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Author Topic: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?  (Read 1128 times)

Offline Schneiderman

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2019, 11:39:05 pm »
That is indeed the way to approach the issue, it is largely about networking and building relationships with fellow enthusiasts and people who work or have access to the numerous archives and libraries to supplement your own research. The standard response that 'I do not have the time/money/resources to do it myself' is too easy, if you have the will you will find a way. It will still take time, of course, but then all hobbies do.

Offline Arjen

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2019, 01:53:39 am »
[in reply to Pasoleati]If you care so much about what books should be written, write them yourself. The one arrogant person here is you.

That is a horrible attitude to have, and quite despicable.  I have ideas on books I'd like to see written, but I don't have the time, money or resources to do it.  There are professional writers out there whose job it is to write the books, and they are the ones who are equipped to do so.  Calling someone "arrogant" who is not equipped to do so is entirely the wrong thing to say to somebody; I'd consider it an insult.
My emphasis. Most of the aviation books I have bought over the years were written by people whose bills were paid by their day job. There are professional writers out there, most of the fiction I have bought is by writers who live off the proceeds of their books. I imagine some of those writers are very mindful of what sells and what won't, and adapt their writings accordingly. However, if you want to write a smash hit, or just a potboiler to pay your rent, writing about aviation is way out in left field.

So why write about aviation at all? Because most of the writers that do, have something they want to share. I do not write books, but my brother has written one - it's not about aviation - sorry, guys. It took him ten years to research and write, while holding - there's that thing again - a day job. He chose the subject because he had a contribution to make to his field of knowledge, and it earned him a doctorate at the ripe age of 62. Plus the satisfaction of a job well done.

I would like a book about the 109 that spells out how Willy Messerschmitt designed it for ease of production, the process that led to the DB 600 and what kind of machinations happened during the competition that led to the 109's selection as *the* new German fighter. I haven't found it yet, I don't have the money to have a 'professional' write it for me, or the gumption to write it myself. In the meantime, I pick up gems like The Sycamore Seeds.

Aside from that 109 book, I would also like my mortgage to evaporate and trappist beer that will not give me a hangover if drunk by the barrel. A man can dream.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2019, 01:14:50 am by Arjen »

Offline GTX

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2019, 11:02:17 am »

There's a fundamental misunderstanding of how aviation book publishing and writing works today. Tony Buttler makes a living as a writer, but most of the aviation writers I know don't. Its a hobby, a passion, and rarely even pays the writer back the costs incurred to research it, let alone make them money to live on. Therefore, to a large degree, the books that get published are on topics that someone decided to research for their own interest. Publishers aren't deciding "we can make lots of money by publishing a book on American Airlifter Projects, lets commission someone to write it". Someone with an interest in a topic approaches the publisher and says "I've been researching this book for 5 years, are you interested in publishing it?".


Well put Paul.

Offline PaulMM (Overscan)

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2019, 02:03:17 pm »

The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.

I thought about this a bit (I've studied history) and surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"
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Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2019, 03:44:14 pm »
surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"

Famous people often have no more secrets or surprises. Someone you've never heard of is nothing *but* new information.
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Offline newsdeskdan

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2019, 03:46:52 pm »

The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.

I thought about this a bit (I've studied history) and surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"

