East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

How did it go?


Do how did it go?, you ask.
And I say, my experiment of online writing, followed by an in-depth editing session by my friend Hell was quite instructive.

As I said in my previous post, to give myself some constraints, I picked up the Smith-Waite tarot I received a few weeks back as a gift, I shuffled it1 and picked three random cards: The King of Cups, Temperance and Death.
Nice start, what?

You’ll remember, maybe, the short story I wrote last summer, based on a 500-words test I had done for a publisher.
The Demoness with White Hair.
I decided to go back to that setting and those characters, and I started writing, with a handful of strange words and a few rough ideas.
Constraints, you see?
A crafty, artsy choice, just like the King of Cups.

I made good time, and even found a moment to brew me a cup of tea, and by 9.00 pm I was done, with 4000+ words in the can in about three hours.
Ugly, as all first drafts are ugly, but serviceable.

Time to leave the scene to Hell.
A measured, reliable professional, just like Temperance.
He did two passes over the text, and it was while he was doing the second that we found out the punters that were watching the proceedings through a link I had shared could not see the editing.

It figures: the changes proposed by the editor are a private matter between writer and editor, and even Google holds sacred such a relationship.

So, to allow the audience to actually see what Hell was doing, I had to change the settings of the document, granting editor’s privileges to everybody.
What could go wrong, right?

Hell fixed my mistakes and tightened my text, and by ten minutes to 11.00 it was all over. We were congratulating each other and discussing how and when to do it again, when we both got a mail…

Because you see, every time an editor modifies the text in Google Docs, Google sends a notification to the owner of the document.
The mail features the name of the person who made the changes, his Gmail address, what he changed and at what time.
And it was so that we found out that one of the members of our audience (a guy whose name was in the mail, of course), was erasing the text, striking through line after line, and then pressing “accept”.
And by 23.15 everything was gone.
Cancelled, the lot of it.
The text, my asides to the punters, Hell’s revisions and his notes.
Leaving behind a single word, in red


That translates, roughly, as Sickening.

After the author and the editor, we got ourselves a f*cking critic.

Now of course I had backups of the file – I saved the document in Google Drive and on my hard disk as soon as Hell announced his job was done – and of course you can roll-back any editorial change, including a complete deletion of the text. The story will go through a second draft, and then I’ll translate it and share it with my Patrons. Nothing was lost. It’s a change that does not cause grief, just like the tarot card of Death.
But this is not an extenuating circumstance.
Because the gesture in itself is sick.
It’s a gratuitous act of vandalism, it’s a sharp and nasty expression of hatred.
It’s violent and evil like a schoolyard bully, the sort of immature sociopath that sets cats on fire for a lark. The sort that punches you, and then if you protest accuses you of not getting the joke.

Screenshot from 2018-09-27 23-27-12

Click roll-back and everything goes back as it was before.

Now I can accept criticism.
You don’t survive in this business if you can’t handle criticism and rejection slips, and boy I got my share of those.
Also, it’s all right for people not to like my work.
You can’t please everybody.
And I can see sometimes I’m not the most amiable of individuals.
Again, you can’t please everybody – and anyway it’s the story that counts, not the writer.
So it’s OK if you don’t like my work, and vocally so, or if you think I’m a schmuck. It happens, it comes with the territory.


But that act, deleting five hours of hard work by two professionals, while there’s people actually reading the thing, just to experience the fleeting frisson of a rare erection, that is unforgivable.
It doesn’t matter if it is futile and stupid and it really did no damage.
It’s an absolute, nasty act of disrespect and spite.
It’s the mark of the psychopath.
And I’ve got his name, Google-certified.
I know him.
Now, what should I do?
I don’t know.

  1. call me weird, but there’s nothing like shuffling a pristine, high-quality deck of cards for the first time. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

8 thoughts on “How did it go?

  1. Even in a language that’s not mine, I have a choice of words for such a fellow. I will not use any of it here, mostly out of respect for you and Germano. This kind of act calls for a psychiatric evaluation. On the other hand, such an experiment is a gem and I can’t wait to read the story.


  2. Some people take too much seriously the “Banned Books Week”.
    Or, more likely, didn’t really gets what is means.


  3. Some people just suck and that’s all there is to it. Whatever you wind up doing, I’m sure it’ll be original.

    On another note; “the fleeting frisson of a rare erection”, would you mind if I stole that?


  4. I was excited to see you had written about 4,000 words in about 3 hours. Awesome!

    Then I was horrified to see that someone was deleting your work. That is a despicable thing to do.


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