The Hardest Part: Daniel M. Kimmel on Shh! It’s a Secret

Daniel M. Kimmel’s last book, a collection of sf film criticism entitled Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work; it also contained Kimmel’s review of Them!, a 1954 film about atomic bomb radiation creating giant ants which first appeared in Bull Spec #6. Now he’s back with another book, this time his debut novel, in which Kimmel takes his often funny and insightful comments about Hollywood and sf filmmaking and turns it into a comedic sf tale Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic, Jan 15). It’s got some pretty nice blurbs, including being called “An absolute joy.” by no less than Robert J. Sawyer. I’m very glad to welcome Kimmel “back” to Bull Spec with this contribution to The Hardest Part guest column.

By Daniel M. Kimmel: “It’s Magic”

Last January I noted on my blog that I was typing anew the 300 page manuscript to my novel which my publisher has agreed to read and consider for publication. I no longer had access to the computer file and my agent could not locate her copy. It was a process that was going to take several weeks.

Now I have no idea of who chooses to read my blog entries and was surprised to hear from my friend David. He had offered to scan the printed copy of the manuscript that I had which I had decided was a short term solution. If my publisher liked the novel, we would still need it in an editable format. He wondered why I had decided to pass on scanning, and then he asked if I knew what OCR was.

Orange County Register? Old Colony Railroad? Orthodox/Conservative/Reform? I couldn’t imagine any of these had anything to do with my problem so I said I had no idea. It turns out to stand for Optical Character Recognition. Apparently it is a computer program that can scan a PDF file and convert its letters and numbers into a Word file. That, of course, solved my problem.

David got the manuscript from me on a Saturday night. I was away on Sunday. I came home Monday and found I could quickly edit, revise and compile the manuscript. In two days the job was done and the manuscript was sent off to my agent for submission. With some minor revisions and a title change it was accepted, and is now released as Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide.

David, of course, receives prominent thanks in the acknowledgements even though I have no idea of what he did or how it worked. What was clear was that Arthur C. Clarke was correct when he noted that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. David claimed he used OCR software. For all I know he burned incense and sacrificed a chicken.

All I know is that it worked and for that he has my undying gratitude.

——

Daniel M. Kimmel is past president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. His reviews appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for 25 years and can now be found at Northshoremovies.net.  He is local correspondent for Variety, the “Movie Maven” for the Jewish Advocate and teaches film at Suffolk University. He writes on science fiction films for Space and Time magazine and has appeared in Cinefantastique, Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. His book on the history of FOX TV, The Fourth Network received the Cable Center Book Award. His other books include a history of DreamWorks, The Dream Team, and  I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies.  He was nominated for a Hugo Award for  Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies. His latest is his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide.


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