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A Few Last Words

I've just locked the comments section of the previous post. We've had about four hundred comments since the post went up last night, and the whole thing is about to collapse under its own weight. I suspect that someone or other has already said everything that can be said on the subject, so now we're starting to go around in circles.

Also, with this many comments, it's becoming obvious that some of the later commenters aren't actually reading what went before. I'm starting to get asked the same questions over and over again -- what about Suvudu? what about the Vance book? what about fan art? what about role-playing games? All fair enough questions, but I have answered all of them in responses to earlier comments. Some I have answered two or three times by now. I am not going to answer them four, five, six, or twelve times, sorry. So if you've posted a question that has already been asked and answered, your post will likely be ignored or deleted. (Yes, I know it's a pain to have to read four hundred comments. Tough. If I have to read them all, so do you. That's the price of taking part in the discussion).

Some comments haven't been unscreened yet. There have been so many of them coming in so fast that it has been hard to keep up. A few have been buried by now, especially comments on comments on comments. Ty or I will get to all of them eventually, I hope, and everything will either be unscreened or deleted.

I want to thank ninety-five percent of the people who took the time to comment. I appreciate your thoughts, and even more, I appreciate the relative calm and thoughtful tone of this discussion, which never degenerated into the kind of ugliness I've seen (and am still seeing) in the comments over on Diana Gabaldon's blog, where the discussion has long since been derailed. I don't know how many minds were changed here, but all the major issues were thoroughly aired, it seems to me, and I hope this generated more light than heat.

There were a few issues raised during the debate that I'd like to address a bit further.

A number of commenters suggested that I was wrong in my assertion that copyrights need to be defended, and suggested that I was confusing copyrights with trademarks. Perhaps so. This was raised often enough that it is obviously something I need to look into further. There were also posters who agreed with what I wrote, however, including some who identified themselves as lawyers or law students, so I don't think the issue is as clear cut as the "trademark" folks are claiming. I'll investigate this, and if I was wrong about this, I will come back here and say so (eventually, this is not my top priority in life). If I was right, I'll come back and mention that as well.

ERB v HPL. I never said that allowing others to play with the Cthulhu mythos was the ONLY reason Lovecraft died in poverty. Actually, I am a huge Lovecraft fan, and not much of a Burroughs fan at all (though Melinda Snodgrass and I did once work on the screenplay for A PRINCESS OF MARS). I know a lot about HPL. His work has been hugely influential on modern horror. But my point stands. I could write a Cthulhu Mythos novel tomorrow, and I would not have to pay a dime to any Lovecraft estate (if such exists) or get their permission. I would never dare write a Barsoom novel, though surely PRINCESS is in the public domain by now. (The later John Carter and Tarzan novels may still be under copyright).

A few people have quoted or posted links to the other side of the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident, the account of the fan involved. Fine, two sides to every story, check it out. At this point, twenty years after the fact, it all becomes she said/ she said. But the version I posted was hardly "urban legend," as one commenter called it. It was the version given by Marion Zimmer Bradley herself in SFWA FORUM, what she told the rest of the writing community. If you want to believe she lied, well, that's your prerogative.

More thoughts as I have 'em. Just now, I have work to do.


May. 9th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
Really? That doesn't jibe at all with what Martin claims MZB said. Martin's version:

All was happiness and joy, until one day she encountered in one such fan story an idea similar to one she was using in her current Darkover novel-in-progress.

What you quote

She liked the "take" a particular fan author had on the situations and asked to use that spin on things for her book in return for the usual acknowlegement in the front of the book.

Martin clearly is saying that MZB and Rabe had very similar ideas that they arrived at independently of one another. Lackey says that MZB found Rabe's idea and wanted to use it in exchange for a line on the acknowledgements page of a book.

The contradiction is pretty obvious and I am hardly the first one to point it out. You're the one ignoring the fairly obvious contradiction, perhaps because of you affection for Mr. Martin's work. Well, I like Martin's work too, but my ability to read English sentences isn't harmed by it, amazingly enough.
May. 9th, 2010 03:03 am (UTC)
I'm just amused at the idea that MZB had a 'novel in progress'. Post-stroke, she could no longer write, which is why everything published in her name post 1989 was sharecropped. Diana Paxson wrote the 'MZB' Mists of Avalon sequels, and Adrienne Barnes and Mercedes Lackey wrote the Darkover ones.

