Raising the (Carbon) Curtain!


The longest gestation period of any land animal is that of the African elephant at 22 months. Pretty impressive, but the frilled shark evidently hauls around its offspring-to-be for 42 months. And a deep-sea octopus was found to be guarding her clutch of eggs for 4½ years.

When it comes to the time from inception to birth, there are a fair number of authors who’ve incubated books for significantly longer than elephants, sharks or octopi gestate their offspring. Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao took more than a decade to write—and it won a Pulitzer Prize. Edward Gibbon took 20 years to write Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So I shouldn’t complain.

This week I learned that Behind the Carbon Curtain: The Energy Industry, Political Censorship and Free Speech was finally approved by the editorial committee of the University of New Mexico Press. I began work on this book in 2011, started pitching the project to publishers in March of 2012, and landed a contract with UNM Press in July of 2013. Then came a series of arduous reviews and painstaking revisions. The manuscript went through four reviews—the first two by attorneys and the second two by scholars. Each review required changes (sometimes a revision in response to reviewer A was reversed to accommodate reviewer B).

In the end—and we’re very nearly there—the book is much stronger for this process. The manuscript is evidently bulletproof in terms of legal issues with scrupulous documentation (almost 900 endnotes!) to avoid any whiff of defamation. Of course, rich and powerful people, whose efforts to censor free speech are described in the book, can file frivolous suits, but we’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” to make sure that all assertions in the book are supported by reliable sources.

And so, when is the blessed event? The book will hit the shelves in March of 2017. I know, that’s another year, but there will be the nuts-and-bolts of copyediting, checking endnotes to assure that each citation is correct, and confirming that all of the images have the necessary permissions from the photographers/artists.

So, it won’t be a decade from conception to delivery, but it’ll have been a grueling 6 years—and that beats the octopus!


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This is the personal site of Jeffrey A. Lockwood, award-winning author and University of Wyoming professor of Natural Sciences and Humanities. Lockwood is the recipient of both the Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Medal.

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