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15 Minutes of Fame: Sci-fi and fantasy copyeditor Deanna Hoak

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Deanna Hoak and I have bonded over the Viscous Hammer. Yes, I realize that some of you will find it somewhat predictably amusing that WoW Insider's resident copyeditor should be geeking out over interviewing sci-fi/fantasy copyeditor and WoW player Deanna Hoak -- but there's more to this editor than a mere passion for punctuation. Hoak brings a virtually unique set of experience and sensitivities to the fantastical demands of the novels she edits. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, Hoak edits the big dogs: China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, Alan Dean Foster, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, R.A. Salvatore ... In fact, Hoak's the only copyeditor ever nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work.

So yeah, someone who appreciates all the wrongness of WoW's awkwardly named Viscous Hammer (and who knows how to spice up an email exchange with some pretty hot photos of China Miéville at a recent con -- but that's another story) ... To top it all off, along with her two children (her husband's the lone holdout of the family), Hoak's an avid WoW player. Join us after the break for a conversation on World of Warcraft from a SF/F insider's point of view, her recommended reading list for fellow WoW players, and more.

Main characters Devrana, 85 orc enhancement shaman; Shylea, 80 draenei paladin
Guilds <Vive la Horde>; <Omission>
Realms Uldum; Ravencrest

15 Minutes of Fame: A true sci-fi/fantasy and gaming geek -- welcome! How long have you played World of Warcraft?

Deanna Hoak: I've been playing since a few months after launch, so a little over six years now. My nephew (who is now the guild master of <Omission> on Ravencrest) got me into the game.

What attracted you to the game in the beginning?

The graphics and immersive nature of WoW drew me in immediately. Although I haven't played any other MMOs, I'm an old-school computer gamer, having cut my teeth on Colossal Cave played through one of the first online services -- the Source -- when I was a kid in the late '70s. I made my way through Zork and other text adventures, moved up to Sierra games when they came out (I'm still frustrated Rosella was too "ladylike" to climb trees), played Elder Scrolls and a few other games here and there over the years, and was finally captured by WoW.

How would you characterize your playstyle?

It would probably be most honest to describe myself as a very casual solo carebear.

We understand that you play with your family.

My son, who's 8, mainly enjoys watching me play and directing me what to do with his character. He really isn't interested in playing on his own yet, though I'm sure he'll get there. My daughter is 12 and has an 80 druid. She and I quest together and run each other's lowbies through dungeons and so on. We participated in one of the WoW Insider events on a roleplaying server once, and she really enjoyed that.

I've found WoW to be a fun way to spend time with the kids. I teach them proper gaming etiquette and also don't allow them to group without me, both for their own safety and so they don't unintentionally impose on anyone.

My husband, unfortunately, has absolutely no interest in WoW, and I've given up on getting him to play.

How is Cataclysm fitting your playstyle? What are you finding enjoyable about the expansion?

I'm enjoying Cataclysm a lot. The developers have eliminated so much of the really time-wasting running around that was ubiquitous in vanilla WoW (could anyone who had to do it forget the level 20 shaman quest where you literally had to spend hours simply running? I so much don't miss that type of thing) and have done some fantastic work making the quests themselves more interesting and the interface more usable. Archaeology was a nice addition for solo players, too. I was enormously excited when I found my recipe for the Vial of the Sands.

Anything you miss from vanilla WoW?

Nope. Not a single thing. I think the game has been improved all the way around and don't feel nostalgic for vanilla at all.

How has editing so much fantasy and science fiction affected your view of WoW's game world and lore? Has it made you any more or less critical than you think you might otherwise be?

Well, I was drawn to fantasy and science fiction because I have a deep love for the genre -- it's what I've always read and enjoyed. From that perspective, of course, I enjoy WoW enormously.

There are some things that drive me crazy -- like the Viscous Hammer. Seriously, it's been that way ever since I can remember, and surely they intended "Vicious"? At this point, since it's been around so long, I'd love it if they just added some flavor text indicating why it's gummy.