The MZB tale is indeed an instructive tale, but not about copyright. It suggests that you shouldn't use "authorized fanfic" submissions as cheap sources for sharecropping.
May. 9th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
If you read further in that thread you linked, you'll find more information, which could be considered just as reliable: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007464.html#122184

Which leads to http://www.fanworks.org/writersresource/?tool=fanpolicy&action=define&authorid=53 which includes a quote from a letter written by MZB herself along with the repetition that it was an overlapping setting.

There's no contradiction. Just differing amounts of information. Some exclude one piece, others another. Contradiction requires more actual disagreement and less vagary vagueness.
May. 9th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC)
Of course there's a contradiction.

MZB, and Martin, and many other people who had nothing to do with the events, insist that MZB found a similar story to one she was working in in a fanzine, tried to buy it because of its similarity for a token amount, and was rebuffed.

On the other hand, Lackey—an MZB inner circle member sympathetic to MZB—agrees with Lamb on the crucial point that Lamb came up with something that MZB hadn't thought of but then wanted to use, which contradicts (really!) the usual version of the story (repeated by Martin), which holds that MZB and the fan came up with similar ideas independently and that it was similarity that compelled MZB to make the offer and then shelve the book when she was rebuffed.

The letter is interesting in that we can actually look at it rather than depending on Martin's summary, but it's no surprise that MZB agrees with...MZB. The contradiction comes from the fact that Lackey doesn't. Anyway, I've nothing more to say. You either get it, or you wish to muddy the waters for other reasons. Go right ahead and muddy away if you like.
May. 10th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
Contradictions require mutually exclusive elements. And after reading that newsgroup post, from ten years after the fact, the only contradiction that raises its head is who sent the 'lawyer' letter first.

[Just because Lamb does not mention that MZB was working on a story does not mean she wasn't. [And honestly, how would she know?] Both MZB and Lackey say she was - Lackey: "Marion had begun to write a Darkover book about Regis Hastur", MZB: "that overlapped the setting I was using for my next _Darkover_ novel".]

Without the actual documentation [letters, drafts, etc] that relate to both books and both versions of events this is all a she said/she said argument. I can't defend either person, and neither can anybody else. Just because one doesn't agree with a version does not automagically make correct the version one with which one does agree.

I fully don't expect an answer, you've said as much. And yet, I still do, due to the nature of the beast that is the internet.

Now that is a contradiction.
May. 9th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
You still seem to be ignoring the fact, agree on by everyone, that Bradley was already working on a story featuring the character and situation. Hence the similarity referred to. The encountered idea was a particular spin on the similar situation.

So, no, the supposed contradiction isn't obvious, no matter how many people suggest it is.

You may assume what you like about my personal perspective, but it has very little to do with my affection for Mr. Martin's work (or my affection for some of Ms. Bradley's work or my affection for Ms. Lackey's work). My opinion on this particular item comes from what's been written in these messages, not what's been written in any book.

As for my ability to read English sentences, that's doing just fine, thanks. As is my ability to craft them. At least that seems to be the consensus of the various people who pay me to do so.
May. 9th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)
You still seem to be ignoring the fact, agree on by everyone, that Bradley was already working on a story featuring the character and situation.

I'm not ignoring it. It simply isn't true. That isn't what Lamb says and it isn't what Lackey says. Lamb makes no remark as to what MZB may have been writing, and Lackey only notes that MZB was supposedly working on a book about the same character. Lackey, sympathetic to MZB, uses terms like "take" and "spin"—minimizing and imprecise terms—but what is clear is that MZB "liked the 'take' a particular fan author had on the situations"[involving the character] not that "the author happened to write about the same situation."

That is fundamentally different than the usual MZB story, which Martin repeated. Lamb wasn't offered the token payment and acknowledgment because of the similarities of her work to MZB's, but because of the novelty of her work as compared to MZB's—which MZB admired and wanted to integrate into her own work. And that's from the mouth of someone sympathetic to MZB and in a position to know.

You can torture the text some more (you already palmed the "situations" card, but that was easily spotted), but what's there is there and what's not isn't. It's good that people pay you to craft sentences; I get paid for the same. My full-time job involves hiring people to craft sentences, and firing them when their skills are inadequate. I find that a lot of writers have woefully inadequate skills.

Edited at 2010-05-09 07:32 am (UTC)


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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