The Centennial Souvenir Book
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Author:  JamesGifford [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:36 am ]
Post subject:  The Centennial Souvenir Book

Like the other organizers, I have scads of stories to tell about the effort that went into the Centennial, but the one that comes to mind right now is the nearly miraculous development of the Centennial Souvenir Book (CSB).

As a publications professional, all of the various printed and published things for the event fell to me. (I actually tabbed them, early on, as my major contribution to the effort, and then other needs grew so much that "Publications" became one of my lesser hats.)

About a year out, we had pretty much locked down the format for the event publications. Rather than doing a "program book" that contained the schedule, speaker bios, and all of the special event publishings, we followed what's become common practice and broke the scheduled stuff out into its own booklet. This permitted us to print what became the Souvenir Book with a longer lead time and better quality, while being able to hold off on the schedule book until the last minute. (Actually, it went well past the last minute... a story for another day.)

So about then, with a year to go, I spent a few hours doing one of my favorite parts of such jobs, laying out the design and choosing the font families to use and creating an empty layout (in Adobe InDesign, for the two readers who care about such minutiae) to fill with good stuff.

Then I set it aside. There were a million tasks calling at me.

Around March of 2007, with about three months to go, it occurred to me that I needed to think about print deadlines and suchlike for the CSB. I dug around and found the files and opened... pages and pages of utter blankness. Although we'd discussed the contents, we'd never quite gotten around to acquiring any of it. And there were about two weeks left before the drop-dead, must-go-to-press date. And the organizing team was already swamped with the endless details of final preparations for the event.

Did I panic? I did not.

I freaked.

I started sifting my office and files for things to shovel into the layout to hold the covers apart - which sounds worse that it might have been, as after 20 years of collecting and researching Heinlein I have some damned interesting things around here. If that had been the only option, the CSB would have been at least worthy of the printing effort... but it wouldn't have been anything very special.

When I finally decided I had enough material for an acceptable B-version, I started working on that with one hand while we put out the call to various Heinlein-related institutions and personages. We asked the Heinlein Estate for permission to include some previously unpublished material and images - permission that was speedily and generously granted. Members of the Heinlein family came up with several dozen rare and ultra-rare photos and images. Our stellar lineup of guests put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard) and wrote remembrances of Heinlein that covered completely new ground. (None of them even minded us tapping our toes, looking frequently at our watches and hectoring them for the material... and at least one Very Big Name was on final deadline for a novel.)

And in the end, with my publications workstation leaking smoke into the wee hours as that press deadline marched ever closer... it fell together like shaking a puzzle box and having the darned thing fall out fully assembled. The beautiful pieces so generously provided all meshed so well and complemented each other so thoroughly that I don't think there's any sign that the book simply had not existed two weeks before. I assure you that not one word of my placeholder B material survived. In fact, as I said several times in several places, we had to discard all of the really, really good material... because the truly excellent material crowded it out.

Off to press it went, barely in time - the finished books were delivered to Kansas City early in the week of the event.

In the end, we had 15,000 words of never-before-published Heinlein and over twenty rare photos and images... including the first publication anywhere of the details of his mysterious first wife Elinor. We had 12,000 words of remembrance and recollection from a sterling collection of commentators, most of them telling stories never before widely told. The fascinating thing to me about that commentary is what a complete portrait of Robert Heinlein and his friends, admirers and fans it presents. I don't think it could have done better even with several rounds of mutual reading, editing and fitting-together... and what you see there, folks, is just the lightly-edited first-submission material from each of the contributors. Yet it dovetails into a perfect, near-whole coverage of the topic, with surprisingly little overlap.

We were truly gifted with some magic in those final months of bringing it all together - and the story of how close it came to failing right at the last moment is yet another story, one I probably won't ever tell. Of all the memories and all the souvenirs, the Centennial Souvenir Book is what most neatly and completely sums up all that magic. My fondest hope is that some of the magic shines out each and every time a reader glances through it, for all the years to come.

Author:  NickDoten [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

Jim is this book available to those of us who were unable to attend the centennial? lol let me know first so i can beat the rush !

