Tales from the Before Time: Paper

They’ve been promising us the paperless office for more than two decades now, and I’m starting to think that as futuristic promises go, that one is up there with the personal jetpacks and the flying cars.

That being said, while we haven’t yet got a paperless office, we do have (at least in the writing business) a less-paper office.  Most of the science fiction and fantasy short fiction markets these days prefer online submissions — The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only major magazine I know of that still requires paper.  (F&SF is still our first try on those occasions when we have a short story to send out, because they’re a good fast rejection.)  As for novels, it’s been over a decade, I think, since we submitted a finished project in paper form.

I have fond memories, though, of papers past.  I remember the narrow-ruled composition paper I used to write my first, dreadful novel in the summer after I graduated from high school.  I’m fairly sure it would have dressed out as a complete, if short novel, given the number of lines per double-sided page and my cramped, illegible handwriting.  It occupied most of my brain space for over three months, and taught me a lot of things, including “always think about where your light is coming from,” and probably kept me sane while I waited to go off and become a college freshman.

I remember the heavy-duty erasable bond paper that I used for my essays and research papers all the way through college and graduate school, and that did duty as well for my occasional failed attempts at selling short fiction.  (I got my first rejection from F&SF back in those days, and for good reason.  The story sucked.)

I remember the flimsy, pale yellow second sheets that I bought by the ream and used for first drafts once I switched from composing in longhand to composing on the keyboard.  The very flimsiness of that paper had a liberating quality:  “You can throw this out if you have to,” it said; “there’s plenty more where it came from.”

I remember the fan-fold paper that ran through our first dot-matrix printer, an Epson MX-80 that was built like a tank and lasted for years.  I remember the bond paper we bought for our letter-quality printer in 10-ream boxes, and how fast we could go through a box-full back when we were printing out 500-page manuscripts in multiple drafts.

These days, we go through a ream every three or four months, maybe.

But paperless?  Not yet.

5 thoughts on “Tales from the Before Time: Paper

  1. I remember de-edging the fan-fold paper from my dot-matrix printer — I always thought I should come up with something to do with all those strips of paper with holes. Maybe I should have made some kind of garland for the Christmas tree.

  2. Our cats loved to play with the edging strips off of fanfold paper.

    When we were living in Panamá, we saved them to throw off of our balcony during anti-government protests (this was usually done while banging on pots and pans with metal spoons, and it had about as much effect on the government as you’d expect.)

    1. DIY ticker tape and/or all purpose protest material!

      By the way, we tried your crock pot beef ribs recipe (except with a pot roast because it was on sale) and it was delicious. Thanks!

  3. It turns out that the boxes that fan-fold paper used to come in are really great for holding file folders. I still have some that my dad swiped from his office in the ’80s and ’90s.

    I did just send off some paper documents – but if I’d been willing to futz with the scanner function on my printer, I could have sent back the W-9s electronically, too.

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