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Sky Vistas by Craig Crossen

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#126 Tony Flanders

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Posted 12 May 2015 - 05:19 PM

Perhaps the reason you missed the details is because Sky Vistas got an ambivalent  review in one of the astronomy magaznes. Very unfortunate and  ungenerous review. The reviewer couldn't follow  the organization of the book and kept complaining about it. Crossen is an outstanding writer and an extraordinarily knowledgeable and scholarly person and deserved a much better review.


For any magazine to review this incredible work and say such a thing is absurd. It's always easy for critics to find issues with books. How about the overwhelming incredible heart and work Craig Crossen contributes? which far exceeds any idiosyncrasies. I got a comment for magazines. How about some in-dept information about objects instead of these boring and endless visual descriptions everyone has heard again and again and again and again a gazillion times over.


Bill still hasn't forgiven me for my review. Fortunately, Craig has. One of my best experiences at S&T was editing his recent superb recent series of articles on the Milky Way.

I have always had extremely high regard for Craig Crossen, starting with his wonderful book Binocular Astronomy. And for that matter, I also have extremely high regard for his co-author Gerald Rhemann, one of the finest astrophotographers working today. And as I noted in my review, the book at its best is truly superb.

However, I also still think that Sky Vistas has some serious flaws; I don't retract anything I said then. But if I were to write the review today, it would place the emphasis differently and also, perhaps, be somewhat more tactful.

Edited by Tony Flanders, 12 May 2015 - 05:21 PM.


#127 LivingNDixie

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 11:11 AM

I think books are much tougher to review, then say a eyepiece or scope. What one person loves another hates. It really comes down to personal taste.
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#128 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 01:49 PM

I think books are much tougher to review, then say a eyepiece or scope. What one person loves another hates. It really comes down to personal taste.


The ideal review -- either of a book or a piece of equipment -- should tell the reader whether he (or she) wants to buy it, not necessarily whether the reviewer would buy it.

Obviously, that's easier said than done.

#129 desertstars

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 02:53 PM

Definitely easier said than done. I reviewed a few books here on CN early on. Honest reactions by a reviewer are not always appreciated as such, believe me.

 

As an author myself, I find that an honest and civil review that points out both perceived flaws and successes in a book is far more valuable to me than fannish gushing. Not that I don't love a uniformly positive review, now and then, but when a reader makes me rethink what I've done, more than likely I'll learn something in the process.



#130 Crossen

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 05:41 AM

In my personal opinion the two main flaws of Sky Vistas are in the Introduction and in Chapter 5: Stars, Globulars, Planetaries.  In his Sky & Telescope review, Tony Flanders pointed out that the Intro has no illustrations.  Because the Intro is essentially a summary of deep-space astrophysics, this is indeed a fault.  However, as I shall explain in a moment, I was under time and space constraints that made it difficult for me to provide illustrations for the Intro.

 

Double and variable stars, globular clusters, and planetary nebulae are not ideal objects for low-power, wide-field instruments like binoculars and RFTs, so I put them together in Chapter 5.  Again because of space constraints, I was forced to write about them rather summarily.  I particularly regret not being able to say more about globular clusters as tracers of our Galaxy's structure and history because these are fascinating subjects.

 

Gerald and I signed the contract with Springer-Verlag Vienna/New York for Sky Vistas on October 21, 2002.  The contract stipulated that we were to have the text and photos completely finished by April 30, 2003.  Now, Sky Vistas is a rather long book.  Fortunately, I had rather extensive, carefully-written observing notes on virtually all the objects that I intended to include in the book, otherwise I could never have met that deadline.  In fact I fortunately had re-written and expanded those observing notes just the previous summer.

 

At an early stage in the production, Springer decided that all the pages of the book, and not only the color plates, should be high-quality, heavy-stock, glossy print:  it would give the book a classier look.  To prevent Sky Vistas from being hugely expensive, our editor asked me to keep its page-count below 300.  In the event it ran to 320.  But this meant that some things would have to be treated more succinctly than others.  First priority would obviously be objects seen at their best in wide-field instruments:  Milky Way star clouds and dust clouds, large emission nebulae, large open clusters, and stellar associations.  I also decided to emphasize galaxies because the whole idea of observing galaxies with binoculars is rather unusual, and certain nearby galaxy clusters are splendid richest-field objects.

 

I also knew that one of the most original features of Sky Vistas would be the 3-dimensional approach I would take in describing individual objects, putting them into Galactic and even intergalactic depth perspective.  The rather unusual structure of Sky Vistas from Chapter 2 to 4 is intended to assist the reader/observer in thinking about the heavens 3-dimentionally, even in sections of the book which do not discuss Galactic and intergalactic depth perspective explicitly.  Tony particularly criticized the structure of Sky Vistas.  However, whatever its flaws, I would not change that structure; it is a unique approach to writing about observational astronomy and no newly-cut path is perfectly level or straight.

 

But what I would do, if I had Sky Vistas to do over again, is provide that Introduction with illustrations.

 

Craig Crossen


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#131 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 02:45 PM


Gerald and I signed the contract with Springer-Verlag Vienna/New York for Sky Vistas on October 21, 2002.  The contract stipulated that we were to have the text and photos completely finished by April 30, 2003. 

Ouch! Writing a major book in six months is almost inconceivably fast.


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#132 Crossen

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 01:00 PM

 


Gerald and I signed the contract with Springer-Verlag Vienna/New York for Sky Vistas on October 21, 2002.  The contract stipulated that we were to have the text and photos completely finished by April 30, 2003. 

Ouch! Writing a major book in six months is almost inconceivably fast.

 

Thanks for the compliment, Tony, but it was not as much work as it sounds.  As I said in my previous post, I had the descriptions of the objects I meant to include in the book practically already in final draft already.  Most of the observing that went into Sky Vistas I did from April to October 1998, and my routine had been to write rough notes in the field and then rewrite them either right away or the next morning.  In the summer of 2002 I rewrote all those notes in hopes of including them in a book on deep-space observing with binoculars and RFTs--the book that became Sky Vistas.  So from October 2002  to April 2003 my main job was to combine the astrophysical information I had about these objects with these descriptions--a big enough job by itself, in all truth.

 

During those months, I also did considerable library research in the technical astrophysical journals to make sure that my astronomical data was as current as possible.  The Introduction was also based on an extensive sketch that I had written a couple years earlier, so it did not need to be written from scratch either.  However, the problem with the Intro was how much of that extended sketch to cut:  it had to include all the basics about deep-space astronomy, but could not be much more than a summary or review because of the book's page limitations.  But as I said, if I had it to do all over again, I would have found some things to cut in the main body of the book to make room for illustrations in the Intro.

 

During this whole process, Gerald and I were in constant communication, though we worked individually.  And the editorial staff at Springer-Verlag Vienna/New York here in Vienna, and especially our supervising editor Mr. Petrie-Wieder, were extremely helpful.  The deadline for us to turn in text and photos was April 30, 2003.  I sent the text in on April 29--but less from needing all that time to finish it than from the determination to work on the text as long as possible to make it as good as possible.

 

Craig Crossen


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