Author:  JamesGifford [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

Erm erm erm... I didn't intend to make the posting an advertisement. Really.

But yes, the book is still available and while quantities are dwindling (and we are not permitted to reprint it), there are plenty left at the current rate of interest. You can find the purchase page over on the Heinlein Centennial web site. In the interests of discommercialism I will refrain from posting a link here. :D

Author:  NickDoten [ Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

Jim- in the interest of discommercialism will hop over to the centennial website for ordering info ! Thanks for the info

Author:  JackKelly [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

If one may be permitted to ask...

This is off-topic for this thread, but I don't want to usurp the privilege accorded Centennial organizers to decide on thread topics for this section.

How was the decision made to choose the particular photo of Heinlein that graced every banner, card, book, pamphlet, schedule, ad, newsletter, website, etc. associated with the Centennial? It's a good photo, but how was it chosen over, for instance, the one that graces the cover of ARC or the one taken in his library in Hollywood in 1939 or 1940? Am I correct that this photo was taken inside the Bonny Doon house in the late 60's or early 70's?

Some fans can never get enough of this kind of trivia.

Author:  JamesGifford [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

No, it's not off-topic, since it graces the cover of the Book too. (I so rule - nyah, nyah!)

Most of the graphic and design issues fell to me, in part because, well, that's what I do, but also because everything in this effort moved very fast and guerrilla-like or it didn't move at all. There was time and effort available for collaboration and group think on key issues, and I threw out "what if's" whenever I could, but by and large each of us just did what needed to be done and moved on. It worked.

I have access to a very large collection of Heinlein images and photos, some of which are mine and the vast majority of which came through Bill Patterson's access. So early on I started riffling through the pictures trying to find a few that were clear, high-rez, striking and preferably little seen by the public. The Bonny Doon shot won the race by being, IMVHO, one of the very best portraits of Heinlein in all his mature glory but before significant aging started to diminish him. It had been published before, but was at least not one of the two or three jacket photos seen everywhere for decades.

That, and as I said once to Bill, "You know, THAT'S the Heinlein I would have liked to have an hour's chat with."

There were plans to use several photos across the span of event time, but there was never time to choose and implement that idea until the frantic rush of assembling the CSB cover.

Author:  JohnBlack [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

James Gifford wrote:

That, and as I said once to Bill, "You know, THAT'S the Heinlein I would have liked to have an hour's chat with."

Did you ever meet him? What were the circumstances? I was still a kid when he died, nonetheless I did save the copy of his obituary which appeared in the Providence Journal (I was living in RI at the time). I don't really know how old you and the rest of the board members are so I don't know if everyone here was too young to have been likely to meet him also.

What is the last known interview that Heinlein gave? What was the topic?

Author:  JamesGifford [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

JohnBlack wrote:
Did you ever meet him?

No. I believe Bill did, very briefly, at a convention. Ditto for Tim. I believe Tina met him in 1976. Negative for Peter unless I'm forgetting something.

I believe his last interview was for a local (San Francisco) newspaper Sunday magazine. I have it in the files somewhere. It's an utterly undistinguished filler piece and I've always regretted that Heinlein, who was so sparing with interviews and the like, gave one to someone who didn't quite seem to understand who Heinlein was.

Author:  PeterScott [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 11:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

No, I didn't meet him; I didn't come over from England until '83. I do have a letter from him though (signed by him, not Ginny).

I liked Jim's rationale for the photo he used. I had commented that the pictures I was used to seeing were not, shall we say, complimentary, and he explained that they were usually the result of being ambushed at a convention hence looking as though he were about to be hit with a hammer.

Author:  JackKelly [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Centennial Souvenir Book

Peter Scott wrote:
I do have a letter from him though (signed by him, not Ginny).

I have a few signed by Ginny but I also received one hand-written note in 1978 or so signed by the man himself. He said something like "Your letter was refreshing because it was completely positive and didn't ask for anything from me." So, I guess that was his reward. Must have really bored.

I regret that I never met him either although I'm certainly old enough to have done so.

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