The first project I did with Byron Preiss was called ”The Bank Street Collections.” They were four paperback anthologies filled with graphic adaptations of genre stories—science fiction, horror, mystery, and fantasy—that were produced in conjunction with the Bank Street College of Education and were designed to be used in classrooms. It was a fun and challenging project, and as far as I know, the anthologies are still being used in schools today.
I worked with talented editors at Bank Street who were award-winning authors and artists in their own right. One was Seymour Reit (who, among other things, created Casper the Friendly Ghost) and another was Barbara Brenner (a “Connecticut Science Writer of the Year” award-winner).
A few years later, I did series of science mid-grade primers, again with Bank Street, and again Barbara Brenner was the main author. One of the titles was a tour of the solar system, introducing young readers to the Solar Family (planets, moons, comets, asteroids, etc.). In the manuscript draft for this one, there was an egregious error. Rather than inform the author immediately, I waited until we had our scheduled meeting in her office to review the manuscripts for all four of the science titles she was writing.
When we got to the solar system, I had a variety of questions and edits, and we reviewed them together, but I saved the biggest error for last. When we were almost done, I asked Bobbi to look at a specific paragraph on a specific page, and to read it out loud.
In it was a passing reference to “the seven planets in our solar system.” I stopped the author and asked her to reread that sentence, which she did, but still did not notice the error. Finally I had to say, “But Bobbi, there are nine planets in the solar system!”
Her response was anything but what I would have expected. She wasn’t so much embarrassed as confused, when she said, “But I got it from Asimov.”
Indeed. She reached back to a bookshelf behind her and took out one of Asimov books on basic astronomical science. She flipped through it, found the dog-eared page she wanted, and gave me the book. And sure enough, there it was.
Yes, Asimov was only as good as his editors.
The coda to this story is a few years after that, at some publishing event, I met the editor who had worked on the volume. I told him the story, and he confessed that it was his screw-up. I asked him why it hadn’t been corrected? The book was in something like it’s kajillionth printing. The bottom line was that the book was still making “X” amount of dollars every year, and if they fixed it there would be a one-time extra production fee, their profit on the title for that year would drop, and he would look bad.
Of course if they had changed “seven planets” to “nine planets,” it would have had to be changed once again when Pluto was demoted to mini-planet status.