The following question was just sent out to a private mailing list I'm on:

OK, this is driving me nuts. About 20 years ago I remember reading a scifi novel where the kids got in an argument with their father, a scientist of some type. Dad had access to some technology that could edit the words in an already published book and he used it to make it looks like the kids were wrong by changing the words in the book they were referencing. Basically, literally rewrite history. Does anybody know the title?

  • 15
    My god...they predicted Wikipedia?
    – Jeff
    Sep 1, 2011 at 15:09
  • Makes me think of "The kugelmass episode", but that had a man entering stories (and, at one point, bringing a character out), not realizing that it was changing all copies of the story.
    – K-H-W
    Sep 1, 2011 at 21:41
  • Pretty sure this is the same book I asked about in this question. @FuzzyBoots found an answer.
    – eshier
    Apr 18, 2019 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


Two books spring to mind (but I'm not sure either is correct).

First, Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series (started in 2001) has as part of its plot the characters in a book can change how the story goes at times.

Second, there was an old Superman book, Eliot S Maggin's Superman: Last Son of Krypton (1978), where Lex Luthor argues with a teacher about a historical fact. When the teacher references the book, Lex had made it appear as if the words supported his version.

  • 2
    The Eyre Affair was published in 2001, so probably not. The book rewriting incident would have to be a minor one, a recollection from Thursday Next's past (I don't remember such an incident, Thursday's father would have the ability to do that but it doesn't strike me as in-character).
    – user56
    Sep 1, 2011 at 20:21
  • 2
    I immediately though of Fforde too when reading the question; and even if it can't be that one, it's definitely worth reading.
    – Joubarc
    Oct 13, 2011 at 12:19

Jenayah suggested that I repost my answer to Mother & son flee step-father with an airstream trailer; machine that can change printed text. Maybe it's a match for you?

As per this other person looking for the same book, Wordchanger by Mary Haynes.

Picture of the book Alternate cover

An update, having read Wordchanger this evening:

  • The device does use neutrinos, but only affects books within some (unspecified) radius of the device itself, not all copies everywhere. It's never explained how the device is controlled. (Updike's poem doesn't appear in the book.)
  • The protagonist is 12 years old, but does at one point briefly drive a car towing an Airstream trailer. The other protagonist, whose story is interleaved for the first half of the book until she joins up in the middle, has a librarian friend who drives the trailer in reverse, having acquired this skill driving the bookmobile. The two protagonists aren't siblings, but might as well be.
  • A passage in "Carry on, Mr. Bowditch" is changed, and the protagonist's name is changed on his passport.
  • The antagonist is indeed the stepfather (plus vaguely threatening men from a secret government agency).

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