Someone may well correct me on this, but in my view it's actually much easier to write a truly complete book on the Bachem Natter than the Bf 109. And this state of affairs has nothing to do with the personal preferences or working practices of authors.
Records relating to the early development of all the major in-service Luftwaffe types are unfortunately very thin on the ground - very little from the German aircraft manufacturers during the 1930s appears to have survived. It's unclear whether the Allies binned all the earlier material as irrelevant, if it was destroyed in air raids (all the German aircraft manufacturers were hit multiple times) or if it was destroyed by the Germans themselves at some point. Whatever the case, most of it would seem to be gone for good.
So those ambitions to know exactly how Willy Messerschmitt designed the 109 - whether it was designed in parallel to the 108, before it, or after it - and the process that led to the DB 600 may forever be thwarted. If you were an author writing about the 109, how willing would you be to say 'no one, including me, actually knows anything much about the precise detail of its original design and development'? Not an easy thing to admit if you're writing a 'definitive' history. Otherwise you're just repeating what other authors have said, which may or may not be correct.
Most of those German aircraft manufacturer records that survived in captivity were evidently returned to the German companies to which they had originally belonged, or their successors, in about 1960. In Blohm & Voss's case, this meant the records arrived in Hamburg just in time to be completely destroyed by the North Sea Flood of 1962. Junkers never got any records back and the Americans don't seem to have had them. No one knows what happened to them. Some Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf material went back and still exists at Airbus - although Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf themselves both underwent the usual aviation company process of mergers and acquisitions which usually results in large bonfires of 'unwanted' files.
The Russians got everything from Heinkel, Siebel and Henschel. Presumably, and I'm guessing here, Erich Bachem got everything from Bachem Werke and kept it safe, including the all-important photo albums and records. Also, the Allies were fascinated by the Natter and gather as much information as they could about it. Not so the 109, which was pretty well known by that point. I'm not saying that producing a definitive history of anything is 'easy'. But you can't make something definitive if the information required to do so no longer exists.
Maybe the 109 and Natter aren't the best examples to use in this thread!
« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 07:45:43 am by newsdeskdan »

Offline Hood

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2019, 04:33:24 am »
Authors should be researching and opening up new streams of information and sharing the fruits of their research if they can.

When I set out to write The Admiralty and the Helicopter everyone said, "helicopter books don't sell" and "mainstream publishers won't touch it". But I set out regardless and Chris kindly gave me the opportunity to write it. Interestingly, around the same time the number of helicopter books did increase slightly but still a poor percentage of the overall.
I had never seen many of the details of British naval helicopter development in print anywhere, nothing about dipping sonar trials or how MATCH was developed, what thinking went behind RN operations or the early design history behind the EH101. I didn't have the space to tell a "definitive" story but its a story that tells you the best nuggets from that research, the things you haven't read elsewhere and that I feel should be better known. Nobody can know everything, I know there is more stuff out there to be unearthed, and much that is lost forever.

As to the meat of this topic, projects Vs major types, I would go with projects. You cannot understand any design process unless you understand the projects, the discarded efforts to reach the final goal and the influences that fed into the design team and the bureaucratic structure surrounding them. A lot of effort went into these projects, arguably the design teams around the world probably spent more time on things that didn't get built than those that did.

Also, publishers only contract for what they think will sell. A book on the Bf 109 is still more likely to get published than a "definitive" history of the Blackburn Botha or the hundreds of other lesser known operational types that often only get mentioned in books dealing with manufacturer's products. Type histories tend to belong more to the modeller market today, there is a surprising depth of coverage of types but of course those books tend to be visual-oriented and picture heavy to serve as modelling guidebooks. Generally, I feel that books dealing with manufacturers, or designers or groups of aircraft are generally more valuable to provide a context. It's a mix and match. I'd rather have 250 books on my shelf covering a range of sources than 20 "definitive" histories that claim to cover everything. Variety is the spice of life.

Offline Schneiderman

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Re: Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?
« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2019, 06:30:50 am »
Authors should be researching and opening up new streams of information and sharing the fruits of their research if they can.

That is certainly what we would all appreciate but I think the use of the word 'should' is inappropriate. Support and encouragement is a better way to go.
Authors are free to carry out whatever research they choose and then to incorporate as much or as little of this as they wish in their work. If they see greater reward in doing vey little and just recycling old material then they and their publishers can certainly do so, and unfortunately a fair percentage of new books are of that type. Hopefully the sales figures and reviews would show this to be a poor approach and not one to be repeated.