Yeah, I'm right there with you on the Viscous Hammer thing. What other in-game editing blunders drive you up the wall?

Copyediting is like bathing. No one ever notices it unless you don't do it. I notice typos in quest text and so on, but since I'm there to play rather than work, I disregard them. I also am not someone who corrects other players' grammar and spelling in chat. I teach my kids, actually, "It's only polite to correct someone if you're being paid to do it."

Do you find yourself drawn to a more roleplaying or "serious" view of your WoW character based on your frequent immersion in fictional fantasy worlds?

While I can immerse myself in the game quite easily, I don't really find myself immersing in my characters and have only tried roleplaying a tiny bit, with my daughter. I think that's likely more an aspect of my own personality rather than a function of the work I do.

We can't believe you aren't already guilded with a bunch of fantasy geeks! 15 Minutes has already interviewed several authors -- Catherynne M. Valente, Caitlín R. Kiernan - and we know there must be plenty more out there who are playing WoW. What gives?

I can immediately think of six authors whose work I've copyedited -- seven if I count Catherynne, but she doesn't play anymore -- who play WoW now, and I'm certain there are more that I just don't know about. We're all spread out across the many servers, though, and the thought of starting out on a new realm can be daunting to busy people. I would love to be a part of a guild filled with SF/F authors and editors -- the guild chat alone is guaranteed to be smart and entertaining -- but if there is one, I don't know about it. My current guilds are nice and family-friendly, though.

Tell us a little more in detail about what you do. How did you become a genre specialist? What are the things that you bring to your work that make you unique among other copyeditors?

I actually started out my career, after I finished my master's coursework, in editing college textbooks. I had always loved science fiction and fantasy, though, and one day I sat down with all my favorite books, looked up their publishers, and called the production departments there to see if they hired freelancers. A few of them did, and that started my SF/F career.

What I bring to the table is a deep love of and history with the genre, as well as a strong work ethic and a desire to help the books be as perfect as possible. A lot of copyeditors don't enjoy working with SF/F because of the made-up words and odd names they have to keep track of, but that world-building is all part of what makes the books so enjoyable for me. Those who are curious about my actual copyediting process can check out the blog post I wrote on it a few years ago. I joke sometimes that I'm paid to read books I'd be buying anyway, but the truth is that there's quite a bit more to it than that.

We're in Deanna's Hoak MMORPG world. Maybe it's uniquely yours, or maybe it's a blend of worlds of authors you've edited. Where are we and what are we doing?

I have been lucky enough to work on some amazing books by authors who built incredibly immersive and detailed worlds. I could never be happy having to give up any of that world-building, so my ideal MMORPG would be one that enabled each world to be re-created in whole in as much detail as possible, and you could travel between them. (I actually copyedited a book by Ernest Cline called Ready Player One in which this type of futuristic virtual world existed. Awesome book.) Thus I could spend the morning walking the weird streets of China Miéville's otherworldly cities, teleport over to observe James Enge's fantastically detailed werewolf culture over a meaty lunch, and spend the evening sharing drinks with and being charmed (undoubtedly out of my possessions, so that might be a one-time thing) by Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards.

Sounds like you have quite a catalog of references ready to spill forth.

It was terribly difficult to pare down all the fiction I'd love to point people toward. For instance, even though it's not one I worked on, any WoW player interested in a thoughtful story about virtual worlds should check out Ted Chiang's The Lifecycle of Software Objects, which explores the moral dilemmas you might run into if you were able to create artificially intelligent in-game pets.

Oh! And there's my own short story, "The Robidermist's Steed," in The Anthology of Dark Wisdom. It's a hard science fiction zombie unicorn story dealing with a robotic mount/pet created from a real horse.

A reading list like that makes waiting in the DPS queue sound downright appealing! We'll get right on it. Meanwhile, keep up with Deanna Hoak at her website and her lively Twitter feed.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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