specific edition) or by using the image as reference material.

Also, keep in mind that it’s not just the front cover I’m interested in. Back covers, spines, title pages, copyright pages — all are of interest, and all contain valuable information. Again, just send whatever you can!

(Note: At the moment, all of my scans on Sevagram are the old, lower-quality ones that appeared on the old Earthlink site. When I have the time, I intend to go through and re-scan my entire van Vogt collection, including numerous items that never appeared on the Earthlink site.)

I should also mention that I still hold the highly unrealistic hope of some day owning a copy of every edition and printing of every one of van Vogt’s books ever to appear in English. A fool’s dream, perhaps, but a dream nonetheless. So please be aware that if you submit an image of an English-language book, that some day it may be replaced by a scan made from my own collection. But my main need is covers from foreign-language editions, which I will never really collect in earnest. So all in all, it would probably be a good idea not to spend too much of your time submitting images of English-language editions.

(There is also the possibility of someone else sending me a higher-quality image of the same edition you already provided an image for, in which place I will in all likelihood replace yours with the newer higher-quality one. If this happens, please don’t take it personally!)

A special note to my fellow van Vogt friends from other countries: Do you speak only a smattering of English, but you’d like to submit a review, summary, or article? Don’t worry, I have quite a bit of experience lending a hand in this area — I’ve helped smooth out the contributions from a French Canadian (Denis Dubé), a German (Alexander Martin Pfleger), and an Italian (Daniele Bitossi), none of whom speak English as their first language. I’m sure they won’t mind me mentioning that their original drafts were rather rough around the edges, if it means encouraging others to share their love of all things vanvogtian. I know how difficult it is writing in a foreign language, but please don’t be shy — I’m here to help! If you’re interested, and would like to learn more on how this process actually works, please contact me.

(Irrelevant P.S. — Yes, I did just change the visual theme of my Space Rubbish blog. The old MistyLook theme was rather hard to read at times, while this new Licourice one is much clearer and tidier.)

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