“Foul matter” is the term of art for the big hunk of paper your publisher ships back to you after your book goes to press: your copyedited manuscript, one or more galley proofs, plus whatever other messy raw material is left over from the editing process.
This is the foul matter for The Mirage, which UPS delivered a couple months ago and which has been sitting on a cabinet in the living room ever since, waiting for me to decide on a more permanent storage solution. Unfortunately for my retirement fund, this stuff isn’t as collectible as it once was. Not long ago, the copyedited manuscript would have been a unique physical object with handwritten corrections. Now, thanks to the evolution of publishing, it’s a printout of a Word file with my responses to the copyeditor typed in comments.
If you’re wondering, “Why even bother to keep the foul matter, when you’ve obviously got an electronic copy of the files on your computer?”, the answer is a combination of inertia, sentimentality, and a compulsive hoarding instinct. It’s also nice to have a record of the editing that won’t need to be updated to Word 2037 format. Or so I tell myself.
Other quick notes:
* Speaking of compulsive hoarding instincts, the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair is this weekend. Tickets are just $5 at the door.
* This week’s PSA, courtesy of @GlennF: Don’t drink liquid nitrogen, even if a professional bartender serves it to you. A teenager in England had to have her stomach removed after doing this. The danger is not just that liquid nitro can freeze and kill living tissue, but that when placed inside a warm container (like your stomach) it expands rapidly, as in this video demonstration.