mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
I just heard a deeply stupid writer on NPR. I'm not going to bother looking up his name because he and his magazine does not deserve whatever little bit of fame they might get from their stunt of printing a short story covered with ink in such a way that it cannot be read for thousands of years. Each word being slowly uncovered by fading. He said that it was an interesting idea to have a story that outlives the teller.

What bunk! This story is unliving. It is stillborn. Stories live through being read and remembered, by creating images in a person's head. It is the induction and resonance of words and ideas. This is no story since the first word won't even be available to readers, without bypassing the ink intended to keep the rest of it secret, for centuries. And given the way that most things written are forgotten even when the artist has not made it hard to access I expect this will be lost and completely forgotten. And probably with good reason since the writer sounded like over pretentious idiot who could not write a good story to save his life.

What this person is trying to do is bypass his lack of talent to make one of his stories 'immortal' like the works of Homer or something. And it is all the more pathetic since he thinks even if it were physically possible to keep a copy of this magazine intact for thousands of years that anyone would bother to do it. Shame on NPR for bringing us this non-story.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
The essay I am commenting on is helpfully archived on the web archive.

"To use an analogy, we look at the Mona Lisa and wonder. Each of us draws his own conclusions about her elusive smile. We don't draw eyebrows on her to make her look surprised, or put a balloon caption over her head."

Apparently Robin Hobb is completely unaware of the history of art, art training, or art commentary. Painting the works of the old masters anywhere from almost stroke for stroke to in entirely different styles has been around almost since there have been museums. If there is someone out there who does not believe me for some reason just do a google image search for 'mona lisa' with or without the quotes. Upon my last search I found everything from subtle alterations to extremely modernist interpretations. Even works that might be considered great works of art them selves such as Self Portrait as Mona Lisa by Salvador Dali.

This idea that the words and works of an author, no matter how minor or great, are sacrosanct is a subset of the notion that freedom of expression means freedom from criticism. It is stuff and nonsense, of course, as anyone who is more emotionally mature than the average collage freshman will tell you. But nonetheless it persists because of confusion with copyright or trademark and some people just cannot help but to go looking for trouble online (Why hello pot, yes I'm aware).

All this ignores the fact that her analogy is false in the first place that when a person does fan fiction he does not alter the original. He has not done the literary equivalent of sneaking into however many thousands of homes and libraries to alter every copy of the story in question. Robin Hobb has a real problem with this sort of sloppy analogy making as evidenced by her comparison of fan fiction writing with coloring in coloring book, mixing a cake mix, and so on. It would be a lot closer to the truth to say that a person will never be considered a great chef if one just follows the standard recipes as written in a cookbook forever. For better or worse our society values originality.

Which may be why Robin Hobb reacts with such nonsense to fan fiction since her works are held up frequently as examples of EFP, that stands for "Extruded Fantasy Product" or "Epic Fantasy Pastiche" depending on how kindly one feels towards the genre. I've read a number of her novels including Mad Ship and I did not particularly care for them and I did not think they were particularly good EFP, either. It is not true in all cases, but very often people go after things in others that we do not like about ourselves or have recently given up. An example is how against smoking people who have given it up can be vs. the more live and let live attitudes of those who have never smoked in their lives. Perhaps because her own work is so close to JRR Tolkien/D&D fan fiction she is particularly worried about the writing of her fans being confused with her actual writing.

None of this is to say that fan fiction is morally right or wrong. I know that there are darn good legal reasons authors cannot read fan fiction generally and why publishers might require that a writer not publicly approve of it. But she is dead and absolutely wrong about the money angle. Anyone who knows anything about copyright knows that legal scholars disagree on if it is purely a created property right or a moral right. And they disagree at length with footnotes and case law examples of every sort. Legally speaking the right to make derivative works is the exclusive right of the copyright holder for as long as the copyright exists. So, yes, a fan fiction writer is violating a writer's copyright and is breaking the law everywhere copyright is enforced.

The thing is that contrary to her assertion at the start of her rant she was not in any way "rational on the topic of fan fiction". So I end with two questions for all the touchy authors out there who want no one ever to write anything based upon their work. Did Nicholas Meyer break a moral law when he wrote The Seven-Per-Cent Solution? And if he did what should be done about it?
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Scruffy)
This may become a regular feature of my journal. I mean there is just so damn much bad stuff on the internet that I can rant about.

Arthur King of Space and Time
This gem of an online comic came to my attention when it was recommended for a best Fan-Artist Hugo Award by a fan. I quite agree that this is classic Hugo material if one thinks that the fan Hugos should be boring, badly drawn, poorly written hackwork by fans with more dedication than skill. It contains some of the worst art I've seen this year and I peruse manga fanart regularly looking for the gems among the Naruto slash with impossibly contorted limbs. Repeated use of copy and paste, boring fill coloring, sloppy lines, floating eyebrows, pixelated edges, and color schemes that would make a beginning web designer cry in shame. So, the very quintessence of the "MS Paint on a 286 compac" school of computer art.

Read more... )


mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)

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